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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PALBERTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #210 (May 18, 2021).

Palberta has a great name (even if they are not from Alberta).  They are an underground Philly band.  I saw them a few years ago, and this attitude of relaxed yet frenetic fun was evident then as well.

While many of us have gotten better at using technology to feel close to our friends and collaborators over the past year, there’s still no replacement for being in the same room as someone who you swear can read your mind. That’s what it feels like to watch punk band Palberta, whose music makes magic out of repeated phrases sung in tight harmony and charmingly zany pop hooks. For its Tiny Desk (home) concert, shot on a MiniDV and a Hi8, the band crams into Nina’s Philly basement for a set that’s a testament to the group’s tight-knit collaboration and playful exuberance.

The band plays six songs in fifteen minutes (including the time it takes to switch instruments).  Five songs are off of their new album Palberta5000.

The guitar-bass-drums trio is made up of Ani Ivry-Block, Nina Ryser and Lily Konigsberg, and each member sings and plays each instrument. Here, they trade places every couple of songs.  The songs aren’t over-complicated but still manage to surprise at every turn – a true Palberta specialty.

The “frenzied opener” “Eggs n’ Bac'” has a wild instrumental opening which jumps into a faster indie punk sound for most of the song.  All squeezed into less than 2 minutes.  For this song Nina is on bass, Lily on guitar and Ani on drums.  Their sound reminds me of early Dead Milkmen.  Is this a Philly thing?

For “No Way” Nina stays on bass, Lily switches to drums and Ani takes the guitar.  Nina sings lead with the other two giving great tight harmonies.  For these songs the bass lays down the main melody and the guitars play a lot of single note melodies that run counter to the bass.

For the “queasy-yet-sentimental” “The Cow” it’s the same lineup but Lily sings lead on the first verse and Ani sings leads on the second verse.  The staccato guitar style on this song is so unusual.

For the “anxious and melodic” “Big Bad Want” Lily stays on drums and sings lead, Ani switches to bass and Nina gets the guitar.  Ani plays some chords on the bass and you can really see how the guitar plays a repeated pattern while the bass takes more of a lead role.  The call and response for this chorus is really tight.  Nina even plays a guitar solo.

“Sound of the Beat” (from 2018’s Roach Goin’ Down) is “a sweet testament to grooving” and gets a full lineup switch.  Nina sits behind the kit, Ani is back on guitar and Lily is on bass.  This song is really catchy–surely the catchiest thing in this set.  It has a feeling like early Sleater-Kinney.  All three sing harmony lead.

They end with “Before I Got Here” with same line up.  It’s one of their longer songs at over three minutes.  Ani and Lily switch off lead vocals for the fast verses.  After a minute or so, the tempo shifts and the last two minutes are a slow instrumental jam with Ani playing a guitar solo while Lily keeps the melody on bass.

It’s tempting to try to see if one of them is “better” at one instrument or another, but they are all clearly very comfortable on each instrument.  This leads to endless possibilities for songs.

[READ: May 1, 2021] Weird Women

“Introduction” by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger

Why summarize when they say what this book is about so well

Any student of the literary history of the weird or horror story can hardly be faulted for expecting to find a genre bereft of female writers, at least in its first two centuries. …

Yet there were women writing early terror tales—in fact, there were a lot of them. During the second half of the nineteenth century, when printing technologies enabled the mass production of cheap newspapers and magazines that needed a steady supply of material, many of the writers supplying that work were women. The middle classes were demanding reading material, and the plethora of magazines, newspapers, and cheap books meant a robust marketplace for authors. Women had limited career opportunities, and writing was probably more appealing than some of the other avenues open to them. Though the publishing world was male-dominated, writing anonymously or using masculine-sounding names (such as “M.E. Braddon”) gave women a chance to break into the market. It was also still a time when writers were freer than today’s writers to write work in a variety of both styles and what we now call genres. A prolific writer might pen adventure stories, romantic tales, domestic stories, mystery or detective fiction, stories of the supernatural—there were really no limits.

Spiritualism—the belief that spirit communication could be conducted by a medium at a séance, and could be scientifically proven (despite continued evidence to the contrary)—was widely popular, and so one might expect to find that many writers of this period were producing ghost stories. But ghost stories were just one type of supernatural story produced by women writers at this time. Women were also writing stories of mummies, werewolves, mad scientists, ancient curses, and banshees. They were writing tales of cosmic horror half a century before Lovecraft ever put pen to paper, and crafting weird westerns, dark metaphorical fables, and those delicious, dread-inducing gems that are simply unclassifiable.

ELIZABETH GASKELL-“The Old Nurse’s Story” (1852)
Gaskell wrote primarily about social realism, but she also wrote this creepy story.  The set up of this story is fascinating. A nursemaid is telling a story to her new charges.  The story is about their mother–from when the nursemaid used to watch her.  The story seems like one of simple haunting–strange things are afoot at this mansion.  But there’s a lot more going on.  I love the way everyone is so calm about the broken pipe organ playing music day and night.  Way back then, the children’s mother saw a girl outside and went to play with her.  But it was winter and when they found the child, alone, under a tree, there was no evidence of anyone else being there with her.  That’s when we learn the history of this house and the way the owner treated his daughters.  The ending gets a little confusing, but when you unpack it, there’s some wonderful deviance at hand. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANI DIFRANCO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #208 (May 10, 2021).

I was a huge fan of Ani DiFranco when she came out.  I loved her indie style and her cool percussive acoustic guitar playing.  I stopped listening to her when she turned more jazzy/soulful.  Given her vast output, I’ve probably missed about fifteen albums.  Actually, when I looked her up, I see that she has slowed down on her studio output (so it’s only about 9 albums that i haven’t heard).

I thought that perhaps I would enjoy her newer stuff is it was played acoustically lie this.  And I realized I really liked this first song, which I assumed was new.  But, in fact it’s from an album I have.

Ani opened her set with “Everest” from the 1999 album, Up Up Up Up Up Up, a song that for me is about viewing life through different lenses and finding beauty.

I probably haven’t listened to this album in a decade, but this reminded me of why I liked her so much back then.  The melody and her guitar picking style is so expressive and her lyrics, as always are thoughtful.  I love the sound she gets from her guitar too, so rich, with a great low end.

I was actually a little surprised that she played these older songs, because her new album is getting some airplay (around here at least).  But “Not a Pretty Girl” is such an iconic feminist song that it’s always great to hear.

Next, she sings the title track to her 1995 album, Not a Pretty Girl, which shakes the shackles of stereotypes.

She switches to a hollow-bodied electric guitar for this song (with some interesting tuning, I’m guessing).  Again, terrific sound.  What’s interesting is that when she first sang this song, she sang with bite in her voice.  Now, all these years later, the song still resonates, but her delivery is now from a different perspective–she’s seen it all, for far too long and she knows that we all know it.

Ani DiFranco has always done things her way, and for this Tiny Desk (home) concert, she’s a one-woman team, filming and recording herself in the front hall of her New Orleans home and studio, Big Blue. The not-so-tiny desk you see in the hallway was her great grandfather’s. Other personal items seen as we scan her home include a purple painting of a tree by her cousin Jim Mott and a portrait of a woman and ghostly girl by a painter named Renata. At the time of this recording, Ani was planning to move after more than 10 years at Big Blue, so this concert is likely one of the last performances to take place in that space.

She does play a new song, though.

 Her final song for this (home) concert is from her 22nd album and her latest release, Revolutionary Love. The song brings compassion to troubled times by dismissing hatred — or in her words, “To forgive but not forget.” It’s a message that shows the beauty and power of this artist, and her heart.

“Revolutionary Love” brings in guitar number 3, an acoustic guitar with a different sound than the first one.   The song has a great melody and sounds very different from the recorded version.  I much prefer this acoustic version than the produced version that has horns and keys.  I really love the way she plays–using her thumb and fingers in a very distinctive playing style.  Her voice sounds fantastic throughout–with clarity and power

[READ: June 1, 2021] “Commando”

The June 11 issue of the new Yorker had several essays under the heading “Summer Movies.”   Each one is a short piece in which the author (many of whom I probably didn’t know in 2007 but do know now) reflects on, well, summer movies.

Interestingly, this essay is not actually about the movie Commando, but about movies like it.  It’s about when he and his friends would imitate the movies and play “commando” in the woods–they were no doubt validated when Commando was released.

They had the perfect location.

Because, yes the woods behind our house do look like a Central American jungle.  And of course it was the perfect place to reenact scenes from First Blood or Raiders of the Lost Ark–of hunting and being hunted.

Within hours of leaving the theatre, we would put on our fatigues (we called them camos) throw our weapons and accessories in our backpacks, get on our bikes, and ride down to the ravines by the beach.

[I can recall doing just what he says (although not in such a dangerous way)–replicating what we saw in the movies]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MANIC STREET PREACHERS-“Die in the Summertime” (1994).

I really liked the Manic Street Preachers in the late 90s.  Perhaps ironically, I learned about them after the strange disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards, and really liked the first few albums that they put out without him.  I went back and listened to their older stuff later, but I still prefer Everything Must Go.

Nevertheless, The Holy Bible (where this song comes from) is a pretty great album.  And “Die in the Summertime” is really cool.  It opens with tribal drums and a nifty almost Middle Eastern sounding guitar riff.  When it kicks in after a brief intro, it’s more raw and heavy than their later stuff–was that Edwards’ influence?

I listened to this song a few times and will clearly have to dig out The Holy Bible for another listen.

Obviously Edwards looms over the band and clearly looms over this story.

The guitarist vanished on 1 February 1995 and is widely presumed to have taken his own life, but a body was never found and there is no definitive proof that he died by suicide.

[READ: May 31, 2021] The Forevers

This was a fairly simple (and familiar) story, but it was told in a very interesting way.

Ten years ago seven friends (or maybe not friends exactly) made a pact. They performed a ritual asking for fame and fortune.  And it worked.  They have all become very successful.

Each chapter has a title from a song.  The first is “Die in the Summertime” (3:07) [by Manic Street Preachers].

Ten years later we cut to Jamie Ashby–a strung out superstar singer (who looks an awful lot like the Irish guy from Lost, who was also a strung out rock star).  He is in a bad way.

Then we meet Daisy Cates.  She is a successful model,  But the person who takes her home does not have good intentions for her.

I liked the way their two stories paralleled on the same page with a different background wash of color.

Jamie does a show and when an old geezer says he’s washed up, he punches the guy and makes tabloid headlines,  We find out in the next chapter that the geezer was Robert Plant–ha!

Chapter 2 is “The Drugs Don’t Work”  (5:05) [by The Verve]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ChocoQuibTown-Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK: #204/196 (May 2, 2021).

Tiny Desk Meets AFROPUNK was the opening event of AFROPUNK’s “Black Spring” festival. The virtual celebration, hosted by Jorge “Gitoo” Wright, highlighted outstanding talent in Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean music across the globe. Our showcase featured four artists who honored their homes and celebrated the art their heritage has inspired.

 ChocQuibTown–named after the coastal area the trio hails from–is a family affair comprised of siblings Miguel “Slow” Martinez and Gloria “Goyo” Martinez, the latter of which is married to Carlos “Tostao” Valencia. In 2000, the trio formed to promote their neglected corner of Colombia’s culture; today, ChocQuibTown’s music blends the traditionality of Afro-Latin jazz with the modernity of hip-hop to create a singular, yet versatile sound.

They play what I assume is a medley of six songs in fifteen minutes.

“Somos Pacífico” has grooving bass from Braulio Fernández and little horn blasts from José González.

“De Donde Vengo Yo” shifts gears when Tostao starts singing lead the repeated “ah has” from Eignar Renteria and Yaima Saurez are very fun.  Goyo raps and then Slow raps.  Rapping in Spanish has a really nice flow.

“¡Tú sabes!” Carlos “Tostao” Valencia exclaims after Colombian hip-hop trio ChocQuibTown performs its second song, the energetic “De Donde Vengo Yo.” “ChocQuibTown, straight from Colombia, from the Pacific coast,” he says. “We call it Africa inside Colombia, we got the flavor, we got the flow.”

The rest of the songs are much quieter.  “Pa Olvidarte” has soft acoustic guitar from Alejandro García and keys from Daniel Rodríguez “Noize.”  They sing softly in nice harmony.

“Qué Lástima” is another slow ballad, this one sung by Slow, with gentle percussion from Carlos Palm.  “Lo Que Quieras Tú” segues smoothly into “Cuando Te Veo” which is a little bouncier and fun to start but it slows down for Goyo’s vocals.  As the send the song out, Tostao does some sound effects scratching and singing Tiny Desk and blapping.

[READ May 30, 2021] Red Sonja and Vampirella Meet Betty and Veronica

I don’t understand crossovers.  Well, I understand some, when they make sense.  It’s ones like this that I don’t understand.  Did someone just say, Wouldn’t it be cool if Red Sonja and Vampirella teamed up and went to Riverdale?  I guess so.  And sometimes the most ridiculous crossovers make the best stories.

Amy Chu wrote this story with Alexander Chang’s assistance on book 5.

Now, I don’t watch Riverdale, but I know the show.  So obviously this isn’t old school Betty and Veronica.  But neither, I don’t think, is it Riverdale-based either (or maybe it is).  I’ve also never read Red Sonja or Vampirella books.  So really this crossover event is not for me.

And yet, I did enjoy it.

The book opens with a teacher getting killed and then a shot of Red Sonja and Vampirella in the woods.  Now, I realize that these two characters were created by men, and that’s why they are dressed as they are.   Red Sonja could not be dressed more impractically for fighting as she is wearing a hooded cape and a chain mail bikini.  I mean, the absurdity of dressing like that for combat is monumental.  The cape alone would cause her no end of grief.  Vampirella is at least wearing clothes–a cleavage enhancing skin tight tank top and super low cut off jeans.  But hey, she’s a seductress, right?

I guess I was surprised that Amy and artist Maria Laura Sanapo would keep these costumes. But they do need to establish the characters traditionally first, right?  It was a nice surprise when a few pages later, Betty & Veronica (who aren’t at all disturbed by a woman in a chain mail bikini with a large sword) invite them over and dress them in regular clothes (still sexy) so they blend in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD plays Nothingface (streamed May 31, 2021).

When I saw Voivod a few years ago, I was delighted with how good they sounded.  I only wished they’d played a few more songs from my favorite album of theirs, Nothingface.

Well, here it is, mid lockdown and the Voivod guys have answered my request.  They are going to play the entire Nothingface album live.

Over two days in May they recorded the entire album live–an album that all four of them had to learn all over again.  Some songs they had never played live.  And, of course two of the guys were not in the ban when Nothingface came out.   Indeed, bassist Rocky was only 15 and guitarist Chewy was only 13 when the album was released.  [It’s not that weird, singer Snake was about 25 at the time].

It could have been a disaster (but they wouldn’t have aired it, I’m sure).  But if you’re going to replace a unique composer like Piggy, who better to use than the kid who has been a fan of Piggy since he was 13?  Chewy gets Piggy and has even written tab books for all of Voivod’s albums–showing all of the complex and bizarre stuff that Piggy created.  Rocky actually acknowledged Chewy’s books as what helped him to learn the songs (even though he played the album every day for a year when it came out).

They did not play this in front of people.  Rather, they played in a studio.  But director Catherine Deslauriers designed the studio to project images behind the band as they played. It doesn’t feel quite like a Voivod show since they interact with the audience so much, but it feels very live.

From the opening chord of “The Unknown Knows,” this show was amazing.  The sound was fantastic–I was especially impressed with how great the drums sounded.  I don’t think I ever realized what a beast Away was on the kit.  Rocky’s bass sounded awesome and Chewy’s guitar parts were spot on.  Snake’s vocals sound pretty good too considering he’s thirty years older.  His voice is unique in metal–that thick accent and slight growl–and it’s all in place.  When Chewy hit that screaming bent note and the song paused then jumped into the next part, it was magical.  And when Chewy played those crazy chords in the section after it I knew the whole thing would be great.  Oh, and Rocky’s bass sound during the end part was perfect.

The only thing was that they didn’t play the coda to the song, but really, that’s quite alright.  They had to move on to “Nothingface.”  The jump from the angular sharp parts to the catchy “lapse of time/syncho-freeze” is just so good.  An I really enjoyed watched Snake sing the “Cold cold choke cold” part.

Before “Astronomy Domine, there was a brief interview with Snake.  He talks about how he didn’t want to do a cover, especially someone as big a Pink Floyd.  He also jokes about how hard it was to learn the harmonies–it was like Spinal Tap. But Piggy knew what he was doing.

And the harmonies with the new guys sound perfect.  They had been playing this on the tour that I saw them, but my show was a little shorter because it was three bands so they didn’t play it.

It segues perfectly in the opening bass notes of “Missing Sequence.”  It’s a cool slow moody intro before snake shouts NOW!  The harmonies on this song are so good and the way it jumps from this chugging heavy part to the staccato “down down, far underground” is tremendous.  Away’s alternating double bass is a great component.  There’s another great place for Rocky’s bass to sound fantastic.

Rocky speaks before “X-Ray Mirror.”  He speaks only in French and talks about seeing the Nothingface tour when he was 15 and just loving it.  He even took a promotional poster and had Snake sign it years later when they met.

I love the jazzy riff in the middle of the song and the thrashing double bass drum–Away’s drumming is just outstanding in this song.  Followed by the resolutely King Crimson chords  and the great fast thrashing section with the funky bass line and the wild solo

“Inner Combustion” has a striking ascending guitar riff that leads to the heavier section of the song. The distinctive snare blasts between each verse is such a distinctive aspect.

Chewy interviews before “Pre-Ignition” and he talks about how the album was the soundtrack to his teenage years.  He was 13 for this, his first show.  He was shorter than everyone but pushed forward and stood by the speakers until he got pushed back by the mosh pit.  he also mentions a launch party that aired on Solidrock.

Chewy studied contemporary composers in a course.  He was listening to a song and said “woah Stravinsky stole something from Voivod.”  Strange chords and time changes.  There’s even middle eastern harmonic minors.   Those orchestral guitar parts are so cool and very dramatic.  There’s really harsh chords and Away going nuts on the drums.   I always like the vaguely Middle Eastern part “ground and rock and sand come crumbling tumbling down.”

Away introduces “Into My Hypercube.”  He says whenever we go on tour I like to buy scientific magazines to read on the road.  In the 80s it was Omni and Discover.  He came upon an article about scientists representing visually a cube in 9 dimensions.  He and Snake had a chat trying to imagine living in a hypercube in a 9 dimensional building and he wrote these lyrics.

Away says that this song reminds him of “Remember Tomorrow” from Iron Maiden–his favorite metal album.

You can hear that in the slow echoing bass opening.   I love the way it goes angular and harsh and segues perfectly into the more catchy mosh part followed by a really heavy pounding section before a ripping guitar solo.  And once again Rocky’s great bass sound ends the song.

The show ends with “Sub-Effect” a song that builds dramatically into a pounding bridge and has a complicated riff that jumps into the “too late for SOS” funky bass and unusual guitar melody.  The show fades to black on yet another of Piggy’s bizarre but wonderful chords.

In a couple of weeks they are playing all of Dimension Hatross, and album I don’t know as well.  Bu I have time to learn it.

[READ: May 30, 2021] Redfork

I had just read a couple of violent and bloody graphic novels when I picked up this one.  The cover alone is pretty gruesome.  And I thought, what is it with stories that need to be so gory?  I don’t have an answer for that.

Then the story opens on a couple of hicks trying to steal drugs from the doctor’s office.  I have little time for stories of meth addicts, so that combined with the gore, meant that this story had a long way to go to engage me.

And yet it did.

Because it went places I never would have expected.

When the two boys were stealing drugs, the doctor walked in on them and one of the boys got scared and killed him.  The story jumps to six years later when Noah is getting out of prison.  He is huge–been working out the whole time, clearly.  His best friend D-Ray is there to pick him up.

I don’t know who storyboarded this book.  Maybe it artist Nil Vendrell, but he did some really cool things.  I love on one of the early pages as they are driving back home, the car stays in the middle of the frame but the scenes change around it and in the white borders there’s random townsfolk–showing everything Noah sees.  It’s very effective.

As is a later page that runs clockwise–counter to all graphic novel reading.  But it’s done with such a great purpose and effectively conveys a moment of two people at a distance from each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAERV-Vol 2 (2014).

Jaerv is a folk group from Sweden who I happened to see live at a Scandinavian Festival several years ago.  I’m impressed that ScanFest was able to get a band to come over from Sweden (unless they were doing a tour in the area anyway).

Their folk music is very traditional, meaning, to me it sounds like folk music from a lot of other countries as well (Ireland, for instance).  But there are some distinctions.  In particular the use of the nyckelharpa, an instrument that I’d never heard of but which is very cool.

The band consists of five musicians Joel Hagen: flute (flöjt), whistles, soprano saxophone (sopransaxofon) and ewi an electronic musical instrument); Anders Bergsten: double bass (kontrabass) and nyckelharpa; Harald Nilsson: guitars (gitarrer); Markus Gustavsson: fiddle (fiol) and lead vocals (sång); Tobias Hedlund: drums (trummer), percussion (slagverk), pedal organ (tramporgel), vibraphone (vibrafon).  They all sing harmony vocals (kör).

There’s eleven songs on the album, most of them around five minutes long.  It’s hard to distinguish them (which isn’t a criticism, it’s just the nature of the music).

“Vårfloden” (5:01) is an instrumental with lots of violin and flute.  “Två Rörospolser” (4:13) is very traditional sounding with lots of flute and whistle.  “Dansen Ungdom” (5:30) has lyrics.  Gustavsson sings in a deeper voice.  The song has a nice, lengthy flute instrumental jam at the end with an excellent four (or five) part harmony that sounds amazing.

“Av Himlens Höjd” (4:13) has nice vocals and harmonies,  The song is quite grooving and there’s some amazing a capella vocals at the end–the bass voice is particularly noteworthy.  “Johannas Brudmarsch” (4:46) is a slow fiddle tune.

“S:T Örjan & Draken” pushes the length to 8:04.  There’s a slow opening with bells chiming.  There’s complex, quiet singing and guitar.  The tempo picks up but retreats until half way through when it changes into a stomping, intense song with a wild flute solo.

“E4:An” (3:46) seems like it will be kind of heavy with the opening chords, but they just work as a low bass for the lovely fiddling and then some lovely whistle.  I like the time change mis song.  “Rosa-Lill” is another short one at 2:56.  It’s a bouncy folk song with flute melodies and nyckelharpa throughout.  “Rocken Snurrar” (3:21) starts a capella with the harmonies creating the music while the lead vocal sings.  Then they harmonize in the chorus.  This one is super catchy with great vocal harmonizing and surprising glockenspiel solo.

“Slängpolska” (4:56) is an instrumental jam with lots of fiddle and flute.  I like the percussion throughout.  “Tre Engelskor” (5:02) ends the album very traditionally with some ripping violins.

I met the guys after the show and they were all very nice.  They signed my CD which is always a nice thing to do.

You can hear the whole album here.

[READ: May 29, 2021] Gung-Ho

This is one of a few books by Ablaze Publishing that I read recently.

I really enjoyed Thomas von Kummant’s art style.  The pages looked very painterly, with cool washes of colors and juxtapositions of colors rather than shading.  The characters were also almost entirely distinctive *there are a lot of characters).  There were one or two who looked a little to alike, but for the most part this heavily populated story was very easy to follow who was who.

Set somewhere in Europe (I wondered if this was written in German–I don’t see a translator, but he does live in Munich [UPDATE: according to a catalog record, the book was translated from the French by Ivanka Hahnenberger]), we come upon an outpost.  It is heavily guarded.  The people are heavily armed and they all kook pretty dirty.

Cut to a train hauling cargo and two teenage boys, Archie and Zack on top wearing prison orange.  They were kicked out of their orphanage and sent here.  If they can’t make it here, they are on their own.

The town has a strict hierarchy and strict rules for safety. All provisions are divvied out based on need and on who kills the most (we don’t know what they’re hunting, yet).  We also see that the guy who divvies out the provisions isn’t above getting himself some teenage girl action for extra supplies (ew).

Indeed, many people in town have a problem with him, but he was sent by the military and is above questioning.

There are 400 people living here including many teenagers.  The boys almost all follow this one leader who is a jerk.  There are a few who don’t follow him and one in particular befriends Zack.  There’s also a bunch of girls who seem to hang out together and maybe or maybe not fool around with the bad boys. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-The Ripper at the Heaven’s Gates of Dark (2011).

I’m not sure why this era of AMT seems so readily available on CD, but this is another collection of songs from the lineup of Tsuyama Atsushi – monster bass, voice, soprano sax, cimpo flute, soprano recorder, acoustic guitar, cosmic joker Higashi Hiroshi – synthesizer, dancin’king Shimura Koji – drums, latino cool Kawabata Makoto – electric guitar, electric bouzouki, sitar, organ, percussion, electronics, speed guru.

It has 5 songs and comes in at just around 75 minutes.

The album titles tend to be amusing twists on classic rock albums (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn), but usually the music doesn’t sound all that classic rock.  But on this album, they changed that.

“Chinese Flying Saucer” is 12 minutes long and opens with a kind of siren sound going high then low and then a big old guitar riff launches.   It feels like a classic rock riff, but it is original.  When Tsuyama starts singing, the whole thing comes together like a Led Zeppelin tribute.  The riff is classic Zep the vocals (indecipherable as they are) are tally Robert Plant–echoed and high pitched with lots of moaning. There’s even a “Kashmir”-like riff in the middle.  It’s remarkably fun and really accessible.  The big non-Zeppelin moment comes with Kawabata’s solo which is just insanity.

After about four minutes the song shifts gears and takes off for outer space with rumbling bass and soaring keys.  They jam for about five minutes and then return to the initial riff to end the song.

“Chakra 24” is only four minutes long and is a slower sitar based song with raspy vocals.  It’s quite pretty.

But the brevity is soon gone with the fifteen minute “Back Door Man Of Ghost Rails Inn.”  It’s a slow droney song with sitar and lots of keys.  This time when Tsuyama starts singing it’s in a very Jim Morrison style–ponderous and over the top.  There’s even a spoken word part.  Imagine in Morrison’s voice “some people coming here… some people coming here and…” There’s some wild organ trippiness in this song that stretched in ways The Doors never did.

The cleverly titled “Shine on You Crazy Dynamite” is almost 22 minutes long and sounds like old school pink Floyd.  Not “Crazy Diamond” era, but earlier, more like “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”  Kawabata’s solos really shine on this one, with squeaky echoes and a metal bars slide up the neck.  The keyboards also sound like Richard Wright.   After 17 minute or so off wild guitar freak out, the guitar fades back a bit to let the pulsing bass take over with the echoing voices continuing to the end.

“Electric Death Mantra” is a twenty minute chill out.  It’s a slower piece with lots of high pitched spacey notes floating around, which Kawabata plays bouzouki and Tsuyama sigs (in his normal style).  With about eight minutes left things get really quiet with a quiet rumbling drums and echoed sounds and notes from the guitar while overdubbed vocals chant and chant.  Then it slowly starts to build up again, with faster and faster bouzouki and Kawabata’s wailing solo.

[READ: May 25, 2021] Rogue Planet

Oni Press was one of my favorite young imprints when I first started reading graphic novels.  Then I lost track of it.  So I was pleased to see this book from them.

I was a little turned off by it because it happened to be one of several books I brought home that just seemed to revel in blood and guts (was there a run on red ink recently?)

The book turned out to be (totally gross) interesting.  And I was pleased with the way it handled a somewhat complicated story in one volume.

The book opens on the rogue planet.  Life on the planet consists of a bunch of ET- looking creatures.  The older one speaks to its son, complimenting him on his intelligence before sacrificing him to the giant crystal that is growing out of the ground.  The giant crystal, which is covered in and surrounded by flesh and eyes and teeth and all kinds of gross stuff.  It’s really horrible-looking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILAL HASSANI-“Roi” (France, Eurovision Entry, 2019).

I was going to be done with Eurovision, but then I read this graphic novel.  And since it was called Paris 2119, it seemed worth tying it to the 2019 French Eurovision entry.

This song is a remarkably powerful ballad sung in both English and French.  It opens with a quiet piano melody as Bilal sings

I am me
And I know I will always be
Je suis free oui, j’invente ma vie
Ne me demandez pas qui je suis

The pre chorus turns minor

You put me in a box, want me to be like you
Je suis pas dans les codes, ça dérange beaucoup
At the end of the day you cannot change me, boo!
Alors laisse-moi m’envoler

but the chorus swells.

I’m not rich but I’m shining bright
I can see my kingdom now
Quand je rêve, je suis un roi

I like the restraint Bilal shows in the chorus, downplaying potential soaring notes with dramatic effect  The second time through the song is bigger, but again, they are downplaying their singing until they comes to the last line

Moi je les cala pas, you can never remove my crown

When they show off what a powerful voice they have by holding that “crown” for an extended note.

The first listen through I thought the song was okay, but a second listen revealed quite a great song.  I am pretty surprised this came all the way down in 16th place.

[READ: May 27, 2021] Paris 2119

I saw this book at work and wanted to read it.  The cover was quite dramatic.  This book was written by Zep and translated by Mike Kennedy.

The story is quite simple.  Possibly too simple.  But its very compelling.

The book opens on Tristan Keys as he heads into the Metro.  He is scanned by a face recognition drone.  The subway is virtually empty asides from tourists, junkies and woman who looks like she is totally zombied out.  She sits next to Tristan and drools.

He arrives at his girlfriend Kloé’s apartment–she is very glamorous.  They have sex and discuss the possibility of having a baby.  But Kloé dismisses it saying that was how babies were born before–not anymore.  But maybe one day they can request a reproduction visa.

Kloé prepares to leave. She is off to Beijing to meet with clients.  She tells him to be careful while she’s gone.  His latest text post has his boss calling him in for a talk about his future as a writer.

When Kloé leaves she climbs in the Transcore machine–a teleportation device that everyone uses.  Tristan will be walking–he says he’ll never get in one of those contraptions. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENDRIK-“I Don’t Feel Hate” (Germany, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I couldn’t really leave Eurovision without mention the German entry which raised lots of eyebrows with its dancing foam middle  finer.

The melody is very catchy–reminds me a lot of Wham or a George Michael song except he’s playing it on the ukulele.  After a quick clapped beat, the bass kicks in.

The song is pretty over the top in terms of everything, but his heart is so on his sleeve that I 100% support his message of tolerance.

So you can wiggle with that middle finger, it’ll never wiggle back to you

And then came the big surprise.  He sings “I don’t feel”  and the song explodes with orchestral hits.  It turns into a big dance party and then ends as quickly as it started.

There’s a middle section that begins

I really don’t mind (ah, ah-ah) to be your rival (ah-ah, ah-ah)
‘Cause for your kind it’s essential for survival (say what? He did not just say that)
Yes, I did (yes, I did), and I feel sorry (so sorry)
I don’t feel hate, that’s the whole point of this song (that’s the song)

and then segues into a twenties-era melody with muted trumpets and very fast vocals:

I guess you need patronization as some kind of validation
You won’t cope with the frustration that your random me-fixation
Is another affirmation that you’re just a hateful person
Who’s not really better than me

Then comes a muted trumpet solo which toes in perfectly to the following, yes, tap dance break.

Jandrik really couldn’t have put anything more into this song.  It is so over the top, so very much too much, and I really like it. The foam middle finger is crazy cheesy though, which fits pretty well.

The actual video though is quite well produced–his extras are really excellent.

[READ: May 21, 2021] “How I Spent the War”

Do you want to know what went through the mind of a Nazi as World War II was ending?

Well, this essay by author Günter Grass–whom I have never read although I have often intended to–tells you.

When he was fifteen, living in Danzig, he volunteered for active duty.  This was not youthful folly.  He wanted to support his country and his Führer–he offers no excuses.

He had been serving in the Luftwaffe auxiliary–a group of boys too young to be conscripted.  It was compulsory but many viewed it as a respite from school routine.

They felt like they were guarding the front line–the last line of defense before Germany was destroyed.  They were allowed to go home every two weeks but Grass’ home wasn’t great.  He hated his father–probably because his father was a peace loving man.

So he would watch the newsreels and revel in videos of Germany’s subs returning victorious.

He volunteered to serve on a submarine, was rejected–they had too many volunteers and he was too young.  He was later called up for Labor Service like everyone his age–three months active duty—giving up the chic Luftwaffe uniform for Labor Service’s shit brown. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAMES NEWMAN-“Embers” (England, Eurovision Entry 2021).

.Eurovision 2021 is over and the big news (aside from drug-taking accusations against the winner) is that the entry from England received zero.  Nul points.

This is not unique, but it’s not something that anybody wants.  It’s actually better to not make the finals than to make the finals and get nul points, because no one is going to forget that.

So just how bad was “embers?”

I’m not going to defend the song, because I would never listen to it on purpose–it’s not my thing.  But by the same token I can think of a lot of songs that are much worse than this.

This song is just kind of bland.  It thinks its big and catchy with the horns and the “light up the ROOM!” line.  But really it just doesn’t do much.  I could see this song playing in a club and people would dance to it and then forget it.  No one would ask who it was or request it again.

And maybe that’s worth nothing.

[READ: May 26, 2021] 52 Times Britain was a Bellend

Bellend is such a great insult and it is exclusive to Britain, which is a shame.

Also a shame is just how terrible Britain as a country has been throughout history.

Obviously any global superpower is going to be dickish–you get power by crushing others.  You could write this same book about the United States and cover just the last four years.

But Felton, whom I’ve never heard of before, but who is apparently a huge Twitter presence, narrowed history down to 52 (one a week) examples of Britain being absolutely horrible (and somehow managing to make it funny).

How did he decide on these events?  Well, they are judged by today’s standards (saying “I’m from the past” is no excuse).

What you’ll get here is a good overview of fun and horrifying times when we were cartoonishly evil, from a comedian just as appalled as you are about what shits it turned out we were in the past.

Most of the terrible behavior involves other countries.  Like starting wars with China because they wouldn’t buy British opium.  Or making Zanzibar pay for the bombs that Britain dropped on  them. (more…)

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