Friday, July 24, 2015

On the Ground Like a Wild Potato

Good morning. A very lovely day outside - after a few days of real heat this week. More heat coming next week - nothing all that bad, really, for Boston, but it's been a cool summer, so it comes as a shock.

The world? The bloodshed and misery does not seem to want to stop - this one might be harder to politicize (from the preliminary reports) - just another crazy white guy. That's not a comfort exactly.

Comfort is hard to find. The local 9 have fallen on very hard times - I suppose that is a comfort to many fans, who have seemed a bit out of step with the Sox' successes. we are so used to suffering in Boston! having a team we can feel sorry for ourselves about is a bit of a comfort. Could be. I have taken some solace in the Tour de France - a fascinating event, way more addictive than I would ever have thought. Though it's been tough this week - the best American, Tejay Van Garderen, had been doing very well, top three for most of the race - but it all went wrong. A respiratory illness in the Alps - not an easy thing to ride a bike race with. So - it took some of the air out of the race, mainly because it looked like the most interesting battle was going to be for third place. 1 and 2 are Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana, who finished 1-2 2 years ago, and don't look likely to be challenged this year. 3rd place looked like it could be a fight. Still does, kind of, though it's harder to muster a rooting interest in the likes of Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde.

Enough of that. There is comfort in the world - music! and so to the business of the day.

1. Richard Thompson - I Still Dream
2. Billie Holiday & Lester Yong - This Year's Kisses
3. The Raconteurs - The Switch and the Spur
4. PJ Harvey - Who the Fuck?
5. Melvins - Pearl Bomb
6. Melt-Banana - Stick Out
7. Radiohead - Kid A
8. The High Back Chairs - Summer
9. Scott Walker - Face on Breast
10. B-52s - Private Idaho

Well - that was a good crop... Video? We have some PJ Harvey still, can't miss that:



Melt Banana might also be in order:



And the B-52s of course:

Friday, July 17, 2015

I'm Immortal When I'm With You

For this month's Band of the Month, we are back in the 90s and 00s, this time for one of the acts that brought me back into contemporary music in the late 90s: PJ Harvey.

I don't remember exactly when this happened - late 90s, 96, 97 - after her career was established, anyway. I remember seeing her on MTV back in the early 90s, but I didn't care, I was listening to jazz then - I picked up on her later. I remember a couple things: listening to Rid of Me and To Bring You My Love somewhat obsessively for a while; then seeing her on TV, singing songs from To Bring You My Love and Is This Desire. A TV show - must have been Sessions at West 54th Street (having consulted the googles, I see it was; I saw a few episodes of that show - Cibo Matto say...) - that was 98 or 99. The records came first, but that really sealed it - seeing her sing made those songs all the better. (Big fish little fish swimmin' inna water, come back here man gimme my daughter...) Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea just deepened it - those big jangly guitars, right in my wheelhouse. But really, she's been there since I started listening to her - Bring You My Love fit in nicely with what I listened to in the 90s - Pere Ubu and Built to Spill, to Sleater Knney and Captain Beefheart - and she led me to other things. Listening to PJ Harvey probably got me to check out Sleater Kinney - I am quite sure that Nick Cave's association with Harvey was the reason I picked up his records. I think I bought Murder Ballads first because of the duet with her. In this series, I've put her at the end of a 90s and 00s artists - but the truth is, she was the source of my interest in a lot of them.

Looking back across her career now, she is even more impressive. How much range she has! From punk (or post-punk - a musical offspring of Patti Smith and Nick Cave) to electronica/blues to jangly guitar pop to weird piano ballds (starting to sound like Kate Bush) to weird folk, sometimes all at once! She is a chameleon - changing styles; changing her voice, up and down in pitch, whispers, screams, shouts, croons, belting them out, thin and pretty sometimes, rich and powerful other times, capable of anything; changing her look. Looking through videos across her career - she covers pretty much every imaginable look, from punk to trashy to glamorous, to those weird white and black dresses she's featured in recent years. The look changes, her style changes - but she's there, a calm center - commanding every stage she's on. That volatility has always been her trademark, I think - the dynamic of her songs, the soft/hard dynamic on the early records; the mix of pretty melodies and seductive rhythms with edgy themes in the later ones - the shifts in tone, texture of songs, the sudden splashes of sound. She keeps you on your toes.

And finally, as a songwriter - she's among the elites. She's among my favorites - Cave; David Thomas; Mick and Keef; Richard Thompson, Lou Reed. Like Cave (and often Thomas, Thompson, Reed) she's more story teller than lyricist - she writes as a narrator - very striking on the early records, where the voice was often a man's, and on Let England Shake, where the stories were topical - and does it with great control, telling the story, and getting you into the narrator's emotional state. She creates characters that you come to know in 3 minutes - it's a gift. And she can turn a phrase with the best of them:
Seen and Done Things I Want to Forget
I don't want to make a fuss, I want to make my own fuckups
Until the light shines on me, I damn to hell every second you breath
I've lain with the devil, cursed god above, forsaken heaven, to bring you my love
Does it have to be a life full of dread, want to chase you round a table, want to touch your head...

Yes. So - on to the list, a top 10:

1. To Bring You My Love
2. Down By The Water
3. The Words That Maketh Murder
4. The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore
5. Rid of Me
6. Big Exit
7. Man-Size
8. Catherine
9. Dress
10. My Beautiful Leah

And video: Start here, a 1991 full concert. Right at the beginning - she had such a big voice, big sound, that she could go anywhere, and has gone most places. These early clips, she is so confident and powerful - there's nothing missing, she's a neo-punk act as good as anyone else at the time, and better in ways, her song writing voice - her perspective - and her voice, which is just shocking, even then:



Here she is in 1993, playing Rid of Me on Leno - Leno; electric; solo (which I didn't really notice til the long shots came - she and a guitar can fill the world):



Down by the Water, 95 - Jools Holland:



This is the TV show I saw back in the 90s - Sessions at West 54th Street - this is I Think I'm a Mother and Is This Desire, plus an interview with David Byrne:



To Bring You My Love - playing guitar, 2003:



Speak to me of your inner charm, how you'll keep me, safe from harm - I don't think so...



Words That Maketh Murder, live:



And end with another complete concert, from 2011:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy Bastille Day!

The Tour de France is starting back up today, moving into the mountains - always fun. This year's race looks likely to come down to an Englishman (from Kenya) vs. a Columbian, with an American, Spaniard and Italian in serious contention - well - it's an international sport. So here, to celebrate it, is a group of Germans:



And to wish our French friends a happy Bastille Day, here are some nice Canadian boys:



And finally, a very French performance of the Marsiellaise:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Halftime Film Report

I know I have become an awfully lazy blogger - lucky to get a list of autogenerated songs up every week, and that one long essay a month... Maybe an anniversary will wake me up, but those have faded, what with the Civil War over... Sad sad.

I haven't had a movie post up in forever - without external stimulation, I don't know if I'd have gotten one out this year. Of course that might help suggest why I have been such a slug here - I took a class in the spring, which as it happened did involve a pretty substantial Eisenstein paper. The Russians did rather finish me off for a while - at least that's what I hope happened. There's a decent post version of that Eisenstein paper somewhere - it might surface eventually...

For now though, I just want to get a hand in. I used to do this more often - knock off a Best So Far list about halfway through the year. Been a while since I have done that - three years in fact. Sad. But as a way of getting a hand back in, it'l do. So without too much ado - here are the 10 best films I have seen, in something like a real release this year:

1. Winter Sleep
2. Adieu au Langage
3. About Elly
4. Clouds of Sils Maria
5. The Wolfpack
6. Juaja
7. What we Do in the Shadows
8. The King and the Mockingbird
9. Amy
10. Results

And a much smaller list - best films I have seen dated 2015 - it's too early to do much of this: most of the films that I see in theazters the first half of any year are older, catching up on all last year's international films. (Thgough this year has been a bit ridiculous in that - The King and the Mockingbird? even About Elly is 6 years old. And if I wanted to really cheat, I could include Rebels of the Neon God, which is getting what I think is its first American theatrical run. I've seen it already, though, some years back at the MFA, so that's a bit too much for me. But I might as well post something from this year - since I have only seen 12 films dated 2015 (I think) - well - might as well rank them all. Very heavy on the documentaries...

1. The Wolfpack
2. Amy
3. Results
4. Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles
5. Iris
6. While We're Young
7. I'll see You in My Dreams
8. I am Big Bird
9. When Marnie Was There
10. Slow West
11. Mad Max Fury Road
12. Danny Collins

Actually - nothing bad - I enjoyed those all the way down (with occasional reservations). So not bad really.

I may even try to get some reviews up in the coming weeks - always a hope.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Musical Interlude

I am back. This is by rights my band of the month week, but that will have to wait. The holiday last week, and childhood film series entry this week, have me well behind. A weak excuse, but I have become so lazy.... It's all right. It's coming.

For now, then, just songs, randomized and all that.

1. Big Black - L Dopa
2. Ton Waits - Rainbirds
3. Dinosaur Jr. - Tarpit
4. Replacements - Within Your Reach
5. Tom Waits - Oily Night
6. Jay Farrar - Old LA
7. Scott Walker - Winter Night
8. Missy Elliot - Pump it Up
9. The Postal Service - Natural Anthem
10. Meat Puppets - The Touchdown King

Video - obviously Tom Waits this week. This is a neat piece of work, a student film set to Oily Night:



And - let's do - Big Black, live:



And maybe a preview for next week....

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Let the Right One In

Published as part of the Childhood Films countdown at Wonders in the Dark.



Adolescence can be a terrible time. It can be very painful. It is a time when you lose yourself, lose what you have been, and become a new person in spite of yourself. For most of us, this happens surrounded by others going through the same thing at the same time - is it any wonder how horribly 12 and 13 year olds can treat one another? Let the Right One In is a vampire movie, and a bit of a social satire (if that’s the word) - but mostly, it is about that time when you stop being a child and start to become something else (not quite an adult - but not a child). It is about loss - the loss of childhood, of identity, though also other losses (losing connections with other people, through death or changes in you and them) - but also about what you become. Change is loss, but also gain - you lose who you were, you become someone new. It is about the effects of these changes on groups of kids - about their cruelty, their pain, about how they cope, and perhaps escape.

The main story is about Oskar, a 12 year old living in a particularly horrifying suburb of Stockholm in 1981 (a period promising transition itself - Brezhnev was on his last legs; Reagan was rattling sabers across the sea - the Cold War itself was starting to change, but it wasn't sure what it was going to change into, and Sweden was right there between the two of them). Oskar lives with his mother, who is seldom home; his father lives in the country and is something of a refuge for the boy (except when he's drinking). He goes to school, where he is too clever for his own good, with an excessive interest in police matters; his classmates torment him mercilessly, and he goes home and imagines bloody vengeance on them. There don't seem to be any other kids in his apartment complex; then one moves in - Eli, a strange girl about his age who doesn't seem to dress appropriately for the cold, who seems about as lonely and suspicious as Oskar. It doesn't take them long to become friends - they bond over a Rubik's cube, and they are soon very close.



But Eli has secrets of her own. The film doesn't waste a lot of time letting us in on them - she lives with a Hakan, an odd, quiet, older man, who murders and guts people in the woods to bring her blood. Or tries - when he is interrupted, she has to go out herself and find prey, for she is a vampire. She kills a middle aged drunk, touching off a sub plot involving a number of aging alcoholics, who may have seen her. Meanwhile, things escalate at the school - the kids bullying Oskar get worse, and when he fights back (at Eli's urging), he hurts one of them badly enough to cause further repercussions. The assorted plots build - rising trouble among the kids; the developing friendship and intimacy between Oskar and Eli; and the complications coming out of the killings. Hakan is caught in the act of trying to kill another kid, and leaves Eli alone; one of the friends of the man she killed finds her and tries to kill her while she sleeps, but Oskar warns her and she kills the man; then the boys at school try to get their ultimate vengeance on Oskar, but Eli saves him in a spectacularly gruesome fashion, and they leave together.



It delivers as a horror film, but it is much more concerned with the relationships. The film concentrates on Oskar and Eli - the novel it is based on develops a number of relationships in addition to theirs. It delves into the lives of the kids who torment Oskar; it details Eli and Hakan's relationship; it spends more time with the old drinkers; more time with Oskar and his family. But the broader scope of the book mainly expands and deepens the themes that are at the heart of Oskar and Eli's relationship - the sense of loss, loneliness, change, and their powerlessness against that change. In the book, we learn that the bullies are more like Oskar than not - they lose parents, families, they are going through the same changes he is - they take their troubles out on him, creating a chain of misery. The film retains hints of this - Oskar's main tormenter has an older brother, who is introduced in the film bullying the little brother (who will pass it on to Oskar); the film also retains the subplot with Ginia and Lacke, an older couple who are in the process of losing one another (and in the end, lose everything.) This is a world of pain; everyone is alone, everyone is isolated - and Eli is the epitome of all of their pain.

Most of the characters are kids, most of them on the edge of puberty, about to change forever - and Eli is trapped forever at that very moment. Eli was made a vampire at age 12 - taken from his family, castrated, tortured to death, though not to actual death, then trapped forever at that point of transition and pain. Eli is locked forever in pre-pubescence, trapped between childhood and adulthood, between boy and girl, life and death, ageless and 12 years old, always in the middle. The film is extraordinary at capturing her strange condition - it shows her childishness, her sense of discovery of the world, of things like the Rubik's cube, her loneliness, her desire for contact, a connection, her willingness to try things - while never losing the sense that she is hundreds of years old, has been through this before, has suffered everything and more. And that she is a vampire, and must live on blood, is subject to a host of rules and conditions - she will catch fire in the sun; she cannot enter a place without being invited, without consequences, and so on. She is immensely powerful, but she can't get along without the help of others. We see it in her relationship with Oskar - she genuinely likes him, she longs for friendship, for communication - but she also sees that she can use him, that he can replace Hakan. She uses him - his anger and fear, his loneliness - while at the same time responding to him directly, as one lonely child to another. The film handles this with great care, we can see both; it is a superb balancing act.



And it is a superb film throughout. I've written before about its look, the cold spare spaces of Blackeberg, all square buildings and empty courtyards, a fair version of hell, but that excellence is everywhere in the film. It's beautiful, and it uses its look and feel to advance the themes. It is a film about the end of childhood, about transition - and plays that out, all the shots of doorways and windows and gates we see. The themes come from the book - the importance of those liminal spaces, the central metaphor of the vampire's inability to go in uninvited, with Eli as the ultimate liminal character, forever caught <i>between</i> - and the film finds the imagery to give them weight and power.



So we come back to adolescence, to the traumatic transition from a childhood to maturity, to the loss of oneself, and the discovery of a new self - and the importance of that part of the change. Oskar, at the end of the film, has lost everything - abandoned his family, his life, left a trail of devastation in his wake - he is moving into a very uncertain future, very possibly headed for a life of slavery to a vampire who needs him to kill for her, and certainly obliged to drag her around with him wherever he goes.... But he is on his way somewhere - moving, alive, sane, not locked in a trunk until sunset. He has put off the childish things, and become someone else, something no one else, not even Eli, can do.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Politics, Music and so On

Happy Friday. It has been Another One of Those Weeks, so this will not be the most interesting of posts... On the other hand, it has been a very interesting, and rather heartening, week in the real world, so....

The big news is that the Moops did not invade Spain - I mean, that it is possible to recognize errors in a text. I mean - that Obamacare is legal as stands, and that a phrase that seems to contradict the clear meaning of the rest of the law, cannot be used to invalidate the law. So says John Roberts, communist. This is a very good thing. Millions of people who have health insurance because of the ACA will continue to have health insurance; the law itself will be embedded into the fabric of the country (isn't that what Obama said somewhere? ah, the hazards of skimming through Twitter for my news...) - thus very difficult to get rid of. It also will probably serve to seal Obama's place among the great presidents - his legacy is going to be hard to parse out, I suppose, but it is going to be a very good on, overall.

And, referring back to last week's news, somewhat surprisingly, the move to get rid of Confederate flags in public places has gained a lot of traction - South Carolina, even, went first (or Nikki Haley went first - the legislature has to approve. This being SC, god knows what they will do.) They were followed by a number of states - by Walmart and NASCAR - and many more. Sometimes, it has to be said, to the point of fucking stupidity - Apple, apparently, decided this meant they should remove Civil War themed games from the App Store. (And from a quote in that article, only games with the Battle Flag are considered offensive - so you can use some other Confederate flag... Good god, that's dumb.) Mostly, though, the responses have been sensible enough - government endorsement of the flag of treason in defense of slavery (any of the flags of that villainous crew, ideally) has to stop. This is hardly the end of the problem, but admitting that it is a problem is certainly a helpful first step.

All right. Two political posts in a row? I am running out of time - I can't be doing this all morning. So I will switch to the usual Friday fare - music - random - etc.

1. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Whoever You Are
2. Richard Thompson - Sally B
3. The Carter Family - Heaven's Radio
4. Pere Ubu - Heartbreak Garage
5. Big Boi - Knowing
6. John Lee Hooker - Black Cat Blues
7. Green River - This Town
8. Picturebooks - Golden Tongues
9. The Melvins Lite - Mr. Ripoff
10. The Saints - New Center of the Universe

And video? Should have put this up last week, but I found it after I posted - Juneteenth Jamboree, by Gladys Bentley.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Juneteenth

Today is the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth - June 19, 1865, the day Union troops arrived in Galveston Texas with news that the war was over and the slaves had been freed. General Gordon Granger read a general order announcing their freedom:
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.
And there was, indeed, very great rejoicing. Over the years it became an annual celebration - though one that perhaps grew bittersweet over the years. The United States won the Civil War, but the Confederate states won the Reconstruction - removing many rights from the freed blacks, imposing an apartheid regime in the south, that only started to be undone in the 1950s and 1960s. In recent years, Juneteenth has again become an important celebration in some places - a state holiday in Texas even - and we would not go wrong as a country to make it a national holiday. It is an excellent place to mark the end of the Civil War, and the good that came out of the Civil War - a subject that deserves more celebration.

Right now in particular. The shooting at the AME church in Charleston, SC, is a reminder, if we need one, that the Civil War has not really gone away. A white man, an open racist, goes into a Black church and murders 9 people, spouting off as he did it - “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go.” He seems to have been an over-determined piece of work - racist, drug addled thug, a time bomb waiting to go off - but when he went off, he went off in a Black church pastored by a state senator - whatever he might have been as an individual, his act was political terrorism. Which is nothing new: the south has practiced political terrorism from the day the Civil War ended (of course before that, they practiced terrorism against Blacks for some centuries, though it was all more or less legal), to restore and maintain white supremacy.

There's no escaping it. And this attack is depressingly continuous with all the violence against African Americans - it is continuous with the police murders that have been in the news (Michael Brown and Eric Garvin and Walter Scott and Freddie Gray). It is continuous with the state it occurred in - which still flies the Confederate flag. You can't get around that fact: South Carolina continues to celebrate its role in killing 650,000 plus Americans in defense of slavery and white supremacy - it is a bit disingenuous to lament some free-lancer adding 9 more to the toll, when you do that. Ta-Nehisi Coates sums it up, as he usually does: "The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it." At some point, even the parts of the United States unhappy with the results of the Civil War will need to accept its outcome.

In the meantime, we can celebrate its outcome. Forget the bad news for a while, and have a happy Juneteenth.

Friday, June 12, 2015

I'll Give you Anything Everything if You Want Thing

This month on band of the month, it is time for some Pink Floyd. The Floyd is an interesting case. For a time, in high school, right about the time The Wall came out - and again for a while in college, right when I started, they were right there among my absolute favorites. Looking back, it makes enough sense - the first bout was driven by The Wall, which is a very high school kind of record. (Look at Walt, in The Squid and the Whale - the fact that no one seems to recognize Hey You - that everyone takes for granted that he wrote it - well - it sounds like adolescent angst; the whole record does.) The college bout was centered on Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You were Here and Animals (someone had a tape we used to listen to - people tend to forget Animals, sometimes) - arty, sophisticated, but fairly conventional collections of songs (maybe not Animals so much) - music made for clever boys wanting music that would make them feel smarter than they were - it does that.

It faded, of course. You discover more music, and start thinking Pink Floyd is not that challenging, not really cleverer than their peers, etc. There are harder bands - more virtuosic bands - more sophisticated bands - lots of more melodic bands, rhythmic bands, rawer bands - sooner or later, maybe you discover jazz or more complicated prog (Soft Machine or Can or Van der Graf Generator or King Crimson - to name some of the bands I came to prefer). Or maybe you just discover Syd Barrett Floyd and find all the later stuff bland and overblown. Me - I came to prefer more contemporary music (U2 and REM and so on) on one side, and rawer AOR (Zep, The Who, etc.) on the other and let the Floyd fade. And then started listening to punk, and older, more underground bands (Velvets, Stooges, etc,), and poor Pink and the boys were lost.... Until I got Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which brought me part of the way back.

More than that really - I was completely convinced by that record - by Barrett. No hesitations. Post-Barrett, they're okay - good songs and all - but nothing I would seek out. But Piper really is a fantastic piece of work. They cover everything there - rock out more than they ever did afterwards, the songs are better, the experimentation more experimental - Syd is a way rawer and inventive musician than the rest of them, a more interesting and expressive singer, writer of smart, funny, cool lyrics - what's not to love? The experimental stuff, the jams, are jarring, ragged weird stuff that sticks with you (Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk, say - the end of Bike...) It made the rest of their career seem a lot blander - nice stuff, but still kind of AOR filler - hearing Have a Cigar, after 10 years, it sounds like glorified Supertramp... right?

I suspect readers by now have figured out how these essays go: if I loved someone in high school, abandoned them in college or afterwards, but have decided to write about them - I must have rediscovered them somewhere along the line. Well - correct you are! hypothetical reader mine. I did. I am writing about them now because they fit in the context of the groups I've been writing about the last few months. Radiohead, Mercury Rev - and bands like Tool, Can, Soft Machine, Van Der Graf Generator, Acid Mothers Temple, At the Drive In/Mars Volta, Captain Beefheart - got me listening to prog, and things like prog, and made me hear it with different ears. I heard Pink Floyd with different ears. Though that's only part of it - it's also true that I started listening to different Floyd, in the early 2000s. My first bout of loving the Floyd was rooted in The Wall, and the second one in the mid-70s records - my first rediscovery of them came from the Syd Barrett stuff - and the second rediscovery came from listening to the early 70s records: Ummagumma, Saucerful of Secrets, Meddle - the apologetically artsy stuff. Careful With that Ax Eugene, Set Your Controls for the Heart of the Sun, One of these Days, Echoes, Let There Be More Light - big epic stuff I didn't listen to in 1980, 82, or 88. Again, though, showing something - music sounds different in different contexts - what you listen to conditions how you hear things. Listening to Tool and Radiohead and Mercury Rev made me hear different things in Pink Floyd, just as listening to REM and the Feelies and the Velvet Underground shaped how I heard the Syd Barrett stuff in the 80s.

So there we are. They are a strange case - I have gone through long stretches of near disdain for them (the Syd stuff excepted) - but other periods where I have nearly worshipped them. For all the fluctuations in my taste, I have been listening to them for 35 years, sometimes obsessively - and keep coming back to them. And can't deny that they have helped form me - maybe I like other prog bands more - but I learned to like that kind of music mostly from Pink Floyd. A lot of bands I love have a lot of Pink Floyd's DNA in them... And I can't deny either that they really do sound magnificent when they get going. I have come to respect their musicianship a great deal - there are few more tastefully beautiful guitarists than David Gilmour, and Nick Mason has grown on me as a great drummer. Barrett really was the star of the band - maybe not as good as Gilmour, but a genuinely inventive player - imaginative, surprising, challenging - the real deal. But really - the rest of them hold their own. I can't pretend there isn't a lot of filler on some of those records, but at their best they are really really wonderful.

And here, then, are their best, as I see it:

1. Bike
2. Comfortably Numb
3. Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun
4. Lucifer Sam
5. Time
6. Interstellar Overdrive
7. Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
8. Flaming
9. Wish You Were Here
10. Fearless

And on to video. Missing, in a way, from this discussion, are the singles - so here is one, See Emily Play - a lovely, cool song, with a very odd promotional film, some of the more awkward forced whimsy you are likely to see...



And a long filmed performance of Interstellar Overdrive - showing the importance of film and light and so on to their act at the beginning. (All through their career really.) With some excellent representative guitar work from Syd:



Moving ahead - Dave Gilmour joins - here's Let there be more Light, live on French TV:



Setting their controls for the Heart of the Sun (with some great stuff from Mason):



And since it's harder than I thought to find live performances from the mid to late 70s on YouTube, hop ahead to the 80s: here's the video for Another Brick in the Wall, with sinister schoolchildren, Gerald Scarfe designed balloons and cartoons, and lots of bricks and hammers:



And Comfortably Numb, live in 1980:

Friday, June 05, 2015

Friday Random Music (Real World Edition)

Good morning - another simple Friday post, to mark time... It has been One Of Those Weeks - but I will not go into that. Work, you know. My eye-rolling muscles are getting a workout. And my liver. But anyway: here are some songs to contemplate this Friday morning.

1. Pere Ubu - Real world (live)
2. Public enemy - Invisible Man
3. Sleater-Kinney - I wanna be your Joey Ramone
4. Led Zeppelin - When the Levee Breaks
5. Keiji Haino/Yoshida Tatsuya - Avenue D
6. The Raconteurs - Level
7. Luna - Anesthesia
8. Miles Davis - Helen Butte/Mr. Freedom X
9. Richard & Linda Thompson - Shame of Doing Wrong
10. Sugarcubes - Lucky Night

I suppose this is particularly necessary this morning - out in the real world, in real time:



Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie:



And Luna - I could use some anesthesia....

Friday, May 29, 2015

Music for the End of May

Good morning, again. These years when Memorial Day comes early always throw me for a loop - here it is, the last Friday of May, but not a long weekend! Something seems off.

Anyway - May is almost done; it has been very warm this week - normal weather for this time of year, I guess. That is something to be grateful for - normal weather is not very normal anymore. Someone always seems to be getting what Texas is getting - the worst X in Y years... For those inclined to think about the coming apocalypse - 2015 is shaping up to be the warmest year on record - after 2014 was the warmest year on record last year. Ah, plenty to worry about!

All right - I'm not going to solve global warming here. So - music it is!

1. Bill Frisell - Reflections from the Moon
2. Sun Ra - Rocket Number Nine
3. Kinks - (Wish I could Fly Like) Superman
4. The Melvins - Goin' Blind
5. Neil Young - Pocahontas
6. Serge Gainsbourg - Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus
7. Bruce Springsteen - Incident on 57th Street
8. Gomez - These 3 Sins
9. Chic - Everybody Dance
10. The Beatles - Something

Video: if the weather gets too bad - we could go to Venus, maybe - here's the current version of the Sun Ra Arkestra, last year at Glastonbury:



I want to fly but I can't even swim:



I suppose there is another option:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Decoration Day

Happy Memorial Day!

As I am wont to do, I am inclined to think about the origins of holidays on holidays. This one began in the wake of the Civil War - officialy in the north in 1868; less officially, and at various times and places in the south in 1866 or so. And one of the first instances came in Charleston, South Carolina, where a large number of freed slaves (mainly) gathered to pay tribute to the Union soldiers who had died at the Hampton Park Race Course, which had been used as a prison camp during the war. The dead had been buried there - the freedmen cleaned and landscaped the grounds and gathered for a ceremony on May 1, 1865, to honor the Martyrs of the Race Course. There may or may not have been any direct connection between that and the commemorations to come, but it set the patterns - parades, memorialization of the war dead - and I suppose an attempt to claim the holiday for a political purpose. In this case a good purpose - the end of slavery and preservation of the union. But in coming years, the south would try to claim it as a celebration of the "lost cause".

Over the years, the original significance of the day has been replaced by a more general day of remembrance for the war dead - we do have more wars to remember now. That is a good thing to remember - but it is good, too, to go back to the origins. I admit too that I feel this more strongly on Decoration Day (and Armistice Day) than most holidays - the Civil War is, really, the foundational moment of the United States. We existed for 87 odd years before that, but the Civil War is what defined us (or at least, defined us as something worth being.) We live with its effects more than we live with the effects of any other event in our history, even now. Which links it to Armistice Day - since WWI had this impact on the rest of the world. everything since - bigger or smaller - flows from the Great War, as it flows from the Civil War in this country. And so - keep in mind where this came from, and maybe, the cause behind it.



Here, then, is Orson Welles, explaining and reciting The Battle Hymn of the Republic:


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Music of a Long Weekend

Friday! a long weekend! a long weekend that's already starting for most of the people I work with, but not for me! bit of poor planning there. All right - I want to get some real material up here - make some use here of all the Ivan the Terrible stuff I did for class; answer Dennis Cozzalio's latest quiz (which is a - holy Crap! - a month overdue already!) - write about history (started reading about Andrew Johnson, America's worst ever president - who was, at the same time, a very fascinating character) - etc. Some of that will come! it isn't just talk! But today it is talk...

So music:

1. Karen Dalton - How did the Feeling Feel to You
2. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - I You Can Wait
3. Fleetwood Mac - The Sun is Shining
4. Nick Cave & Bad Seeds - Deanna
5. Arcade Fire - Flashbulb Eyes
6. Devandra Banhart - The Spirit is Near
7. The Kills - Damned if She Do
8. AC/DC - Shake a Leg
9. Beatles - Her Majesty
10. The Low Anthem - To Ohio

And some Video - let's start with Karen Dalton - different song (It Hurts me Too), but something. The Karen Dalton track is from one of those Mojo compilations - something I didn't know existed until now. But now that I do - this is some good stuff.



I wonder if Devandra Banhart is a fan? (This is also a different song than iTunes tossed up, but you take what you can get.)



And finally - I think Peter Green tends to get the attention (with good reason, as Peter Green is one of the Great guitar players of rock), but Jeremy Spencer is no slouch, and nice to see him still playing (2009 or so):

Friday, May 15, 2015

I'm A Reasonable Man Get Off My Case

A week late, but here's May's Band of the Month - sticking with the late 90s early 00s theme for the moment. Sooner or later in this series, we're going to get to bands that don't have much biographical significance to me - and that's probably the case this month. I like Radiohead, obviously - that's why they're here - but I just like them. It took a while - I remember Creep coming out, remember thinking they sounded like 85 other generic 90s bands, though they could turn a phrase... Then forgot they existed for a few years, then discovered, to my shock, that they were extremely popular and widely loved by people who loved music. It was an amazing fact, I thought - though I was almost completely innocent of ever having heard them (other than Creep.) People I knew would have long earnest and intense discussions (ie, arguments) about them, whether Kid A was brilliant or some kind of terrible betrayal - and it felt like they were talking a foreign language. And then, for reasons I can't begin to remember, I got one of their records - Amnesiac it was - and discovered that they were quite good. So I got others, liked them, and accepted the fact that I was a Radiohead fan.

It still feels a bit alien to me somehow - listening to them makes me feel like a college kid in the 90s. I wasn't a college kid in the 90s, but I feel very confident that I would have loved them if I had been. This is particularly true of OK Computer and the Bends - I like their sources (I hear U2 and the Smiths in there, very strongly, and the lingering ghost of David Bowie and Pink Floyd), but it still feels very far from me. But - if I were 10 or 15 years younger - I know this would have filled me with exaltation and wonder. But I'm not - and maybe more odd than anything, the records of theirs I really love are the electronic ones - Kid A and Amnesiac - maybe because they have moved far enough from their sources to just sound like themselves - maybe because Thom Yorke has stopped trying to emote, and sounds less whiny - maybe just because I love the rhythm tracks on those records. I don't know, and I guess it doesn't matter. They are great, hypnotic records, full of great compelling songs.

Not that there aren't great songs on their other records - before and after really - and everything they do sounds fantastic. The early records have more guitar, and sometimes quite magnificent guitar (what Jonny Greenwood can make come out of a guitar is sometimes a thing of wonder) - all of them are exquisitely constructed tracks. And though Yorke's lyrics don't always convince me, when he's on - "when I am king you will first against the wall, with your opinion which is of no consequence at all" - "laugh until my head comes off, swallow til I burst" - "I wish I was special, you're so fucking special" - he nails it, can't deny it. So it goes, and I keep getting the new records and listening to the old ones, and though I can't help wondering what I would have thought if I had been 17 when OK Computer came out.

And here are 10 songs:

1. Idioteque
2. Subterranean Homesick Alien
3. Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box
4. Paranoid Android
5. National Anthem
6. Creep
7. A Punch up at a wedding
8. Bones
9. I Might be Wrong
10. Optimistic

And here are some videos - we'll start with Creep, live in 94 - a song that holds up pretty well, over the years.



Idioteque, 2012:



Subterrainean Homesick Alien:



And Electioneering, to let Jonny show off a bit:



Paranoid Android (which I imagine is obligatory) - from Austin City Limits:



Finally - here's a cover of Packt like sardines (etc.) by a band I might be getting to eventually (Punch Brothers) - which does illustrate jjst how good these songs are: