Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Random 10

Happy Friday. Lovely midweek snowstorm up here - lots of hype coming in, the result - well, we got the 2 feet they said... didn't feel like all that terrible a storm though. Light, powdery snow, no power outages, the city (state) shut down, so the streets were clean - not bad. The subway, on the other hand, has failed to function all week, even before the snow. So it's been interesting getting around town.

Anyway - I am starting this year like last year - managing one post a week... Hopefully we can move on from that, but who knows. Right now - let's keep it simple - 10 random songs it is:

1. Theoretical Girls - computer Dating
2. Deerhoof - News From a Bird
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Where do We Go Now but Nowhere?
4. Minutemen - what is It?
5. Public Image Limited - This is PIL
6. George Harrison - Apple Scruffs
7. Gomez - Revolutionary Kind
8. Byrds - King Apathy III
9. Destroyer - European Oils
10. Junior Kimbrough - I Gotta Try You Girl

Video? Let's put up Junior Kimbrough - just music, but, such music:

and - another sound only, featuring Clarence White with the Byrds:

And - Gomez, live:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Music Stuff

Nothing too much to say today - running late - so here's a quick random dump. Almost forgot it was Friday, again - a sad state of affairs. But iTunes seems to have taken pity, cause it's a nice selection, huh?

1. Six Organs of Admittance - Saint Cloud
2. Camper Van Beethoven - Eye of Fatima
3. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Journey
4. Bloc Party - Mercury
5. Scott Walker - Rhymes of Goodbye
6. Mission of Burma - Trem Two
7. Billie Holiday - Trav'lin' Light
8. Deerhoof - Apple Bomb
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Good Son
10. Johnny Cash - Daddy Sang Bass

And video? Johnny of course:

And - here's a band I might have to write about one of these months - Mission of Burma, live, back at the end of their beginning:

And here's some very nice 80s video nostalgia - Camper Van!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best Films of 2014

I have waited a couple weeks into the year to do this, for obvious reasons - Inherent Vice was released on the 9th - and I had to see it. It was a happy fact that Mr. Turner was also released last week, so I got to add 2 films fairly hight up the list.

What kind of year was 2014? for me as a filmgoer, my bad film watching habits continue. I am lazy in my dotage. I keep oping it will change, but it hasn't in the last few years, so probably not much hope of changing this year. As a blogger, it was terrible - I managed a couple posts for Wonders in the Dark's Romance countdown - a history post for Citizenfour - an Oscar post, of all things - and, I am relieved to discover, a post about the best film of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis. (A strong contender for best of the decade, I think. Being one who counts decades alphabetically - the 10s start with the 1 in the 10s place - we are halfway through the decade already. That is a list I ought to contemplate as well. If I start now, I might get it posted before the 20s.) All in all - not much writing this year. I have to rectify that.

And for the films? Like a lot of years, there were stretches where there didn't seem to be anything around. (It would feel that way right now if I didn't have the option to keep seeing Inherent Vice every week, and go see Boyhood again.) I don't if that is justified - there are films put now that people seem to like... Looking back - it's not a bad year. Though maybe nothing quite overwhelming. I don't know. A very respectable year, rather than an exciting one.

All right - on with it: best 25 released (more or less) in Boston, in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Norte, the End of History
3. The Missing Picture
4. Only Lovers Left Alive
5. Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby Her/Him
6. Grand Budapest Hotel
7. The Babadook
8. Ida
9. Inherent Vice
10. The Rover
11. Love is Strange
12. Mr Turner
13. Dance of Reality
14. Like Father Like Son
15. The Immigrant
16. Citizenfour
17. Jimmy P
18. Force Majeure
19. Nymphomaniac (Vol 1)
20. Cavalry
21. 20,000 Days on Earth
22. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
23. Abuse of Weakness
24. Ernest & Clestine
25. Listen Up Philip

Not a bad collection, really. And the 10 best films made and debuted in 2014:

1. Boyhood
2. Grand Budapest Hotel
3. The Babadook
4. Inherent Vice
5. The Rover
6. Love is Strange
7. Mr. Turner
8. Citizenfour
9. Force Majeure
10. Cavalry

And now to look back at 2013 - starting with what I posted at the beginning of this year:

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Blue is the Warmest Color
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Computer Chess
5. Ain't them Bodies Saints
6. The Great Beauty
7. Upstream Color
8. Before Midnight
9. Enough Said
10. I Used to Be Darker

And now, what looks like the best of 2013, a year later:

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Norte, the End of History
3. 12 Years a Slave
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
5. The Missing Picture
6. Only Lovers Left Alive
7. Disappearance fo Eleanor Rigby
8. A Touch of Sin
9. Jealousy
10. Ida
11. Dance of Reality
12. The Past
13. Computer Chess
14. Ain't them Bodies Saints
15. Like Father Like Son
16. The Immigrant
17. Jimmy P
18. Nymphomanac V 1
19. Abuse of Weakness
20. The Great Beauty
21. Her
22. American Hustle
23. Under the Skin
24. We're the Best
25. Upstream Color

Friday, January 16, 2015

Going Out to Frisco and Join a Psychedelic Band

Friday rolls around again. Music! Randomly selected, this week, for I am lazy!

I do hope things will start to perk up - Oscar Nominations are out - I don;t care too much about those, but the general end of the year film thing is always fun. I haven't posted a best of 2014 yet - I was waiting for Inherent Vice, to be plain - it will be up soon.

This will have to do for the moment though. Gonna have to go earn a dollar soon... sad. Makes me want to play my bongos in the dirt...

1. Tom Waits - Day after Tomorrow
2. X- We're Desperate
3. Times New Viking - No Time, No Hope
4. Pink Floyd - Flaming
5. Yo La Tengo - By Two's
6. Mission of Burma - Fame and Fortune
7. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Flower punk
8. The Byrds - Mind Gardens
9. Neu! - Neuschnee
10. Six Organs of Admittance - OnReturning Home

Video? Here's Frank and the Mothers, and some old footage of hippies:

Here's The Pink Floyd, playing Flaming, live on TV, post Syd (just barely post-Syd.)

And some Vintage X - good for you on a Friday, no? get use to it!

Friday, January 09, 2015

What an Enormous and Encyclopedic Brain!

After a month of kind of cheating, it's back to our regularly scheduled Band of the Month. This one might look like it belongs with the last few - another 80s artist - but Nick Cave is very different from the bands I have been writing about. I heard the Bad Seeds back in the 80s, here and there - but I was not a fan. Not in the way I wasn't a fan of the Minutemen (from not really hearing them) - truth is, I actively disliked Nick Cave for a while. Not that I had heard much of him - a few songs on the radio maybe; saw the Bad Seeds in Wings of Desire (which went far toward turning me off, for some reason - they looked like such posers!); heard a record or two at a bookstore I was working at - probably Kicking Against the Pricks, since I seem to remember him making hash of Long Black Veil, though it might have been Tender Prey.... I didn't like it, though to be honest, I didn't think much about him. I put him down as one of those dull goth bores, and let it go. Years passed and I didn't think much about Nick Cave - saw his name here and there, was never moved to find out more about him, certainly not to listen to him.

And then I bought Murder Ballads. I don't know why I bought it; I don't really remember when (though I would guess around the fall of 2000; I think I bought it when I was living in Boston - I used to drop in the used record shops on Newbury street quite a lot, looking for bargains - that's certainly where I got it...) - but once I heard it, I loved it. The songs were great - Cave was funny and cool, and unlike when I heard him in the 80s, his stylization did not annoy me. Had he changed significantly since 89 or so? Had I? I don't know - I was certainly enough of a punk and post-punk fan in 1989 that I should have liked Cave; 10 years later I'd gone through a jazz period, then back to rock, mostly alternative (Sleater Kinney, Built to Spill, PJ Harvey - discovered and started worshipping the Minutemen - started listening to Captain Beefheart) - did that change how I heard Cave? PJ Harvey maybe - I suspect she is why I bought the record in the first place; I was becoming a serious fan of hers by the late 90s. But I don't know. Maybe I just listened more carefully - maybe I listened with my ears not with my eyes, paid attention to the noise, not the hairspray. Whatever it was, I liked it, and I started seeking out more of his work.

He grew on me. I don't know how fast - over the next few records (Nocturama, No More Shall We Part, up through Lyre of Orpheus and Abattoir Blues), maybe) there were always songs I liked (babe Im on fire, rock of Gibraltar, 15 feet of pure white snow, supernaturally), but I can't say I always loved the records. I listened to them - picked out the songs I liked - listened to them more.... And then Grinderman came out. It was what I wanted to hear just then - straightforward rock songs, with Cave's croony growl, and messy, noisy guitar - that was for me. It fell right in the middle of the weird folk and neo-psychedelia I liked then (Ben Chasney; Ghost/Boris - anything Kurihara; Times New Viking) - it was perfect. I was convinced, and I stayed convinced. Cave worked the style for a while - Dig, Lazarus, Dig sounds a lot like Grinderman; Grinderman 2 offered up more, and it solidified my more or less complete surrender to Cave. Push the Sky Away moves in another direction, but by now, I would go anywhere Cave took me.

That's basically been true for the last decade or so. I had a lot of catching up to do, but did it - picking up the old stuff when I had a chance and trying to listen to it - trying to finally hear it. Not as easy as it would have been in the 90s - iTunes has made listening to records seem like a quaint and old fashioned idea - though it is also true that Cave is one of the acts that has stayed in rotation on the CD player even after Steve Jobs ruined music. I have probably listened to Cave's CDs more in the last 10 years than anyone else. But I have caught up - figured out what I was missing. From the fairly straightforward post punk of the Birthday Party, through the goth cool of the early Bad Seeds, to the 90s croony stuff, up to the 00s rock - it is all good and all keeps getting better. I should have liked Cave in the 80s - it's only a step or two sideways from Pere Ubu (especially Mayo Thompson Pere Ubu) - listening to those songs now, From Her to Eternity or Avalanche - they sound so cool - pianos, the guitar scraping out of nowhere. There's still a lot of that in the new ones, more than you sometimes notice on first listen - Warren Ellis in particular is a very disruptive musical force - though the rhythms are more conventional, I suppose, more like rock (more like Tom Hermann Pere Ubu?) I liked the old stuff; and I went back to the crooning period - the mid 90s, the music that won me in the first time - picked up some of those records I was missing, and found I liked it more than ever. It helped that I listened to a lot of Van Der Graf Generator, Scott Walker, that sort of thing, in the early 00s - though Cave got me into them, as much as digging into them made me appreciate Cave.

And don't discount the Bad Seeds in this: Ellis in recent years has really put his stamp on the sound of the records - but they have always been tight and inventive and full of personality. The way the songs are put together - the mix of styles, the mix of simplicity and experimentation, the melodies and the noise, the prettiness and wig-outs - there's no end of what they can do, and they do it all brilliantly. Cave's records reward the attention, for their detail, their accumulation of sounds, everything - every song feels like an epic, every record feels like a collection of epics. Yep: he is in the pantheon now - maybe not with the Stones and Beatles, probably not really with Pere Ubu and Richard Thompson or The Velvets - but he probably doesn't fall far outside the top 5 or 6... And right now - 2014 - he continues to put out the most consistent, intelligent and impressive music of anyone. It is one of the things that drew me to him in the 00s - he was still putting out records that were as good as anything. He's been one of the 2-3 best acts of the 21st century, if not the very best.

And to gild the lily, he's become a very solid screenwriter, soundtrack writer and performer, and features in one of the best films of the year. It is all too much.

So here I am, with a huge pile of songs to choose among: the fact that I am still missing a couple records, and there are a couple I haven't listened to all the way through in order (more than once anyway) - doesn't really help. There is so much to choose from. The brilliant stories and words, the sounds, the pretty songs and the rock outs and the abrasive ones, all competing - we shall have to do the best we can.

Top 10 Songs:

1. When My Baby Comes - great as the song is, it's the instrumental second half, an unholy drone with a killer bass line, that puts it at the top.
2. Stagger Lee - earning that parental warning sticker.
3. Rock of Gibraltar - one of the pretty ones, with that killer turn at the end.
4. From her to Eternity - I think I can blame Win Wenders for turning me off from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. I just associated them with whatever he was doing - with the bad things about Wings of Desire. But listen to the song - where the piano goes, Blixa's guitar coming in when it does, all the space - damn.
5. Red Right Hand
6. Palaces of Montezuma
7. Weeping Song
8. We Call Upon the Author
9. Let the Bells Ring - especially the live version; those ringing guitars!
10. We No Who You Are

Painful choices, getting down to that. All right - have to let it go. Video? Start with Grinderman, Nick Cave, guitar hero; Warren Ellis, violin hero:

Back toward the start - Birthday Party - Junkyard:

From Her to Eternity, 1989, just hammering it:

Calling on the author:

Mr. Stagger Lee (Austin City Limits) (language, violence, sex and blasphemy):

Come on baby let's get out of the cold!... Palaces of Montezuma on Jools Holland:

And video for We No Who U R:

Friday, January 02, 2015

First Friday of A New Year

Welcome to 2015. Among my resolutions for this year will be to try to listen to music more than I write about it - I don't know if I can make it or not. I go in cycles, listening to music - and the last few years have been a down one. My recent fixation on favorite bands might be a consequence of that - a desperate attempt at least once a month to rekindle the old passion... Which it does: I remember all the good things about listening to music, these bands, any bands - but passion doesn't translate into action. If action means listening to music for extended periods of time. Fortunately, it has translated into writing about music - I'll take it if that's what I've got, but it would be nice to hear more. I will blame technology - iTunes has broken up CDs, made it more work to listen to a record than to songs, etc. - there is that... and my CD player busted a couple years ago. There's that too. I have a new one coming though! so - we shall see, right?

Now? I would like to put up a best of 2014 list, but I don't think I could even choose among the CDs I did get last year. Let alone the songs. The only records that have made the least impression on me are the new TV on the Radio, new Pere Ubu, new Earth and new Scott Walker & Sunn O))) records. So - maybe I will get around to listening to some of the others - I hope so. What can I say?

Still, this being the first music post of the year - it ought to be something different, a bit special - so - maybe previews of coming attractions on the blog? No promises as to the order these bands appear - but they ought to show up, in some order or other.

1. Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - A Weeping Song
2. PJ Harvey - Down by the Water
3. Yoko Ono & Plastic Ono Band - Why Not?
4. Smokey Robinson - The Love I saw in You Way Just a Mirage
5. Sleater Kenney - You're No Rock and Roll Fun
6. TV on the Radio - Quartz
7. David Bowie - Rebel Rebel
8. AC/DC - Big Balls
9. Pink Floyd - Time
10. Mercury Rev - Hercules

Video? Nick and Blixa:

Sleater Kinney, soon to be back in action:

And a bit of Bowie:

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye to 2014

I can see this year is ending like last year - the idiot cat is stretched out on the desk, making it very difficult to type. But I am not really here to write a whole lot - just a bit of a roundup, a farewell to 2014.

I can't say I'll miss it. Nothing particularly bad happened to me or anyone close to me - I can't complain about that. But it's just been an odd disappointment, across the board. This blog has suffered, especially in the second half of the year - Gran't Overland campaign and the World Cup provided some mid-year fodder, but otherwise, man, have I been lazy about posting. I can't offer much for excuses - work has been a bear; I took a rather demanding class in the fall - but mostly, I have just been lazy. I might as well take the opportunity to pretend to make a resolution about that - back up over 100 a year! I will do it! I can! I should also try to write some movie posts - though I've been shockingly lazy about seeing movies this year too. Never mind writing about them. I need to get that up over 200 again - a reasonable, makable goal, that I can't seem to manage these days...

That's me. Out in the world - it's been a strange year. The country is not in the worse shape ever - the economy is better than it has been; we are managing to creep our way out of out bad wars. The government continues to spy on us; the revelations about the horrors perpetrated by our government during the 00s - torture, war crimes - seem to make no difference. No one is locking Dick Cheney away - or even pardoning him, which at least would let us put on record, maybe, that he needs to be pardoned, because he is a war criminal. Not just Cheney, but start with him. It's a strange world. It is very strange - the old adage, "it's the economy, stupid" didn't quite work this year - the Republicans won big in the elections, even with gas prices low, the economy keeping up, even a greater sense that the country ought to move left to fix its problems - raise minimum wages, reduce debt... It's really a simple lesson of course - people need to vote. There were protesters out today, again, protesting the Eric Garner and Michael Brown non-indictments - I heard some young fools complaining about them, and about the Occupy movement, saying they were just a bunch of pot-heads who got nothing done. Which - might not be totally fair: pot is legal in four states now, all in the last year or two. Minimum wages have been raised in a number of states and cities in the last couple years - not enough, and not nationally - but there has been movement. Occupy didn't do anything directly, but it's hard to dismiss the fact that it made economic reform a subject for discussion.

Though that is probably my point here: that political change has to happen at the ballot box. Protests are fine, but they are not going to change anything themselves - they have to be transformed into votes, votes into laws - or regulations - though laws are better. Unfortunately, this is a point that the Republicans seem to grasp more than the Democrats - the right more than the left. The fact is - the right comes out to vote, all the time, every time - so you get 40% turnout and you get Republican controlled congresses. When we get 60% turnout, we get Democrats. If we got 70% turnouts, we might get Democratic supermajorities. The Republican party gets it, I have to say - they vote; they know that they have to keep other people from voting - so they pursue policies to limit voting, pretty consistently... They work to make people think voting is irrelevant - though not their own people, who seem to show up anyway. I could go on about that a while.

But it creates a situation that is kind of depressing and hopeful at the same time. The GOP won this year - but they won a lot of very close races - despite being very successful at voter suppression, despite during horrifying amounts of money into the election... They did win in the face of economic recovery - though it's hard to get too excited about the recovery. People still don't have enough money - the whole thing seems very fragile, and very vulnerable, as long as wages stay low, corporate taxes and the higher tax brackets stay low, debt keeps rising (especially student debt.) Those things require the federal government and the federal government isn't going to do anything controlled by Republicans... But still: the numbers are against them. there are more Democratic voters than Republicans - the GOP is more and more converting itself explicitly into the party of racist white people - which is to say, older white people - so - they might just fade away.

All right. Politics. I should stop - though - there is more. The Garner and Brown stories (and other similar stories) have galvanized the country - made people pay attention to the continuing racism in American society. It's pulled the cover off things - the NY Police Department has managed to squander more good will in the last two weeks than you would imagine they could have. I don't know where that will go - they are very powerful, capable of making great trouble - but they are also demonstrating rather clearly the need to get police under control. Police need to be controlled by the civil authority. we have been lucky in this country - or,put another way, blessed, in having a military that has, for the most part, taken seriously the fact that they are under civilian control. They answer to the government - and while they might whine now and then, they generally do their duty. That has not always been the case for police - it hasn't been in the last couple weeks in New York. That has to stop. I don't know where this is going, to be honest - maybe we have started to wear off the deference to armed law that we have held since 9/11 - one has to hope. But it is going to take some votes to do it...

Votes. Comes down to votes.

All right: look at this - just like last year, this year end roundup degenerated into a political rant. Sad. I will leave you then with a film still - Walter and Hildy in His Girl Friday, getting ready to bring down the ward-heelers. My New Year's Eve movie marathon this year was The Front Page x2 - Milestone and Hawks. The 1931 film is an interesting one - more of the newspaper stuff, less of Walter/Hildy - and showing its age in odd ways. The sound (at least on the cheap DVD I have) is pretty bad; the camera work is quite remarkable. Milestone liked to move the camera around, and it spins and swoops around the room throughout the play - sometimes rather dizzyingly. It's also interesting for coming pretty close to the same rapid fire overlapping patter the Hawks films features - not quite so fast, but getting there. It's a neat film in itself. Though the Hawks is one of the great ones. The comedy of remarriage stuff picks the plot up another notch; the performers are as good as they come; and the improved production values make the whole thing crisp looking and sounding, which it needs. Great fun - a great way to ring out the old year.

And finally - the cat, claiming another kitchen appliance before I could even get it home. Horrible beast!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sherman's March to the Sea

I have been neglecting my Civil War posts - but I can't ignore Sherman's March to the Sea. This week is the end - he reached Savannah, Georgia on December 21, 1864.


The story - after taking Atlanta, Sherman stayed there; Confederate General John B. Hood took his army west, after a while, hoping to cut Sherman's lines, renew the war in the west (the Confederacy was being sliced up by this time, but that still left big chunks of land under their control - geography was their friend), and generally - find something useful to do. Sherman chased him around for a while, but not long - he gave it up, figuring that the Union forces in the west were more than adequate for the task. Instead, Sherman would take his army and head for the Atlantic - cutting the Confederacy into smaller pieces; wrecking their means of supporting the war; and teaching them what it meant to lose a war. So off they went, and they made gruesome work of it.

Behind him, John Schofield and George Thomas handled Hood easily enough. At the end of November, Hood wrecked his army with direct attacks on Schofield's entrenchments at the Franklin. Hood didn’t have much left after that, but Thomas took a couple weeks to finish him off - but on December 15 and 16, at the Battle of Nashville, he attacked, and didn’t leave much doubt about it. Hood’s army was ruined, taken out of the war, and the Union got on with the job of finishing the Rebels off.

Sherman’s army was already well on their way by then, though no one knew it. When he headed east from Atlanta, he cut off all ties with the rest of the United States. No communications, only the supplies he could carry - but his armies lived off the land, while wrecking it for the Confederacy. They tore Georgia apart - destroying everything of use to the enemy - the food supplies (still producing in this part of the country), industry, transportation, everything. By this time in the war, the places that had seen fighting - Virginia (especially the north), big chunks of Tennessee, Mississippi and such - had been ravaged for years; they could not support what was left of the Confederate armies. But the deep south had been spared - it still could supply Lee and the other armies still in the field - but not when Sherman was done with them. He destroyed that resource base, destroyed the transportation need to get supplies to Virginia. And on top of that, a big part of his goal was to show them the war was over except for the formalities - that Union armies could come and go as they pleased and do as they pleased...

It's hard to argue with the results. Sherman certainly demonstrated that the confederacy was beaten, and had best give up. He wrecked Georgia, and even if Lee and Johnston hadn't been finally beaten in the field in early 1865, they would probably have had no means of carrying on much longer. They were running out of room anyway; and by the end of Sherman's march, he'd reached the southern border of Virginia. At the same time, though the march wrought havoc on the south, there wasn't a lot of direct violence - property was ruined; lives were generally spared.

Still. A thing that works in one context might not be right for another; a thing that seems just and effective in one place, might not be so in another. You can detect the ghost of Sherman and his marchers in many of the wars we've fought since. It was immediately applied to the plains Indians - Sherman and Sheridan (who did the same thing to the Shenandoah) were in charge of those campaigns, and adopted a similar scorched earth policy. You can see its legacy in World War II's strategic bombing campaigns - hoping to destroy the enemies' ability to make war; and to demonstrate to the civilians that they were losing, and should surrender now. But whatever you think of what Sherman did - those later campaigns were a different sort of affair. Starting with the fact that the campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne and such were aimed as much against people as resources - they were genocidal, or at least willing to be genocidal - and the talk was certainly genocidal. And in WWII, there was no pretense at sparing the lives of civilians - bombing campaigns were meant to kill people, as much as to destroy war resources. No one pretended otherwise.

They were terrorism. And so was Sherman,strictly speaking. He certainly thought so - whatever he might have called it, his goal was to teach he south that they had lost, and break their will to continue fighting. That is what terrorism is - attacking not military targets in an effort to break the will of the population to fight. And - it might have worked in 1864 - though the history of the south after the Civil War tends to undermine that theory. It certainly didn't work in WWI or WWII - Zeppelin bombings didn't break the English in the Great War; the Blitz didn't break them in the second war; neither Germany or Japan broke, on the home front, in WWII, for all the devastation raised on them from the sky. Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have convinced the Emperor to intervene to force his more suicidal officers to surrender - but that is all. Even on the plains - the US did destroy the power of the plains tribes, but they did it by sheer force of numbers, and by obliterating their food supply. Which is what really worked against Georgia and the Shenandoah in 1864 (and worked against the Japanese in 1945) - destroying resources made it impossible for the CSA or Imperial Japan to resist. (Germany was beaten by main force: they maintained their war production fairly well to the end. In WWI, they were beaten largely by the blockade, which also ruined their resources, and starved the people to the point where they did turn against their government. That, in fact, might come closer to a parallel with Sherman - the British blockade starved them, without killing people openly; as did Sherman. Maybe economic warfare does work, when not coupled with (too much) open violence - bombs made people fight harder; hunger convinces them that getting rid of the Tsar or the Kaiser can save them. A thought anyway.)

So in the end - you have an event that in itself was very effective - not all that excessive - and, well - the Confederacy deserved what they got, and a good deal more. But - but - the precedents were bad; and in the back of my mind, it's hard to avoid the thought that what really won the war (in this part of the South) was the combination of John Hood heading of for nowhere and Schofield and Thomas blasting his army to shreds. Once the southern armies were gone - the war was won. Sherman gets the press - but Thomas and Schofield (and Grant and Sheridan) did the work.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Songs Ranked

The year is getting gone in a hurry - less than a week to Christmas, 2 weeks to the new year - things are getting away from me. well - last week should have been a Band of the Month week - but no Band of the Month was forthcoming! and now I am sorry to say, nothing is coming this week, either. Instead - let us celebrate the season! or something like that. A simple enough pair of lists: first - my favorite Christmas carols, because - why not? who doesn't love Christmas carols? And second - my favorite performances of Christmas songs - because - again - why not? They have to be different though because these are different sets of things. Christmas carols are there to be sung - best in a group - in the cold maybe, but anywhere - in the living room, in church, on the sidewalk, in a bar, in your car - who cares? Christmas carols, I admit, are the one thing that make me like going to church - to hear them, better to sing them - they are something I enjoy without reserve. And so - let's do this:

Christmas Carols, judged as much by the fun of singing them as by the song:

1. Silent Night - simple, clean and precise, sentimental, but honest, if you are going to sing about christmas, you can't do better
2. O Come All Ye Faithful - rousing lovely old fashioned Christmas song, a joy to hear and sing.
3. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus - with the Rowland Pritchard tune, it is a very beautiful and enjoyable song
4. Joy to the World - the finale to every christmas pageant ever, and so it should be: a rousing exuberant triumph. Handel! And such fun to bellow out before you get your presents and candy!
5. What Child is This (Greensleeves) - this song tends to baffle the amateur singers, probably because the words put to it are something of a tangle - but it is such a beautiful and classic melody, that I can't resist it.
6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - lots of these songs are in moonier keys, at least part of the way through - why is that? This one is fun to sing, and when I was a wean, it was fun to play on the trumpet, the only instrument I ever managed to fight to a draw. I have great nostalgia for that, and sometimes even now have been known to give it a shot again...
7. Hark the Herald Angels Sing - another very happy one, fun to bellow out in groups, in the cold; and of course there is Linus...
8. Angels We Have Heard on High - lovely French Carol, with those great glorias, though they are not quite singable by those of us who are not exactly singers. But they are fun to try, and this is such a pretty song...
9. We Three Kings - cool melody; see below.
10. Away in a Manger - you have to sing it every Christmas; it is schmaltzy where Silent Night is sentimental - never quite convincing, but it's still something you have to do around Christmas; and it is a fine song for singing. Hard to make it sound bad.

And now, five christmas songs, performed. You will note that these are not carols - they are mostly secular. There are reasons - mostly that this depends on recordings, and recordings are new... But also because Carols are experienced mainly by being sung - these are more about listening.

1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland: another melancholy christmas song - one of the most melancholy of them all. A beautiful song, from a beautiful movie - one of those movies where the date of release probably tells you more about it than the story or the setting. Gets 1944 better than a lot of songs explicitly about the war... we'll have to muddle through somehow...

2. We Free Kings - Rahsaan Roland Kirk - this is just thrilling.

3. Silver Bells - Der Bingle (with Carol Richards) - I grew up on this LP, Bing's Merry Christmas LP - like every other household in America (or 14,999,999 other households, anyway.) There are many good songs on that record, which we listen to every Christmas, and I listened to every Christmas on my own when I appropriated the thing from my mother (since I still had a record player in my living room, and they did not.) And still do on old iTunes, and would on LP if I had the energy to hook up the turntable again. Yes. well. All those great songs - and Der Bingle's voice - but this, I think, might be the prettiest, the nicest arrangement.

4. The Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby and David Bowie - might have started as one of those attempts at bridging the old and new, making some old timer hip, some youngster serious - but the results... It is a lovely song, Bowie's part countering the Little Drummer Boy - but part of the joy of it is the surprise in seeing one of the things come so right.

5. The Christmas Song - Jack Teagarden - I had this on some compilation - still do, actually - but of all the versions of this song (a hell of a song, too), this is my favorite. Jack's cool, drawling delivery just kills it.

That will do. Happy Holidays, people.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday 10 - 2014 Songs Sampled

Yikes - it is a Friday, isn't it. I have become really bad about this stuff - bad enough that I barely post anything outside of these Friday music things, but here I am mostly missing this one. And blowing off a Band of the Month post (since this is, theoretically, the week for that.) I will continue to blame World War I - and hope I can use some of it to provide posts in the future. Plenty of anniversaries coming over the next four years... Right now, though, I am obsessed with a paper that is due - maybe next week we can work in something more substantial.

Not today though: let's just do last week's trip again - 10 random songs from 2014....

1. Mogwai - Deesh
2. Melvins - Barcelonian Horseshoe Pit
3. Boris - Vanilla
4. Liars - Darkside
5. Pixies - Greens and Blues
6. Prince & 3rdeyegirl - Plectrum Electrum
7. Scott Walker & Sunn O)))) - Lullaby
8. Pere Ubu - Road to Utah
9. Jad Fair & Danielson - Ready Steady
10. Earth - From the Zodiacal Light

That kind of worked out better than last week. Still no TV on the Radio - come on iTunes! Here's a couple videos to hold you until I get more energetic...

Here's Boris, looking and sounding very 80s - though there's still a good deal of noise in there somewhere....

How about some drony Mogwai?

And maybe a drone or two here too - Earth, live. What beautiful sounds electric guitars can make.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Friday Music - 2014 Random Ten

We are getting late into this year - I think it's rime to take a couple random runs through stuff I bought this year. Another lean year, in terms of music purchasing - and every single record by an old favorite or two. What can you do? Worse than that - I haven't listened to nearly enough of it, even by these old favorites. Sad state of affairs, isn't it?

Anyway, here you go:

1. Pixies - Magdelena 318
2. Liars - Boyzone
3. Mogwai - Blues Hour
4. Boris - Taiyo no Baka
5. Interpol - My Desire
6. Bill Frisell - Messin' with the Kid
7. Beck - Unforgiven
8. Earth - Even Hell has its Heroes
9. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Surreal Teenagers (live)
10. Thurston Moore - The Best Day

Well? the two CDs I have tried to listen to didn't come up. Scott Walker and Sunn O)))) - which is all it should be, really:

And brand new, TV on the Radio, live on Letterman:

Ands - how about the Pixies?

And why not Bill Frisell?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Friday Random Music

Another quiet week here, and I'm afraid another quick hit on the music front. That's all right. It's been busy enough in the real world... I believe I owe the world something about Sherman's March - it began last week, and will stretch on for another month, leaving Georgia in ruins. We will have to get to that. Otherwise - WWI has been occupying my time and attention, and keeping me off this humble blog, even more than usual. It would be nice to work some of that into this blog, but the papers have been dominating my attention. Oh well.

Music: and - just some random stuff today.

1. Deerhoof - Breakup Song
2. Charlie Parker - Don't Blame Me
3. Jimi Hendrix - Fire
4. The Beatles - Carry that weight
5. Melvins - The Smiling Cobra
6. Pavement - Transport is Arranged
7. Van der Graf Generator - White Hammer
8. Beatles - Love me Do
9. Fleetwood Mac - World in Harmony (live at Boston Tea Party)
10. Bob Dylan's - Bob Dylan's 115th Dream

Video - first up - in memory of Mike Nichols, here's Simon and Garfunkel...

This is not going well - YouTube is not cooperating. when it does, you can watch Sir Paul, carrying that weight:

On the other hand, the Melvins are loading, so enjoy that:

Friday, November 14, 2014

Model to Buy a Model to Try

For this month's band, we get one more dip into 80s punk. The Minutemen were different from the bands of the era I've been writing about, because I didn't really listen to them in the 80s. Part of the reasons for that is that D Boon died almost exactly at the point I started chasing down contemporary underground music. So while I discovered and followed the Replacements and Husker Du, and discovered the Surfers and Meat Puppets (through concerts as much as anything else), I didn't dig into the Minutemen. I did buy a couple fIREHOSE records - liked them, without quite being blown away by them. The Minutemen were one of the bands I didn't quite get, even if they were right up my alley. (Sonic Youth is in that category; you might say The Bad Seeds as well, though that was different - I'll get to that eventually; Sonic Youth and Nick Cave will surely get their month on this blog eventually. Like the Minutemen, they both became serious favorites later - maybe for different reasons, though.)

I got to the Minutemen in the late 90s. I stopped listening to rock for the first half of the 90s (becoming a jazz fanatic). I came back, through Pere Ubu and Richard Thompson, (and Sonny Shamrock and John McLaughlin)in the mid 90s. And somewhere in here, I decided that my lack Minutemen records was a hole that needed to be filled - I bought one, and realized what I had missed. I bought the rest. They were, for a while, close to my favorite band. They benefitted a lot from technology - they were an absolutely ideal CD band. I am not sure how they would have fared if I picked up on them in the 00s, after the iPod became the main way I listened to music. I'll come back to this, but the fact is that their style - the short, sharp songs - have a fantastic cumulative effect, that seems a bit less impressive split up into single tracks. Technology did a lot of shape what I listened to though the years - there were bands I picked up from the radio; bands I listen to on LPs, some I listened to on tapes. Concerts made a huge impact on me in the 80s; magazines and fanzines in the 80s, magazines and the internet in the 90s and beyond; and so on. Truth is, I'm not sure if they would have made the same impression in the 80s if I had heard them - I saw almost everyone I liked live - without seeing them play, would I have been as enthusiastic then> The questions we ask...

But I listened to them wen I was listening to CDs, all the way through - and they were perfect for that, and it was perfect for them. Listening to them at length, their strengths are accentuated. Their songs are almost fragments - and the accumulation of them builds a mosaic of music. Their records become long form pieces, made up of those carefully crafted fragments. They were such a great sounding band. The bass/guitar interplay, George Hurley's fast, wonderful drumming, their ability to write riffs, and Boon's solos - efficient, and increasingly proficient, packing an amazing amount into very tight structures, while maintaining a sense of expansiveness - he is one of my favorite guitar players, hands down... They were fantastic.

They shaped me a good deal, as well. They prepared me to rediscover (since these bands I had heard and liked in real time) bands like Gang of Four, PIL, Wire; they helped cement the idea that post-punk was, in fact, a better musical form than punk ever was. (Though that idea was inevitable given my Pere Ubu obsession, I suppose.) They were a great band, and if push comes to shove, I would have to say they probably were the best American punk band of the 80s. The Mats and Husker Du hit me hard when I heard them; but from a distance - the Minutemen were the most consistent of the bunch, the most revolutionary, the most interesting.

Though it is kind of hard to come up with a top ten songs. For the reasons just named - they are better in the aggregate. Albums are a different matter - double Nickels on the Dime and What Makes a Man Start Fires especially have to rank in the top - what? 5? - of the 80s... But choosing songs - the individual songs are all good - but there are so many of them, and they are so short, fragmentary - they are sometimes hard to distinguish. Their records circle through a host of ideas and images and lines, and the songs start to feel like pieces of one bigger song. Maybe. Still - there are riffs, lines, solos, that do a little more - things like those pauses at the beginning of Sell or Be Sold, or D's solo - that stuff, I can't get enough of. These days, anyway, when they come up on the iPod, I am inclined to listen to every song that comes up three times...

1. Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs
2. Sell of Be Sold
3. Little Man with a Gun in his Hand
4. Glory of Man
5. The Anchor
6. Corona
7. Search
8. This Ain't No Picnic
9. Lost
10. Paranoid Chant

Video - here's King of the Hill: which might have been the first video I ever posted not his blog - was it? Yes - I think it was - the first one I embedded, at any rate. The version I posted, 8 1/2 years ago is gone, but I am pretty sure it was King of the Hill.

Here's another video - This Ain't No Picnic:

Glory of Man, plus an interview:

Three live songs, including Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda songs:

Sell or Be Sold:

And a full concert, 1985:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day 2014

Today is Armistice Day again. The 100th anniversary of the Great War is on us - I am taking a class, and so have been reading, thinking and writing about WWI all fall. Today, 100 years ago, November 11, 1914, was just another day. Part of the first battle of Ypres - in fact, it was part of what would turn out to be the last German push of that battle. The Germans attacked near the town of Nonnebosschen; they broke through he British lines, but were stopped by reserves. Both armies were pretty well wiped out by then - Wikipedia's account notes that Haig's I Corps had lost 90% of its officers and 83% of its enlisted men by then - and after this, there wasn't much fight left in anyone. When the attack on Nonnebosschen failed, the Germans backed off - began transferring men to the Eastern front - and winter came in.

That's 1914. The end of the Battle of Ypres basically locked both sides in place - this is where they all finally dug in for real, when trench warfare took over the whole western front. There would be a few months of relative calm at the end of 1914 into 1915, before both sides started trying to figure out how to get through trench lines. We will have four more years to see how that would go.

And 4 years in the future, it would end. The Germans would be fought to the point of collapse; the German government would collapse (after the Russians collapsed); the Allies would still be functional - so they got to win. But this isn't about winning.

No one really won anything in World War I. Millions of people were killed, and who gained? Japan, probably; the Bolsheviks; Serbia, I suppose, got what they wanted (despite being invaded and wrecked and nearly obliterated by the war). There were some interesting secondary effects, like women's suffrage, which appeared in many countries after the war - probably not a coincidence. But the thing itself, even by the standards of warfare, was a pointless and depressing affair from beginning to end. Marking its ending thus becomes something of a symbol for the hope that humans could learn from it, figure out the futility of war. It's something of a vain hope, but a worthwhile hope anyway.

A news story about the commemoration of the First Battle of Ypres: