Friday, April 28, 2006

Estudando o Tom Zé

Play it: Tom Zé Estudando o Pagode
Play it: Tom Zé Estudando O Samba (1975)

"I don't make art, I make spoken and sung journalism."
- Tom Zé

The recently turned 70-year old Brazilian artist Tom Zé has been defying classification now for 40 years. He started in Brazil's rebellious Tropicalia movement, and is still challenging minds with this latest release, Estudando o Pagode (Studying Pagode.) Rich with layered sounds and textures, it's an extended operetta that in three acts tells the oppression of women in Western civilization. (Hey, I just realized this is the third rock opera I've posted on in April... weird, huh?)

Estudando o Pagode is also a parody of an album he released 30 years ago called Estudando o Samba, which is translated as Studying Samba.) This album from 1975, oddly enough, is responsible for both ending his career as reviving it years later. Too challenging for the Brazilian public, it fell on deaf ears and forced him into isolation. By 1988, the album fell into the hands of one David Byrne and is said to have blown his mind. Having just started his label Luaka Bop, Byne rescued Zé from a job at a relative's gas station to return to making music. First Byrne released a greatest hits compilation, which contained 9 of the 12 songs from Estudando o Samba (I've reassembled them in a playlist - PLAY IT.)

Both Estudando o Pagode and Estudando o Samba deconstruct the Samba, leaving it as an underlying base for the experimentation and word-play to dance around. Pagode is a Brazilian variant of Samba that mixes African rhythms, and was born in the Rio de Janeiro region as a form of improvisation for Samba musicians to jam to and became a street-based dance music that is was (and is) wrapped in machismo. Into the traditional pagode, Zé mixes rock, hip-hop and his own experimental sounds - he invented a wind instrument for this that's made from the leaf of a ficus tree. Lyrically, the story centers around a man who tries to find his way in the modern world, but keeps falling back on traditional patriarchal (ie, woman-opressing) ways, so 's use of this musical mix is very key to the whole of the piece. It's a lot to get your mind around, but even without the background, the music is in and of itself unique and enjoyable to listen to. That's the kind of music I love, enjoyable - yet challenging, and Zé's got it down with this release.

Staying on the tropicalia front, I just purchased my tix to see Os Mutantes when they come to town July 26th. I'm so excited I can barely contain myself!

Everything is possible! (Os Mutantes tour)
What Kurt Cobain couldn't do (Os Mutantes reunite, Tecnicolor album review)

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Neil's mission accomplished

Play it: Neil Young Living With War

At this point, with Bush's approval ratings falling faster then a drunk at closing time, releasing an album that takes Bush to task is a little like... well... kicking said drunk. Be that as it may, it sure feels good to hear the 'angry' Neil Young again. Recorded in only a few days using a power trio (plus occasional trumpet and large singing choir,) Living With War finds Shakey at his inspired best... the Neil we have only seen glimpses of since Ragged Glory. The album's being rushed to the market (next Tuesday for download, CD shortly thereafter... record label folks only just heard it last week) and it's streaming free on his site (good luck there - the site is getting crushed right now by traffic) and also via Rhapsody.

Neil has a better track record, it seems, when he gets that idea from his gut and gets it down on tape as quick as possible (Tonight's The Night, Rust Never Sleeps, Mirror Ball,) and that seems to be the case here as well. Of course, everyone is going to be (already are) talking about the song "Let's Impeach the President," which is unfortunate, as that sentiment (which I should point out, I share wholeheartedly,) may end up marginalizing the whole of the album, which has a lot of points that both Red and Blue states can get behind. Remember "Rockin' in the Free World" was a song that had both left and right bobbing their heads, even though it took George's daddy to task. I suppose it was only natural that Neil set his sights the son, and Living With War makes him two for two on the turkey shoot.

My first listen fave is "Shock and Awe" as it's Neil at his best... taking folks' words and turnin' 'em back on 'em in an innerestin' way:
Back in the days of shock and awe
We came to liberate them all
History was the cruel judge of overconfidence
Back in the days of shock and awe

Back in the days of "mission accomplished"
Our chief was landing on the deck
The sun was setting on a golden photo op
Back in the days of "mission accomplished"

Thousands of bodies in the ground
Brought home in boxes to a trumpet's sound
No one sees them coming home that way
Thousands buried in the ground

Thousands of children scarred for life
Millions of tears for a soldier's wife
Both sides are losing now
Heaven takes them in
Thousands of children scarred for life

We had a chance to change our mind
But somehow wisdom was hard to find
We went with what we knew and now we can't go back
But we had a chance to change our mind.

-"Shock and Awe" Neil Young
NYTimes on Living With War (04/28/2006)
Living With War blog
Neil's official site
Neil on

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Song of the summer

It's not going to be in Rhapsody (or US Stores) until May 9th, but I cannot stand idly by any longer. Gnarls Barkley combines two of my fave hip-hop artists (Dangermouse + Cee-Lo - aren't you glad they didn't go with Cee-Mouse or Danger-Lo?) and their impending release St. Elsewhere is striking for both the fact that rapper Cee-Lo can really sing, and Danger Mouse's soul beats are deliciously smooth.

The lead single "Crazy" will be the song of the summer (it's shot up to #1 in the UK already,) and Ray Lamontagne has already done a beautiful cover of the song (download.) (Original not posted because the RIAA is in hyper-drive trying to plug the leak right now - but if you look hard enough, you'll find it here.)

Download: Ray Lamontagne "Crazy" (cover of Gnarls Barkley song)

Gnarls Barkley official site
Listen to "Crazy" on their Myspace page

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Welcome to my... rock opera?

Play it: Songs in the rock opera Speeding Motorcycle
Play it: Daniel Johnston Welcome to My World

Infernal Bridegroom Productions (Houston, TX) is premiering a rock opera using the songs of Daniel Johnston, entitled Speeding Motorcycle. Songs featured include the title song, "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances," "Rock N Roll EGA," "Mind Contorted," "True Love Will Find You in the End," and the previously unrecorded, unreleased Johnston song "Loving Feelings." (Playlist features all but unreleased song, PLAY IT)

This comes fresh on the heels of a documentary (The Devil and Daniel Johnston) and a recent compilation (Welcome to My World.) Johnston hasn't seen this much publicity since Kurt Cobain sported one of his t-shirts in publicity photos back in '93.

Daniel Johnston's Official Site
Infernal Bride Groom Official Site

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Inventors of the Accu-jack

Play it: The Coup "ShoYoAss"
Play it: Pigeonhead "Battle Flag"
Play it: Prince "Sexuality"
(Play all)
Last time for you to show yo ass, they ain't handing out no mo cash
- "ShoYoAss" The Coup
I've been diggin' on The Coup's latest album, Pick A Bigger Weapon, specifically the track "ShoYoAss," which is a Prince-like funk jam (ala Andre 3000.) Rapper Boots Riley even quotes Prince's "Sexuality" in the call to action near the end, with Boots changing the march orders a little to fall in line with The Coup's political message:

"Sexuality" - Reproduction of a new breed, Leaders - stand up, organize! (full lyrics)
"ShoYoAss" - This introduction of a new breed of leader, stand up, organize.

Not sure what the new breed of leader has to do with the showing of one's posterior, but my posterior can't stop shaking when I hear the song, so, as they say, free your mind and the ass will follow.

Of course, The Coup isn't the first to pay homage to "Sexuality," that honor goes to the great Pigeonhed, who were the Seattle duo of producer extraordinaire Steve Fisk and soulful vocalist Shawn Smith. The song "Battle Flag" was their one and only hit (of sorts) and it utilized Prince's entire "Sexuality" rap in the song. The track, which would also play prominently in a season three episode of The Sopranos ("Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood",) was retooled by the Lo Fidelity Allstars (also entitled "Battle Flag," not in Rhapsody,) and became a hit in the UK (after an actual sample from "Sexuality was removed.)

I'm still lamenting that "Sexuality" is only a 30-second sample track in the subscription, as it's probably (along with "D.M.S.R.") my favorite Prince song to be ignored in any greatest hits compilation (and ignored in his purple one's live shows.)

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Is she really going steady (as she goes?)

Play it: The Raconteurs "Steady as She Goes"
Play it: Joe Jackson "Is She Really Going Out With Him"
Download: The Raconteurs live on AOLRadio
Video: "Steady as She Goes"

So the supergroup featuring Jack White, Brendan Benson and Greenhornes (The Raconteurs) finally sees an official (U.S.) release, with the single "Steady, as She Goes," and I have to admit I've been waiting for it to drop in Rhapsody so I could point out the Joe Jackson homage (or ripoff, depending on your viewpoint.)

Right from the start, the bass line is a blatant pull from Jackson's power-pop classic "Is She Really Going Out With Him," which I wasn't entirely sure was a conscious thing, until I saw their Jim Jarmusch directed video (PLAY IT) and noticed the white shoe framing in the intro seemed very Look Sharp-like.

Nearly any reference to Joe Jackson gets a thumbs-up in my book...

The Racontuers "Steady as She Goes" video (directed by Jim Jarmusch)

It's all about Jack (Greenhornes review / Raconteurs preview)
Pop! goes the playlist (Brendan Benson / Power-pop revival)
Making time with Star Time (Benson's label)

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Righteous implements for troubled times

Play it: Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
Play it: We Shall Overcome (earlier versions by Pete Seeger & others)
Play it: Bruce Springsteen's 2005 Tour Walk-In Music

On Bruce Springsteen's tour last year he had a 14-disc mix of 'Walk-in' music which read like a history of American music (Play it.) Traditional early folk music rubbing elbows with more current acts like Neko Case and Sleater-Kinney. So it shouldn't be a surprise that he's taken traditional folk music that legendary Pete Seeger loved and played, and applied it to today.

We Shall Overcome is a collection of songs that Seeger played throughout his career: work songs, spirituals, narratives, and protest songs. Collectively, one could assume their inclusion here would match some of what Springsteen sees in America politically, but before you roll your eyes, it doesn't play as serious as that. While Seeger's versions were simply guitar and vocals, laid bare, this serves as only a starting point for Springsteen to raise them up with Americana instrumentation, often reaching the point where you swear someone might yell a joyous "hallelujah" at the top of their lungs at any moment.

Springsteen has obviously always had an appreciation for folk music, but it really took him singing other folks' songs to make more of an impact on me, I must admit. In a profile of Pete Seeger in last week's New Yorker, Springsteen said that he saw folk songs as "righteous implements" and everything he needed seemed to be there, and with the ragged and joyous We Shall Overcome it's given us what the people of this country needs - some historical consciousness.

A Boss Nod to Seeger (NPR today)
Why Pete Seeger is one hot octogenarian (Scripps-Howard)

Springsteen's 'Walk in' Music

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Lauren Bacall takes a fall

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 6.07

Nothing like an excuse to show some classic va-va-voom from Bacall, eh?

In one of the oddest turn of events on The Sopranos, Lauren Bacall (playing herself) gets mugged (and punched in the face) by Christopher, who makes off with her celebrity swag bag for presenters. The celebrity swag that is given away to the already rich was ripe for satire... it was just surprising to see Sir Ben Kingsley (whom Christopher meets for a role in his film - Saw meets The Godfather) and Lauren Bacall taking part in The Sopranos alternative universe. Does it have to do with executive producer Brad Grey's new turn as head of Paramount Pictures? Introducing the 'luxury lounge' concept is a bit of a self-deprecating joke for HBO as they have one of the most well-stocked lounges yearly for the Emmys and the Golden Globes. Vito (lovingly referred to as "La Cage au Fat") would love the pampering, I'm sure, but he's still persona non grata, as the search continues. The rest of the episode was mostly about Artie and his struggling Vesuvio restaurant (yes, it was unfortunately a very special Artie episode.)

Musically we got some 70's dance club magic from Brick and some classic Elton John (man... you'd think this was a Vito-centric episode.) When Artie retreats to his granfather's recipe book to cook some rabbit for a late-arriving couple, we get a Big Night like moment, with some flamenco guitar ("Requerdos de la Alhambra") playing in the background. Mmmm...makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Vito is a come-from-behind kind of guy (Ep. 6.06)
Don't you know who I thought I was? (Ep. 6.04)
The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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Friday, April 21, 2006

I've heard that wind blow before

Play it: Tommy Keene Crashing the Ether
Download: "Warren in the '60's" (
Download: "Death of the Party" Keene Brothers (

So while I was hopped up on pain killers a couple weeks ago, this treasure from cult power-pop legend Tommy Keene dropped on the public. And just like all prior releases, it appears to have fallen on deaf ears, which is a wind that Keene and fans alike have heard many times before.

While Keene has released some fine albums since his prime days (1985-1993,) Crashing the Ether feels like a return to those days, with the songs just seemingly dropping out of the sky one right after the other. The first three tracks ("Black and White New York," "Warren in the 60's" and "Quit that Scene") announce triumphantly that he's back, with crashing drums and those sweet crunchy and jangly guitars all covered by note-perfect harmonies - the picture of power pop, which he helped further along in the 80's (a genre he now happily calls home.)

Currently, Keene is playing guitar on tour with Robert Pollard, and their collaborative project, Keene Brothers, has an album (Blues and Boogie Shoes) that will be released here soon in early May. A preview track ("Death of the Party") from the album is available from Robert Pollard's official site, and if it's any indication, the indie pop dream merger of Keene & Pollard should be a tasty delight. Pollard was added to the Intonation Festival lineup recently, and also is opening for Pearl Jam for a couple dates on their tour.

I'd planned on doing a full retrospective playlist and post on Keene, but the absence of crucial albums (Songs From the Film, Based On Happy Times and The Real Underground,) left too many holes for any proper appreciation of Keene's craft. Just please, check him out... give the guy a break already.

Recovering (Pollard w/ Keene Live revew)
Power Pop 1979-1989

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Microphone check 1, 2-0-6

Play it: Blue Scholars Blue Scholars
Play it: Seattle Hip-Hop
In a city that's been waiting to blow since big butts and teen spirit...
- "Inkwell" Blue Scholars
The Blue Scholars' re-released debut album finally made it into Rhapsody this past week, and it is a cause for celebration. Originally 11-songs, A Light in the Attic Records recently (February) re-released this landmark album with three more tracks, after the Seattle duo managed to sell 10,000 on their own (out fo the trunk of their car.) Reminescent of Gang Starr with the accessibilty of De La Soul in their heyday, Geologic (MC) and Sabzi (DJ) carve out their own unique sound and their blue-collar and mixed ethinic background (Phillipino and Iranian, respectively) informs much of their views and sound. Their latest EP, The Long March, takes them even further down the road to stardom, and it won't be long now until they grab the brass ring w/ a major label, and blow up. With them, several others in Seattle are primed to bust out as well, as the scene has been building for some time.

Looming in the shadow of that mighty big butt, Seattle's hip-hop scene has toiled underground throughout the 90's and early 2000's, but seems ready to explode on the national scene now with the combo of Blue Scholars and Common Market. As Jeff Chang's excellent Can't Stop, Won't Stop points out, hip-hop was born of difficult times, and it's true of Seattle as well. While we don't have something as blaring as The Cross-Bronx Expressway to point a finger at, Seattle has had several things going on that has fostered animosity and frustration.

First and foremost is the nanny state policies of the city regarding nightclubs. Throughout the late 90's and early 2000, the city seemed to basically be at war with Hip-Hop and all-ages clubs (and if they were both? Forget about it!) Ordinances made it nearly impossible to keep a place open, and enforcement of these laws became arbritrary and often appeared racially enforced. This, it follows, created a rise in Seattle Police vs. minority neighborhood battles, which to this day is still a sore subject on both sides. Also, Seattle's tech boom elevated some incomes and helped create a have-and-have-nots gap that found the gentrification of many low-income areas. That was quickly followed by the bubble burst, and record unemployment numbers. These are many of the social ingredients that helped create the environment (ie, something to write about) but it wasn't enough. The skill of three local Producers (Bean One, Jake One, and Vitamin D) attracted national acts to come through and work with them, and while Blackalicious and the like passed through, the locals rubbed shoulders... things rubbed off, numbers were exchanged, etc. The Stranger's Charles Mudede deserves a lot of credit for writing about the scene with a weekly column that has since been carried on under a different name by the capable hands of Larry Mizzel, Jr. (My Philosophy.) It's fitting that Mudede continues to write up the Police Beat column for The Stranger, as it serves as a weekly reminder of the continued race relation issues that Seattle faces (and, in turn, feeds hip-hop frustration/inspiration.) The other major player in this growing scene is radio station KEXP playing the heck out of Blue Scholars and Common Market... since the stations' reach goes beyond just frequency modulation (thanks to streaming via the internet) music-loving folks all over the place are discovering these artists.

So who's who now in this scene getting ready to blow? Blue Scholars, Common Market, Boom Bap Project, Grayskul, Frameworks, Silent Lambs Project, and, still in on the scene as always, the shadow source hisself Sir Mix-a-Lot. You'll notice (in the playlist) that while "Baby Got Back" still is a reference point for Seattle Hip-Hop, nothing ('cept Mix-a-Lot himself) sounds like it's of influence at all. Besides Blue Scholars, Commmon Market posess the best chance to make a national splash, with their KRS-One MC-appreciation and tight beats and soul-inflected samples... it's only a matter of time.

Charles Mudede's excellent Seattle Hip-Hop profile from late last year (The Stranger)

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation (review/recap of Jeff Chang's book.)

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

You can just smell the sticky-icky

Play it: Dudley Perkins Expressions (2012 A.u.)
Play it: Madlib Dudley Perkins "Expressions" Instrumentals

In some respects, Dudley Perkins is like a stoned soul Wesley Willis, and his nearly nodding off musings are thick with the smell of the sticky-icky. On his last album (2003's A Lil' Light,) Perkins had a incoherent message about the end days of earth, and on his latest, Expressions (2012 A.u.) he's taking his cues from the Parliament's Mothership, which sounds less clinical crazy and more like intentional cartoon madness, a welcome distinction (but the 'end days' are still near in "Dear God," nonetheless.)

Perkins' loves seem to be laid out as such
1. Weed
2. God (in "Dear God" he tells God he's going to remain high until the end days)
3. Music
4. Woman (in "Coming Home" he confesses to a lover "I love you almost as much as this music")

While Perkins' hazy sentiments are interesting, would we really be talking about him at all if it weren't for Madlib's backing music? Madlib and Perkins go back to their work in the mid-90's with the Alkoholiks and then the Lootpack collective. Madlib has since worked with him on several projects (including his previous solo release) and as with all of them, his samples and beats steal the show. So much in this case, that Madlib's released the album stripped of Dudley's meanderings entirely (Madlib Presents: Dudley Perkins "Expressions" Instrumentals,) and I find myself going back to this instrumental version more and more over the proper release. The samples and instrumentation are straight from the classic funk/soul period of the 70's... it all goes down as some of his finest work, and that is saying a lot, considering how much work he do.

Madlib has got to be the hardest working stoned cat there is... for anyone that says weed kills motivation and work ethic, look no further then the Beat Konducta hisself, as Madlib has more balls in the air then a six-armed juggler. After sampling Perkins' release, do yourself a favor and listen to the instrumentals - you'll see a motor can sometimes travel better then the car itself.

"Dear God" was NPR's song of the day last week

Mad plays bass like the race card (Madlib/Quasimoto review)

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Song of the insert region here

Play it: The Drive-By Truckers A Blessing and a Curse

After releasing three tremendous Southern-themed masterpieces one right after the other (Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day, The Dirty South,) the Drive-By Truckers take a step back and release an album that doesn't so much rely on the region, or on a larger theme. A Blessing and a Curse is 11 songs that feel like separate entities, and rely more on personal perspectives instead of their usual wider views.

With great rockers like "Easy On Yourself," "Aftermath U.S.A." and "Daylight," the three-guitar assault (Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell) is front and center, and reinforces their reputation as a great live band. Meanwhile tracks "Space City" and "A World of Hurt" cut the heart-weary to the bone, and demonstrate that while this is less 'big picture' then past affairs, the small things do matter. The album is less sloppy (which, at times I admit, is missed,) and far more focused - clocking in at only 45 minutes (past albums run 70 minutes and more.)

While A Blessing and a Curse is far less ambitious and daring then past efforts, it's this focus and dedication to the songs that make the album stand on it's own, even without the 'big picture' of the Southern thing, regionality be damned.

Neil Young vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd (feat. Drive-By Truckers)

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Vito is a come-from-behind kind of guy

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 6.06

As always, spoiler alert.... Vito is pushed out the closet and ends up running away to New Hampshire, where you "live free or die." The latter is expected when homophobia is sliced and served like italian sausage at the butcher shop (NJ mob's business home front,) with some (unfortunately) funny digs at Vito's sexuality and some even funnier unintentional slips (like the title of this post.) Tony, still holding desperately to his 'everyday is a gift' mantra, believes in Vito and fights the others over whether or not he should be wacked ("It's 2006.... there's pillow-biters in the Special Forces.") It looks like a losing battle, but I hope Vito lives to become the Antiques salesmen that the foreshadowning suggests. One interesting bit of knowledge I gleamed this week was that the actor who plays Vito, Joe Gannascoli, is actually a chef who turned to acting later in life. He owns a line of pastas, wine and spices and has a novel called A Meal to Die For, which is crime fiction based on his life as chef turned 'food fence' for the mob turned actor.

Musically, The Subways make the biggest leap here from debuting on The O.C. to getting a little feature time on HBO's finest. Patsy Cline's "Let The Teardrops Fall" is used wisely and we even get some Chemical Bros. love. But, as usual, it's the closing credits that usually take the cake, and in this case it's X with their "4th of July."

(Hand still hurting, so this one is short.)

Don't you know who I thought I was? (Ep. 6.04)
The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Everything IS possible!

Play it: Os Mutantes Everything is Possible (Best of)


I mentioned a few weeks ago that Os Mutantes was reuniting for a show in London, and lamnenting that I'd be there at the wrong time. Well, now they've just been added to the Pitchfork Music Lineup, and now I have to figure out how to get to the windy city (on Sunday, July 30th) to get my tropicalia on.

My assumption is that, like the London show, Rita Lee is out, while the brothers Baptista and drummer Dinho are in. If you had any inclination to go prior, now's the time to buy a ticket, holmes, 'cause it's furreal! Hopefully both shows go well and they decide to play more dates (ya hear me Bumbershoot folks at One Reel?)

UPDATE - I've just received word (not yet announced) that they're playing July 26th at the Moore Theater here in Seattle!

What Kurt Cobain couldn't do (Os Mutantes reunite, Tecnicolor album review)

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yom Tov to Moog

Play it: Gershon Kingsley The Fifth Cup
Play it: More highlights from God is a Moog
Why would I be afraid of death? My whole life is on iTunes.
-Gershon Kingsley
Today marks the first day of Passover (פסח or Pesah,) and to celebrate I'm offering you the mind-bending Fifth Cup, an Electro-Rock Passover album (think Haggadah meets Hair) by Gershon Kingsley, from the compilation on the Reboot Stereophonic label called God is a Moog. This compilation looks at his work between 1968 to 1974, when he combined his love of machines and the divine together for results that truly sound like nothing else.

Who's Gershon Kingsley you say? Kingsley's responsible for much of the popularization of the Moog and with electronic music in general. His first splash was with Jean-Jacques Perrey with the album The In Sound From Way Out!* which is widely considered the first-ever mainstream electronic music album (it was even used on several episodes of Sesame Street in the 70's, so many of us were definitely exposed!) Other songs from Perrey & Kingsley you might have heard include "The Savers" (which became the theme song for the game show Joker's Wild, play sample) and "Baroque Hoedown" (play sample) - which was reworked to become the theme song for Disneyland, and still used today at Disney's California Adventure Park.

The song that he's most known for though (and you've heard it, whether you realize it or not) is "Popcorn" and was the first big electronica international hit. Composed by Kingsley, it became a huge hit for the artist Hot Butter in the 70's and since has been covered by everyone from Kraftwerk to Herb Albert (play sample) to even Crazy Frog (play sample.)

In 1968, Kingsley began his experimentation of merging machine and religion, and wrote a electro-prog album for the Shabbat called Shabbat For Today (I put this on recently for my wife and it sent her into a Judaic haze that lasted for hours afterwards.) 1974, he took the concept even further, with the Jesus Christ Superstar-like heights of The Fifth Cup, which is meant to accompany a Passover seder. In it Kingsley takes Passover’s liberation-from-slavery themes and Elijah messianism to get the world ready for George Orwell’s 1984. It draws on a traditional Haggadah, but takes the readings of the Seder (by Jewish folk singer Theodore Bikel) and turns them on itself:
Bitter herbs are like prison chains that physically weave you into a hole, into a hole, into a hole, into a hole that ties your body and soul till your free spirit is through.
- "Second Question—Bitter Herbs" - Gershon Kingsley from The Fifth Cup
So take it from the Goy least likely to: after you've finished your fourth cup of wine tonight (the Mishnah says that even the poorest man has an obligation to drink!) slip on Kingsley's The Fifth Cup (and all of God is a Moog for that matter) and get get ready to feel a bit more tipsy.

*The Beastie Boys asked Kingsley's permission to use this title, in homage to him, for their instrumental EP of the same name.

Article in this months New Yorker on Kingsley, by Sasha Frere-Jones
NPR's Weekend America did a piece on God is a Moog (10/08/2006) (Audio)
Full story on Kingsley at Reboot Stereophonic

Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah Schmitz-vakkah (Bar Mitzvah Disco editors (Roger Bennett and Jules Shell) also behind Reboot Stereophonic)

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A teenage riot in the Library of Congress

Play it: The National Recording Registry 2005

It was just announced that Sonic Youth's breakout 1988 album Daydream Nation will be added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, as part of 50 recordings for 2005's selections. Add to that Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For the Money, and you have the door swinging a bit wider for some other 'out there' significant recordings to make it in.

Since 2000, the Library selects musical and spoken word recordings that are at least 10 years old and deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" for inclusion in the permanent collection. That means that Guided By Voices' Bee Thousand (1994,) and Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted (1992) are both now eligible. But my vote's for Prince's Dirty Mind (1980,) because if you're going to dream, might as well dream big (and dirty.)

Other additions include Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life, Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced?, Gil Scot-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and a lot more.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Navigating flood regions

Play it: GBV - Best of Box

Robert Pollard has come a long way... from the early basement recordings of Guided By Voices profiled here, to a solo tour where he finds himself opening for Pearl Jam (yes, that's not a typo.) When Pollard played here in Seattle, Eddie Vedder was enjoying the show in the back of the room (at the Crocodile,) so obviously, he's a fan.

While we mull Uncle Bob opening for PJ, why not look back at Pollard's early output, before the cult-following... before he quit his day job (teaching.)

Recently, most of Guided By Voices' back catalogue has been made digitally available, and the contents of which comprise entirely the great compilation Box, which puts together GBV's first four albums (Devil Between My Toes, Sandbox, Self-Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia, Same Place the Fly Got Smashed) with a great rarities collection (King Sh*t and the Golden Boys.) The 5-discs (6 in the vinyl version I own, as it also includes Propeller,) can seem like an intimidating venture, so I've navigated the flood of songs and boiled down the full three hours down to under an hour in this playlist.

Early on, it's easy to hear Pollard's appreciation of R.E.M.'s Murmur, especially in songs like "Old Battery" and "Can't Stop," and the pschedelic Byrds-like "Captain's Dead." It wouldn't be until later on that his Beatles/The Who and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis infatuations would show up. A song like "Dog's Out" shows how Pollard can take a mundane episode in his life, like his dog getting loose, and turn it into gold.

Later on, the Genesis prog-rock itch gets scratched and we're presented epics (any song over 3-minutes is an epic for GBV) like "An Earful O' Wax" which both progs like Lamb Lies Down Genesis and pays homage as well to The Who with the line "'cause it's only a trick of the light" before ripping into a Steve "Hackett" Wilbur blazing guitar solo to end the song. And while "Airshow 88" is important in showing the use of lo-fi and tape-splicing that would make GBV (not) famous, I left it off this list as it sounded out of place somehow.

Many songs from these early days became staples of GBV live shows, like "Postal Blowfish," "Drinker's Peace," and "Liar's Tale." In fact, the song that they often ended shows with, "Don't Stop" (which also ended their final show,) was first a pared down rarity featured on King Sh*t and the Golden Boys. On their last tour, Pollard ressurected a couple others here, including faves "Pendulum" ("we'll put on some Cat Butt and do it up right!") and "Navigating Flood Regions."

Enjoy the bounty.

Previously (boy, do I look like a fanboy here...)
Recovering (Robert Pollard live review)
2nd Impressions of 2006
Early surprise from Uncle Bob (FaCE review, 11/11/05)
The Electrifying Conclusion Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Hillbilly heroin holiday

Play it: Surgery, Stitches, Pills & Scars

I'm still in recovery mode here, and limited on my keyboard activity, which is eating me up with so much great music getting dropped into Rhapsody recently (of note is much of GBV's back catalogue on Scat Records.)

On some fabulous pain meds and will definitely have plenty left over when I'm through for those 'emergency' situations that pop up now and then. Plenty of oxycodone (originally prescribed,) and hydrocodone (filled when the itching got to be too much,) I'm all set.

I'm weaning myself off the hillbilly heroin now, so my head's still pretty foggy, I'm drinking water like it's an endless fountain in the Sahara, and I'm seriously backed up (I almost need the pain meds just to make it through a bowel movement.)

Too much information? I can always blame it on the meds...

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Friday, April 07, 2006

French pop and wine

Play it: French Pop while drinking Cotes du Rhone

So I'm still recovering from surgery, on some fine pain medication (and typing with one hand,) but thought I'd reflect quickly on our little wine get together this past weekend. We sampled affordable wines from the Cotes du Rhone region (from L-R - Les Christins 2003, le Clos du Caillou 2003, Saint Cosme Vintage 2004, and Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Tradition 2003.) All were very tasty, though I preferred the Rasteau (thanks to a recommendation from Emile at Champion Wine Cellars.)

Along with the wine, my wife made some tasty French appetizers and I put together a French Pop playlist that included some requisite Serge Gainsbourg, Brigitte Bardot, Edith Piaf and Paris Combo. Also of note was songs from the CQ Original Soundtrack, a fabulous French Pop collection that's criminally missing from Rhapsody.

The highlights (the playlist:)

"La Vie En Rose" - Edith Piaf
"Tu Veux Ou Tu Veux Pas" - Brigitte Bardot
"J'ai Deux Amours" - Josephine Baker
"On N'a Pas Besoin" - Paris Combo
"Black Trombone" - Serge Gainsbourg
"Fleur De Paris" - Maurice Chevalier
"Quelqu'un M'a Dit" - Carla Bruni

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Boy most likely to get cut open

Play it: James Blunt "So Long, Jimmy"

I know what you're saying... Drake, why's that cheeky chap Blunt on your blog today? Well, I was at the concert last night (reviewing opening band The Boy Least Likely To,) and I gotta tell you, a thousand screaming girls can be wrong.

Anyway, this is the song he opened with (and one of only four I heard before surgically removing myself from the building,) and for some reason, I kind of liked it, in spite of myself. And besides that, the female to male ratio was unbeatable.

But the purpose of this post is to warn you I might be out for a couple days... I'm finally getting surgery on my thumb/wrist (deQuervain’s Tendinitis.) Hopefully some decent painkillers will be made available.

A bit later, I'll have a real post on The Boy Least Likely To... was waiting for the album to drop in Rhapsody today and was sorely disappointed to see it not make the initial cut. What wasn't disappointing was their performance.

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The sound of failure

Play it: The Flaming Lips At War With the Mystics

Somehow, in the four years since The Flaming Lips last released an album (2002's wonderful Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots) the marquee value of the Lips has grown to it's greatest peak, in part due to their incredible live shows. Now that they've somehow crossed over to the mainstream's consciousness (coupled with the four year delay) the stakes are understandably higher. So it's with great regret that I find this album a slight dissapointment. That's not to say it's a bad album, au contraire, it merely falls short of the masterpiece that their last couple albums have suggested.

Advance peeks at the album ("The W.A.N.D." and "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song") suggested a return to their guitar-based rock of yore, but that was quite a misrepesentation. Dave Fridman (the fourth Lip?) is still on board to twist the knobs and coax endless magical sounds out of the trio, but the album gets off to a mostly uneven start. While Yoshimi..., dealt beautifully with a post-9/11 world, At War with the Mystics (as the title subtely suggests) points it's finger at the Bush administration, and when Coyne turns his wacky pen to a target, the results are always interesting. The album starts off with the amusing "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" which deals with abuse of power:
If you could warp the world with the flip of a switch, would you do it? (yeah)
If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich, would you do it? (yeah)
Then it goes off the map with the Prince meets Beck in a back alley ("say what?") of "Free Radical." They squeeze some interesting sounds out of this funk number, but ultimately it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. After these two toss-offs, you might give up on the album, but it's at this point that the Lips get down to business.

The next song, "The Sound of Failure/Darkness" (one of the album's centerpieces,) deals with the drawn out death by cancer of a friend's father and the annoyance she felt at having to hear the fake enthusiasm of fluf-acts like Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Black-Eyed Peas, Ashley Simpson, etc. being played where ever she went ("so go tell Britney and go tell Gwen...") It's a beautiful song of empathy, with some disdain set aside for those that lack it. This is followed by the equally expansive "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion" and "Vein of Stars" and with these three songs in succession, it feels like the makings of another great album.

Then the Lips set the course straight for the Pink Floyd heart, with space-y "The Wizard Tuns On." Later they get even more blatant about their PF fixation with "Pompeii AM Gotterdammerung," which both masterfully rips off yesterday's profiled song ("One of These Days") and features Steven Drozd first lead vocal turn. Of the rest, "Haven't Got a Clue" goes after Bush again (with unfortunate lyrical turns) and is another track that sticks out for it's mediocrity. Meanwhile the final track "Goin' On" is another highlight of the album, a fitting way to close the album. But then there are the bonus tracks, and while "Bohemian Rhapsody" is ballsy (and, well, fun,) it feels entirely unecessary.

It's an album that's growing on me, I'll admit, but there's no hope for it to equal their last two, and that's alright, I've decided. Perhaps it will reach more ears and warp some more minds as a result...we can only dream.

The Flaming Lips track notes to At War With the Mystics

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Don't you know who I think I was?

Play it: The Sopranos Ep. 604

Sometimes I go about in pity for myself and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.

Since Tony has come out of his Kevin Finnerty-in-Costa Mesa-coma, his crisis of identity draws out some rather philisophical discussions. Through a scientist next-door patient (played by the great Hal Holbrook,) Tony is introduced to the concept of metaphysics, how 'everything is everything'... his minute actions are not isolated and instead affect everything. Tony even brings up the concept of 'slippery-slope' when debating a born-againer on the refusing of some pharmacists to sell the morning-after pill. Meanwhile, Paulie finds out his aunt the nun really is his mother, and his mom is his aunt. Never the one for perspective, Paulie finds himself needing Tony to give him some (however little he absorbs.) Quite a deep swim for a 'waste management consultant.' Speaking of his W2-front occupation, it is being sold out from underneath him to Johnny Sack's crew, all while he's convelescing, and Tony's philosophical mood has him caving into several of their demands on his restitution. Tony sees now that he's got a second chance on life, and every moment is a gift, a thought which understandably falls on deaf ears around him. You can see that next week, Johnny and Phil (the haircut) are going to look to exploit his new found life perspective.

The music this episode, for the first time, had very little to do with the plotline, although, Pink Floyd's "One of These Days" is once again another ominous track to lead into next week's previews.

Boston "Foreplay/Long Time"
Pink Floyd "One of These Days"

The righteous cut [while conscious] (Ep. 6.03)
He Marvin Gayed his own nephew! (Ep. 6.02)
Who shot Artie Shaw? (Ep. 6.01)

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