Archive for the ‘Wild Flag’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: EX HEX-NonCOMM (May 15, 2019).

I really liked Mary Timony’s band Helium.  I’ve followed her over the years and now she has this relatively new band called Ex Hex.

Punk rock veteran Timony is known for her work in 90’s bands Helium and Autoclave, plus supergroup Wild Flag, while her co-frontperson in Ex Hex, Betsy Wright, also plays in Bat Fangs. The trio is rounded out by drummer Laura Harris, also of The Aquarium, and although they played tonight as a four-piece, they retained their effortless sense of cool.

Ex Hex is the most commercial sounding music she’s made and I found their first album a little boring.  They were kind of straight ahead punk pop songs that might have been revolutionary in the 90s but are kind of staid now.

The newer songs, however, are more a little more complex and more interesting as a result.

“Don’t Wanna Lose” comes from their first album. It’s got reverbed guitars and a simple melody.  It sounds a bit like Sleater-Kinney, which isn’t too surprising since Timony was in Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein before forming Ex Hex.

“Tough Enough” is slower and a bit more classic rock sounding.  In fact, all of the songs here feel more big riff classic rock than the simple punk of the first album.  “Rainbow Shiner” has a big metal riff.  It’s complicated and cool and makes you want to raise your fist in the air.

I don’t know if Timony is the only person doing guitar solos (it looks like Betsy Wright is also playing guitar). But “Good Times” opens with a lengthy guitar solo, which I assume is all Timony.

“Radiate” is a bouncy song with twin guitars and a quiet middle part.  They end the set with my favorite track, “Cosmic Cave.”  This one specializes in lots of reverb an echo with spacey flanging sounds at the end.

This set make me want to bust out rips again and see if I was missing something.  But also to get It’s Real where most of these songs come from, because I liked what I hear.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Chemistry”

A policeman told a crowd he was Looking for a retired chemist.  His daughter had dropped the man off at the cinema but when the movie was over he was no where to be found.

The crowd was in the Road House which stood next to the cinema.

I enjoyed the way the characters were set up.  The cook, Keith Lyon, felt mystified at his life.  He was in his forties and spent all day filling plates and having empty plates return.

It was as if a joke had been played on his life, thought he could see the humor of it and it hadn’t made him bitter.

A customer in the restaurant suggested the man got bored and left the movie early, “I might do that.”

“What you might do is beside the point,” said the policeman. “As you’re not missing.”

No one was a suspect in the Road House, the policeman was looking for volunteers to comb the nearby forest where they think the man went. (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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2003_12_15_p139SOUNDTRACK: TELEKINESIS-“Ghosts and Creatures” (Live at SXSW, March 21, 2013).


Telekinesis is, as far as I can tell, the brainchild of one guy (NPR points out twice in three paragraphs that the singer/songwriter is a drummer).  He has some special guests playing with him in this set (although nobody terribly famous–the keyboardist from Wild Flag (the only one in the band who I can never remember).

In a typical Telekinesis show the drums are up at the front of the stage.  That’s true here, too.  In this case the singer is standing, just playing maracas (and presumably the bass drum) for the first 2/3 of the song.  But by the end he sits down and starts pounding along with the song.

This song is a an interesting mix of dark (the keyboard’s minor chords) and bright (the guitar picking).  I enjoyed the way the song built over the course of its four minutes (including a cool break where it was just the keyboard).  At first I didn’t think there was much to the song, but after three listens I really got into it.  The harmonies were really good and there was some cool intricacy going on. I think watching the video helped as well (the bass player is really into it).

You too can watch it here.

[READ: March 26, 2013] “Recuperation”

This is the final uncollected story that I read from Roddy Doyle (okay, that Wikipedia list is clearly old as I see that both this and “Teaching” have since been collected in Bullfighting).  Oh well, that’s alright, then.

In this story, an old man goes for a walk.

And that’s it.

coolockWell, not entirely of course.  The man was told to go for walks by his doctor.  He needs the exercise and as he doesn’t golf or go to golf clubs or join groups, the doctor says he should go for a walk.  So the man walks around a nearby neighborhood, knowing that no one will stop and talk to him. And Doyle knows his area of Dublin, so we get a very detailed walkabout as the man traipses around Coolock in Dublin (by the Cadbury’s and the Classic Furniture). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG at SXSW (Mellow Jonny’s Bike Shop), March 15, 2011 (2011).

This is the second set from SXSW that NPR has offered for our enjoyment.  This show is similar to the other SXSW set that NPR has on video.

They play “Something Came Over Me” instead of “Arabesque” but otherwise the setlist is the same.  The band sounds energetic and like they’re having a lot of fun.  There’s an occasional screw up of a line and some of their harmonies sound a little off, but otherwise they sound great.

And they are playing in a bike shop (really).  Carrie says that they are going to buy one of the $3,000 bikes.  I wonder how bummed the owners are that she can’t possibly be serious.  It sounds very good despite it’s being in a bike shop–unless this is sound board magic.

At the end of the set she says they are playing 6 more shows at SXSW, so that explains the two different recordings from SXSW.  You can hear this none here.

[READ: November 15, 2012] “Worried Sisters”

This is a very simple story, one which I found to be very enjoyable.  I like that it is written in second person plural (“Our sister has always caused us grief”).  And I like that there is significant progression in the life of the sister through the very short story (about a page and a half).

In her early childhood, their sister put everything in her mouth (twice ending in the emergency room).  When she became a teen, she ate too much and then too little and dyed her hair until it fell out and generally doubted how pretty she was.  And, of course she wanted to be an artist. (more…)

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For reasons unclear to me now, I wasn’t psyched when I heard about this band.  Despite the fact that it was 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney and the force behind Helium joining together, I didn’t jump for joy.  But now that I have listened to the album a million times, I can say that it is one of the best albums not only of that year, but of many years.  Man is it good.

Sleater-Kinney was a great band, they were melodic and tuneful but also abrasive and occasionally off-putting.  Who knew that the majority of the adhesiveness came from Corinne Tucker (well, she was the screamer, admittedly).  It’s pretty clear that Carrie Brownstein is bringing a ton of melody (and a wee bit of amativeness) to the mix.  Mary Timony always included trippy imagery and a weird kind of whispered/loud singing voice.  The tunes are so catchy so strong, so singalongable.

There’s little moments in each song that are amazing.  The backing vocals (and the pitch shift in the chorus) in “Romance”.  The way “Something Came Over Me” sounds so different from “Romance” (and is clearly a Timony-sung song).  I absolutely love the guitar “solo” that begins each verse and how it stands out but fits in so nicely as a baritone guitar sound (I assume from Carrie?)  “Boom” is just a full-on rocker with some great guitar pyrotechnics and Carrie’s more extreme vocals.  And man is it catchy.

“Glass Tambourine” is a cool trippy psychedelic workout  that’s still catchy and interesting.  “Endless Talk” has a strange British retro vibe.  (Carrie seems to be singing with a kind of punk British voice).  And there’s lot of keyboards.  It’s great that the album has so many different sounds, but still sounds cohesive.  “Short Version” has some great guitar soloing in the front and back.  “Electric Band” is like a perfect pop song–great backing vocals, great poppy solos and a cool video to boot.  “Future Crimes” is another amazing tune, with a keyboard solo!

“Racehorse” is probably my least favorite song on the disc.  It’s got some cool parts and some interesting swagger (and I like the live versions where they really jam) but the album version feels a little dragged out (although the chorus is really hot).  The disc ends with the wonderful “Black Tiles” which could easily be a Helium song, but which still sounds very Wild Flag.

And, I can’t say it enough, Janet Weiss is amazing on drums.  I feel badly because I tend to leave out the keyboardist–because I don’t know who she is or the band that she came from.  But her keyboards play an essential role in the music.  They fill out the spaces that the two guitars don;t always fill.  They even introduce the opening of the album.

If you go back through previous posts you’ll see I’ve mentioned them 3 times already because they have special bond with NPR and three of their concerts are available there.  I can’t wait for more from them.

[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 2

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Grantland #1.  So I was pretty excited to get Grantland #2.  #2 has all of the elements that I loved about #1–non-sports articles about entertainment (video games, music, TV), and sports articles that are short and digestible for a non-sports fan.  This issue also features a number of really long articles about basketball.  I like basketball fine, but I can’t say I paid any attention to the lockout.  Thus, much of this was lost on me. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know any sports people either.

I may have said this last time, but I will reiterate for Issue #3–for those of us who don’t follow sports, or those of us who may not remember back to September when most of these articles were written, or heck, for people who are going to read this in ten years’ time:  For certain articles, can you give us an epilogue about what happened after the article was written.  If you speculate about  the lockout. Have an epilogue to say about how the lockout turned out.  If you talk about a game 5 of a series and the series didn’t end, have an epilogue that tells us how the series ended.  It doesn’t have to even fit the style of the article, just a few words: so and so ended like this. It can show how prescient the writers were.  And it can help us complete the stories.

So, despite a few articles that I thought were too long, (although probably aren’t if you love basketball) I really enjoyed this issue of Grantland, too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-Live at the Black Cat, October 20, 2011 (2011).

It’s interesting to compare this show by Wild Flag with their SXSW show.  This set is longer, but they retain the same raw energy and intensity.  It also sounds as though the tour has been rough on Carrie’s voice, which sounds a bit strained and hoarse (even when she talks!).

They play most of their debut album, but they also throw in a couple of new songs and even a few covers.  Perhaps the most fascinating part is the 15 minute (!) version of “Racehorse.”  There’s a lengthy noodling section as well as a cool part where Carrie goes a little crazy asking about money.

Janet Weiss is absolutely amazing here too.  And the keyboards, definitely complement everything well, but they are always the most notable flubs, and there’s the same one as in the SXSW show (not as bad, but noticeable).

Without a doubt the most interesting thing is the hearing that Mary Timony gives guitar lessons in Washington DC.  She lives there and evidently earns extra cash by doing guitar lessons.  Wow.  How cool would that be?

Check out the show here.

[READ: January 15, 2012] The Influencing Machine

Brooke Gladstone is one of two reporters who works on NPR’s On the MediaOn the Media is an awesome show which dissects things that happen in the world and examines the way the media portrays the events.  They work pretty hard to see who is reporting bias, who is exposing bias and how things are getting out to the average media consumer.  It’s worth anyone’s time to read (it doesn’t take very long).  And it’s also fun and enjoyable.  As anyone who has heard the ending of On the Media: “and edited [dramatic pause] by Brooke” knows, there’s always a smirking grin attached to the program.

When I heard that this book came out I was pretty excited to read it.  And then I promptly forgot all about it.  Lucky for me, my wife can take a hint, and she got it for me for Christmas.

The first surprise of the book is that it is written as a graphic novel–illustrations by Josh Neufeld (who has drawn for Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor).  The funny thing about the illustrations is that I have no idea what Brooke Gladstone looks like (which I rather prefer about my NPR announcers), but I really like the cartoony style of her avatar (which reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld and which inspired me to draw a kind of similar version on my drawing site.

On to the book.

This book works as a primer for understanding media ownership, media consolidation and media power.  The opening few chapters are going to be nothing new for anyone who has read Chomsky or Vidal on the media.  But since most people haven’t, it’s a wonderful way into some of these thorny issues of who tells us what and why. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-SXSW April 1, 2011 (2011).

Wild Flag has released one of the best albums of 2011.  I can’t stop listening to it.  So, it’s funny that this show has been sitting on NPR’s download page for months without me checking it out because I didn’t know who the band was until the album came out.  Wild Flag is Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony and Janet Weiss (and a keyboardist who I will never remember because I never heard of the band she was originally in). 

This show at SXSW is one of their earlier shows.  It’s so early that one of the songs in the setlist appears on the album with a different title.  And the band is full of raw energy and passion. 

Although research shows that they’d been touring since November, Mary Timony seems somewhat hesitant in a few songs.  But Carrie Brownstein seems fired up to be playing again, and she rages and jumps around the stage, her voice as aggressive and fun as it was in Sleater-Kinney.  Janet Weiss, as ever, kicks massive ass on the drum kit.  man can she wail–she is a vastly underrated drummer. 

The band has great cohesion and they seem like they’re really enjoying themselves. 

 In many respects this band sounds like Sleater-Kinney (2/3 of the band are here).  But the addition of Timony’s lyrics and more gentle voice bring a cool change.  And the keyboards flesh out the songs in wonderful ways as well–for a band with no bassist, it’s funny that the most pronounced keyboards riffs are at the high end of the register.

There’s a few flubs during the set, in one of the more pronounced keyboard riffs, there’s a pretty major gaffe.  And sometimes it seems like they don’t know exactly how they should be harmonizing with each other (not true on the record at all).  And during the extended soloing of “Glass Tambourine” (6 minutes), I’m not really sure what Mary is up to.  But that’s okay.  The band is all about rawness, so that can be forgiven. 

While the album is better, this live show is a good introduction to the band. 

Since Carrie Brownstein worked for NPR I almost expect all of their shows to be available here.  But for now, watch the whole show here.

[READ: January 17, 2012] “Old Mrs. J”

Stephen Snyder translated this story that was originally written in Japanese.  It’s interesting to me when a work is translated from another culture.  Does the translator intend to keep the other culture obvious or does the translator try to make the story, in this case, more European or American.  There’s some inevitability in that, since the language is changed, and yet the sensibility of the original often remains.

I bring this up because I tend to think of Japanese writing as being very distinctive.  And yet this story didn’t really “read” very Japanese to me (Kiwi fruit aside).  It did read a little bizarre, but that was the fun part.

The story starts out simply enough: a young writer (who is a woman, although you don’t find that out until very late in the story unless, unlike me, you assume the main character is a woman because the author’s name is Yoko).  The author works late and sleeps in til noon or so.  It’s a quiet, peaceful place.  The landlady is older and somewhat feeble.  Until, that is, she gets into her garden and then she seems possessed by a fire. 

The landlady hasn’t really talked to the writer.  Then one day the writer hears the landlady in the garden cursing at a stray cat.  The landlady hates cats and curses them up and down.  Finally the writer tells her to put pine needles down, that cats hate prickly things on their feet.  This I did not know.

And they strike up a friendship.  The landlady reveals that her husband was no good and that he left her.  She also reveals that she gives massages.  And she begins leaving the writer vegetables from her garden.  Then one day, the landlady brings her a strange carrot with 5 “fingers” coming off of the central stalk.  The carrots are quite special.  And she keeps them a secret until sure enough, she begins growing lots and lots of them.  Even the newspaper comes to take a picture.

This idyllic story is interrupted in the last few paragraphs.  First by what seems like metaphorical scariness and then, ultimately, with reality.  It is a wonderfully realized story, wonderfully told and with enough hints of magical realism throughout that the ending isn’t totally unbelievable–even if it is quite unexpected.

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-World Cafe, November 10, 2011 (2011).

I’ve been really enjoying Wild Flag’s debut album.  Wild Flag consists of Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Rebecca Cole, who I don’t know but who has been in a few different indie bands, and Mary Timony from Helium.

This World Cafe episode is a brief interview (mostly with Carrie, although all four women are present), in which they talk about the origins of the band and what it’s like to play as a foursome. 

There are three songs and the band sounds tight and perfect.  In fact they sound so perfect I almost wondered if they were really playing live (but there’s one keyboard flub that proves that humans are involved).

It’s a great sample of the record, which is all great, and it’s a good chance to get caught up with these rocking women. 

[READ: November 15, 2011] “The First Venom”

This is an excerpt from Marcus’ forthcoming novel, The Flame Alphabet.   I’ve read a number of Marcus’ things in the past and I realized that most of his McSweeney’s pieces I do not like.  Some of the short stories in the New Yorker I have enjoyed, although usually not right away.  So, clearly Marcus and I don’t see eye to eye on fiction.

And that’s the case with this excerpt.  It’s hard for me to say I wouldn’t read a longer piece based just on an excerpt because who knows what else the rest of the book contains (this could be a small fraction of a much different story), but this excerpt absolutely didn’t make me want to read any more.

In the excerpt, a married couple is sickened by their daughter.  Literally.  All of the words that she says and whispers and scribbles wash a sickness over her parents.  They cringe and try to get away but she keeps talking and talking.

At first this seemed like a metaphorical sickness–who hasn’t grown tired of their kid’s incessant chatter, but it soon becomes clear that this is very real. (more…)

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