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Archive for the ‘Torture Porn’ 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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SOUNDTRACK: 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY-“Goody Goody Gumdrops” (1968).

19101910 Fruitgum Company has a great, bizarre name.  Especially for a band that released such poppy songs.

I thought I knew most of the bubblegum hits just from casual awareness of them.  I was quite surprised how many of these chart-hitting songs I’ve never heard before.

I don’t think I knew this one before, and I quite like it.

The opening verses are quiet, almost dark, with just a chugging guitar and a stomping drumbeat.

It segues into a chorus that is really catchy (of course).  I really like the chord change from “goody goody gumdrops, my heart is doing flip flops” to “gee what love can do.”  It feels like perhaps a minor chord introduction.  There’s even some mildly interesting drum patterns in the middle.

The return of the opening verse brings back a slightly darker mood before the return of the joyful chorus.

It feels like it slightly defies the conventions of the pure bubblegum song.  Maybe that’s why it only got to #37.

[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

Coffee with Honey

Part IV of the book is called Compound. In it, Belt visits the Jonboat housing compound (they took over most of a cul-de-sac).

There’s a few interesting revelations here, and a remarkably lengthy discussion of a sexual practice that I don’t think I’ve ever seen discussed–certainly not at length–in a book before.  But overall this section does what I like best about this book–have lengthy passages that don’t move the plot along but make me laugh at the ideas and the extent to which Levin is willing to stretch out an idea.

Part IV Section 1 is called “New Modes of Fascination.”

As Belt wakes up his pillow is talking to him.  This is new.  Or, not new exactly, but unusual.  Indeed, the pillow is mad because Belt hasn’t talked to it at least six years (and it’s grumpy because of it).  There’s not much more with inans in this section (aside from a false interaction with a bracelet at the compound), but it’s probably important not to forget about them.

One interesting idea that the pillow suggests is that it can talk with books.  Belt wonders why he never talked with books.  Or had he?  Was the book reading the words to him as he held it or did books have other things to say besides the words on the page?  That idea must be tabled for now.

Belt runs into his dad who is standing in the kitchen acting like he’s had a stroke. He’s acting very strangely, frying up a huge pack of bacon and getting grease on a Jonboat shirt.  There’s a nice call back to Belt smashing the frame that held the Jonboat Says t-shirt.  For this is the shirt that Clyde has.  Clyde essentially believes that he blacked out and smashed the frame but doesn’t remember doing it.  he finds this disturbing because he distinctly remembers why he wanted to do it, but is concerned that he blacked out and doesn’t remember that part.  Belt does not put his mind at ease with the truth.

Belt also learns that his father never really liked Jonboat–he wasn’t rubbing it in by buying that T-short–rather it was … overcompensation because he felt bad that he didn’t like belt’s new friend.  This made Belt feel very good about his dad and they even shared a lengthy, sincere hug.

This week’s reading had several sections that I just loved.  The don’t advance the plot.  They are long-winded, almost set-pieces.  And each one delights me.

Like when Belt decides to sweeten his coffee with honey. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BANANA SPLITS-“The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” (1968).

traOf all the bubblegum pop songs, this is probably the one I know the best.

I was surprised to discover that the song and TV show were from 1968, because I used to watch it all the time.

But I see that the series originally ran from September 7, 1968 to September 5, 1970, but then it was in syndication from 1971 to 1982, which is when I watched it.  Amazingly, it was in syndication for 11 years and there were only 31 episodes made.

Is there anything catchier than a bunch of people singing tra la la, la la la la?

And then the lyrics couldn’t be simpler:

One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show
Making up a mess of fun
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone
Four banana, three banana, two banana, one
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun
Flipping like a pancake, popping like a cork
Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork

This was the theme song for the TV show.  It was a minute and a half and is insanely catchy.

The Dickies did a punk cover in the 1970s, which doesn’t sound very different from the original, expect that instead of bright keyboards, the music is all guitars and drums.  It is faster-paced and yet longer because of a guitar solo and some extra sing along parts.

For those unfamiliar with the show, the Banana Splits were:

  • Fleegle — A greenish-brown dog wearing a large red bow tie, black buttons, brownish-orange chucks, with his tongue is always sticking out. He plays a guitar and sings.
  • Bingo — A nasal-voiced orange gorilla wearing white glasses and a yellow vest, featuring a toothy grin. He plays drums and sings.
  • Drooper — A lion with a very long tail wearing yellowish-orange glasses, spats on his feet, and speaks with a Southern drawl. He plays a bass guitar and sings.
  • Snorky — A mute furry elephant wearing pink glasses. He becomes a regular elephant in season 2, wearing a green vest with yellow stripes. He communicates through honking sounds akin to a clown horn, and one of the other Splits would translate what he is saying. He plays a keyboard.

What a great time to be a kid.

[READ: June 8, 2020] Bubblegum Week 5

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

A Fistful of Fists is a Handful

After the academia and “high brow” thoughts of Triple J’s essays, this week’s transcription of Triple J’s film A Fistful of Fists: A Documentary Collage is rather tough reading.  It reminded me of reading something like David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (The Part About the Crimes) in that there’s some really horrible things to witness but their inclusion serves to prove a point and even to further the plot and fill in some gaps.

A Fistful of Fists is a collage of twenty-seven short films all about the joy of killing cures.  The transcription is a print version of what is seen on the videos, sometimes in graphic detail.  Scenes of it reminded me of some of the “torture porn” stories that were trendy a while back. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI-Ten Rapid (1997).

The release of this disc hot on the heels of Young Team rather confused me, especially when trying to keep track of which discs were “real” and which ones were compilations.  This one is a compilation.  It’s subtitled: (Collected Recordings 1996–1997).  And the fact that it has ten songs on it tells you just how much they released in those two years.  (It appears that they released 4 or 5 singles, although all the songs don’t seem to appear on Ten Rapid, and there seems to be a song or two unaccounted for.  Wikipedia also suggests that some of the songs were re-recorded for Ten Rapid.  Gosh, what’s a completist to do?).  And given all that they released back then, it’s also a surprise at how short this collection is  (just over 30 minutes).

The amazing thing is how much the disc sounds like a complete recording and not a collection of singles.  It is mostly Mogwai’s slower, quieter pieces, and the overall tone is one of “mood” rather than “songs.”  And, for those of us who thin of Mogwai as a really loud band, the prominent use of glockenspiel comes as something of a surprise (as does the quiet singing on two of the tracks).

The opener “Summer” is not the same as “Summer [Priority Version]” on Young Team.  This one is a beautiful track with glockenspiel while the YT version is much heavier and darker. “Helicon 2” (also known as “New Paths to Helicon, Pt. 2”), is a wonderful track with an interesting riff and texture.  On a recent live disc, it was expanded greatly. “Angels vs Aliens” and “Tuner” are the two tracks with vocals.  They’re both rather quiet and kind of soothing.

“I am Not Batman” is mostly washes rather than a riff based song.  “Ithica 27ϕ9” is one of their best early songs. It’s also the one track here that really experiments with sound dynamics.   It opens with a beautiful melody that swirls around for a bit.  Then the loud guitars come screaming out until it returns to that melody (and all in under 3 minutes).

The final track “End” is an entirely backwards recordings.  Wikipedia says that it is “Helicon 2” backwards, and I’ll take their word for it.

Ten Rapid is a really solid collection of songs showing just how good Mogwai was from the start.

[READ: March 8, 2011] Donald

This book is a speculative piece of fiction that answers the question: what would happen if Donald Rumsfeld was sent to Guantanamo Prison.  Note also that the cover is a parody of the cover of Rumsfeld’s own memoir (released around the same time).

The main character is clearly Rumsfeld, although he is never mentioned by his full name, always “Donald.”  But his description and his biography make it obvious that it is him.  There is a Note at the end of the book which states that the information about Donald is as accurate as possible.

First we see Donald in a library, presumably working on his memoirs.  He is accosted by a young kid who asks him questions.  Donald is annoyed by the kid and more or less blows him off.  Donald then has a fancy dinner with his wife and “Ed and Peggy” (two people who I can’t place historically).

That evening, masked people break into Donald’s home and haul him off to a prison (he is bound and his head is covered so he doesn’t know where).  The rest of the book sees him taken from one prison to the next, tortured in various ways (nothing too graphic, most of the torture consists of thinks like disrupting sleep, keeping the temperature really hot or really cold, and asking him lots and lots of questions, sometimes for 20 hours at a time.  There is no physical torture (again, it’s not graphic). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MARTHA WAINWRIGHT-I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too (2008).

I’ve been a fan of Loudon for years.  I also rather enjoy Rufus.  So why not check out Rufus’ sister Martha and see how she stacks up in the family canon.  Actually, it’s not fair to compare because she is an entity all to herself.  And indeed, I feel that she sounds nothing like her family (maybe a weeeeee bit like Rufus, but not really).

In fact, I find that Martha’s voice rests comfortably between Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Siberry and, somewhat surprisingly, Patti Smith.

Lyrically, the title of the album pretty well tells you where she’s coming from: smart-assed and a little pissed off.  But the real question is what kind of songs does she actually write?  Well, the second song on this disc “You Cheated Me” is so strong and so catchy I was convinced it was a cover.

The rest of the disc is an exciting collection of styles: baroque arrangements, pop folk, and even straight ahead rock.  There are times when the songs are not so much difficult as cantankerous: with her vocals reaching extraordinary heights.  But it’s not just Martha showing off her range, the vocals work very well with the lyrics.

She also adds two covers on the disc: Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” which she takes some of the weirdness out of but which adds a bit of her own eccentricities to it.  (It’s a great cover).  The other cover is the Euryhthmics’ “Love is a Stranger” which doesn’t sound like a cover until the chorus kicks in.

I feel like the disc is a little long (somehow it feels like it should end after “See Emily Play”) but that’s not really that big of a complaint.  Even though Martha sounds like others, she is still quite a unique presence, and this is a worthy CD for anyone who likes quirky singer songwriters.

[READ: Week of March 1, 2010] 2666 [pg 353-404]

I was bracing myself for a horrific section here.  The Part About the Crimes is 280 pages of women being killed in graphic detail. Well, that turned out to be not exactly true.  At least so far.

Nevertheless, the Part is largely filled with crime scene details about the many many women who died in the Santa Teresa region between 1993 and the beginning of 1994.

For my sanity I’m not going to detail all of the young women who were killed in this Part.  I know someone on bolanobolano is detailing all of the deaths in the book, so I’ll assume that that is dealt with there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT-4 songs from My Space (2008).

Since the author of one of the stories below is the singer in this band, I thought I’d listen to them and see what they were all about. With a name like that I was expecting some kind of hardcore band. And that is NOT this band! They don’t have a record out yet, but they have some songs on MySpace here. The first song “Sometime Around Midnight” made me think of a couple of bands from the 90s: The Church and Midnight Oil, and possibly The Alarm. The vocals are mixed loudly in the mix, and there is an earnestness about the vocals which made me think of those bands. The second one, “Papillion” has a keyboard solo (!) over some fairly raucous simple melodies. The third song “This is Nowhere” is a fun indie rocker with a good staccato riff and a cool/spooky chorus harmony. And the fourth song “Innocence” was rocking and bouncy. I can’t get over the use of keyboards on songs where you wouldn’t expect them. I enjoyed these songs quite a bit, and will certainly check out the CD when it’s released.

[READ: May 30, 2008]: McSweeneys #27

This volume contains three books in a slipcase. Even though each is a small paperback, the overall package is quite nice. The slipcase has many tiny holes in it to look like skyscraper windows (or Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti). (more…)

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Yesterday, I engaged in a discussion about the term Torture Porn. In a recent review (see The Translation of Father Torturo below) I used the phrase and then retracted it. Torture Porn is a phrase that I’ve been reading about a lot lately with regard to a new spate of horror films. So, why do I retract the observation about the book, which was quite violent and included scenes of torture? The torture porn genre of film seems to be about pushing the envelope for what you can do in a film. This has always been true of movies, in which filmmakers must make everything bigger and better. Whether the jokes are funnier or grosser, whether the explosions are bigger and louder or whether the horror move is scarier or grosser (the other kind of gross). Torture Porn is a lazy phrase. It’s a quick way to apply a label to something complex. I admit it was lazy of me to throw out the term for the book, and there’s really no excuse for laziness, except for being lazy. When the Friday the 13th movies started multiplying, each sequel needed to outdo its predecessor with something even more disgusting (remember the 3D one that had the popping eyeball?). (more…)

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torturo.jpgSOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-Saturday Night Wrist (2006).

wrist.jpgThis is the latest Deftones release. It is a bit more atmospheric overall than the other ones. The dynamics of the record are still there, but aside from one of the more thrashier songs, they don’t seem to be as heavy, overall. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, it really showcases a catchier side to the band. It’s fun to see how well the heavier aspects can become accessible. Overall, I think the album is great, with each song having a great hook. It took a few listens for me to really get into it, but I’m now hooked.

(more…)

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sacred.jpgSOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-They Can’t All Be Zingers (2006).

primus.jpgSuch a great name for a greatest hits album. I’m delighted to know that Primus is still fun after all these years. How on earth they were every popular is simply beyond my comprehension.

[READ: May 2007] Sacred Games.

Here’s a link to Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games blog.

Whew, I thought this day would never come, but I finished Sacred Games, and what a trip it was! (more…)

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