Archive for March, 2012

Townes van Zandt, Texas Troubadour box set

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

TvZTT

TvZTT


Townes van Zandt, Texas Troubadour box set – I’ve loved Townes van Zandt ever since I heard his cover of the Stones’ “Broken Flowers” playing in the Big Lebowski soundtrack. It’s ten times better than the original. Sadly, Roadsongs, the album of live covers that it is featured on, is out of print. But, happily, this box set is still available, and what a gem it is – collecting Townes’ first seven studio albums, along with a small handful of unreleased songs and live cuts, this includes all of his sixties and seventies output (!!) and has a few extras too (!!!). Collected here are the studio recordings For The Sake of the Song (his over-produced 1968 debut), Our Mother The Mountain (1969), Townes Van Zandt (1969), Delta Momma Blues (1971), High, Low and in Between (1972), The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972) and Flyin’ Shoes (1978). The years between those last two albums were more than Townes had ever waited before putting out music but longer waits were to come – Old Townes didn’t get another album out after Flyin’ Shoes until At My Window in 1987; there was only one more studio album to come, No Deeper Blue in 1994. Van Zandt passed away in 1997 after 52 years on this earth, most of the latter ones soaked in drugs and alcohol. And while it doesn’t offer all of the Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas double disc, recorded in 1973, they do have the eight songs that are on it that are not repeated on studio albums (ie songs that he never got around to recording in the studio, but would play live – although this is not true, since the final song “Only Him Or Me” is doubled with the studio version).

A documentary on his life exists called Be Here To Love Me, which I really must see – no amount of Townes is ever enough! I listen to these songs, dripping in wordcraft and flush with emotion, thinking largely of Leonard Cohen, although they are as different as they are similar: both sang sad guitar songs infused with great melody and wonderful lyrics that share a country influence, but Van Zandt’s voice is so much more beautiful, and their backgrounds could not be more different (sure, they both came from moneyed backgrounds that they turned their backs on, but Cohen is from snowy, urban Montreal while Van Zandt comes from a Texas oil family). Gram Parsons would be a better comparison, but even that is not adequate – Van Zandt outlived Parsons, but was blue blue blue!

Townes’ first album, For The Sake of the Song, was released in 1968 and is full of dated flourishes. The first number, “For The Sake of the Song” is a fine folk tune that has some Mexican twinges; it’s a strong, healthy tune that makes you listen right away, mainly on the merit of Van Zandt’s strong yet mournful voice. Ditto for the second song, “Tecumseh Valley”, a mournful song that has a tap-tapping beat and backup singers, something that was not really Townes’ style. “For The Sake of the Song”, “Tecumseh Valley”, “Quicksilver Daydreams of Maria”, “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”, “Waitin’ Around To Die” and “Sad Cinderella” all get a less-busy stripped down sound on later albums, and they always sound exquisite without any distraction from Townes’ voice, which is like pure, liquid gold. “Waitin’ Around To Die” is splendid with its laid back pace on a later album, the one on the first album is good too, but it’s done dramatically like some chase scene in a cowboy epic, full of crazy, expressionistic percussion. Oooh!! You just need to hear how “Sixteen Summers, FIfteen Falls” shifts from something that would have been part of a folk festival into something out of a spaghetti western.

Our Mother The Mountain’s first song “Be Here To Love Me” is already sounding more stripped-down, with a very nice country tune, although one unnecessarily augmented by some cute flute work. “Our Mother The Mountain” is a very cool song, very dark, that starts off with voice, simple guitar, and bumpy bass, with a bit of spooky flute. It builds and builds and becomes a huge crashing piece of thunder. Great, great lyrics, like so many of Van Zandt’s songs, epics of the drama of a hard life like the one that he himself pursued.

The third Townes Van Zandt album, self-titled, starts off with the same song as his first album, this time around a highly stripped down version – voice and guitar (percussion is heard in parts). Beautiful. “Colorado Girl” has a very mellow Simon and Garfunkel feel to it. It is one of the first all-acoustic guitar and voice songs. “Delta Momma Blues” is a sweet, sweet song with some great fiddle. “Only Him or Me” is just sheer beauty, hard to listen to late at night when you’re alone; “tomorrow’s half of all you’ve got”. “Turnstyled, Junkpiled” sounds like it’s poking fun at Paul Simon, but it’s an old honkey tonk tune. “Nothin’” is a great old blues song; it is covered by Robert Plant on his Raising Sand album. “You Are Not Needed Now” starts off with wistful guitar blues, but picks up with cool churchy organ. “Mr Gold and Mr Mud” is a fast song that tells the tale of two gamblers with bizarry poke playing mythology. “No Lonesome Tune” has sublime guitar work at the end, just gorgeous. According to the liner notes, “To Live Is To Fly” is a tribute to Janis Joplin. “Don’t Let The Sunshine Fool Ya” is a great singalong. There are only a few covers on the album, but one of them is Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’”, a fun ole tune. “Snow Don’t Fall” is a beautiful piano song, there are multiple version of “Fraulein” that are all fantastic, as are multiple versions of “Pancho and Lefty”. “If I Needed You” is sheer perfection, “Houseboat In Heaven” has gorgeous, groaning country pinache, and “Loretta” is spooky and wonderful with great harmonica tones often-copied by the Cowboy Junkies (great lyrics, and a nice Texas twang in believe “b’leev” – is that Emmylou Harris singing harmony here?). “Rex’s Blues” is pure Texas, “alone and low as low can be.” “Flyin’ Shoes” is sheer slinky gorgeousness, with an appropriately-dramatic opener. Wonderful. “Fall is a feeling that I just can’t lose.” “When She Don’t Need” me is a nifty, exquisite piano and guitar tune that grows and builds with full tunesmanship. Rounding out the collection are songs from “Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas”, recorded in 1973 but released in 1977; these eight songs are supposed to be songs that don’t appear elsewhere in Townes’ early discography, although that doesn’t seem quite true – the closing song in the collection “Only Him Or Me” was also on Townes’ self-titled third album (but who cares – it’s a great song, and a more-than-appropriate closer for this collection). The first of these songs is “Two Girls” (it had been the fourth song from the double-CD set), and it starts with a primary school-level joke (“What’s white and crawls up your leg – Uncle Ben’s Perverted Rice”). The song is full of great lyrics:

Well the clouds didn’t look like cotton, they didn’t even look like clouds
I was underneath the weather, my friends looked like a crowd
The swimming hole was full of rum, I tried to find out why
All I learned was this my friend, you gotta swim before you fly

Jolly Jane just lays around and listens with her mouth
She’s had about a dozen husbands but the last one just pulled out
Now who’s gonna bring her dinner, through the weary years ahead
All she get from me is sympathy, got no time to see she’s fed

“White Freight Liner Blues” is sheer country, while the Merle Travis song “Nine Pound Hammer” is pure bliss, a really great song (and much more laid back than Merle’s version). Wonderful finger picking! “Chauffeur’s Blues” is more blues, while “Cocaine Blues” is more blues. Very bluesy. “Only Him Or Me” is a wonderful, triste song about lost love and stubborn loners, a great way to take out a collection about Texas’ loneliest star.

There are four songs on this collection that don’t appear on Townes Van Zandt albums, the first is “The Spider Song”, it’s guitar and voice and some weird cowboy hum-along. “Upon My Soul” is an old honky tonk, a gorgeous uppity Christian song, lovely, with great harmonica. “Buckskin Stallion Blues” is nice, but nothing special either, while “At My Window” is sleepy and beautiful.

There are a few eccentric songs on the album, though, that escape from the general spookiness of the beautiful voice, the perfect guitarwork and the dark themes. “Talkin’ Karate Blues” is a sort of strange tale that comes off as a sort of “Alice’s Restaurant”, which was released in October 1967. It’s kind of funny, but not really. “Silver Ships of Andilar” starts off nice, but becomes overly bombastic with the strings (it’s also unusually repetitive in its harmonies – think “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”). Townes’ cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” is kind of nutty, not at all his strength, but it still sounds pretty cool. “Dollar Bill Blues” is squeaky and atonal and very strange and weird. “Fraternity Blues”, from the live selection, is a pretty funny tale of a loner who decides to join a fraternity, but realises that he’s better-suited to a fraternity (“if you want to have friends, it’s gonna cost you”). “Talking Thunderbird Blues” is a cool/funny song about someone drinking’ Thunderbird. Wicked. “Thunderbird’s not an Indian trinket/ It’s a wine, man, you take it home and you drink it.”

It’s hard to resist the temptation to write about this release song for song and simply to day “this song is amazing too”, because they really all are! Anyone who likes Chris Isaac, Nick Drake (a Texas version of), Leonard Cohen (ditto), Bob Seger in his most wistful moments (a stretch, maybe) or Elliott Smith would fall deeply in love with Townes. What a treasure we’ve had among us.

I know of two Townes Van Zandt tribute albums by single artists – Townes, by Steve Earl, and Around Townes, by Janell Mosser.

Here are some interesting covers of Townes Van Zandt songs, some of which became very famous:

The Mekons, Ancient and Modern

Friday, March 16th, 2012

TM-AAM

TM-AAM


The Mekons, Ancient and Modern – I’ve followed the Mekons since about 1990, when the “I Heart Mekons” album came out. Since then they’ve become one of my favorite bands, and I’ll regularly buy their new albums when they come out, as I would with Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Boris, and a few other bands I really love. The band’s output has slowed down a bit in the last decade, though: our prolific gang, which has been together since 1976 (!!!) put out an album every year or two until Punk Rock in 2004, but held of until 2007 to put out Natural, and now Ancient & Modern in 2011.

Starting with a somber Tom Greenhalgh threnody “Warm Summer Sun”, the album takes many listenings to get a thread on, something that wasn’t always the case as nuggets would stand out on first listening – although perhaps the second tune, “Space In Your Face”, does qualify as a nugget with its driving Jon Langford rock, as well as its crazy arena electronics and Sally Timms background vocals, all of which make it sound pretty big indeed. “Geeshi” is a piano honk, with Sally Timms pouring on her lush, dramatic and vampy voice, having left her gorgeous soaring splendor behind many many albums ago (pardon me, but I’m not exactly a fan of this development). “I Fall Asleep” is another simple piano tune, sung by Tom with some Sally backup vocals (she’s busy this time around), that has a throwaway feel to it for a while, until the production kicks in and the song gets into orchestration, a capella, electronics, violins, and other experimental gook. “Calling All Demons” is one of the better songs on the disc, with a whispy Jon Langford providing vocal grooving and humming along with some righteous warmth when Tom cuts in; even the electronics sound pretty groovy. Nice one, guys. “Ugly Bethesda” starts off droney and industrial (as in “the Industrial Revolution”) to evoke steam trains and gin mills, with Sally vamping out another molasses funk, tinged with fiddles. “Ancient & Modern” is a strange tune, starting off with mandolin pluckings, then some vocals, and eventually a musical crescendo, building up with groovy tunage, multiple voices, fun hooks, and a deep emotionalism. Very nice, of course, and then Sally’s voice comes in to narrate some more as she does over all the other albums nearly. The longest song on the album at 6:52 is topped off by a men’s choir for that perfect capper to make this album sound perfectly 20th century, or like some soundtrack to a stage musical of sorts. “Afar & Forlorn” is an acoustic singalong, led by the drunken voice of Tom Greenhalgh of course. “Honey Bear” is a bit of angry rock ‘n’ roll grit, led again by Jon Langford, a short song that sort of sounds like it could have been on an earlier rock album from the band, with some conventional pop and rock touches along the way. “The Devil At Rest” is minimalistic, glockenchiming and sung by a spry Sally Timms, dull and silly. Album closer “Arthur’s Angel” is a throwback of sorts to a glorious dreamy old Mekons song, it takes the album out in subliminal style.

The album comes in a handsome digipak with leaves that fold out and reveal lyrics, which are generally stream of conscious and surreal, but somehow make more sense when melded with the sombre, old-worldedness of the album.

Saint Jack, by Paul Theroux

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

SJ-PT

SJ-PT


Saint Jack, Paul Theroux – I read one of Theroux’s recent train books, Eastern Star something, and found it crotchety and misinformed. But this book I have long wanted to read for a few reasons – it is one of the few novels to be set in Singapore, where it is notorious, as is Theroux himself. Theroux also lived here for many years in the early seventies, so chances were high that it would be less misinformed (his chapter on Singapore in Ghost Train To The Eastern Star seemed also to be the less misinformed chapter of that book as well.

Saint Jack is a peculiar book, as it’s all about the character development of our handsome young pimp/saint, recounting various anecdotes in this man’s life that reveal something about his character. He is 53 when we catch up to him in Singapore after 13 years of living there, and slowly we piece together how he came to be in Singapore. Through his colourful descriptions of Jack’s pimping, we get the sense that Theroux spent a lot of his time in Singapore doing research for the book itself. There is no plot to the book, despite what my Penguin classic says on the back about “the faintly sinister American Edwin Shuck” engaging him to set up some blackmail on a US Army general. That only occupies the final 20 pages of the book, and really isn’t any more indicative of anything in it than any random selection of 20 pages throughout the rest of the book would be. We hear Jack explain Singapore, we see him explore Singapore, we see him drink with his friends in a pub, we see him open his own pub, run afoul of the local gangs, we see him deal with “the new fella” at his company, his local employers, the ships, the girls, the gangs, and the police.

Good fun, with some bad jokes thrown in. Love it! Now I want to see the movie – that was directed by Peter Bogdanovich, but banned for many years in Singapore because of some controversy swirling around it.

Old Ideas, by Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

LC-OI

LC-OI


Old Ideas, Leonard Cohen – Leonard made us wait eight years this time. That’s almost as long as the nine years between “The Future” (1992) and “Ten New Songs”; “Dear Heather” was released in 2004 and now in 2012 we get “Old Ideas”. With Cohen now 77 years old, the question we all wonder is “is this the last we’ll hear of dear leonard?” Leonard’s getting older, there’s not much time left, but there’s also no sense of urgency from the man, either in his output nor in his delivery. And how can there be?

And what kind of excitement is supposed to be generated by an album called “Old Ideas” anyway? Well, plenty, if the artist is a legend like Cohen (think about it – who else could get away with it anyway?). The songs on “Old Ideas” are indeed very old-sounding, with Cohen trying perhaps to revisit some of the morbid humor witnessed on albums like “The Future”. The opening song “Going Home” starts off with the lyrics “I love to speak with Leonard”, it’s a languid old tune with some thick background vocalists to do the heavy lifting in the harmony section, while Cohen saunters along. “Amen” is a strange bit of Tom Waits-ism, with a gravelly-voiced Cohen in full minimalist scope, with light keyboards, swishing drum brushes and some guitar… then the background vocalists come in. A companion piece to “Hallelujah” maybe? “Show Me The Place” is a very nice piano piece about slaves. “Darkness” is probably the coolest song on the album, with Sharon Robinson’s wicked synth bass sounds opening it up, with some feathery guitar, and the opening lines “I caught the darkness drinking from your cup,” repeated twice for effect. “I said ‘is this contagious?’ You said ‘Just drink it up’”. Great groovy organs, there is a full musical thing happening in this song, great presentation, great production. “I thought the past would last me, but the darkness got that too.” “Anyhow” is a strange, spooky song, Leonard talking and talking, with some more great lines through and through. “I know you can’t forgive me, but forgive me anyhow,” “I know you have to hate me, but could you hate me less?” “Crazy To Love You” is a song that Cohen co-wrote with Anjani Thomas, that appears on her 2006 album “Blue Alert”, this version is just Cohen’s voice accompanied by guitar, it’s gorgeous. “Come Healing” is beautiful female vocals before Cohen’s gravelly groan comes in with its careful and steady enunciation. It’s like choral music, mainly voices with a bit of organ behind it. Wonderful. “Banjo” is groovy blues guitar, it is a short song that hops and bops as much as Cohen still can. “Lullaby” bounces along slightly with still, pleasing rhythms and sounds, it really is a lullaby. “The mouse and the cat have fallen in love, they’re talking in tongues.” “Different Sides” the album closer, is a long song with full lyrics that comes off like a sinister Nick Cave tune (forgetting, perhaps, that Cohen invented the sinister Nick Cave tune). “Both of us say there are laws to obey, but frankly I don’t like your tone/You want to change the way I make love, I want to leave it alone.” It’s a breakup song, I guess, but maybe not a breakup with a woman but a breakup with life itself. Let’s see how that turns out for Cohen – we all sincerely wish him longer life and greater happiness.

The booklet is nice. Besides reprinting the lyrics, you get a glimpse of the Moleskine notebooks that Cohen uses for his lyrics, along with interesting drawings of Cohen, of nude ladies, of skulls (sex and death), some very nice drawings of pretty girls, of a coffee cup on a table, and various other things. Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

April Wine, Live at the El Mocambo

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

AW-LATEM

AW-LATEM


April Wine, Live at the El Mocambo – April Wine was nominally the headlining act on March 4th and 5th 1977 at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo club, with an unknown band called the Cockroaches opening; of course, with time it was revealed that “the Cockroaches” were actually the Rolling Stones undercover and that they were the real headliners of the evening, playing their first club gig in over a decade. They also used the occasion to recorded their set, from which they selected four old blues numbers for side three of their Love You Live double live album, which came out on September 23rd of that year. Somewhat opportunistically, April Wine leveraged the occasion for a live album of their own, simply called Live at the El Mocambo.

True to their Canadian ways, the band’s recording is conservative and straight forward and has barely any of the excitement of side three of Love You Live, which has Mick wisecracking and talkin to an engaged audience that yells back, with lots of raw and groovy blues from the masters. April Wine plays a pretty sterile set that one suspects has had a bunch of post-production work on it (sounds a little too slick to really be live), and there is no audience engagement; indeed, the audience is barely heard at all!

At this point in their career, April Wine had released six studio albums, and at this live show they only had two of their “greatest hits” on offer, those being “Oowatanite” and “Could Have Been A Lady” (“Sign Of The Gypsy Queen”, “Roller”, “I Like To Rock”, “Just Between You And Me” and “Anything You Want, You Got It” were all released in the years to come).

The disc starts off with a sassy rocker “Teenage Love,” then gets into “Tonight Is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love”, which sounds at the beginning like a cover of Alice Cooper’s “Be My Lover”. “Juvenile Delinquent” at first sounds more like a ballad, but then builds into a sophisticated groove rocker, a great sweet little song riddled with dozens of cool musical parts and a soaring chorus, held together by Myles Goodwyn’s meaty guitar playing and strong voice. “Don’t Push Me Around” is one of those “now that’s more like it” songs, with good rockin’ boogie, and an extended talkbox-style solo to show off a bit of the type of technical proficiency that other bands – like the Rolling Stones, for example – may lack. “Oowatanite” is a note-perfect version of their radio hit, and thus a bit dull – excepting of course the train crossing bell bit at the start that elicits Pavlovian reactions from people who grew up near train crossings. “Drop Your Guns” is a functional rocker that has frantic Rocky Horror Picture Show/Jack White mad voices in parts, but also a very boring chorus. “Slowpoke” is a great blues rocker with a fantastic soloing. “She’s No Angel” is a poppy rocker, with Myles singing a bit like Geddy Lee in a squeaky voice. Nice guitar bits, cool beat, although it somehow sounds more like a studio recording than anything else on the record. Call me cynical. “You Won’t Dance With Me” is a syrupy late-fifties crooning song, one where the vocalist talks to the audience (of the type parodied by Val Kilmer in “Top Secret”), the crappiest song on the album, complete with an “Unchained Melody” moment at the end. “Gimme Love” is something a bit better, with a cool screaming opener and some nice boogie (“You Won’t Dance With Me” and “Gimme Love” were not part of the initial release, but have made it onto my 2010 re-release). FInal song “Could Have Been A Lady” is a big hit, getting lots of audience response, and the version is good, jamming fun.

奥田民生が歌うルパン三世のテーマⅡ

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Here it is – the Lupin Sansei theme by Okuda Tamio. Go, Tamio, go!!

Here’s the original.

Downtown Owl, by Chuck Klosterman

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

DO-CK

DO-CK


Downtown Owl, by Chuck Klosterman – I became a pretty big Chuck Klosterman fan after reading Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, although halfway through that I realised that he could also be fairly hit and miss and become a bit wanky too. This is Klosterman’s first novel, and while it is well written, it quickly became apparent that as such he consciously decided to hold off on that which I love most about his unique writing style, which is his wry and sarcastic pop culture observations – view that are usually more than a little bit twisted.

This condition pops up exactly once in the book, during a flirtatious conversation between the two most interesting characters in the book about the Rolling Stones (the girl asks the guy what kind of music he listens to, he says he only listens to the Rolling Stones – all other bands are gay, especially Led Zeppelin). There are also references to newly-released albums, such as Van Halen’s 1984, and Klosterman excells at describing the frustrations of high school life. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, which means that there’s plenty of fleshing out of the individuals, who enjoy rich character development. The principle of the book, of course, is the innate mundanity of life in a very small town in North Dakota and the characters who inhabit the town who are eccentric in terms of their absolute, through-to-the-bone normality, and the town runs on a different social rhythm than most places. The book runs with near clockwork precision through all of the themes of classic story-telling: man versus nature, man versus man, man versus himself. By the end of the book, all three of these come to a head in an interesting and unique climax that combines both comedy and tragedy. All of this proceeds with very little sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll to stand in the way of the plot development (what little of it there is).

Klosterman paints a vivid picture of life – including both old age and puberty – in small town America. This does not make for a thrilling read, although there is still something oddly compelling about it nonetheless. It’s a short read and generally enjoyable in a non-Klosterman kind of way, and I get the sense that this is what Klosterman set out to do anyway. I dog-eared exactly one page of this book, page 184, probably because it used a word I had never seen before (isomorphism – a biological term that indicates “similarity in form, as in organisms of different ancestry”), and referenced a cultural figure I know nothing about (Rollie Fingers, a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher known for his eccentric waxed curled-tip mustache).

RF

RF

Scar Tissue, by Anthony Kiedis

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

AK-ST

AK-ST


Scar Tissue, by Anthony Kiedis – A great little book, written by the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, about his insane life. You can get all of the details on the man’s deeds on the Wikipedia page (Grammys, multi-platinum record sales, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, heroin addiction), but this is the first person singular view. Kiedis starts it off with the typical underdog autobiography thing where he recounts in the first pages some messed up incident from his mid-twenties that is supposed to foreshadow/reveal something of his true character/convince the reader to buy the book by putting some action up front (drugs, Mexicans, lost personal items, dangerous situations, poverty, late for a gig), before jumping into his childhood (Keith Richards did the same thing).

You get the strange upbringing with divorced parents – mom in Grand Rapids, Michigan, wayward dad in Hollywood – and the contradictions (thriving on the edge, stoned on drugs, living on his own, yet pulling in straight As in high school). There are the various burnouts – drugs, car crash, diving off a five storey building and missing the pool – and recoveries, and the strange brushes with celebrity (Keith Moon used to sit at his dad’s table when he was a club-goer and Anthony was a pre-teen, Keidis had a brief scene with Sylvester Stallone in F.I.S.T., etc). Kiedis goes over the strange relationship he has with his hard-partying over-compensating dad, with Grand Rapids, Michigan, with Hollywood, with his California high school, with his crazy musician friends, with his dissolution and homelessness and drug use, and with his many girls. Eventually, he’s in a band with these musicians who are also in other bands (Flea played in Fear), and he’s having wild and crazy sex with nutty little California chicks and… Nina Hagen! Wow!!!

He also writes a lot about the crazy dances he invented, and the strange fashions he was into.

I decided to cut all of my hair really short except for the back, which was long, down to my shoulders. I wasn’t mimicking hockey players or people from Canada, it was just my idea of a punk-rock haircut. It was probably inspired by David Bowie in his Pinups era, but it wasn’t flaming red, and I didn’t have the standing-up thing in the front, I had bangs. To people at UCLA, it was abominable. Even my friend were freaked out by it. But Mike (Flea) approved. He always said that one of my greatest accomplishments was that I had invented the mullet.

After a while, Anthony’s band starts to take off, and so he’s suddenly not interested in anonymous sex any more, he’s off drugs; he’s doing other things instead, like fighting with band members, putting out one hit song after another, playing with the Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Peal Jam, headlining Lollapalooza and opening for the Rolling Stones (not fun, apparently). And then there’s the endless cycle of relapse, rehabilitation and recovery, with a fair bit of intervention in between (as well as the heroin addiction of other bandmates, friends and girlfriends).

Kiedis composes long passages are about drugs, some of them really inspired, as he tries to make sense of his massive problem:

Once you’ve seen a solution to the disease that’s tearing you apart, relapsing is never fun. You know there’s an alternative to the way you’re living and that you’re oging against something you’ve been given for free by the universe, this key to the kingdom. Drug addiction is a progressive disease, so every time you go out, it gets a little uglier than it was before; it’s not like you go back to the early days of using, when there was less of a price to pay. It isn’t fun any more, but it’s still desperately exciting. Once you put that first drug or drink in your body, you don’t have to worry about the girlfriend or the career or the family or the bills. All those mundane aspects of life disapper. Now you have one job, and that’s to keep chucking the coal in the engine, because you don’t want this train to stop. If it stops, then you’re going to have to feel all that other shit.

That chase is always exciting. There are cops and bad guys and freaks and hookers. You’re diving into a big insidious video game, but again, you’re being tricked into thinking that you’re doing something cool, since the price is always bigger than the payoff. You immediately give up your love and you light and your beauty, and you become a dark black hole in the universe, sucking up bad energy and not walking around putting a smile on someone’s face or helping someone out or teaching someone something that’s going to help his or her life. You’re not cresting the ripple of love; you’re creating the vacuum of shit. I want to describe both sides of how I felt, but it’s important to know that in the end all the romantic glorification of dope fiendery amounts to nothing but a hole of shit. It has to appear enticing, because that’s why God or the universe, creative intelligence or whatever you want to call it, put that energy here. It’s a learning tool, and you can either kill yourself with it or you can turn yourself into a free person with it. I don’t think drug addiction is inherently useless, but it’s a rough row to hoe.

While the first half of the book is about his parents’ backgrounds and troubled marriage, coming of age, discovering music and living a nutty existence, the second half of the book is much more sober as it gets into his girlfriends, band deaths and other crises, and his many relapses and interventions and therapies and rehabilitations. It also talks about his various adventures traveling around Asia (where he caught “a rare tropical disease called dengue fever” – which is actually not so rare, unfortunately) and Australia and New Zealand. There’s also some stuff about buying houses in New Zealand (?!?!). Finally, it becomes about swapping guitarists and making tea, love and redemption, and occasionally about yet another physical setback (broken hands, feet, spines). Wow – what a nutty, crazy, inspiring life Kiedis has led.

Finally, it’s worth noting the four generous sections of personal photos of him, his parents (including his mom as a cute little five-year-old), and his girlfriends. You get to see a lot of skin, both from a pre- and post-tattoo Kiedis (who is known to perform nude) and his girlfriends Jennifer, Claire, Carmen, Jiame, Ione (Skye), as well. There are also pictures of this beautiful kid that Kiedis was, and pictures of his sick hippy/budding actor father as a young dad with his best pal. Funny comments on the young performer’s early fashion sense too (hats, gloves, kneepads, buttons, skateboards, . There’s also a strip of four pictures of Kiedis smoking his first joint in his kitchen, aged 12 (joint supplied and lit up by dad, of course).

The Butthole Surfers, Blind Eye Sees All DVD, Live in Detroit 1985

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Yeeeeeeee… hah, the Buttholes 1985 line-up with two drummers gets the DVD treatment (just in case you don’t feel like watching it on a little screen via YouTube). Yeeeeeeee… hah!!!

BS-BESA

BS-BESA


“Hi y’all, I’m Gibby. This is Detroit, it’s March 2nd. It’s cold as fuckin’ shit. I don’t know what else to say.” The Butthole Surfers recorded their February 22nd and March 3rd 1985 live shows at TRAXX club in Detroit, Michigan, and edited the footage together (with more than just a bit of mischief) to create this pretty unique live DVD. Gibby appears at the beginning, naked in the snow but for a loin cloth that has a penis drawn on it. Nice. He also appears throughout the movie, ranting and raving between songs, usually in bed with the rest of the band but sometimes also as a young short-haired aspiring musician pleading with the audience, telling bad surreal jokes and spouting bloody nonsense that is often quite inspired. Hey – that’s Gibby! He blathers, the band eats pizza, smokes joints, trades cigarettes, comments on the wall posters, coughs, slobbers, drools – it’s like something out of an R Crumb motif. An example of one of these monologues is:

Thousands of the people that came before me that are descendants of me who had originally been here… there were thousands of people, all down the line to where there were worms, and there were flatworms, and Chinese men who were tied to walls would show worm movies out of their penises into the air in apparent disgruntlement and dismay and it would be wadded up like a little girl would wad up some tissue after she’s blown her nose into, and look in it and the horror of seeing little speckled pieces of blood in her snot, it was on that rag that she had wadded up and threw away, knowing that that was her life in there, and that her life would never be the same, because the world was divided up into four parts, there was the Maggots, the Tutor, the Fancor and the Durea, and the Durea and the Fancor were at war with the Tutor and the Farcols, who I haven’t mentioned to this point, because they were the fifth part, they were invisible and they were all-powerful, and they were beyond the worms and beyond the Chinese men tied to the wall, who would show worm movies out of their penises, and who had originally been non-existent at all and they never knew how to make fireworks, or ever rifles, or even – they didn’t know anyone from Saskatchewan and they didn’t know how to dial the telephone, and they had these Volkswagen buses that they had designed like they were cathedrals of God, and they had directed all of us, all of my relatives – the worms and the Chinese men themselves, they had travelled hundreds of thousands of miles. When they came they had the sea, they went under the sea and talked to the fish, and see, when the fish travel in a line there will be a little dot near their rear ends and a string will come out and I have made a kite before and I have flown it out of the string that I got from the dots on fishes bottom ends, and I have flown it so high that I have been able to see the Etruscans, the Bolivians, the Artesians, and the Wallhonkers.

The set starts off with “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave”, sung/shouted by Paul, with lots of groovy noise (Gibby’s playing guitar). Paul does a great job playing bass and screaming, especially at the end when he’s shouting “Shut up… shut up.” “One Hundred Million People Dead” does not appear on any of their albums, it’s a nutty piece of putty. Theresa Nervosa and King Coffey are going nuts on the drums, Paul Leary is dancing around in his black turtleneck, Canadian bassist Trevor Malcolm is bopping away in his white three piece suit and shades and thick sideswept blonde haircut, Gibby is confused in his white open chested shirt and bra as he howls with the Gibbitronics and destroys a pillow, it’s a fun and funky song (they also mess around and show footage from another show within the same song, people are seen wearing different clothes – Malcolm’s suit turns form white to black, etc – this happens all throughout the DVD). In “Bar-be-que Pope”, a bra-wearing Gibby is playing sax, Paul is doing the “singing”. Nutty! “Cowboy Bob” is nutty and cool, Gibby has Leningrad Cowboy hair, Paul howls like a demon possessed. The same shot of Trevor’s head is recycled over and over, at least once per song (probably to see if you’re paying attention, maybe to make fun of Trevor, who’s Canadian and deserves to be made fun of [as conventional logic seems to go]). You get snippets of clippets from the live show. “Hey” is nutty grooviness with Paul sweaty in a blue t-shirt, the audience going nuts, Gibby in a toga. “Tornadoes” has Gibby performing in his boxers, great stand-up drumming from Theresa and King. Before “Mexican Caravan”, there’s a scene of a young Gibby stark naked leaving the stage ( you only get to see his back side). In “Mexican Caravan” he’s unspooling a roll of toilet paper (and singing through the tube). Cool. “Cherub” is full of nutty feedback, basslines, drumming, horns, bullhorn rantings. This has to be the Buttholes’ best song from their first few albums. “Lady Sniff” is one of the most chaotic Buttholes albums, and this version is no less so, ha ha. It’s followed by a young Gibby on the bass talking to the audience between songs to stop pulling down his pants. “Something” picks up with Trevor Malcolm coming out with a giant white tuba, Gibby on bass, Paul doing his nutty slide guitar thing on a weird purple-striped guitar, and off they go! Paul handles the screaming vocals and minimal guitar. Great drum noise. In between songs there’s another scene in bed where the band does a weird “LSD” sound collage, making this nearly the only time King Coffey or Paul Leary speaks up; this quickly becomes a choral of “Blow The Man Down”. “Mark Says Alright” is cool groovy bass-driven boogying that is full of obscene guitar sound effects, Gibby donning a second guitar, spooky images floating in the air, bouncers fending off rowdy audience members, other insanity. The band launches into a proto-jam for “PSY”, probably my favorite Butthole Surfers song of them all, but this one doesn’t really get very far – it’s 12 minutes long on the 1991 release Pioughed, but here it’s only nine minutes long (about the same length as other live CDs, including The Whole Truth and Nothing Butt).

The DVD also contains some bonuses that you can’t get on YouTube – Butthole Karaoke, which is several of the live songs with subtitles (I might watch it all some day), and a series of pictures (band pics, naked clown line drawings, concert posters, etc). The music playing over the slideshow is the lost 5″ single of “American Woman”. Cool.

- A lot of things that can be said about time can be said about motion.
- A lot of things that can be said about something can be said about something else.

And, in case you missed it the first time around, here it is:

Zen’s super softball victory!!

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Today was a very special day! We woke up, got ready for a day out of doors, and headed out to the Ayer Rajah Sports Complex where the Japanese Association was having a big softball tournament. Zen’s team, the Coconuts Juniors was playing, and it turns out that this will be his last tournament as a junior before he graduated from that division and starts as a senior in April.

The first game went well – they played a rookie team, and the Coconuts beat them easily. Zen did some good batting and some good fielding. The second game went well, and the kids were getting excited – they had won two games in a row!! The third game was even better – they were playing a strong team, and at one point were down a few points, but then they equalised, and took a three point lead, earning seven runs in a single inning. The other team never recovered, and the Coconuts won their third game in a row, earning them a spot in the finals against the strongest team, the Gold Stars. Zen had some great action in this game, including hitting a double, which earned the team two points. He also was part of a double play as third baseman, and at another time he caught a line drive with a very quick reflex. He also threw a few laser beams – that’s when the third baseman throws to a ball to the first baseman to get that kid out. Nice!

The final match was also very exciting – they made it to the end of the game with a tied score – 3-3. Then we played a special tiebreaker inning and the other team got one point and Zen’s team didn’t. They were disappointed for having lost, but they knew that they had played very well and had nearly won. They had never made it to the finals, and they had never won so many games in a row. Great!

Zen wrote about the experience here.

Here are some pictures of this day:

At bat!

At bat!

Fielding (third base)

Fielding (third base)

Ran to first base!

Ran to first base!

Ran to second base!

Ran to second base!

Ran to third base!

Ran to third base!

Coconuts, Gold Tigers, at the end of the match

Coconuts, Gold Tigers, at the end of the match

Coconuts getting their medals.

Coconuts getting their medals.

Me and mama

Me and mama