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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE SLITS-Cut (1978).

This album is mentioned in this story.  It’s interesting to me how this band is so associated with the punk scene when musically they are very far from what most people consider punk (and from what the band in this story sounds like).

The Slits went from being unable to play their instruments, to playing an interesting bass heavy, guitar-slashing style.  It’s reggae and dub inspired but sounds nothing like reggae. Ari Up’s vocals are defiant and brash but in addition to screaming and shrieking, she can also sing quite nicely.

The rest of the band are fully invested–chanting along and fleshing out this, at times, bizarre album.

The bass sound (from Tessa Pollitt) on the album is fat and round–it’s a great sonic feeling and is a perfect low end for the detached guitar style (from Viv Albertine) in the songs.  Founding member and drummer Palmolive left the band apparently because she didn’t want to do the cover shoot.  She was replaced by eventual Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie.

“Instant Hit” is anything but.  With clanging guitars playing opposite a slow grooving bass as all three sing. The drums are complex with a lot of percussion.  When the verse starts the guitar chords are unconventional for sure.  You can sense a melody in all of the sounds, but it is buried.  The album takes off a bit with “So Tough” a much faster song with bass lines that run up the neck, fast drumming and Ari Up’s vocals hitting a higher register for “You can’t take anymore now you’re getting weak / So tough /
Don’t start playing hide and seek.”

“Spend Spend Spend” pairs nicely with “Shopifting.”  “Spend” is a slow loping song as the lyrics (sung in a sometime off-key mocking warble) mock consumerism:

Going home, into bed when I’ve treated myself
I’ve been quite hard, after a hard day’s work
I have found a hundred ways to get rid of all my worries

“Shoplifting” is the antidote.  “Spend” is 3 minutes while “Shoplifting is barely 90 seconds.  The bass line on this song is fast and feels like it’s running as much as the chorus: do a runner

A kind of reggae slash of guitar:

Put the cheddar in the pocket
Put the rest under the jacket
Talk to the cashier, he won’t suspect
And if he does…  And if he does…

Shouted by all of them:  Do a runner! Do a runner! Do a runner! Do a runner!

Ten quid for the lot
We pay fuck all
Babylonian won’t lose much
And we’ll have dinner tonight
Do a runner!

After the third verse She screams “Run!” like a banshee as the chords ascend in speed and notes.

“FM” is a twist on the radio band: I’m waiting to hear what program is next.  What program is next? (FM) Frequent Mutilation transmits over the air. This slow song has one of the catchier upfront melodies.  Up next is the longest song on the disc.  At over four minutes long, it is the antithesis of punk.  A slow echoing guitar-just scratches on the strings as the bass meanders around the clattering percussion.   After a minute and a half though it gets catchy with a funky bass and some reggae chords that play through to the end.

“Love und Romance” is a fast pulsing song with quick bass and guitar chord stabs.  And, I’m guessing an ironic look at love:

I’m so HAPPY!
You’re so NICE!
Kiss kiss kiss!
Fun fun LIFE!
Fun fun fun I’m having fun
Hee hee hee!
It’s such a love
Hee hee hee!
Now we’re one
Life’s a gas all the time
You’re so lovely, you’re so fine!
(She wants you, she wants you)
Are you ready for this?
Are you ready for this?
Gimmee a great big kiss

“Typical Girls” has a two note bass line and …piano!  The whole song is sort of chanted along while the chorus has a jazzy bassline and noisy guitars.

My favorite song is the final one, Adventures Close to Home,” which is surely one of the more unusual songs on an unusual album.  A funky bass opens with some quiet almost out of tune sounding guitars.  The vocals intertwine and sound almost mocking withe the different singers interrupting each other as she sings follow love follow (hate).  It’s as if all of the parts are doing different things but they all fall together in a fascinating way that I can’t stop listening to.

The album comes with a jagged and rather fun version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” which is a pretty good introduction to the band if you’re looking for a familiar song to explore their sound.

[READ: July 6, 2020] “A Transparent Woman”

This is a dark story about (former) East Germany.

Monika doesn’t want to be like the horrible sows living in the socialist “future” apartment blocks.  She moves out of her parents house and into a hostel.  She gets a terrible job (it is illegal not to have a job) but refuses to join the Free German Youth.  Life sucks until she sees a group of punks in Alexanderplatz.  Then her world opens up.

She shaves her head, puts food coloring in whats left and starts hanging out with the kids with spiked hair and dog collars.  She went to a punk show and it was exhilarating.  She met two girls there who wanted to start a band and they asked her to join them on drums.  She didn’t play drums.  They didn’t care.  Katja was the lead singer and lyricist.  Ellie played guitar.  They were terrible  It was wonderful.  They called themselves Die Gläsernen Frauen [The Transparent Women].

Punk was pretty much illegal in East Germany–a sign of the decadent West.  Wherever punks sat, they were moved along within ten minutes.  And bands like D.G.F. were definitely illegal in the G.D.R.  Only properly approved bands were allowed to play out, so every show was a real danger.

After one of the shows a man approached her at work the next day.  He was attractive but had an air of malice.  He offered her a cigarette and then gave her a copy of The Slits’ album Cut.  She knew they were good, but the semi-nude cover felt wrong coming from him.   She tried to blow him off but he insisted that she meet with him next week.

Instead of meeting with him, she went on a tour with the band.  They went to some big cities and played small shows.  They were tired and scared and every D.G.F. show had a threat of violence.

But the real trouble was when she got back home. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MADAME GANDHI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #38 (June 24, 2020).

I have never heard of Madame Gandhi.  That’s a constant theme with these Home Tiny Desks–they seem even more geared toward introducing lesser known artists to the world.

Madame Gandhi’s is surrounded by her yellow bongos and congas, a yellow desk from her youth and a yellow nightstand, her Tiny Desk (home) concert lighting nods to the lavender-lemon artwork of her 2019 Visions EP.

Her music is mostly prerecorded.  The live elements are her vocals (soft and gentle with a lot of nonsense syllables amid the good vibe lyrics) and her wonderful hand drums.

Her music is inspired by her South Indian heritage and she lights a stick of palo santo.

For the first two songs she plays the damaru (I think).  “Waiting For Me” is about returning to the earth–returning to nature.  I enjoyed the way it began:

Wake up in the morning / hit space bar and start recording

She plays cool-sounding drums–she has wonderfully diverse sounds from that tiny hand drum.  And they seem to be modified in some way, too.

Before “Moon in the Sky,” she says “I don’t want our identities defined according to how oppressed we are.”

She’s intentional with everything she does, including activism that focuses primarily on gender liberation. She uses music to help elevate and celebrate female voices, from working with primarily queer women BIPOC on tour and video sets, to writing socially-conscious lyrics that challenge the white male-dominated music industry.

She continues, “if we are not brave enough to tell our stories end to end, somebody else will.  And they will get it wrong.

on tour and video sets, to writing socially-conscious lyrics that challenge the white male-dominated music industry.. Madame Gandhi’s clear, soft voice and swells of percussion give you the necessary space to meditate on her message of inclusion and equality.

She says her music is Indian trap.  The music has fun beats and a downplayed vocal delivery. I rather like it.

For the final song, “Bad Habits,” she stands up and plays the bongos: “put your phone down and stand with me.”  The catchy chorus of the song is “all my bad habits have got to got to go.”

Her parting words are that each person’s contribution is unique and valuable and can be of service to my community and my family.

This has been a great introduction to a new form of music for me.

[READ: June 28, 2020] “The Rescue Will Begin In Its Own Time”

I really don’t understand what was going on with these previously unpublished stories by Kafka (translated by Michael Hofmann). There are four flash fiction pieces and they seem much more like story ideas than stories.

In the first section he talks about the four ways the Prometheus legend can be viewed.  After the fourth, it ends, “The real riddle was the mountains.”

In the second part, there is a large load of bread which the Father of the family cannot cut.  The Father is not surprised, “Isn’t it more surprising if something succeeds than if it fails?”  When the children woke the next morning he had been up all night but had not managed to cut it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROCK & ROLL DUBBLE BUBBLE TRADING CARD CO. OF PHILADELPHIA-19141 – “Bubble Gum Music” (1968).

19141I thought it was a very clever idea posting about bubblegum music for this book.  If only I had known how much music was actually mentioned in the book and, ultimately, how inappropriate these songs are to the book–in tone and content.

However, I have really enjoyed discovering some of these songs that i’d never heard of before.  Like this one.

This might be may favorite bubblegum song of all.  In addition to being catchy (obviously) with a simple swinging horn melody, the lyrics are hilariously self-referential.

A bubblegum song about bubblegum songs which mentions some of the most popular bubblegum songs.

Since most of the bubblegum songs were written by the same few people (under different band names), it’s very likely that they are singing about some of their own songs.

The stupidly catchy chorus:

Give me more, more, more Of that bubble gum music
Makes me feel so good Oh, I never want to lose it
Let me dance, dance, dance To that bubble gum music
If you really want to turn me on

which is of course repeated about ten times.

But then come the lyrics which mention a while bunch of bubblegum hits

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wonder what she`s doin`
While the Monkees are singing for Valleri
Simon says take you down to LuLu`s
You`re gonna feel yummy, yummy, yummy

The second verse is even funnier because it turns into a kind of diss track

Well the Grateful Dead just leave me cold (ooo!)
And Herbie Alpert makes me feel too o-old (feel too old)
I can groove to rhythm and blues (rhythm and blues)
But if I had to choose, if I had to choose If I had to choose,

All of this wrapped up in one of the most ridiculously lengthy band names ever.

Spectacular.

[READ: June 29, 2020] Bubblegum Week 8

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

Hitting Back on the Brickhorse

With this week, the book comes to an end and I can’t help but feel disappointed by the ending.  At some point a few years ago I realized that endings are often the worst part of a book.  Endings can’t ever do what the reader really hopes will happen, especially if the reader has a different idea of what the book is doing.  I must have had a very different idea of what this book was a bout because I left that last page with so many questions–questions that Levin clearly had no intention of answering.

Like what if the entire book from after Belt gets his cure until the very end is all in his head.  He is just crazy and none of these things happened.  There are no cures.  Everything that seems off about his world is because his perception is skewed.  He has the wrong date and perpetrator of 9/11.  He misunderstands The Matrix, he believes he was given hundreds of thousands of dollars from the creator of The Matrix.  His father is dating the mother of the wife of an author that he likes.  But really he’s just in Costello house imagining he’ll meet up with Lisette someday.

I don’t really think that’s what happened, but there’s so much left out after the ending, that I have to fill it in somehow.

I was particularly interested in this first section being called AOL.  There has been no real explicit nudge from the author that there is no internet in the book, but this title was clearly a wink at us.  Particularly since Belt doesn’t know what it stands for either. (more…)

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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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waljuneSOUNDTRACK: KEVIN DEVINE-“Freddie Gray Blues” (2016).

a1265312378_16This week, Rough Trade and Bank Robber Music released a compilation on bandcamp called Talk – Action = Zero: A Compilation Benefitting Black Lives Matter.   On one day they raised $12,000 for Black Lives Matter, which is pretty fantastic.

The record features 100 songs, a majority of which are previously unreleased and some of which seem to have been written in the past week.

This Kevin Devine song is not new.  In fact, it has been recorded twice.  First with a band on his Instigator album and then reimagined as an acoustic song on his We Are Who We’ve Always Been record.  The acoustic version is included on the compilation and it really allows you to hear these lyrics.

It’s depressing that he wrote this song four years ago after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black American man who was arrested by Baltimore Police for allegedly carrying a switchblade on April 12, 2015.

Gray fell into a coma in the back of a police van and passed away on April 19.  An investigation found that the arresting officers failed to follow safety protocols “through acts of omission” due to the spinal injuries Gray received during the police transport, which led to his death.  The six police officers were not convicted but faced various charges from second degree-murder to manslaughter.

Here it is four years later and the song is just as relevant and fits in this compilation all too well.

The lyrics are straightforward, the melody simple.

I’m talking Freddie Gray blues
I’m talking what happened to you
You were just 25
When they ended your life
When “to serve & protect”
Meant break your leg, snap your neck
Meant to kill you, to sever your spine
No matter what, there’s no good reason why

Devine also speaks from personal experience because of his family’s association with the police:

When I’m talking these killer cop blues
I’m kinda talking my family to you
See, my dad was a cop
And his dad was a cop
And my uncles were cops
And my cousins were cops
I’m partly here because of cops
And I love all those cops
And I know not every cop
Is a racist, murdering cop
But this is bigger than the people I love
The system’s broken
Not breaking
It’s done

And then, like any white person who is an ally, he realizes his position.

I’m talking white privilege blues
I’m talking confession to you
I don’t know what it’s like
To be afraid all my life
Looking over my shoulder
Behind each officer, a coroner
Entrenched inequality
No access, no empathy
Crushed in stacked decks
Institutions & death
This is not my reality
I’m afforded the luxury
Of shaking my head
I shut the screen, go to bed
I can turn off what you never can
And watch it happen again and again (and again and again and again and again, and again).

[READ: June 5, 2020] “Rookie”

I can’t get over how many stories there are about tree-planting, something that I feel like no one in the States ever does but which seems to be a rite of passage in Canada.

Every story talks about how horrible it is.  You can make a lot of money if you can put up with the conditions.  The cold, the backbreaking work, the pressure, living in a trailer or hotel for months.  Although you could make $10,000 in two months if you were good. And, pretty much everyone there let the drugs and drink and sex flow.

There’s always people who thrive and can plant 4,000 trees a day (at 9 cents per tree) called highballers.  While a rookie is lucky to plant 1,000 (which would mean breaking even after camp costs, like food).

In this case the highballers are Skye and Jen who seem to be a couple.  The rookie is Jake and the story is mostly about him.  Jake is a religious twenty-something.  He is God-fearing and serious.  He intended to go tree-planting with his friends from Bible College.  Elmer was the group leader and they would keep tabs on each other to make sure they didn’t smoke, do drugs or have sex.  Jake decided to join up, but by that time, Elmer’s crew was full, so he wound up with another crew in Ontario. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FUN AND GAMES-“Elephant Candy” (1968).

indexI’d never heard of The Fun and Games before looking up this bubblegum pop song.

Amazingly there were six members of the band (and none of them were cartoons).

The band members and name were constantly in flux and they released only one album, Elephant Candy in 1968.

“Elephant Candy” is a two and a half minute pop delight.

The main music of this song sounds almost like the music of a merry-go-round–a kind of sugar-coated pipe organ.

The song opens with the preposterously catchy “elephant elephant candy did you know that elephants can be fun eating candy on the run.”  The second go-round features backing vocals of a steady “Ahhahahh” that sounds simultaneously unsettling and catchy: kind of like a fun house mirror.

The verse seems like its just an opportunity to pause in between the next appearance of the chorus.

If that weren’t catchy enough, the song moves up a step so it’s even more treacly. Somehow, the song even has time for two keyboard solos.

[READ: June 1, 2020] Bubblegum Week 4

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

Sometimes One Looks Like The Other, Bad Taste and Stupidity

This weeks reading was really intense.  It also showed things that I never imagined would come up.

  • A lengthy and carefully edited suicide note.
  • A lengthy treatise on transgendered persons/prostitution/homosexuality
  • Academic papers that are simultaneously well-written and yet obviously the work of a child.

Part Two, Section 5 of the book is called “Letters and Facts.”

This was an interesting place to stop/resume reading because, although they reference the same incident, the beginning of this section differs from the end of the previous section.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: D SMOKE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (May 29, 2020).

The lineup of musicians for the Tiny Desk Home Concerts has been a fascinating mix of known and unknown folks.

I have never heard of D Smoke.  Apparently it’s not surprising that I don’t know who D Smoke is because

last year, the rapper and pianist, born Daniel Farris, rose to national acclaim when he won Netflix’s MC battle show Rhythm + Flow.

Winning allowed him to quit teaching and produce music full-time.  He plays four songs.

D Smoke’s songs here — taken from his latest album Black Habits, out earlier this year — acknowledge the disparities impacting the black experience that are simultaneously personal and universal. The opening selection, “No Commas,” is a heart-wrenching lament on injustice and inequality. The gentle touch of D’s fingers moving across the keys complement the song’s poignant lyrics, which he raps in English and Spanish.

I am really quite amazed at what rap sounds like without a beat, with no percussion of any kind.  These songs are performed with just the piano.  Stark and powerful.

I enjoyed the lyrics to “No Commas”

I told ’em I’m the one for the job, no commas
And I’m serious, period, no commas
Wanna enjoy my family and my friends with no drama

The song segues into “Closer to God” which has a more jazzy/lounge vibe.  He sings the chorus and has a lovely voice.

This is his first time playing and rapping “Seasons Pass.”  Although he is rapping, his is very musical about it, kind of singing more than straight ahead rapping.  But when he gets rapping, his flow is fast and impressive.

He also performed “Black Habits II,” the affecting finale to Black Habits, for the first time in a live setting.

The album is about his upbringing growing up, for the first nine years, with a single mother and then his pops coming home [from being incarcerated] and being a good role model.

He cautions us that it’s his first time playing it live so, “If I stumble a bit we gonna pick it back up.”  He does stumble a bit but it sounds great.

[READ: May 25, 2020] “Demolition”

It’s always interesting to read a story set in a different country.  I guess one always imagines a story is set somewhere familiar unless you are told otherwise.  It wasn’t until about half way through the story before I realized it was not set in the States.  And I think it was very close to the end that I realized it was set in Australia.

But the setting doesn’t matter so much because the story is about the house across the street which is being torn down today.

Eva lives across the street and is sad that the Biga house is being torn down.  Her husband, Gerald, is happy to see the eyesore go.  As they looked through the blinds, they watched people come and take souvenirs from the place.

Then came the media. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WIRE-Tiny Desk Concert #976 (May 27, 2020).

I feel that it is something of a failure on my part that I never really got into Wire.

Although I don’t know why, I will never forget that their 1988 album is called A Bell is a Cup … Until It is Struck (I was working at a radio station when it came out and “Kidney Bingos” was a minor hit).  But I never really followed through with them.

Bob Boilen, on the other hand, is a huge fan.

For me, it was beyond surreal to watch Wire performing at my desk, in broad daylight, in 2020. I spent many an evening over the past 40 years, listening to their original, artful bursts of noise and imagery, seeing them in dark clubs in the ’80s and beyond. From the time I first heard them in 1977, few bands have encapsulated my musical aesthetics like Wire.

There have been some hiatuses for Wire since their debut in 1977 (from 1981-1985 and 1993-1999) but each time they reunited, it was the original four person lineup.

It was only ten years ago that guitarist Bruce Gilbert officially left the band.  But at the Tiny Desk,

there they were, with three original bandmates: Colin Newman, singing his enigmatic poetry, and those driving rhythms of Graham Lewis on bass and Robert Grey (aka Robert Gotobed) on drums. Matthew Simms was the “new” bandmate, having now played with the band for the past 10 years.

Thankfully, Wire plays four songs (they still only play for 15 minutes and they are Bob’s favorite band).

What’s most remarkable is how the sound of songs such as “Cactused” from their 17th album, Mind Hive, sit so well next to “French Film Blurred” from their 1978 album — and one of my favorite records ever made — Chairs Missing.

“Cactused” has a cool chugging rhythm and bass.  Newman sings in his deadpan, almost spoken delivery.  Newman plays the little guitar leads while.  It stops on a dime.  This band is tight.

“Be Like Them” is also new.  I love this song.  It’s got a slinky guitar riff which is  accompanied by three loud thumps (drums and bass) to accent the verses.  Simms plays a really cool noise-filled “solo” (really just some noisy chords) in the middle of the song.  Newman is once again kind of deadpan reciting his lyrics.

“French Film Blurred” is from 1978. It’s got an unusual riff and Newman sings a bit more than speaks, although he is still restrained.  They make great use of the two guitars with Simms adding all kinds of sounds while Newman plays the main melody.

Everyone tunes and then Newman says they’re going to play “an obscurity from the 80s that we revived into the current set.”  “The Offer” is from 1989’s ITABA.  It’s slower and rather quiet.  There’s even some gently picked guitar parts from Simms. But as it nears the end the song gets louder and louder with Sims adding a distorted and a flanging guitar.   The songs seems like it’s over, but while everything is ringing out, Newman pays a few ending chords.

Try and imagine your favorite artist today, playing a concert in someone’s office in 2062 and still having an emotional impact with extraordinary new songs. As I said, it’s beyond surreal and genuinely thrilling.

Wire played their Washington DC show on March 9, so that’s probably when this concert occurred (and therefore MUST have been the final Tiny Desk Concert before the quarantine].  Wire were playing Philly on March 10.  I had considered going but I had a lot of other shows to see in March so I didn’t want to overload.

This set was so good, I wish I had gone to see them. Maybe they’ll be back in 2021.

[READ: May 20, 2020] Five Years #10

This is the final issue of Five Years (I think).

It was supposed to be released during the Coronavirus epidemic.  But Abstract Studios offered a special cover (so I don’t know what the proper cover looks like yet).

NEWS: We’re going to release a tiny print run of Five Years #10 for subscribers, & anyone who wants one really. This is for those reading the single issues who don’t want to wait months to read the final chapter. If not a subscriber, you can pre-order a copy in our store now. Just CLICK HERE.

The rumor is Diamond Comics will reopen this summer and we will be able to stagger release issue 9 and 10 to the general public then. 9 is sitting in their warehouse, waiting like a rodeo bull. For the small number hooked on the single issues, we feel you deserve 10 now, because without your monthly support the series couldn’t have happened at all.

So I bought the limited edition cover because I wanted to finish the series.  I didn’t think he could possibly end the series with this issue as it seemed like there was too much up in the air. (more…)

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