Archive for the ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE PERCEPTIONISTS-Tiny Desk Concert #661 (October 20, 2017).

The Perceptionists are Mr. Lif [Jeffery Haynes] and Akrobatik [Jared Bridgeman] two emcees whose names rock bells among true hip-hop heads. The duo of Boston natives first teamed up as The Perceptionists in the early aughts to release Black Dialogue on El-P’s Def Jux label in 2005. Their side project went into indefinite hiatus soon afterward, but now LLif and Akrobatik are reunited on their new LP, Resolution.

In a world that often appears to be spiraling out of control, their Tiny Desk set provides a much-needed breather.

With sharp, heartfelt lyricism, The Perceptionists critique the current political climate on “Out Of Control.”  There’s some great lyrics in this song.  I especially like

Man, I’m right there with them
Keeping it funky
If I’m African American, tell me which country
Our differences shouldn’t make you wanna hunt me
When in reality every fruit came from one tree

The song has a groovy funky bass from the really animated (H)Ashish Vyas.

On “Lemme Find Out” they rhyme about the symbiotic human relationship with technology.  They say our lives are just so dominated by technology…  Mr Lif wonders “if I am living in the real reality or just a predetermined reality that I’ve been programmed with.”  Akrobatik says, “50 years from know humans are going to have craned necks from [cell phones].”  The track opens with a cool echoing somewhat sinister guitar riff from Van Gordon Martin [“Not known for shit startin’ but his name is Van Martin”]

Once again, I love Akrobatik’s rhymes:

Microchip implanted in my hip
Got me feeling like an alien that landed in a ship
Probed my frontal lobe now I’m standing here equipped
With abilities to flip
But I can’t get a grip on regular shit
I’m about to dodge my competitor’s wit
Hit them with something that they’ll never forget
Deprogram, roll up a hell of a spliff
And smoke Master Kush at the edge of a cliff

I really like the little growls that Mr Lif does at the end of the verses.

The next song is “A Different Light.”  This chorus is great:

Want to crucify me for toughest era in my life?
That’s all right…
Thought the world of you but now I see you in a different light
That’s all right…

The duo’s

conscious ethos is perfectly encapsulated by Ak’s lyrical run.  He raps: “But I’m above all of the melodrama / When they go low / We go high / Michelle Obama.”

Mr. Lif says, “Everyone enters a relationship with different levels of expectations.”  Sometimes we are looking too closely at our expectations and not looking at the other person and being present with the situations right in front of us.   The song is mellow with some gentle synths from “Chop” Lean Thomas. The end of the song has a retro flute sound.  There’s also a mellow guitar line that runs through the song.

The song tells the story of Ak’s near-death experience with a pernicious aortic dissection, as well as the betrayal of a close friend during his convalescence.

About that incident, Acrobatik raps:

I don’t need to call your name out – I ain’t trying to embarrass ya
This is not about revenge, it’s more about your character
Or lack thereof, step back there brov
How can you call someone a friend and then attack their love?

The final song is “Early Morning.”  It’s got some great funky bass and some great funky drums from “Tommy B” Benedetti.  They say they hope this resonates with us all.

As the song ends, there’s some great riffs on the guitar and then Ak says, “we can’t  make a crazy exit… don’t wanna knock shit over.”

[READ: February 13, 2017] Hip Hop Family Tree 3

Book three continues the rise of Hip-Hop and bands who really start selling big.

Interestingly, it starts with Rick Rubin setting the tone for hip hop: “Sorry but girls don’t sound good rapping” (said to Kate Schellenbach of Beastie Boys.  And then getting the Boys all dressed in matching tracksuits (Puma).  Kate gets two rather unflattering drawings of her as the Boys tell her that the three boys will be the first white rap group (with Rubin as DJ).

Two art critics also get involved with tagging and graffiti at this time. Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant take photos of the art but find time and again that “legitimate” businesses want nothing to do with this illegal work.  This also accompanies the rise of break dancing–there’s a funny page in which people think that a group of kids break dancing is actually fighting with each other.

But this book really tracks the rise of Run D.M.C., with the promise by DJ Run that he wouldn’t leave Jay behind.  He was good to his word. (more…)

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aprilSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 16, 2001).

horseshoeThere are seven live shows from 2001 on the Rheostatics Live website.  In this block, I’m going to talk about the first four shows because the final two of the four are drummer Don Kerr’s final shows with the band.

There is a lovely introduction by the club owner, who thanks the Rheostatics for playing there so much.  The sound quality is great and the crowd is really into it.  At one point someone shouts out “Californication” (which is a line from “California Dreamline”) and Martin says that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are playing down the street.  Another funny line is when someone shouts out “Jessie’s Girl” and Dave says that there’s a trend in shouting out bad songs.  Nobody wants to hear the “Rheos do Rick Springfield.”  That’s just bad energy.

“Fat” sounds great and it’s quite a long version.  The vocals for the next few songs are fun.  Martin is crazy on “CCYPA.”  “When Winter Comes” has a great and fun intro.

The notes say that song 12 is “We Went West” but it is actually a cover of a Celtic Blue song  “Heading Out West” with Alun Piggins (from Celtic Blue) on harmonica.  It works well with them.

“California Dreamline” has some funny banter.  Dave says he loves the way Martin says “Sowthern” California.  Martin says English is not his first language.  But that he is wearing an amazing shirt.

They have a lot of fun with “Legal Age Life” which they open with a “pa pa ooh mow mow” refrain and in the middle they throw in some “I Wanna Be Sedated.”  This show also has one of the best versions of “Claire” that I’ve heard.

This is the first version of “Mumbletypeg” that I’ve heard where it includes the spoken word part (like on the record).  And I love that they throw in “PROD” into the end of “Four Little Songs.”

This show was simulcast online (which is pretty high tech for 2001, no?).  You can also watch the simulcast on the Rheostatics live site.

[READ: April 20, 2015] “If You Cannot Go to Sleep” 

I enjoyed that this story was pretty much a fictionalized version of many people’s insomnia.  It opens, “First she tries counting.”  As it progresses through a series of nights, we encounter her fears, both reasonable and excessive.

But interestingly, before it even gets into her dream fears, she has a long unsleeping thought about the difference between working at a discount store and an upscale store–the discount store must be depressing, but the upscale store must be full of insufferable people–what would be worse?.

Then we learn a bit about her life.  She studied French and even lived in Paris for a time. Now she works translating technical manuals and she hates it.  Her husband finally quit the job that he hates–something she hoped he would do for years.  But now that he did that he has moved to France–without her. (more…)

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[ATTENDED, July 30, 2014] Rodrigo y Gabriela

rodygabI first saw Rodrigo y Gabriela on a Tiny Desk Concert and I was blown away.  I knew I had to see these two live.  Rodrigo has a heavy metal background (I didn’t realize that Gabriela was in the heavy metal band Tierra Acida with him).  But even with that background, who knew that two people with acoustic guitars could be so loud!  And our seats were terrific, row S, dead center. Very nice indeed.

Holy smokes, the two of them came out and just blew us away.  They opened with “The Soundmaker” (and really that’s about all I can do in terms of order of songs).  And it sounded louder and more amazing than it does on record.  Although, minor gripe, Gabriela’s guitar has a microphone in it and the bass (which I gather she made by banging on the body of the guitar) was mixed way too loud for the first three songs.  They fixed that for the next batch and then they sounded phenomenal.

After the first three songs (which included a bit of “stairway to Heaven” done in their own style), Gabriela talked to us a bit (while the guitars were tuned, I assume), and then they went back to the music.

Their stage set with pretty minimal–some bright lights on little stands (which were very cool actually).  But it didn’t matter, the two of them are electric on stage–whether it’s Rodrigo’s heavy metal stances or Gabriela’s pogoing, they are in constant motion.  About midway through the show they started using the projection screen behind them (at least I didn’t see any before that).  In addition to some interesting imagery, they also projected close ups of their guitars (I think from small cameras in front of them and from small cameras on the heads of their guitars).  I enjoyed that the images were low res and that they were staticy from time to time–it took any kind of preciousness away and made it look less like they were showing of their virtuosity and more like an interesting image to watch.

After the second set of songs, Rodrigo did a solo section.  He played some very nice flamenco guitar and some rocking solo sections.  Even though he is an amazing guitarist I actually enjoyed this part of the show least because I like the way they play off each other more than I like them individually.

Later in the set Gabriela had a solo section.  Her solo was a bit more interesting to watch because I find her guitar playing style to be mesmerizing and completely incomprehensible.  I loved watching her right hand rapidly moving back and forth, using her fingers on the strings, batting the drum with her thumb or knuckles, and playing heavy rhythm like no one I’ve ever seen.  her hand must be one huge callous.

Some other songs they played were “Torito,” “Sunday Neurosis” (it was alarming when the spoken voices came out of the speakers) and “Misty Moses” (which I learned is dedicated to Harriet Tubman–I also learned that all of the songs on their new album are dedicated to an inspirational figure, guess I should read the liner notes, huh?).

They may have also played “Santo Domingo” (it’s hard to tell, I admit).  But they definitely played Metallica’s “Orion.”  When I first heard that they played Metallica songs, I was really surprised, and I couldn’t wait to hear their take on this instrumental.  And they played a great version of it.  But what I found was that this song was the weakest one in their entire set.  I’ve always liked Metallica’s lengthy instrumentals, but they don’t hold a candle to Rod y Gab’s original songs.

Speaking of covers, about 3/4 of the way through the show, Rodrigo did a “karaoke” section, which was lighthearted and a lot of fun.  He played Stone Temple Pilot’s “Plush” although he didn’t sing a word–the audience provided all the singing, which was really funny. About half way through, the audience lost the plot and he laughed and moved on to the next song, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Breaking the Girl, which didn’t get quite as many singers (he had a microphone for this one, but gave up when not many people sang along).  He then admitted that they usually don’t play for such a sophisticated crowd (ie. we were sitting down–except for this one poor guy who tried to get everyone up to dance many times).  So he went for a song that this older generation might know (much laughter) and did Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” which was very well received until he sang “I forgot the fuckin lyrics” and we all laughed.  The final song in the karaoke section was Radiohead’s “Creep” which everyone enjoyed very much.

“Fram” and “The Russian Messenger” were also both amazing–by this time the audience was practically bouncing on our seats.

The ended the set with two encores: “Hanuman” and “Tamacun.”  By the encore everyone was on his feet and we were clapping and swaying like fools.  It was that kind of show.  Who would have thought that two guitars could produce so much.  Rod y Gab really have to be seen to be believed.



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ricky1.2SOUNDTRACK“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Alapalooza (1993).

Weird_Al_Yankovic_-_AlapaloozaAlapalooza came out hot on the heels of Off the Deep End.  I was in college, the perfect time for a “Weird Al” rebirth.  And the fact that “Jurassic Park” and “Bedrock Anthem” had a great videos (and my college cafe played MTV), meant I got to see these videos quite a bit.  (So I was surprised to read recently that this album didn’t sell like gangbusters (it went gold whereas Off the Deep End went platinum)).

“Jurassic Park” is a crazy wonderful parody–a spoof on the crazy song “MacArthur Park,” a song that I like a lot because it is over the top and absurd, although truth be told, I like “Jurassic Park” better.

“Young Dumb and Ugly” is a heavy metal song this is certainly dumb.  This is one that parodies a style so well that it’s actually not a very fun song to listen to.  “Bedrock Anthem” is a Red Hot Chili Peppers mashup/parody with the intro from “Under the Bridge” melding into a rocking parody of “Give It Away.”  I’m not exactly sure that it works as a parody (the Yabba Dabba part is a wee bit forced) but the song rocks well and Al and co. do a great job with it.

I never much liked “Frank’s 2000″ TV.”  I’m surprised to read (Wikipedia) that it’s a style parody of early R.E.M.  I can kind of hear it but compared to some of his other style parodies, I don’t think it really works.  “Achy Breaky Song” is the most apt song, lyrically, ever: “Don’t play that song, that achy breaky song, the most annoying song I know.”  It’s surprisingly mean about the song it is parodying and it turns out the proceeds from the track were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, as both Cyrus and Yankovic felt that the song was “a little bit, well, mean-spirited.”  “Traffic Jam” is a synthy number that sounds like it’s from the 80s.

“Talk Soup” was commissioned as a new theme for the show Talk Soup.  Although the producers approved the lyrics and enjoyed the final result, they decided against using it.  Which I can understand as it would make a terrible TV theme song.  It sounds a bit like Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

“Livin’ in the Fridge” is a fun parody of Aerosmith and it really sounds like them.  This parody works both as a twist on the original and lyrically–it’s very funny.  “She Never Told Me She was a Mime” is a weird original.  It doesn’t sound like any other bands, and is kind of a classic rock type of song.  The lyrics are pretty funny, but not all that funny.  And there’s not all that much to enjoy musically.

“Harvey the Wonder Hamster” is an awesome anthem which at 21 seconds, can be enjoyed again and again and again.  It’s funny that I felt that “Talk Soup” sounded like Peter Gabriel because “Waffle King” is actually a style parody of Gabriel.  This is a weird song because the verses are good, but the chorus falls kind of flat.  But the final song is a wonderful twist on Al’s usual polka medley.  This is a polka version of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I read complaints that it sounds too much like the original (which it doesn’t) but it’s a testament to Al’s skill as a mimic that he can make his crazy polka version (which is much faster and with lots of his silliness thrown in) sounds so much like queen.  It’s certainly an Al highlight.

After this release, Al put out Al in the Box a 4 CD box set and then a series of greatest hits type albums–an actual Greatest Hits and then a collection of Food Songs and TV Songs.  I would never have bought the Food album except that I got to meet him after a show and I wanted something for him to autograph (which he did).  He was super duper nice and very cool.

[READ: February 22, 2013] Ricky Ricotta Books 7

Dav Pilkey planned to do nine books in this series (with Martin Ontiveros adding pictures).  According to Wikipedia, he had serious family emergencies for a while, which is why such a prolific author had literally no output for a number of years (from 2007-2010).  It also explains why book 7 is the last book that Pilkey has written in the series.  But the good news is that he’s back writing and that the eighth book is due out in December.

Of 2014.  Oh.

Well, in the meantime we have this book to enjoy.  Ricky and the Mighty Robot are learning what is fun and what is not fun (most of the things that Ricky likes to do are too small  for the robot to do and are consequently not fun for him).  Meanwhile, Uncle Unicorn lives on Uranus.  And he has turned it into a universe-wide dumping ground for toxic waste. I really liked seeing that all of the other bad guys from the series had a cameo dumping their stuff on Uranus.

But then Uncle Unicorn has had enough of the trash and he wants to leave.  He plans on going to Earth, but he knows that Mighty Robot is his major enemy.  So he sends Mighty Robot a gift–a Ladybot who immediately hypnotizes him and chains him up.  And now Ricky is alone. (more…)

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fragile SOUNDTRACK: ATOMS FOR PEACE-“What the Eyeballs Did” (2013)

afpThis is a secret track that you can download from the Atoms for Peace website (well some people can, I don’t seem to be able to) or you can listen to it on NPR.

Atoms for Peace is Thom York’s band (with Flea from RHCP on bass). This song sounds a lot like Radiohead.  So much so that it could easily be a Radiohead song (one of those newer more electronic ones).  The bass is cool and while Flea does a great job playing it, it sees like it should be a little dull for him to play a rather repetitive bit over and over.

And yet the song works very well in the electronic, claustrophobic way that Yorke has.

I love just about anything that Yorke and Co do, and I like this as well, it just doesn’t seem all that much different–why not use Flea for all of his manic intensity?

[READ: April 1, 2013] Fragile Acts

After yesterday’s poetry book, I wasn’t quite prepared for this one.  Zubair Ahmed is a young writer (a wunderkind as he is described).  Allan Peterson is a much older writer.  He is retired and has clearly had a lot more experiences from which to draw.  I also found his poems to be much more profound and lyrical, much more beautiful and evocative.

Yes, it could be because his poems are longer (that’s a terrible quality to judge a poem by, and it’s certainly not always true, but those shorty ones do tend to lack a bit of substance).  Of course, the poems that were really long (he had three that were multi-part and multi-page) didn’t hold together all that well for me.  So length doesn’t have much to do with it.

Many of these poems were amazing and they really reminded me of what good poetry can do.  Poetry that is not just a sentence with line breaks, poetry that doesn’t call out to be read in a sing-song voice.  To the point: poetry that sings on its own. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:


[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.


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[ATTENDED: September 18, 2012] Mötley Crüe

Back in 1998, I saw Aerosmith and Monster Magnet play a set at Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA.  It was my first time seeing Aerosmith and I was a little bummed that Stephen Tyler had broken his leg.  He was amazingly limber and nimble for a guy in a leg cast, but I’m sure he could have done a lot more if he was unhampered by injury.

Fourteen years later, I’m back on Montage Mountain to see Kiss and Mötley Crüe.  And just a few days before this show Vince Neil broke his foot.  While he’s not quite the acrobatic showman as Stephen Tyler, he was definitely hampered amidst the excitement of their stage show.  It didn’t affect his voice though.

I liked Mötley Crüe’s first two albums quite a lot.  I liked Theater of Pain a lot less–even if “Home Sweet Home” was the biggest song in the world at the time.  What is it about a piano ballad that drives hard rocker people crazy?

Since then the Crüe have released some 5 albums and have had a half-dozen or so hits (some pretty massive).  Of course, I never liked the glammier or even the more “rock n roll” sound of their later albums.  I had pretty much given up on them altogether.  So I didn’t really care much that they were opening for Kiss at this show.

But I will say this–Mötley Crüe put on one hell of a spectacle.  And that’s what some concerts are all about.  There were scantily clad women swinging on ropes and walking on stilts and bringing guitars to the band and dancing abstractly (that’s got to be a very hard job–pretending to dancing rhythmically and sexily to Motley Crue for an entire song).  [If you object to the exploitation of women, this is not the show for you–I sure hope they are well compensated].  There were guys with firehoses shooting the audience (which I assume was a wet T-shirt extravaganza), there were bottles of champagne poured onto the crowd, there was fire and more fire and more and more fire.  And there was Tommy Lee’s drumset–more on that. (more…)

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Just before the Red Hot Chili Peppers totally took off and became stadium stars, they released Mother’s Milk.  It was a commercialized realization of their three earlier more raw sounding funk rock records.  It was one of my favorite records of the late 80s.

Since Flea is interviewed in this issue of Grantland, and since he’s still a fan of the Lakers, it seemed like a good time to mention this song.

It opens with some martial drums (from then new drummer Chad Smith) and band chanting about M A G I C.  The lyrics are sung very quickly (I’m not even sure what they say half the time).  About 80 seconds in some wild guitar work burst forth, but it’s largely a chanted song of bass and drums.  There’ s a brief jam at the end where Flea shows off some great basswork and John Frusciante gets to do his thing again.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it played anywhere (maybe at Lakers games?), so here’s a chance to hear it:

[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 3

One thing is for sure, Grantland loves it some basketball.  Basketball is the most widely covered sport in the published Grantlands so far. (The first issue even looked like one).  Since basketball is such a pop culture-referencing sport it actually works pretty well as a subject–with lots of different angles–especially given the state of the NBA lately.  Some other things on the Grantland staff’s minds include–the dangers of football and inadequacy of helmets to protect kids and Tim frickin Tebow (still!).  I don’t think an issue has past without talking about him yet.  I realize that’s a function of the time of these publications but… ew!

Nevertheless, the writing remains exciting and interesting, even for a non-sports guy like me.


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SOUNDTRACKMOLOTOV-¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas? (1998).

Molotov was the last Rock en Español band that I really bothered to check out.  They were probably most notorious for the cover of the album.  Interestingly, the cover is actually a four sided cover which you can flip to three other far less sexist scenes, so yes, that was pretty much a sales gimmick.  And it certainly attracted attention (and a law suit!).  So they reissued the title with the far less offensive, but very different cover below.

My Spanish is poor at best, but this album is a mix of Spanish and English.  And, of course, I know some bad Spanish words, so I get a sense of what this album is about. But here’s the thing–it rocks really hard and has some really great elements of the metal/rap/funk hybrid genre, regardless of whether you know what they’re talking about (although don’t go singing “Chinga Tu Madre” around the office, capiche?).

The opening song  “Que no te haga bobo Jacobo” has a very Rage Against the Machine vibe–heavy guitars and sound effects with militant rapped lyrics.  The riff is great and the vocals are smoother than Rage’s Zach–“Tito” Fuentes has great flow.  There’s also some good funky bass in the middle section.  “Molotov Cocktail Party” is a mix of English and Spanish, a pretty straightforward rap, not unlike Kid Rock.

“Voto Latino” has a more alt rock vibe in the guitars, although the vocals are pretty straightforward rap style.  The song title means Latino Vote, so perhaps there’s a politics context to it.  And “Gimme Tha Power” is a political song, too.  A rap (in Spanish) over some nice acoustic guitars.

There definitely isn’t in “Chinga Tu Madre” which has more of those cool guitar effects and group chanting, although it’ probably not worth investigating the lyrics much more.  But the chorus is catchy as anything.  “Matata Tete” and “Mas Vale Cholo” return to that Rage Against the Machine style, with vocals that are a bit more cookie monster-y (I’m not sure who sings lead on which songs, actually) although “Mas Vale Cholo” has some fun with the vocal delivery.  And there’s a spirit of early Red Hot Chili Peppers at work, too.

“Use It or Lose It” is rapped in mostly English.  It has a very cool acoutsic-feeling chorus (and a quote of the line, “what cha gonna do rap is not afraid of you.”).  “Puto” is presumably an anti-gay song (I suppose I should find that out before I say so).  “Porque No Te Haces Para Alla?…Al Mas Alla!” has a fun chorus and cool guitar effects once again.  “Cerdo” has a cool 70s vibe, with funky bass and scratchy guitars–it’s got a sexy feel, although the title means “pig,” so who knows.

The final track also rocks very well.  According to Wikipedia, the translated title of “Quitate Que Ma’sturbas (Perro Arrabalera)” is “Stay Away Because You Masturbate (Suburban Bitch)” which seems weird .  But maybe they had nothing better to write about.  Sometimes ignorance of a subject is not a bad thing.

¿Dónde Jugarán las Niñas? is not the classiest album around, but it’s got some really interesting sonics.  And I’m led to believe their later albums are even better.

[READ: Week of April 9] Gravity’s Rainbow 3.16-3.24

Last week ended with sex and this week opens with the way I felt–like a voyeur who can’t look away.  The exhausting orgy was exhausting to read about as well.  And I’m starting to wonder if Pynchon is making a point about sex rather than just enjoying writing about it.

This week’s read also brings back two characters from way way ago.  Well, one from not too long ago, but another from what seems like an eternity.  I assumed we’d see Pirate Prentice again, but I assumed that it wouldn’t be until Section 4. So that was a nice treat, even if it’s a less than happy return for him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ-Calibration (is Pushing Luck and Key Too Far) (2008).

Typically a solo album means indulgence. But how can you be more indulgent than Mars Volta? They have fifteen minute songs with twenty-seven sections and operatic vocals and lyrics that are bizarre at best (they’re fantastic, don’t get me wrong, they’re just…out there!). So, if you’re the guitarist in a freak flag waving band, how do you let your freak flag fly on your own?

This solo album actually does prove to be more out there than Mars Volta. Primarily because whereas Volta stays more or less within the realm of their prog metal, this record sets no limits. There’s ambient noodling, there’s chaotic noise, and there’s beautiful extended pieces.

Omar (I’m not on a first name basis, his name is just long) plays a bunch of instruments on the record (he gets help from a bunch of folks throughout as well), but primarily he plays guitar. And I can’t help but think that Omar doesn’t understand how to play the guitar–he knows how to play, and frankly, he’s pretty amazing at it, but I’m not sure he understands it. His melodies are bizarre, he sense of what should come next is totally askew, it’s as if he learned how to play guitar by listening to vinyl records that were a little warped. It’s pretty fantastic.

In one song he sounds like Jimi Hendrix–not so much like a Jimi Hendrix song, but that he achieves the same sonic freakout sound that Jimi achieved in his live recordings–squalling feedback and amazing density. There’s another track where he channels Carlos Santana. (This track features John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on vocals. It is singularly bizarre because it cuts out right in the middle of a line–freaks me out every time!) The next song “Sidewalk Fins” ends with some of the noisiest, loudest, most crushing sounds. It sounds like an amplifier getting smashed by a giant microphone–feedback and thuds–repeated about 4 times before it’s over.

And yet the first few songs are amazingly restrained for Omar. They are short, ambient and, if not a little weird, then certainly quite pretty. But as the album moves along and the songs get longer, his freak flag comes out (see “Lick the Tilting Poppies”). And yet, the disc ends with a beautiful 11 minute instrumental song. it’s beautifully arranged, with intertwining guitar melodies. If there was any doubt about Omar’s skills, this track will knock down all questions. It’s also pretty clear that Omar respects Zappa, if not for his guitar skills, then certainly for his compositions.

This definitely isn’t for everyone–there’s a lot of weirdness afoot–but if you’re looking for something interesting or different, and you’re not afraid of something out there, this is a good disc to check out. Oh, and you don’t need to like or have even heard of Mars Volta to appreciate this record.

[READ: June 27: 2008] The Turtle Moves!

When I saw this book on Amazon, it never occurred to me that it was an “unauthorized” account. It seems that whenever someone or something gets popular someone else tries to make a buck off of it with an “unauthorized” publication. I never know how accurate they are, if they have dirt that the subject doesn’t want out or if “unauthorized” is just written there to sell copy. (more…)

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