Archive for the ‘Surfer Blood’ Category

vonlastintSOUNDTRACKSURFER BLOOD-“Demon Dance” (Live at SXSW, March 27, 2013).

surfer blood

I’ve liked Surfer Blood since I first heard them.  They write catchy, mostly short, poppy songs.  And usually after a few listens, the hooks really grab you.  The strange thing about the band is that the hooks aren’t always readily apparent, which makes their songs sound kind of samey sometimes.

Of course, samey isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.  Surfer Blood is quite distinctive and I tend to enjoy everything they do.  This new song sounds like their other stuff, which is fine.  But the most distinctive thing about the band of probably their singer who sounds like a less-affected Morrissey.

Having also listened to the song from the album I can say that the singer is far harder to understand live, so maybe live is not the best way to hear a new song from them, but for an old favorite, Surfer Blood has a great energy live.

Watch the show here and hear the studio version here.

[READ: March 27, 2013] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Melville House has published a number of these “Last Interview” books, and as a completist I feel compelled to read them.  I have read criticisms of the series primarily because what the books are are collections of interviews including the last interview that the writer gave.  They don’t have anything new or proprietary.  The last interview just happens to be the last one he gave.   So it seems a little disingenuous, but is not technically wrong.

There’s so far five books in the series, and I figured I’d read at least three (Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolaño–the other two turned out to be Jorge Luis Borges–who I would be interested in reading about and Jacques Derrida (!) who I have always loved–I guess this series was tailor made for me).

At any rate, these interviews are from various times and locations in Vonnegut’s career.  There are six in total.  I don’t know if the titles they give here were the titles in the original publications but here’s what’s inside:

  • “Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction” from The Paris Review, Spring 1977 (by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, Richard Rhodes)
  • “There Must be More to Love Than Death” from The Nation, August 1980 (by Robert K. Musil)
  • “The Joe & Kurt Show” from Playboy, May 1982 (by Joseph Heller and Carole Mallory)
  • “The Melancholia of Everything Completed” from Stop Smiling, August 2006 (by J.C. Gabel)
  • “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” from U.S. Airways Magazine (!!!), June 2007 (by J. Rentilly)
  • “The Last Interview” from In These Times May 9, 2007 (by Heather Augustyn) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SURFER BLOOD-Live on KEXP, December 1, 2009 (2009).

This performance takes place before Surfer Blood’s debut album came out.  The DJ is amazed at the size of their following (which is indeed quite huge for a band with no record yet).  The band is young and fun and they engage her with stories and joke. They’re a treat to listen to.

And so is the music. “Floating Vibes,” sounds great and it flows seamlessly into “Swim” (their “hit”), which also sounds fantastic here live.

“Catholic Pagans” is a brief rocker which melds into “Anchorage,”  a 7-minute slow burner that ends with a noisy workout.  It’s always great to hear a new band who sounds awesome live.  Here’s where you can listen to them.

[READ: November 13, 2012] “Extinct Anatomies”

Daniel Alarcón is an author whom I feel has been around for a very long time, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.  He was listed as a New Yorker 20 under 30 just two years ago, so he can’t be that old either.  (Indeed, he has released only a collection of short stories and a novel at this point).

Anyhow, this short fiction was really interesting.  The writing style was delightfully straightforward and compelling, despite the rather banal subject matter.  An uninsured musician is in Lima visiting his cousin.  Since he has no insurance in the States, and his cousin is a dentist, he decides to have extensive dental work done by his relative (he had broken his front teeth).  This cousin lived with them in Alabama when they were kids but they haven’t really seen each other much since then.

Back in Alabama, the cousin, who was older, was chasing after girls when the narrative was but 8 years old.  The narrator didn’t understand the flirting that the cousin did on the phone (“Oh, your hair”) and the cousin seemed exasperated about what American women might want.

But again, this somewhat banal story is filled with deception and intrigue.  He tells a lie to his cousin about how he teeth were broken.  And his cousin “ordered X-rays, as if to confirm my story.”   The cousin’s dental assistant is very nice and gentle but is always hidden behind a mask.  So the narrator imagines her as very beautiful.  And after a few sessions he has fantasies about her to take his mind of the procedure. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SURFER BLOOD-Tarot Classics (2012).

I really enjoyed Surfer Blood’s debut album.  This EP is a little stopgap until the next one. Although the sound is unmistakably Surfer Blood–poppy hooks and a very recognizable singing voice, the band sounds a little bit different here.  They haven’t lost any of their catchiness–there may be even more on the opener, “I’m Not Ready” (who doesn’t love when the guitar and vocals match each other?)  “Miranda” has that fun thumping chorus that is always fun to sing along to.

“Voyager Reprise” moves away from the surf-styled songs of their debut into an alt-rock of the 90s sound–when guitars were noisy (until they were quiet for a bit) and guitar solos happened between verses instead of as the third verse.  And “Drinking Problem” has a kind of early Depeche Mode (in vocals, not synths) feel–quite a departure from their debut.

In the way of EPs, the final two songs are remixes.  I’ve never been a fan or remixes and these don’t do much for me, but i do wonder if they will have any impact on their future sound.

[READ: June 14, 2012] “Olds Rocket 88, 1950”

All this time I thought there were only five of these short essays in this sci-fi issue of the New Yorker.  And yet tucked away near the back was the sixth one by William Gibson, a pioneer in science fiction.

Gibson’s recollection is of being a child and having everything seem like science fiction–something that is notably absent these days.  Like the chrome trim on his father’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88, the prevalence of spacemen and space-themed ideas everywhere.  Even the word Tomorrow was capitalized.

Then he recounts a personal incident.  He got in trouble with his parents for arguing with an Air Force man.  The man said space travel would never happen. But Gibson knew it would.  How could it not?  And science fiction shaped this worldview.  Not that he believed the stories would come true, but that his entire mindset was that in the future “things might be different…and different in literally any way you could imagine, however radical.”

What a wonderfully freeing notion.  To me, this sort of future-looking lifestyle accounted for the unprecedented achievements of post 1950 America.  Now that we no longer think of tomorrow with a capital T, we don’t seem as enchanted by the future.  Perhaps it was a naive outlook, but you need a certain degree of naiveté if you hope to do anything radically new.

Gibson ties in the sci-fi books he bought for a dollar to other fantasists: J.G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, and how these thinkers weren’t all that far off from the likes of Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.  And he believes that without science fiction, he might not have been interested in what these other radical writers had to say.

It’s a short piece, but it really made me wish for more chrome and space-age technology in our lives–when people weren’t afraid to dram big.

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Surfer Blood is a confusing band.  Their music sounds like a whole bunch of different late-80’s alterna-rock bands that I love.  But their vocalist (and the music of the verses) doesn’t really fit that style–I’m not sure what those sound like) and some of it is drenched in a kind of Beach Boys-reverb that befits the Surfer part of their name.

It’s a fascinating amalgam of styles that works very well and which is chock full of catchy choruses.  “Floating Vibes” opens with a big loud guitar note, that quickly morphs into a catchy verse line.  Conversely, “Swim” opens with a strange shouty kind of introduction and then morphs into a crazily catchy chorus (also shouted).

“Harmonix” opens with a “rock n roll” 50s style riff, then jumps to cool guitar harmonics and then turns into a song that sounds unmistakably late 80s to me (although maybe it sounds like a song my friend Garry wrote back in the late 80s).

“Neighbor Riffs” is a rocking 2 minute instrumental, which is followed by “Twin Peaks,” a song that sounds unmistakably late 80s but I can’t decide why (it’s also great because it’s about, you know, Twin Peaks).  I’m confused by the next pair of songs: “Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni” as they do not seem related and the Fast song is much better.  In fact the combination of “Slow Jabroni” and the next song, “Anchorage” really drag the disc as those two songs are over 12 minutes in total (whereas most of the songs are in the 3-4 minute range).   Neither of the songs is bad (in fact “Anchorage” is pretty cool), they just both last too long.

As I try to process who this band sounds like, I’m going to let Carrie Brownstein provide the best description of them:

Sometimes an album comes from people who you can tell love some of the same music as you. And when they interpret the bands you both love, when they run it through their own brains and hearts and hands and amps, instead of sounding like a watered-down version of the progenitors, it sounds fresh and heartfelt and energized. That’s Surfer Blood for me.

And me too.

[READ: May 16, 2011] “We Come in Peace”

This is one of my favorite short stories that I’ve read in a long time.  It appeals to me for a number of reasons (I love the conceit of angels tinkering with humans), but it’s also very well written and thoroughly engaging.  I think the only disappointment about it is that it’s a short story and not a novel (although the intro to the story says that this is merely an excerpt from the short story which appears in full length in Gartner’s new collection of short stories, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives).

I feared that the story would be daunting at first because it includes a dramatis personae (which can be intimidating for a short story).  But the dramatis personae just tells us which angels are matched to which humans.  For yes, this is a story about five angels who are sent to earth to learn about the five senses.   Amusingly, this is spurred on because humans have discovered the extra taste sensation known as umami.

So, the five angels are sent to a Canadian suburb to inhabit the bodies of 5 students: Bashaar, an athlete and dancer who is beset by local radical muslims to get him to join; Stephan a good student (ie., dork) who is turned cool by his angel, much to his family’s dismay; Leo, a nice dude; Jason, the school bully, who is inhabited by a happy angel; and Jessica, an anorexic girl who suddenly eats, develops a nice body and becomes romantically involved with 16-year-old Cullen.  Each of the angels subsumes the personality of the kids (whose families are, needless to say, freaked out by the changes). (more…)

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I really enjoyed Surfer Blood’s album Astro Coast.  There was something familiar about it, yet it never aped any sound exactly.  It’s a fun collection of upbeat almost-summer music.

This live set is a great representation of the band.  They don’t break from the CD all that much, but the band is lively and generous.  They play 7 songs, all of them fast and fun (they say that one song is going to be slow, but it seems to wind up as fast as the rest-and someone in the crowd shots “Play another slow one”).

There’s some good banter and the audience is very appreciative.  It’s great set and worth checking out even if you don’t know them yet.

[READ: March 28, 2011] “Pericles”

This story is set in Greece in 1941.  Bulgarians have occupied the land.  And as the first few paragraphs explain, a thief has come to steal some goats.  The goatherds catch the man (a Bulgarian) and kill him.

When the Bulgarians find out, they take it very seriously.  The army travels to the village and rounds up every single male and all of the young females and intend to shoot them in the center of the city.

The story pulls back to explain that during the occupation all of the men were forced to do labor.  This even includes Pericles, the strongest man in the village.  Before the occupation, he was a helpful giant, able to throw four bundles of hay at a time.  Of course, Pericles was also fearsome, and if he got drunk (which he did from time to time) everyone in the town hid until he sobered up (except for his diminutive wife who could calm him down with a look). (more…)

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