Post by Friendly Destroyer on Dec 10, 2010 23:27:26 GMT -8
I just watched the movie an hour ago, fine stuff. I don't usually like disclosing personal info on boards, but because you're just a questionably relevant dinosaur baby I will tell you that I once dropped out of high school and vagabonded around various countries for a long time. So I actually did have a TV(s), but not one(s) that was(were) in the habit of featuring the english language. I would really have enjoyed seeing stores and billboards full of Powerpuff Girls though. Missed that.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 11, 2010 12:00:03 GMT -8
Optiganally Yours is THE SHIT, right? I really, really fucking love OY.
I saw them last summer, fucking FINALLY. I was the guy that was so fucking excited and having so much fun and was so much drunk that I ended up on-stage with Rob Crow. I'm not even a LITTLE bit embarrassed about it, not at all. Nobody in the house was more excited than I was to finally get to see Optiganally Yours.
And SUCH a cool show. There were dancers and costume changes and props and by the end of the show Rob wasn't wearing anything but pink underwear that said 'BITCH' on them and a viking helmet.
...at least I think that was an Optiganally Yours show...
Post by Friendly Destroyer on Dec 11, 2010 13:48:25 GMT -8
Optiganally Yours is one of the few artists I'd never heard of on this thread (PS - Thank You), it's the kind of music (like Ween, who for some nonsensical reason I've had on the back burner for the past 15 years) that make me wish I could hop in a time machine and re-grow up with this in my headphones.
As far as the Residents go, when I was a kid I once told my dad's weirdo friend "Micth" (He would actually spell it in quotations) that I liked listening to Jesus Christ Superstar because it was like "hearing" a story. The next day I was promptly given a crackly beat up cassette of "Mark of the Mole". As a kid I was confused what to think or understand how this was in anyway the logical next step from Superstar, but I had already been exposed(terrified) to(by) NON from an older cousin and therefore was not entirely weirded out by them. I kinda kept up with them and definitely enjoyed their stuff and philosophy, but more than anything I have that album to thank for helping me form a palate toward the strange and weird in music, film and books. As for "Mitch", I recently tried to reminisce with him about giving me "Mark of the Mole" as a kid, but he could not remember ever doing so nor that he was ever THAT into the Residents enough to own any tapes (Stolen I guess).
PS- This guy babysat me/was my final "responsible" defense many many times.
Post by Friendly Destroyer on Dec 11, 2010 14:01:43 GMT -8
Also in "Mitch"'s defense, the tape was a copy. So I guess in a semantical kinda way (a way not to uncommon for "Mitch") he did not own, as in buy, the album. This does not explain not remembering giving it to a child.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 13, 2010 9:45:51 GMT -8
EDIT: Oh holy shit guys, massive bombshell just landed in my real life world; for those of you who saw the post this one is replacing, KNOW YOUR CLASSICS week will take place next week. No review today, I've got some shit to take care of this morning. We'll be back tomorrow with more exciting verbal masturbation.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 13, 2010 16:09:45 GMT -8
The Books - Lost and Safe
The first time I heard The Books was shortly after the release of their 2003 album 'The Lemon of Pink'. I was a couple years into my endless love affair with The Residents and I thought that no manner of experimental sounds, instrumentation or structure could surprise me. I was wrong: I HATED it. I really hated The Books. I remember I couldn't wait to sell my copy of 'The Lemon of Pink', I thought it was the most pretentious bullshit I'd ever heard.
Tastes change, or mature. I wasn't ready for the delicate precision contained on that disc yet. I love that record now, it is mind-expanding -- a near-flawless collection of ticks, laughter and various sounds. The two things most responsible for changing my mind about it were the five months I spent schooling myself with LSD, and this record, 'Lost and Safe'.
'Lost and Safe' solidifies some of the more ambient leanings of the first two Books albums. While 'The Lemon of Pink' and it's older brother, 'Thought for Food', almost give the effect of listening to wind chimes on a not-particularly-windy day, 'Lost and Safe' trades in melodies and beats - albeit delicate, unassuming beats. What hasn't changed is the approach Nick Zammuto (guitars and vocals) and Paul de Jong take to building songs. Separated by an age difference of roughly twenty years, both members of The Books are obsessive collectors of found sounds and have a unique ability to transform old snippets of radio broadcasts, pieces of tapes on elocution and self-help monologues, and recordings of people talking and laughing into the framework for their singular brand of experimental pop music.
The effect is completely dizzying and kind of disorienting. By taking these words and sounds, ripping them from their original context and reassembling them to suit their porpoises, the original meaning is almost entirely lost and what is left is an incredible view of how melodioius and varied human voices are. Classically trained finger-picked guitar and the incredible cello work of De Jong turn an ocean of seemingly meaningless words into something much more than the parts of the whole.
It's exciting stuff. There is a kind of physical sensation I associate with listening to The Books that I don't associate with anything else; even with songs I've heard a hundred times, there is an anticipation that I will hear something new going on under the layers of sound that is hardly ever disappointed. Like the feeling of epiphany that accompanies a night of star-gazing on drugs, it lends me an expanded sense of the world and of myself.
Take, for example, the incredible album highlight 'An Animated Description of Mr. Maps'. It starts in with an urgent beat, cbelt sandering and swirling like an alley full of trashcans in a fierce wind. Zammuto sings a brief verse while the beat finds its footing before the track changes gears entirely. Amidst a series of non-sequitur clips of old men talking together comes a very peculiar drum solo: what sounds like perhaps a police officer giving a detailed description of perhaps a fugitive, speaking quickly and with short clipped words. A snare drum doubles the sound of the man's voice, all but obliterating the line between where the words end and the drum hits begin. Listen to this:
'Be Good to Them Always' appropriates dialog from an older film version of 'Alice in Wonderland' and what I THINK might be, fittingly, a recording of Dr. Albert Hoffman himself. 'Venice' builds a metronomic march around a verbal account of a European man doing a live painting. There are so many brilliant ideas stuffed into 'Lost and Safe' that I don't know which ones to focus on.
There's nobody like The Books. I've heard comparisons to acts like Dead Can Dance or the Kronos Quartet that hold a little water, but there is a limitless sense of exploration involved with a Books record that they corner the market on. Discussing their live set would require an entirely separate article; suffice to say, there is a meticulously crafted visual element that complements their sound perfectly.
I'm not going to lie to you, I bought 'The Lemon of Pink' on the strength of a Pitchfork review; like I said, at the time I hated it so bad that I still rarely trust Pitchfork. It's interesting to me, though, that my opinion of one of my favorite acts changed so drastically over a period of time. 'Lost and Safe' is unlike anything you've ever heard. I never grow tired of it; I can't, every time I hear it I feel like I've never heard it before.
I get the feeling that The Books is a name that a lot of people hear but that they don't look into. Fix that mistake. I'm including a second sample track in this review to illustrate just how much these guys are able to do, and this second one incorporates some of the visuals from their live set. Apologies for the lateness of my submission today, to make up for it I wanted to give you guys one of the really great ones. Enjoy.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 13, 2010 16:42:08 GMT -8
Friendly D: There was a "Mitch" character in my early years, a good friend of my dad's named Bart. Bart would show up out of the blue sometimes -- I remember one day he arrived on our doorstep while my parents were out of the house, tripping balls on acid and insisting we bring him everything in the house that was 100% cotton so he could show us how to tie dye -- and when he would leave, he would 'accidentally' leave copies of things like Tom Waits' 'Swordfishtrombones' and Pixies' 'Surfer Rosa'. Being given stuff like that when I was in my early teens... I do not overestimate how important that was to defining my personality.
Optiganally Yours is one of the few artists I'd never heard of on this thread
Who were the others, if I might ask? Not to put you on the spot, but I like to know my audience.
Everyone else, too: which of these artists are ones you already knew of or liked? Some of them I'd be truly surprised if anyone at all knew who they were, and some of them I'm surprised people HAVEN'T heard of. It's not my goal to show how many bands I can come up with that nobody knows about, my asking is just another fact of my cultural curiosity.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 14, 2010 9:57:17 GMT -8
Duplex! - Ablum
Today we are stepping over the line we nudged up against with our discussions of 'Happiness Island' and the Powerpuff Girls. It should be no secret by now that I kind of love children's music. I never grew out of cartoons and I never grew out of my Muppet Movie soundtrack or my Sesame Street records. Duplex! is kind of children's music; kind of. The ages of the eight members of the band range from 3 to 40, and on 'Ablum', all of them play instruments, contribute original songs and sing.
I noticed two interesting things while doing a little bit of fact checking about Duplex before starting this article. One is that apparently within the last year they released a follow-up to 'Ablum' without me knowing anything about it; I hate when things like that slip by me, but I can't wait to hear it. The other is that sometime after 'Ablum', any information regarding one of the most notable members of the band - A.C. Newman - was excised from the band's biography. It's weird, I'm certain he's on 'Ablum' - you can hear him - but now I'm second guessing myself about that.
No matter. 'Ablum' is one fucking goofy record. It opens with a track called 'Yr Mama' and closes with a track called 'Pooing and Peeing', and in between there's everything from homages to the Ramones ('Nucat') and Schoolhouse Rock covers ('Figure 8') to weird Biblical songs ('Heatin Up the Milk' and 'Bethlehem'). The input of half a dozen songwriters makes for a real grab bag, but the idea of a grab bag isn't so bad when you know that everything inside the bag is made out of candy.
Based out of Vancouver, B.C., Duplex! is the project of Canadian singer Veda Hille. That name doesn't mean anything to me outside of the context of Duplex!; maybe it has significance to you some of you Canadians. She calls Duplex! "Indie rock for small people - songs for kids and their adults." Any other TMBG faithfuls on this board know that it's possible to write songs for kids that are equally interesting to adults on repeated listens. Honestly, I think Duplex! manages it better than They Might Be Giants do, but Duplex!'s checks aren't being signed by the cryogenically frozen head of a Nazi so they have a little more freedom.
So yeah, there are songs written by a three-year-old. There's a couple songs written by a pair of fourteen year old girls. But these are mixed in with some really catchy, clever tunes that only sound like children's music because they are in context of the album. For example, 'Hanu' is just a song about a really happy, carefree guy:
"He's got the new philosophy, that's Hanu He achieves serenity, that's Hanu He lives a life of leisure, it's been said He only seeks the treasure of his bowl and his bed..."
It's all major chords and handclaps. This is the kind of song that can make the sun come out. This guy Hanu has got his shit figured out, to the extent that my wife and I are probably going to name one of our sons 'Hanu'. That's not weird, though, ok? Because a name is a powerful thing; in my experience, a personality will grow into the name it's given.
Other highlights include the Tom Waitsian tango of 'Mr. Slim', a skankin' science lesson about DNA and 'Freaky Rhesus', a song about a monkey that rhymes 'rhesus' with 'treeses'. It's so unabashedly dorky that you just can't care. I guess that is what might make you consider these songs to be children's songs - what they capture is a lack of self-consciousness or shame, which is something we lose once we hit puberty. A kid will sing a song about anything, and a lot of times a kid will have a completely unique, uninformed sense of melody. If humans were born with an innate ability to play the guitar, probably some of our best and most unique songwriters would be small children - free from influences or taste or style.
If you're not ashamed to listen to She & Him or the cutesiness of Sufjan's state records doesn't turn you off, then you're not too cool to listen to Duplex. I won't lie to you, maybe two or three of these songs are annoying as hell (it sounds like those fourteen year old girls drank one too many cans of Pepsi), but the majority are wonderful, lighthearted little tunes.
I'm coming up with nothing in terms of Youtubes or anything else for a sample track, which is particularly annoying in this case because I know to a certain extent that I can't really 'sell' this one and that to believe me you'd have to hear it for yourself. I did find a media player over at Veda Hille's site which will probably play a couple tunes for you; which ones, I don't know, but check it out.
Post by Friendly Destroyer on Dec 14, 2010 11:51:15 GMT -8
I like how you pointed out the fact that it is "actual human beings" twisting the knobs and making the sounds. Initially I heard this album on my shitty computer speakers, eventually I heard it through a friend's stereo system and was pretty blown away. Seriously, some of the best music is the stuff that seems normal or chaotic on its surfaces until the stars in your brain align and your jaw hits the mat.
Post by Friendly Destroyer on Dec 14, 2010 11:55:54 GMT -8
The books were like this for me too. I thought it was more or less just cut and paste stuff, and also dismissed their talent. Until the same friend (who this guy is often my personal tour guide into the depths of albums, many many wonderful memories) told me they play most of the instruments (is he right?). I don't care cause it framed things differently and it all clicked together in a hurray to now see that everything was masterly orchestrated. Not just in the instrumentation, but the pacing and spaces are genius.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 14, 2010 12:05:46 GMT -8
Yeah dude, those guys are real musicians. Fucking incredible musicians, actually. I kind of knew this, but I saw them perform for the first time about a week and a half ago and I was completely blown away. For the current tour they added a third musician, a multi-instrumentalist who performed a lot of the more percussive elements with some kind of keyboard and who was able to play those manic arpeggios from 'Tokyo' flawlessly. And few times in my life have I been as impressed by a live musician as I was by Paul De Jong on cello. They did 'Be Good to Them Always'; he played that clicking, sawing cello part like it was nothing. Fucking incredible, no lie.
Post by Horned Gramma on Dec 15, 2010 10:09:15 GMT -8
Crash Test Dummies - A Worm's Life
Like we did with Chumbawamba, I'm gonna ask that everyone put their preconceived notions about Crash Test Dummies in the back seat for a minute.
Crash Test Dummies is one of those bands that determinedly redefined their sound with each successive release through the 90's. What else can you do when you are Brad Roberts, and every time you open your mouth the sound of rolling thunder issues forth from your gullet? Without the benefit of constant stylistic overhauls - and unfortunately for CTD, even WITH that benefit - you get pigeonholed and you are on your way to One Hit Wonder status, and that's where you stay.
Crash Test Dummies' Celtic-tinged debut, 'The Ghosts That Haunt Me', contained lots of beautiful if not terribly exciting music and yielded the Canadian hit 'Superman's Song'. It's not a great record, but 'Superman's Song' is one of the greatest songs about the Man of Steel ever written. Their follow-up, 'God Shuffled His Feet', is an end-to-end fantastic record of pastoral rock songs in the vein of XTC's 'Skylarking'. Of course 'God Shuffled His Feet' contains the US hit 'Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm', which, being the only CTD song most people have ever heard, understandably would give the impression that Crash Test Dummies write novelty songs, and not terribly exciting novelty songs at that. The plodding lugubriousness of 'Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm' actually covers some mildly subversive lyrics and actually I really love it, but it probably didn't make many life-long fans.
'A Worm's Life' is totally different. 'A Worm's Life' is Crash Test Dummies' alternative rock album. It is still very heavily influenced by XTC, especially lyrically, but it is much more in the style of late 90's FM radio. It suits them surprisingly well. More than on any other of their releases, Brad Roberts here sounds comfortable with his peculiar voice rather than seeming burdened by it.
This is a weird, definitely kind of creepy album. It opens with the wryly cynical 'Overachievers'. A sprightly 4/4 and a chugging guitar that sounds like a car that won't turn over are the foundation for the story of three cursedly driven people, including an aspiring astronaut who finally achieves his dream of being launched into orbit where he promptly vomits inside his helmet and a religious woman who "Prayed that her suitors be/Repelled so she might serve God and be his Only." So God obliges and the woman grows a full beard.
And then there's the song they selected as the radio single, the absolutely perverse two-step of 'He Liked to Feel It'. It is explicity the story of a little boy who loves the sensation of pulling his own teeth. Wiggling his tooth loose, tying it to the doorknob and slamming it loses its thrill, so he moves on to more exciting methods like tying his tooth to his dog's tail before starting a game of fetch. The music video for this song was even more graphic than the lyrical content and only a heavily censored version of it ever made it down to the US from Canada.
The rest of the album continues along the same lines, mingling the twin fears of mortality and failure. Brad Roberts, as a lyricist, has a real sarcastic streak and a great gift for extended metaphor. And only he, with his Donkey Kong bellow, could sing these songs and tease the intended meaning from those lyrics. Much like God's bearded woman, Roberts' musical gift is a gnarled monkey's paw: his sense of melody and even his traditionally beautiful baritone constantly undermined any success his band might have had.
When I was in eigth and ninth grade, for me it was the Beatles, Harry Connick Jr. and Crash Test Dummies. There is more shared spiritual DNA there than might seem apparent. And although in the intervening 15 or so years my tastes have matured and expanded my opinion of Crash Test Dummies remains unchanged. Theirs is a singular world view, and I borrow more than a little bit of my sense of humor from the ironic defeatism of songs like 'I'm Outlived By That Thing?', which points out that everything from paperweights to vicious lies have a longer shelf life than I do.
I enjoy some bands - Spacehog, some Our Lady Peace, Better Than Ezra - because of a sense of nostalgia and a pretty normal longing for simpler times. I enjoy Crash Test Dummies entirely on their own merit, and even though it reminds me of tromping around high school in a trench coat and a porkpie hat like I was on my way to Madison Avenue I still come back to their records often.
It may be different for Canadians, as they are a Canadian band, maybe they mean something different to you guys. In the states, it is generally the case that 'Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm' constitutes a person's entire opinion of the band. Choke down the backlash and reappraise.