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Archive for the ‘The Mommyheads’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE MOMMYHEADS-“Needmore, PA” (2010).

This is the first single from The Mommyheads’ new Dromedary release Finest Specimens.  The album (which is sort of a greatest hits, but not) comes out next month, but until then you can hear th is new track at a number of places, including the blog largehearted boy (which has all kinds of cool free listens on it).

This is a 7 minute (live) track.  It opens with some cool keyboards.  They feature what I’ve come to think of as Mommyheads style, in which the bass and guitars (or in this case keyboards) play different things that seem unrelated but which work together.  A great chorus pulls it all together.

This live song has about 3 minutes of instrumental jamminess at the end.  It doesn’t really help the memorableness of the song (as you’ve long forgotten the catchy “That’s right” hook by the end of it), but man they sound great jamming together like that: a tight, psychedelic freakout that just builds in coolness.  It’s almost like two songs in one.

[READ: September 11, 2010] “The Tuber”

This essay is about Wells Tower riding the rivers of Southern Florida in a tube.  It’s also about John Cheever’s “The Swimmer.”

One of the things that I like about Wells Tower is that even in his non-fiction, he ties things together with literary substance.  And so, he sets up this adventure as a twisted take on Cheever’s Neddy Merrill swimming the 8 miles of swimming pools in suburban New York: Tower wants to try to tube the rivers of Florida all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MOMMYHEADS-“Day Job” (2010).

This is the final bonus track on Dromedary‘s recently reissued Mommyheads album Flying Suit.

This is probably the most conventional Mommyheads song that I know of.  It reminds me a lot of the music from Late Night with David Letterman.  It swings, it’s jaunty, it’s kind of funny and it has some almost zany guitar work on it.

It is probably the ideal “bonus track” for a band that usually writes quirky, off -kilter songs as it doesn’t sound like it should be on the album, but it is still in the spirit of the rest of the songs.  The jazziness if reminiscent of their other work, but there’s something oddly rocking about this track.  It’s a real treat.

Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 10, 2010] “The Thing with Feathers”

Wells Tower week continues with this article about the thought to be extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.  He mentions humorously in the article that NPR went crazy about the woodpecker when one was seen in Arkansas, and I remember that very well.  There were several pieces about the woodpecker and I was really excited about it.

Hairy Woodpecker

I’m not a serious birdwatcher, but ever since I saw my first hairy woodpecker at my apartment in Boston, I’ve been a huge fan of having birds around. The hairy woodpecker is tiny (and very cute).  Since we moved to a wooded area of New Jersey, I’ve been lucky enough to see a red-bellied woodpecker and, I believe, the even more elusive pileated woodpecker.  We’ve even had flickers in our yard.

So this article sees Wells Tower heading down to Arkansas to talk to the man who claims to have seen the first Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Gene Sparling.  The man who caused all the fuss to begin with back in 2005.

And this is a great piece of non-fiction.  Tower brings his excellent storytelling skills and describes a trip into the Arkansas woods looking for this possibly extinct bird. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMOMMYHEADS-“Over” (2010).

Dromedary has recently reissued The Mommyheads’ Flying Suit CD.  And there are three bonus tracks available on it now.

I mentioned Flying Suitlittle while ago.  What I really liked about that disc was that it was all over the place and yet remained comfortably within its genre of jangle pop-rock.

This first of three new tracks is just under 2 minutes long.  It has a watery guitar and a propulsive bass, and yet it is still a sort of delicate song.  The vocals, as with the rest of the disc, are soft, with nice harmonies.  It’s hard to get overly excited about the song (as it’s not like a sonic blast of 2 minutes), but it’s nice to have even more Mommyheads.

Bonus track number 2 tomorrow.  Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 9, 2010] “Cannery Woe”

Since I recently read the Wells Tower story in the New Yorker, I remembered that I was going to read his other travel stories from Outside.  I started with this one because it is shortest (1 page).

Tower has a wonderful grasp of storytelling. So even a fairly simple story like this (where really nothing terrible happens) is made quite exciting. And the twist, such as it was, is totally unexpected. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MOMMYHEADS-“Box” (2010).

After the two minute bonus track of “Over” comes the lengthy (very lengthy for The Mommyheads) “Box”.

I’m not sure what the song is about, but it’s got some great licks within it.  It opens with a twisted guitar opening, one that never sems to settle.  In fact, the entire first verse seems like the song doesn’t quite know where it’s going (which is deliberate, of course).

Because by the end of the second verse we get a very lengthy instrumental break that is ferocious in its coolness.  It begins softly and then morphs into a psychedelic workout: harmonized guitar notes, funky drumming, and yet all within a mellow styling.  It’s very clever.

Its a strange song and it may be my favorite Mommyheads song of all.  It’s an excellent bonus track.  Check the songs out (and buy them) here.

[READ: September 9, 2008] “New Orleans, LA”

This is probably the most straightforward “reporting” piece that I’ve read by Tower.  As such, it doesn’t have a lot of flair to it.

It’s an interesting look at the rebuilding of New Orleans, into what appears to be a greener, stronger and better city than ever before.  It almost seems like you need a terrible catastrophe and the goodwill of citizens to make a place even better than it was before.

He mentions a few individuals who were (and maybe still are) doing extra work to rebuild the city, and they are quite inspirational.

It’s available here.

Because it was so brief, I’m pairing it with another brief but much more entertaining article: “Extract a Tick from Your Junk” from the “How to Do Everything (Well Almost)” piece from the July 2007 issue.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MOMMYHEADS-Flying Suit (1994).

The Mommyheads continue the Dromedary catalog’s streak of consistently poppy indie rock.  Throughout the disc, the The vocals are gentle and falsettoed, setting kind of a trend on the label thus far.

What sets this disc apart from a lot of comparable acts of jangly, light-on-the-bass 90s rock is the subtle complexity of the songs.  Even though most of the songs are fairly simple pop confections, there’s usually an unexpected moment that pops up, making things a little more than what they appear.

The opening chords of “Sandman” are, well, weird, angled and minor, but they somehow lead into a very poppy catchy verse about a sandman.

“Saints Preserve Us” opens with a crazy, no wave guitar lick that, somehow, is matched by a vocal line.  And yet, they can’t resist a smooth an catchy bridge, even if it is only two chords long.  Meanwhile, “Spiders” sounds like a long lost Moxy Fruvous track, kinda funny but kinda serious at the same time.

The only thing odd about “Bottom Out” is how normal it is…a fairly simple, undeniably catchy little pop song that would have fit in very nicely on the Juno soundtrack

“Annabell Ann” plays with the listener’s head by sounding for all the world like an orchestral pop song with a weird arrangement until the chorus pops in with poppy chords and harmonies.  And what of “Worm”?  An opening set of bizarre chords that sounds like it’s coming from next door, followed by a delightfully obscure jazzy bassline.  The song wanders around into interesting corners for a few minutes before ending just as suddenly.

The wonderfully titled “Henry Miller is Dead” shows the heavy side of the band, with noisy guitars and raucous lyrics until the very gentle bridge grounds the song back into familiar Mommyheads sound.  The disc ends with “Valentine’s Day” a gentle sorta jokey sounding song about, well, Valentine’s Day.  It sounds like an even indier version of something off of The Replacemnets’ Hootenanny disc.

The disc is less than half an hour long, making it close to an EP.  But it’s a wonderful half an hour.  You can hear the tracks on Dromedary Radio.

[READ: February 17, 2010] “Gómez Palacio”

This short story comes from Last Evenings and Other Stories, and was translated by Chris Andrews.

Bolaño is from Chile and Mexico City, and he seems to have a rather disparaging view of small Mexican cities.  Gómez Palacio is a small Mexican city where the narrator is assigned to teach a short term writing workshop.  The narrator is a poet himself.  His class is attended by only 5 people, none of who are very good.

The bulk of the story concerns his relationship with the director of the Arts Council where the class was held.  She has bulging eyes and is quite short.  Yet every day she picks him up from his seedy motel and drives him to school.  While driving one day she asks him to take the wheel but he doesn’t drive.  Regardless, he drives down the road until a car pulls over in front of them.  The director says that it’s her husband.  She then regales him with a story about her unhappy marriage. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Make the Load Lighter: Indie Rock for Haiti (2010).

I mentioned this disc a few days ago because it’s a benefit disc for the people of Haiti.  I had encouraged people to order it ($10 to a good cause, eh?) but hadn’t fully listened to it yet.

Well, after playing the disc nonstop for the weekend, it’s time to chime in and say that this is a fantastic disc of indie rock, which spans the indie rock gamut from harder punk songs to beautiful heart-felt passionate tracks.  Each and every track is catchy, and most of them have a cool twist or hook to push it beyond being “just” an indie song

The first three songs are really fast and really heavy.  Footstone opens the disc.  I don’t know a lot by them, but this sounds to me like their heaviest song ever.  It comes across like a really hard edged punk song, but you know there’s a groove too.

Boss Jim Gettys (one of many wonderfully named bands) play a 2 minute punk metal blast that is notable for the cool guitar solo that breaks up the onslaught.  The third heavy song is by Dromedary stalwarts cuppa joe (!?).  “Taniqua” is a fast song with a rocking guitar intro.  It thuds along for 2 and a half minutes and then ends with a wonderfully upbeat chord that leads nicely in to the fourth song.  Moviola’s “Calling on the Line” is a poppy jangly college rock sounding song from the 90s.  It pretty well epitomizes the Dromedary sound.  The band has a bunch of records out which you can see here.

I wasn’t that impressed with Three Blind Wolves at first.  It seemed a little lacking.  But after about three listens I got it, and it’s now one of my favorite songs on the disc.  The singer’s voice is varied and wonderful, warbling over a fairly spare musical intro (the occasional high notes are totally cool).  But the chorus just rocks out wonderfully.  Three Blind Wolves is one of four Scottish bands from what I rather assumed would be a Jersey based compilation.

Paula Corino’s song is okay.  It’s my least favorite track on the disc, but only because it never really grabs me, and, while it’s a totally fine song, it gets a little lost amidst the rest of the tracks.  It’s followed by Wallendas’ “Adrianne” a delightful poppy song like a modern day Byrds.

The next song, The Neutron Drivers’ “All Around the Sun” doesn’t have an original second in it.  And yet it is easily the catchiest song on the whole disc. When you first hear the opening guitars you pretty much know exactly what the whole song (even the obvious guitar solo) will sound like.  It’s like the uber-rocksong.  And yet for all of its sounding familiar, it doesn’t sounds like any specific song. Amazing how they pulled that off.

The Dark Brothers’ “Knee Deep in Sin” is a weird and unsettling song in that it sounds like the singer from Social Distortion with a slide guitar.  It’s got a majorly country feel, until about three minutes in when you get a guitar solo straight outta Teenage Fanclub’s “The Concept” and suddenly this country song is a slow burning rocker.  Very cool.

The next two songs justify the price of the disc.  There Will Be Fireworks’ (Scottish band #2) “Foreign Thoughts” is a fantastic, amazing song.  It builds and builds with tension upon tension as the singer (with a wonderfully aggressive accent) spits the words over more and more instrumentation.  It’s followed by the utterly amazing Gena Rowlands Band’s “Fuckups Of the World Unite.”  This is like the great long lost American Music Club song.  It’s vulgar and yet completely un-profane.  It’s catchy, heartfelt and it blows me away each time I hear it, both lyrically and musically.  The simple guitar paired with the opening couplet is amazing in an of itself but it’s even better when it closes the song.

The Mommyheads come next with a remixed version of “Spiders” from Flying Suit.  I enjoyed the song on that disc, but it takes on a new life in this remixed version.  It feels fuller and even slighty creepier.

On like my third or fourth listen, Scottish band #3, Farewell Singapore’s “Blue” grabbed me and said “HEY THIS SONG IS FUCKING GREAT YA BASTARD.”  And man, is it ever.  I’ve been walking around all weekend singing “Scotland’s as dark as it’s going to be” over and over.  And I’ve no idea what it means.  The sudden breaks in the song sound like there’s something wrong with the track given the propulsive nature of everything else.  And the intense guitar solo that follows the glockenspiel bit is fantastic.  Oh and the male/female vocals sound great together.

Jennifer Convertible (a wonderful band name which gently rips a regional chain store, which seems to have changed its name to the far less inspired Jennifer Sofas and Sofabeds) has a very cool song that opens like a latter R.E.M. track but brings in some wonderfully atmospheric guitar noise to add a real sense of foreboding to the song.  The buzzing guitar solo is a nice touch, too.

lions.chase.tigers (4th and final Scottish band, with a downloadable EP on their website) sound a bit like an early Bob Mould track.  Which is pretty good in itself, but what I love about the song is that it’s a cool jangly indie rock song with a great martial drum sound.  And it bops along, in a minor key until we get a delicate guitar riff and then a rocking chorus.  But the really interesting part is yet to come: the gentle guitars come back but they’re accompanied by a voice screaming its lungs out (and yet mixed way down, so it’s no louder than the guitar).  And the song proceeds as if that isn’t a weird thing to add in.  Man, it takes guts to write a song like that, and it pays off.

The disc ends with Stuyvesant’s song, “Salieri.  It’s another slow builder, but it’s quite catchy and when the harmonies kick in in the last minute, it become quite the great song.  And it ends the disc on a good note.

So, in sum, order the disc.  It’s for a good cause, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing, you get some really great music for your money.  There’s literally not a bad track on the disc, and the bulk of them are outstanding.

Even the liner notes are interesting (and provide a look at why and how this disc came about).  My only complaint is that you get almost no information on the bands!  Now, I realize that in the world of online downloads, you’re lucky enough to get album art (and the photos are sad and beautiful) but I’d love to know more about these bands, where they’re from, who they are, and if any of them are have websites or other discs or whatnot.  But then, I actually read liner notes on discs!

Download the tracks, and the art, here.  Do it!  Now!

[READ: Week of February 15, 2010] 2666 [pg 231-290]

This week’s reading is the first half of the third Part: The Part About Fate.  And I have to say thus far it is easily my favorite part of the book.  I enjoyed it right from the start upon learning that the titular Fate is not an abstract Fate but a person named Fate.  A nice twist right up front.

This section also deals quite directly with matters of race.  Fate is black, and during his travels he is acutely aware of his color.  Plus, many scenes pop up in which race is definitely a factor.

Fate’s real name is Quincy Williams.  He is a 30 year-old reporter for Black Dawn, a magazine out of Harlem.  Quincy is known as Oscar Fate; everyone calls him Fate. (more…)

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