Histrionics Lesson

October 20, 2005... If you have followed the career of singer/songwriter Liz Phair at all, you should check out this week’s posts at Mystical Beast, which are devoted in their entirety to the former darling of the indie rock press. Most brilliant writing I’ve seen on an MP3 blog in months. So good, in fact, that I had to read it twice.

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Okkervil River had been getting press for a long while before I bothered to give them a listen. The band’s name just didn’t appeal to me. I suspected that the word “okkervil” was just a play on the word “overkill,” and this raised a red flag in my tiny, little mind. Wasn’t there a generic thrash/death/black metal band in the eighties called Overkill? If this "Okkervil River" was in any way similar to Overkill, I told myself, I didn’t want to hear them. Regardless, the use of any permuatation of the word "overkill," like the use of any permutation of the word "extreme," says nothing to me so much as "focus group tested and approved by pinheads."

Then I downloaded this song from an MP3 blog that I have long since forgotten... online trading

Okkervil River - Latest Toughs

Similar to Wilco and U2, perhaps, but not at all to Overkill, the only thing extreme about Okkervil River are the histrionics of vocalist Will Sheff ... which I quite like, actually.

See, that’s what happens when intellectual property is pirated willy-nilly: artists whose work I would never have spent a cent on make their way onto my buy-if-the-price-is-right list—because I got to listen to them first, and repeatedly, in the comfort of my own home.

By the way, as it turns out, the band is named after a river in Russia. Why anyone would ever have thought this would be a good idea is beyond me.

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A Funeral

October 19, 2005... I went to my first funeral last week. It was some crazy-ass shit.

See, I was baptized as an infant so, as my mother explained to me, I am a Christian. I have no choice in the matter. Still, the Church has played almost no role in my life thus far. In fact, aside from my baptism, the only other time I’ve ever actually been inside a church—for any reason other than to look at the woodwork and stained glass—was once, when relatives were in town and my mother wanted them to believe we were some pious-ass fuckers. I think I blew our cover, though, when at some pre-ordained moment during the service, the people in the pews reached they hands out to the strangers around them ... and I recoiled in horror and confusion. online trading in Singapore

Anyway, the funeral service was like that. The rent-a-priest mumboed some jumbo and every thirty seconds or so, the more practiced among the Christians in the room would holla back “Praise be to God,” or some such shit. Straight up, it was spooky. It’s not even like the priest was giving them a cue or nothing. They just knew when to come in, like it was some voodoo shit or something.

I found myself wondering what an African tribesman, straight from the jungles of Borneo, would think about it all. Man, he’d prolly think it was some primitive, superstitious old shit.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Ain't No Jesus In Here

More about Sweet Billy Pilgrim < there. In particular, check out they ultra-swell blog.

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A Brief Moment of Clarity

October 17, 2005... Stepped into the shower this morning and felt every pore in my body open, like flowers under the sun. Memories of last night’s dream, the Who's final concert, on a berm in Myrtle Beach, and the lifeless version of “Happy Jack” they played, washed down the drain in cascades of oily K-W water.

Stars - Reunion

More about Stars here.

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Which Came First?

October 10, 2005... Sorry for having neglected you for so long, dear reader(s), but I’ve spent the last few days preparing for and making the move back across the continent, from Brutish Columbia to Canada.

Hey! Let’s celebrate by playing a fun game I like to call Which Came First? Here’s how it works: I post two similar files (mp3s, jpgs or whatever) or list two similar works of art; then I ask you to guess which one was created first.

Here’s the first pair of similar works of art:

Green Acres or The Beverley Hillbillies. Which Came First?

If you guessed that The Beverley Hillbillies came first, you are 100% right, sir! In fact, The Beverley Hillbillies is such an old "work of art" that some episodes were filmed before the invention of colours!

As for how these two works of art are similar… Why, both are fish-out-of-water stories, of course! In The Beverley Hillbillies, the protagonists are simple country folk bewildered by their sudden immersion in an urban milieu. In Green Acres, the protagonists are urbanites bewildered by their sudden immersion in a rural milieu.

Interestingly, both works of art were created during the 1960s. It’s almost as if one was trying to mine a vein struck by the other!

Okay, now that you have a feel for the game, let’s try the next pair: trading in Singapore

Franz Ferdinand The Ex with Guests
The Franz Ferdinand cover artwork (left) and The Ex and Guests cover artwork (right)

Well, what do you think?

If you guessed yesterday’s men, the Franz Ferdinand, you are 100% wrong, sir! In fact, The Ex and Guests double seven-inch of improvised noodling was released in 1991, a full fourteen years before the Franz Ferdinand’s brand new LP. Unfortunately, this does not make it any more an enticing listen than the brand new Franz Ferdinand record. (It is comprised of improvised noodling, after all!)

T. Rex - Rip Off

What can I tell you about T. Rex that you don’t already know? Nothing! I know nothing about T. Rex! I own the same T. Rex album that everyone who knows nothing about T. Rex owns. Electric Warrior is a good album of lean, mostly-electric-guitar-driven tunes with silly, hippy-dippy lyrics, like these from today’s song:

“Mountings of the moon/Remind me of my spoon/It’s a rip-off/Such a rip-off”

Not “Mountains of the Moon,” mind you, but “mountings of the moon…” Sort of makes me wonder what Marc Bolan was using his spoon for. I sure hope it wasn’t for eating cake frosting directly from the tin. That would be self-destructive.

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What Did You Do During the War?

September 26, 2005... I guess what I was tryna say in my last post was that, although "Fortunate Son" is about poor people being used as cannon fodder in wars that rich people start but rarely fight in--see George W. Bush and the Vietnam War, for example--the song could also serve as an anthem for the victims of Hurricane Katrina--people whose well-being was ignored in the design of New Orleans' transportation system. For the many, many people who could not afford to drive or fly out, there was no escape and no appropriate refuge.

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Does anything sound quite as sweet as a used LP or CD--particularly a used LP or CD you searched high and low for before finding?

I found a used copy of OutKast's Aquemini recently, after looking for it for about five years. Mind you, I haven't actually felt the urge to listen to it yet, like I probably would have if I'd shelled-out and bought it new five years ago… But it's the principle that's important: it doesn't matter if I ever listen to the goddamned thing; the point is that I never paid full price for it.

Sometimes, though, an LP or CD you desperately want--but never actually expected to see--turns up in a used bin. On those days, years spent sifting through tattered copies of the various different pressings of Split Enz' True Colours and owner-autographed copies of Men at Work's Business as Usual suddenly all seem worthwhile.

The day I found a copy of Shut Up, Little Man in the used new arrivals bin (!) at Penguin Music was sooo "one of those days" that I doubt it will ever be surpassed in my life.

I learned of Raymond and Peter, the stars of Shut Up, Little Man, from reading a catalogue put out by WFMU, an independent, freeform radio station in the New York City area. The catalogue, which is no longer published, was a compendium of the weirdest of the weird in music and other ephemera--all of which one used to be able to get through WFMU. Even in this rarified company, however, Raymond and Peter stood out…

Warning! Do not download and/or play the files below if you are easily offended. Heck, even if you are hard to offend, ask yourself just how badly you want to hear these mp3s before you download them. Seriously…

You can't say I didn't warn you…

Raymond and Peter - Ray's Soliloquy - I Am The Human Race

Raymond Huffman and Peter Haskett were roommates in a low-rent apartment building in San Francisco whose drunken fights and tirades were taped--first surreptitiously, then less-than-surreptitiously--by their next door neighbours. Clearly, Raymond, the "little man" of the CD's title, found homosexuality and homosexuals distasteful. Peter, on the other hand, did not share this opinion--quite possibly because he was "a queer cocksucker." Fortunately, the two shared a taste for alcohol, a taste that kept them together, and the lines of communication between them wide open, for years.

Raymond and Peter - What Did You Do During the War?

Note how Raymond implies that Peter may have dodged military service. This may be an indication that Peter was the son of a Senator, or at the very least, like George W. Bush, the son of a Congressman. Interesting…

Over the years, many musicians have drawn inspiration from Raymond and Peter. There is a track called "Raymond H." on the 1992 album Mother of All Saints by San Francisco proto-avant-folk group Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, for example. And Blonder Tongue Audio Baton, an album released by the Swirlies in 1993, features a snippet of Raymond during a moment of contemplation and reflection. "I'll kick the shit out of any--or kill," he says before being cut off by the Swirlies' woozy, lo-fi trip-pop.

For more about Raymond and Peter, including the opportunity to buy some groovy merchandise, check out the Shut Up, Little Man Official Web Page, which promises and delivers "nothing but profane language."

For more about Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and the Swirlies, stay tuned.

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Classic (Punk) Rock

September 24, 2005... I have made my peace with classic rock. If you've been following this blog closely, you already know that. That's why I've posted tracks by such dinosaurs of the Paleolithic era as Cream, (The) Alice Cooper (Group) and Mott the Hoople. There is no irony involved in any of this. I honestly like the music, just like I honestly like the music put out by young-critic-approved bands like Les Savy Fav and the Shins. And it's not that I'm easy to please, just that I try hard to hear the beauty in whatever I'm listening to. For a guy who once cut new grooves into his big sister's Creedence Clearwater Revival records with shards of broken glass, that's a pretty big change.

Anyway, what brings this all to mind is Hurricane Katrina, and more specifically, the news coverage I heard about Hurricane Katrina recently with C.C.R.'s "Born on the Bayou," trembling away in the background.

C.C.R. - Born on the Bayou

One of the things that stood in the way of my acceptance of C.C.R. over the years was the fact that the band's singer sang like he was born on the bayou, even though he was actually born in Northern California. I just could not accept the phoniness of it all, just as I could not accept the phoniness of the Tragically Hip--from Kingston, Ontario--trying to come across like a southern rock band, or Robert Pollard--of Dayton, Ohio's Guided by Voices--singing in an English accent.

Then one day, while listening to a countdown of the "top 500 rock'n'roll songs of all time" on the radio, I heard this song.

C.C.R. - Fortunate Son

Exactly what is not to like about "Fortunate Son?" It's two minutes long, has about three chords in it and nary a whiff of the excess and decadence that classic rock is often criticized for. Add to that the lyrics--and what great lyrics they are--and you've got a classic punk rock song. In fact, if you look beyond the fact that it's a song about war, "Fortunate Son" could be an anthem for all the people left behind in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached; all those (mostly African American) people not fortunate enough to have a way to get out of the city before the hurricane covered it and them with twenty feet of water; all those people whose "leaders" said "I've got mine, Jack," as they fled the scene and "I don't care about yours."

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Don't get me wrong, there's only so much Creedence Clearwater Revival I can take before I find myself throwin' up around the bend, but the fuzz guitar at the 3:09 mark of "Born on the Bayou" is pretty righteous…

I'll close today with a song from a formerly-young-critic-approved band that would probably agree with me about C.C.R. "Sci-Flyer" is the leadoff track from Swervedriver's awesome 1991 long player, Raise. You remember Swervedriver, right? You know, the aggressive, melodic-yet-noisy rock group in whose footsteps 1,001 effete, melodic-yet-noisy shoe-gazer bands tip-toed? Yes, that's the one. Gee, I wonder where they got this riff from…

Swervedriver - Sci-Flyer

P.S. If you're looking for another rant about how Hurricane Katrina exposed the ugly truth about the place of the poor in our society, check out The Allderblob. Jake and I are saying the same thing, but his way of saying it will make you feel better.

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