Archive for the ‘The White Stripes’ Category

[ATTENDED: August 18, 2018] Pearl Jam

After four days of touring Chicago, we were beat.  Even though we were both looking forward to tonight’s show, we were a little wiped out by the thought of staying out, catching the EL, etc.  Especially because of the weather.

The weather was not promising: rain all day and then thunderstorms right around showtime.  The Chicago weather seems to change a lot, but that forecast never wavered all week.

Our friend Kaylo and her family (who live in Minnesota but whom we met in Boston–they were staying at the same hotel for Pearl Jam) could only make this one show.  They had gotten general admission spots (again).  And so it was part of her family hazing ritual to make her kids wait outside in the rain all day to get as close as possible the front of the stadium.

Meanwhile we were in a museum across town, learning stuff and staying dry.

The weather let up a bit as we got off of the El and headed to Wrigley.  There were a lot fewer people milling about and we even got on line for merch (and got two of the notoriously hard to get posters–but not the awesome ones that immediately sell out).

And then Sarah pointed to the monitors which had a green sign which read:

When I saw Phish at BB&T Pavilion, there was lightning right overhead but nothing happened. However, back in 2013, Pearl Jam played Wrigley and there was a storm which delayed the show for hours. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 16, 2018] “Weird Al” Yankovic

The last time I saw “Weird Al” I kind of assumed that would be the last time I saw him…  I love his shows but I have seen him possibly more than any other performer.  I joked with my friend Matt that I wished he would play a deep cut amid all of the hits.   his originals.

Well lo and beheld, Al listened and announced this tour, the brilliantly named The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  And when he announced the show, he explained that there would be no costumes: “Please note: this is a scaled-down tour in smaller, more intimate theaters, with limited production (no costumes, props, or video screens) and Al’s set list will be comprised almost entirely of his original (non-parody) songs.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARGO PRICE-Tiny Desk Concert #582 (November 28, 2016).

It is my fervent hope that I will wake up this morning and the world will say April Fools, and that these last few months will all have been a prank.  Or that this day marks the first day in formal steps to get the buffoon out of the White House before more people get killed.

Barring that, I can post these Trump-based pieces.

Margo Price is beloved by NPR.  I find her a wee bit too country for my tastes.  And yet, once again, a Tiny Desk Concert changed my opinion of her.

Price came to NPR on the day after the election.  I was in a fog of disbelief that day.  I can’t imagine how she managed to play and sing.  Here’s the intro:

When I greeted Margo Price in the NPR garage before her Tiny Desk performance, tears were streaming down her face. It was Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, the day after the 2016 election. For her — as for many Americans — it was a stunning and bewildering moment in time, a day when life and the everyday took on new meaning. And so when she and her band began to play “All American Made,” a song she’s sung many times before, those words about America’s changes and failures in the 21st century seemed even more powerful.

As this Tiny Desk progresses, even “Four Years Of Chances,” her song of a love gone wrong, feels less about a lousy husband and more about presidential politics. She dedicates her third and final song, “About To Find Out,” to Donald Trump; she says it was originally written about a “musician acquaintance of mine who’s a complete sociopath.” When the song ends, she rips open her red cowboy shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the words “Icky Trump”— a play on the title of The White Stripes’ song “Icky Thump,” which criticizes the U.S.’s immigration policies. She smiles, wipes a tear away: It seems cathartic, but temporary.

The music includes piano, guitar (of course), some slide guitar and harmonica.

“All American Made” plays down the twang in her voice and the lyrics are great.  It was written for her previous band Buffalo Clover.

1987, and I didn’t know I then
Reagan was selling weapons to the leaders of Iran
well it won’t be the first time and it wont be the end
They were all American made.

I was just a child
Unaware of the effects
Raised on sports and Jesus
and all the usual suspects

It’s a slow folk song with harmonica and a nice guitar solo.

“Four Years Of Chances” is actually about a failed relationship.  And we can all only hope that we don’t have to wait as long as she did in this song before ending this relationship.  It’s a faster song with good slide guitar work.  There’s a guitar solo, a piano solo and I like the way it goes up two steps after the solo.

I gave you four years of chances
But you threw em all away
I gave you one thousand, four hundred sixty-one days

“About To Find Out” seems so uncannily about Trump it is hard to believe it was written about someone else (as it says, it was originally written about a “musician acquaintance of mine who’s a complete sociopath”).

Well I’ve had about enough of your two-cent words
And the way you’re running your mouth
No you haven’t got a clue or another thing to do
Except to take another picture of yourself
You’re living high on the hog looking down at us all
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the harder they come, they fall

You have many people fooled about your motivation
But I don’t believe your lies
You blow so much smoke it’s bound to make you choke
I see the snakes in both of your eyes
But you wouldn’t know class if it bit you in the ass
And you’re standing much too tall
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the harder they come, they fall

Tell me what does your pride taste like honey
Or haven’t you tried it out?
It’s better than the taste of a boot in your face
Without any shadow of a doubt
You better learn where the line is
You missed a lot you’ve gotta learn about
How’s it gonna feel to be put in your place
Well I guess you’re about to find out

Some folks today have got nothing to say
Except to talk about their wealth
But the poor’s still poor and the war’s still war
And everybody wants more for themselves
Like a rich man’s child you never walked a mile
One day you won’t have nothing to sell
You may have come so easy and happened so fast
But the way I see it you fell


So yes, this Tiny Desk Concert has totally won me over to Price.  Although I really need to never hear “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)” again–it is just waaay to twangy for my sensitive ears.  But more importantly, I hope she hasn’t given up the fight.

[READ: March 12, 2017] “It Is I Who Styles Donald Trump…”

My only other exposure to Crosbie was in the April 2012 issue of The Walrus, in which she wrote a couple of short pieces.

Obviously, I am all for hating on Trump, for ridiculing him and making him look as pathetic as he actually is.  And this entire issue was more or less devoted to the horror that is Trump.  So having a story that mocks him is something I can appreciate.

But, as with the comedians who mock Trump’s hair or skin rather than his racism, bigotry, lack of knowledge of the world, lying and everything else, this story is strangely superficial, and overall, just kind of strange.

It begins amusingly enough: “Last night I dreamt I went to Mar-a-Lago again.  I stood shuddering at the gates–was I to be the mistress of an estate named in colloquial Spanish?”

It even seems like it might go for an interesting angle: “as he sleeps his lips purse, and his hands fly our, defensively.”

But, as the title states (so I guess I was expecting too much), this is mostly about Trump’s hair: she “quickly took over this industry.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 10, 2017] Marco Benevento

2017-02-10-23-18-04Back in August I saw Marco Benevento open for The Claypool-Lennon Delirium.  I didn’t know Marco, but his show was so much fun I promised myself I’d see him again.  So I was pretty psyched to see that he was playing at this venue.

Marco’s show back in August was just so much fun–I had arrived late, after being caught in traffic, and within minutes he had totally uplifted my mood.

So I was thrilled to find the Ardmore such a small venue where I could get up so close–check out the bottom of the page for the up close look at his modified piano.  And when he show began, I was right up at the front of the stage.

2017-02-10-22-12-11In addition to Marco, who is a fantastic entertainer, his band consists of drummer Andy Borger (whose drum set includes a cowbell and what looks like the alarm bell from a school) and my new favorite bassist Karina Rykman.  2017-02-10-23-37-07It was actually Rykman who first won me over back in August because she was just so happy.  I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone have so much joy playing on stage before.  And this show was exactly the same.  Of course it helps that she’s a great bassist with an amazing sound.  She doesn’t do a lot of fancy stuff, but her groove is spot on.

The three of them came out and started playing the suite from The Story of Fred Short.  It’s a series of seven interlocking songs with a great groove and a lot of room to jam.   I walked in the middle of this suite when I saw them this summer and I was really excited to hear it again.  I love the bass lines and, in this case, the whistle in “Walking with Tyrone.” (more…)

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carrieSOUNDTRACK: CATE LE BON-Tiny Desk Concert #337 (February 18, 2014).

cateCate Le Bon has a very interesting style of singing–it reminds me of Grace Slick in her enunciation, but also like someone whose speaking accent is very strong and is somewhat masked by her singing (like the way she sings “reason” as “ree-sun” as opposed to “reezun”).

The blurb explains that her “phrasing is completely tied to her Welsh dialect — in fact, her first record was in Welsh…. The enunciation is completely tied to the loneliness and the questioning.”

 For this concert it is just her and her fellow guitarist H. Hawkline (both wearing super cozy sweaters).  They share the guitar licks very nicely–it’s not always clear who is playing what–with her sometimes finishing his lines (I believe).

“Are You With Me Now?” has a very catchy chorus (with an “ah ha ha ha ha” part that makes it sound like an olde English ballad).

“No God” plays with very simple guitar lines (chords played very high on the neck of her guitar and a simple accompanying riff).  Hawkline plays keys (and sings some great falsetto backing vocals) to flesh out this song.  Everything is so clean you can hear each note from the guitar and her voice.

“Duke” opens with some interesting slightly off sounding from Cate while Hawkline plays a simple chord pattern (his fingers are enormous, by the way).  Hawkline’s falsetto is almost as engaging as the vocal lines that match the guitar line which Cate plays.  And when she says “I’ll see you here” in that unexpected pronunciation, it’s totally captivating.

I like Le Bon a lot and want to hear what she wounds like on record.

[READ: May 18, 2016] Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

After finishing Bob Boilen’s book and thinking about how I don’t really love music-based books, I immediately read Carrie Brownstein’s book.  Carrie Brownstein is one of the two guitarists in Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag.  She is also one of the leads (writer and actor) on Portlandia.  And she wrote for NPR for a while, too.  Basically, Carrie is the shit.

One thing I took away from this book is that I’ve read a few musician memoirs (Mötley Crüe and Marilyn Manson to name a few) and this is the first one I’ve read that was filled with so much sadness.  Not “I was stoned and regret sleeping with that person with an STD sadness,” but like, real family problems and even a dead pet.  And, as Carrie herself jokes, her stories of being on tour and ending up in the hospital are not based on drugs or other debauchery, but on anxiety and even worse, shingles.

The beginning of the book starts in 2006, around the initial break up (hiatus) of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie is in pain–emotional and physical–and she can’t take much more.  She starts punching herself hard in the face. (more…)

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zita2SOUNDTRACK:poodle “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC–Poodle Hat (2003).

I think of Poodle hat as a good Al album.  It won a Grammy even (the true sign of quality, right?).  But its the only one of his albums (along with Polka arty) to not even go gold!  That’s pretty amazing given that he’s usually platinum.  I read that stat before listening again and I wondered why this album tanked so bad.  Was it the title or the cover or what?  And why do I think fondly of the record?  Well, it turns out I think fondly of the record because of the final track, “Genius in France” a Frank Zappa style parody (which I assume was not terribly endearing to many people either).  But what about the rest of the album:

Couch Potato.  It’s a good parody of Eminem, but I never thought the original was that good to begin with–it’s pretty repetitive with no real drama.  And while the lyrics are funny, so as a lead off track it’s not that great.  “Hardware Store” is a weird song–lots of crazy sound effects and backing vocalists.  I want to like it more than I do–the fast singing is great the lyrics are all kinda funny but it doesn’t really resonate–the chorus, perhaps is not that great.  “Trash Day” is a parody of a song by Nelly, which I don’t know.  I’ll now show off my musical prejudice by saying that a lot of these aggressive R&B/rap songs sound very similar with no real hook, which I think makes the parodies harder to enjoy.  “Party at the Leper Colony” just seems like a bad idea (especially for Al’s umpeenth album).  It’s a rockabilly type song (a style I don’t like anyway), so another thumbs down.

“Angry White Boy Polka”is the first bright ray on the disc–mixing aggressive metal songs in the polka style is a pretty great idea, especially System of a Down, The Hives and The White Stripes.  Twisting the style of The Strokes twist is a pretty great idea too.  I really enjoyed the way the angry songs are utterly lightened with silly sound effects.  It’s very funny.

“Wanna Be Ur Lovr” is a song I never much liked until seeing him perform it live.  It’s a sexy song made up entirely of lame come on lines.  It’s petty funny but the live version utterly blows it away.  “A Complicated Song” is a parody of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”.  It seems like it might be just a silly parody until the first verse turns out to be about eating too much cheese.  I laughed so hard to find that the first rhyme was “constipated”  The other two verses can’t possibly live it to it but that first one is a big highlight (toilet humor it may be, but it’s good toilet humor).  “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?” features Ben Folds on piano (the piano is very good).  The song is a series of complaints about minor things within the context of real tragedy.  It’s a funny idea but the presentation doesn’t seem to work somehow.

“Ode to a Superhero” is a surprise because it uses Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” as the musical basis for a song about Spiderman.  It seems like a sure fire hit after “The Saga Begins.”  And it works quite well.  “Bob” is a series of palindromes (see the title) done in the style of Bob Dylan.  It’s very clever.  “Ebay” has been mocked for being so similar to an actual eBay commercial, but I think its very funny.  I never liked the original but I find myself singing this every time I think of eBay.  “Genius in France” features Dweezil Zappa on guitar, and beyond that it gets so many Frank Zappa things right.  It is weird and crazy and spot-on.  I love to think that it may have made some Zappa fans out of Weird Al fans.  And if you’re a Zappa fan, you must listen to this to see just how many great Zappa musical moments he throws in here (including vocals styles and potty jokes).

It’s pretty interesting how the back half of the album is so much better than the first half (that’s no way to sell albums, Al).  I can totally see why this album didn’t sell all that well. And I’m a little bummed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

[READ: June 19, 2013] Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

I actually read this book first of the two (didn’t realize it was the second book in the series and, frankly from the title, how could I?).  But I’ll treat it like I read it second.

So this story picks up soon after the first ended.  But rather than Zita, we see a robot crawling through a junkyard.  The robot’s box says RECALLED and the name is Imprint-o-tron.  The robot sees a poster of Zita and is immediately overwhelmed by a crowd who is rushing to see her.  Imprint-o-tron paints itself to look like Zita as the crowd assembles.

And there we see, Piper introducing Zita, the girl who saved Scriptorius.  But she is nervous, and intimidated by the crowd and tells the truth, that it was Randy who blew up the bad guys.  But they aren’t buying it.  She signs autographs, gets exhausted and hides behind a rock where Imprint-o-tron sees her and immediately becomes her (but with circles instead of dots for eyes).  Zita delights in this doppelgänger and sends it out to do her singing work while she and Mouse run off to have fun.

But then the ambassador of the planet Lumponia informs them that  swarm of star hearts are heading for their planet and they as Zita for help.  Robot Zita agrees and when real Zita returns to the ship, robot Zita pushes her away and takes off with the crew. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  PUBLIC ENEMY-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Convention Hall, October 2, 2011 (2011).

NPR was cool enough to record and provide as a download most of the shows at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Asbury Park, NJ.  (Portishead wouldn’t allow their show to be recorded, sadly).  But Public Enemy was a welcome surprise!
This tour is in celebration of the anniversary of Fear of a Black Planet.  And they play most of Fear and a lot of other things too (with almost nothing from their 2000 era CDs.

I can remember back in the early days of rap that it was hard to imagine what a rap show would be like live since they didn’t play instruments and much of the music was sampled.  Well, PE has musicians on stage and they have DJ Lord filling in for Terminator X behind the turntables (big shoes to fill, but done largely well–especially his fun “solo” in which he samples The White Stripes and Nirvana–although he should have mixed in Portishead, no?).  And mostly they have the personalities of Chuck D and Flavor Flav.

I suspect that this show would be a bit more fun to watch than it is to listen to–Flavor Flav’s antics don’t always translate well without his visuals.    Like when he asks the audience if that can all say “Ho” (which he eventually holds for 33 seconds!), it seems like a delay tactic in audio, but is probably fun to witness.

What’s especially cool about the show is that PE play so many songs, including small snippets of songs as segues to other ones (like the seventy second version of “Anti-Nigger Machine” that intros “Burn Hollywood Burn” which is practically hardcore) or the minute and a half of “He Got Game” that follows “Night of the Living Baseheads.”  I like that they even threw in some skits from the record like “Meet the G That Killed Me” and “Incident at 66.6FM.”

But of course the real joy is the full length songs, “Brothers Gonna Work It Out,” “911 is a Joke,” and of course “Bring the Noise” and “Fight the Power.”

Some of the improv sections don’t work all that well, the guitar solo in “Power to the People” leaves something to be desired (Khari Wynn maybe a legend, but he;s no Vernon Reid),  although the  “Jungle Boogie” riff is cool.   But the improv with guest drummer Denis Davis was pretty bad ass.  Flavor Flav hopped on the drums and was quite good for “Timebomb.”  We also got to meet Flav’s daughter Jasmine.  And Professor Griff was there too.

It’s also interesting that they keep saying they have no time left in the set (Portishead is next) but they play for at least 30 minutes after this.  Including a wonderful “By the Time I Get to Arizona and the set ending “Fight the Power.”

Chuck D has still got it and Flav is just as crazy and fun as ever (even if his screams and yos seems out of tune from time to time).  Of course, Flav has to get the last word in by raging  on for six and a half minutes  at the end (and about six-minutes in the beginning as well where he gave himself props about his reality show.

It’s a really good set–a little distorted from time to time, but really solid.  Here’s a link to the downloadable show.

[READ: October 2, 2012] Hocus Pocus

This book may have put me over the edge in terms of Vonnegut exhaustion.  I bought this book some time in 1992, but I never read it. It’s been in my house for twenty years and it was about time I read it.

But as I’ve been noticing, each Vonnegut book has been getting darker and more misanthropic.  And this one is no exception.  The construction of the book follows Vonnegut’s cut and paste style but it feels even more shuffled and indirect than usual (more on that later).  In many of Vonnegut’s books, the “climax” occurs somewhere in the middle and he fills in the details later.  For this one, the climax came around h.and I wouldn’t have felt like I missed anything.

In this book, the main character, Eugene Debs Hartke  is a Vietnam vet (usually his protagonists are military men, and Vonnegut has criticized Vietnam a lot, but this is the first time he’s had a Vietnam vet as protagonist).  He married his wife and had a wonderful family until he learned that his mother in law had a disease that made her crazy–but it only kicked in later in life, after he married her daughter.  And that his wife has the same disease–so by the middle of the story both of the women in his life are crazy “hags.”  And, like in his other stories, his children hate him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACK WHITE-“Sixteen Saltines” (2012).

I really liked the first White Stripes album.  After that things were just a little too samey to me.  So I pretty much stopped listening to him.  This new album is all the rage (as is everything he does), and this is a song that NPR picked as one of their favorites of the year so far.

And as with everything Jack White does, it’s immediately fun.  It’s also simple as anything, with a raw and aggressive sound–just like everything else he does.  I usually don’t mind when an artist plays the same stuff over and over, I mean it’s called a signature after all, but for some reason it bugs me with him.  Or maybe I just don’t like him as a “person.”

Anyhow, I can’t deny that this song is fun (the vocals done in a kind of R&B vein (sounding like Michael Jackson a bit?) and the addition of keyboards half way through are a nice touch.  But I can’t say that I’ll remember the song much after it’s over.

[READ: June 16, 2012] “Black Box”

I have been meaning to read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad for quite some time.  But in the meantime, I’m happy to have read this short story, which I assume is nothing at all like her novels.

“Black Box” is written in a series of small numbered black boxes.  And each box contains a number of statements in the second person.  It’s a striking and unusual way to concoct a story.  I didn’t really think it would be all that intriguing because the tone is so matter of fact and instructional.  But I was thrilled with how much of a story Egan created out of this style.  And, yes, it is a full story.

So Box number one begins: “People rarely look the way you expect them to, even when you’ve seen pictures.”  Then, “The first thirty seconds in a person’s presence are the most important.”  Then, “If you’re having trouble perceiving and projecting, focus on projecting.”  Then, “Necessary ingredients for a successful projection: giggles; bare legs; shyness.”

So, what is this?  instructions?  advice?  quips to live by?  Well, it turns out that they are instructions to a “beauty.”  And this beauty is working for her country, to take down a bad guy.  She is a spy, although not a professional spy, she’s just a beauty doing her country’s work.  The instructions show (in a very unexpected way) how the story unfolds: “‘Shall we swim together toward those rocks?’ may or may not be a question.”  And so, “you” and your Designated Mate swim to an island where sex in inevitable.  “Begin the Dissociation Technique only when physical violation is imminent.”  For indeed, “you” are married, but your husband approves of this mission, for the good of United States and the world.

As the story unfolds, the reader realizes that this is not just a beautiful woman who has been called into the service of he country, but something a little more. “If you are within earshot of his conversation, record it.”  Well, how will she do that one wonders.  “A microphone has been implanted just beyond the first turn of your right ear canal.”

Cool. (more…)

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Weird Al’s new album seems, believe it or not, a bit more mature (within reason, obviously).  When I first started listening to Al, he appealed to the 8th grader in me.  And while his jokes are often still childish and silly, he brings a certain older perspective now (he’s like 52 right?).  So this album, again, is silly and funny, but actually deals more realistically with issues like love (again, within the confines of a parody song).

I was also thinking that Al has always been pretty PG, a bit violent, but always cartoonish.   But as pop songs get more PG-13 and even R, Al has had to adapt, whether on purpose or not.  I mean, in his medley he sings “Womanizer” and “Blame it on the Alcohol,” certainly not appropriate for 8th graders, and yet those original songs are, indeed, popular hits.

But enough seriousness.   On to the music.  “Perform this Way” a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” is a weird parody in that it seems like a direct comment on the artist herself.  I guess “Smells Like Nirvana” was as well, but it’s one of the rare Weird Al songs that’s not really self-contained–or actually it is self-contained but the joke works better if you know the singer.  And if you don’t know Lady Gaga, this one is kind of flat (catchy as heck and quite funny though).  “CNR” is a great White Stripes style parody.  It gets funnier with each listen and the music is great.  And the idea of Charles Nelson Reilly doing any of these things is chuckle inducing.

“TMZ”  is the first of two internet based songs.  Which is funny in and of itself.  He makes fun of celebrities and the culture of celebrity.    “Skipper Dan” proved to be very funny for us as we had recently gone to Disneyworld and wondered if the boat tour guides got to improv any jokes (I gather they don’t).  “Polka Face” is one of Al’s great polka mash ups.  This one was really enjoyable even though I knew virtually none of the songs (which may be a first).  “Party in the CIA” is a parody of “Party in the USA” a song I don’t know at all.  Based on Al’s version I think the original seems really dull .

“Ringtone” is a Queen style parody which I like quite a bit although I particularly do not like the way they sing the word “ringtone.” The rest is spot on though–especially the solo.  “Another Tattoo” is great–Al is so good at doing R&B and rap songs–the voice, phrasings and echoic recordings are spot on.   And this song is really funny.  “If That Isn’t Love” is the song I was talking about in the beginning, about being more mature.  It’s kind of a follow up to “You Dont Love Me Anymore” in which he shows how much he loves this new girl, but it’s less over the top and yet still funny.  This example shows the joke but how it’s aimed at a more sophisticated 8th grader:

And when you’re telling me about your feelings I try not to yawn
And when we’re at parties I don’t talk about your spastic bladder


And I almost never pretend you’re someone else when I’m making out with you

Quite different from “Another One Rides the Bus.”

“Whatever You Like” is a parody of a song called “Whatever You Like” which I don’t know.  It has to be the first parody of a song with the same title.  That bothers me a little, although I have no idea what the original is about.  I do like this one quite a bit.  “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me” is very funny and over the top.  It’s another email/spam joke but my favorite line is vaguely sophisticated and makes me laugh every time

And your two million loser friends all have my address now because you never figured out the way to bcc:

The fact that it works perfectly with the rhythm of the song, rhymes right on and is a surprisingly clever joke is just stellar.

I’ve saved “Craigslist” for last because I think it’s just great and I can’t imagine how the idea for this was generated.  How do you go from talking about Craigslist to thinking Jim Morrison?  I’m imagining a session in which someone was making a joke about a letter to Craigslist that they read in various voices and then did it ala Morrison and the whole thing just blossomed from there.  But heavens if the music isn’t spot on and the song is funny without being novelty-funny.  You could easily play it on classic rock radio (if you can find such a station) and Doors fans would like it.

This is one of the first Weird Al albums where I knew very few of the songs parodied.  I don’t follow pop music, so that makes sense, but it really shows how out of touch I am with culture.  I also read a review talking about how the jokes are kind of old (making fun of Craigslist is so 2005).  But Al puts out a record every three years and if the songs aren’t timely, the subjects can have more lasting appeal.  Al seems to know what has staying power, so even if it’s not current it’s still funny.

And the band, as always, sounds fantastic.  As does the recording quality–the Doors sounds like the Doors, The White Stripes sounds like The White Stripes.  It’s very well done.

[READ: November 11, 2011] Camp Babymouse

In this Babymouse book, she goes to summer camp.  And as the voice- over points out, what on earth would Babymouse be doing at camp?  She hates everything that you do at camp.

But she’s excited to go and has a fantasy of being a great scout!

Stories always make summer camp seem like hell.  And this one is no exception. It starts when Babymouse gets to her cabin and has to climb to the tippy-top bunk (a great fantasy sequence of King Kong comes in).

The “plot” of the story is that the campers are trying to win the most points for the week.  The winners get a prize and the losers have to wash dishes.  Typically, Babymouse causes some major catastrophes (a Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde sequence provides a good laugh as does a wonderful Moby Dick fantsy during the canoeing competition). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-Tiny Desk Concert #65 (June 22, 2010).

I can remember when Weird Al’s first album came out.  I heard about it on the radio (but hadn’t actually heard the song…I think they just talked about it being very funny) and went to my local Pathmark (which sold LPs) and asked the clueless clerk where the album with “Another One Rides the Bus” is.  Of course, he brought me to Queen.  I think I learned how to be sarcastic that day.  That was back in 1983.  Here it is 27 years later and Al is still popular enough to be invited to do an acoustic show on NPR (well, actually, the number of links about Al indicate that he may just be a perennial guest).

The Tiny Desk series is a 15 minute (or so) concert that’s all acoustic and appears to be in front of an audience of about ten (how lucky!).

This set is a fascinating look at three of Al’s songs.  The first song is “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.”  This was the ballad whose video was a parody of Extreme’s “More Than Words” video.  It is perfectly appropriate in this setting and still gets a number of laughs even though it’s from 1992.  I was astonished to hear the next song, “Good Old Days” (from 1988!).  It’s not one of my favorite songs by him, but it works well in this context.  I just can’t believe they dusted it off for the set.

The final song is a new one (he says it’s from “The Leaked Project,” ha ha) called “CNR” which is about Charles Nelson Riley.  What’s especially amusing about this performance is that the original is a style parody of The White Stripes.  Now, an acoustic version of a White Stripes song completely undermines the parodic nature of the song.  And yet it still shows the songcraft (it is an original tune after all) but also that his vocal skills are still top-notch.

These three songs aren’t his best songs, but this is a fun (albeit brief) tour through some of his more esoteric tracks.  You can listen (and download) and watch the video of it!! here.  There’s also a leaked copy of an Al song that never made it to an album.  “You’re Pitiful,” a parody of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” can be streamed here.

[READ: November 25, 2010] The Ugly Truth

As I’ve said before, I love the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  It never fails to make me laugh.  I’m kind of impressed at how many knock-offs it has spawned.  And all for simple line drawings and really funny pre-teen observations.

I was a little down on the previous book because it was about the summer, and I think the really funny bits are school related.  This book returns to school, and within the first few pages it had me laughing really hard again.

The “Ugly Truth” of the title is alluded to on the cover (Greg holding an egg); it’s that time for the girls and boys to have their own separate talks.  And there’s very little that is funnier than kids and “the talk.”  Unless of course, you’re having a kids overnight lock down at the school. (more…)

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