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Archive for the ‘Chess’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE COMET IS COMING-Tiny Desk Concert #924 (December 13, 2019).

I had recently heard good things about The Comet is Coming.  But when I listened to some of their CD I wasn’t all that interested in them.

As a result I wasn’t really expecting much from this Tiny Desk Concert.

But HOLY CRAP!

This was amazing.  So amazing that I immediately looked to see if they were playing anywhere near me, because I must see them live!

Turns out they played the Foundry in Philly back in March.  I sure wish I had seen that, but am just happy they didn’t play there last week or something, because it means they might be back in a few months!

The musicians are King Shabaka on saxophone; Danalogue on synthesizer and Betamax on drums, and they are each amazing to behold.

I actually thought this might have been one long 20 minute jam, but in fact it is three separate songs from their second album Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery.

The set began with a deep drone from keyboardist Dan Leavers, aka Danalogue. It kicked into full gear when he leaped into the air and, on descent, drummer Max Hallett, aka Betamax, whacked the snare drum, setting off a transformative 19-minute concert.

The Comet is Coming is a force of nature. The British trio’s approach to the Tiny Desk was ferocious. Shabaka Hutchings, aka King Shabaka, blew his sax hard while his effects pedal added reverb, expanding not only his sound but altering the office and making it a little eerier.

As soon as Danalogue hit the ground, the drums and sax absolutely take off–fast notes and drum hits as the song intros with sirens and electric bleeps and bloops.  Its hard to even know if the song itself has started or if its just a warm up.  But things mellow out as Danalogue and Betamax slow down.  But just as quickly, that rest is over and the drums and synth are off playing what I assume is now “Super Zodiac.”  King Shabaka plays a wild sax riff and off the song goes.  It’s about five minutes of fast heavy riffage and freeform sax.  There’s even a call and response with the keys and the sax at one point.

Then at around 4 minutes, the beat changes up and things sort of slow down a bit. The song pretty much ends at around 5 minutes, but the synth and drums continue as they begin a slow pounding introduction to the next song.

King Skabaka soon comes in with his sax as the pace picks up.  At around 7 minutes “Summon The Fire” begin with a great saxophone riff.  Moments later, the middle is wild and chaotic fun as King Shabaka gets sweatier and sweatier.  Danalogue must also be super sweaty in his full track suit.  Only Betamax seems calm back there as his arms are flying all over the place.

At 11 minutes, the whole thing comes almost comes to a halt until King Shabaka starts paying the opening riff of “Blood Of The Past.”  The song is more of that great riff making on synth and sax–fast and furious until about half way in when things slow down and there’s a lengthy trippy keyboard solo while the King takes a much-needed breather.

At 16 minutes the set seems like it’s over with rumbling drums and synths but they still have a little energy left– a squealing sax solo followed by Danalogue making all kinds of computer chip and glitch sounds as the set comes to a close.

I had to watch this three times in a row and I am certainly going to give their record another listen on the way home.

[READ: December 23, 2019] “Only Orange”

This was an excellent story to end the year with.  It was so good I saved it for S. to read because there were so many lines I wanted to share with her, I figured she should just read it herself.

The story begins with the narrator, Jeanne, saying to her brother’s girlfriend that she must like beige a lot since she wears it all the time…or maybe oatmeal?

Audrey, the girlfriend is taken aback and says that her pants are green.  And just like that Audrey found out she was color-blind.  She spent the rest of their family vacation asking the color of things.

Her parents thought this was so interesting and really loved talking to her about it but Jeanne thought she was faking–Audrey was twenty-six after all.  Audrey and Lino lived in the U.S. but Jeanne lived in Paris so this family vacation was their first time meeting.  When she asked where Audrey went to school and the answer was “Lewis & Clark,” Jeanne thought she was making it up, thinking fondly of the TV show Lois & Clark.

Jeanne’s brother, Lino, is annoyed at the way she starts acting toward Audrey, but then, he was never nice about Jeanne’s boyfriend Matt.  He only ever said Matt’s name to discuss the qualities of “an average human being” as in “people like Matt don’t care about contemporary theater.”

Jeanne was also jealous of Audrey because she Audrey was adopted:

to be able to look at the people who love you the most and not have to worry that you’ll turn out exactly like them must be amazing, I thought. An endlessly renewable source of relief.

Jeanne is also annoyed about how gullible her mother is being abut Audrey–how could she have read so many novels and still take anything anyone ever said at face value. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JULIE BYRNE-Tiny Desk Concert  #788 (September 19, 2018).

Julie Byrne plays a quiet acoustic guitar and sings in a melodic whisper (almost).  She reminds me of Nick Drake in many ways.

Even in an office in broad daylight, Julie Byrne sings with both a husk and a whisper as if she’s gone a long time without speaking – as if she’s been alone, as if she’s been traveling. Her opening number at the Tiny Desk, “Sleepwalker,” sings of the road as a source of freedom.

I lived my life alone before you
And with those that I’d never succeeded to love
And I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude
I fought you, I did not know how to give it up

Byrne’s guitar playing sounds very full as is each string gets its own special attention.

Julie Byrne’s hypnotic fingerstyle picking conjures a sense of wandering, a style she adapted from her father and a sound she grew up with until multiple sclerosis robbed him of that companionship and comfort. She now plays her dad’s guitar.

After performing “Sleepwalker” alone, Julie Byrne was joined by her musical companions, Marilu Donovan on harp and Eric Littmann on electronics. Together they conjure an ethereal compliment to Julie’s love of the open landscape.

“Follow My Voice” begins with just Byrne.  After a verse or so, the harp enters, making the song seem somehow even more delicate.  And the keys are there just to add a bit more substance–but not to solidify this delicacy.

“I Live Now as a Singer” is just the keys and the harp.  It reminds me a lot of Enya, with the washes of keys and Byrne’s deep but delicate voice.

[READ: January 5, 2017] “The Short History of Zaka the Zulu”

This story is set in a boys’ Jesuit boarding school in Africa.  The narrator is relating the story of a boy they nicknamed Zaka the Zulu. The narrator explains that Zaka was always odd but that they had never expected that hew would be accused of murder.

He was a very smart boy and he succeeded very well–which made him a little unpopular.  But he became even more unpopular when made head prefect.  He was so upright and sincere; he would get boys in trouble for the slightest infraction.  His worst punishment was when he made the younger boys stay for an extra period so that they could not watch the Mary Wards (the girls from Blessed Virgin Mary school) go for their weekly swim.

There were 40 or so Mary Wards every year.  They didn’t live with the boys, of course, but they were all part of the same school–the girls got the best Jesuit education the country could offer.   Only senior boys were allowed to mingle with the girls–particularly at the one or two dances each year.  It was felt that the girls had a civilizing effect on the boys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIDINIBAND-Call the Office, London, ON (April 18, 2008).

Dave Bidini played some solo shows in 2007 but by 2008 he had cobbled together a band: Bidiniband.  The band includes Dave, Paul Linklater, on lead guitar, former Rheo Don Kerr on drums and Doug Friesen on bass.

I’m not sure when they started playing together, but this is the first live show at Rheostatics Live.  The set list hasn’t changed much since his solo shows, but the songs sound really different with the full band.

Some of Dave’s solo work is about telling real life stories of unsung people.  They

re usually really interesting the first one or two times you hear them, but they kind of lose their power after multiple listens.  So “Zeke Roberts” and “The Land is Wild” (except for the fantastic chorus) wear out their welcome a bit.  But again, it’s a nice change to hear them with the full band.

“Fat” is interesting to hear with other musicians.  The ending isn’t quite as wild as with the band but these guys chant the “everyone’s a robot” with great energy.  After the song Dave says “Good  night everybody” to much laughter.  For the next song he says, “This is basically the same song but with a more ironic joke.  The irony is not in the tuning or lack thereof.”

Someone says, “You guys and your new strings. I haven’t changed my strings in like two years.”  “I thought t would be cool, you know, on a new tour.”

“This Song Ain’t Any Good” has a very different delivery than the folksier style that I’m used to.  He asks the band, “You want to do it sad, what did you mean?” They do the chorus in a kind of repeated downbeat “singalong.”

Thanks to Andy and The Two Minute Miracles for playing tonight.  We’re gonna do another song based in our country: “The Moncton Hellraisers.”  It has a rather country flair to it.

Someone shouts, “Do a hockey song.”  Dave says, “I think you’re out of luck tonight  Oh, no there’s a longer one later tonight….we’re making you wait for it.”

I love the jazzy opening of “Memorial Day.”  But even better is the full band rock of “Terrorize Me Now.”  Who ever in the band is screaming “And then we killed again,” is totally intense.

Dave asks, “Could anyone deliver a water to the stage, or I could put my guitar down…  From off stage: “only whiskey and cold coffee!”  “cold cuts?”

This next song is gonna feature Dog Paul’s on double bass for a song about cannibalism and Canadian rock.  “Desert Island Poem” features the line   “Rheostatics eat their drummer who would cook and season the body?”

Dave once described the song: “Yeah, and that’s sort of a true story in a way. I mean not the cannibalism part. But one time the Rheos were stranded in Drumheller [Alberta] and we were listening to the radio and we heard this story about that plane that crashed in Alaska. And we began to wonder what would happen to us if we never got out of Drumheller.”

For “The List”, the replaced Zack Warner with Sass Jordan (a Canadian singer) which features the line “you say I suck but it’s that suckdom of which I’m proud.”  Some one shouts, “that’s a fucking song that needed to be written.”  Dave says he has one more verse but he can’t remember who its about.

“The Continuing Story of Canadiana and Canadiandy” has a cool slide guitar solo in the middle of the folk.  Dave, “That’s from back in the day where all the Canadian folk singers looked like Jesus.  Those nice sweaters on, a nice beard.”  Mitsou?  “When I think of Canadian folk I think of Mitsou too, ironically.”

Someone in the band proposes the “Top five Canadian folk albums: Summer Side of Life, Old Dan’s Records,”  Dave notes: “That’s two from Gordon Lightfoot are you allowed to pick two from the same artist?” “And The Way I Feel.” Dave: “You’re just doing Gordon Lightfoot.”  “That’s what I’m trying to say, dude. “I’m getting your drift that you like the Gord.”  “Gordon never looked like Jesus did.” “No, he looked more like Bruno Gerussi.”

“Is everybody ready for a long death ballad?  You look like the kind of crowd who would like a long death ballad.”  Someone in the crowd shouts: “kill us, kill us Dave.”

We haven’t performed this song successfully ever life.  “Zeke” sounds better with the guitar sliding up and down and in the middle when there’s a few complex moments  and the band really takes off.  But there’s all kinds of flubs at the end.  Dave says, “you’re too kind.  That was the best first half we’ve done for sure.”

They play “My First Rock Show” at a slower pace.  “A bit of banjo for this, Paul?”  After the swan dive, there’s some crazy feedback and effects manipulation and then Dave starts singing “Happy Jack.”

They finish “Rock Show” and then begin with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and then Slade’s “Run Run Away.” (did that song have a chorus?).  And then it shifts to Bidini’s “Pornography.”

“Rock Intro?  Is it a rock intro nigh?” “Progtro.”  Someone says something about YouTube.  Dave says “Whats YouTube. They’re an Irish rock band, right?”  There’s great noisy opening to “The Land is Wild.”  It quiets down but sounds great with the full band.  I like the lead guitar line that runs through the song.  During the slow part, the person who mentioned Gordon Lightfoot sings “Ode to Big Blue” as the song gets bigger and noisier.

It segues into a really fast version of Rheostatics’ “Earth.”  Its rocks.  “Don Kerr on the drums everybody.”  And then a romping “Horses.”  Midway through the song he starts reciting the lines to “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and then some of “Another Brick in the Wall. Pt 2.”  He also throws n the “facts” portion of Talking Heads’ “Cross-eyed and Painless.”

This all segues into a stomping, guitar-light version of “Life During Wartime.”  Dave starts singing lines from “One Thing Leads to Another” (“one gun leads to another”), “Relax Don’t Do It”  then “When Two Tribes go to war, war is something you can’t ignore.”

As the song ends Dave thanks everyone for coming: “a small but mighty crowd for a small but mighty band.”  Then he introduces the band: Douglas Friesen from Manitoba, Paul Linklater from Manitoba, Dave born and raised in Etobicoke, Ontario.  Donald S. Kerr from Mississauga, Ontario.

As they finish, the crowd is screaming screaming for an encore with one guy even telling him not to put their instruments down.  But there is no encore.

[READ: April 15, 2017] Writing Gordon Lightfoot

The title of this book is unusual–it’s hard to even figure out what it means (until you read the book), but it’s also deceptive.

The title means writing to Gordon Lightfoot.  Bidini is basically writing Lightfoot a series of letters. But it is far more than that.  In fact the scope of the book is really the Mariposa musical festival that took place in Toronto in 1972.  Lightfoot appeared (along with many other folk luminaries).  Interspersed with his documentation oft he festival (he was too young to go so it’s all research) are his letters to Lightfoot.

The reason he is writing letters to Lightfoot in a book is because Bidini believes that Lightfoot won’t speak to him.

His band Rheostatics, recorded a cover of his “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”  It was one of their big songs when they were first starting out.  And then, as a brash young kid, Bidini once said that it was actually based on an old Irish melody and that it really wasn’t Lightfoot’s song anyway.  Yipes.

So, assuming that Lightfoot will never talk to him (I wonder if he actually tried), he decides to write letters.  But the letters aren’t “hi how are you” letters, they are a biography of Lightfoot’s life as written by a fellow musician.  He bases most of his notes on things that were in other biographies and he says he makes a lot of it up too.

So it’s an unusual book in many ways. (more…)

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

(more…)

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  grant7SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The Outer Limits (1993).

voivodouterAfter Angel Rat, original bassist Blacky left the band.  That’s never a good sign.  After the tour for this album, original singer Snake left the band.  That’s an even worse sign.  I still can’t quite figure out exactly why Snake left (personal problems) but he went on to form the band Union Made.  For a very detailed history of the band, check out this very cool timeline at Voivod dot net.

The Outer Limits got a pretty big release.  I have an original copy that came with 3D glasses and all of the illustrations in 3D. But i was a little disappointed in Angel Rat and I don’t think I gave The Outer Limits much of a chance.  It was no Nothingface.  But the band was always morphing.  Since Angel rat went very commercial, this album brought things back into the prog realm (with a 17(!) minute song) but also had a lot of commercial songs.

The album opens with “Fix My Heart” which starts out much heavier than anything on Angel Rat. It’s also got some metal guitar pyrotechnics (squeaks and harmonics).  Snake’s voice isn’t quite as pretty as on Angel Rat either—he growls a bit, but maintains his nicer voice overall.  Nevertheless, “Fix My Heart” is a pretty commercial enterprise (as the title might even suggest).  There’s some good “spacey guitars sounds which bode will for the sci-fi angle of the album (and there’s some cool effects that reward headphone use).  “Moonbeam Rider” starts with a very classic rock sounding riff and then morphs into a kind of pretty, mellow verse.  But the interstitial guitar is all speed.  It’s a nice mix of fast and slow.  This song features some interesting bass work—nothing fancy but for the slow parts it is actually keeping the beat instead of the drums.  The bassist was a studio musician for this album.  There’s also what sounds like a bong during the pre-guitar solo section (the solo is fairly traditional).  “Le Pont Noir” is a mellow, slow guitar song with a very cool delay effect and Snake’s whispered vocals.  The bridge gets heavy with a wonderfully weird Piggy guitar riff.   It’s one of my favorite songs on the album.

Then the band’s second Pink Floyd cover appears. This time it’s the even more obscure “The Nile Song.”  They have rather heavied this one up with crunching guitars and Snake’s distance screaming filling in the void (although in fairness the original vocals are also screamed). It’s not as dynamic or exciting as “Astronomy Domine,” but it’s s till a cool cover.  “The Lost Machine” starts off heavy with Away’s double cymbal work (a noisy splash and a fast ride cymbal). Then Piggy’s guitars have a slight delay on them which makes the opening chords sound especially odd.  The bridge is a place for Piggy to show off some more weird spacey chords and some very cool guitar riffs. There’s even a spoken word narrator in the middle of the song that explains the “mission” “Time Warp” opens with a very bright and up beat sounding verse.  But it quickly disintegrates into (intentional) musical chaos as the narrator gets lost in space.

This all leads up to the 17 minute “Jack Luminous.”  If anyone doubted their prog rock leanings, this should dispel that immediate.  17 minutes, multiple parts, a sci-fi epic, it is prog (but heavy prog) at its finest.  There are some incredibly catchy parts as well as some less catchy parts, and sections seem to change every two minutes or so.  The slow down at 10 minutes is very cool—different guitar effects and the suspenseful bass line.  There’s repeated sections as well, which means if you like some guitar line (the spacey part near the end) it comes back!  It’s not quite as dynamic as say 2112, but it’s a very successful sci-fi epic.

“Wrong Way Street” returns to the normal and more conventional.  The bass that opens the song sounds great and the chords are fairly conventional –the chorus is even really catchy.  “We Are Not Alone” is a break-neck metal song, The drums are super fast, the guitars are relentless and the chorus even has an echoed “Hey!” that gets you to sing along.  The song also features a cool slow, almost jazzy bass and drum section that lets Piggy throw some soloing in before returning to the fast paced verses.

There’s lots of theories about what happened to Voivod after this album.  The success they had achieved earlier was now gone and the band seemed like they couldn’t decide to be metal or prog or is they should go for more pop music.  The problem of course is that they were too weird to get mainstream acceptance anyway.

So Snake left and then there were only two original members.  The next step would be a drastic one.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #7

This issue seemed to come hot on the heels of #6.  But I enjoyed it just as much.  A few notes: no Jeremy Lin in this issue.  Lots of LeBron James, three articles about soccer!  And a few pop culture moments that I had forgotten about.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-“The Jeopardy! Teen Tournament JUST. GOT. REAL.
Leonard Cooper didn’t know the final Jeopardy answer but he still won and he made a hilarious joke at the end (in cartoon format);

BILL SIMMONS-“Daring to Ask the PED Question”
Simmons talks a lot about PED’s in this forum.  Of course, to me PED is my initials.  For him (and sports fans) it is performance enhancing drugs.  He asks why sports doesn’t do more about it.  There are so many people who do it that every time we see someone who might be doing it or who suddenly has a good season, we assume they are doing them too.  It would be a service to the players and the fans to have rigorous testing or none at all.

CHRIS RYAN AND ROBERT MAYS-“The NFL Coaches Family Portrait By the Numbers”
A silly analysis of a photo of NFL coaches.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Jodie Foster’s Big Night”
What exactly did Jodie Foster say at the Golden Globes? (This was in January and everybody talked about it and now it’s September and I’ve completely forgotten about it—funny ephemera of pop culture).

JONATHAN ABRAMS-“Out of Africa”
A serious look at trying to bring basketball to Africa. How the culture and language problems make it very difficult to establish any real cohesion in the diverse country.  But there are a few examples of boys coming from Africa and benefiting from host families and then heading back to help those who love basketball back home.  The main focus is on a 15-year-old Alexis Wangmene who came to the States (and left his family!) to try to gain an education and basketball skills.  It’s a heartfelt story.

MOLLY LAMBERT-“Modern Love”
About the show Catfish which just goes to show we can sink even lower as a culture.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“Mental Health Protocol”
About Royce White again.  Last time there was a lengthy look at him.  Now we get to hear that he thinks that everyone has some kind of mental health issue.

ANDY GREENWALD-“Eat Bray Love”
How cooking shows have gone from educational to crazy and annoying. He dislikes Top Chef and the new Anthony Bourdain show The Taste (which he says is awful) but he likes a decent show called Chopped.

ZACH LOWE-“The Fragile Science of Basketball Chemistry”
Sure the Heat were great this year, but it’s the way they evolved as a team, creating chemistry, that is so impressive.

RAFE BARTHOLOMEW-“The Pariah”
Timothy Bradley beat Manny Pacquiao in a disputed judges call.  Instead of rising to fame, he has been avoided like the plague.

BILL SIMMONS-“The All-Manti Te’o Mailbag
Remember that crazy story about the football guy with the dead girlfriend who turned out to be fake?  I never really understood the story and while they spend a lot of time talking and theorizing about it I still don’t get it.  Did they ever find out the truth about it?

CHRIS BROWN-“Speak My Language”
When you play for the Patriots, you learn their way of doing things—it is simple and efficient, a streamlined version of what other coaches try to do.

KIRK GOLDSBERRY-“The Evolution of LeBron James”
Using diagrams, we see how much of a different player James is in just the last few years with The Heat.  This article has made me want to watch James in a game while he is at his peak.  So, Heat vs Bulls at the end of October, you’re on my schedule.

SEAN McINDOE-“The Non-Hater’s Guide to the NHL”
Even people who hate everyone in the NHL (which is everyone) can agree that there are some players who are universally admired: Martin Brodeur, Pavel Satsyuk. Teemu Selanne, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Martin St. Louis, Gabriel Landeskog, Patrick Elias (Devils get two!), Ryan Smyth, Steve Sullivan, Saku Koivu, Henrik Lundqvist.

ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“God Needs a Hobby”
A look at Dan Harmon and his podcast Harmontown.  Harmon seems like he might be a crazy alcoholic, but he’s also pretty darn funny.

MARK TITUS-“Duke’s Ignominious Son”
Everybody hates Christian Laettner, but that’s only because he’s pretty and he made The Shot

MARK LISANTI-“Three Days in Austin”
Dealing with the craziness of the South by Southwest film festival.  Sounds awful.

HUA HSU-“The Alien Has Landed”
Soccer legend Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford

BILL SIMMONS-“The Greatest Action Franchise That Ever Was”
Live blogging the Fast and Furious 6 trailer.  I admit I may have to see these films after reading this.

ZACH LOWE-“Lights, Camera, Revolution”
There’s some kind of new technology that will change the NBA forever.  I pretty much don’t care.

TESS LYNCH-“Nostalgia Bites”
Watching old Real World episodes shows how much things have changed in reality TV, but also how much certain behaviors are not new.

BRIAN PHILLIPS-“Maradona, Then and Now”
Maradona was an amazing kid—at 15 he was remarkable at his ball control.  Now at 52 he’s a crazy loon. What exactly happened in between?

ANDY GREENWALD-“From Big to Small, From Movie to TV”
Why not make Men in Black into a TV show—with some other film recommendations.

AMOS BARSHAD-“How Soccer Explains Israel”
I didn’t expect to enjoy this but I found it very interesting.  An Israeli soccer team has signed two Muslim players and it has caused incredible animosity and even arson.  How this look at a team is like a microcosm of the whole Israeli situation.

LOUISA THOMS-“Back to School”
Missy Franklin won a  ton of medals in the Olympics.  And then she went back to high school.  What’s it like to be on her team at Regis Jesuit?

WESLEY MORRIS-“Run, Frank, Run”
Frank Ocean apparently wasn’t as huge as I thought he was.

MALCOLM GLADWELL AND CHUCK KLOSTERMAN–“The Lies He Told”
More about Manti Te’o. This discussion was a bit more helpful about what happened and how crazy it is.

CHRIS RYAN AND REMBERT BROWNE-“A List of Possible Reasons for Rob Gronkowski’s Arm Infection”
Hypothetical humor.

JORDAN CONN-“The Invisible Man”
Marc Gasol is extremely respected by scouts and agents, but the fans all think of him as Pau Gasol’s chubby little brother.

REMBERT BROWNE-“French Quarter Lessons”
While in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, Browne decided to go to a bunch of used bookstores.  This is very funny and enjoyable.

JAY CASPIAN KANG-“Fiercely Disputed”
Mike Tyson’s one man show is weird and strangely affecting.

KATIE BAKER-“Do Svidanya to All That”
Several NHL players went to Russia’s KHL during the lockout.  And some don’t want to come back.

CHRIS RYAN-“The All-Star Circus”
NBA All-Star weekend is a crazy circus (and sounds worse than the above SXSW festival).

CHUCK KLOSETRMAN AND ALEX PAPPADEMAS-“The Nobituary”
There was a serious rumor that David Bowie was on death’s door.  Klosterman and Pappademas imagine writing his obituary.

DAVID SHOEMAKER-“Glenn Beck vs. WWE”
The WWE has always had racists as part of the act.  What happens when some goons start acting like the Tea Party?

DAVID JACOBY-“The Pure Heart Meets The Bachelor
Jacoby’s grandmother watches The Bachelor and he feels badly for her.

STEVEN HYDEN-“Is This It?”
The Strokes’ fifth album had just come out [really?].  It could be their last, but Hyden thinks their last two have been quite good.

BILL SIMMONS-“The Heat in Hindsight”
The Miami Heat came close to breaking the longest winning streak in the NBA.  Simmons looks at the fallout and who “wins” and “loses” in the effort.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“Bleu, Blanc et Rouge
I had no idea that Charlie Pierce was a Canadiens fan!

KATIE BAKER-“The Ethics of a Family Plan”
Is it ethical to pretend that you are married to your roommate to get a family discount a ta gym?  Hell yes.

EMILY YOSHIDA-“A Dark Force”
J.J. Abrams is going to direct the next Star Wars films.  Why, when sci-fi is so multifaceted and so different is everything coming down to J.J. Abrams?

SEAN FENNESSEY-“The Case Against Justin Timberlake”
Timberlakes’s previous album was amazing.  Then he took years off to make (bad) film and (good) TV.  His star would only continue to rise if he stopped making music and only hinted that he would make another album.  But the release of his new album (which isn’t that good) can only hurt him.

BRYAN CURTIS-“Waiting for Bettman”
While many New Yorker’s didn’t care about the NHL strike, Canadian writers camped out waiting for Bettman to announce the strike was over.

WESLEY MORRIS-“30 Rock Landed on Us”
30 Rock was many things, but it dealt with racial issues (at least between blacks and whites) better than any show.

RANY JAZAYERLI-“Fall of the Evil Empire”
The New York Yankees look like they won’t make the playoff this year (this was written in March and as of my writing this they have a slim chance at getting the wild card slot).  It will be the firs time in a while, perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the start of a new drought for the Evil Empire.

BILL BARNWELL-“The Master Raven”
Ozzie Davis knows how to pick players for the Baltimore Ravens.

REMBERT BROWNE AND DUSTIN PARKER-The Best Chappelle’s Show Sketches of All Time”
Done as a series of cartoons (by Parker); Browne picks his eight favorites:

  1. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Prince
  2. Wayne Brady’s Show
  3. Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories: Rick James
  4. Black Bush (especially now that Obama is president)
  5. Clayton Bigsby: Black White Supremacist
  6. Making the Band (P. Diddy)
  7. The Racial Draft (Tiger Woods Now 100% Black)
  8. The Niggar Family (uncomfortable and hilarious no matter how many times you watch it).

Once again, there’s another great issue of Grantland.  Once again, I wish they would follow up on some of their speculative stories.  But it’s fun to have a time capsule of events that occurred just a few months ago and yet which I have totally forgotten about.

And here’s the cover of The Outer Limits in non 3D style (which I haven’t see before)

voivodouter2

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grantldnSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Killing Technology (1987).

killingAs I said, this album’s art looks much better.  And you can hear from the first notes that this album is better produced and is going to be a lot more interesting than the previous two.  It’s hard to know just how much of a leap this is from Rrröööaaarrr because that album was so muddy–maybe there were gems of guitar chords under all that noise.  Like the previous openings, there’s a sort of prologue to the album.  But unlike the previous album’s swirls, this one is beeping with a computer voice announcing “we are connected”

The opening chords are heavy, but man they sound clear—like they weren’t recorded underground.  You can also hear all of Piggy’s weird higher notes—he’s playing complicated chords, not just solo notes.  And when the chorus of “Killing Technology” rolls around, it offers stop and start rhythms and Snake’s voice even goes up an octave at the end.  But the first real indication that Piggy is on to something new comes in the bridge. Underneath the robotic voice, Piggy is playing some really strange-sounding chords.  The story is that he had been admiring Robert Fripp’s guitar work and so he added some of those King Crimson-y angular weird chords to his repertoire.  And he melds them perfectly with the heavy thrash that the band had been playing.

Lyrically also, this album has moved away from killing and headaches.  “Killing Technology” while having “killing” in the title is a very different subject:

The star wars have started up
The new invention is coming out
Making a spider web over the atmosphere
To make them sure that we can’t get out of here

Computers controlling your functions
Seems like we got electronic alienation
Trading children for a new kind of robot
Waiting for the old people to disappear

Quite a departure from Rrröööaaarr’s “Fuck Off and Die”

Stand up, right now, kill

No pleasure, the pain comes down here
No return, don’t look back, there’s no tomorrow
And if you’re a fucker and don’t believe it
I’d say fuck off and die, fuck off and die

“Overreaction” leans more towards the heavier side—Snake screams a bit more—but the subject (nuclear disaster) is thoughtful.  Then comes their first truly amazing song: “Tornado.”  Not only building like a tornado, this song allows them to talk about violent imagery without resorting to bloodshed. It’s even scientific:

Cumulonimbus storms arrive
Lightning flashes a hundred miles around
Electrical collision course
Creates the elephant trunk

But the best part is the chorus—it’s simple enough (just the word Tornado repeated) but it’s completely catchy and sing-alongable with bright major key chords.

“Forgotten in Space” features some great drumming from Away—he’s really quite underrated both in speed and technique—which explands even more on later albums.  “Ravenous Medicine” is another highlight—an interesting series of uncomfortable chords opens this track about scientific research.  It’s a pretty fast, heavy song.  Although not too complicated except for the occasional breaks as the story progresses.

“Order of the Blackguards” is another fast song, but this one has so many parts that if you don’t like one, just wait a few seconds for the next one.  “This is Not an Exercise” ends the disc proper.  The middle section has a great heavy riff.  But it’s the beginning of the ending sequence which is so perfectly sci-fi that really sets the tone of the album and looks towards the next one.  It’s cool to think of Piggy playing these spacey chords on his guitar.  And when Blacky’s bass rumbles in to resume the song, it’s quintessential Voivod.

By th way, this disc is a concept album as well.  There’s a “Killing Side” (the first three songs) and a “Ravenous Side.”  The strange thing about the CD though is that they have added two tracks from their Cockroaches EP which is nicockroachesce.  But they put one song at track 4 (the end of side one).  How odd to put a bonus track in the middle of a sequenced album.

The EP came out before the album and it has a slightly different feel from the album proper.  Although as a step towards Killing Technology it’s perfectly in sync.  “Too Scared to Scream” is heavy and has some interesting time changes—I love the way the song feels like it is crashing to a halt around 3:30.   “Cockroaches” feels like more traditional metal.  It opens with drums and Piggy playing a typical sounding metal solo.  Then the riffing starts and it’s very heavy indeed. Even the staggered section near the end sounds like a mosh section more than the prog time changes that Voivod uses on the album proper.  The song ends with Snake screaming as the cockroaches are coming.  A good ending to the EP and a pretty good ending to the disc.

The whole album has a very mechanical and robotic feel—the chords that Piggy plays just sound like mechanical failure, it’s very well constructed and foreshadows the music of their future.

[READ: July 9, 2013] Grantland #6

Grantland #6 covers from Sept 2012-Dec 2012.  Despite the short time frame, this is the largest issue yet.  And it maintains all the quality that I’ve come to expect from the book/magazine thing.  Which means, I love the writing (especially about people/sports I’m not that interested in).  And it also means that the editing is typically crap.  In this issue the editing was crap more because they simply forgot to remove mention of hyperlinks.  At least I assume that’s why sentences like “See here for ____” are included in any given article.  But yes, there are some very simple typos that Word would correct pretty easily.

But beyond that, I really enjoyed this issue.  And I’m finding it amusing how much certain people and shows crop up in a given time frame.  So this is a four month period and Kobe Bryant still dominates (there will never be an issue without at least one Kobe article).  But this time Homeland is the big show (since Breaking Bad has been on hiatus I gather).  Basketball remains the favorite sport here (even though they speak of football as being the most popular sport).

Chuck Klosertman and Charlie Pierce continue to write thoughtful (sometimes funny) articles.  And I like how there is still talk of Jeremy Lin even if Linsanity has gone away somewhat. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Live on KEXP, April 1 2012 (2012).

I’d never heard of First Aid Kit before listening to this set.  They are primarily comprised of two Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg– although there are other musicians on the album and live here.  And they’re quite a formidable band. They play a kind of folkie alt-country, but when the two sisters harmonize (one with a slightly disconcerting low voice) is sends chills up my spine   The chorus of  “The Lion’s Roar”: “I’m a god damned coward but then again so are you” makes the hairs on my next stand up.  “Emmylou” really highlights their songwriting skills.  They talk about this song in the chat with the DJ, and she admits that she wasn’t sure if the metaphor worked, but the DJ and I agree it does.

The harmonies on “Blue” are just spectacular and the subtle application strings and glockenspiel really flesh out the sound.   I’m thinking of them as a maybe a more dynamic/indie sounding Indigo Girls.

They DJ also mentions their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” which has garnered the attention of Fleet Foxes (and millions of views).  You can add to that number :

You can also hear their set.

[READ: October 16, 2012] “Fischer vs. Spassky”

This story opens with the unusual note that Marina cried for a long time after her husband died–she would bite her arm in grief, leaving marks that looked like “irregular postage stamps.”  Her husband died 30 years ago and she can still feel the marks tingle.

I say that note was unusual because the story is a flashback that is brought on by the death of Bobby Fischer.  Marina remembers back to  the monumental chess match between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky.  Although most of Soviet Russia supported Spassky, many Russian Jews supported Fischer because of the freedom he represented.

Indeed, Marina and her husband followed the match very closely and her husband even made a pact that if Fisher won, they would flee Russian for America.  Marina didn’t believe that he was serious, so she went about her daily life as any practical person would. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-Alan’s Psychedelic Christmas (1970).

I’ve always loved Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.  I have no recollection of how I stumbled upon this live bootleg, but when I saw that it contained one of the few live recordings of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” I had to give it a listen.

So this show is from 1970 and was recorded in Sheffield just before Christmas (Nick Mason evidently introduced the show while wearing a Santa Claus suit).  The sound quality is pretty good given that it is 40 some years old.  There’s a bunch of hiss, and the quieter talking bits are hard to understand, but the music sounds fine.

So the show opens with “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and what is so silly (and I assume funny to watch (a little less funny on bootleg) is that the band made and ate breakfast on stage.  As Collectors Music reviews writes: “This is the only known live recording of ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast’ but also hosts an amazing performance by the band which included them making morning tea on stage which is audible. Just like most of their earlier performances, the performance of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” slightly differs from the album version due to some nice jamming done by the band, especially Gilmour with his delay pedal.” As I said, some of the audio is static and hard to make out in this song–the band is conversing during their tea, but who knows what they are saying.  And who know what is o the radio.

Then the band gets down to business.  One of things I love about this period Floyd which is so different from their later work is that the played really long spacey jams often with very few lyrics.  So we get a 12-minute version of “The Embryo” (the only available studio version is a very short one on Works which is quite a shame as the song is really good).  A 14-minute workout of “Fat Old Sun” which is usually only about 5 minutes.

There’s a great version of “Careful with that Axe Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (15 and 12 minutes respectively).

Then in a killer version of “Saucerful of Secrets,” just as they get to the end, there’s a power failure (at least according to the song title).  The band is rocking out just hitting the climax when suddenly all you can hear are un-miked drums.  Ha. After a couple of minutes, power comes back and they pick up from just before where they left off.

Then the band launches into a full 31-minute version of “Atom Heart Mother” complete with horns and choir  of voices.  It sounds quite good (the horns seem a little sketchy but that might be expected with such staccato music).

The set ends and the band needs an encore.  Apparently they couldn’t remember anything else because they just re-do the last few minutes of “Atom Heart Mother” again.

One of the things that cracks me up about these shows in the 70s in England, is that the audience is so polite. Their applause sounds like a classical theater rather than a rock show.  And with a bootleg you know they didn’t try to make the audience sound bigger than they are.

The whole package is a fun trip.

[READ: August 17, 2012] Welcome to the Monkey House

So this book is Vonnegut’s second collection of short stories.  But there’s a twist.  This collection contains all of the short stories from Canary in a Cat House except one. It also contains many of the stories he had written since then as well as stories not collected in Canary.  So you get basically 18 years worth of stories here.  And it’s interesting to see how much he has changed over those years (during which he wrote 5 novels, but not yet Slaughterhouse Five).

Since I read Canary a little while ago (see comments about the stories here), I knew that his 50’s era stories were influenced by WWII.  So it’s interesting to see how his stories from the 690s are not.  They deal more with day to day things and, of course, abstract concepts about humanity, although politics do enter the picture again once Kennedy is elected .

  • Where I Live (1964)

This was a good story to open with because it shows the then-later-period Vonnegut’s mindset and location.  This story is about Barnstable Village on Cape Cod (where I assume Vonnegut lived since there are a number of stories set on the Cape).  This is a very casually written story about an encyclopedia salesman who goes to the local library and sees that their two encyclopedias are from 1910 and 1938.  I enjoyed this line: “He said that many important things had happened since 1938, naming among others, penicillin and Hitler’s invasion of Poland.”  He is told to talk to the library directors who are at the yacht club.  I love the attitude that Vonnegut creates around the village which “has a policy of never accepting anything.  As a happy consequence, it changes about as fast as the rules of chess.” For really, this story is about the Village more than the encyclopedia salesman, and it’s an interesting look at people who move into a new place and want it to never change. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PJ HARVEY-Rid of Me (1993).

For Rid of Me, PJ Harvey jumped to the big leagues (relatively) by enlisting maniac Steve Albini as a producer.  And he takes the rawness of Dry one step further into a sound that is both raw and sharp.  He really highlights the differences between the highs and lows, the louds and quiets.  And man, when this came out I loved it.

Like NIN’s “March of the Pigs,” the opening of “Rid Of Me” is so quiet that you have to crank up the song really loud.  And then it simply blasts out of the speakers after two quiet verses.

“Legs” turns Harvey’s moan into a voice of distress, really accentuating the hurt in her voice.  And Harvey hasn’t lightened up her attitudes since Dry, especially in the song “Dry” which has the wonderfully disparaging chorus: “You leave me dry.”

“Rub Til It Bleeds” is a simple song that opens with a few guitars and drums but in true Albini fashion it turns into a noisy rocker.  “Man Size Quartet” is a creepy string version of the later song “Man Size” (I’ll bet the two together would sound great).  And the wonderful “Me Jane” is a great mix of rocking guitars and crazy guitar skronk.   Albini really highlights the high-pitched (male) backing vocals, which add an element of creepiness that is very cool.

For me the highlight is “50 Foot Queenie”.  It just absolutely rocks the house from start to finish.  The song is amazing, from the powerful…well…everything including the amazing guitar solo.  “Snake” is a fast rocker (all of 90 seconds long) and “Ecstasy” is a song that feels wrung out, stretched to capacity, like they’ve got nothing left.

It’s not an easy record by any means, but it is very rewarding.  This is a CD that really calls for reamastering.  Because it is too quiet by half, and could really use–not a change in production–just an aural boost.

[READ: end of February and beginning of March] A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

This is a collection of 7 essays that DFW wrote from 1990-1996.  Three were published in Harper’s, two in academic journals, one in Esquire and the last in Premiere.  I devoured this book when it came out (I had adored “Shipping Out” when it was published in Harper’s) and even saw DFW read in Boston (where he signed my copy!).

click to see larger

[Does anyone who was at the reading in Harvard Square…in the Brattle Theater I THINK…remember what excerpts he read?]

The epigram about these articles states: “The following essays have appeared previously (in somewhat different [and sometimes way shorter] forms:)”  It was the “way shorter” that intrigued me enough to check out the originals and compare them to the book versions.  Next week, I’ll be writing a post that compares the two versions, especially focusing on things that are in the articles but NOT in the book (WHA??).

But today I’m just taking about the book itself. (more…)

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