Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

new Botanical Gardens area – The Learning Forest

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

We woke up early this morning to explore the new Learning Forest area of the Singapore Botanical Garden, and wow is it ever cool! They just opened it up at the end of March, and I can see from one of the maps that they’re also developing another large section just north of if (the only part that is still untouched is an area that we can see from our balcony). Lots of nice pictures

Swan Lake, 7:00 AM.
IMG_5256

The start of the treetop walk at the Learning Garden, there’s easy access from one side of Swan Lake.
IMG_5257

Bamboo garden
IMG_5258

Tall skinny bamboos
IMG_5259

Bamboo bush
IMG_5260

Cousin Itt bamboo…
IMG_5261

Tall bamboo!!
IMG_5262

XX
IMG_5263

Bamboo Crosses Path
IMG_5264

Pathway
IMG_5265

Pond
IMG_5266

Groovy bridge
IMG_5268

Tall tree
IMG_5269

Tall tree with reflection
IMG_5270

Reflection of tall tree…
IMG_5271

IMG_5272

Fun pond and promenade
IMG_5273

Groovy
IMG_5274

Naoko in contemplation
IMG_5275

Jungle
IMG_5277

Jungle
IMG_5278

Groovy catwalk
IMG_5279

A perfect arch. That’s the moon up there too…
IMG_5280

IMG_5282

Yes, we have no bananas…
IMG_5284

Cool map of the Botanical Gardens. Learning Forest is newly completed, and it looks like there will be a “Gallop Extension”, with some sort of building in there. The untouched area is adjacent to our condo complex, and our pool can be seen at the far left edge.
IMG_5283

My babe likes bananas…
IMG_5287

Ginger flowers at the old access area (no longer Learning Forest)
IMG_5288

IMG_5289

Ginger flower.
IMG_5290

Ginger flowers
IMG_5291

Someone practicing sword tai chi.
IMG_5293

IMG_5294

IMG_5295

 

IMG_5298

Near the Bukit Timah Road exit.
IMG_5299

IMG_5301

Bamboo bush
IMG_5302

Balcony view

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

We’ve seen some great sunrises, and some interesting cloud views from our balcony (as well as lovely birds, but we couldn’t get good pictures of them). Here are some of the better shots I took in 2016.

SIngapore IMG_2708 balcony

Singapore IMG_4117 balcony

Singapore full moon extraordinar IMG_8022 balcony

Singapore IMG_2498 balcony

Singapore Got bird!! balcony

Singapore IMG_3454 balcony

Singapore IMG_4277 balcony

Singapore IMG_9725 balcony

Singapore IMG_0178 balcony

Singapore moon IMG_3435 balcony

Singapore IMG_4260 balcony

Singapore sky IMG_8589 balcony

Singapore IMG_2372 balcony

Singapore IMG_2593 balcony

Singapore IMG_4128 balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore IMG_9333 balcony

Singapore IMG_2497 balcony

Singapore IMG_2500 balcony

Singapore IMG_3090 balcony

Singapore IMG_3718 balcony

Singapore IMG_0196 balcony

Singapore IMG_0227 balcony

Singapore IMG_3087 balcony

Singapore IMG_3428 balcony

Singapore IMG_3434 balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore IMG_2774 balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore moon IMG_8843 balcony

Singapore IMG_9909 balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore balcony

Singapore IMG_2779 balcony

Singapore balcony

 

Christmas 2016

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

We had a nice, quiet family Christmas this year.

Peter Zen Christmas IMG_3642

Both Zen and I got haircuts on Christmas Eve. Don’t we look great?

Naoko Christmas IMG_3652

Zen vinyl IMG_4232

Zen got his first vinyl – Imagine Dragons!!

IMG_4235

Hooray, we got Twin Peaks, season 1 & 2!!

vinyl IMG_4236

I got some of these records on Christmas, some of them before Christmas (but didn’t have a chance to listen to them).

IMG_4249

We also played squash a lot during the break.

Beijing trip

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

This blog post about my recent trip to Beijing is a work-in-progress.

I saw a lot of enclosed motorcycles in Beijing; but… WHY!?!?
IMG_7461

Little provisions shop where I bought some  beer.
IMG_7465

Quiet lane; felt like Chicago.
IMG_7466

Power to the people.
IMG_7467

Hutong moon.
IMG_7469

Zen’s shop!
IMG_7470

View of the hutong from my hotel.
IMG_0421

Time to hit the road… but first an Asahi!
IMG_7501

Weird control tower looks like a prop from Lord Of The Rings.
IMG_7502

My “window” seat didn’t even have a window!
IMG_7507

Oma and Opa in Singapore

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Oma and Opa came to Singapore again. We had a great time on Saturday pigging out at the Raffles Hotel Ball and Billiard Room for a wonderful buffet lunch to celebrate Oma’s birthday, coming up on January 19th.

IMG_9046

IMG_9048

IMG_9050

IMG_9053

IMG_9056

Beth Gibbons, Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”, and Black Sabbath (1963)

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Check it out – Beth Gibbons (Portishead) joins Gonga to do a version of “Black Sabbath”, from the band’s first album, with a video of images from the 1963 Mario Bava movie Black Sabbath, with Boris Karloff. Brilliant!! Of course, since Beth is singing, they re-name the song “Black Sabbeth“!

Been a long time since I’ve blogged

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Yes, it’s sure been a long time since I’ve blogged, here are a few recent pics.

CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE A BIGGER VERSION OF THAT PICTURE!

Green Lodge no more!

Green Lodge IMG_2789

With our friends the Pinholes!

IMG_2652

Zen at his first at-bat with his new high school team. He earned their first hit of the year, and made first base!! They played at The Padang, a huge field in downtown Singapore.

IMG_2687

Zen fielding third base.

IMG_2688

Zen and his mom!

IMG_2694

Here’s what it looked like the last time Zen was new to a team – that was the Coconuts in 2008.

Zen and Naoko 2008

Celebrating afterwards with No Signboard Seafood!

IMG_2698

No Signboard Seafood’s famous chili crab.

IMG_2699

No Signboard Seafood’s signboard.

IMG_2701

Bought me some classic vinyl!!

IMG_2712

Nobody on the train with us!!

IMG_2729

Ridin’ the bus!

IMG_2768

Back at No Signboard Seafood with our visitor Mei, from Taiwan.

IMG_2796

IMG_2801

At the movies with Zen to see Captain America: Winter Soldier.

IMG_2810

Lots of reviews!!!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Here’s a bunch of old reviews I’ve written recently.

SDO1

SDO1

The Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 1 – A fantastic volume from the master. No one draws anatomy like Ditko, and his human shapes have marvelous fluidity (even if they are all of similar stature). Here they are also backed by cool little stories, and also some very funky diversity in terms of Shade stories (grotesqueries, drama, politics, and triply sci-fi situations), tons of Stalker (not such a great series), with a never-ending stomp of weird war and horror snippets. There’s a lot to love here.

Shade wasn’t popular enough of a title to run past eight issues, with the ninth already-drawn issue remaining unpublished until we see it here for the first time in an intriguing black-and-white version. It’s fully of byzantine story lines, wild villains like Sude (Supreme Decider), wild adventures in the Meta-zone (Shade’s home), the Earth-zone (our home), and the Zero-zone (a hellish limbo that exists between, that includes the Area of Madness), and nice flashbacks to Shade’s happy earlier times with Mellu, his fiancee-cum-mortal enemy. Villains like Form, Khaos and Cloak are simply just cool, while the evil Gola Zae, Zekie and Dr ZZ thrill. Wild insane faces, cool cityscapes, it’s all a dream come true, not to mention Shade’s weird giant shapes! Also interesting is the barbarian king Xexlo, and his wary cooperation with Shade, a man he wishes to destroy.

Shade is pretty amazing, the all-around hero, who just powers on, like Dr Kimble in the Fugitive. The story is about his eventual vindication, and unfortunately the series was cancelled before we ever got that far.

Somewhat bizarrely, the volume ends with a mini-adventure of The Odd Man, someone we never see Kirby muck around with again.

“The Valley Where Time Stood Still” is about the discovery of a weird valley filled with creatures and individuals from the past – escape! A bit over-drawn, and less distinctive. “The Way-out World of Bertram Tilley” is a Walter Mitty story, but trippier and cooler. “The Devil’s Daughter” is a trippy circus tale about a ringmaster going insane. Nice. “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is a silly tale of an overly ambitious apprentice who gets his just desserts, not bad. “Death Played A Sideshow” is about a fake fortune teller getting his unscrupulous just desserts. “The Game Of Death” is about a big white hunter who kills a giant elephant, at the cost of a trampled village, getting his just desserts. “Good For Nothing” is a sad tale of an old man who loves his grandson, despite the kid’s mean parents casting him aside, and how his ghost saves everyone’s life.. time to move on. A touching tale. “The Demon And His Boy” is a crazy tale of a lesser demon conjuring a human boy into his world, and how this tale becomes an ironic turnabout. “Epode” is another Bluebeard story, so what.

Next follow four issues of Stalker, telling the tale of an orphan in a cruel world who sells his soul to the demon Dgrth in exchange for powers, then has a change of heart and wants his soul back. He travels the world battling magicians and monsters, killing them with his amazing martial arts, although he never really seems so fearsome. But the unholy soul-selling stuff is pretty scary, actually, strong stuff for Kirby. Nice battles with a four-armed red demon monkey, the princess Srani and the winged harpie, the sea of snakes, another red monkey, interludes with Dgrth, a three-headed giant, and nefarious negotiations with Dgrth that leaves off a screaming Stalker, with no resolution.

A nutty Plop story about a guy called Hubert who’s in love with a dandelion, called “Love Is A Dandy” (or beware jealous vegetarians). “Ghost, Where Do You Hide” is about a vicious lion tamer and the ghosts of a brutalized lion. “Shrieeeeeek!” is a cool story about a ghost mouse getting its revenge on a cheating dirt bag, one of the very good ones, definitely. “The Day After Doomsday” is a cool post-apocalyptic story about the normals in the countryside defending themselves from mutated city folk. Nice. “The 600 Heads Of Death” is an Easter Island tale of slaughter and revenge. “Man’s Best Enemy” is a Weird War tale of wolf-man virus passing from hamster to dog to human. Crazy! “Raze The Flag” is a not-so-great tale of French pirates fighting the Spanish, and the supposed origin of the Jolly Roger. “Death’s Second Face” is an ironic tale of conjoined twins, separate, one going to the USA, the other enlisted in Nazi Germany, and their ironic reunion in a submarine!!! “Return Engagement” is about a centuries-long Scottish blood feud and its fatal showdown in a modern-day graveyard. Nice. “The Man Who Didn’t Believe In Ghosts” is a cool story about a ghost who wants revenge on the guy who ruined his life… and the ironic conclusion of the tale. Nice one!! “Haunted” is a very cool, ironic story about a haunted house that has its reflections in Beetlejuice. “House Of Devil’s Tail” is about an escaped convict who gets his just desserts in Devil’s House. Nice down South dialogue here. “Star Tracker” is a crazy tale of government robots, information suppression, innocent victims, and Agent Stone going on a swamp-hunt. Wild. “Once Upon A Time Machine” is a silly tale about the origin of fairy tales… funny. “Battle Cry” is a cool story about love and war. “The Planet Of Loathing” is also a cool ironic tale of aliens picking the wrong human to interview about the future of the human race. “With Its Head In The Stairs” is a cool tale of a dictator granting his chief scientist anything he wishes… for a month. Great. “Mating Game” is wild and original take on aliens and human mating, with a string of dancers and a few spider-creatures. Brilliant disguises, too!! “Forecast” is a funny tale about invading aliens listening in on a weather forecast… and what happens to their little attack ships in a snowstorm! “The Last Journey” is a silly story of space exploration. “The Dimensions Of Greed” is an amazing twisted tale of murder and time travel. Love this sort of thing. “On The Day Of His Return” is a cool Santa Claus story. “A Switch In Time” is more time travel irony. “Dead Man’s Eyes” is wild mob irony. “Em The Energy Monster” is finally a slip back into shade territory, with trippy monsters and such.

A very, very nice collection.

SDO2

SDO2

Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume 2 – Steve Ditko’s work is great – you can recognize the style from a mile away, with his cloned shapes and rubbery fingers, mouthes, eyes. There’s a great poster of Superman at the start, then three issues of Hawk And Dove. Two brothers blessed with super powers, the duo are constantly bickering over their extreme right wing versus left wing ideals. Guess which on is the “hawk”, and which one is the “dove”. Peacenik, warmonger, soft on crime, inhumane… these are all words that are used. It’s interesting how the duo get into strange situations probably never-before-seen in the history of comics as each takes on criminals in their own way. Naturally, they are also captured, beaten up, and jump through hoops to preserve their secret identities, etc. (Bizarrely, the lastt issue has square word balloons!!)That’s followed by an issue of Man-Bat (and Man-Bat’s hot wife Francine, the blood-thirsting and lusty She-Bat) and an issue of The Demon where they both battle Baron Tyme in some sort of Doctor Strange-ish magical adventure, full of proper demons and everything. Batman even shows up in the former tale, believed to be the only time Ditko ever drew the Dark Knight. Then there are a whole bunch of Starman stories, which are for the most part fairly exciting, although nowhere near as good as Shade (and the story, like Shade’s is left unresolved). I like the story of the young prince, sentenced to death when he loses the race for the thrown, and how his sister later comes onto him, not recognizing him in his Starman suit. Starman is nearly invincible, and without a credible story behind how he arrived at his powers, so it’s really not that hot. But the art is great! In one cool episode they escape from an alien collector, then a prison planet, then they stop a rebellion. I like the green-faced red-eyed Yoda-like creature who mentors him, suitably named Mn’Torr.

The second half of the story are mostly tales of the Legion of Super Heroes, none of which are fantastic, although the first appearance of Blok is nice enough. And seeing all the babe Legionnaires floating around – Shadow Lass, yum! The adventure of Doctor Mayavale was pretty weird (strange villain – he’s earned too much good karma in past lifetimes, so he has to be evil in this one), and the dream situations completely absurd. The issue where they try out new Legionnaires, including Blok, is okay, because we get a look at the lame try-outs Lamprey, Crystal Kid and Nightwind, who think it’s all just some game. Dawnstar makes an appearance here, more as a sidekick to Blok than to Wildfire, and I always say you can never have too much Dawnstar. The origin of Blok is kind of lame – I can’t understand why he hated the Legionnaires so much – but the Starburst gang is kind of cool. “The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy” is one weird story, and it’s cool how the amnesiac falls in with pirates, led by the luscious vixen in boots Captain Frake. Then there’s a silly tale on a medieval planet where the Legionnaires fight “Lord Romdur” (or is it… Mordur?!?). There’s a cool battle against the Time Trapper and the Molecule Master in modern-day Smallville, and a Superboy who believes he’s Ultra Boy (and a strangely conflicted Phantom Girl), not to mention more Blok and Dawnstar (yum!). At the very end are three short tales – Black Lightning stopping a murderous hold-up gang in tracks mid-robbery, the Spectre helping ease the pain of a woman conflicted about the death of her twin sister in the Titanic, and a ghoulish tale of Apokalips with the minions of Darkseid competing with one another to give him the nastiest “gift”. Granny Goodness pits herself against Desaad in competing for the most unpleasant item. Definitely the last two stories are the best in the whole collection.

CAV1WS

CAV1WS

Captain America, Volume One: Winter Soldier – With the new Captain America Winter Soldier movie coming out, I thought I’d read the original treatment first. Okay, so here it is – Winter Soldier. Great art, especially details of Cap’s uniform and gear, and nice villainy from the Red Skull, and some rogue Russian general, Lukin. Of course, none of us understand what he’s really after, and there are a few pointless episodes like when Crossbones beats up Cap, then runs away from him “no, it shouldn’t be like this”. Sharon Carter’s around, looking hot, which is nice. Cap has lots of nightmares – they take up a few pages, but they don’t mean anything. There are also a few other pointless episodes, like when Cap beats up random terrorists. Cap’s adversaries keep turning up dead – the Red Skull, Mother Night – as well as some of his partners and allies, like Nomad. Crazy! We see Cap meet Vasily Karpov in the village of Kronas during World War II, where he picks up young orphan Alek, who of course grows up to become Aleksander Lukin.

The series advances the idea that Bucky was a trained killer, the one who did the dirty work that Cap couldn’t, as the symbol of America, wearing the stars and stripes, and the red white and blue. And as Winter Soldier, once its been established that Karpov had recovered him and turned him into a brainwashed agent, he kills many, many people, in the crazy world of undercover spying.

This book contains a funky “interlude”, “The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe”, talking about his final year, his cancer diagnosis, his depression and drinking.

CAV2WS

CAV2WS

Captain America, Volume Two: Winter Soldier – Containing the next six issues of the Winter Soldier story arc, following the death of the Red Skull, and the acquisition of the Cosmic Cube by rogue Russian general turned oligarch Aleksander Lukin, head of Kronas Corporation, and all sorts of other stalemated nonsense. This one focuses on the recovery of the wounded Bucky Barnes, and his transformation into the KGB killing machine Winter Soldier. Nice stuff!

AIM blows up Philadelphia, SHIELD sends in Cap, AIM sends in the MODOC squad of killer robots, Crossbones recovers Sylvia Schmidt, the daughter of… the Red Skull?!? Crazy… There are a few distracting episodes (Cap saves a girl from a rapist), and then a goateed Falcon shows up! More memories of World War II, including one particularly sick episode when the Nazis strap TNT to zombie POWs. Lukin starts to feel the corrupting influence of the Cosmic Cube (it’s some sort of One Ring, right?). Nutty. But there are great plot twists at the end, especially when Cap confronts the Winter Soldier at a Kronas compound under a mountain in Brazil, or somewhere. Nice.

The art is stylish and exciting, really excellent work. Really, it’s best to gaze at the art, rather than read all the words. Wonderful stuff.

Funnily enough, though, now that the movie is out the original comic books don’t seem as good. Somehow, Hollywood took this great source material and made it even better (mostly)! And that hardly ever happens!!

HG

HG

Hulk: Gray – The art in this book is really quite amazing… but then again, so many artists do so well with this amazing material… the HULK, man!!! But even with such majestic material to work with, Tim Sales compositions are truly incredible, iconic, and the coloring is also very nice.

The story is a conversation between Bruce Banner and Leonard Samson, psychologist, and it’s pretty silly. I liked them better as macho adversaries. It’s much better if you just savor the sketches once through before you read through the silly text. Oh well…

The story starts off in black and white, with splashes of green (shades of a gamma-rayed Sin City?), then the great Kirby-style grotesqueries of the book’s regular style. We get into the Rick and Bruce story, the Bruce and Betty story, the Hulk and Betty story, the Hulk and bunny story, as our monster makes a little animal friend in Monument Valley… briefly. We also probe the complicated General Ross and Betty Ross story (with hints of the raving loonie Mrs Ross’ story), while enjoying weird spontaneous battle with a golden Iron Man, various soldiers and helicopters, then the Hulk’s confusion as he hits Betty (and she gets pissed off at him!!!).

Love all of the panels that incorporate the Hulk’s ragged and gapped teeth. Monster time!!

This edition has nice touches, like excerpts from Marie Severin’s “Not Brand ECHHH” version of the Hulk. Sheer fanboy tribute stuff, of course, for one of the few women in comics. Nice sketch gallery at the end.

DZ

DZ

Doctor Zhivago – The Blu-Ray has the great film in full, all 200 minutes of it, as well as documentaries on each half of the film, totaling 40 minutes. The film is, of course, a sweeping fantasy made on a grand scale and no expense spared, with each scene meaningful and well-planned. As such, it’s the perfect platform for the great acting of masters like Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, and Rod Steiger. Geraldine Chaplin is also charming as Zhivago’s teen love and wife, Tonya, and in her eyes we see the face of her father Charlie Chaplin, wrapped up in a pixyish teenage form. Christie is not quite convincing as a 17-year-old virgin, but is probably better than the original suggestion for the role of Lara… Sophia Loren! The film goes on and on and on, and each scene is gripping. I want to read the book quite badly, now. Especially effective is Tom Courtenay, as Lara’s husband Sacha, who we see transform from an idealistic student to a husband haunted by revolution to an empowered Soviet monster. By the end, Zhivago is burned out, and so are we after nearly 3.5 hours, but it’s a great feeling. The DVD documentary is mainly composed of scenes from the film interspersed with comments from contemporary Hollywood people who made big films like ET, Big and War Of The Worlds. One of the fellows, Mikael Salomon, recalls working as a projectionist in a theatre that was showing the film, and the grandiosity of screening the epic. They take apart scenes, including the riot scene (and how it’s played out on Zhivago’s face) that includes the splash of blood on white snow that symbolizes both the sacrifices of the revolution as well as Lara’s deflowering; the suicide attempt and Zhivago’s revelation; as well as Zhivago’s final farewell to his true love. One commentator points out that David Lean had made a cold film as a companion to his earlier films Bridge Over The River Kwai and Lawrence Of Arabia – one in snow, another in jungle, and another in the desert. The economic script is equally highly regarded, and how it uses visuals but not dialogue to suggest events.

The DVD contains a flowing number of special features:
Interactive menu of cast facts
“Doctor Zhivago: The Making of a Russian Epic” – 1 hour – Explains how Doctor Zhivago cost $15 million to make, one of the most expensive films ever made up to that time. After a short period of popular indifference to it, the theme song took off, and then the film was catapulted into fame – the Zhivago look came into fashion (mustaches, etc), and baby girls were named Lara. Rod Steiger is interviewed, defending the loathsome character he plays, and Sharif and other individuals pitch in. There was no compromise for Lean – actresses went under trains and were injured, but he continued the shot. Talk of Pasternak and his parallels with Zhivago, with creepy pictures of him – the Jewish poet who loved two women at the same time, and who didn’t intend for his book to be political (but of course it was). Interview with the real “Lara” in 1993 – Olga Ivinskaya. “An orgy of feelings began for Zhivago when he met Olga”. He wrote for 10 years, won Nobel prize in 1958. Pasternak loved Russia, died there in 1960. The book was only published in Russia in 1988, and Lean’s film released in 1994. Olga did two prison sentences in Soviet work camps, possibly for her connection to Pasternak. How to work a 700-page poem to a 284-page screenplay. Finding a location was tough – Yugoslavia did not feel right. Finland and Sweden didn’t have a studio on hand (although some winter scenes were shot in Finland). So in Spain Lean finds horse riders, extras, technical people, and they build sets there and fake the seasonal changes. Looks great. The ice palace was made out of bees wax. Nicholas Roeg worked on it, but left the production after disagreements. Winter scenes may have been in Spain, but the season of the scenes changed from day-to-day. Roeg was replaced by Freddy Young. Maurice Jarre tells story of writing Lara’s theme, how he came up with the tune but made it sound Russian by adding balalaikas from a Russian Orthodox church in LA. But the 22 balalaika players couldn’t read music, so he had to made sure they understood his hand movements. Meanwhile, in Spain, Generalissimo Franco’s spies discovered the cast singing “the Internationale”, it nearly caused a problem. “Maybe they’ll sing in tune after the revolution.” Steiger’s slap of Lara with gloves was unscripted and real. The womens’ hair was very 1960s. One year in pre-production, one year filming, eight weeks post-production! The Sound Of Music was the big Oscar winner that year.
“Zhivago, Behind The Camera With David Lean” – 10 minutes – Nice documentary with David Lean talking, mentions Geraldine Chaplin’s screen test. “Moscow rose anew outside Madrid.” Lean was correct to the last detail.
“David Lean’s Films And Doctor Zhivago” – 7 minutes – Focuses on incidents around the Nobel Prize Pasternak won in 1958, Pasternak’s life, the film project coming together, the 10-acre Moscow set re-created outside of Madrid. Documentary made for Hollywood Paramount theatre.
“Moscow In Madrid” – 5 minutes – Production shots, propaganda.
“Pasternak” – 8 minutes – Focus on Nobel prize, and explains Pasternak’s charmed life. Tolstoi and Rilke were family friends. The young Pasternak had wanted to be a composer, but ends up a poet. His mother was a piano prodigy. On his death bed, Tolstoi left a message for Pasternak!
“New York Press Interview With Julie Christie” – 10 minutes – Meandering and unedited press interviews. “You are an individual!” Christie’s surprised when her words from an earlier interview are read out to her – airhead? Has an anti-marriage message, and hints that film stars are squares. No privacy, no time, can’t live a private life. Three interviews, with questions like “How do you like the USA as compared to your home country?” “I like New York!”
“New York Press Interview With Omar Sharif” – 18 minutes – No mustache, to our great disappointment, then he’s interviewed by five journalists. Inane banter about beddy time, and mutual friends, partying, who he’s hanging out with. Lots of background noise here. Discussion around how he can remember people’s names if he meets them again in the same location. Goofing around on pronunciation of the name “Zhiavago.” Worried about his future and next project. Ascribes his success to luck.
“Geraldine Chaplin screen test” – 3 minutes – Geraldine does the scene where she’s reading the letter from Zhivago twice.
“This Is Julie Christie” – 1 minute – Fluff, with no original shots of the actress.
“This Is Geraldine Chaplin” – 1 minute – Fluff, with no original shots of the actress.
“This Is Omar Sharif” – 1 minute – Fluff, with no original shots of the actor.
“Chaplin In New York” – 2 minutes – Original shots of Geraldine vamping around the city, some interviewing, and plenty of silly narration: “In some ways she is a teenager, and in some very much a woman; in many ways she is still a star-struck girl, although she is already a star. But in all ways she is Geraldine Chaplin, a bona-fide original. To some she is natural, shy, unassuming. Others know her as the girl who arrived in New York dressed in matching hat, jacket and pants of striped fur. But everyone agrees that Geraldine Chaplin has an effect on people, in spite of herself.”
“Original Trailer” – 4 minutes

The CD contains eight tracks of original music from the film, totaling 22 minutes. Things like the Overture, Lara’s Theme, the end title, and the music of significant scenes from throughout the film.

SD

SD

Duck Soup – The film is fantastic! You get nutty musical numbers (some of which you need to read up on to understand the nuances of), fine physical comedy (the two scenes Harpo and Chico do with the lemonade vendor are instant classics), and the film is well known for its nutty mirror scene. Harpo is less funny in this film, as his humor is all spoken and is often rude and flippant; funnier are Harpo and Chico, who steal every scene they’re in with their nutty dynamics – the vendor scene, the court scene, spying, arrests, everything. Love Chico’s barking dog tattoo!! Zeppo is hardly noticeable in the movie (and when he appears he’s not particularly funny either, at least not in comparison to his brothers). The plot is zany – in economically-struggling Freedonia (this was released during the Great Depression, in 1932), the rich Mrs Teasedale will only provide a loan to bail out the country on the condition that Rufus T Firefly, a genius, is named prime minister; Firefly, played by Groucho, is a moron, of course, and he eventually falls for the bait of the arrogant Sylvanian ambassador to start a war between the two nations (sure, that’s always the solution – start a war). One of the film’s funnier points is often overlooked – why exactly does the uptight Mrs Teasedale think that Firefly is a genius!?!?

Given that there’s no bonus materials to this DVD, do yourself a favor, thoughand read up on this film on Wikipedia or somewhere – it’s a fascinating story about how the film initially wasn’t popular at all, but has come to be regarded as the greatest of the Marx Brothers films.

E

E

Elf – While I definitely don’t find Will Farrell as funny as many people do, I was curious to watch Elf, as I’d heard that it had been done well; I’m also a fan of John Favreau, and hey – it’s got James Caan and Bob Newhart, classic actors who don’t make many films any more! Should be good… right?

Caan is fine, and Newhart’s droll delivery is nice for nostalgia critters, but Farrell’s optimism and good cheer is not really infectious. I found it dull and un-funny, although the back story is heart-warming enough – boy tries to re-unite with his emotionally numbed father. Perhaps because the rest of the film was so bland and uneventful (and at times painfully awkward, even creepy, like when Buddy tries to expose the “fraud” Santa), I found the final battle surprisingly good, making Elf an inversion of what regularly happens: the majority of the movie it great, but it all falls apart at the end when it ties up all-too- neatly. As a comedy, it wasn’t too funny, and the only part where I really had to laugh was Buddy’s snowball fight, where he uses skills he picked up as an elf in the North Pole to his advantage – he pummels his opponents cruelly. Not bad.

This is an infinifilm version, which means it comes loaded with all sorts of software and gimmicks and activities (elf karaoke, make your own storybook, be an elf photo activity, etc), but none of the behind-the-scenes and bonus material that films buffs want.

A3PITB

A3PITB

A3, Power In The Blood – Anyone who got the first release by A3 (or maybe they should be called Alabama 3, as they are in the UK, where there’s less interference from country band Alabama), Exit On Coldharbour Lane (a Stones reference), would think that a band this original and talented could do no wrong. Right? Well, sadly, there’s not a single fun or standout track on the album, except maybe the first track “Two Heads”, which is their jokey twist on Townes Van Zandt’s “Two Hands”, which they steal full songwriting credits on, and brings them right back to that old blues thing. Then there’s also the wonderful narration of Hubert Selby Jr on “The Moon Has Lost The Sun”, which otherwise is not a fantastic song. There’s also a 0:48-second blues version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands”, probably one of his best songs, but here it’s kind of thrown away. Shame.

If you got the first 10,000 pressings of the CD, you would also have gotten a second CD, Acoustic Power, with acoustic versions of two songs each from the band’s three albums (including Power In The Blood). These are “Woke Up This Morning” (yes, the 1997 song, a version of which was used as the Sopranos’ opening theme song), “Power In The Blood”, “Disneyland Is Burning”, “U Don’t Dans 2 Tekno Any More”, “Year Zero” and “Mansion On The Hill”. The versions are not that interesting, making this an album that isn’t really worth splashing out on, even for the bonus stuff.

Sorry, I love A3, I just wish I could love this more…

BSHOS

BSHOS

Boredoms, Seadrum: House Of Sun – I have been a big fan of the Boredoms in the past, now I am more likely to find that they live up to their name. I bought this because it got good reviews. I must say, that the CD shell is very handsome indeed!

Inside we get two long songs, “Seadrum” and “House Of Sun”. The former starts off with Yoshimi’s voice, then gets into constant drumming with Yoshimi’s Star Trek TV series opening theme-like wailing, lots of piano noise, the second one is more like a 20-minute drone. So, yeah, the music’s nothing special, actually…

F3

F3

Final3 – This is a neat little double album of ambient noise and sounds. Some of them are near-Godflesh in a “Pure II” sense, or like Jesu soundscapes, without a shred of percussion. Occasionally you get what sounds like keyboard (who knows what it really is). The most Godflesh-like songs are the first, “the light orchestra” and the last “northpole.” Some songs are jittery, others are totally drone-ish from start to end. Only two songs go over ten minutes in length. It’s a nice album to play while you’re reading or doing something that needs a bit of white noise in the background. It’s noise, pure and simple, but ambient noise. Some songs are spacescapes, like “hollow”, and I suppose some songs like “golden” involve some sorts of backwards-recording studio play. “sorry” is totally warped apart, while “not real” is very zen. “long lost” sounds like piano pluckings, sorta, while “not real 2″ is very thick and highly sludgy. “trees” actually has multiple layers – I can hear a bass, and maybe two keyboards! The full 17 minutes of “northpole” are highly impressive in their sinisterness, and the fact that it seems like an actual, real song! Love it all, but I don’t think that I could listen to it all the time either…

The 8-page booklet contains seven pages of bleak black-and-white abstract photographs, and one page of song titles and songwriting credits.

SYTDRBSAR

SYTDRBSAR

Sonic Youth, The Destroyed Room: B-sides and Oddities – Well, this is one cool album of 11 b-sides and rarities, most of which are instrumental. It’s 77 minutes long, 1/3 of that being taken up by a 25 minute-long version of “The Diamond Sea” (which is incredible – you can never have too much Diamond Sea). The opening track “Fire Engine Dream [#]“, a Sonic Nurse sessions out-take, has a cool driving beat, and no matter what dissonance enters the picture, it really just gloms and gloms!! “Fauxhemians” comes from All Tomorrow’s Parties 1.1, and it’s a funky jazzy breakdown. Nice bass solo! “Razor Blade” is a cool short song by Kim, an outtake from the Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star sessions. “Blink” is a cool thing that Kim sang for the Pola X soundtrack, with weird mellow accompaniment. It sounds like something that they recorded on one of their major CD releases, not sure which song… “Campfire” has a lot of cool sounds, some of which sound like bottle rockets going up in the air. A geeky number. “Loop Cat” is a whole bunch of weird loopy sounds – weird, weird weird… and highly experimental throughout. “Kim’s Chords” is a funky instrumental that snakes out and has fun. Very nice indeed, so nice that it became a bonus track for the Japanese edition of Sonic Nurse. “Beautiful Plateau” is a bit noisier, with a lot of great wild edge, growing spastic and over-the-top!! Another Sonic Nurse bonus track. “Three-Part Sectional Love Seat [#]” sort of wanders on pretentiously. Nice track, though, a minor release thing, it goes one and on, often shuffling, and sometimes just noise-ing. Fades right out. Great! “Queen Anne Chair” is pretty funky and it gloms along nicely. All the parts come in at the “2-3-4″. The interplay is fantastic, and the musicians fix together quite wonderfully. Love it!!

The final track is 25 minutes of Diamond Sea/heaven. Worth the price of admission alone, even if just to hear Thurston say the words “blood crystallize to sand”. Great progressions, wonderful noise – love it dearly!!!!!

The booklet is nice, with a gorgeous picture of a destroyed room on the cover, and every page after that devoted to two songs on the album, with a close-up of some part of the album cover (not sure if they have any connection to the songs or not, or if they’re just random).

HOH

HOH

House Of Hades, by Rick Riordan – My son has been a massive Rick Riordan fan since he got The Lightning Thief at age seven, and he’s been reading all of the books over and over again ever since. He’s also read outside of the series on Greek and Egyptian myths, which I think is great, and has become the family authority on mythology as a result.

This book picks up where the previous cliffhanger ending left off – Percy and Annabeth have just plunged into the maw of Hell – so is probably one of the most highly-anticipated stories in the series, at least in my opinion (the climaxes to the first series, and the final book in the Kane Chronicles series, would be similar). It chronicles Percy and Annabeth’s journeys through Tartarus, as well as the voyage of the other demigod heroes into central Europe (Italy, Croatia, Malta and Greece). While Riordan relies heavily on caricatured gods and goddesses, this book is interesting in that he shows the human side to one titan and one giant who are not horrible monsters, and he does it in a near-believable way (at least in the case of the giant, who – as an opposite to the god of war Ares – was built to be more peace-like than any giant really should be). He also brings out interesting aspects of complicated goddesses like Hecate, for example, intriguing us even further. And as if all this wasn’t enough, Riordan even goes out on a limb by showing one of the demigods coming out of the closet!! Wow!!!! It’s still treated platonically, and is more like “he has a crush on him” stuff, but it’s still quite a modern take on teenage life. Nice.

The ending of this penultimate book in the series leads up to the finale, and has less of a cliffhanger than the preceding book did (how could it top THAT???!!!). Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book.

OTbook

OTbook

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens – I was fascinated when Zen told me that he wanted me to help him get Oliver Twist from the library, as he had read an excerpt of it in one of his school story books and was keen to read the whole book. Since when do 12-year-olds take a shine to Dickens? Nevertheless, I did get the book for him, and he bravely read about 200 pages of it before giving up. Good job, kid!

And, since I’d already taken it out, I decided to read it – I’d never read the book, and it had been many years since I’d read any Dickens at all. Oliver Twist is a fantastic tale! Dickens’ second novel, after the episodic Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist was written by the young writer/editor as a dark, moralistic tale in conjunction with the lighter and farcical tale. It’s a fascinating picture of the seedy underbelly of London of that time, and of the hypocritic and corrupt Victorian society that Dickens lived in. The tale of both repentant and unrepentant criminals is interesting, although too based on coincidence, and also strangely Oliver himself hardly appears in the second half!

My big bad Ministry page

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

I’ve always loved Ministry. “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” is probably one of my desert island discs, and I recently rekindled this love by reading Al Jourgensen’s fantastic autobiography. Sure it’s gross, and x

MA

MA

Ministry, Animositisomina -From the first crunchy guitar riffs and weird drumming inflections, and dissonance, of opening song “Animosity”, the interest is filled instantly. Wow! I had reservations about getting this album, as I thought that they were a spent force after the disappointing “Dark Side Of The Spoon” and infrequently brilliant “Filth Pig” (not to mention Al’s admission in his autobiography that this album was made in such a drug blur that he barely remembers it, and dislikes it as a result), but this has restored my faith in the band’s ability to keep on. It’s also the last album to feature Paul Barker(and probably the album he had the most input on), with several cool bass licks surfacing throughout, especially in the final track “Leper”.

Opening the album with style and a great buildup, “Animosity” is a great song with a huge sound and a very cool angular guitar solo. Love the shouted chorus outro – wish I knew what they were saying, though! “Unsung” builds around a great riff, and just zooms and zooms in drone-like fashion, with some thick, thick vocal sounds. “Piss” is a piece of streaming riffage and drum noise, ugly vocals, glomming on and on. “Lockbox” starts off with some very cool drumming, and all sorts of zooming and zooming. “Broken” has more song structure, with droning and repetitive riffs, groovy beats, and recognizable country-like verses and choruses – it also has a cool near-ending, and refrain. Breaking up the mood a bit from the same-sameness of the first half of the album is “The Light Pours Out Of Me”, a relatively faithful cover of a song by Magazine, Barry Adamson’s old band, and it sounds a bit new wave-y, with a more than just a bit of staticky Ministry bite (it’s also the only song that is more than just a single word). “Shove” is spare, with drums and a layer of funky bass, then drone guitars, and wild energy. “Impossible” is more avant garde, with weird Merzbow phasings for exactly one minute, before we get into some sort of grand rock concept. And in the end some sort of grand phase-out, with strange locking sounds – it is the longest song on the release up to this point. “Stolen” is more minimal and avant-garde at first, building up to something. The final song on the album, “Leper”, starts off with a bunch of atmospheric sounds and some great bass bleating, some wild electronic bagpipe-y noise, it zooms into full, huge production and massive drum sound about four minutes in. Wow! You appreciate the bombast all that much more after hearing the long lead-in. It zooms and zooms and zooms, and then you realize… that it’s an instrumental!

MHOTM

MHOTM

Ministry, Houses of the Mole – The distortion on the vocals is often a bit too thick, but the riffs are great, the production splendid, and the angst hot and heavy. Love this stuff. This album has all of the Ministry sounds you know and love, this time with a bit more variety than previous release Animositisomina, with a slight feeling of re-hashing big song ideas from A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, which some say “this albums is the best since… that…” (then again – can the use of trademarked sounds be considered re-hashing?).

“No W” hits hard and heavy, and we get our first George W Bush samples, right before a useless Mike Scaccia needle solo. “Waiting” has a “Thieves” feel to it (structurally the intro is very similar), with great, thick sounds. Love this stuff! “Worthless” is a bit more tuneful, outside of the sledgehammer beat, and Al’s vocals are echoed into infinity. Lovely! Somehow sounds like Killing Joke’s “The War Dance”. “Wrong” starts off with some very cool bass tracks, and some strange Al Jourgensen vocals (non-distorted, basically, and sounding creepy), and then the big chunky guitars – great riffs!! The George W Bush sample here is scary, and the “solo” is just shredding riffs. Love it. “Warp City” is a nutty song, with very cool bass lines (by John Monte, who also played with Mindfunk, and many other bands), insane drumming, and a crazy redneck tale of a man who shoots his wife – wild, wild, wild!! There’s even a bit of crazy sax here!!!! “Wtv” is a nutty song that samples all sorts of crazy soundbites, including the radio guy who advises against mailing chickens; the lyrics are hyperactive – I wonder if they could do this live!! The later part of the song contains long quotes from George W Bush, and others: “…shot outside a liquor store,” “…ladybugs – by the millions!!” Amazing samples!! “World” starts off with some very nice bass-y riffs and some great drums and other build-up. Great samples, and interesting sounds instead of a solo. “Wkyj” zooms and glooms, and seems to have a line by Gibby Haynes – “I have a parasitic soul… with a need to feed!” (I guess this is all they could salvage of the sessions) There’s some sort of weird radio DJ thing at the end of Wkyj introducing “Worm”, with heavy drums, slow, and major riffing, harmonica sounds, atmospherics, little gloom. It’s slightly new wave influenced stuff, sounding good, with a cool harmonica riff thing. Nutty “don’t kill yourself” samples, and solid, endless, mindless atmospherics. It tunes out to mouth harp sounds. Very groovy. The song’s length is 9:11, the last minute of which is silence, probably not a coincidence. “Psalm 23″, originally a bonus track, starts off after the previous song’s one minute pause with some cool “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” ska-ish drum sounds and guitar atmospherics that are just lovely. The lyrics start off being very spooky, gothic, but then the real Ministry stuff kicks in, and it becomes akin to “So What” in parts. By the middle it is snarling and nasty, and then it smoothes out to become some sorta jam-out – great full-song transformation!! “Walrus” is a bunch of studio mucking-around, kind of dull.

This album is the first of three that picks on George W Bush, and as a gimmick each song on this album starts with the letter “w” (except for one – Psalm 23, the 10th track of 11). Even the song “Worthless” seems to inform itself from “The War Dance”, which also starts with that letter. Funny… In Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, he mentions how by the time he got to the third album he stopped hating Bush so much and seemed to be pitying him, as he saw him less and less a power figure rather than a puppet, making the anti-Bush bile in this album a bit mis-cast. But that’s okay, I guess…

BSAT666S

BSAT666S

Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, Biers Welcome Ladies Drink Free – We all knew that Al Jourgensen once did a stint as a country music DJ, so honky tonkin’ certainly wasn’t far from his heart, and we all know that you can hear country sounds filtering through into Ministry songs even – titles like “Warp City, maybe – and a few others. Hell, yeah!

Finally, in 2011 we get the long-promised Al Jourgensen country release, Bikers Welcome Ladies Drink Free… with 13 songs on it of course! From the title you know it’s going to be funky and funny, and the release doesn’t disappoint!!

The first song, “Quicker Then Liquor” is a cool stomper that starts off with some cool “With Sympathy” era programmed drum beats, but then gets into some real country twang, with harmonica and some unprocessed Jourgensen vocals about substance abuse. “If you want to die quicker, then the answer isn’t liquor, the answer’s got to be – heroin and cocaine.” “What’s Wrong With Me” sounds more Ministry-like, at least in terms of the vocals – distorted, echoed, it could have been on an actual Ministry album if the usual ton of production layers were added. Nice moody Rush-like solo from Mike Scaccia on this one, and some new wave melodies at one point thereafter, ha ha… “Medication Nation” is a mock-reggae song countrified and built around a very hypnotic chorus that sort of goes on and on and on… Cool slide guitar, nice fiddle. “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” is a way-too-fast cover of the Gram Parsons/Byrds classic, with some nice fiddle. “The Only Time I’m Sober Is When You’re Gone”, a cover of a Heartsfield song from that band’s 1973 debut, is probably the most country of the songs on this collection, and even comes with a stop-music break in the middle and a nice fiddle solo. “Cheap Wine Cheap Ramen” is about the joys of playing music on a major label, and is a pretty average country song – good fun, though, with a blistering Mike Scaccia solo, while “Down The Drain” is noisier, with tons of distorted harmonica noise, some hoarse Ministry roars, and another cool fiddle solo – “go get ‘em, JoBird.” “Sleepless Nights Bar Room Fights” speeds along with more of the same, and some funny sampled sounds. There’s also a frenzied cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of The Devil”, confirming my suspicion that I’m not the only one that considers them a country band. “Ten Long Years In Texas” is a really hick-sounding tune, rhyming “Texas” with “taxes”… yup! “I Hate Every Bone In Your Body Except Mine” is a jokey songs with a band sing-along part to it. Love the naughty lyrics, and the strange tale of a freaky romance that descends into madness, and more of that sampled “go get ‘em, JoBird” fiddle stuff. “Take Me Away” is a yucky ballad-sounding tune, but the band quickly recovers its mojo for the closing track “Dignity”, which starts off with some sweet, funky guitar grooves and yummy off-key echoing relatively un-processed vocals – it’s a cool little hummin’ closer to the project. Like it!

Ultimately, the best songs are the last one, and the first bunch, with a fair amount of filler as it moves along, reaching its nadir with the penultimate track, but then it all snaps back quickly for a satisfying finish.

My only criticism of the release would be that Mike Scaccia’s solos often sound mis-matched to the songs themselves – he’s no country guitarist. It also gets a bit irritating having Al call him out song after song after song. Al sings off-tune in some songs, probably on purpose (this should probably be a praise, not a criticism, actually), and finally, way too many songs have the same warp city galloping horse-beat behind it, even “Drug Store Truck Driving Man”, which speeds the tune up excessively. But hey, small stuff.

If you read Al’s auto-biography, you learn that he was hoping to do another Buck Satan album with Mike Scaccia, and it’s sad that he never did as Mike died onstage at the end of 2012.

Funnily enough, this is my 666th review for Amazon, heh heh…

MRGB

MRGB

Rio Grande Blood – When considering Ministry’s “comeback” albums after the murk of “Filth Pig” and “Dark Side Of The Spoon”, the first two “Animositsominia” and “Houses Of The Mole” may be criticized as a bit too same-y; by that token, I sometimes wish that the next two – Rio Grande Blood and The Last Sucker – were a bit more consistent! Never happy… but never mind that either.

This is a great album, though, even if there are a few misses, and it has some standout songs, including “Lies Lies Lies”, probably their tightest and most iconic Ministry song of the past 20 years. The opening song, which is also the title track, is a 100% Al Jourgensen track, as he plays all parts – vocals, bass, guitar, programming, producing and mixing. It’s a nutty number that manipulates George W Bush statements into some sort of scary demonic confession. Funny nonetheless, especially in its fake-sounding-ness. “Señor Peligro” is a crazy death metal number, with biting riffs, huge drums, and “Thieves”-style vocals. It’s a huge, huge song!! Amazing!! “Gangreen”, though, is some sort of weird imitation of S.O.D.’s “Sargent D of the SOD”, with a long ramble on some tough-as-nails caricature of a marine. Oh well. The screamed vocals that follow are a bit flat and whiny, and Al’s certainly visited this turf before on Psalm 69 (with “Hero” – great song!!). Oh well. “Fear (Is Big Business)” is a very fast guitar song that starts off with some old school electronics. “Lies Lies Lies” is the big song on the album, and it’s a great one – cool dialogue samples, great riff, nice stop-and-start touches, cool lyrics, great chorus, fantastic screaming, good musical interlude where the solo should be, and the vocal distortion is just right. “The Great Satan remix” is a reworking of an older song that sounds fairly ordinary. “Yellow Cake” is a great song that starts off with some dub sounds, a Bush quote, and some cool bass bits, a busy guitar area, and some very cool, unique vibes. I don’t know another Ministry song quite like this one. “Palestina” is a raunchy rock song, pretty formulaic. “Ass Clown” starts off with some atmospheric sounds, before getting into a totally nutso Jello Biafra rant, role playing a White House tour guide and talking about “home of the ass clowns, see real live white collar terrorists in their own natural habitat”, etc. After that it’s a pretty standard Ministry metal number. Good riffing and jamming later on. “Khyber Pass” is a grinding piece of grunge mythology, with a wailing cry from Liz Constantine that sounds like a prayer call (wish I could find out more about who she is, though…). There are some lyrics about searching for Bin Laden at the Khyber Pass, and some great riffage throughout – sort of like Ministry’s “Kashmir”. “Sgt. Major Redux” is more silliness and outtakes from “Gangreen”… as if we needed this nonsense. A-HOOOOH-AH!!

The album’s main players are Al Jourgensen on every song, guitarist Tommy Victor (Prong) on many songs, and Paul Raven (Killing Joke) playing bass on the second half of the album and contributing keyboards, vocals, drum programming, and other stuff throughout. The songs are often stitched together by cool dialogue quotes and soundbites parts, often by George Bush. The anti-Bush tirade seems a bit silly now that he’s been out of office for so long, and given Al’s realization that as “The Last Sucker” he was probably more of a puppet anyway and worth pitying, but at least we get a good album out of it. Three songs from this album were used in Katherine Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”.

Actually, the album is so good I also ordered it on white vinyl!!

MRGB1MRGB2

 

It’s numbered out of 3,000 and I got number 668 – the Neighbour of the Beast!!

MTLS

MTLS

The Last Sucker – Some standard rock songs, without too much mucking around, but it’s all fun all the time!! A great cover of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”, and some fun at the end with “End Of Days”. The crew working on this is nearly the same as the last album – Prong’s Tommy Victor and Killing Joke’s Paul Raven, and a few other characters – and Fear Factory’s Burton C Bell sings on the last three songs of the album.

“Let’s Go” is nearly a punk rock tune in its simplicity (more of that later on). “Watch Yourself” starts off with what sounds like Noam Chomsky talking about the new McCarthyism of the Bush administration. Al’s voice is distorted deep for the verses of this song, it doesn’t sound so great. “Life Is Good” is pretty standard, as is “The Dick Song”, which is about Dick Cheney, it doesn’t get interesting until the end. “The Last Sucker” sounds kind of like a Prong song, or maybe a Rob Zombie tune, with some standard stuff about George W Bush; not good! “No Glory” zooms into rock again, with strange stop-and-start moments. “Death & Destruction” starts off with some weird George W Bush speechifying and manipulation, then a gigantic guitar roar. “Roadhouse Blues” is a stunning cover of the Doors classic, drenched in noise and chaos. Love it. “Die In A Crash” is a cool little punkish song, with vocals by Burton C Bell, sounding like a blend between Jello and Al (who provides backing vocals). Nutty little stuffer, with cool bass sounds! “End Of Days (Pt. 1)” is an epic grunge Ministry rocker – lumbering, huge, and with the requisite cowbells and giant guitar solo – that leads into “End Of Days (Pt. 2)”, with its atmosphere and experimentation (there’s even a rap!) and cliched production values, that nonetheless soars away and becomes something truly remarkable! “Part 2″ starts off with a cool little mood riff and a rap, then a children’s choir (think Talk Talk!!!! !!!!), while the second half of the song takes in Dwight D Eisenhower’s “Military industrial complex” speech from the time of his resignation – remarkable to hear such a long sample, and it makes a great album closer. This is the longest song that Ministry has ever recorded, at just over 10 minutes long. “Die In A Crash Remix” is a nice little bonus I got – it’s completely different from the punky album version, as it moves with electronic beats, mood and spooky, nutty sounds (early Front 242 anyone?).

MCU

MCU

Ministry and the Co-Conspirators, Cover-Up – Wow! Ministry has been doing covers on nearly every album since Filth Pig, when they did a weird cover of Bob Dylan’s weird song “Lay Lady Lay”, and in 2008 they released an album full of previously-released covers (but only some of them – they left off , and the covers done by Revolting Cocks like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy”, Ministry’s cover of Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out Of Me”, or Buck Satan And The 666 Shooters’ cover of the Byrds’ “Drug Store Truck Driving Man”); near the end are three covers that appear elsewhere – “Lay Lady Lay”, “Roadhouse Blues” (one of their best songs in ages), 1000 Homo DJs’ cover of Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut”. The songs each have something subtly different about them, most significantly “Supernaut”, which has more subdued riffs (?!?!), and some new voice samples. Nice.

At the beginning of the album are seven new covers, and the first one is really great – a creative cover of the Stones’ “Under My Thumb”, which starts off with some serious new wave keyboards, and then some sort of scratchy Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell duet of the classic ’60s rocker, that rocks out in the chorus. Short and sweet. A cover of T Rex’s “Bang A Gong” hardly sounds much different from the original, but just interesting enough for people to say “huh?” “Radar Love”, the Golden Earring classic, has a shorter intro, and sounds a bit off-key with the whispered opening verses, but it rocks and is good fun. “Space Truckin’” is a cool and faithful cover of the classic Deep Purple song with plenty of cowbell and double drums. Wow! “Black Betty” is okay, but a bit over-produced, even more than the Ram Jam version of the famous Leadbelly tune. “Mississippi Queen” is a very cool throaty version that sounds like it could be by Goatsnake. The programmed drums are a bit too aggressive, though – oh well! ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid” is given the nasty death metal touch, with a great, tight, needle-precise hit on that amazing riff. Love it!

After the three re-runs already mentioned (“Lay Lady Lay”, “Roadhouse Blues” and “Supernaut), Uncle Al really goes overboard with three versions of “What A Wonderful World”. Not what you’d expect from such gloomy and angry song peddlers, but it actually works… sorta. The main version, at seven minutes, with a full gothic piano intro, is just too long, and after a sweet, short run-through of the song for the first half of the song, the thrashy multiple repetitions of all the verses of the song in the second half seems just seems wrong. The “short slow version” probably works best, as it perks up a bit, leaves off the thrash, and successfully wrings out the right emotion (yes, I never thought Ministry would pull off emotionality, but it did!!); the “short fast version” is not too bad either, it’s a fun live (or is it Memorex?) version that gets playful and fast; it’s okay.

The final tune is a silly version of “Stigmata” sung by some guy a la Willie Nelson. Next!

MATCCUC

MATCCUC

Ministry and the Co-Conspirators, Undercover – Another set of nutty covers, only three years after the last one. This one is a bit more uneven, combining “covers” of five Ministry songs (nearly half of the release!!!), along with a non-classic rock selection – Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. The other six of the 12 songs are classic rock, exactly like what was on “Cover-Up”.

The collection kicks off with “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, bringing to three the number of Sabbath titles that the band does (along with “Supernaut”, an old nugget from the 1,000 Homo DJs project, and later on this album also “Paranoid”). Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” is a pretty standard little number. The cover of “NWO” is pretty similar to what was on Psalm 69, okay, and the cover of “Stigmata” is a bit thinned out. “Paranoid” rages, with plenty of wacky instrumental parts added, the bridge appearing a second (unneeded) time, an extended nutbar solo (or solos), all leading to a near-doubling of Sabbath’s shortest song to four minutes. Draaaaaag it out. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is an inspired selection, as few other bands can rival the huge Ministry sound. It’s a good little cover, full of bombastic pomposity. The band’s version of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” is huge and metallic, quite a lot different than the original, to say the least, but still fairly true to the original with its boogie stomp (Jourgensen idolizes ZZ Top and Cheap Trick – probably more than any other band after Black Sabbath, I’d say). There’s yet another remix of “Jesus Built My Hotrod”, nothing special there, and a blistering approach to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” – a song with special meaning for Jourgensen, of course – that he sings with full off-key aplomb. “Every Day Is Hallowe’en” is a funky rock remake of the ancient song from the band’s first album, something Jourgensen has tried to turn his back on, but which he embraces quite fully here. There are hardly any keyboards on this one, the main beat re-created with guitars. Cool! “Paint It Black” is a deliciously-evil-sounding little number, in full production, while “Khyber Pass”, a Ministry song, brings it right back down – a great, mysterious song that deserves 20 minute-long remixes, not short little ones like we get here at only seven minutes long (shorter, actually, than the version on Rio Grande Blood!). This version differs from the album version as it has a longer intro (wailing female vocals) and a shorter verse-chorus section (“Where’s Bin Ladin”). Very nice!

MR

MR

Relapse – Not considered one of the best Ministry albums, with its un-glamorous stripped down basic rock production, it’s still a stellar release – something that would probably be a crowning achievement for any other band. Opening track “Ghouldiggers” is an Al riff on being an industry product, set to dreamy near-death-experience atmospherics, followed by some yucky verse, and a tight anxious chorus. Weird “record label secretary” segment ends the opening track – a hammy thing that’s not even terribly hammed up! Al’s sense of humor has fallen a bit flat here… and he doesn’t mind sounding very burned out. “Double Tap” is fast and nasty, and has some nice Middle Eastern dobro sounds. Freaky death metal. “Freefall” starts off with a “twenty dollars… and you can have all the croke you can handle….” with that being a blend of cannabis and coke. Nice! It’s a cool, catapulting song, though!! “Kleptocracy” is a goofy song with a catchy chorus! This one has a political quote in it! “United Forces” is a silly version of the classic Stormtroopers Of Death song (which – let’s not forget – uncle Al has mentioned that SOD was the real inspiration for the Ministry guitar sound) that just goes on for way too long, and has a weird intro-refrain at the end, so a bit of a disappointing post-”Cover Up” revisit… but glad to see SOD getting recognition nonetheless!! “99 Percenters” is a bit poppy (or, at least, as poppy as Ministry could ever get), but it also rocks quite nicely. “Relapse” is a chunky rock songs with some “joe six-pack” samples. The lyrics are pretty weak… “Weekend Warrior” is probably the best song on the release – it just goes on and on and freaks out with a great little character. Love this song!! It’s not a long one, but it has amazing verve and spirit – short and sweet! “Git Up Get Out ‘n’ Vote” is nutty death metal, and it just goes on, with scolding “rock the vote” messages (and how should non-American fans of Ministry care about this?). Not a standout track. “Bloodlust” is a rockin’ groovy number that takes it all over the map. Love it!
“Bloodlust (Lust for Blood Remix)” is a true 1990s digital remake with all the electronic sounds to keep it going. Zoomy – yeah!!

MFBTE

MFBTE

From Beer To Eternity – It’s easy to deride this album as being Ministry’s final-final-final album (there had been so many), but of course this one would never have happened were it not for the sudden death of long-time Ministry collaborator, guitarist Mike Scaccia, who in true rock ‘n’ roll tradition, died onstage rockin’ out. RIP Mike.

The album is fantastic, and a great epitaph and eulogy for the great band and the great guitarist. It is also the most eclectic and experimental Ministry album, at least since the early days, and a great listen. The title is a bit silly, but I guess “eternity” means something, and Al still likes his beer (he may have gone back into rehab for beer recovery, since – according to his autobiography, released the same year as this album – he had given up everything else and needed at least something to keep his buzz going. “Hail To His Majesty (Peasants)” is a weird, hateful thing that is full of bizarre electronic sounds, it is more avant garde than Ministry has been for a very long time, and it zooms around and around in weird trajectories, including a section of great Ministry sounds, some nice stomp, and some interesting industrial sounds, samples, everything. Very interesting. “Punch In The Face” is a cool, scratchy thing, quite different from any other Ministry song, that is a bit more measured than the opening track, but just as weird and bloopy, although it still has a cool needly solo. Great layers, and goofy samples! “PermaWar” sounds a lot like the opening song from Relapse, with its strange drawling singing style (not Al’s best), and there’s also a huge female chorus (!?!?). Meh… “Perfect Storm” is a big nutso stomp that just goes on and on! It’s nearly a punk song… “Fairly Unbalanced” is a nutty guitar song about Fox News’ reporting, with lots of crazy dialogue samples. It’s a pretty big song. “I would vote for George Bush even if he was barbecuing babies on the White House lawn.” “What we want to get back is to where our country was 100 years ago.” Cool “pound away at” sample loop and echo, which blends the song into “The Horror” – some great goofing around here, with electronics and sound, and samples like “God intended” and “legitimate rape.” Yeah!! “Side Fx Include Mikey’s Middle Finger (TV 4)” goes all over the place, starting off with some righteous thrash that pummels and punishes all over the place. In the middle there’s a whole section of weird goofing around, more samples (medical, for the most part), and then it gets back to full rock mode, and then just goes all over the place into nutty remixing. “Lesson Unlearned” is sort of a funk song with all sorts of jazzy female vocals. “Thanx But No Thanx” is probably the best song on the album, starting off as a reggae bust-up, before zooming into character-speech, Al as some sort of redneck ex-marine William Shatner/Ted Nugent sort of voice. It gets into a very dynamic number that zooms around a lot, with a very silly-sounding guitar solo. “Change Of Luck” starts off with some cool near-acoustic mellow guitar riff, then some strange Middle Eastern mood buildup, Over eight minutes, and the longest song on the album. Eventually we get to some chorus, a whole bunch of other stuff, a guitar solo, nice. “Enjoy The Quiet” is a short and sweet electronic ambient noise zoom, and that’s it.

This probably could have been mixed as a Revolting Cocks album, as it’s closer to RevCo in spirit and experimentation, but Mike Scaccia was closer to Ministry than RevCo, so this is a proper homage to the man. RIP.

RCCAL

RCCAL

Revolting Cocks, Cocked And Loaded – A great album, song-for-song, although quite different from the previous RevCo outing, Linger Ficking Good, as there is no Chris Connelly. Members of Cheap Trick and ZZ Top apparently play on this album, but who can hear their parts above all of the buzz! BUZZ!!

The opening track “Fire Engine” is a lot of fun, and it’s a blistering rocker with some huge drums. “Ten Million Ways To Die” is a strange piece of lounge music set to the voice of a creepy narrator, that then busts open into a full-on screeching rock number! “Caliente (Dark Entries)” is an insane Bauhaus cover voiced by a babbling Gibby Haynes. The original is cool, but Al and Gibby did a much better job on “Jesus Built My Hotrod.” Oh well. “Prune Tang” is a silly Helmet-sounding hardcore number, with some grunting and groaning and “singing”, with deep voices saying “pruuuuune taaaaang.” “Dead End Streets” starts off with programmed drums and guitar chugging, some nice riffs, some insane Jello Biafra vocals, some cool slide guitar stuff. “Pole Grinder” has some great samples (“Being a man, or being a woman, has nothing to do with your genitalia”, and “Man, or woman… or BOTH?”), cool bass riffs, freaky man-girl voice distortion, great riffs, droning beat, samples, funky chorus. One of the best songs on the album. “Jack In The Crack” is minimal, noisy, experimental, goofy. Kind of a dull, filler type of song, but it has its heavy moments. “Devil Cock” is some silly mixing of aggressive sounds, with nutty horror film samples. “Viagra Culture” starts off with electronics, drums, and a nutty Jello Biafra megalomaniacal character rant that reflects the eventual lyrics about “everybody else must lose, but I must win; we have met the weapon of mass destruction, and it is I!!” Sort of a Ren and Stimpy momen here. Cool song, that builds into a nice chugging guitar riff and electronics tune. Nice – edgy, but relaxed. Groovy “solo” in the middle. “Revolting Cock Au Lait” is the closer that is full of female vocals ranting in sexual puns, big broad flanged-out guitar sounds, and naturally plenty of roosters (cocks) crowing. Love it!!

RCCO

The Revolting Cocks, Sex-o Olympic-o – This album sounds significantly different again from any of the previous RevCo albums, perhaps coming full circle in terms of the RevCo legacy as it is nearly as electronic as the first album was, but in a totally different (updated) way. The electronics are wacky, bass-y burbles, reminiscent of Rob Zombie stuff I suppose, or KMFDM, with crunchy Ministry guitars added into it, and a few different types of vocals. The lead singer is Josh Bradford, with uncle Al Jourgensen providing backup vocals on some songs. Nearly all of the song titles are groovy, like “Hookerbot 3000” or “Robo Bandidos.” Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander and ZZ Top’s guitarist Billy Gibbons are listed as “Proxy Cocks”, not sure why – it’s hard to hear which songs they’re on, if any at all. Ditto for original Cock Luc Van Acker and Phildo Owen, Skatenig, and the voice of “Beers, Steers and Queers”, although again their contributions are not easy to distinguish. Some bass parts are by Paul Raven, who died two years before this was released, and he turns up on “Keys to the City” and “Wizard of Sextown”. The main vocals are provided by a young Canadian, Josh Bradford, guitarist from the Burlington pop-metalcore band Silverstein, and they’re okay, a bit silly and snooty sometimes. All right! Of all the RevCo albums, this is the one that’s the most same-y; that’s not a bad thing, though, as it fairly grooves, but this certainly sets Sex-o Olympic-o quite far apart other RevCo releases, which are full of jarring changes and so much outrageous nuttiness that this one seems pretty sober.

Album opener “HookerBot 3000” is okay, with a nice moody electronic intro, moody stuff that probably had RevCo fans scratching their heads when they first heard it, and then the guitars kick in with some friendly pop sounds, you hear Al screaming “yeah yeah yeah” in the background – sounds like he’s having a great time. “Keys To The City” is like a disco album with crunchy guitars and a thumping bass beat courtesy of Mr Paul Raven. “Red Parrot” is just a big “RevCo, let’s go” song, that adds some honky tonk piano – nice!! “Robo Banditos” maybe stands out a bit, with its gothic vocal delivery, and lots of Spanish chatter – it’s also a big, driving song. “Cousins” is a rockin’ little number that sounds like RevCo’s cover of “Dark Entries” from Cocked And Loaded, but it is actually a nutty song about incest: “why walk down the street when you can walk down the hall?” “Dirty little secret”, etc. Yuck!! But it’s a funky song nonetheless. “Touch Screen” is a groovy number with a falsetto chorus and some blips and bloops. “I’m Not Gay” is probably the standout track on the album, with its moody buildup, the heavy programming, more blips and bloops, and humor to boot! It also has a bit more of Uncle Al’s vocals and rousing chorus. “Abundant Redundancy” starts off with huge drums and guitars and distorto-vocals – it could be a Ministry song – but then gets into the sequencers and nuttiness. This song rocks harder than any other song on the album. “Lewd Ferrigno” is a freaky buildup song that starts off nice and quiet, with narration, then screamed vocals, and some slowdown, before a full-on Al Jourgensen shriek-out!! “Wizard of Sextown”, the longest song on the album, is a weird dub jam-out that just sort of goes on and on and on, with also nice Paul Raven bass lines. “HookerBot 3000 [Discoa-A-Go-Go Mix]” starts off with harsh sounds, and then just goes all over the place.

Books

MTLGATAJ

MTLGATAJ

Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen, by Al Jourgensen and Jon Wiederhorn - I was a fan of Ministry in the ’80s and ’90s, especially the Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste release – the ones before and after were good too, but that one was something special – classic song after classic song, and no filler. I lost interest after Dark Side Of The Spoon, and didn’t listen to anything after that, except when a Grammy-nominated song like “Lies, Lies, Lies” popped onto the radar, or when they put out a heart-stopping cover like “Roadhouse Blues” (or when they were in a Stephen Spielberg film, like AI, but that all felt a bit different)!

Of course, given what I knew about Ministry and its grand poobah Al Jourgensen I knew that Al would have a great story to tell, and being a fan of rock bios and auto-bios this was one I had to get. And I’m glad I did – it’s a fantastic read full of great stories and anecdotes, with classic quotes every other page or so. It pops open another side of life and exposes it in all its gristly glory, and it gets into the strangeness of being a stranger in a strange band! It’s also gotten me to investigate the rest of the Ministry catalogue (and new stuff by Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, and also newer RevCo), most of which is fantastic.

In fact, the book is exactly the sort of romp you’d expect, delving into all sorts of info about his messed-up childhood and family life (probably wasn’t all that messed up, given how he settled into a middle class family, but the tale of his beloved grandmother dying of face cancer is indeed very, very sad). It gets into record label and band politics too, especially around Paul Barker, but doesn’t spend too much time on it, describing recording sessions, tours, collaborations, collapses, busts, and everything else a trouble making industrial music bandit should expect form life.

High points of the book are about rock ‘n’ roll girlfriends, including Aimee Mann (!!!) and Sean Yseult (didn’t know about that one either – and she doesn’t write too much about it in her book), who he nearly drove off a cliff. He does get into being a terrible person at times, and there’s plenty of depraved stuff; but you also get the sense of a man enjoying the insanity of life who still also has the work ethic to put out something monumental even when the sky is falling, living life backwards, etc. There’s crazy drug stuff, there’s stuff about aliens, and if that’s not enough there even weirder stuff about clear spiders (Gibby chimes in on this one too). Another highlight of the book is that there are chapters and passages written by his partners-in-crime, including his wife Angie, Gibby, Jello – and even Mike Scaccia, writing from the afterlife, and other partners-in-crime. Really top notch stuff.

There are classic passages where he writes about seeing the Ramones in Colorado with Jello Biafra and Wax Trax Records co-founder Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher in the audience, his friendships with Timothy Leary (Sean Yseult wrote about this too in her book) and William F Burroughs (with whom he bonded over stoned racoons, entering a short list of friends such that “up until the time of his death [Burroughs] would call me about once a week and we’d talk.”), hanging out with the Skinny Puppy guys, hanging out with KMFDM, hanging out with Anthrax, the death of Dimebag Darrell (Ministry was playing in the same town as Damageplan the night he was shot, and may have been tailed by his killer), getting married in Graceland, and hanging out with Ronald Reagan Jr. He talks about confronting Henry Rollins who got all sour-pussed about having a junkie on his bus, and about his rivalry with Rob Zombie, who he viewed as a pretender. Strange how he got pissed off with Robert Plant the one time he met the singer of his adored Led Zeppelin, keeping him holed up in the Wax Trax record shop with prima donna behavior (even though Ministry got a free plug out of it). There’s also a lot of talk about the Chicago Blackhawks, whose owners he’s friends with. Interesting.

The photo section is pretty cool, although the cover shot – with multiple face piercings and blotchy tattoos – is extra gruesome and, well, makes you want to be careful about leaving it lying around the house. You see Al as a kid, as a teenager, in his early new wave phase, with a variety of hats and bandannas, with Timothy Leary onstage singing “Thieves”, one pic with his daughter, one pic with his step-dad, two with his mom, and a few with Paul Raven (RIP), Mike Scaccia (RIP), with the Cheap Trick guys, and with his 13th Planet cohorts. A-hoo-ah!!

The book starts off with all sorts of loving quotes from major industry names validating Ministry; this is unnecessary and very indulgent, as anyone reading the book will surely already know how important Al and Ministry are, but it’s still pretty cool hearing Trent Reznor say “Ministry was the single-most important influence in the sound and concept of Nine Inch Nails” (we get to read a bit more about Mr Reznor later in the book too). Naturally, most people quoted adore A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, but then there’s Blake Judd of Nachtmysterium (who is he/she, and what is this band’s relevance next to the other big names cited, namely Slipknot, Korn, Fear Factory, Disturbed, Prong, Anthrax, Dead Kennedys?), who adores Filth Pig. O-kayyyyyy… The foreword by co-author Jon Wiederhorn is interesting enough as it sets the scene, even though he over-uses the word “obviously”. Al himself then gives a long-winded intro (which eventually merges into Chapter 1) where he revisit one of his many near-death experiences (perforated ulcers that nearly caused him to bleed to death), ruminates on life as a living legend/ex-junky, and drops comments like how Relapse was the most fun album to record for him (strangely, it is also Ministry’s crappiest album, although it does have a great Stormtroopers Of Death cover on it, “United Forces”). He recounts the recording of the Buck Satan album, and all sorts of other insanity. But, as usual, there are great quotes: “I’d get drunk, vomit, and fall asleep. Then do it again. It’s not glorious, it’s not glamorous – it’s what old rock stars do before they die. They puke on themselves. And that’s why Ministry’s 2012 album was called Relapse.” His wife Angie would call him from some awards ceremony that he’d bailed on, and he’d be so wasted that he’d answer her in mid-puke, saying “that’s nice honey. I have to go die. Can you call back?” Nice anecdote about how Al got Sam D’Amruoso, drum programmer, to do the snotty lyrics for “Weekend Warrior”. “[Sammy] wrote out something and recorded it himself just to get a guide vocal one night while I was drunk and passed out. He expected me to go back and redo it later. But when I heard it, I was like, ‘Nope, sounds good the way it is. I’m gonna have to give you a vocal credit on that one, dude.’”  Thanks, Grandpa Jourgensent!

By Chapter two, nearly 40 pages into the book (including fore-words and intros, etc), we finally get to his roots, talking about how a remarkable left-handed baby was born three months premature in 1958 to an unmarried millionaire’s daughter in pre-revolution Cuba. “I wasn’t born in some fancy American hospital. I was born in Havana, Cuba, a third-world country that’s just as likely to use dying fetuses as kindling for the poor as they were to fight to keep them alive. I was jaundiced with a failing liver. I was completely yellow – even my eyes. I had 60 percent hearing loss. In other words, I was a mess long before I entered the music industry.” Of course, he became a refugee at six years old, with his family trying to get out of Cuba, re-settling in Florida, his famous millionaire grandfather now resorting to working in a restaurant to support his family. Wow! Tales of his grandparents’ life, their split-up, and future hijinks is interesting and charming, even if it’s quite sad.

He has an interesting family, though, and not just his grandparents – seems he had a famous uncle, Leo Brouwer, a famous classical guitarist, “probably the best, after Segovia.” Another great-great-aunt wrote the famous folk song “La Malaguena.” Then, on Page 10 he goes from talking about his kinky grandmother to mentioning his first run-ins with aliens (“grays”) and how he had a green triangle on his neck for two weeks after meeting some of them! And the fun doesn’t stop there, as his mom goes husband shopping. “My mom was a Cuban Charo Latina Chiquita with nice tits and a hot ass. And my [aspiring NASCA driver step-] dad was kind of a nerd, so he said, ‘Alright, I’ll give up cars and take the pussy!’ Deal!” He talks about his life-long love of the Chicago Blackhawks, and how it helped him bond with his step-dad (who he seems to admire, begrudgingly, more than he does his mom, who’s never mentioned in a positive light, and who doesn’t get an opportunity to say anything in the book). On page 13 he talks about his first exposure to modern music – the Stones and “Paint It Black” Yes!! Then it’s onto Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top and Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn! Yes!!! Music became a passion. He talks about his first job, which was shoveling shit from race horses, including Secretariat, an American thoroughbred that took the Triple Crown in 1973.

I actually got to go into his stall and shovel his shit, and he seemed to understand that I was doing him a favor. His shit didn’t even make me gag. But not the other horses; they smelled bad, their shit reeked, and they didn’t like me. They would kick the crap out of me every day. I had to try to dodge their hooves while I was shoveling, and this made the job harder because I’d jump out of the way, and literally, thee shit would fly. So I’d have to shovel it again. To this day I fucking hate horses. I would rather get attacked by a lion or a tiger than kicked by another horse.

Seems like he was a chubby kid! So he got into sports (via his step-dad), and quite good at baseball. Then he got into drugs, vandalism, and stealing cars. He also went to the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and got pepper sprayed! Got laid at 13, the same year he started shooting cocaine (!!!), although  he talks (much) more about the latter than the former (sex doesn’t figure too much into the story, unless he’s talking about weird adventures with groupies – the girl with the colostomy bag, the full, disgusting description is on Page 173, for example – or hanging out with the nyphos during his paradisical year in the sanitarium). Yes, rock ‘n’ roll has been his life, but drugs has been a near-second. Had a hard time figuring out if he was a jock or a stoner, since he was a bit of both, ha ha haaa… This includes a crazy story about him playing third base when the second baseman got struck dead by lightning.

 The sky was overcast but it wasn’t raining, then out of nowhere, KAPOW! A blinding, jagged bolt of lightning crashes down from overhead, and Danny [Cadman] hits the ground smoldering. I was the first one over there. His flesh was burned black; there was no question that he was dead. Maybe God was actually trying to hit me and had bad aim or something.

Death visited from time to time, and he had a sad goodbye with his grandma Carmen, who died of jaw cancer (which he nearly contracted himself – it was discovered early and cleaned out).

Doctors cut out her entire jawbone to remove the tumor to try to save her, but all they did is turn the last days of her life into a living hell. When I saw her it was hard to maintain eye contact and not turn away. She looked like Skeletor or some creature from Dawn Of The Dead. I talked with her a little about baseball and school, but I was choked up the whole time. She was so beautiful before that, and suddenly she’s looking at me with no face. She was all withered from the chemotherapy, and her long red hair was gone. When you know you’re seeing someone for the last time, it’s really hard to know what to do. That was one of the shittiest experiences I’ve ever had because I really loved her. She helped make me who I am, and suddenly she was gone. Fourteen-year-olds shouldn’t have to deal with that shit. Grandma Carmen wasn’t that old either. She was in her early fifties – which is pretty young to lose half your face. God, I still love her and can’t believe what she went through and how strong she was through the entire ordeal. She never felt sorry for herself. She just endured the barbaric experiments they performed on her until her dying day.

Eventually he spends a year in a mental institution, disowned from his parents, having the time of his life being dosed on high quality, free drugs, and hanging out with other crazy nymphos, and where he met a tutor who introduced him to Burroughs, Bukowski, Crowley and Leary, “all these guys who would become friends and peers later in life.” Not sure about Bukowski and Crowley, but he did meet the other two. He also got electro-shock therapy, like all the rest of them (Iggy, Roky), and then went to Colorado! Here he formed a band called… Slayer! Not the Slayer, but he came up with the name for his early band of misfits. Pretty funny. Eventually he meets a girl who takes him with her to Chicago, founds the music department at her school, then uses the foundling department’s equipment to paste together a song called “I’m Falling”; the Wax Trax guys go insane over it, and they push him to get a band together. Thanks, Jim, for laying the Ministry seed!! He gets into forming his first versions of the band, and mentions how he got into doing lead vocals accidentally. As the composer and engineer, “I had no interest whatsoever in singing for Ministry. But after we tried out twelve vocalists who all sucked, I figured, ‘Fuck, I might as well do this myself and save myself the pain of listening to some other knucklehead who isn’t as good at sounding British as I am.’” Of course, “Cold Life” soon followed, and Ministry was on its way. “To everyone’s surprise, ‘Cold Life’ went to number forty-five on the US dance charts in 1981. We celebrated by doing too much coke and getting fall-down drunk – you know, the usual.” The band thing started to get out of control, and eventually he got roped into making poppy music that he didn’t like; Clive Davis of his record company Arista called him up with a pep talk, and even got the Thompson Twins to talk to him to try to bring him around to the company’s way of thinking. Crazy! Interesting stories about his affair with Aimee Mann, their trysts in a haunted house, and being the inspiration of Til’ Tuesday’s song “Voices Carry”. And when you read the lyrics, it makes sense:

The drug thing takes off, and on page 52 he gets his first stab of heroin – he can’t remember who introduced it to him – and we’re off on a 20-year voyage of living on the dealers’ cycle. Oops! Later on, Al confesses that he was the on e who introduced Layne Staley of Alice In Chains to heroin, who took to it voraciously (just as John Phillips did when Keith Richards turned him on to them, we learn, in Life), and there are plenty of sad drug stories – Jeff Ward died of drugs, Bill Tucker died of drugs, Mike Scaccia nearly did, Patty Jourgensen was a bad junky – and many times Al nearly died of drugs himself. As a junkie, he also wasn’t a great father for his daughter Adrienne, and he seems remorseful about it the two times he mentions it in the book. “Before Sire picked up Ministry I was writing TV and radio jingles to help support our drug habits pay the rent, and feed the baby.” Sounds pretty crazy. There’s also a weird story about how the song “Every Day Is Hallowe’en” saved his life – he went into the wrong part of town to buy drugs and some guys wanted to kill him, until the recognized him. “It’s alright. It’s the bop-bop man. He’s cool.” Crazy!! If only Joe Cole had been so lucky.

Eventually he does the Twitch sessions with Adrian Sherwood, and he’s off in music production heaven (interesting story of the speed dealer who lived off of just three clients: Adrian, Lemmy and Gary Moore). “Best teacher in the world. I wouldn’t know my ass from my elbow if it wasn’t for Adrian Sherwood. Being able to live in London and work at Southern Studios with Adrian was awesome, man,” even though Sherwood’s friends were “criminal yobbo skinheads” and “speed freaks and soccer hooligans” who stole his wallet and he “got into a few Trainspotting-style bar fights there with bottle smashing across the head and beer mugs to the face.” He also shot a cool video with Storm Thorgerson for “Over The Shoulder” that includes real cornershop robberies, car thefts, a nail omelette, etc.

Then we get to Page 67 when he talks about Pailhead, Revolting Cocks (Sale fiches!!), the Twitch recording sessions, recording Big Sexy Land next door to the Ramones “I’ve never seen anyone consume that much beer”), and being in Belgium, London and Berlin (where an East German gun tower sniper played head games with him by keeping him in his gun sights). Wow!!

In his guest chapter, Luc Van Acker gives a good assessment to working with Al Jourgensen. “From a lawyer’s point of view you could say, ‘Oh, he’s ripping everyone off.’ That’s not true. It’s sad and he’s heartbroken now because every single guy except me thinks he ripped them off, while he has invested everything in the future. Meanwhile, the best music any of these people ever made in their career, they did with him.” Sascha Konietzko, the mind behind KMFDM, says something similar, “There were a couple of people who treated us like total assholes, worse than you would treat the shittiest support band. Chris Connelly was the top asshole amongst them all, and Martitn Atkins was a close second, for sure. Chris Connelly was so fucked up every day he didn’t even know what bus he was on. He would haplessly float about in swimming pools until someone would get him.” Sounds like Ulli, the anarchist from The Big Lebowski, in real life!

The section from page 59-61 is a list of the drugs that they were doing to accompany each album. As a barometer, it seems that he went from being under the influence of nothing on With Sympathy (although he played Asteroids with Paul McCartney in the recording studio lounge), all the way up to Filth Pig, which was 99.9% heroin, and Dark Side of the Spoon, which saw coke resurfacing on the menu. Animonisitisomina was clean, although Al was still weak from cleaning up and wasn’t happy with the record (I am – it’s great!), and then it was all booze afterwards.

Page 94 describes some of the madness from the A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste:

I’m not an artist or a producer – I’m still the guy who cleans up race horse’s shit, just like I did when I was young. And in the case of The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste, it’s amazing that I could walk straight enough to scoop properly. The album was practically shat out of the bowels of complete insanity and debauchery. We’d be in there working, and I’d look out the studio window and see a five-foot-tall Greate Dane fucking a girl. We built a motorcycle ramp in an alley behind the studio, and we’d ride the motorcycle up the ramp and crash it into a fence about eight feet away. We fired off shotguns in the studio and sampled the noise. It was Caligula on heroin, coke, and acid. And that was just the beginning.

Definitely the best stories of debauchery were from this period, and Al talks about playing with the Chicago Cubs and hanging out with them a bit. Great stories. Strangely, he didn’t like the album very much, although it is at this time that he struck up his initial relationship with Angie, who later saved his life and became his wife (interesting point from later on – Angie’s dad, who once played for the Montreal Canadians, is Al too, “that’s why Angie has ‘Al’ tattooed on her shoulder: even if I fuck up, she’s still got her dad.”) “A lot of diehard fans call The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste on of the top three Ministry records, but I can’t stand It, mainly because of the condition I was in when I made it. I could feel the machine slowly taking over and felt helpless to stop it. I don’t feel like the songs are the best I’ve written or that they’re even in my top one hundred.” Nutty things about live shows, such as being attacked by darts by fans at some shows (“The thing I don’t get is that if you hate a band that badly, why pay money for a ticket and bring expensive darts to their show? He probably bought the record, too, to make sure he hated it. Who does that?”), dealing with band members getting arrested (even Barker was arrested for jaywalking, and “one of our hired-gun band members – an English guy with a bad attitude – was busted for statutory rape a couple times.”), and drinking beer with otherwise-straight edge Ian MacKaye during Pailhead sessions (“It was the first time he had beer in years, and it was the shittiest stuff – like $4.99 a case – and tasted like metallic tent water. It was called Brewnigs, but we used to call it Nigbrew. We drank a shitload and got wasted”)! They even spent hours dialing in to a sex line for laughs.

Funny stories about collaborating on the Lard project with Jello Biafra, the germophobe diva. Finding Metallica (“three wankers with mullets”) drinking beer in his dressing room, and harassing himself all over them (similar to another funny story when he did the same thing to Ice-T on the Lollapalooza tour, The Cult during Big Day Out, and later on even to suicidal porn star Savannah). Great story about working with GWAR on their Scumdogs Of The Universe recording when they were broke and consumed the beer and coke that was Al’s fee for producing “some tracks” (probably only one song, “The Horror of Yig”, as far as I know). He also expresses a lot of appreciation for Danny Wirtz, the grandson of the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, and how they became great friends – cool story! “Good old Danny Wirtz saved my ass more than once, that’s for sure.” Stories of working with the hastily-assembled Skatenigs (whose lead singer Phildo Owen became a singer for Beers, Steers + Queers-era RevCo, and once had a penis suit that shot fake sperm into the crowd that was the envy of GWAR) and The Mentors during the A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste tour (including their unbelievable 350-pound moron of a lead singer El Duce) are stunning in their madness!

I went into the bathroom and found this fucking guy there, naked from the waist down, lying in a pack of Dorito chips, urine and vomit. I went into the urinal and said to him, ‘Hey, who the fuck are you?’ And he said, ‘I’m El Duce!’ like he’s Mick Jagger or something, so I should already know him. He was trying to pull his pants back on, but they were on backward and inside out. He was really struggling, so I helped him out.

Turns out El Duce knew Bill Rieflin, one of the Ministry drummers, who hated him for something that he had done in high school, then later on tried to rape Al’s mother right in front of him, and later got killed by a freight train in an easily-avoidable accident. El Duce stories are priceless, and the book is full of them!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXEm6fhI7P0

The book has tales of buying inflatable sheep from a sex shop, and hanging out with Pantera and Gibby Haynes (“Hands down the second-craziest person I’ve known in my life”) of the Butthole Surfers – all on the same one page!! At one point, they moved all the furniture from their hotel rooms to the roof and lit it on fire!! Around this time, Al also met (and tormented) Trent Reznor, who helped them out while on tour by pitching in some replacement equipment and becoming a Revolting Cocks roadie. “It was his first time on tour, and we called him ‘Mama’s Boy’ and whipped Black Cat firecrackers at him all the time. He tried to keep up with our drinking. We wouldn’t let him stop, so he’d puke and pass out, and then we’d draw dicks and pussies and the word ‘fag’ on him in permanent Sharpie marker.” Nice. Traveling through Mexico with Phildo Owen trying to kick heroin, running out of money in Manzanilla, winning it back by betting on crab fights. “If we lost, we had no money to cover the bets, so we would have gotten killed. Fortunately, our crab, this big fucker with a giant claw, won every tournament. We made enough gas money from two days of crab fights to drive home. We didn’t eat or anything – just gas money. Both of us returned craving drugs worse than ever.” End of chapter. Bleak! There’s been a lot written about the professional and personal rift that eventually grew between Phildo and Al (who mentions it at one point, briefly), although the fact that Al has not written Phildo out of the book probably indicates that everyone’s made nice.

He has an interesting Lollapalooza encounter with Henry Rollins, one guy I really like a lot:

When the festival came to Chicago I wanted to see Trent Reznor, because despite the shit I put him through, we were still friends. At the time he and his band were sharing a tour bus with Henry Rollins and his crew. So I went up to the bus to hang with Trent, and Rollins looked at me and said, ‘Get out of here, you piece of shit. I hate junkies.’ Now I know Henry Rollins is supposed to be this he-man who lifts weights, takes off his shirt, and shows his muscles, but I didn’t know if the guy could fight or not, and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn’t even think about what I was doing; I just took a giant swing at him, and then a bunch of guys split us up. He didn’t even get a shot in, and he never came after me or bothered me again. Although from what I’ve heard, he spent many a spoken-word show totally trashing me, so right back at ya, Henry. You are an asshole.

He also hates R Kelly, who was using his studio at one point and tried something funky with Al’s daughter. “He totally freaked out my daughter. At the time I was living in one of the studio bedrooms with Patty and Adrienne. I heard her scream, so I grabbed a suitcase and hit R. Kelly over the head with it. I had to fight my way out of his posse with the suitcase, swinging it at anything that moved. That he’s not in jail is a travesty of justice.” They also pissed into Al’s studio piano and trashed it.

His approach to songwriting is fascinating and cosmic:

People think there’s rhyme and reason to what I do, but almost everything is plucked out of thin air. It’s almost like these passages are transmitted to me in my sleep, and when I wake up I go and get my engineer so we can translate what I just heard in my head. That’s how I write all my songs. We don’t calculate them out or anything; they just come together. It’s almost spiritual. These snippets and riffs and random chaos swirl around for a while, gradually falling into place. It’s like assembling a giant three-dimensional puzzle made out of pieces that keep changing shape. I don’t know how it happens – it seems impossible – but somehow it works.

Interestingly, this is the same approach Keith Richards describes in his book, how songs exist in the cosmos and float around there until you intersect with them. Sadly, Al never gets to meet Keith, a fellow notorious junky survivor, although he nearly did – a Texas hanger-on and friend of Stones saxophonist brought the Stones over to his house one time in Austin, but he didn’t believe that the band was downstairs playing pool, so he grumpily sent everyone away. Oops!

He also talks about the distorted vocal sound, which did not come from other industrial bands, who he didn’t listen to, but Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators – another contribution we have old Roky to thank for! I’ve read somewhere else that he probably also learned about shouting lyrics from Ian MacKaye, I believe it was in Our Band Could Be Your Life, although he doesn’t give this credit in the book.

One of the interesting things about the book is that Al, like Lemmy, mentions prominent gays in his past, in this case his college coke connection (Lemmy had a gay roommate who was murdered by homophobes). He eventually goes one step further than Lemmy did, though, by admitting to a drunken gay fling (!!!), which is interesting. We also find out how superstitious he is – onbe of the things assistants like Danny Wirtz were in charge of was making sure that all of his talismans are in order, and then he mentions how he won’t fly on the twenty-third because of an old saying, twenty-three skidoo. “If you travel on the twenty-third of any month, you’re toast. That goes back to the wagon-trail days of the Wild West: If you set out on the twenty-third to go from Missouri to Oregon in a wagon, you were sure to die.” Weird (and also not in keeping with the phrase “23 skidoo”, which means “beat it, kid; scram; get lost”, or its supposed history, but that’s okay…).

Of course, his hatred of George Bush went on to fuel three great Ministry albums, including the masterpiece Houses Of The Mole, their best album since Psalm 69. He talks about Texas becoming a police state with Bush as governor, and also the actions against David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. He was there! Wiping out his car, motorcycle crashes, spider bites, and other insanity also took place at this time. Then he was also onstage with Johnny Depp the night that River Phoenix died outside of his club The Viper Room, tussling with Depp during his solo and other misunderstandings. Insane. Weird how he mentions being infuriated by The Cult, who he called posers for wearing Speedos (“skin suits for your cock and balls”), or how he tortured Courtney Love so intensely, stealing her drugs, humiliating her sexually, and all sorts of other nastiness.

As much as she hated me, Courtney wound up sleeping with me, except I made her shave her giant beaver before I’d get in bed with her. It was mainly because she didn’t have any dope. I turned over her purse looking for needles, but there was nothing there. So I said, “Eh, okay. Let’s fuck.” I think she did it out of fear. I didn’t rape her or anything, but she was so afraid of me and Mikey that she probably figured it was better just to fuck me than to say no. And it was very unsatisfying – I think I came, but I’m not sure. After we were done I grabbed her set of clothes that were laid out by the bed and threw them out the window. Even after that episode Courtney and I shot up together a bunch of times. I may have stolen her heroin, but I was polite enough to share it with her. Some things about her were really gross. She had seventeen pictures of her kid, Frances Bean Cobain, in her wallet after Kurt died, and the kid wasn’t with her or anything. It was just a trophy for her, so she could hand out pictures. She’s so egocentric and self-centered, and that’s why Mikey and I tortured her so much. She went on the air afterward in a radio interview and said I was the most hideous and horrific person she’d ever met. I thought that was pretty cool.

Al calls her “a very conniving, clever person. But I knew that, so her crazy act didn’t throw me.” They also leaned on Evan Dando when he tried to stand up for her. Gross, right? He even gets a bit irresponsible, saying “Here is a tip for any young bands who have drugs on their bus or in their van. Leave burgers or pizza out; it distracts the guard dogs. They will go straight for the food and forget about the pot, coke, anthrax spores, or whatever else you may be hiding. Not that I advocate traveling with any of that stuff – I’m just saying.”

But there’s always other sides to Al after the debauchery and meanness. One of the auxiliary chapters is by Holger Brandes, who had been a tour manager for the band in the European leg of their 2008 C U LaTour. Despite all of the horror and debauchery that Al and Ministry are associated with on tour (and probably any other time as well), he had a lot of nice words for Al. “Al might be an unusual guy to deal with. He might look weird; he might be an alcoholic. He might polarize people, but for me he became a real friend, and his intelligence, his humor, and his warmth for the people around him deserve respect and appreciation.” So it shows that there’s still a cuddly human in there for people who are serious and who know how to spot it (and all this shows what a complicated guy Al is, warts and all). He also gets into some of the weird logistics about tour managing, this short chapter is a good read.

There are cool tidbits of information in the book, like learning that “Bad Blood” from the 1999 Dark Side Of The Spoon release was from the 1985 Land Of Rape And Honey sessions, and Hollywood anecdotes such as the description of working with Stephen Spielberg and his cast of Hollywood weirdos (composer John Williams and animatronics expert Stan Winston talk about themselves in the third person, for example) on the horrible movie AI, probably hoping it would be s good as Full Metal Jacket… It wasn’t. He also had to work with Limp Bizzkit on a remix, because they wanted Al’s “Thieves” vocal distortions. A funny tale of Al having fun with Fred Durst in the studio and taking his $10,000, despite him not getting anything out of it. Don’t like that band, and they sound horrible doing “Thieves” live…

Like all rock bios/autobios, the book becomes much less interesting in the second half, and Al himself is far less raunchy and quotable. He went through his worst drug days, he came through a survivor (obviously – Layne Staley and all the others who didn’t make it didn’t write autobiographies) and then entered a bit of a holding pattern – life turmoil, awards ceremonies, compounds in Texas, visits to the hospital, regular collaborations with his posse of usual suspects, etc. There’s also an auxiliary chapter on “How to save the planet with two dirty words: Social Democracy” that is not well thought through. He also talks about a “STEGAL” act that “put a cap on the greed of banks”, which is actually the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932, which just goes to show that he wasn’t really up on all of his facts. He also talks about how “there are 8.5 billion people in the world now”, so I wonder if he’s taking the piss, especially when he follows that up with “That’s too many fucking people.” Riiiight…

Of course, I’m also still crying out for updates, and keep a close eye on Al’s website, his facebook page, and all that other stuff. Seems like Al went into rehab again (despite his cover of the defiant Amy Winehouse song “Rehab”), this time to cure him of his last vice, alcohol. A great book, any music fan should read it…

Pixies EP1, EP2 and EP3

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

The Pixies finally started releasing new music, after more than twenty years of relative silence (their last full album, Trompe Le Monde, came out in 1991)!!! Three EPs containing 12 songs, of which they’ve already released nine videos! All twelve songs will be combined on a full-length called Indie Cindy later in 2014, but I won’t get it, because I’ve been buying the EPs as they came out (couldn’t get EP1, as it was sold out by the time I caught on, but I bought EP2 and EP3 the first days they became available through Pixies.com). I liked the first two very much, the third one is a bit of a dud, though (with only three new songs – “Bagboy” is the fourth song on the EP, but it had been released as a free single at the end of June, 2013 as the Pixies’ first new song since “Bam Thwok” in 2004…

Funnily enough, none of the nine videos (so far) seem to show any band members, just stand-ins. Oh well…

PEP1

EP1 – As I always say… any day that the Pixies release a new song is a good day, and on September 2nd, 2013, the band came through and released EP1, with four totally brand new songs on it! The songs are “Andro Queen”, “Another Toe In The Ocean”, “Indie Cindy” and “What Goes Boom”. They’ve also (eventually) released a video for each song!!

Andro Queen is a wonderful, trippy song, fully of zooming atmospherics and very catchy, with a bit of Spanish thrown in. The video is also trippy, with its mixture of tiger-helmet band and town and country and party touring images. Oh, and there’s a tattooed queen in it too.

Another Toe In The Ocean is a great high-momentum  tune that is very catchy and full of sweeping guitar sounds and a driving pulse (and, of course, the phrase “another toe” does remind me of The Big Lebowski…). The video is animated, and shows a not-so-chunky Frank Black running around town, riding with cats, fighting ninjas, and going on trippy adventures. It just gets weirder and weirder and it totally hilarious!!

Indie Cindy slows things down with some cool minor riffs that sound like something from Surfer Rosa, ranting and raving things like “you put the cock in cocktail, man, well I put the tail in WAIT!” There’s a slow chorus; this is a really awesome song. The video describes some kind of teenage bar time adventure, but it’s shown backwards and forwards and it’s hard to follow the narrative; the ending is very dark. Probably need to watch this one twice.

What Goes Boom is a rockin’ hard number that is near metallic, maybe more like something from Trompe Le Monde, with soft Frank Black vocals, and wild guitar mannerisms. The video shows moon-like desert scenery, and people wandering over it, it might be Cappadocia in Turkey. Beautiful. There’s also some spontaneous human combustion. Yuck!

Overall, a great release, with each song good in its own way! EP2 is also very good, by the way, it’s only EP3 that is a bit of a dud…

Of course, the got four trippy videos, one for each song on this EP:

PWP2

PWP2

EP2 – As I always say… any day that the Pixies release a new song is a good day, and on January 3rd, 2014, the band came through and released EP2, with four songs on it! The songs are “Blue Eyed Hexe”, “Magdalena”, “Greens and Blues” and “Snakes”. I immediately bought the limited edition vinyl and MP3 download from their website and am listening to the MP3s now as I await for my vinyl to arrive (it only becomes available on Amazon on January 13th, man). Yay! They also have videos for all four songs. In 2014 they will release a third EP (with three new songs, alongside the “Bagboy” single), and eventually release the 12 songs from the three EPs on a single CD. They also (eventually) released one video for each song, as they had for EP1 (and will probably do so for EP3).

For now, let’s consider the songs:

Blue Eyed Hexe has attributes of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the Pixies, which I see as a good thing. The song really rocks on and on and has everything in it that makes the Pixies great – huge riffs, a wild chorus, weirdness, angularity, and nutty guitar effects (no Spanish, though). Plus it has a cool title (and what is a “Hexe” anyway?)! The video for “Blue Eyed Hexe” is a bunch of cut-up images that are often drawn upon, sort of stop-motion animation with found images, starting with images of blue-eyed girls (if their eyes aren’t blue, they’re colored blue with a river of blue ink), religious images (Christian, or Satanic), more eyes that fill with ink, anatomical illustrations, skulls, flowers, only one or two pictures of Frank Black, newspaper clippings, often faster than the eye can process. The rest of the band doesn’t appear. Funky. Directed by Mount Emult. But the song is the best on the EP.
Magdalena is another  song about a girl – so it joins “Velouria”, “Ana”, “Alison” and “Cecilia Ann”, all from Bossanova – and it even sort of sounds like all of them, slowed down to a certain pace, with haunting wails. The video follows the wanderings of a tall, troubled transvestite with long hair (his face and identity is obscured for some time by lighting, angles, etc). Great shot of rice falling over his head in purple light. Nice.
Greens And Blues is a somewhat interesting mellow strummer with a catchy chorus and some loud-quiet-loud. The video shows a very fat man who resembles Black Francis (but probably isn’t him) wandering around town with a spray paint can, checking out the beach, tripping on the blue sky, etc. Also, there’s an astronaut girl wandering around. Interesting how there’s a lot of green and blue in the artwork of EP2 and EP3 – is this a theme?
Snakes is a simple guitar song, sometimes dark and sometimes bright, with a goofy chorus: “Snakes are coming to your town, in tunnels underground, some traveling over ground…” Angular guitar solo, of course. Nutty, but hey – it sounds great! The video is very disturbing, showing a national pogrom against papier mache-headed men, and candy Nazis. Yes, that’s right – candy Nazis!

Like EP1, this is a great release! It’s only EP3 that’s a bit of a letdown.

PEP3

EP2 - As I always say… any day that the Pixies release a new song is a good day, and on March 25th, 2014, the band came through and released EP3, with four songs on it! The songs are “Bagboy”,  “Silver Snail”, “Ring The Bells” and “Jamie Bravo”. It was released as a digital download some days later.

Bagboy starts off with some weird mix-around stuff that’s not very nice. But by the time you hit the big Kim Deal chorus you know “ah… this is a Pixies song!!” The video shows a kid trashing his parents’ house, not so great.

Silver Snail is a slow and spooky song that really lets you hear Black Francis’ vocals prominently. Very nice. There’s a comic book store in Toronto called Silver Snail, I bet the guys who work there are stoked about this one!

Ring The Bells is a sweet little pop song, it doesn’t sound like the Pixies at all. Maybe a less boring version of Coldplay?

Jamie Bravo is another pop song, although it is a bit more “angular” than “Ring The Bells”.

I’d say that this is the dullest of the EPs, with no standout tracks, and an over-reliance on pop songs; “Silver Snail” is probably the best song on the album. “Bagboy” has been out for quite a while as well, and it’s not as good as something like “Blue Eyed Hexe”, which is a truly remarkable tune! But, well, what can you say – it’s the Pixies!!

I suppose that they’ll release videos of all four of these songs, but for now here’s “Bagboy”: