Archive for the ‘Public Enemy’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BROWNOUT-Tiny Desk Concert #931 (January 10, 2020).

I’d heard of Brownout when they released Brown Sabbath, a funk covers album of Black Sabbath songs.  They have also released an album of Public Enemy covers.

I didn’t realize that they were a long-established band (fifteen years).  They originally started as a Latin funk band (and backed up Prince).  Their singer, Alex Marrero, has only been with them for four years or so–it was originally a side project that turned into much more.

One of the things you need to know about this band is that they can change traditions or genres almost on a dime. The core members dip into soul, Latin funk, a form of Peruvian cumbia called chicha, and funk covers of both Black Sabbath and Public Enemy.

The first song they play “Somewhere To Go,”

is punctuated by an old-school R&B horn section (Mark “Speedy” Gonzales on trombone and Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet) that’s deceptively simple and emblematic of the power of their concept and spirit.

The song has a slow groove and starts with a cool bassline from Greg Gonzalez.  There’s rocking, distorted guitars and lots of horns.  He sings a few lines and then starts singing into a megaphone “paddle your way out of this.”

The next song “Nain” is also new, “with lyrics in Spanish about being different and not fitting in and seeing that as a positive.”

The intricate interplay of the baritone sax (Joshua Levy), guitar (Beto Martinez), bongos (Matthew “Sweet Lou” Holmes) and electronic and acoustic drums (John Speice) launch the second cut, “Nain,” into another down-tempo burner,

I love the way the horns play a simple melody after the first section that sounds a bit like a commercial break in a TV show–waiting for whats to come next.  Again the guitar is interesting, playing a few complex patterns while the echoing keyboard solo from Peter Stopschinski adds a trippy aspect to it.

The final song is “You Don’t Have To Fall,” which includes

old-school Tower of Power horns that made quite a few heads dip and hips shake in our corner of the NPR building,

The song has a ripping guitar solo from Beto Martinez’s during  which Alex plays a shaker gourd.  It’s really catchy.

They seem to be able to do it all.

[READ: January 10, 2020] “The Whale Mother”

Leila’s marriage has fallen apart.  She still lives with her husband and kids, but they have both hired lawyers.  Her lawyer had told her things were over and she should “Go forth and date.”

So she decided to book a retreat

While on the SeaTac-Whidbey Island Shuttle, the older man in front of her started talking to her. He says he’s lived on the island for more than ten years.  When the ferry arrived, he led her upstairs–not waiting for her but assuming she’d be following him.  He was married–he wasn’t trying to pick her up–he just seem to enjoy talking to her.  Their time on the ferry was a little disappointing to her because she wanted to stay inside in he “sophisticated interior” but he went right through to the deck.  Nevertheless, she enjoyed the company and developed a bit of a crush on him.

He asked what her heritage was.  This “was the question she would have asked him if such a question weren’t now a minefield.  Leila welcomed the question when it came from another brown person but would not have assumed other brown people felt the same way.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 17, 2018] DJ Jester

I was pretty excited to experience Kid Koala’s Vinyl Vaudeville: Floor Kids Edition, even if I didn’t really know what I was going to experience.

The traffic and parking situation was terrible around Johnny Brenda’s and I was sure that I missed the opener, DJ Jester.  He was supposed to go on at 8, and I didn’t get into the club until about 8:45.

Well, imagine my surprise to discover that he had not even gone on yet.

Kid Koala came out and told us that DJ Jester was the DJ at his little brother’s wedding and after that night, Koala knew that he’d have to bring this Texas-based DJ along on an opening slot.

So DJ Jester got behind the turntables and basically DJ’d a 45 minute set of music. (more…)

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 oct6SOUNDTRACK: LIMBOMANIACS-Stinky Grooves (1990).

limboSo this album was a favorite of mine in college (amazingly you can’t find very much about it online–I kind of assumed it was huge, but apparently only in my head).  Why does it fit here?  Because the drummer, Brian “Brain” Mantia is who replaced Tim Alexander on Primus’ next few albums.

The Limbomaniacs album is a big stupid funk rock album that is absolutely college age appropriate (if not terribly sexist).  It’s about sex, butts, porn, poop and getting funky.  You can’t play any of the songs on the radio: “Butt Funkin’,” “Porno” (which has a good riff) “That’s the Way” (which is much more vulgar than I realized) or “The Toilet’s Flooded” (with a great big ….).

The biggest surprise about this album , which is clearly kinda dumb fun, is that it attracted such big names to it. It was produced by Bill Laswell and has vocals from Bootsy Collins and sax from Maceo Parker.  This record must have come out before you had to pay for samples, because they seem to be sampling everything, most of it to good use–2001, Blade Runner, William S. Burroughs and Public Enemy.

Probably the best songs on the disc are the ones that are a bit cleaner (like they emphasized the music over the lyrics) “Maniac” with some good horn samples and quotes from Network, is fun and funky–catchy as anything and still sounds good.  “Free Style” is a fun dancey song (with a sax solo from Parker).  “Shake It” is also a fun song (to me it sounds like a college party–although I guess kids these days don’t listen to funk rock).

“Pavlov’s Frothing Dogs” has extensive samples from a William S. Burroughs story, which works interestingly well.

The little you can find out about them online suggests that the band was well-respected musically (but quickly disbanded after a lot of local success).  I find these songs to be rather simple in structure and performance so it seems hard to imagine them inspiring anyone.  And yet, Laswell is involved and immediately started using Brain on drums in his “supergroup” Praxis.  (The Limbomaniacs also introduced Laswell to Buckethead who was a friend) and Buckethead is in Praxis as well.

I more or less know what happened to everyone in the band.  Mirv, the guitarist went on to form M.I.R.V., but I’m not sure what happened to Butthouse the singer.  This album is a totally time capsule for me.  And the little voice at the end of “The Toilet’s Flooded” made me laugh like I was 20 years old again.

[READ: January 9, 2014] “Story, with Bird”

It’s fun to read a two-page story from time to time.  This story felt quite elliptical–a lot happened, but all in a rather quick way.

As the story begins, we know the couple’s relationship is about to end.  As a last ditch effort at staying together, they decided to give up drinking–but it didn’t really work (obviously).

The bird in the title is a bird which flew into their house.  She tried to attack it to get it out, but he used the more pacifist approach of turning off the lights and leaving the windows opened so the bird could leave on its own.  They fought about who was right, but his way did work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  PUBLIC ENEMY-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Convention Hall, October 2, 2011 (2011).

NPR was cool enough to record and provide as a download most of the shows at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Asbury Park, NJ.  (Portishead wouldn’t allow their show to be recorded, sadly).  But Public Enemy was a welcome surprise!
This tour is in celebration of the anniversary of Fear of a Black Planet.  And they play most of Fear and a lot of other things too (with almost nothing from their 2000 era CDs.

I can remember back in the early days of rap that it was hard to imagine what a rap show would be like live since they didn’t play instruments and much of the music was sampled.  Well, PE has musicians on stage and they have DJ Lord filling in for Terminator X behind the turntables (big shoes to fill, but done largely well–especially his fun “solo” in which he samples The White Stripes and Nirvana–although he should have mixed in Portishead, no?).  And mostly they have the personalities of Chuck D and Flavor Flav.

I suspect that this show would be a bit more fun to watch than it is to listen to–Flavor Flav’s antics don’t always translate well without his visuals.    Like when he asks the audience if that can all say “Ho” (which he eventually holds for 33 seconds!), it seems like a delay tactic in audio, but is probably fun to witness.

What’s especially cool about the show is that PE play so many songs, including small snippets of songs as segues to other ones (like the seventy second version of “Anti-Nigger Machine” that intros “Burn Hollywood Burn” which is practically hardcore) or the minute and a half of “He Got Game” that follows “Night of the Living Baseheads.”  I like that they even threw in some skits from the record like “Meet the G That Killed Me” and “Incident at 66.6FM.”

But of course the real joy is the full length songs, “Brothers Gonna Work It Out,” “911 is a Joke,” and of course “Bring the Noise” and “Fight the Power.”

Some of the improv sections don’t work all that well, the guitar solo in “Power to the People” leaves something to be desired (Khari Wynn maybe a legend, but he;s no Vernon Reid),  although the  “Jungle Boogie” riff is cool.   But the improv with guest drummer Denis Davis was pretty bad ass.  Flavor Flav hopped on the drums and was quite good for “Timebomb.”  We also got to meet Flav’s daughter Jasmine.  And Professor Griff was there too.

It’s also interesting that they keep saying they have no time left in the set (Portishead is next) but they play for at least 30 minutes after this.  Including a wonderful “By the Time I Get to Arizona and the set ending “Fight the Power.”

Chuck D has still got it and Flav is just as crazy and fun as ever (even if his screams and yos seems out of tune from time to time).  Of course, Flav has to get the last word in by raging  on for six and a half minutes  at the end (and about six-minutes in the beginning as well where he gave himself props about his reality show.

It’s a really good set–a little distorted from time to time, but really solid.  Here’s a link to the downloadable show.

[READ: October 2, 2012] Hocus Pocus

This book may have put me over the edge in terms of Vonnegut exhaustion.  I bought this book some time in 1992, but I never read it. It’s been in my house for twenty years and it was about time I read it.

But as I’ve been noticing, each Vonnegut book has been getting darker and more misanthropic.  And this one is no exception.  The construction of the book follows Vonnegut’s cut and paste style but it feels even more shuffled and indirect than usual (more on that later).  In many of Vonnegut’s books, the “climax” occurs somewhere in the middle and he fills in the details later.  For this one, the climax came around h.and I wouldn’t have felt like I missed anything.

In this book, the main character, Eugene Debs Hartke  is a Vietnam vet (usually his protagonists are military men, and Vonnegut has criticized Vietnam a lot, but this is the first time he’s had a Vietnam vet as protagonist).  He married his wife and had a wonderful family until he learned that his mother in law had a disease that made her crazy–but it only kicked in later in life, after he married her daughter.  And that his wife has the same disease–so by the middle of the story both of the women in his life are crazy “hags.”  And, like in his other stories, his children hate him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC ENEMY-Fear of a Black Planet (1990).

NPR recently broadcast a PE show from the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.  I didn’t know that PE was still touring, so that was a surprise to me.  The show was largely a celebration of Fear of a Black Planet, which meant that I had to go back and listen to the original.

Man, is this a solid album.  The lyrics pack a punch even twenty years later and what is perhaps more amazing is that the sound collages that Terminator X created, which were something of an oppressive sonic assault are now fairly mainstream-sounding (forward thinking or what?).

What I like about this (and most PE) albums, is that  they have little skits between songs, but unlike most rap skits they’re not one-not jokes that you listen to once and then skip every future time.  A wonderful skit (for lack of a better word) is “Incident at 66.6 FM” in which we hear an amazing amount of racist epithets thrown at PE apparently on the radio.  Or the rather disturbing “Meet the G That Killed Me.”  “Anti-Nigger Machine” is a great collage of samples like “Think” and James Brown and a dozen more songs.

“Can’t Do Nuttin for Ya, Man!” is a (sort of) comic song from Flav that is catchy as anything. While “Reggie Jax” is a confusingly titled song that has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with funk.

Of course, this disc has some of PE’s best songs as well.  From the awesome “911 is a Joke” to one of the best rap songs ever, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (my favorite story of this song is when I was wearing a  Welcome to the Terrordome shirt and my philosophy professor asked me quite pointedly, “What in the hell is a terrordome.”  That was a fun conversation).  “Terrordome” is still amazing–powerful, musically intense and for all of its lyrical acuity, it still has funny moments….boing.

And of course, “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an amazing critique of the movie industry (and it’s catchy too).  I got Black Caesar back at the crib, right Lar?

I’ve always been a little confused by “Pollywannacracker.”  Not lyrically, but vocally, as Chuck’s (is it really Chuck?) voice is treated in a surprisingly tinny way.  I liked the song more on this listen than any other, I guess in the past it just kind of snuck by me.

The album is a little front loaded with greatness.   “Power to the People” is another powerful song, but it’s not quite as memorable as the other tracks.  “Fear of a Black Planet” has some really cool sounds on it (where did they get that “black man, black woman, black baby” sample?).   “Revolutionary Generation” is a great track in which Chuck and Flav stand up for black women: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, my sister’s not my enemy.”  Not your average rap subject.

And the last couple of proper songs, “B Side Wins Again” and “War at 33 1/3” are fast paced and furious, but they don’t really have much in the way of a hook.  Nevertheless, lyrically they are really great, and I love to hear Chuck D flow that quickly.

The biggest surprise for me is the censored version of “Fight the Power” (the song that got me into PE in the first place, thanks Spike).  It’s really surprising to me that PE allowed their music to be bleeped–unless it was just for a deliberate radio play (which I can accept).  Although they also list a title as “Leave This Off You Fu*Kin Charts” (did I buy a Columbia House version or something?)

This is an amazing album, one that still sounds fresh and sadly, is still relevant.

[READ: October 15, 2011] Between Parentheses

I never expected to get so addicted to Roberto Bolaño.  And despite his death, there is no shortage of works coming out in English (that is one of the advantages to reading a translated author–even death doesn’t cease the available materials).  Indeed, this year alone, New Directions is publishing Between Parentheses, and Tres and FSG is publishing The Third Reich (a collection of non fiction, a collection of poetry and a novel respectively).

When I really get into an author, I fall for his or her works, not necessarily him or her as a person (heck, some author are downright jerks).  But there are some authors that I want to know about, personally.  Bolaño is a pretty polarizing figure–he seems obnoxious, his works don’t shy away from very specific opinions, and sometimes it’s unclear what kind of views Bolaño himself has in his works (or if he’s even telling the truth about his so-called truths).  One thing in particular is the constant use of the word “faggot.”  It is used often in 2666 (and I know that is a translator’s choice, but still) and used derogatorily.  Now, clearly the context is everything for something like that.  But it seems to speak badly of Bolaño.  And yet, when reading these essays he is not homophobic in the least.  He is obviously well aware of institutionalized homophobia in Latin America, and he is obviously not supportive of it.

But that’s just one interesting thing about this book.  So let me back up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: fIREHOSE-Live Totem Pole EP (1992).

Listening to Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” reminded me that I knew a live version from somewhere else.  And, with a little help from the web, I remembered it was here.

fIREHOSE is Mike Watt’s post-Minutemen band, and they are a lot of fun (and even managed to get a major label deal before breaking up.  This (apparently really hard to find) EP is a great, weird collection of covers: Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and the Black”; Public Enemy’s “Sophisticated Bitch” (yes you read that right); The Butthole Surfer’s “Revolution (Part 2)” (with the repeated coda of “Garry Shandling, Garry Shandling”; Superchunk’s “Slack Motherfucker” and Wire’s “Mannequin”.  There’s two Watt-written songs, “What Gets Heard” (from fROMOHIO) and “Makin’ the Freeway” (from if’n).

The covers are universally solid.  The band sounds punky and kind of sloppy and fun (not so terribly virtuosic on the solos), and they bring an amazing vitality to these songs.  The Public Enemy song is probably the biggest surprise as it sounds fantastic in this rocking band set up (although the original rocks pretty hard too, frankly).  And “Slack” is possibly even faster and punkier than the original (it sounds awesome here).  Interestingly to me, “Mannequin” sounds completely like an SST track (which if you know the label will make sense and if you don’t, it won’t) even though it’s a Wire song (and not released on SST).

I’d always known that Watt was a mean bassist, but man, he is wild on this disc.  The runs and fills he puts in all over the disc are great.  “What Gets Heard” has some great slap bass and “Freeway” is one of Watt’s weird and delightful spoken rants with fantastic bass fills.

fIREHOSE may not have always been brilliant, but they had moments of awesomeness.

[READ: October 16, 2010] “The Failure”

This story is part of the 1999 New Yorkers‘ 20 Under 40 collection (it’s the first story that was not included in that issue).  Its also the first story by Franzen that I have read.

It’s tempting, since I’m in a David Foster Wallace mood, to think that DFW was some kind of inspiration for Franzen (they were friends, after all).  The opening of the story talks a bit about cruise ships.  And Wallace’s “Shipping Out” was published in Harper’s just a couple of years before this.  Having said that, aside from the fact that the protagonist’s parents are taking a cruise (and there’s some cruise-mocking), the story doesn’t have much else in common with the piece, so we’ll get past that.

The story was excerpted in the main 20 Under 40 issue (the first few paragraphs), and I was intrigued, although the excerpt didn’t really indicate where the story would go at all.

Chip is a midwestern guy who has moved to New York City. He has lost a teaching job (for a very bad reason) and is now trying to survive as a writer.  His parents are in town briefly because they are taking a cruise out of New York.  And as he updates his mother and father on what he’s been up to, the list of minor failures (the ones he admits to and doesn’t) grows and grows.  And it’s clear from his mother’s talk that she’s more than a little disappointed in his reality. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: R.E.M.- Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables of the  (1985).

I’m willing to go on record saying that I like the title of this disc to be elliptical, even if the band has a definitive answer for what it should be called.

So, I’ve learned that I’m a bit of a fair-weather R.E.M. fan.  I’ve always felt that they were the bedrock of any alt music collection.  But recently (with the re-release of this album, which I did not buy) I decided to go back and listen to the full albums (I listen to Eponymous a lot, but I wanted to hear some deeper cuts, as they say).

This album has a lot of quintessential R.E.M.-sounding songs, and yet it’s also not a very poppy album, so it doesn’t feature too much of that jangly guitar–the other trademarked R.E.M. sound.  Rather, we get a lot of picked guitar bits, some great bass (a very underappreciated aspect of the band) and a lot of one of my favorite things: Peter Buck’s backing vocals.

There are a  few “hits” on this disc, songs that I love very much, but this disc also features a bunch of songs that don’t really excite me.  In fact, the back end of the disc is kind of ho hum. “Green Grow the Rushes” is a nice enough song.  “Kohoutek” just never really grabs me.  “Auctioneer (Another Engine)” is a pretty interesting experiment: the minor chord vocals section in the middle are rather creepy (and the guitar sounds a bit like an early-80s Cure song).  It’s my favorite track in the back of the disc.  The last two songs are gentle folk songs that are, again, nice, but not mind blowing.

Of course the front half of the disc is full of weird gems. “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” is a bizarre, off kilter delight.  And that weird string section at the end is only part of the oddity of it. “Maps and Legends” is a fascinating song that just seems chock full of noises (like an acoustic Public Enemy track) that keeps you guessing what will happen next.

“Driver 8” begins my favorite section of the disc.  “8” is one of the major highlights of this disc.  It’s dark and mysterious without being swamped under by murk.  And while I have no idea what it’s about it never stops me from singing along.  “Life and How t o Live It” features some great bass work (and an interesting guitar riff).  “Old Man Kensey” starts out really promising with a cool bass and peculiar guitar line, but it kind of drifts a little after that.  But the final track of this section, “Can’t Get There From Here” is an ebullient song, that feels really out of place here.  It’s one of my all time favorite R.E.M. tracks, and it adds some much needed adrenaline here.

I admit that I am more of a fan of R.E.M.’s louder songs (Document is a highlight).  So this disc is a little too tame for me.  I’m lead to believe that the new edition of the disc features some live tracks that really bring these songs to life, but I think I may just stick with Eponymous.

[READ: September 19, 2010] “Mr. Difficult”

I am planning on reading The Corrections soon (and one of these days Freedom, too).  Somehow I missed all of the controversy surrounding Franzen (I am blissfully ignorant of Oprah) when it was all over the place, but I recently learned that he and David Foster Wallace were friends and respected each other, so I thought I’d give him a read.  But before I get to the big book I decided to read some of his nonfiction (I had read about this Franzen article in which he talks about William Gaddis and wanted to read this right away).

So this article is a lengthy discussion about William Gaddis.  It is inspired by a letter writer (whom he calls “Mrs. M—-“) who accused Franzen of being an elitist–for using big words like “diurnality” and “antipodes”–and for not writing for the “average person who just enjoys a good read.”  So Franzen talks about two types of writers.  First is the Status Writer (like Flaubert) where the best novels “are great works of art…and if the average reader rejects the work it’s because the average reader is a philistine.”  And then there is the Contract Writer where a novel represents a compact between the reader and the writer “with the writer providing words out of which the reader creates a pleasurable experience.”

Franzen never says what camp he himself falls into, but rather, he explains that when he was in school, he wanted to be a Status Writer, he wanted to love difficult books.  However, when his screenplay was described as, basically, a knock off, he was despondent.  So, he decided to sit down and read Gaddis’ The Recognitions, a 900 page Difficult Book.

And he loved it.  He was engrossed and couldn’t stop.   (more…)

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The Yellow Tape is legendary in terms of demos.  It was an indie cassette-only release and it went platinum in Canada.

Before the internet, it was really hard to come across this cassette (again, even though it went platinum in Canada, I don’t know that it ever even made it south of the border).  Of course, now with the web, you can hear all 5 tracks on the cassette (thanks YouTube).

Four of the 5 songs appeared on their first album anyhow, and they don’t sound dramatically different from the “Yellow” versions (“Brian Wilson” still has that awesome bass from Jim Creeggan for instance). It basically sounds like an early live recording.  (The harmonies are spot on, the only difference is Steven Page’s vamping, which is a bit more than on the release).  Although I think “Blame It on Me” sounds a little less exciting than the Gordon version.

And of course, the final track is their original cover of “Fight the Power.”

It’s interesting that the band chose these 5 songs, two of which talk about famous people and are sort of funny. (And then a cover of a Public Enemy song!)  It really sets them up as a goofy band (which they are, although they are much more than that), but it kind of put them in a novelty niche right off the bat.   A niche which they never really outgrew, even if their later discs were much more serious.

[READ: August 17, 2010] “Second Lives”

Daniel Alarcón is another New Yorker 20 Under 40.

I love the way this story begins.  It informs us that the narrator’s parents had the foresight to have their first child in the United States.  His parents were in Baltimore on a visa.  His father enrolled in school and his mother worked in the health care profession.  They were comfortable enough in their lives to have their son Francisco there.  But then a coup broke out back home, their visas are not renewed and they were forced to return home.  Their second son, the narrator, with whom his mother was pregnant at the time wound up being born not in America.

And so, when your brother has American citizenship and can freely roam the American countryside, what exactly are you supposed to think when you are denied this freedom? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-“Fight the Power” (1993).

Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is one of the greatest anthems of the late 80s and 90s.  It’s got everything: noise, strength, rebellion great lyrics and Chuck D.  So, what can five white Canadians do with it?

Well, they keep the intensity of the song very strong–even in an acoustic setting–by overloading their version with a whole mess of music.  Between the noisy piano, the occasional sound effects and the fantastic noisy drumming, they manage to really capture what a great “song” this is (as opposed to being a powerful anthem and protest).  Divorced from the awesome cacophony of the original, you realize that it’s really catchy, too.

BNL are usually goofy, and they do put a bit of nonsense in the song (during the Elvis was a hero to most section).  And they clean up one of the words, with a great twist (changing “motherfuck” to David Duke” in “David Duke him and John Wayne).

BNL has been performing this song for years.  Their first version appeared on The Yellow Tape [1991] (a much simpler version with drums, bass and two vocals).  But this version (which as far as I can tell only appears on the Coneheads soundtrack, ugh) is really solid and (aside from the fact that nobody’s voice could ever compare to Chuck D’s) sounds like an good Unplugged version of the track.

[READ: September 14, 2010] “An Arranged Marriage”

Freudenberger is one of the New Yorker‘s 20 Under 40.  I have to say I was (unfairly) surprised that a story written by a woman named Freudenberger was about a woman named Amina who lived in Bangladesh.

Nevertheless, the story was a good one and was an interesting twist on the concept of the titular arranged marriage.  Amina meets George online at AsianEuro.com (after having met several men who were not what they said they were).  Amina (and her parents) had always planned for her to move to America.  Somehow.   She had considered applying for a college degree, but found that even that was prohibitively expensive.  So why not, as the Voice of America radio suggested, find a mate? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTHRAX-The Greater of Two Evils (2004).

I loved Anthrax when they first burst onto the metal scene back in 1983.  They were fast and heavy and totally great.  As they matured, they got delightfully silly, releasing a couple of novelty hits (with Public Enemy!) and really showing off their juvenile side.  (Big baggy shorts and crazy haircuts).  Then some time around 1993 I stopped listening.

Whether it was because my metal cred was running out or whether I just didn’t like what they were doing, I’d given up on the mosh kings.  Around that time, they switched singers from Joey Belladonna to Jon Bush and the difference is striking.  Belladonna had a strong, high pitched, soaring voice that rose above the trash.  While Bush has a deeper, tougher voice, and he sort of forces his way on top of the beat.

I haven’t given the Bush-era Anthrax much time, but I recently learned that they (like Kiss) re-recorded songs from their first few discs with Bush now on vocals.  Okay, so unlike the Kiss version, these songs sound totally new.  A new singer brings a totally new sonic dimension to the disc. But they have also re-recorded the music, which in most cases sounds better: recorded on better equipment, less sludgy.  But it also sounds different: different drumbeats or (as is often the case, furious double bass drumming), and the solos mixed into separate speakers and all kinds of other studio tricks.

And yet overall, I’m not that excited by the set.  I just don’t like Bush over Belladonna for these songs.  Bush’s voice is tough.  And their new songs are almost brutally heavy.  Some of these older tracks work with Bush’s voice.  However, there are a few which relied more on soaring sounds (like “Indians”) or demanded a little more subtlety (like the outstanding “N.F.L” which Bush sounds a little hamstrung by.

Anthrax is definitely a different band, but they still play loud and furious.

[READ: March 26, 2010] Heck

I found this book because someone put it in the wrong place in the library. I was looking for Easy Reader for my son, and someone had put this book at the front of that section.  I went to move it, but it looked interesting enough that I decided to read it.  Serendipity!

The premise of the book is that Heck is where you go when you die if you’re under 18.  They’re not quite sure where you’re going to wind up, so you have to go through Heck, which is basically school, until they can sort out which layer of Hell you’re going to wind up in.  Needless to say Heck is full of bad kids (and bad demons).

Our two bad kids are Milton and Marlo Fauster.  Marlo is a troublemaker from way back.  She is a petty thief and is always up to no good.  Milton is a good kid.  He never did anything bad in his life, and he always gets abuse from Marlo.  As the book opens, Milton and Marlo are sprinting down the corridor of a mall where Marlo has just stolen something. She is planning on wreaking havoc with Grizzly Mall’s centerpiece: The State’s Second-Largest Bear-Themed Marshmallow Statue (that cracked me up).

The kids run to the center of the mall where they are cornered by security.  Marlo is trying to think of an escape plan when Milton notices his classmate Damian.  Damian torments Milton every chance he can get.  And now, he is standing at the top of the marshmallow bear with matches.  Milton also notices a fuse sticking out of the bear.

One explosion later, the kids find themselves no longer attached to their bodies, as they are rapidly sliding down to Heck.  Marlo deserves to be there, she’s a bad egg.  But what about Milton?  It turns out that Marlo had slipped an item into Milton’s backpack, and therefore he technically stole something as well.  A technicality but true nonetheless.

The rest of the book shows the kids in their gender segregated classes.  The boys learn physical education from Blackbeard the pirate and ethics from Richard Nixon (the Nixon bits were hilarious, and yet I can’t imagine many kids getting the jokes).  The girls, meanwhile, learn home ec from Lizzy Borden (do kids know who that is) and singing from an angel who is on a teacher exchange program. (more…)

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