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Archive for the ‘Synesthesia’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KASENETZ-KATZ SUPER CIRCUS-“Up in the Air” (1968).

katzReading about bubblegum music has led me to a fascinating trove of information.  Like that most of the songs were written by two guys who “created” many of the bands.  Most of these bands have a revolving cast live but had the same band on record.  The two creators were Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz.

In 1968, Kasenetz and Katz created a “supergroup” which consisted of members of their “Super K Production.”

Their first album was hilarious, because according to the inner gatefold cover’s liner notes, the “supergroup” consisted of 46 members. However, the album cover itself only shows 33 members (plus Kasenetz and Katz in tuxedos) while the individual inner cover photos total 37 (excluding the non-existent St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, whose photo is represented by a white block). To add to the confusion of the actual number of participants, the LP package came with a page of stamps with each member of the “supergroup”, including their names and the individual group he or she represents. The members of The Teri Nelson Group (except Teri Nelson herself) are shown as INVISIBLE BAND on the stamps. Side 2 opens up with Music Explosion leader Jamie Lyons announcing the individual members of the newer or lesser-known groups. Some of the names mentioned do not coincide with the members shown on the stamps.

Hilarious and crazy.  This song “Up in the Air” comes from the supergroup’s second album in a year.  They renamed it “Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus” and the roster was reduced to five groups: The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express and Music Explosion, with the other groups replaced by Shadows Of Knight (who had just been acquired by Super K and signed to Buddah’s Team label) and White Whale label group Professor Morrison’s Lollipop (formerly the Coachmen of Nebraska). Despite these representations, the tracks were actually recorded by studio musicians with lead vocals by Ohio Express lead vocalist Joey Levine.

That’s a lot of setup for an amusing almost novelty song.

There are two different guitar lines. One playing high notes and the other playing a melody).  Thumping bass and drums enter and then the song shifts to a groovy bassline and vocals that seem sped up.  And the lyrics are sort of political.

I don’t read poems by Poe
Look at Palooka Joe
Watch the Ed Sullivan Show
I love Governor Reagan

There isn’t a real chorus, just a repeated final line about Governor Regan (pronounced “Reegan” for some reason–like “Regan,” the King Lear character).

Don’t dig Joe Pepitone (la la la la la)
Or talk on the telephone (la la la la la)
One thing stands all alone
That’s my governor Reagan

Hail, Hail, hail our leader!
[Clavichord solo while backup singers chant “Hail Reagan, Hail to the Chief”]

Reagan was governor of California at the time.  The creator of the site Bubblegum Reviews asks, What is Reagan actually being criticized for here? He hadn’t actually done much to damage American democracy at that time.

Some may say he’s the Gip
Some say he’s lost his grip
I say that he’s a pip
He’s my Governor Reagan

A man who has so much hair
A man that is not all there
A man who just loves the chair
That’s my governor Reagan

More from Bubblegum Reviews:

The song seems to be making fun of him for having an inane persona derived from his good looks and movie career (“he’s the Gip”/”so much hair”).  It also denigrates him for having a feeble intellect or a weak grasp on sanity (“lost his grip”/”not all there”).  His supporters are equally dimwitted: instead of reading poetry, they look at Palooka Joe.

According to Wikipedia, “in Reagan’s campaign, he emphasized two main themes: “‘to send the welfare bums back to work,’ and, in reference to burgeoning anti-war and anti-establishment student protests…’to clean up the mess at Berkeley.’”  In one incident, his actions led to the death of one protester and the blinding of another;

[WHAT?  HOW DID THIS GUY BECOME PRESIDENT?]

later, he sent out the National Guard to occupy Berkeley.  It may have been his anti-protest stance that rankled with Levine et al. — youthful revolt seems to have been something people in the music biz were generally in favor of, even if they weren’t particularly interested in what was being revolted against. This autocratic approach to free speech may also be what’s behind the song’s implication that Reagan demanded unquestioning fealty (“hail, hail, hail the leader”).

How timely.

Is this a bubblegum song?  It’s hard to say for sure.  Kasenetz & Katz wrote most of the biggest bubblegum songs so they knew what they were doing.  Maybe they were trying to branch out.  It’s really nifty. I’ll have to listen to more.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

You Can Be Right and Kind At The Same Time,
or: Why Would You Hate a Part of Speech, Dude?

I was really looking forward to seeing Jonboat again.  He has been this looking figure–billionaire, astronaut, husband of the most beautiful woman in the world, father of Triple J.  And we know very little about him besides that.  And WOW does he make an impression.  Sort of.  Actually, he doesn’t make any impression except on Belt’s psyche.

This section begins with a bit of a misdirection: Belt picking up a magazine at the White Hen because astronaut Jonboat was on the cover. Flipping through, he couldn’t find the article (typical of big glossy magazines) and wound up looking at an article about the famous chef Clem.

Clem (I’m guessing inspired by Emeril?) was eggplant shaped with arms like noodles–he looked like a combination of Ringo Starr and Yasser Arafat–he seemed all wrong and yet he looked fantastic.  This was because everything in the room was custom made just for him.  He was measured for an oven, molds were made of his hands for his knives etc.  Somehow the objectively handsome assistant looked unfit in the room because everything fit Clem.

I love the librarian joke that Pang shouts at him: You think my name is Marian? (and a wonderful discursive joke about this not being a library).  But Belt didn’t buy the magazine because he needed money for Quills.

This is all a set up to say that Jonboat looked in his office as if every inch of it was measured to fit him.

As Belt walks in, Jonboat says “Hey, you,” and holds out his arms for a hug.  It take a second before Belt realizes he’s talking to Fondajane who is next to him.

There’s some playful banter between Jonboat and Fon.  And yet I can’t decide how to read this.  Is Jonboat a pedantic jerk or is he fun and good at teasing?

She says “As the kids say…Now we’ve come to the part where I make my exit.”  I love that Fon either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the kids actually say.  Jonboat suggests they say, “I guess that’s my cue [to leave].”  But Fon retorts that that was two eras back.  They gave that up for their name and out: “Fondajane: out.”  Jonboat says that he never heard of it: “Jonboat: incredulous.”

When Belt tries to interject into the banter, Burroughs pats his arm to tell him to keep out of it.  As Fondajane leaves she says she has to meet Robbie bin Laden for dinner. This story’s skirting of 9/11 with lines like this is fascinating and I wonder if there will be any kind of payoff, or if it’s just reminders of the slightly-off timeline.

Finally Jonboat turns his attention to Belt.  He gets out his business gear (he is there to sign the contract for Triple J) and Belt notices a cure running on top of a globe.  Jonboat is trying to train it to walk on four feet, but it is disposed to walk on two–a sort of glorious defect.

The cure is really cute.  Even for Belt.  Belt starts to get uneasy–so much so that Burroughs steps in his line of sight to avoid any trouble.  Belt is surprised and dismayed that he didn’t just want to hold it, he wanted to squeeze it–and he imagined in some detail what the experience would have been like. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: May 13, 2013] Musicophilia

musico

My sister-in-law Karen got me this audio book for Christmas.  I had never read any Oliver Sacks before although I have always been amused/intrigued by his stuff (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is such a great title).  So this book, as one might guess, is all about how music impacts our lives.  Music is more than just an enjoyable set of melodies, it is a more primordial form of communication.  The key thing for any fan of music to know about this book is that about 97% of the music he talks about is classical.  Which is fine, but you’re not going to get any kind of insight into rock.  The reason for this is twofold.  One–he likes classical (and doesn’t seem to like rock–although he did take one of his patients to a Grateful Dead show) and two–he wants to talk more about music and not so much about lyrics (although again, that’s not entirely true).

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the stories in the book and will certainly talk about it a lot, I found the book a little overwhelming–it was exhaustive and exhausting.  Sacks really tries to cover ever aspect of music (and many I never would have guessed) and so I found the nine hours of story a bit tiring by the end.

Part of that may also have been John Lee, the reader, who spoke very clearly and a little slowly and gave the book something of a lecture-feel.  Which was fine for much of the book, although again, it was a little exhausting sometimes.

The thing that is most exhausting about the book is that virtually every person he talks to or about has had some kind of trauma which makes their appreciation of music different from the norm.  If you are in any way a hypochondriac, this book will make you go insane  I’m not, but even I found myself worrying about having a stroke at any second or experiencing some kind of weird brain thing where I no longer like music or god forbid get some kind of long term amnesia.  Jesus, I was getting a little spooked by the end. (more…)

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finSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Rather Ripped” (2006).

rippedWhen Rather Ripped came out, I was really excited by it.  It rocked heavy, it was catchy and it featured a lot of Kim.  I listened to it all the time, and would have said it was my favorite SY disc of this era.  However, listening to Sonic Nurse reminded me how much I liked that one too, so I’m unclear now which one I like better.

Jim O’Rourke left the band, so they’re back to a 4 piece.  And the overall sound of the album is more minimal. There’s less squalling feedback (although there are noisy parts).  And the song structures are tighter.  It sounds more like a punk album that a jazz album.  It’s a great release.

“Reena” is so instantly catchy, it’s an amazing opener.  And it’s followed by “Incinerate” which might be even more catchy.  A simple guitar riff and a beautiful chord progression.  “Do You Believe in Rapture?” is a delicate guitar-harmonics filled song.  The only thing that keeps it from being totally poppy are the off-kilter harmonics between verses.

It’s followed by the screaming noise guitars of “Sleepin’ Around.”  This has some amazing tom-filled drums from Steve Shelley which really propel the song along.  It eventually morphs into a pretty straightforward chugga-chugga song until the noise solos in the middle.  “What a Waste” is a lo-fi rocker with Kim singing angrily.  It’s followed by Kim’s more delicate/sexy “Jams Run Free,” a rather tender guitar line.  And, with Kim playing more guitar, I’m wondering if she’s writing these more delicate guitar riffs?  They seem kind of bass-like rather than the complex lines that Lee typically writes.  I’ll never know.

“Rats” is a noisy Lee song that I’m quite fond of.  It’s immediately followed by an even more delicate Kim song, “Turquoise Boy.”  This is a slow ballad that is quite surprising.  “Lights Out” continues the quiet mood with Thurston’s own brand of sinister/seductive singing.

“The Neutral” continues Kim’s delicate singing.  While “Pink Steam” is a beautiful six minute near-instrumental that Thurston reins in with great vocals at the end.  “Or” ends the disc in a quiet frame of mind.

I’m still undecided if I like Nurse or Ripped better.  But I am delighted by this new style that SY has been playing with.

[READ: September 17, 2009] Infinite Jest (completed!)

Hal is remembering the ’98 blizzard (which I actually tried to remember if I had been in Boston for and then realized that ’98 came after the book was written…Doh!)

It was the year that E.T.A. opened and they moved from Weston to E.T.A.  The Moms was attached to the Weston house so she dragged things out. (more…)

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onlyrev.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Everything to Everyone (2003) & Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

bnl-every.jpgEverything to Everyone. I was pretty down on this album when it first came out. I remember being rather disappointed in it because BNL had, gasp, matured somewhat, and were making more “serious,” less “wacky” songs. To me, the whole CD was somewhat flat. But, after a recent listen (possibly the first time in 4 years) and expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the record.

“Celebrity” is a decent start off, although it breaks from their standard set up of rollicking lead off tracks. “Maybe Katie” is a somewhat disappointing track 2 (a track that seems to produce great results for them)…. It seems to be so close to a single, yet it just misses. There is a somewhat zany song “Shopping,” which sets off a run of three or four good songs. It also ends on a pretty high note with, “Have You Seen My Love?” being a slow, but, sensibly, short song, so it doesn’t just drag on.

The noteworthy thing about this album, is what its title alludes to: everything for everyone. It seems like this album has fifteen different styles at work. There’s an Irish jig type song, a crazy rocking song, a soft ballad, a salsa beat. Basically everything is on here. It’s either crassly commercial or (more likely) a funny jab at their complex styles.

The overall sound of the album is definitely more mellow and “mature” than their earlier ones. There’s not a lot of outright silliness involved, and the tunes themselves have certainly calmed down a lot. If you’re not expecting the zany BNL of old, then the album works pretty well. Just don’t have high hopes for “If I Had $1,000,000.”

bnl-holiday.jpgBarenaked for the Holidays. This has become one of my favorite Christmas/holiday records (and it’s a good time of year to be writing about it.) It ranks up there with Brave Combo’s It’s Christmas, Man, brave.jpg South Park’s Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, hankey.jpg Sufjan Steven’s great boxed set Presents Songs for Christmas, sufjan.jpg and Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas, wilson.jpg which has also quickly jumped to the top of my Xmas list.

BNL’s is definitely silly, but it is also somewhat reverential for the time of year. They mix classics with originals (and if Jews don’t adopt “Hanukkah Blessings” as an official Hanukkah song, then they have no taste!).

The recording is a mix of old and new tracks (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded almost ten years (more…)

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bosch.jpg SOUNDTRACK: FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS-The Distant Future EP (2007).

conchords.jpgWe really enjoyed the Flight of the Conchords series on HBO. Although the stories weren’t always great, the music and music videos were hilarious. Probably better than the show itself was the live special that they showed on HBO before they aired the series. Their comedy/music performance is simply great. What works best about the songs is that they can be funny repeatedly, but that they are also great songs too.

This EP is a good taste of their music, and I understand they have a full length coming out soon too. The only disappointing thing about the EP is that the song “Business Time” does not contain all of the lines from the show and the live rendition (where he trips getting out of his pants, which is the funniest thing ever). So I may have to look for the older live CD they have out.

Although they have some information on their official site, http://www.conchords.co.nz/, you’re better off going to What the Folk!, where you can hear a lot of great downloads. There are some great tracks available here like “Business Time” (several versions) and “Hiphopapotamus v Rhymenocerous.”  I suppose your tolerance for this depends on your tolerance for “novelty” music, but I think they’re pretty great.

Oh, and Mel, from the show was featured in this month’s Radar magazine.

[READ: November 21, 2007] The Name of This Book is Secret

Sarah received a copy of this book, and it was sitting on top of a pile in our office. I was very intrigued by, well, everything about it, and it was the author’s name Pseduonymous Bosch, that really caught my attention. Actually, the entire design of the book is eye catching and interesting. (more…)

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