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Archive for the ‘King’s X’ Category

[ATTENDED: June 28, 2015] Lo-Fi Resistance

lofiI usually like to give the opening band from a concert a write up.  This is probably the first time in a really long time that I saw an opening band that I’d never heard of (and didn’t take pictures of).

Lo-Fi Resistance is the creation of Randy McShine.  As I said, I’d never heard of them, so I had no expectations.  I’m kind of glad I didn’t because as I am now reading about them, I would have expected something very different.

McShine was considered a guitar prodigy and he has sung with The Pink Floyd Experience.  And McShine has pretty big connections in the prog world.  His debut album featured drums from the drummer from Spock’s Beard and also had vocals from dUg Pinnick! (on “Moral Disgrace,” not played that night).  Their second album, Chalk Lines, features drummer Gavin Harrison (!) who has played with King Crimson and Porcupine Tree, as well as the bassist for Porcupine Tree and once again Dug Pinnick. (more…)

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psbrosSOUNDTRACK: ACCEPT-“Final Journey” (2014).

blindI normally do kids music for kids books, but this book was so un-kid friendly that I decided to tack on a metal song for it.  This song was previewed on Viking’s Choice at NPR.

I loved Accept back in the 80s, but once lead singer Udo left I haven’t really followed them all that much.  New lead singer, Mark Tornillo formed TT Quick way back in the day and since I saw them not too long ago opening for King’s X, I thought I’d see what he sounded like with Accept now.

He doesn’t quite have the weird Teutonic sound that Udo had (how could he, being from New Jersey and all?), but his guttural voice is quite appropriate to the music.  But there’s something missing here with this music.  It sounds a little too generic, compared to the abrasive yet melodic sound that Accept brought to the scene way back when.  I think maybe if it wasn’t Accept I’d be inclined to like it more, because I have high expectations.

You should never read comments on public posts (you can read the few that I get here, of course, as they are usually pretty thoughtful), but one person commented on this song that the chorus sounds like Europe’s “The Final Countdown” which ruined the song for me, and now I have ruined it for you.  Sorry.  Of course the most noteworthy (get it?) thing is the guitar solo which is an extensive working Edward Greig’s “Morning Mood” (and not just a line or two, but the whole thing, pretty much–it actually sounds awesome).

So, this song isn’t going to bring me back to Accept, although I did like it more with each listen.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that they’re still rocking Germany.  I also love that they still have the same logo.

[READ: July 27, 2014] The PS Brothers

The cliché is that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  And that proves to be hugely true here.  Indeed, you can’t judge this book by its size (books of this size tend to be for younger readers), or even by its blurb.  The blurb ends with “but what they aren’t counting on is uncovering a crime that can bust apart a dream faster than a dog can sniff out a bone.”  Bear that in mind as I talk about this story (and yes give a spoiler or two by the end).

So this story (judging by the cover and the title) seems pretty darn funny.  Shawn and Russell really want a dog.  Russell has read every book in the library about dogs and Shawn bought a pooper scooper at a garage sale.  There’s a few logistical problems–they don’t live together, they don’t have any money, Shawn’s house is too small for a dog and Russell’s uncle hates dogs.  So what are they going to do?

Then one day they see that a guy is selling Rottweiler puppies for $200 a piece.  They want a big mean dog with a spiked collar who will protect them from bullies (I should have realized that this story might be darker than I expected, but who could have known?).  Shawn and Russell decide to become the PS Brothers, with the PS standing for Pooper Scooper.  They are going to use Shawn’s scooper to pick up neighborhood poop for 10 or 25 cents a poop.  And soon enough they will have the cash. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 3, 2014] King’s X

I first saw King’s X with my friend Al back in 1992 or so.  I don’t recall much about the concert.  But I knew that they were awesome live, even still, some twenty years later.

I’ve enjoyed nearly everything they’ve released (their last album was in 2008), and when I heard that they were playing three concerts in the area, I decided it was time to see them again.  I almost went to the show in Newtown, NJ on May 2, but we went to a Figaro play instead.  So, I was psyched that they were playing reasonably close by in Sayreville, too.

The Newtown show was a seated event.  The Starland Ballroom is not.  It is a small venue with large “wings” where you can see the band from all kinds of angles (including the side of the stage).  I got there a little later than I intended.  The co-headliners were TT Quick, a band I knew in high school (who are also from NJ), but who I’d forgotten about.  When I saw they reunited for this show,  listened to the one album I had by them (Metal of Honor) and was surprised by how well I remembered it.  But a few snags in my trip to Sayreville (like the impossibly long time it too me to get ear plugs at Shop Rite), got me there with only three songs left in TT Quick’s set.

They were LOUD (so glad I bought the ear plugs), and singer * (who is now singing with Accept) was in good form.  Although when they closed with the song “Metal of Honor” there was no way he was hitting those high notes.

TT Quick is pretty different from King’s X, so I’m not entirely sure how much overlap there was in fans.  But when TT Quick left I got up to about 4 people from the stage (could have easily gotten closer, but I’m not a pusher).  The most shocking thing to me was the man who had his 4 year old son there with him (I offered the guy ear plugs, but he said he had them already).  The kid was a trooper (considering King’s X went on at nearly 11PM.  He lasted a few songs on his dad’s shoulders (right in front of me, grrr), but then crashed about midway through the set.  (which gave me a great view).

But enough about that.  What about the band?  They were awesome! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRES MTS.-Three Mountains (2011).

Tres Mts. are a side project that features dUg Pinnick from King’s X and Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam.  It also features Mike McCready from Pearl Jam on some solos (and he played live with them as well).  The drummer is from the Fastbacks, but I don’t know the Fastbacks.

To me this sounds like a King’s X project–dUg is just to powerful a presence to not dominate.  And of course there is some heavy off-beat stuff, just like King’s X.  The biggest differences are the lack of harmonies and the more screaming guitar solos.  And yet it also sounds a lot like a Pearl Jam record–Ament writes most of the songs and his Pearl Jam instincts are in full force.

Overall the disc plays with different sounds–some hard fast rockers a few slow soulful numbers and some big choruses.

“My Baby” is a fast blast of rock–one might even say dUg fronting a Pearl Jam song (Mike McCready plays a wailing solo).  “Oh Lord” has some really dissonant chords on it, it shows the noncommercial side of the band.  I really like it, although I gather it’s not a favorite of others.  “God Told Me” sounds a bit more like King’s X’s slower ballads with gentle vocals.  “Makes Me Feel” is a meandering, atmospheric song with subdued vocals and tribal drums–Pearl Jam makes songs like this although it’s unusual for King’s X.  dUg does the whispery vocals really well.

“Holes in the Road” is just a straight out rocker–pretty much a classic rock song.  “In the Middle” and “Life” are gentle ballads.  I get “Life” stuck in my head quite a lot.  “Afrosheena” is a beautiful soulful song–dUg’s voice soars through the chorus–it really highlights what a great voice he has.  “She’s My New Song” has more of that classic rock feel–guitar solos after every verse.  This song feels like it could be thirty years old, it’s great.

“Utah” is probably my favorite track on the disc–it’s funny (“she moved to Utah…with the mailman”), it’s fast (the opening riff is great), it’s got stop and start sections and a little dissonance, all in under 3 minutes!  “Break” is a slow ballad that opens like a Pearl Jam ballad–a beautiful slow guitar intro.  The final proper song is “Mystery” a noisy rocker with dissonant chords and interesting guitar sounds.  The bridge is very King’s X.

The disc ends with “Shes My New Reprise” which is an instrumental (mostly) jam of “She’s My New Song” that gets super fast at the end (with bongos!).  It’s a great fun ending to a great fun record.

These three (four) guys hit all the right strides on this record.

[READ: July 13, 2012] “Kikwaakew”

Sometimes it’s fun to read a story about something that is completely unfamiliar to you.  In this case, this is a story about a Cree man trapping animals in the snow.  Xavier, who has only one leg (!), is away from his sons looking for the animals he has trapped.  Xavier has had a hard life.  His wife died giving birth two his twin boys, and he has to work very hard during the winter to have sustenance for the year.

Before this journey his Aunt Niska came and told him she would use her shake tent and offer prayers.  He knows that she is trying to tell him something from far away–possibly that something bad is coming.  He can just tell, from the way something seems to be watching him.

This was a fascinating look at  trapping–how he baits his traps but has to snowshoe (with the prosthetic keg) out to check them all.  He hopes to find a fisher (I had never even heard of this animal) which is like a giant weasel, whose pelt will give them enough money for the rest of the year.  He knows there is a fisher around, and he is trying his best to catch it, only to find that something has taken his bait and destroyed the traps. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE GREAT GAMBLE-Book One (2012).

My friend Matt has worked at a school in Pennsylvania for years. He wrote to tell me that a few kids who graduated from his school had formed a band and have released a CD.  It’s streaming (and downloadable) on bandcamp at their site.

I have lots of friends in bands, and I’ve listened to lots of demos, so I wasn’t expecting very much.  But the first thing I noticed when I listened was how good this sounds–professional and, yes, like a “real” album.  This isn’t just a bunch of guys jamming in their garage.  What makes this even more striking is that the music is heavy progressive metal–not something you just whip out in a quick take.  This is complicated, interesting music.  I’m hearing a kind of Dream Theater meets King’s X vibe going on.  And man, it’s really good.

This is multi-step heavy rock (complete with a synth player/violinist!). The only song that is less than 9 minutes is the 90 second introduction called “The Marketplace.”  Otherwise, we’ve got three songs over ten minutes and one over 16!  Who even knew young bands did stuff like this anymore?

Al Joseph plays lead guitar and sings lead vocals.  His guitar speed is very impressive and his vocals sound not unlike Dug Pinnick from King’s X (noticeable on the opening track, especially) .  Matt Weaver plays violin and keyboards.  The keyboards offer more than just a fuller sound.  On “Release the Kraken” they provide some cool sci-fi sound effects.  At about five minutes in, “Release the Kraken” slows down to a quiet middle section that really showcases Steve Michael’s drums.  And then comes the blistering guitar solo.  It’s followed quickly but a slight diversion and then a wholly different style of solo.  It’s really something.

If “Release the Kraken” wasn’t a good enough prog rock title, how bout “Legends of the Symmetria.”  This one has a very Dream Theater feel for the opening.  But the vocals sound very different–dual vocals with great low harmony.  There’s a cool pre-chorus (I guess) at about 3 minutes.  This song is definitely a heavy one.  At about 4 minutes, the song slows down into a pretty classical guitar section,where Chris Joseph on plays bass gets to show off a bit (although he seems to be the most understated of the 4 players).  There’s some great drumming at the end of the song, too.

“The Ghost of Three Reflections” is a slow builder of a song.  There’s some quiet parts (with beautiful harmonies) and a guitar solo that sounds clear and perfect (I’m hyping the production so much because it sounds so good).  The guitar solo section in this one strikes me as something that might suit two guitarists better–maybe two more different styles of soloing, but he pulls it off well, especially when by the end, he has shifted to a very different style, and the music changes along with it).  I love the bass section at the 8 minute mark, which reminds me of something Rush might have done back in the mid 70s.  The song kind of merges into “Breach At Fort Mycenae” which opens with the same kind of staggered sound as the end of the previous song.  The violin gets an airing in the middle of this song and it’s a cool treat.  I could definitely use more violin in these songs, although maybe little bits are a treat.  There’s a few times when I don’t like the production choices–maybe there needs to be a bit more music behind some of these solos so it doesn’t just sound like two players soloing against each other.

The disc ends with the big one, the sixteen minute, “The Sleepwalker Pt. 1 – Tears of Dagon” [I love that it’s a Part One and it’s 16 minutes long].  When the vocals kick in at about 3 minutes, the harmonies are gorgeous.  I love the bass guitar break at 5 minutes.  Although there’s something about the keyboard sound that I don’t like–maybe they’re not big enough?  But I love the crazy guitar solo at the 9 minute mark of this track (I’m a sucker for dissonant scales).

This is an amazing debut CD and I hope these guys go far (they’re going from Scranton to Boston for school, but I hope they can go further than that).  They are tight as a drum, stopping and starting perfectly, keeping all of the rhythms and time changes perfectly.  They really have done their prog rock homework.  The only gripe is as I’ve said, some sections don’t feel “big” enough.  If you’re going to write a 16 minute song, you don’t want sections that sound small–you want your backing guitars or bass guitars to be a little louder so it sounds like the song is still going.  But other than that, there’s not much room for improvement.

I downloaded their CD, (and yes, I paid for it…that will help with college, eh?).  But my real complaint is that on the computer, the album cover is awesome–if you look at it from an angle, there’s a whole scene behind the large logo (try it, it works here too).  But when you print it out, you lose all of that.  The images are there, but the effect is gone.  This is a band that calls out for full color packaging and maybe even a gatefold sleeve!  (The bottom of the cover says Ο υπνoβάτης which means The Sleepwalker).

Good jobs guys!  You’ve done NEPA proud!

[READ: May 15, 2012] Drop Dead Healthy

Sarah got me this latest A.J. Jacobs book for my birthday.  At first I didn’t think I wanted to read it because I feared what a book all about being in good shape would be—nagging, obnoxious, making me feel bad about my vices. But I should have leaned from all of my A.J. Jacobs experience that he is completely NOT about that.

Jacobs occasionally enters into preposterous forays of Self-Improvement.  In the first book of his I read, The  Guinea Pig Diaries, he tried various weird experiments to see what it was like to be a woman, radically honest, a unitasker, etc.  His other books have been about self-improvement.  He read the encyclopedia from A-Z, he did a year trying to live like out of the bible (I will get to these eventually).  In this book, he is on a quest to be the healthiest person in the world.

It’s an impossible task.  And, frankly, a foolish one.  But he decides he will take two years and focus on individual parts of his body one month at a time.  I’m going say right up front I feared that this book would make me feel bad about all the things I don’t do for myself.   But well, a) Jacobs is a funny writer, so at least you’re laughing.  b) Jacobs is either in bad shape or plays up his badshapedness so that the average person doesn’t feel too bad off.  c) He is so over the top in his quest that no one would ever think about doing all of the things, but we can take what he learned and apply little bits to ourselves.  What is nice is that he tries to get two if not balanced opinions then perhaps fringe opinions to balance out–trying one extreme then another to see which work.

He Breaks His Categories Down thusly: stomach (eating right, the perfect food), the heart, the ears (the quest for quiet), the butt (avoiding sitting too much), the immune system (germs), genitals, nervous system, lower intestine (better bowels), adrenal gland (lowering stress), brain, endocrine system (removing toxins), teeth, feet, lungs, skin, inside of the eyelid (sleep), bladder, gonads, nose, hands, back, eyes, and skull.  Each category is designed to be a month-long workout of that organ/item–some things he keeps doing after the month is over making his workout regime something like 5 hours a day.  And at the beginning of each month he lists the stats for what he accomplished.

I’m not going to talk about all of his body parts, but I will mention a few that i enjoyed the most. (more…)

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mc29SOUNDTRACK: FISHBONE-Give a Monkey a Brain and He’ll Swear He’s the Center of the Universe (1993).

monkeyI had actually forgotten about this album, because it was so overshadowed by Truth and Soul and Reality….. When I put it on I wasn’t expecting much (Fishbone had something of a precipitous decline around this time).  So, I was amazingly delighted with how much I remembered this album and how much I enjoyed it (which shows to me that I must have listened to it a lot back in college).

This album is much much heavier than anything they’ve done up to this point (I can’t speak for the releases that came after it).  It does have some variety of songs, but not nearly as much as their previous releases.  The other notable thing is that there’s no short songs on it.  There’s none of the one minute songs that they’ve put throughout their discs.

“Swim” was the single from the album and it is heavy and moshy.  The video, I seem to recall, was a lot of people crowd surfing.  “Black Flowers” slows things down a bit, but unlike previous ballads, this one is still pretty loud.  It’s got a great catchy melody, but it’s still  quite dark. “Servitude” reminds me of some of King’s X’s s darker moments, with their riffs and dark harmonies.  (This just shows how Fishbone is much more metal on this release).  Their first “lighter” song is the return to ska with “Unyielding Condition.”  It’s a nice let up from the heaviness, and is still catchy. “Lemon Meringue” is the other lighter moment, with a nice bass riff included.

Funk returns with “Properties of Propaganda” and the repeated chants of “Fuk This Shit on Up.”  “The Warmth of Your Breath” is hardcore insanity, the type of song that would have been about 2 minutes on another disc sort of overstays its welcome, although the often repeated line “may your dog’s colon be familiar with the warmth of your breath” while barely audible can’t help but raise a smile.  And even though “Drunk Skitzo” features Branford Marsalis, it’s still too long for such silliness.

So, it’s really the first half of the disc that I liked a lot…I guess some discs run too long.

I never got a Fishbone CD after this one.   The reviews were pretty lousy by then.  But of course, the reviews of this one were lousy too, so maybe I’m, selling their later output short.

[READ: January 3, 2009] McSweeney’s # 29

My cover for this book happens to be red.  Huh.

This issue comes as a hardcover book.  There are planets on the cover, including a die cut hole that shows the moon of the next page.

On the bottom of every page of the book are matchbox labels.  Most of them are Eastern European in origin.  They were collected by Jane McDevitt, a web designer in the UK.  Some of the images are available on her Flickr site: www.flickr.com/photos/maraid.  They are a pretty cool collection of images.  And, they brighten up all the work . (more…)

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walrus-octSOUNDTRACK: KING’s X-XV (2008).

xvIt’s funny that it was the release of this King’s X album that got me to re-listen to all of them.  I was really pleased with this record when it came out because I had felt that I wasn’t enjoying King’s X as much as I used to.  But upon listening to this one again, I found I didn’t like it as much as some of their other more recent releases.

I’m not sure what it is, but something seems slightly less substantive on this record than say, Ogre Tones.  But I don’t think it’s the songs themselves, if that makes sense.  It has to be something about the overall feel of the disc or the track listing or even the production that detracts, because there’s not really a bad song on the disc.

“Pray” is as excellent a rocking single as you’ll hear these days: the bass is that cool watery sounding bass that Doug has been experimenting with lately.  And, while some may think it is a return to religious songs, I think it is just the opposite.  “Blue” and “Repeating Myself” are decent ballads from Doug and Ty respectively.  While “Rocket Ship” is another one of their Huh? songs, with the inscrutable chorus “Would you like to spend the night in my new rocket ship?”

But overall, the album seems to spend more time with their softer side.  Not that’s there’s anything wrong with their softer side, but their softer side has changed somewhat.  On earlier discs, the softer songs were beautiful, layered, harmonized ballads, but these seem to be mid-tempo rockers.  “Julie,” “I Just Want to Live,” and ” I Don’t Know” are mellow certainly but they lack the celestial quality of their earlier songs.  Again, they’re not bad, but they’re just good songs.  But lest you think they’ve gotten too old to rock, there’s still “Alright” and “Move” which get things back on the harder/faster track. The album ends with the raucous, awesome sing-along “Go Tell Somebody.”

There are two bonus songs (what does a bonus song mean anymore anyhow?  They used to be there to get people to buy CDs over LPs, so, where are these “bonus” tracks NOT available?”).  Love and Rockets (Hell’s Screaming)” is the heaviest/darkest thing on this album, or possible any album by them.  While “No Lie” is a fun little blues jam.

In re-listening, I can’t say that I dislike any of the songs and hearing any song by itself would be great. And even a few days later while writing this, “Alright” (one day (one day) it’s gonna be (it’s gonna be) alright (alright) alright! (alright!) just won’t leave my head.  But somehow the flow of the album is just not quite perfect.  Maybe I miss the gorgeous harmonies, or some of the real highs and lows of a typical KIng’s X album.  In fact, this may be their most mainstream sounding disc, suitable for all, and maybe that’s why I don’t like it quite as much.

[READ: November 6, 2008] “Red Dog, Red Dog”

This story follows in a tradition of rural Canadian stories full of bleakness and despair. Its temperament reminded me somewhat of Alice Munro, except there was no really redemption, which you often get from Atwood. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Ogre Tones (2005).

No one should be made to feel ALONE! And with that Kings X are back.  It’s the most aggressive scream I’ve heard from King’s X (and it comes from Ty, not Doug no less).

After what seemed like something of a hiatus with Black Like Sunday and Live All Over the Place, King’s X seem rejuvenated and excited to be rocking out.  Despite the hardcore opening scream of “Alone,” the song is their catchiest single yet.  Lyrically the song is about tolerance and compassion.  Its also pretty short (just under 3 minutes), as are the next 4 songs.  It’s as if they had these great ideas and just had to get them out.  “Stay”  returns to the style of old King’s X, with a minor change: it’s the vocal harmonies that are dissonant not the guitars.  “Hurricane” also tinkers with the formula where part of the chorus revels in their harmonies of old and the other part plays with a new aspect: gang vocals, bringing power rather than subtlety.  “Fly” is yet another great shoulda-been a single.  And “If”is yet another Stellar ballad, where Doug sings verses and harmonies bring in the chorus.

A controversial song (for fans anyway) is “Bebop.”  This is one of their experimental tracks, and it kind of hearkens back to some of the tracks off of Bulbous with very staccato guitars, unusual bass lines and the nonsense lyrics of “Bebop be alive ya’ll. Awhop boba lo bop a wop bam boom!.”  While it’s not their best work, it’s certainly catchy as anything, and I give them credit for throwing in some experimentation.  And frankly, it’s pretty fun if you loosen up a bit.

The next few tracks play with the basic formula of the album, until you get to “Sooner or Later” which, lets Ty noodle around on the guitar for 5 or 6 minutes, like an extended jam off of Faith Hope Love.  “Mudd” ends the album proper with a really touching, sweet song.  It could easily fit on Gretchen.

The last two songs I don’t really count.  “Goldilox (Reprise)” is, as you might guess a remake of “Goldilox.” I don’t know why they’d remake one of their most beloved songs.  Aside from the fact that they’ve been playing it since 1987, and the band has changed their style somewhat, they could show everyone what it would sound like if they made it now.  Otherwise, why bother.  It does sound good, mind you, but the original sounds better.  The last track, “Bam” is a historical recording of Thomas Edison’s phonograph.  It’s a weird way to end a record.  But nothing can take away from the fact that King’s X are back in form and they still sound great.

[READ: October 24, 2008] “Whyte Avenue Blue,” “Just the Thing,” “Terminal City,” “Red Carpet Caper,” “Beyond the Overpass,” “The End of Pinky”

I had put off reading these stories because I was in the middle of a couple of other things at the time.  When I finally got around to reading them (and they’re all very short…about a page or two each) I had forgotten that the “theme” behind the stories was noir.  When I started reading them, I kept thinking…none of these stories is even remotely believable.  It’s like the authors are trying really hard to craft stories that are transgressive, almost beyond belief in some way.  Well, when I re-read the sub-heading for the stories, I realized: “The Walrus asked Canadian novelists to sketch their cities as grittier, sexier, and darker than you might ever have imagined…”  So that explained it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Black Like Sunday (2003).

This is a collection of old and rare tracks that King’s X decided to record anew, rather than releasing older versions.  This makes for an unusual scenario of a band recording songs that the wrote some twenty years earlier.  It’s a weird collection of songs to me, as some of them, the ones that I assume are early songs, really sound like they’re early songs: without all of the interesting aspects that later King’s X became known for (musical complexity, meaningful lyrics).  I can’t help but wonder if they thought about “updating” the songs more than just by re-recording them.

And, I have mixed reactions to this disc.  It’s not King’s X as I like them, yet there are moments that are really great.  And, there are even a couple of songs that I don’t think are very good, yet which I can’t get out of my head (“Danger Zone” comes to mind…it sounds like an 80s metal ballad, and yet it’s been in my head for 3 days).  Some other tracks are really good, and must be B-sides, rather than old songs: “Black Like Sunday” is great and “Screamer” is a wonderfully dark song, even if the chorus is pretty much just Doug screaming.  There’s also a good chance for Ty to get a soloing workout on “Johnny,” an 11 minute song that is mostly guitar noodling.

Overall this disc feels like something of a stopgap.  And, when you combine it with the live album Live All Over the Place (2004) which came next, it really seemed like King’s X were winding down their career.

[READ: October 22, 2008] Nation

Terry Pratchett has a new book out and — NEWSFLASH — it’s NOT set on Discworld.  There’s no mention of Discworld, and Pratchett’s character-in-every-book Death does not show up (although there is a Death-like character, and there are voices in the main character’s head that are in all caps, just like Death).

I’ve not read anything about why he set this book on earth (or, as the epilogue notes…a parallel universe earth), so I’m not sure if there’s something more to it than just wanting a change.

And so, no speculating from me, just a review of the book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING’S X-Manic Moonlight (2001).

This disc is not terribly popular among the King’s X fans.  A big complaint is that they dared to use drum loops.  It’s kind of a funny complaint because aside from adding a bit of texture (and for some reason, having each song start out with the drum machine), it’s not like they’ve suddenly gone all techno.  In fact, overall the album has a feeling of insular claustrophobia.  It feels like the songs are just densely packed with little room to breathe.

To me, the loops aren’t that odd for a band that’s big into experimentation (although you’ll note they were not used again).  What’s unusual is the addition of funk elements in “Believe,” and some really funky elements in “Vegetable”  There’s also some noisy/crunchy guitar workouts in “Yeah.” This song is also kind of odd as the verses are practically inaudible, but the choruses (which consist of the word “Yeah”) are just so great! Perhaps the most unusual track on the disc is “Skeptical Wind” which comes across as a rhymed/spoken-word piece that references Mia Farrow among other things.

But the title track sounds most like the King’s X we know and love.  In addition, “False Alarm” and “Jenna” are pretty close to the earlier Ty ballads (even though Ty doesn’t sing them).  They contain the harmonies we’re used to, but really they are sort of smothered in all of the surrounding noise.

The album is still full of great songs…the guys never lost their songwriting chops.  It’s just the way the songs are presented that makes them sound so different. It’s an interesting experiment, for which I give them credit, but it really doesn’t showcase the best aspects of the band.

[READ: Throughout 2008] Schott’s Miscellany 2008

In the best case of “but I thought you liked him” ever, Sarah bought me this book for Christmas, certain that I had read and enjoyed other books by him.  Interestingly, I had never heard of him or his books.  But I was very intrigued by the concept of it.

As you might imagine, I enjoy trivia and I like facts.  And for a person like me, this collection is fantastic.  As the subtitle says, it is an almanac; however, unlike the standard almanacs (Information Please, etc.) which are just lists of information.  Ben Schott (could he be the only one who works on this book?) gathers all of the interesting things that happened from September 2006 through August 2007 into interesting, subjective groups, with interesting, subjective names, and then writes about them. (more…)

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