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Archive for the ‘My Bloody Valentine’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TRAGIC MULATTO-“Freddy” (1987)

I knew of Tragic Mulatto because they were on Alternative Tentacles records (home to Dead Kennedys).  But I’d actually never heard them before, I don’t think. I knew they were a noise rock band, but I had no idea they were quite so explicit.

The main band members were singer Flatula Lee Roth (Gail Coulson), guitarist Richard Skidmark (Tim Carroll) and bassist Reverend Elvister Shanksley aka Lance Boyle (Alistair Shanks).

This five minute song starts like a deranged circus with a swirling saxophone and  a muddled guitar and drum stomp.  Once the music establishes itself, the vocals come in, a deep growly evil spokenish rhyme that I can’t exactly make out.

Around 1:45 Flatuta takes over, singing a refrain of

“Don’t let him cum in your … butt … ear … rear … head … bed … feet … all over your sheets.” etc. that runs for the rest of the song. It’s surprisingly catchy, but you’d not want to sing it at the dinner table.

Fascinatingly, this album is described as featuring more tightly structured music that emphasized melody was less satirical and more serious.

It sounds like Tragic Mulatto, and especially Gail Coulson, (who is said to have possessed a simply astonishing vocals range) were really ahead of their time.

[READ: July 10, 2019] “Marmalade Sky”

I love Nell Zink’s writing and was pretty excited to see that she had a new story.  This is an excerpt from her new book Doxology.

It is 1990, Pam went over to Joe’s place to listen to records.

Joe let Pam in and introduced her to a man holding a piece of black plastic.  His name was Daniel Scoboda and he was holding the Sassy Sonic youth flexi.

Joe said he subscribed to the magazine as soon as he heard about it. But Pam, who introduced herself as Pam Diaphragm, said the magazine wasn’t long for the world.  Whats the demographic? Thirteen year-old girls who fuck?  Advertisers really go for that.

Joe said he’s a Sonic Youth completist. The only thing he doesn’t have is the single “I Killed Christgau with My Big Fuckin’ Dick.”  Daniel said its not a real record, the editor of the magazine made it up.  [I love this Sonic Youth indie rock banter]. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 30, 2018] My Bloody Valentine

Back in the 1990s I loved My Bloody Valentine.  I can recall checking the racks in Newbury Comics on a weekly basis just to see if there was some kind of follow up to Loveless (this is before the internet told us when things were coming out).  After waiting some 20 years I basically gave up on the band.  When mbv came out, I didn’t even bother listening to it, the hype was so much.

When they announced this tour I wondered whether it was worth going.  But I was assured that they always put on a good show.  I was also warned that it would be loud.  Really loud.  Like, people leaving the theater loud.  It actually made me a little nervous.  They were giving out earplugs at the entrance (which is a good idea for any show, nut especially for this one).

I knew I wouldn’t be there early enough to get too close.  But I’ve learned from past show that being up too close ruins the vocals.  So that was fine.  The crowd was pretty large when we arrived and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to be.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 26, 2018] Overlake

My friend Al knows the members of Overlake and he thought he might be attending this show.  I was bummed he wasn’t there (and even moreso when I tried to text him to see if he was there and realized that I didn’t have his cell number, gah).

I wound up getting to the show really early and parked literally against the stage.  I was fascinated that at the start of the show all three drum sets were set up.  And how fascinating that Overlake (the opener) was right in the middle.

I looked up the band before the show and the description of the band sounded like I’d really like them:

Overlake is a three-piece band from Jersey City, comprised of Tom Barrett (voice, guitar), Lysa Opfer (Bass, voice), and Nick D’Amore (drums).  When they’re not incessantly waxing philosophical about the musical merits of both MBV and GBV … Overlake is busy honing their own unique brand of noisy dreampop, drawing from such stalwart influences as Dinosaur Jr, Slowdive, and Yo La Tengo.

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 22, 2017] Thurston Moore Group

I’ve loved Sonic Youth since the late 1980s.  And yet in all of those years I never saw them live.  Never!  So to make up for that, I quickly snatched up tickets for Thurston Moore’s show at Underground Arts (such a great intimate venue).  Inexplicably, I don’t  think the show sold out.

For this show his band consisted of Thurston on guitar and vocals, Steve Shelley on drums (1/2 of Sonic Youth right there), My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe (!) and maniac guitarist James Sedwards.

I had the impression that they would play most if not all of their new (fantastic) album Rock n Roll Consciousness.  And that was fine with me.  They did play the whole album, but not in order.

I was talking to the fans around me and we marveled at the lo-tech way their gear was set up–the bass was propped on the bass drum case, guitar amps were stacked on chairs.  And, everyone (except Thurston) came out to prep their own gear.

There were a couple lunatic bozos nearby who just screamed and shouted through the set, but it’s hard to overpower Thurston and Co.  One of these bozos took off his short and threw it on stage–it actually landed on Deb’s bass which I could see pissed her off.  After the song she threw it back into the crowd–it sailed right over my head. (more…)

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criminalsSOUNDTRACK: JOANNA GRUESOME-Weird Sister (2013).

joanna  I love this short rocking record from this Welsh band whose name is presumably a pun on harpist Joanna Newsome (a fairly obscure joke, no doubt).  In fact I really can’t stop listening to their blend of smooth noise and pretty/screamy vocals .  Lead singer Alanna McArdle has several distinct styles of singing, from pretty and sweet to screamed and scary.  She’s accompanied by a stellar lineup of guys who can do punk and a lot more: drummer Dave Gruesome and  guitarists George and Owen Gruesome (also vocals).

The album reminds me of My Bloody Valentine with splash of riot grrl and occasional old school punk thrown in.  There are elements of pure MBV shoegaze (and even of MBV noisy distortion), but without the meticulous layering that Kevin Shields spent years of his life mastering–this album feels largely spontaneous..

“Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers” opens with a descending guitar riff, switches to some shoegazey type verses and then jumps into some loud screamed choruses, before starting the whole thing over again.  I love the dissonance at the beginning of “Sugarcrush” and how it morphs into a strangely catchy song midway through. And then it shifts back into raw dissonance.  I also get a sense of Cocteau Twins in the vocals on “Madison” (and other songs).  The opening riff is pure dissonance but the verse is just bliss (the “head on the door line of course makes me think of The Cure even though they don’t sound like them at all).

“Wussy Void” slows things down with some actual individual notes and audible lyrics (I’m told the lyrics are very feminist, but I honestly can’t hear too many of them–which isn’t really a shame because her voice is perfect for this band and just knowing that she’s singing about meaningful things is enough of a bonus.

“Lemonade Grrl” starts shoegazey but quickly speeds up with some pummeling drums behind her delicate voice.  “Secret Surprise” is probably the “prettiest” song of the bunch–the dissonance is at a minimum, and yet it is still noisy and punky.  “Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love With Me?” is the sweetest song on the album, with a pleasant guitar riff and a catchy and understandable chorus–until the raging blast of punk at the end.

At 4 minutes, “Candy” is the longest song on the disc.  It slows things down and has a fairly conventional structure.  “Graveyard” starts as a punk blast but gets softer for the chorus.  And the album closer “Satan” belies its name and the album by opening delicately and having the first notices of a large bass sound and then after 2 minutes it abruptly ends.

I really love this record (all 28 minutes of it).  And I can’t wait for more.  I just found out that they have a few singles and E.P.s streaming on their bandcamp site.  Most of these recordings are earlier, rawer version of songs on the album.

[READ: October 19, 2014] Sex Criminals

This intriguingly titled comic is intended for mature readers (as you might expect).  But before we get to the criminal aspect of the story, we’ll back up to meet the characters.

First there is Suzie.  Her mostly amusing story begins with a pretty awful tragedy. A man killed Suzie’s father when she was a little girl (the story promises that things will get funnier as we learn her story). This all ties into the big banks that she rails against later, but I’m not exactly sure that this back story is even necessary (yet).

But this incident makes young Suzie delve deeper into herself.  And when she discovers what kind of pleasure can be had by herself she discovers something…peculiar.  It seems that whenever she climaxes she enters into what she calls The Quiet.  In a nutshell, everything around her stops, but she is able to move–this later led to some fairly awkward moments with guys.  She tried to talk to girls at school about this–of course they looked at her like she was crazy. Although one girl proceeds to show her about a dozen sex positions (by drawing them on the bathroom wall–this may be the funniest thing in the whole book as they are so outrageous yet so cartoony, and I’ve not heard of half of them).

She tries talking to her doctor–he basically tells her that her husband will help her when she’s older.  And then she tries her mother who is still grieving about Suzie’s dad.  So, three strikes, she’s out.

So, how does a plot develop out of this? (more…)

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Miskatonic University Press Weird Tales compendiumSOUNDTRACK: YUCK-“Rebirth” (2013).

Yuck-Rebirth-608x608-88e4ecb86a2dbcb086211620179bd14d6dbe5221-s1Yuck put out a great albumin 2011.  And then a principal songwriter and singer Daniel Blumberg left the band.  So they regrouped and are coming out with Rebirth (due in the fall).  This track is very My Bloody Valentinesque–big echoey guitars with gentle vocals on top of them.

The big difference comes in the bridge which seems a little more pop than most MBV songs. The chorus also has a few guitar notes that stand out as unechoed notes which also break the shoegaze vibe in a very interesting way.  The biggest surprise comes at the end when the song turns into mostly drums with a bit of a keyboard/dancey feel. It’s just a touch to show that they are not simply mimicking shoegaze, they are using it in their own way.

I’m excited to hear what else the come up with.

[READ: August 8, 2013] “The Horror at Martin’s Beach”

This short story was written by H.P. Lovecraft’s wife, Sonia H. Greene.  Apparently Lovecraft then edited/reworked it before publication in Weird Tales (when it was titled “The Invisible Monster”) although it seems every anthologized version has the “Martin’s Beach” title.  For more about Weird Tales issues, check out Yankee Classic.

I’m not sure how much work Lovecraft did on this story as it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of his own work.  Indeed, it is a fairly straightforward story with none of the gods and supernatural eerieness that Lovecraft puts in his work.  Which is not to say that this story doesn’t have  supernatural elements, it’s just not Lovecraft’s supernatural elements.

In this short story, a group of sailors of the coast of Gloucester fought with an undersea beast for 40 hours before subduing it. The beast was huge–nearly fifty feet long and ten feet in its cylindrical diameter.  Although it was clearly a fish, it also had small forelegs.  Its skin was thick and, most peculiarly, it has one, giant eye.  After it was dissected, scientists determined that despite the enormity of the creature, it was only a baby–simply a few days old. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_08_05_13Cuneo.inddSOUNDTRACK: JACKSON SCOTT-“Evie” (2013).

jacksonscottWhat if My Bloody Valentine were a little creepier–playing with the speed of voices and using their hazy shoegaze sound to slightly more sinister ends.  You’d get something of what Jackson Scott sounds like on this track.

I don’t know who Jackson Scott is, but the NPR podcast that introduced me to him makes him sound like a very interesting guy (and that Melbourne is kind of a downer album.

This is a lo-fi recording (his first) that’s then played around with on the computer.  His voice is pitch shifted (which is what gives it a creepy feel).  But the guitars are beautiful and dreamy, floating to the outer reaches.

[READ: August 6, 2013] “Paranoia”

When I saw that Shirley Jackson was the author of this story I thought. “Isn’t she dead?”  [She is}.  And then I thought, “Did she write anything other than “The Lottery”?” [She did—6 novels, 4 short story collections and, gulp, 4 children’s stories].

I’m always confused when the New Yorker publishes a story like this.  Has it never appeared before?  Is it anthologized and they just wanted a story to fill the space?  Are they contractually obligated to run a “classic” song twice a year?   Whatever the case, I adored this story—which makes me think I should be reading more Jackson.

What I loved especially about this story is that as soon as I started reading it, I knew it was an older story—not because of any internal clues (it’s not until ¾ of the way into the story when he pays a nickel for a bus ride that an approximate date can be pegged to the story), but just the style, the spookiness without graphic-ness.  It’s psychological without being violent or necessarily creepy.  It feels like people don’t write psychological thrillers like this as much as they did.  And sure the thrills are mild, but they are definitely psychological.

The story is a simple one, an average man, Mr Beresford, looks like all the other average men coming home from work in NYC.  But Beresford remembered his wife’s birthday and is delighted that he bought her candies.  He plans to take an early bus home and take her out to dinner.  He’s very happy and looking forward to a nice night.

Until a man in a light gray hat, with a small mustache) approaches him.  He makes eye contact, seems to frown at Beresford and then moves on.  Beresford is confused by this, but puts the gray hat man out of his mind until he goes to climb on the bus and the same man pushes him from behind very hard until the gray hat is on the bus and the doors are closed in Beresford’s face.

Beresford is puzzled and more than a little annoyed. But he decides that his day is too good to be ruined by this man, so he puts him out of his mind and looks for another way home.

But then he sees the thin man again. And the man seems to be coming at him.  So Beresford hops into a souvenir shop to escape the man, but when he tries to leave the clerk accosts him and engages him to look at more things.  Then Beresford sees the gray hat man is approaching as well.  Now Beresford is really freaking out.  But what does this man want? (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_03_13Hall.inddSOUNDTRACK: DEAFHEAVEN-“Dream House” (2013).

deafheavenNPR’s Lars Gotrich always picks songs that I like–even if I would never have found them any other way.

His favorite album of the year so far is by this band Deafheaven whom I have never heard of.  The song is 9 minutes long and it combines big loud guitars, super fast crashing drums, and cookie monster vocals (mixed so low in the mix that they almost sound just like noise–a neat trick).  The waves and layers of sound give it a kind of My Bloody Valentine feel.

For the first half of the song, the drums are absolutely speed metal fast–pounding and pounding with wild cymbals.  But they too are mixed low in the mix–setting a beat but not dominating the song.  For really this song seems to be all about the guitar–which is not exactly playing along with them.  Sure, there are fast  moments, and the guitar is largely distorted and noisy.  But the tone of the guitar is very bright–especially when he starts playing some simple but pretty riffs (amid the noise).

And then about half way through, the noise drops away and the music become quiet and pretty.  Two guitars interweave slow melodies.  Until the music crashes back in, but with a different tempo and a feeling like Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai.

I know many will be turned off by the vocals (I think I might even like it more if it were purely instrumental), but the way they are mixed, shows that the music is the dominant sound, and I can get behind that.

[READ: June 12, 2013] “Company Man”

I always enjoying reading a David Sedaris Personal History (interestingly I haven’t read all of his books—I seem to stick to the articles instead).  This one is about having a  guest room.  He considers it a true sign of aging gracefully that his new house has a guest room (with its own bathroom).

Their previous house in Normandy had nothing of the sort and he gives typically humorous anecdotes about being embarrassed for the guests who don’t have any privacy in the bathroom (“we’ll be going out for about twenty minutes if you need anything.”)  But now they have this new space.

Which means of course that they have guests.  I enjoyed the part when Hugh’s friends come to visit–based on his father’s behaviors, David is allowed to leave in the middle of a conversation because he is not the one entertaining the guests).  But the bulk of the second half concerns David’s family.  (more…)

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mouldbookSOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-Silver Age (2012).

silverage

I was a huge fan of everything Bob Mould put out.  And then he more or less gave up on music.  So I just enjoyed his past and ignored what else he did.  But then I heard great reviews of his new album Silver Age.  So great in fact, that I couldn’t help but listen to it.  And it is amazing.  It’s a major return to his punkier roots.  The guitars are loud and fast but the melodies are still present.  And what’s more important, his voice sounds great and the album is mixed really well–previous Mould records have suffered in production quality.  But this is a great great record.

“Star Machine” opens the disc with loud guitars, a simple melody and lots of attitude.  I love the repeated “Said It” that appears throughout the song.  “Silver Age” is something of a manifesto for Mould.  The guitars are harsh and jagged with lots of distortion and the lyrics tell you everything: “Never too old to contain my rage  This is how I’m gonna spend my days gonna fight gonna fuck gonna feed gonna walk away.”

“The Descent” is classic Mould–big guitars, great catchy vocals and really nice harmonies/backing vocals.  “Briefest Moment” starts with a thudding drum and a sparse fast guitar (which somehow reminds me of Cheap Trick).  The bass comes in with a galloping line rather than playing the same notes and it adds a lot of depth to the album.  “Steam of Hercules” slows things down a bit but “Fugue State” comes crashing back in with more fast thumping drums and sparse but effective guitars.

“Round the City Square” picks up the noise level and includes a wild guitar solo.  “Angels Rearrange” again sounds like classic Mould.  While “Keep Believing” has a great bridge that reminds me a lot of Hüsker Dü (yes I mentioned the band that should not be named).  “First Time Joy” ends the disc on a gentle note.  It’s a ballad (where you can really hear Mould’s voice and how clean and strong it sounds).  There’s keyboards on this song that add some nice dimension.  By the end the song gets bigger and more powerful, ending on a really strong chord.  It’s an awesome return to the rock fold for Mould and I look forward to more from him.

[READ: March 5, 2013] See a Little Light

After getting The Silver Age, I remembered that Mould had written an autobiography and that I’d heard it was quite good.  I don’t really read a lot of autobiographies, but my history with Mould is pretty deep and I was curious to see what had happened in his life to make him abandon his rock roots.  So I tracked it down.  And I really enjoyed it.

The fascinating thing is what a reasonable man Mould presents himself as.  I’m not disputing this–I don’t know really anything else about the guy–but every time someone dumps on him, he accepts partial responsibility for the problem and moves on.  If he’s really like that, that’s very cool.  But he almost seems too nice sometimes.

As I’ve said, I didn’t know much about Mould.  My friend Al got me into Hüsker Dü and I’ve been a fan ever since.  I’ve bought some of his solo records and all of his band records, but I kind of lost interest in him the last decade or so (during his experimental phase).  But I didn’t even really know why Hüsker Dü broke up.

Some interesting things about Bob: he was born numerically gifted–I really enjoyed the section about his childhood and the genius-y stuff he did.  Although he had a pretty rough childhood–his older brother died when Bob was young and so Bob was seen as a golden child (especially after something that happened to him which he didn’t learn about until much later).  And he started drinking at a very young age.

When he got to college he formed Hüsker Dü with Grant Hart (Greg Norton came a little later).  I enjoyed hearing about the early days of Hüsker Dü because I only learned of them much later.  And man were they productive!  They’d release an album and have new material ready to record before they even toured for the album that came out already.  It’s cool reading about the punk scene back in the days before the internet when bands had to rely on each other for support.  There’s also a lot of people who Bob name checks and it’s fun to hear all of the punk names again, especially the names of people who are still active.  (There’s also some bad vibes against SST, but since this is Mould, the bad vibes are pretty mild). (more…)

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