Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Question of the Day

How long until Bush declares that Hurricane Katrina came from Venezuela, and our intelligence tells us that Hugo Chavez has stockpiles of hurricanes in reserve that pose an immediate threat?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Spittin' Wicked Randomness Vol. 3

Set your tivo for these movies on Turner Classic Movies over the next week:

Wednesday (Bogart day):
3pm: In A Lonely Place. Very good, low-key noir with Bogart as a suspected killer. The story is toned down from the book, and actually ends up being more interesting for it.
Starting at 5pm: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, High Sierra!

1:30pm: Dark of the Sun (1968): this seems like the kind of war movie you'd have seen on TBS or HBO in the 80s, but it utterly kick ass. Read Harry Knowles' characteristically raving, drooling review here!
10:45pm: Baby Face (1933): Early Barbara Stanwyck fucks her way to the top! One of her coolest roles.
8:30am: Caroon Alley: obscure British cartoons.

3am: Orson Welles' Othello(1952). Never seen this.
9:30am: Palm Beach Story (1942): Preston Sturges' wackiest screwball comedy.
9pm: The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1927): This is really awesome. An animated feature that predates Snow White by, what, 6 years? It's this weird animation made from silhouettes, and it's based on some Arabian Nights story.

2:30am: More cartoons!
3:00am: The Lost World (1925). Silent film with stop-motion effects by Willis O'Brien, a precursor to King Kong with lots of stop-motion dinosaurs. A Brontosaurus brought back to London wreaks havoc.
4:45am: I Walked With A Zombie (1943). Amazing noir cinematography, exotic Haitian setting, voodoo zombies, and the constant pulse of voodoo drums on the soundtrack. One of my favorite horror films. The fact that Jacques Tourneur is better known for Out of the Past is proof that genre-snobbery still exists among critics.
1pm: A Touch of Evil (1958). The greatest film noir ever.
3pm: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
10:45pm: Metropolis (1927). Art Deco Sci Fi.

2:45pm: The Loved One (1965). Bizzarre dark comedy about the funeral industry, screenplay adapted from Evelyn Waugh's novel by Terry Southern. Fucking Great.

Now, how about a few Library CD reviews?

The Black Crowes - Lions: I haven't listened to these guys since their second album, and I don't know anything about the three albums that followed it. But this is awesome. They got all heavy 'n shit. Guitar-heavy psychedelic rock with some really good songs. I thought the guitar was doing some weird toggle-switch stuff at the beginning of the first track, but it turned out it was just the CD-Rom content trying to open at the same time, causing the CD to stutter. But then the second track DOES open with some weird toggle-switch effect, which I thought was the CD fucking up some more!

The Real Bahamas in Music and Song: This is the strangest thing I got. It's recordings (mostly of the same half-dozen singers in different combinations) of Bahamanian folk singers doing gospel songs (there are two songs about sailing, the rest is traditional American gospel) in a strange vocal style. The back-up singers basically repeat a chorus, over which a high-pitched front singer improvs. Joseph Spence, whom I've heard a little of before, is on this. He sings in an even weirder style, usually in the background (although he has a couple solos), that sounds like a gutteral groan. It's not what you would expect Bahamanian music to sound like, exactly, but it is amazing stuff.

James Brown - Live at the Apollo 1995: This unfortunately is not the album that has Al Sharpton doing a 5-minute introduction. Damn.

Vanilla Fudge: These guys are no Blue Cheer, but then Blue Cheer are no Blue Cheer (Vincebus Eruptum really only has two decent songs). I guess it's an unfair comparison, I'd just always thought of them together. But this album is from 1967, and they still have short hair and suits. Organ-heavy acid rock, more similar to...Procol Harum, maybe? It's all covers, and I was wondering about the song called "Bang Bang." Sure enough, it's Nancy Sinatra's Kill Bill theme, done in heavy psychedelic style!

Roscoe Holcomb - The High Lonesome Sound: Very effective for getting the kids out of the living room!

Hurry up and get one of the greatest rock-n-roll songs ever recorded from Spread The Good Word! Also, read this great piece about Films You Can't See (And Why You Can't See Them) from this week's LA Weekly. If nothing else, check out this guide to sources for hard-to-find movies. Reading is fundamental!

The Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam, 2005)

The Brothers Grimm is directed by Terry Gilliam, but it's clearly a director-for-hire gig while he gets his footing back. If I didn't know that he already had Tideland in the can, I might be making cracks about how he has given up and surrendered to the Hollywood machine, a broken man.

What's interesting is that, although he was apparantly brought on to the project with a script already written, the script, lame as it is, seems like the basis for a Terry Gilliam movie. It has all the basic elements: mythological fantasy set against a historical backdrop and presented as comedy, authority figures who attempt to impose rationalism as consensus reality on the populus. But none of this goes very deep, and all of it is tied to a formulaic, and rather stupid, story.

Gilliam does a good job of bringing this dim-witted script to life, which is basically what he was hired to do. It's easy to imagine what this film would have looked like under a different director: some kind of sunny Princess Bride thing, or a weak Lord of the Rings knock-off. Instead, it has a dark, grimy, muddy background for its werewolves and witches. There are a couple of really disturbing moments (involving a gingerbread man and a cursed horse), and not in the usual sense--images that don't fit in with waking reality, that remind you of dreams you cannot shake. Monica Bellucci is luscious, and does a better job than she did in The Matrix, playing a similar character. Peter's funny, I couldn't quite place him while I was watching the film. I kept thinking "where do I know this guy from?" He somehow reminded me of Timothy Carey.

There's an interview with Gilliam in last week's EW. He talks shit about Spielberg (something like "he can direct great scenes, but they don't add up to a movie"), and comes right out and says the first two Harry Potter films were awful. I find it funny when you hear Gilliam's fans talk about him being "cursed." The guy talks like that in public, and never walks away from a fight, but he managed to get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into major release. If anything, he's blessed.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Return of the Son of the Fiery Furnaces Talk

The new, weirdest-album-yet, FF disc has leaked, and the reaction is sharply divided. It occurs to me that there are two very different factions within the Fiery Furnaces fandom, who have been listening to two very different bands. My half have been listening to a band that would have been signed to Shimmy-Disc in the early 90's--a weird, funny, experimental group making jokey, tripped-out records. The other faction has been listening to a brilliant pop group who have a rather off-kilter approach to their material. The latter faction is experiencing major disapointment that they are abandoning (for the time being) their pop sensibilities to put out a surreal kid's storybook record, while the former faction is delighted that they're fulfilling their potential for weirdness by putting out a surreal kid's storybook record. On the flipside, my faction sees it as a great bonus everytime they stumble upon a burst of pop genius (or a side- or album-worth of pop genius).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Theater Fantasy

When I first moved into the neighborhood, there was a movie theater two blocks from my house which showed cheap, second-run movies, usually with Spanish subtitles. It seemed to be open-and-closed sporadically, but it was great having a theater literally around the corner from my house. It had been closed for a while, when we heard that it had been bought by Fred Erickson, the owner/chef of the hip Fred 62 diner in Los Feliz. He was going to convert it into a restaurant/dinner theater that served good food and showed movies. I was excited by this idea, even though I knew it was probably going to be a pricey place that I could only afford to do once-in-a-while. Then Fred screwed us. He decided not to open the place, and sold it to a church. Not even a normal church, it's some kind of cult, with signs up promising to "end suffering" through "spiritual cleansing" sessions. Basically, someone trying to muscle in on the Scientology racket. They also put one of those ugly-ass metal sliding doors like put over stores within shopping malls over the front door, producing an eyesore for the rapidly gentrificating neighborhood.

Louis C.K. was on HBO's One Night Stand last week, and he said "Rich people don't understand what it's like to be poor. Poor people know what it's like to be rich, because we fantasize about it all the time. Everyone has their rich life all planned out." Well, in my rich life, I buy that fucking theater from the second-rate Scientologists, and put it back to it's original purpose. Only I do it right. Get a liquor license, first of all, and put a tiki bar with a thatched roof and carved tikis and lava lamps in the lobby. Fill the lobby with cool vintage monster movie posters. Paint a mural on the theater ceiling--I'm thinking some sort of parody of the Sistine Chapel, but involving movies. Wednesday through Friday, we show second-run movies for cheap for the college crowd. On Saturday night, a double feature. Some cool combination of classic, off-beat films. We'll make a party out of it: show a double feature of cheerleader-themed movies (Bring it On and But I'm a Cheerleader, or The Cheerleaders and Revenge of the Cheerleaders) and encourage the audience to come dressed in cheerleader garb. Or show Velvet Goldmine and Ziggy Stardust, and everyone comes in full glam-rock regalia. Republican night: come dressed as your favorite Republican, and sip martinis while watching Wall Street and Starship Troopers! How about a tropical luau night, showing Blue Hawaii and Pagan Island and serving luau food. Drink specials on zombies for a double feature of zombie movies. Double features throughout the summer of stuff like Dazed and Confused and Wet Hot American Summer, or Bikini Beach and Back to the Beach, or Do The Right Thing and...I dunno, something. And every Halloween, a big horror movie marathon with costume contests and stuff.

For the Grand Opening, I'd show Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Switchblade Sisters, but as time went on I'd program more esoteric double-features. Peewee's Big Adventure with The Searchers, Old Boy with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mean Girls and Battle Royale. But the important thing would be to make going to the movies an event, not something that's taken for granted. Not unlike what the American Cinematheque does, but less serious, and hopefully more profitable. I guess the Alamo in Austin is more-or-less run this way (The Georgia Theater in Athens is vaguely comparable, but they just regard film nights as something to fill the place up when there are no bands, and don't approach it with any kind of respect).

Now I just have to get rich.

It's Mac-Eye, Asshole!

NPR celebrates Dischord Records' 25th anniversery, talking with Ian McKay, whose name I've long been mispronouncing. There's also a neat piece on his new band, The Evens, from a few months ago. It's funny that I used to think of Ian as such an uptight, over-serious guy, but in interviews (and seeing Fugazi shows), he actually comes off as a funny, regular guy. Most of those broody types from the 80's, like Henry Rollins and Morrissey, turned out to have a pretty good sense of humor when you looked more closely.

Unrelated, but this story on Henry Jacobs is really cool too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ode to a Cheeseburger

Anticipation has deflated
The burger was delicious, but that is all

What was I expecting?
A psychedelic happening in my mouth?
With a liquid light show oozing from the folds of meat
As angels in gogo boots danced on gooey firmament?

I try to imagine the burger better:
A sharper taste of charcoal
Juicier meat
Perhaps a thinner patty
Or a sharp cheddar replacing the square of yellow.

The burger is fine
But just a burger.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Spittin' Wicked Randomness Vol. 2

Went to Venice Beach over the weekend. It was the perfect temperature--you could lie in the sun without getting too hot, because there was a soft breeze cooling you down. There were two french girls sunbathing topless right next to us. Went swimming in the ocean, walking along the beach, and generally remembering how much fun it is to get some sun, fresh air and excercise.

People think of California as beach country, but I feel so removed from the beach here. Part of it may be the dry air. In Florida, you can feel, smell, taste the ocean in the air. Sometimes you feel like you're swimming down the street. Part of it is distance. In Eagle Rock, I'm miles away from the ocean. But most of it is convenience. In Florida, you can just go to the beach on a whim. You're on your way home from work, the idea crosses your mind, you head out there. Park the car in a dirt parking lot, walk the few yards over the dunes, take a swim. Everybody knows a good fishing beach, a good swimming beach, a good surfing beach, a beach where everyone hangs out, a beach that's always abandoned. Here, it's such a hassle. Drive across town, pay $15 to park, and you're still half a mile from the water's edge. The beach isn't a part of people's lives. Disneyland is probably a bigger part of people's day-to-day life out here than the beach.

Last week, I took the CBEST test, the last hurtle I have to jump to be certified for teaching ESL. There was so much bullshit involved at the test site. No cell phones, no labels on your water bottles, generally being treated like a child. Reminded me why I dropped out of high school in the first place. All this to make sure people weren't cheating on the test. Seriously, anyone who needed to cheat on that thing should go back to high school. It was 8th grade level stuff, at most. If I thought those kinds of book smarts were any kind of requirement for being a good teacher, I would be alarmed. There were two essay questions. The first one was something like "the local school board has adopted a policy of mandatory, random drug tests for all high school students. Write a letter to the editor attacking or defending this policy." Obviously, my letter was against it, but I took kind of a weird direction with it. My argument was that high school is a time to transition people from childhood to adulthood. This is accomplished through giving them increased responsibility. We grant them the responsibility of driving a car (certainly as dangerous as any drug), and if they prove themselves incapable of handling that responsibility, we revoke it. The random drug tests do the opposite--they take responsibility away from students (the most basic responsibility, that of their own body and mind), so that they enter adulthood untested.
The second essay was something like "tell about something you learned from a friend," so I wrote about guitar techniques I had picked up from Jason. At that point, I was pretty positive that I'd aced the test, so I just had fun writing the essay and not worrying about it.

Peter Bagge apparantly draws cartoons for Reason, the Libertarian magazine. This new one, concerning medical marijuana, is pretty great.

OK, I promise more posts this week, possibly to include musings on Old Boy, Kung Fu Hustle, Southern Comfort, and Nortec Collective. If I don't commit myself, I'll never get around to it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Best of Louie Louie, Vol. 2

The first volume of Rhino's Best of Louie Louie compilation, which I bought on vinyl back in high school, has the original 1956 version by Richard Berry (my favorite, actually), the famous 1963 version by The Kingsmen, and an intermediate 1961 version by Rockin Robin Roberts and the Wailers, but not the version The Kingsmen's crosstown rivals Paul Revere and the Raiders released simultaneously to The Kingsmen's version (it was recorded the next day in the same studio, according to the extensive liner notes). It also has versions by Black Flag, some Joy Division ripoff band called The Last, a marching band, a choir singing it to the tune of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, and "Les Dantz and his Orchestra" playing it to the tune of David Bowie's "Let's Dance." And, as I said, very extensive liner notes tracing the history of the song through those first four versions and beyond. Unfortunately, the liner notes are in such tiny type that they can only be read a few paragraphs at a time, followed by a 5 minute break for your eyes.

Volume 2 seems to be from the end of the 80's, dated by its liner notes that reference the wine cooler advertising wars (I think they still make wine coolers, but it's probably considered bad taste to advertise the fact). The liner notes this time are pretty useless, although they offer a happy ending to one of the most tragic stories from the first volume's notes. Richard Berry, who had sold off the publishing and copy rights to his minor hit to make some quick cash in the late 50's, did finally win those rights back in court, in time to get majorly paid for the use of the song in California Cooler ads.

Predictably, this volume starts with the Paul Revere version, correcting the oversight of the first volume. It starts with a saxophone, and the singing is much more accomplished. If the two versions really were recorded in the same studio, the Raiders got a much better sound out of it. It is probably fortunate that it was the Kingsmen version that became a hit. If it were the Raiders record that everyone knew, would the garage rock movement, the Velvets, Stooges, and Punk never have happened? Or not sounded quite as raw? Interesting speculation. It's also interesting that the guitar solos in the two versions sound almost identical. I went back to the first volume, and found that they are both virtually transposed from the Wailer's version.

Most of Vol. 2 is stupid novelty versions. Red State performing Louie Louie with Russian lyrics (and combining metal guitar and accordian), Tyme Code doing an electro version, Peter Fountain with a muzak version from 1966, all pretty lame. The tune fits awkwardly into the surf instrumental mode on The Shockwaves' "Surfin' Louie," but actually sounds quite good played by Mongo Santamaria, bringing out the Latin and Jamaican inflections Richard Berry originally had in mind. You'd think hearing The Kinks, whose early hits were clearly influenced by the riff, doing Louie would be at least interesting, but they really fail to do much with it other than robbing it of life. It does not contain, as the cover suggests, a version played by two guys in tuxedoes on two double basses.

So the versions I do like. First of all, a 1964 version by girl group The Angels, who add two syllables (they sing it "Louie Lou-I-A") and even mimick the Kingsmen's false start on the last verse after the solo, give it the teen spirit that you need to make a song like this work. Stanley Clarke and George Duke submit an 80's funk version with vocals that sometimes sound like a duet between EU and Bootsy Collins, and a funky bass solo. Not amazing, but at least pretty interesting.

One of my favorites from the first volume is The Sonics. Their version is not a standout in the Sonics catalog by any means, but I like their sound so much that it stands out amongst versions of Louie Louie. I feel about the same way towards the Ike and Tina Turner version that closes out vol. 2. It's from 1968, but sounds much later due to a Moog in the back of the mix.

What's most interesting, throughout the two volumes, is the liberties everyone feels free to take with the lyrics, perhaps because no one can understand what The Kingsmen are actually saying. Tina Turner sings about digging for pirate's gold and dancing to the music Jamaicans play, Black Flag ask "Who needs love, when you got a gun?", Iggy Pop (on the Stooges Metallic KO live album) follows "I smell a rose down in her hair" with "Her ass is black and her tits are bare," Clarke/Duke conclude that "The moral of this story is, if you sail the 7 seas/take your woman with you, set your mind at ease." And yet there are elements of the lyrics, such as the narrative of the trip across the sea, or the Jamaican motif, that survive in every version (maybe not Black Flag's). "I see Jamaica moon above" seems to be preserved in most versions (even Frank Zappa's "Plastic People" uses this line, and Iggy follows it with "It won't be long before she takes it off," which sounds like it could actually be the correct line). I guess it's just a great line.

These compilations are interesting, but I can't help but think they miss the point. What's interesting about Louie Louie is not all the artists that have directly covered it, but all the artists that have ripped it off. It's the way Louie Louie became Wild Thing, You Really Got Me, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Blitzkrieg Bop, Smells Like Teen Spirit, the whole history of rock n roll in three chords. The way the riff changes over time could be a fascinating topic to explore, rather than the amusing novelty that this project represents. I've already decided that the next book I read (when I finish Absalom, Absalom, which could take a while) is going to be Dave Marsh's book on Louie Louie, which will hopefully provide more satisfying insight.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Walk in the Bark

Currently checked out from Brand Library:

The Real Bahamas in Music and Song
The Best of Louie Louie, Vol. 2
Gene Vincent's Greatest Hits
Jan and Dean's Greatest Hits
Roscoe Holcomb - The High Lonesome Sound
AC/DC - High Voltage
John Lee Hooker (collection of early hits)
James Brown - Live at the Apollo 1995
Clifton Chenier - King of the Bayous
The Black Crowes - Lions
Vanilla Fudge (s/t)
Rough Guide to the Music of Louisiana
The Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark

Gallowsbird's Bark is a little uneven, but the best songs on it might be my favorite FF songs. Hearing the albums in the strange order that I've heard them actually gives them a more interesting progression, as their sound gets more focused from Blueberry Boat to EP to Gallowsbird. They approach sound with an inquisitive experimentalism that reminds me of The Residents, but it benefits from being applied to concisely written pop songs, and here they're sometimes playing straight-up rock-n-roll. I can say without any hyperbole that Matthew Friedberger has one of the coolest wah-wah guitar sounds in rock history. His guitar sounds like a cat meowing. And, while it sounds great delivering a melencholy melodic line on "Here Comes Summer," when that sound gets applied to sharp blues licks as on "I'm Gonna Run" (or, for that matter, when Eleanor's piano flourishes get applied to a barrelling rocker like "South is Just a Home") it's a sound that hits me as right as the classic Butthole Surfers merger of traditional rockin' moves and weird, alien noises. And I may actually be mistaken in my sexist assumption that Matthew plays guitar and Eleanor piano, but either way, the idea of these two siblings that have probably been playing together all their lives is so cool, and the fact that so many of their lyrics seem like they might emerge out of some imaginary world that the two have been making up stories about since they were wee makes it even more fascinating.

Also, until just now, I had misread the title as "Gallowsbird Park."

Anyway, here's a toast. Rest in peace, Little Milton and Ibrahim Ferrer, and happy 75th birthday, Betty Boop.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Forty Guns (Sam Fuller, 1957)

Have you ever had a situation where you heard about a movie, and it sounded great, but it was years before you had the opportunity to see it, and by the time you saw it you had built up in your mind what the movie was like, and you were totally disappointed when it was a completely different movie?

It was probably about 5 years ago that FX Feeney wrote a little blurb about 40 Guns, which was playing at some revival house in L.A., in the LA Weekly. It was enough to get me interested, based on his description of Barbara Stanwyck's character: an untamable cattle baroness who is followed by a posse of 40 cowboys everywhere she goes. Stanwyck is my favorite actress, and this just seemed like a perfect role for her. It is a great role, in fact, and it's a shame that Sam Fuller relegated this awesome character to being little more than a love interest, while placing two thoroughly boring gunfighter brothers at the center of the story. I suppose it's a testament to Fuller's imagination that he was able to conceive this character, but an indictment of that same imagination that he wasn't able to imagine a story for her. Then again, maybe I'm imposing my 21st century views unfairly on a 1957 movie.

It starts out promisingly. The first scene is the two gunmen riding into town on a wagon when they are passed by Stanwyck's character, Jessica Drummond, and her 40 men galloping at full speed, kicking up dust and thunder as they pass. The Bonnell Brothers, sitting in their wagon watching the spectacle, seem so dull in comparison with Drummond's larger-than-life figure that you would expect this to be a theme. A movie about Stanwyck's bitch-goddess dominating the impotent men that surround her would have been great, a precursor to Russ Meyer's films. In the next scene, someone sings a ballad written about Drummond that would have been an equally worthy theme song for Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat: "She's a high...ridin' woman...with a whip."

Instead, we spend most of our time with the Bonnell Brothers, two guns-for-hire realizing that their way of life is going out of style, wooing the local women (Jessica and a cute female gunsmith), and reciting the played-out philosophy of the western genre. I guess at this point I should make the disclaimer that westerns have never really done much for me, so perhaps the conventions of the genre as acted out in this film would be more appealing to fans of the genre. I've always found them to be overly dry and serious, with the most uninteresting stock characters, but I suppose there are those who would say similar things about most of my favorite genres.

The most interesting thing about the movie, aside from Stanwyck, is the ending. Fuller had finished the film, but was ordered by the studio to tack on a happy ending. He has said that he intentionally filmed the worst, corniest ending possible in protest to this meddling. Even when Fuller made mediocre films, it's always A-Grade entertainment to hear him talk about them. Don't expect to get any of that out of this bare-bones DVD, though.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Old Boy

Old Boy is an incredible Korean movie. It's about a guy who gets kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years. Nobody will tell him why he's there or how long he has to stay. Then, exactly 15 years later, they let him out. And still, nobody tells him why. It's best if I just leave it at that, and let you find the rest out from watching it. It will be out on DVD August 23. Or, if you have a region-free DVD player, it's out now with a ton of extras. Or you can do what I'm trying to do right now, and win it from CHUD. This is seriously one of the best films of the last 5 years. It one the Grand Prix at Cannes when Quentin Tarantino was presiding over the jury, and probably only lost the Palme D'Orre because Faranheit 9-11 got the "fuck you, Bush!" vote. The guy on Fresh Air called it "The Quentin Tarantino movie that Quentin Tarantino is afraid to make," but it's probably closer to Takeshi Kitano's sense of humor and style.

The Raymond Scott Orchestrette - Pushbutton Parfait

I said that I didn't feel any need to elaborate on this album, but it seems I was wrong--apparantly, it deserves it's own post. The liner notes claim that this project aims to establish that Scott was more than just a composer of cartoon themes, and it's true--listening to these interpretations of Scott's work destroys the notion of him as a novelty act, or as merely a badge of coolness to be worn by hipsters. It lifts him out of the shadow of the cartoons that incorporated his music. This isn't something you would only listen to because you like Looney Tunes. It's just an album of good music, quirky but not a novelty.

My favorite song on the record is Little Miss Echo, an elegant piece of chamber music that seems to rise out of itself, slowly forming a mysterious melody. Scott's ear for melody is the key to all these songs. As kooky as the stuff is, it owes it's success to always being grounded in catchy tunes. This makes me think of what I would expect Paul McCartney's classical work to sound like, and where it probably seemed McCartney and Brian Wilson would have ended up by the end of the 70's if you were prognosticating from 1969. This track is followed by a swingin' song called Mountain High, Valley Low, a full-on rock-n-roll song. And the climactic version of Powerhouse is packed with drama and energy, a real grande finale.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Library CDs (mini reviews)

Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick: I don't like this, but don't really hate it either. It's interesting stuff. Generally speaking, I think hating on prog rock is somewhat wrongheaded in the context of 2005. It's such an integral part of the developement of rock music, that at worst you would come to the conclusion that someone had to try that kind of thing, just to see if it worked. Tull are a little more accessible to me due to the fact that they have some great heavy metal songs like "Locomotive Breath," but there's other things in their catalog I like as well (find their song "Fat Man"--it's awesome!). This is way on the prog end of the spectrum, though, and doesn't appeal to me beyond "hmm...interesting."

Kid Creole Redux: A career retrospective of Kid Creole, an 80's guy whose music incorporates calypso, swing and Cuban music. In some ways, alot like Fishbone, but coming from an entertainer mindset rather than a musician mindset. "Endicott" is the one song I'd heard before on this, an insanely catchy tune that ought to be on everyone's new wave mix. The song immediately following "Endicott" is almost equally great. "There's Something Wrong In Paradise" has a tropical Afrobeat sound, and tells the story of a bloody coup against a dictator in some tropical paradise. These are the two songs that stick out for me, but the whole disc is loaded with catchy, danceable, tropical tunes. This guy should really get a lot more love.

Annette Funicello - The Best of Annette: I have an Annette collection on LP (Annette's Scrapbook), but it doesn't have the theme to Beach Party, which is so fucking cool, and totally belongs on my All Time Greatest Summertime Hits mixtape. Also interesting to hear the original version of Jamaica Ska (which she redid with Fishbone as a backing band for the Back to the Beach soundtrack). It's the same tune, but with more of a traditional, laid-back, 60's ska sound--Fishbone really rocked it up in their hyperactive style.

Santana - Caravaniseri: According to the liner notes, this is the 4th Santana album, and took them in a different direction. No hits on here like "Black Magic Woman" or "Evil Ways." 7 of the 10 songs are instrumentals, and generally more mellow than the earlier stuff, this is like Santana's attempt at a jazz album. Most of it sounds pretty good. Good late-night mood music.

The Raymond Scott Orchestrette - Pushbutton Parfait: This is awesome. I feel no need to elaborate further.

Right Now

Since I finished my class last night, I get some of my free time back. I'll take the CBEST in two weeks, so if I was smart, I'd use this time to prepare for the test, but we all know that's not gonna happen. I've been told it's about GED-level difficulty, so I'm not worried.

Took me exactly 14 days to finish the Harry Potter book (minus a few hours). I'm bailing on finishing Tim Powers' Last Call, which I started in early July. I hate doing that (unless I'm just not liking the book, which is not the case here), but I lost the rhythm by interrupting it with The Half-Blood Prince, and I've just spent too much time with it. I want to move on. I'm starting on Absolom, Absolom. I'm also probably going to skim through the rest of The Godless Constitution and do a little summary/book report entry on this blog.

Currently checked out from the library:

A Taste of Old Cuba by Maria O'Higgins
The Flavor of Cuba by Laura Milera
Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide
Dr. John - Trippin' Live
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Live Mardis Gras in Montreaux

Coming soon (I type this just to commit myself), some brief reviews of overdue library CDs, and a post on Sam Fuller's Forty Guns.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Spittin' Wicked Randomness

I'm gonna spend the rest of my life working off the bad karma I've built up just from killing ants in the last week.

Friday was Brandie's birthday, so we took her out to lunch at Shogun, a Benihana-type Japanese steakhouse. Since our last visit, they've added a sound-effects board to the stove, so the cooks can punctuate their acts with cheesy, morning radio-style sound effects. After the "onion volcano" gag, they turn on a train sound and push the smoking stack across the gridle, while clanging with the spatula with their other hand to produce a railway crossing sound. There's a drumroll for the flipping of food into customer's mouths, a barking seal if they make it, and a foghorn if they miss. Hilarious.

I was looking something up on the NORML website, and saw a picture of Rick Steves, the host of PBS's Travels in Europe (a show I'm very much addicted to). He comes off a little square, so I investigated. He apparantly gave the keynote speach at this year's NORML convention. The transcript seems to have disapeared from the site (I'm positive I saw it on there), but I found it transposed here, and you can download the audio here. "First time I ever smoked was in Afghanistan. As a kid I didn't want peer pressure to make me do something my parents said I shouldn't. Over there it was just like going local. "When in Rome," you know; and when in Afghanistan, this is what you do. The bus stops and everybody stands around and watches a goat get slaughtered and passes around the bong." It's a great speach--even if he didn't mention pot, what he says about travel is great, and some of it has a beat-like sensibility:

I mean, you stand on the rooftop of your hotel and there's chariots going by, torchlit, and the lightbulbs are all breathing and people are eating soup with their hands and they don't drop a bit. And you travel on over to Nepal and you can look right into the eyes of the living virgin goddess the Kumari Deva, you've got these slow-motion beach attacks and everybody is going "namas dei, namas dei," I salute your virtues... and you write in your journal trying to catch all this stuff and you get home and you hardly remember where you were high and where you weren't.

Sleater-Kinney on Fresh Air!