Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Queen’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 7, 2018] Foo Fighters

I can recall living in Boston when the debut Foo Fighters album came out.  I had heard that it was pretty good and I bought it.  And I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Who would have guessed that the album that Grohl created to excise some demons, a small project in which he played every instrument would turn into a group that would become one of the largest bands on the planet.  This show was sold out at 25,000 people.  Which is a lot of humanity.

Despite this impressive success, Grohl himself seems to be remarkably down to earth and seems to never lose his sense of humor.  No one will ever forget the show that he broke his leg falling off a stage, went to the hospital, and came back to finish the show.  I wanted to see them when they came back to the U.S. on that tour–seeing Dave in his throne would have been super fun.  But it was not to be.

However, when they announced they were coming back again, I jumped at the chance to get tickets and scored some pretty decent seats.

I hadn’t really been to an arena show in a long time.  I can’t remember the last time a band that I’ve seen used the arena size to its capacity.  I’ve seen many a great light show, but except for Kiss, I suppose, there’s been very little in the way of excess.  And I never expected it from the Foo Fighters.

But by God if that’s not what this show was all about. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[NOT ATTENDED: July 7, 2018] The Struts

The Struts are another buzz band from England.  Aside from having a band name that is way too close to The Strokes, I don’t actually know all that much about them.

Usually I listen to a warm up band at least a little before going to see them.  But for whatever reason, I never listened to The Struts.

And that’s all for the best, I suppose.  The parking situation outside of BB&T was crazy, bordering on nightmarish.

Sarah and I briskly walked to the stadium, glanced at merch, didn’t even stop to use the bathroom (crazy long lines) and as we got to our seat the lights dimmed for The Foo Fighters.

All I can say is that vocalist Luke Spiller did a decent Freddie Mercury when he came out to sing Under Pressure with the Foo Fighters.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 1 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 8, 2005).

This series of ten concerts contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day). This was the 1st night of their last 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was on keyboards.

These shows seem significantly shorter that the 2004 Fall Nationals.  This show is under 2 hours–practically unheard of in a Fall Nationals.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.

This recording is from the audience, so there’s a (shocking) amount of chatter from fans.  You also can’t hear everything that’s said into the mics, so you have to listen close if you want to hear audience interaction.

The show opens with them talking to fans from San Diego (Mike: “that means Saint Diego”).  Dave asks how long they’re here. He says well, we have three chances, then.

“Loving Arms” is a sweet opening from Tim.  Then Martin starts announcing in a smarmy voice “I’m a member.  Hi there.”  It’s a launch into “CCYPA” (Miek: “in an election year, imagine that”).  Tim follows with a quick “Song Of The Garden.”

Then Dave starts playing the opening to “Fat” to much applause.  “That’s Ford Pier on the keyboards.  That’s Tim Vesely on the keyboards.  That’s Martin Tielli on the keyboards.”  During the end jam section, there’s some loud, unusual backing vocals which I assume are from Ford Pier.

Martin: “What’s the first note of the next song, Dave?  I’m feeling a little shaky.  But that’s what this song [‘Fish Tailin”]is about so it should lend itself to this current number.  After this comes “Mumbletypeg” Martin: “That is David Augustino Bidini.  Dave wrote this song.  All by himself!”  It romps along nicely.

Next is the first of a couple new songs.  “Sunshine At Night” is actually a song hat Tim would release on his 2008 Violet Archers disc Sunshine at Night (where it is mostly the same but more fleshed out and better-sounding).

Martin is having fun with the “Hi there” smarmy voice as an intro to “The Tarleks.”  It’s followed by “Marginalized” which has a rather lengthy and dramatic piano solo in the middle.

Martin: “That was by Timothy Warren Vesely.”  Ford: “Stop shouting everyone’s middle names, Jesus.”  Dave:  “Martin is obsessed with middle names, whenever he meets someone new he says ‘What’s your middle name?”  Mike: “Yeah right but whats your middle name.”  Ford continues, “A friend of mine was engaged to a woman from Slovenia.  When she came to visit she was astonished to hear that everyone had a middle name–are you all rich?  It was a difficult thing to explain to her.  She associated middle named with wealth?  Middle names were not a concept that came to her block in Ljubljana.  Tim: “Ford tried to convince her it had something to do with wealth.”

Then came a song, “The Land Is Wild.”  This would eventually be released on Bidiniband’s 2009 album The Land is Wild.  It’s pretty much the same although this earlier version has a few lines that are not in the final.  A line about him being in his own head and listening to Metallica, Ozzy or Queen.  There’s another line about tickling the net and being lost in his head.  Both of these lines are left off in the final.  Interestingly, the final verse about fishing with his old man and his death were added later.

Martin says that for “Here Comes the Image,” Augustine is going to play the drums and Dimitrius is going to play the keyboard.”

As they start, “It’s Easy To Be With You,” Dave says, “My friend this is no time to be talking on your phone, there’s some serious rock n roll happening up here.  Take a picture with your mind.”

It’s followed by a beautiful “Stolen Car.”  Martin’s vocals are just so good.  After the song ends, properly, there’s an extra acoustic strumming section that soon becomes “Nowhere Man” sung by Selina Martin.

Dave notes that it has been 25 years since John Lennon was killed.  The world has gotten a lot shittier.

Ford then says, “You know who was really burned on that score? Darby Crash, lead singer of The Germs.  He committed suicide with an intentional heroin overdose the same day.  Five years earlier David Bowie said they only have five years left.  So he told his band mates hat five years from now he was going to off himself.  They ignored him, but he did.  And then three hours later the Walrus gets blown away.”
Dave’s takeaway: “Never take advice from David Bowie.  He told me to buy a wool suit.  Well actually Springsteen told me, but Bowie told him.”
Tim once ate some hot soup with David Bowie.

We’ll do a couple more for you seeing as how it’s Thursday.  Tim: “Can you do a little pretty intro for me that you sometimes do?”  Dave does and “Making Progress ” sounds big and more rocking than usual (the keys help).  Martin plays  a more rocking guitar solo before settling in to the pretty ending.  When it’s over you can hear Dave says “we can call him Timmy, I’m not sure you can call him…  Well, I guess you just did.  Is this your third straight year?  Fourth?  You’ve earned the right to call him Timmy.”

Thanks to the Creaking Tree String Quartet they were beyond awesome.  I can’t wait to see them again tomorrow night.  The set ends with a lovely version of “Self Serve Gas Station” with some great piano additions.  The song ends in a long jam with trippy keys a fun solo from Martin.  As he walks off Martin says, “I smoke Gaulioses Blue cigarettes, since they can’t advertise.  The flavor!  And so did John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.”

After the encore, Dave sings and acoustic “Last Good Cigarette.”  When Martin comes back out they play a surprising encore song of “Song Of Flight” which segues into a mellow intro for “In This Town.”  By by the end it picks up steam and rocks to the end.

It was a fairly short first show, of the Fall Nationals, but they played a lot of interesting stuff.

[READ: April 20, 2017] Friends is Friends

This book had a lot going against it.  The title is virtually impossible to find in a catalog (3 words long, 2 words repeat, the other word is “is” and the one main word is incredibly common in children’s books, ugh).  On top of that, no libraries near me carried it.  And then its got that creepy-ass cover.

Reviews of the book weren’t very positive either.  So my hopes weren’t very high.

And even with low hopes, I was still pretty disappointed. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #648 (September 12, 2017).

I didn’t realize that Jack Antonoff, lead singer of Bleachers, was the lead guitarist (but not singer) for the band fun.

I really don’t like the lead sax by Evan Smith on two of the songs.

I particularly don’t like the sound of the sax on “Everybody Lost Somebody.”  When the sax is gone, the song which is otherwise just piano (Mikey Hart) sounds pretty great.  Antonoff’s delivery is quite interesting on this song, it reminds me of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle–an almost-speaking, somewhat arch style..

After the song ends, Antonoff asks, “How often you guys do this?”
Bob says, “We got another one in an hour.”
Then he continues, talking about how NPR seems like a nice place to work.

For the second song, “Don’t Take The Money,” Antonoff says: “If you ever see Bleachers live, it’s two drum sets and it’s big and it’s kinda like this big statement that I could hide behind the tears with this big rock show. But the songs are written like this.”

This is kind of funny since the drums are played on a boombox and are quite loud.  The synths really fill the room, too.  Oddly the song segues into the chorus of Queen’s “Radio Gaga.”  Of the threes songs this is my favorite.  There’s no sax and Smith is playing along on a second set of synths to really make a full sound.

My favorite part of the song is at the end when he tries to get the boom box to stop.  He hits the button (trying to get a percussive sound), but it doesn’t turn off.  He and the pianist turn it into a cool improvised ending.

He says, “that’s cool we’ve never played that song like that.  That’s how it’s meant to be.  In some ways.  That’s what I love about playing live is to trick people–trick them into getting really sweaty and then going home and having weepy moments.”

After the song, Antonoff talks about the live show.  The blurb helps out:

“My manager says, ‘When you play for 1,000 people, don’t talk to one person. It’s only cool for them,'” Antonoff said. It was offered as an apology — he had just finished aiming a monologue about the link between dancing and crying at a single NPR staffer in the audience — but it was also a perfect encapsulation of the connection Antonoff’s songs create. Bleachers makes truly conversational pop, songs that sound expansive but retain a sense of intimacy, even when aimed at the masses.

This final song is called “Foreign Girls” and he tells the band, “I guess we’ll do it… like we talked.”  The sax is back and is almost obscured by him “la la la’ing” but it does peek through.

It’s interesting hearing them like this, but I don’t know what they sound like all big and dancey, so I can’t really compare.

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Super Famous

Confusingly, this book collects issues 1-6, but they are definitely not the first issues one to six.  This is a whole new story line which follows the previous books and is listed as Volume 5.  The book has three artists: Takeshi Miyazawa (issues 1-3) , Adrian Alphona (part of issue 1), and Nico Leon (issues 4-6).  And it starts off almost where the last series ended.  Except it’s 8 months later and a few things have happened.

Like Ms Marvel has officially become an Avengers (there’s a cool two page spread of them coming down the alley (although I don’t recognize some of them, actually).  And Ms Marvel is doing pretty well.  However, Kamala, the girl who is Ms. Marvel is having a hard time keeping up with schoolwork, friends and family while fighting crime at night.

Oh and somehow in the last 8 months, her best friend/crush Bruno has started dating a wicked cool girl named Mike.  How did she not notice this romance blooming?  And can she take it out on Bruno?  Well, she can until she looks up and sees her image (well Ms Marvel’s image) on a billboard.  And this has her fighting mad, even more so when she finds out who is responsible for the billboard.

Turns out it is a bunch of developers creating Hope Yards–a plan to clean up Jersey City by making it unaffordable for undesirables.  And what’s worse is that the people protesting the unannounced building of Hope Yards are naturally associating her with the project. (more…)

Read Full Post »

jessee SOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Operation Infinite Joy (2003).

oijThis was Martin Tielli’s second solo album and the first disc in his Subscription Series.  Basically, you paid up front and were guaranteed four discs from the man.  Each disc came in a cool metal box, with artwork on the outside and gorgeous artwork in the booklet.  This disc was also available commercially, but I believe the other three were never made available.

This album is really lovely–lots of epic, dramatic moments, with sweeping guitars and choirs.  It’s a real testament to Martin’s songwriting and playing chops.  Although interestingly, Martin is a guitar guy and this album has a lot of piano (from Ford Pier I believe).

The disc opens with “Beauty On” which has some fanfare and a grand introduction about the rock singer who shouts, “Are you with me, Cincinnati are you ready to rock???!!” and a pause and a quietly spoken, “i am not.”  When playing this song live he often left out that intro and simply included the piano melody and the second part of the song.

“OK by Me” has a jaunty feel as it opens.  It has a simple but ornery guitar riff which morphs into several different things in this five-minute song.  There’s an acoustic guitar bridge that gives way to a chorus of voices and then the main verse melody line.  It’s catchy and meandering at the same time.  After the line “I’m playing guitar with all my dinosaurs and me” he busts out  wild raging guitar solo that sounds uncannily like Queen.

“The Temperance Society Choir” is another great dramatic song, with a choir (naturally) and some wonderful harmony vocals.  It also features lead vocals by Selina Martin for the opening lines.  There’s some great guitar and bass sounds in it (mixed low in the mix) and the wonderful lines: “All those in favor just say Aye.”  “Aye!”  “All those opposed just say no.” (pause, quietly) “no.”  It even features an old style piano interlude.

“Segeant Kraulis” is a weird song with lots of great sections.  It opens with a vocoder’d voice saying it is 60238 in the narcotics division.  After several sections, there’s a super catchy chorus, and then a noisy section with presumably Sgt Kraulis screaming “make me visible, you fuckers.”  The last section of the song devolves into a  kind of reggae section with all kinds of glitchy sounds and the repeated declaration, “We were opening packages we did not know the contents of.”

“Andy by the Lake” is the first of Martin’s longer, quieter songs.  Like some of the songs on his first solo album this song is quiet and meandering although the spikes of drama (thunder, lightning) are much welcomed.  The most conventional song on the album is a cover of Smog’s “Cold Blooded Old Times.”  I like the original but there’s something about the way Martin does it that I think is even better–the bassline is great (not present on the original).  I love Bill Callahan’s delivery on the original, but Martin makes it more dramatic (surprise).

“Winnipeg” is a great long song with multiple parts.  It’s got a fantastic intro on bells or vibes (when the wind blows, 50 below) and then shifts into a Neil Young-esque epic.  It features the interesting line “I’ve had cole slaw.”  (Cole slaw also was mentioned on his first solo record). I love the chorus of vocals singing the “ahhhha” before “any day.”  There are so many parts to this song that when people first started recording it live before it was released, I saw three different possible titles for it.

“Waterstriders” is another slower song but the intricate guitar lines are gorgeous throughout.  It’s a great chance for Martin to create all kinds of interesting sounds over a simple rhythm.

“Ship of Fire” also has a Neil Young feel–especially when the intro guitar comes in over the bass.  This song also has many parts and is a pretty fascinating story.  There’s a recurring section about a boy across the Atlantic that is very trippy.  But the lyrics are dark.  There’s also a really noisy section that builds in drama until the final concluding chorus and roaring, guitar-fueled outro.

“Kathleen” ends the disc as a delicate ballad.  I really like this disc a lot.  It’s my favorite of Martin’s solo records and is just an all around great album (with amazing artwork in the booklet).

The Subscription Series disc features two bonus tracks.  “National Pride” which is simple but nice.  And “Diamonds on Our Toes” which is a great song with a fantastic end section and the bizarre screams of “I play electric guitar!”  Both of these tracks come from the Instant Klazzix session which you can download on Rheostatics live.   The versions here have been remixed by martin.

I can’t find all that much out about Instant Klazzix, but there is stuff online about the “group.”  One of these days I’ll post about it.

[READ: June 10, 2015] Love, Sex & Other Foreign Policy Goals

This book was written by a writer of the British comedy Peep Show, which I liked a lot.  However, this book is not very funny (I don’t think it is supposed to be very funny).  Rather, this book falls into the “how far would you go to win a girl” category.  And it wonders if you would go all the way to war-torn Bosnia?

For narrator Andrew, if the girl is smoking hot Penny, then the answer is yes.

Andrew is a middle class working guy.  He is part of the Department of Works, although he’s not glamorous like the real construction guys–he’s more of a gopher.  He has been dating Helen for quite some time.  But he’s quite sure that she is cheating on him.

One night he meets a bunch of students.  They are radical and interesting, and Andrew enjoys their company.  Then they start talking about the problems in Yugoslavia (the book is set in 1994).  They decide that they should drive to Bosnia, bring some aid and, yes, put on a play that will blow everyone’s minds and stop the war. (more…)

Read Full Post »

cubeSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Richard’s On Richards Vancouver BC (March 30, 2002).

rich The download for this show is notable for being (in my opinion) out of sequence.  After the second song it seems pretty clear that the concert is now over. Looking at some of the other shows at the time, I wasn’t sure if I could reconstruct the actual order. It was a bit harder than I anticipated, but I think the show actually went like this

World in a Wall
CCYPA
Double X
Love Streams
My Sweet Relief
That’s What You Get for Having Fun
Voices from the Wilderness
OK by Me
That’s How They Do It in Warsaw
I’ll Never Tear You Apart
Winnipeg
Beauty On

I’m guessing “World in a Wall” is first because before playing it he does a brief intro of “CCYPA,” and it seems unlikely that he would do it again after he just played the song. For this set he is solo for the first three songs . He’s kind of all over the place in “Wall” throwing in some extra lyrics and repeating verses—I’m surprised he didn’t get mad at himself.f

Then the band comes out and he introduces them as Operation infinite Justice (incidentally, “Operation Infinite Justice,” was the name of the military intervention that the U.S began after 9/11.  Muslim groups protested the name on the basis that their faith teaches that Allah is the only one that could provide “infinite justice”.  Thus, “Operation Infinite Justice” was changed to “Operation Enduring Freedom” on Sept. 25, 2001).  So clearly, Tielli was making a point.  The band consists of Greg Smith on bass, Barry Mirochnick on drums and Ford Pier on guitar and keys.

For “Ok By Me” he gets that great chorusing guitar (that sounds like Queen) just like on the record.  For “Love Streams” it’s just him and the piano (presumably Ford Pier) who at the line about being “stoned’ play a riff from Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” (did anyone know that was a cover of a J.J. Cale song?)

“Shaved Head” stays in the delicate style of the previous show and for “My Sweet Relief,” he starts the song solo and the band kicks in about 1/2 way through.

After playing “That’s What You Get for Having Fun” someone in the band says that they have merch in the back of the room and that they will be flogged by their manager if they don’t mention it.

In “Voices in the Wilderness,” he sings the actual Rush lyric “if you choose not to decide” (rather than “if you choose not to be free”) and has fun with the word “squeaky” in squeaky voice.  There’ as mellow jam at the end of the song.

The penultimate song is “Winnipeg.” It’s the first live version of this song on the site. I like that since it was a new song the guys who recorded the shows didn’t know what it was called.  And it’s such a peculiar song with different things that could be choruses that the author of this recording calls it “Anyday” and in the next show they call in “I’ve Had Some.”  But it sounds great live.

The show ends with “Beauty On,” the opening track from his upcoming album (although he leaves out the humorous “Cincinnati” bit–which makes sense).

It’s another great show, running just about an hour.

[READ: October 19, 2015] Cube Squared

I found this book at work and judged it by the cover.  I decided it would be fun. And it was.

This is the sequel to McPherson’s first novel (which I have not read) Cube People.  I thought that perhaps there would be zombies in this novel (given the cover) and there are, but not in the way one might suspect.

The basic set up is this: Colin MacDonald works for the Canadian government.  He is in a tech job which is not very techie.  He works in a  cubicle, deals with his co-workers and plans to write the great Canadian novel (if such a thing exists).  He has already written two books.  The first one was successful, the second one less so.  And he would very much like to get a third book written.

But he is now married with three little kids, he has to paint his house and his father just died.

This last bit is pretty important to the story.  Even though his father was never a very good father to him (he was an intense drunk and then an intense convert to Christianity), he has mixed feelings about his father’s death.  Worse yet, his father seems to be talking to him a lot more now than he ever did when he was alive.  And he is fairly certain that his father thinks he’s a waste of time and effort with little to show for himself (or at least that’s his take on his father). (more…)

Read Full Post »

armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

hhftSOUNDTRACK: G.L.O.B.E. & WHIZ KID-“Play that Beat Mr DJ” (Double Dee & Steinski Payoff Mix) (1985).

doubledeeThe original of this song (1983) was simply the drums and simple keyboard riff.  The “Payoff Mix” done by Double Dee & Steinski added the incredibly dense layer of samples that really make this song interesting (actually the samples are more interesting than the rap).

The samples included:

  • Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five
  • Play It Sam…Play “As Time Goes By” (Avalon/As Time Goes By) by Humphrey Bogart (dialogue spoken from the movie Casablanca)
  • That’s the joint – Funky Four Plus One
  • Take the Country to N.Y. City by Hamilton Bohannon
  • Don’t Make Me Wait (Acapella) by Peech Boys
  • Stop! In The Name Of Love by Diana Ross and the Supremes
  • Rockit by Herbie Hancock
  • Situation 12″ by Yazoo
  • Starski Live at the Disco Fever by Lovebug Starski
  • World’s Famous, Hobo Scratch, D’Ya Like Scratchin’ and Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren
  • Apache by Incredible Bongo Band
  • Tutti Frutti by Little Richard
  • Last Night A DJ Saved My Life by Indeep
  • I’ll Tumble 4 Ya by Culture Club
  • Speech by Fiorello La Guardia from Reading the Comics – July,1945

Double Dee & Steinski went on to make some other great mashups (and these sound amazing since they were done circa 1985).  I particularly like Lesson 3.

Here’s the one that made them famous:

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 2

This volume picks up right where the previous one left off in 1981.

First we meet Doug E. Fresh who, devoid of records, starts the trend of beatboxing.  We also see The Sugarhill Gang doing a rap over the song “Apache” (while dressed like Native Americans).

The book bounces back to California (Oakland this time) where we meet Too Short, a great high school rapper who is interested in making money from his skills.  We also see a young Ice-T doing his gangland thing

Then it jumps back to Rick Rubin whose love of punk and metal (these goings on are happening at the same time as Black Flag is trying out a young Henry Rollins, and Bad Brains are in high gear–and often times the crowds mix amiably) fuses with his love of rap.  he really wants to be able to capture the rawness of the live sounds of both types of music onto a record (enter the Beastie Boys).  And, strangely enough (although perhaps it should be expected), Malcolm McDowell enters the picture.  We also see Fab Five Freddy making “Change the Beat” which includes a since-very-heavily sampled “Freshhhhh” (more…)

Read Full Post »

hhftSOUNDTRACK: “The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” (1981).

grandThis track was one of the first records to mix songs from other artists (yes, we call it sampling now).  It was a chance for Grandmaster Flash to show off his mad mixing skills.  He used three turntables, samples from the movie Flash Gordon (nice) and this songs:

Chic – “Good Times” ; Blondie – “Rapture” ; Queen – “Another One Bites the Dust” ; Sugarhill Gang – “8th Wonder” ; The Furious Five – “Birthday Party” ; Spoonie Gee – “Monster Jam” ; Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band – “Apache” ; Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – “Freedom” ; Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” ; The Hellers – “Life Story”

It’s really impressive and it sounds seamless.

[READ: November 23, 2014] Hip Hop Family Tree 1

This book came across my desk at work and I was really excited to read it.  I thought I didn’t know all that much about the origins of hip hop.  And while I was largely right, I was also pleased that I knew so many of the big names.

So this is a graphic novel done by Ed Piskor.  Piskor’s style is familiar (it looks like old school indie comics, even though he was born in 1982). Now, I already said I don’t know all that much about hip hop history, so I can’t vouch for the veracity of this family tree (and I certainly suspect that Piskor likes some people and dislikes others), but I assume that this is a pretty accurate story about how hip hop came to be.

It all starts in the 1970s with DJ Kool Herc in the South Bronx.  He spins discs at parties and is hugely successful.  He starts looping records to extend the drum breaks.  His popularity inspires Grandmaster Flash who tries new techniques and Afrika Bambaataa who plays the most obscure records he can find (Kraftwerk, for instance).  Bambaataa was once a gang leader but he channeled his music into a more peaceful gang–Zulu Nation.  This group leads to some other early hip hop groups: The Treacherous Three, The Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four Plus One (the first of the groups to feature a woman) and The Fantastic Five, (more…)

Read Full Post »

lauraSOUNDTRACK: FUN.-Some Nights (2012).

funI didn’t realize that this wasn’t Fun.’s debut album. I hadn’t heard of them until, well, until they got pretty big.  Sarah got this for me for Christmas in 2012 on the recommendation of an NPR list.  Of course, my biggest surprise was playing it Christmas morning and hearing the word fuck twice in the first song.  Merry Christmas, kids!

I read recently that the band really liked Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so much that they hired the same producer to get that sound.  And that makes a ton of sense on the style and final product here–big grandiose sounds that are layered and layered and dense. The difference of course is that Fun. writes more catchy/poppy songs with a pop rock sheen.  And the Queen comparisons are unavoidable.  But with auto-tune.

“Some Nights (intro)” opens the disc with a quiet piano intro that builds to what you’re really going to get here–dramatic, theatrical, anthemic over the top pop rock.  Because after a minute when the backing vocals come in, it sounds pretty much like an updated modern day Queen.  While lead singer does bellow like Freddy Mercury the Queenisms come more from the backing vocals and the orchestrations.

The first song proper, “Some Nights” has a more polished, more poppy sheen to it.  And like the rest of the album, it has a huge sing along chorus with whoa hos and everything.  It’s nearly inevitable that they would become huge because of this album.

And yet, despite all the pop, I like this record a lot.  The artsy, theatricality is so over the top.  And really each song is like a mini showstopper.  “We Are Young” has the title of an anthem and thus the song is an anthem.  It starts with just drums but after some clever lyrics, it shifts to a slow building chorus that the world can sing along to.  The same is true for “Carry On,” a slow piano ballad that builds in a big anthemic chorus.  “It Gets Better” is a bit more electronic and fast paced from the start.  “Why Am I the One” slows things down again, this time with guitars.  But again each one has a big sing-along chorus.

“All Alone” is a bit more electronic (with harpsichords!) and a little more drum heavy, while “All Alright” stays anthemic throughout.

What’s surprising really is the lyrical content–he sings a lot about loving his parents (there’s a few shout outs to his mom).  I admit I don’t entirely know what’s happening on the album–I haven’t looked at the lyrics too carefully, but it seems far more introspective and personal than big anthemic pop hooks would suggest.

“One Foot” is the first song that diverges a bit from the formula–it’s still a big stomping song, but the way the main riff is played on orchestral hits rather than more conventional instruments points to the more Top 40 elements of the band.  And the final song, “Stars” really tips the balance. This is the one song that I don’t really care for.  It’s 7 minutes long and the melody is more pop than artsy.  The song builds in a less dramatic and more poppy way.  This song has the most mom intensive lyrics: “Most nights I stay straight and think about my mom–oh god I miss her so much.”  By 2 minutes it devolves into an auto-tuned ballad where the Kanye influence really rears its head.  For the last 3 minutes or so it is a string filled ballad with crazy auto-tuned vocals (especially when they harmonize!).  It’s a bit much even for me, although I think it works pretty great as an album ender.

The strange thing about that is that there is one song after it. It turns out that it’s a bonus track, which i didn’t realize until recently.  I couldn’t imagine why you’d put a song after that autotuned nonsense.  So it makes sense as a bonus track, although after “Stars,” I’m done with the album.  The song, “Out on the Town” brings back the guitars but the “oh oh oh oh” in the beginning is really boy band like.  And I fear the whole set up is more commercial than theater. So, no real bonus for me.

Basically, the album sounds quite the same throughout (in that it is big and theatrical, although there are some differences that distinguish the songs enough).  And if you don’t like one of the songs there’s not going to be much here for you.  But if you like your theatricality over the top, you could do worse than Fun.  Just get ready to sing along.

[READ: October 1, 2014] The Original of Laura

naboI have had Nabokov on my list of authors to read for a long time.  I have read and enjoyed a few of his books and planned to read his oeuvre at some point, just not quite yet.  And then, as serendipity would have it, I stumbled on a book of his novellas (the Penguin classic edition) and decided to read them.  Because they aren’t really meant to be taken as one item, I’m going to mention them individually.

The Original of Laura is a controversial release because of its history.  And it seems that more words have been written about the history of the book than the actual content of it.  So I will summarize the history by saying that Vladimir said that if he didn’t finish the book that it should be destroyed.  Vladimir’s wife did not destroy the book and some thirty years later his son Dmitri decided to publish it [cue cat fights and gnashing of teeth].

The interesting way the book was published was as a series of index cards.  Nabokov wrote all of his stories on index cards.  The book version is on heavy card stock in which all of the index cards were reproduced and the words were typed below (errors and cross outs and all).  And all the pages are perforated for, in theory, the reader’s ability to mix and match the pages as apparently Nabokov did.

This seems like a cool idea except that most of the index cards are numbered, so it’s not like there is any doubt as to what order they should go in.  The final cards are not numbered, but again, they are pretty much sequential–there’s not a lot of play at play here. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »