Archive for the ‘Tarkio’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-Live on KGBA (from Omnibus) (1998).

Tarkio released an album called Live on KGBA in 1998.  Omnibus collects 4 songs from that release (according to various websites, the other tracks include “Kickaround” “Neapolitan Bridesmaid” “Helena Won’t Get Stoned” “Caroline Avenue” and “Candle”  (from the I Guess… album) “Weight of the World” (from Sea Songs) and “Whipping Boy” (the only song that’s not elsewhere on Omnibus).  This live record was distributed in some fashion way back when and there are copies floating around the internet.  I’m not willing to risk a virus by clicking on these links though, so I’ll stick with the few tracks on Omnibus.

The sound is excellent, and the full collection would no doubt be a welcome addition to anyone’s Tarkio fandom.

“Carrie” has a very Neil Young feel, from the rough acoustic guitars to the aggressive strumming technique.  It doesn’t sound like any Neil Young song in particular but you can imagine Neil looking on and smiling.  Even the solo is kind of Neil-ish (electric guitar over the acoustic main song).  “Am I Not Right?” sounds like a newer Decemberists song—there’s some very cool abrasive chords at the chorus “Knowledge!”  “Mess of Me” is a boppy acoustic number that’s fun to sing along to.  It opens kind of like the Decemberists song “The Infanta” but quickly turns into something else entirely.  “Goodbye Girl” is a cover of the Squeeze song done with a dominant banjo.  Although it lacks the original’s punch, it works well as a folk number.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “The Golden Age”

I feel like I’ve really been missing out by not reading any Le Guin.  The more I read from her now, the more I feel like I should be dropping everything and reading her output.  And I will read at least some of Earthsea eventually.

But in the meantime, I can enjoy pieces like this.  She talks about how science fiction has never really been considered “literature” and how it’s always been relegated to the genre ghetto.  Be that as it may, she’s also disappointed when science fiction writers try to deny their ghetto by saying, “Pay no attention to the spaceships…[this] is Literature.”  She thanks Michael Chabon for smashing down at least some of the ghetto walls.

Which allows her to look back at the past and the early Science Fiction Writers of America conventions.  She remembers the fun talk and open mindedness—except for a notable few who were deeply conservative, a surprise for a group of men who were supposed to be looking forward, not back.  And yes…men.  There were very few women sci-fi writers back in the fifties (in “The Golden Age”).  Indeed one SFWA member wanted to create a members-only necktie! (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-three song demo (from Omnibus) 1997.

These three songs are part of a demo released in 1997.  I actually assumed that Omnibus would have collected all of Tarkio’s releases (how many more can there be?), but I learned that “omnibus” means “a book containing reprints of a number of works.”  So there ya go.

Nearly every review of Omnibus complains about the size of the release.  Some complain that the songs are too long (which is something else entirely), but many seem to suggest that 27 songs is too many for this collection.  I don’t quite understand this attitude, because if it were the collected works, there would be no reason to complain.  As such, I suspect I am the only person who wishes there was a little bit more–like why not the other two songs from this demo?

And demo is a rather unfair name for this, because it sounds wonderful.  (I suspect a demo from 1997 could be recorded with much better equipment than a demo from say 1984).  And these three songs are really something.  I suppose also, listening to these songs in this manner–not as a two disc set but as an original demo of three songs, makes them seem like maybe there isn’t too much of a good thing.

“This Rollercoaster Ride” opens with an interesting pseudo Middle Eastern violin.  But it quickly settles down into a very catchy rock/folk song.  It sounds very Decemberists, and it’s extremely catchy.  “Following Camden Down” is a beautiful song (the reminds me of The Replacements’ “Skyway”).  Meloy’s voice sounds subdued and not as immediately notable as he normally does.  It’s a wonderful little song.  “Slow Down” is a bouncy folk number (with dominant violin).  It’s got a rocky alt feel, although it still reads as traditional folk.

True, none of these songs reach the delirious heights of the best Decemberists songs, but they’re a nice step towards the kind of music Meloy and friends would put out next.

[READ: June 5, 2012] “Take Me Home”

This issue of the New Yorker is devoted to Science Fiction (see the cover).   In addition to five stories (which I assume are science-fiction-y) we also get five (more or less) one-page pieces from masters of the genre (genre being a dirty word, we’ll find).  When I first saw the names of these writers, I thought they were each creating a cool one-page story.  So I was a little disappointed to realize that these are “personal histories” with sci-fi.  But I shouldn’t have been disappointed, because even though these are short, they are really impactful–and come on, they’re classic writers.

I’m surprised by the fact that I haven’t read more Ray Bradbury.  I know I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 and I’m sure I’ve read some of his stories, but I haven’t even scratched the surface–he has written so much!  Indeed, I was surprised to hear that he was still alive (in fairness, he is 92).

This piece begins with Bradbury’s recollections of his introduction to sci-fi with Buck Rogers (1928) and John Carter of Mars (not Disney’s creation, but a series of stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs). (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: TARKIO-Sea Songs for Landlocked Sailors (1999).

Tarkio was Colin Meloy’s band before he formed the Decemberists.  My first reaction to the name Tarkio was that it sounded like Tarkus, the album by Emerson lake and Palmer.  And, since I heard about it during The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife album, which is proggy, I assumed Tarkio would be a prog rock band.  Little did I know that the real name of Tarkio comes from a train stop in Montana and that the real (at least to me) forerunner for this album is Tarkio by folkies Brewer & Shipley which featured the song “One Toke Over the Line.”

All of Tarkio’s music was collected in 1995 on the album OmnibusOmnibus contains their album I Guess I was Hoping for Something More, this EP, and various other unreleased tracks.

This EP actually came out after Tarkio’s debut album (when I decided to write this first I assumed it came first).  It seems especially surprising to me because the opening song sounds very different from anything on the LP.  Not worse, just like a direction they chose not to go in.  His voice is kind of processed and sounds, yes, funny.  Although I have to admit I rather like it—it’s much more alt sounding than the rest of the disc, which has a more folkie charm.  This disc was self released.  And I cannot believe that there are no images of it online anywhere.  Decemberists fans are crazy intense and no one has a copy of this CD?  Weird.

So as I said, the first song, “Devil’s Elbow” is full of vibrato and sounds like an alt rock song circa the mid 90s.  The solo sounds like it could be done by Robert Smith.  “Weight of the World” sounds more alt-folkie, big guitars and whatnot.  And the chorus sounds very much like a Decemberists song.  And check out these lyrics: “we hear the homeless philharmonic singing all the Charlies Angels to their heavenly convergence in the sky.” Pure Colin.

If you had any doubt that this was Colin Meloy’s band (which you wouldn’t, but if you did), this song title will tell you all you need: “My Mother Was a Chinese Trapeze Artist.”  Lyrically it is pure Meloy, although musically it’s more spare.  Decemberists fans will recognize this song from Castaways and Cutouts (that version is over a minute longer).  The Tarkio version has louder guitars as the song progresses, although the Decemberists’ version has more interesting instrumentation.  “Mountains of Mourne,” is a sad ballad played mostly on banjo.  “Never Will Marry” is a slow dirgelike song–very traditionally folk-sounding.

I really don’t know much about why Tarkio broke up.  This EP shows a band experimenting with their more ballad-y side.  Probably not destined to be a big seller, it works as a nice companion to their debut.

[READ: May 26, 2012] “The Region of Unlikeness”

This was the last short story I found by Galchen and I was really excited to read it.  It starts off a little oddly—it’s one of those stories where there are two characters spoken about and they are inseparable and it’s not always clear which is which.  Especially when the opening is as peculiar as this, “Ilan used to call Jacob ‘my cousin from Outer Swabia’”  Originally the narrator thinks it a joke, but she later decides it’s a sort of a clue.  She met the two of them by chance.  They were talking loudly and boisterously about Wuthering Heights in a coffee shop.  And that intrigued her to no end.  So she chimed in, and the three of them ended up talking for a while.  The crazy thing about them was that Jacob had a daughter. He seemed so carefree and like he had no responsibilities.   She never met the daughter, he barely mentioned his family, and yet she was always there in the back of his mind.

And she fell hard for Ilan—he seemed antiquated and resourceful like “fancy coffee and bright-colored smutty flyers.”  Of course all of her friends found the two of them arrogant and pathetic, but the narrator could not be drawn away from them.  Although really she was drawn to Ilan, who was generous with praise, while Jacob was kind of sulky and dark and was “jealous of Ilan’s easy pleasures.”  The narrator felt Jacob was pedantic.  All of this makes it surprising that the bulk of the story is about the narrator and Jacob.

And then she stopped seeing them.  Literally, they were nowhere to be found. (more…)

Read Full Post »