23 July, 2014

Veinte Cinco.

16 July, 2014

Recent Love (All Star Game Edition)

Daniel Bonespur, Dead People
Selections from The Clumsy Man and Rehearsing Failure
So here’s an experiment.
Usually, I and the rest of the SD&A crew (absent as they are), review rock, rap, alt-country type stuff. I think the only time I may have ever reviewed a musical soundtrack was maybe when I was gushing over West Side Story or something. (Fuck you, West Side Story is a jam and a half for your ass.) So I’m not immediately familiar with the wider world of musical theater, even though dating Georgie for three years was a good primer and I saw things like Sweeney Todd, Sunday In the Park With George, Into the Woods, etc. But I’ve never had to dissect or analyze or otherwise simply critique a musical soundtrack. Ever. I’m not familiar enough with the genre or form to feel like I can give adequate remarks about the material in front of me and I feel like I may do the material a disservice by:
  1. Approaching it as I would a rock record.
  2. Having not seen either the shows the songs here are intended for, as my commentary would be devoid of context.
So, I open the CD - yeah, I got a physical product to review this time around and, for real, it’s actually some pretty cool packaging - and I check the little card inside.
Voice… Bass… Violin… Bassoon… Piano…
No drums.
No drums.
First key indicator that this is not going to be a big shambling scary rock monster record that I’m accustomed to. But, hey, I don’t know that. I mean, look at the list of instruments there. Those instruments can do pretty much anything. And look at some bands that made some powerful records without the use of conventional “rock” instruments. Throbbing Gristle comes to mind, and they were just using, like, oscillators. Suicide pretty much informed half of Springsteen’s Nebraska - OK, so really just “Frankie Teardrop” informed “State Trooper” - and all Suicide was was one guy on a farfisa organ and another guy howling sheer madness.
And this is called Dead People. So shit could still get crazy.
“Wind in Your Veins” starts off as a gentle piano waltz with vocal accompaniment. “I’m always at home when it rains” is a pretty killer line leading up to the chorus where the vocalist, an unlisted male tenor who I’m going to guess is not the Tara listed in the credits, belts out a pretty powerful vibrato so loud I had to turn the fucking thing down for a minute. That’s not a bad thing at all. I just wasn’t expecting homie to blow my ears out. And I’m going to level with you, I detect a bit of a John Barry knick in the section immediately following the second chorus. (And that’s OK because we all know that John Barry used that riff twice himself between You Only Live Twice and Midnight Cowboy. If anybody knicked John Barry, he did it to himself first.) Also? “Lay my head on a spike and I sleep through the night” is the best line Trent Reznor never thought up.
“That’s My Way (Baal Song)”… Where the fuck did that guitar come from? There’s no guitar listed in the credits. Well, OK, homie. Your record, your credits. Maybe those are just the credits for one of the shows and the soundtrack here is different.
Enough griping about that. When I first saw this song title, this was the song I wanted to hear, because - and you’ll pardon me if I don’t have my copy of The Satanic Bible near me, it’s in the closet in one of those four beer crates I call my library - I’m pretty sure Baal is one of the infernal names.
“That’s my Way (Baal Song)” starts off as a slow, somber country number, invoking the spaghetti western image of an unnamed stranger on horseback under blazing sun.
And then things get lewd. I mean, right in the first verse, aforementioned unnamed tenor is talking about fucking in a barn. By the second verse, we’re talking about S&M and cunnilingus. But the vocal melody against the sparse guitar and bass arrangement gives it such a creepy atmosphere that there’s no way anybody’s getting turned on by this. And when the violin comes in, playing a sort of Klezmer or gypsy solo, I’m pretty sure that somebody’s about to get hammer-murdered. Thankfully, our unnamed tenor decides he’d rather pull a Sinatra and use the third verse to say, “See ya, baby,” when his paramour is still raring to go and he’s all, “Yeah, I’m kind of done with this.”
Still, I thought somebody was going to get hammer-murdered. This would be a fitting soundtrack for a hammer-murder.
“Woods Suite No. 3”… You know we’re on a classical tip when we have suites and numbers.
Wait. Where are the woodwinds? This has that guitar again. OK, so I listen to the whole thing. There’s no mention of woods in the lyrics.
OK, so “Woods Suite No. 3” is only a tad melancholy, it’s light and breezy, with more sparse guitar arrangement and with minimal lyrics - there’re only four lines to the whole thing, none of which are repeated - that strike me as vaguely Alighierian, even though the River Styx and the City of Dis are not properly named. It sounds like it could be a segue piece in one of the shows for its short duration.
And not to sound like an insult, but I could hear this in a mumblecore or Zooey Deschanel movie and not think it out of place. Hell, it’s a bajillion times better than the standard-issue soundtracks those movies employ, you know, where everything has to have a ukulele and a xylophone and whistling and some bird-voiced woman cooing because that’s what Arrested Development and half the cinematic output of the Duplass brothers had. “Woods Suite No. 3” has just as much whimsy while not being sappy or generic like that shit.
“The First Time I Smelled Ham”? I’m going to confess to you that I did not hold a lot of hope for this one based on the title. I mean, Rage Against the Machine could call a song that because we’d all know that Zach de la Rocha would be hating cops again. Public Enemy could call a song that because we’d all know that Chuck D would be really hating the cops again. Flava would come in and tell you about 911 being a joke during the bridge and then Chuck D would come back in and tick down a list of police corruptions that happen daily.
Daniel Bonespur, however, isn’t bringing up the cops. If anything, “The First Time I Smelled Ham” seems to be a bit more of a Dadaist (a word I use far too much lately) (hell, I’ve probably been misusing it) aside. It begins with a three-part vocal against an echo-laden percussive track, with a whole-note chant in the background while our unnamed tenor and the listed Tara sing the refrain basically at each other, one panned to each speaker. And then there comes this kick drum seemingly out of sync with the rest of the percussion and a big synth drone that leads into a synth-only refrain of “Wind in Your Veins”. And then it’s over. Just like that. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher but, hey, not everything in life is supposed to make sense for your convenient compartmentalization.
“Death for Bonnie & Clyde” is a guitar & two-voice arrangement, this time a ballad that, when the violins come in, sounds like it would fit in nicely in either a Ken Burns documentary or, say, as the music played over the theater PA before a midnight screening of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Perhaps out of all the songs on Dead People, this is the one that is best suited for presentation without context. It’s pretty much between “That’s My Way (Baal Song)” and “Death for Bonnie & Clyde” for my favorite songs off this record.
And then we come to “Body’s What I Want”, which closes out Dead People and clocks in at nearly four minutes, forty seconds. From the sound of this one, from the tone of the lyrics - “The time it takes is all it takes away” - I’m going to go ahead and assume that this is a show closer, the song that resolves all those plot points that we don’t know because we weren’t at the show to see the parts that are the book.
You see, in musical theater, the book is all the stuff that isn’t the music or lyrics. I think. I don’t date a musical geek anymore.
Anyway, out of everything on this record, which I’ve liked so far, the only thing I have a quibble with is the chorus to this song - “It’s your body that I want and I want it without any clothes on.” It’s not by any means a bad line it’s just that pairing that line with gentle guitar balladeering is a little cheesy. Like chest-hair-on-the-record-cover cheesy. If you’re going to break out a line like that, you better break out your R&B influences. I mean, you’ve got to have a bit of brass or strings, you’ve got to have some wah-guitar, you’ve got to have that deep, low bass, and, ferfucksake, you can’t sing that line in a delicate tenor voice, no matter how nice your voice may be, no. You’ve got to fucking belt out a line like that, get a little growl in your voice, like this…
[smooth bass line, minimalist wah guitar echoing low in the mix] “Bay-BEH!” [brass hit cues the soaring string arrangement] “It’s yo’ BAH-DEH!” [double brass hit accompanied by two big guitar wahs] “It’s yo’ bah-deh that ah wont!” [string arrangement ceases ascension and begins a descent until it plateaus in a comfortable place in the key] “OOOhhh, that ah wont that ah wont that ah wont!” [brass and wah guitar hit again] “And ah’m telling’ you!” [brief ascension of the string arrangement that immediately returns to descent] “WWWAAAHHHOOOAAAHHH ah’m telling’ you!” [rapid ascension of the strings] “That ah wont it!” [brass and wah hit] “AAAooohhh, yes, ah wont it!” [strings come to their final, highest pitch in the arrangement] “Ah wont it without any clothes on!” [strings immediately cut out of the mix, arrangement returns to a quite, sultry groove for the verse section]
Granted, my version takes a little longer to deliver that line but I, you know, I can get behind that. Color me vanilla for sticking with the traditional delivery of sexuality in music but that’s the formula that’s worked since time immemorial for lyrics of that nature.
Other than that one little quibble, I have to say that Dead People is pretty solid. Give it a listen.

Veinte Cuatro.

09 July, 2014

02 July, 2014

Recent Love (World Cup Edition)

So, I know it’s been a while since I sat down and wrote an actual record review and now that’s it’s World Cup season, I’m sure the majority of you could give two tosses less about reading this. All I can say is that I left the goddamned bar sixteen minutes into Belgium vs. USA for this, so y’all’d better… Oh, who am I kidding? I don’t really give a shit about the World Cup. We all know Detroit won’t… No, that’s baseball. We all know Canada won’t… No, that’s, I think, everything else.
Anyway, Phratry records has just put out a new double seven inch with four bands, one band at two songs per side; Aperiodic, Mala In Se, Joe 4 (and you know I dig me some Joe 4), and Knife the Symphony. Let’s have ourselves a listen.
Aperiodic’s “Scene Crush” kicks off the festivities with a synth-heavy throb. That kind of goes on for six and a half minutes. Now, that’s not a bad thing by any means, I’m just not having much of an emotional response to it but I’m not going to sit here and just slag off actually reviewing it.
“Scene Crush” sounds like a couple guys in a basement working out ideas during a rainy afternoon over a case of beer, the kind of thing every band does during those brainstorming jam sessions, just spit-balling ideas and seeing what sticks. And while this is a good batch of ideas, I’m not feeling the drums until the 3:50 mark, where they take on a jazzy approach and the electronics really start glitching out. This is definitely music you chill out to with a joint and a light show if you have a light show handy. Your one friend’s girlfriend? You know her? The white girl with the dreadlocks? Yeah, her. Yeah, she’s the one that will start dancing to this and you know how white girls with dreadlocks dance. It’s that dance with the Bob Dole thumbs and the hair flails. Don’t worry though. If you’re listening to this song right, you’re probably really high and that’s OK.
“Something That Satisfies” I like a lot more. There’s a lot more aggression, it’s less jammy. It feels more deliberate than the previous song. Your friend’s girlfriend? Yeah, her again. Yeah, she aint digging this one so much. The record store clerk down the block, though? Yeah, the one guy you know with a Six Finger Satellite t-shirt. He’s into this but that’s because he’s probably only listening to the surface of it. Dig beyond the distorted synths and drunken math-drumming and what you’re hearing is the stoned swagger of old-school Doors. “Something That Satisfies” is your soundtrack to a lysergic sex romp in a literal hay stack. You can zone out to this or you can make horrible mistakes at sushi bars to this song.
Seriously, “Something That Satisfies”, man. You need to get on this song before the end of summer.
On to side 1B.
Mala In Se’s “Crowd of Dead Grandparents”… OK… How to be constructive? Let me try by reminding folks that I am just not into bass virtuosos. Never have been. Like Primus? Not into them. Rush? Not happening. So anything I’m not liking about the ascending twiddly-dee bass line that opens up “Crowd of Dead Grandparents” is my fault. I mean, Mala In Se’s bassist is good enough to do that. I’m not good enough to do that. So props to him or her for being able to pull that off. It takes skill, years of tutelage at the instrument to pull that off. And y’all know I’m not one of those assholes that says an instrument has to be played one way or the other. But the tweedy-dees are enough to almost turn me away. For real. That’s how not into the tweedy-dees I am. But I stick with the song beyond the tweedy-dees and I’m glad I do because you know all the good parts of all the pg. 99 songs? Mala In Se must have listened to all of them and asked themselves, “Are these, collectively, a fucking joke?” because “Crowd of Dead Grandparents” is already better than all of that one pg. 99 CD I have somewhere that I stole off of Angie as asshole tax when we broke up. And, even better, there’s way less of that shrieky-post-hardcore-guy thing going on.
“Cats” starts out as one of the better unapologetic fist-pumpers I’ve heard in a while and reminds me a lot of what was happening in the western Lake Erie scene about ten years ago, which is not a bad thing. It has its big, urgent fist-pumping moments and its instrumental cigarette breaks, more informed by metal than by punk and I can get down with that. The guitar in the intro sounds a bit reminiscent of Bauhaus or back when the Cult were called Death Cult and played goth rock but then shit goes all Kylesa. All of this is good.
Side 2A.
The Joe 4 side.
The “Oh, shit, son, your ears are about to get an ass-whooping,” side.
“S.A.L.E.” makes me immediately want to punch the shit out of something. Like, this is my walk up music when I go up to bat for the Tigers. Everybody on the Twins be like, “Oh, shit, it’s that guy! Move it back out to the warning track!” Fuck it, I’ll go a step further: Everybody on them bitch-ass Athletics, playing .622 ball like they’re hot shit, be afraid of old Charlie coming up to bat. Fuck, even Cabrera be all, “Charlie, how do you do that?” And I tell him, “Miggy? The secret to clubbing a man with a baseball bat is you take out the ump first because the catcher is in a weaker, crouching position, you take him out second. And then, after that, you bum rush the pitcher.”
Wait. Where was I going with that? That’s got to be the worst baseball analogy ever. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore.
“S.A.L.E.” That’s what I’m talking about. Well, the first thing I notice is that that doesn’t sound like Lu singing. What happened to Lu? Is Lu not there anymore? Did they add somebody? What happened? Why does that not sound like Lu?
I mean, I’m not saying it’s not good but where’s Lu? I don’t know if I can take this.
OK, Lu’s back on “Sui Generis”. That sounds like Lu. Everything is right with the universe.
“Sui Generis” brings us more of the grisly fuck-you-ups that I love Joe 4 for.
Now, I could go off on one of my tangents about how good Joe 4 are but you already know that if I see Joe 4’s name on something that I consider that worth the price of admission alone. Trust me on this: If you see Joe 4’s name on something, buy it. Just fucking buy it. You’ll like it.
OK, Side 2B.
Knife the Symphony. All I ever hear is good things about Knife the Symphony and it’s my bad for sleeping on them this long.
“Room & Pillar” starts out all storm and hurricane and it takes only those eleven seconds to convince me that I need to see this band ASAP. I detect a bit of Zach de la Rocha in the vocals, you know when Zach gets pissier than he normally is and starts hollering at the top of his lungs? Yeah, like that. Now imagine that happening with that kind of punk I like where the bass carries the melody and the guitar just fills in these swathes of harmonic information while the drums sound like the guy or gal playing them is Dave Grohling the shit out of everything. (And say what you want about how lame and arena rocky the Foos have gotten over the years, Grohl is still my generation’s Ginger Baker getting butt-fucked by Gene Krupa behind Peart’s drum kit.) “Room & Pillar” is the sound of hoards of conquistadors landing on your shore. This, I like. Why have I slept on this band for this long? It’s like I’m fucking stupid or something.
“Suit Up, Sleep It Off” is a fine piece that reminds me of Holy Sockets but wwaayy heavier. If you like your indie heavy or your heavy indie, “Suit Up, Sleep It Off” may be your new summer jam and that’s for this summer and next summer. Motherfuckers coming over to your house and you’re playing this and they’ll be all, “What’s this?” and you’ll be all, “Knife the Symphony” and they’ll be all like, “Oh, cool,” and then you’ll put the speakers in the window and sit out on the lawn and knock back Vicodins and Mickey’s while nodding your heads and occasionally doing the metal scowl. Ladies and joims, this is your pre-game music. Listen to this before going out for a night on your town with your friends and everything will be alright. “Suit Up, Sleep It Off” is how your morning-after blog post begins.
So, over all? I think the only miss for me is Aperiodic’s opener but we’ve been over that; you can still get into it but I think that for my tastes that it will take some more time. There’s a tweedy-dee bass moment that I’m not digging but that’s the fault of my own prejudices, I guess. Whoever is singing that first Joe 4 song is either not Lu or Lu doing something different but I still like it. Overall, Phratry’s new double seven inch is going to be your new summer jam.
Now, if only there were a link to it somewhere.

Veinte Dos.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.