Archive for the ‘Western’ Category


King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard clearly didn’t set out to top the charts. After the frenetic fun of 12 Bar Bruise, their follow up is this–a spoken word “Western” musical.  Stu Mackenzie says that after recording “Sam Cherry’s Last Shot” with Broderick Smith, he wanted to try a “multi-song, read-along, narrative based western musical” and Brod was keen to write a story and narrate it.

The music is impressively “Western.”   Right out of the gates, you feel the reverbed guitars and sound effects of gun shots.  Repeating motifs abound and there is an amazing amount of restraint.  Plus, the songs (which don’t really follow the story chapters) are quite different from each other (all within the same Western motif). “Year of Our Lord” builds some real suspense.  While “The Raid” adds some surf guitars.

You can also hear his parents’ dogs barking in “The Killing Ground” and his dad banging on a rusted saw blade, which you can hear in “The Raid.”

“Drum Run” is, indeed, very drum heavy with distant echoing harmonica.

And then there is the story.  A story of a man who is feared as a legend.

The bad white men call him the devil the Yavapai call him Eyes Like the Sky.

Miguel O’Brien was kidnapped from his white family when he was five years old.  He became a fearless Yavapai Apache warrior.

The American Civil had not encroached on Apache territory.  But ten years later, the Americans brought their war to Apache land.  They were

Led by a man holding a leather book with a cross stamped in the leather.  An evil man who did terrible  things to people in the name of a god that looked upon the man himself with revulsion

The music for this track is called “Evil Man” and between the Western riff and the backing “ahahas,” it’s got gunslinger all over it.

The Americans killed the Apache, but he was spared because of his blue eyes.  But once more family he loved had been killed–this time by Americans.

The god man thought he might be from the O’Brien family or maybe the Jebsen family.  So they named him Jebsen O’Brien but they called him “blue” because of his eyes and his expression.  A trapper taught him white man’s ways so that he could read and write and also learned to use a gun.

The god man was a truly evil man–“satisfying his goat lust with a Yavapei girl.”  Seeing this defilement, Blue swiftly killed him. Then he took guns, money and the defiled girl and fled from the Fort.  The two of them happened upon a scene of death–white men killing white men but disguised as Apache.

I’ll not spoil the ending but the final two songs are “Dust in the Wind” (not that one) and “Guns & Horses.”   “Dust in the Wind” is a stomping song that presages death–of many.  “Guns & Horses” ends the story–all too early in my opinion.  While Eyes Like the Sky’s story comes to a satisfying conclusion, I want to hear more.

With a cool soundtrack.

Incidentally, the soundtrack is far more grown up than the graphic novel.

[READ: February 5, 2019] Knife’s Edge

I didn’t realize that these two books made up the Four Points series (I didn’t know there was a series title until I looked this book up].  But it is nice to see that this book ends the story.  And it ends it very well.

This book opens with the explanation of what happened to Alex and Cleo’s father when he left them on their own.  He went off to do a (supposedly) simple job down at the docks.  But while he is aboard a ship he is attacked by Lucky Worley.  Turns out Worley knew that Mr Dodge had the pocket watch and pocket knife–the clues that will lead him to the treasure he wants so badly.  It also turns out that he doesn’t know about Alex and Cleo.  So he hijacks Mr Dodge and takes him aboard his ship.   We also learn that Dodge isn’t their father–which we knew from how young the babies were when he received them, but the kids didn’t.  He doesn’t know who their real father was.

Worley had caught word of them through their involvement in the Black Hook gang and he deduced that they had the map pieces.  So their lives were now in danger.  And that’s pretty much where book one began. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANSON FOR THE HOLIDAYS-Tiny Desk Concert #686 (December 18, 2017).

The Hanson Tiny Desk Concert back in October ended with them saying “See you for Christmas everybody.”  And, lo, here they are.

But it turns out that Christmas was in October this year.

During the break, the NPR crew set up the Tiny Desk to look like Christmas.  Two of the three (why not all three?) brothers even wear Christmas sweaters.

They play three Christmas songs.  Two originals and one “traditional” medley.

The two originals are rocking, very piano heavy (the pianist does a LOT of sliding down the keyboard as they rock n toll out).

“Finally, It’s Christmas” is fun and bouncy song that I imagine we’ll hear a lot next year.

“To New Year’s Night” is a very conventional rock n roll song about a North Pole Party.  The guitarist with his gruffer voice (and no sweater) sings this song about needing a toddy for hid body (since I think of Hasnon as being 8-12 years old (although they obviously aren’t), it’s weird to hear them singing about drinking.  It’s a pretty standard rocker, they even quote “da do ron ron.”  After rocking out, they comment “Can anyone saw ‘sweat”ers.”  Since it is obviously not Christmastime.

It has been 20 years since their first Christmas record.  So they decided it was time to do a new one.  While they are talking Bob starts blowing snow all over them.  This leads to them singing “Joy to the Mountain” an a capella mash up of “Joy to the World” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”  They sin the melody in a non traditional way.  Their harmonies are really good even if I don’t care for their delivery.

2017 has been a pretty strange (mostly bad) year.  I never would have guessed I’d be watching two Tiny Desk Concerts with Hanson (and more or less enjoying both of them).

[READ: December 25, 2017] “A Chaparral Christmas Gift”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection. (more…)

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Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #577 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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varmintsSOUNDTRACK: HANGEDUP & TONY CONRAD-Transit of Venus [091] (2016).

conradHangedUp & Tony Conrad have the third of three discs released as part of Constellation’s Musique Fragile 02 set. From the Constellation site: Transit Of Venus documents this fertile collaboration and includes some enormous slabs of drone rock alongside more decomposed pieces and gorgeously gritty string duos.  [[The performers] recently plunged back into the archives and started shaping an album from the various 2-track and live-mixed [improvisations and] multi-track source material.

“Flying Fast n Furious” has clattering percussion and squeaky violins.  There’s some fast drumming and violin playing in the middle with a great wobbly low bass around.   About 4 minutes in the sounds are almost otherworldly/underwatery.  “Transit Of Venus” has the return of that low wobbly bass—big round fat bass notes that just seem to linger as the drums clatter away.  The sawing violin is a little less interesting than I’d like, however.  “Principles” features a buzzy violin that scratches over the interesting drum pattern.  After a minute or so some strange sounds percolate under the drone.  The sounds are mechanical, organic, (balloons?) digital—unclear.  It’s 8 minutes long and there’s a few moments when the big bass notes come in that are very cool.  In the last minute or so a new violin solo comes out of the din but it doesn’t alter the tone of the song all that much

“Bright Arc Of Light” is 4 minutes of slow bowed and plucked violins.  It’s quite minimal.  “Gentil The Unlucky Astronomer ” is 11 minutes long and it starts with multi layered violins.  It sounds a bit like The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” and after 2 minute the slow drums come in.  Once the drums enter, the song stays mostly the same—sawing violins and a steady drums with some other occasional percussion.  It’s very droney.  Around 6 minutes things change slightly and the song becomes more insistent.  It continues like this for most of the rest of the song and then ends with some solo violins.  The final track is “Panorama From Maxwell Montes” which opens with some dissonant scratchy violins.  The drums come in and start playing an intersection complex rhythm making this a good album closer.

fragileMusique Fragile Volume 02 is the second in our series of limited-edition, artwork-intensive box sets featuring three full-length albums by three different artists, available on heavyweight vinyl and as a digital bundle. The vinyl set will be limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, lovingly designed and hand-assembled.

[READ: November 1, 2016] Varmints

I really enjoyed the drawing style in this book.  The main characters were cute and cartoony and yet the backgrounds were reasonably realistic looking.  It really conveyed the setting (the old west, I guess) effectively.

However, I had a huge problem with the story.  The book felt like it was part 2, but to the best of my knowledge it isn’t.  There just seemed to be huge gaps in the story that were never filled in.  Not to mention, this is supposed to be a children’s story, but we find out (very late in the story) that the childrens’ mother was killed in cold blood–more or less on a whim.  It’s a shocking piece of violence which I suppose little kids can handle but, woah, what the hell, dude?

The story begins with Opie and Ned in a saloon.  They are young kids, Opie is Ned’s older sister–a joke is made about Opie being a weird name for a girl, but sadly, nothing more comes of that.  Opie is holding her own in a game of cards but Ned is bored and keeps interrupting the game as annoying little brother will do.

Ned says he wants a hat, and since no one will give him one, he climbs a mountain of a man (he’s so tall we can’t see his face and he is wearing a full-sized bear as a cloak of some sort) and takes the hat off of him.  Chaos ensues, the hat flies off (and gets two holes in it) and the kids wind up stealing the giant man’s horse and taking off. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GREEN DAY-21st Century Breakdown (2009).

Like most people who like Green Day, I’ve been a fan since Dookie.  They were incredibly poppy (although they wrote great punk riffs) and they sang about weird, kind of subversive things.  And they got huge really fast.  Of course since then they have become one of the most commercially successful bands in America (including having their song picked for the ending scene of the Seinfeld montage–jeez).

And yet….

And yet, American Idiot, their previous album was one of  the most anti-establishment records of the last twenty years. (True it’s not hard to be Anti-Bush if you’re a punk band, but wow.)  And yet, it was a concept album and even a rock opera of sorts.  And it still sold millions.

And now American Idiot has been made into a freaking Broadway Musical.  And yet, how many Broadway shows (or top twenty albums for that matter) have lyrics like “The insurgency will rise when the blood’s been sacrificed.  Don’t be blinded by the lies in your eyes”

And so Green Day confounds me.  And yet, if I were younger and cared more about “keeping it real” I think they’d confuse me even more because although musically they have sold out (if you want to call it that), lyrically Billie Joe is still pretty true to his punk roots.  And, of course, even the punkest bands seem to go commercial eventually (Combat Rock anyone?)

Of all the Green Day CD’s I think I like this least.  And yet I really applaud them for writing an album that so easily translates to Broadway (not an easy feat in itself) (this disc would make better Broadway than American Idiot).  I think I dislike this disc not because it’s so unpunk, but because I think musically it’s really obvious (and although I like musicals, I prefer classic musicals to contemporary ones).  And yet, most of Green Day’s music is pretty obvious.  I guess I prefer my obvious music to have a harder egde.

And yet Act III is full of some really great aggressive punk songs: “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” is just fantastic.  And in Act II, “Peacemaker has a great construction, all spaghetti Western and whatnot.  And in the first act, the title song has multiple parts that all work well together.  It’s a pretty sophisticated song.  And who can fault Billie Joe for expanding his songwriting skills?  Like the Tin Pan Alleyesque opening of “¿Viva La Gloria? (Little Girl).”

In interviews, Billie Joe comes across as a maturing artist who is influenced by more diverse styles of music.  I always wonder what the other two guys think.  Should your name still be Tre Cool if you’re no longer writing songs about getting high and masturbating?

And yet…and yet…ad astra.

[READ: Week of June 18, 2010] Letters of Insurgents [Second Letters]

There’s been a lot of discussion over at Insurgent Summer (and here) about the first week’s reading.  Very exciting!  And with so much revealed and so many accusations flying this week, no doubt more will continue.

Many people have been wondering exactly what Yarostan could have meant in first letter when he said he barely remembered Sophia.  When he replies in this letter, he claims that “I now remember you as if I had been with you only yesterday” (29).  There are two ways to take this: first, as a positive; however, it can also be read as the way I take it: Oh, RIGHT, you’re THAT person, still.  And this is pretty well confirmed by the second paragraph: “I admit that I once shared the illusion your letter celebrates” (29). (more…)

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walrusjuly SOUNDTRACK: MOXY FRÜVOUS-You Will Go to The Moon (1997).

moonMoxy Früvous’ fourth disc is their most well-rounded. It runs a full gamut of styles from pop to silly to ragga and a capella.

“Michigan Militia” begins the disc with a banjo-fueled rap about well, the Michigan Militia. It is topical, (meaning dated, although I suppose they are still around) and takes a pointed look at right-wingers. “Get in the Car” is upbeat and poppy, an R.E.M.-type alterna-rock song. “Ive Gotta Get a Message to You” is a Bee Gees cover! And it is as catchy as the Bee Gees can be (although far less disco-y).

“Lazlo’s Career” is a smooth folksy acoustic track with fun interstitial bits.
There’s some mellow tracks in the middle, until “No No Raja” breaks out some cool middle eastern sounds. “The Incredible Medicine Show” is a great psychedelic-Beastlesesque song about plastic surgery and other quick fixes. Catchy and pointed.

Meanwhile, “Your New Boyfriend” is fast paced and great (“Your new boyfriends a bit…of a right wing shit”). “Kick in the Ass” is hilarious barbershop (with drums) song about people who deserve a kick in the ass (telemarketers calling during supper, that guy who wrote the book about the bell curve). “Boo Time” is a jazzy fast paced bit of nonsense.

“Love Set Fire” would be the closest to “The Drinking Song” or “Gulf War Song” (from Bargainville), but doesn’t quite reach the majesty of those masterpieces. And finally, the title track is a full a capella treat about futuristic life on the moon.

There’s a funny thread on Amazon reviews about this disc being anti-American.  Yet really the only people who should be offended by “Michigan Militia” is the Michigan Militia.  It’s not anti-USA it’s anti-creepy-right-wing-separatists.  Plus, listen to all of the US fans singing along to it on Live Noise.

[READ: June 24, 2009] “The True Sorrows of Calamity Jane”

This story is the final of the four stories in The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue.  This one is described as a Western, although it’s only a Western in that it is set in the West and concerns Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok.  Now, I don’t know a single thing about these two characters, historically.

Did they date?  Beats me.  But in this story they did. And the narrator is the offspring of Calamity Jane (but not Wild Bill).  (more…)

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