Thank you for the days

This was a bit of a strange week. I got down to work and caught up with all sorts of little errands I had to do, both at work and in my personal life, and am now feeling miraculously caught up. Next week just a few more things to do, and then I’ll be “home free” in a way. One of the major things that I managed to accomplish was getting Zen registered for his primary school. I fretted a bit about it, because as a foreign kid he gets lowest priority in getting registered. I found out that the school has 54 positions open, and it didn’t seem to be an “in-demand” school where parents would camp out 72 hours before registration opened, so I felt reassured. On the registration day I woke up at 5:30, got there at 6:00. There were five Korean mums and dads ahead of me in the queue, which was all right. Within 15 minutes, four more Korean mums showed up, so I was sandwiched by Koreans. At 8:00 the doors opened, and I had Zen registered by 8:40 and I was off to work.

“That’s because Peter has a hot butt!” I got an interesting comment from a senior person at work this week when I was told I had a hot butt. The context for that is that someone was wondering why the seat of my chair looks like it was seared, and this person explained that it was probably because I had a hot butt. Weird…

CD Reviews

ABBA: Waterloo – My continued fascination with ABBA, fuelled primarily by my interest in hearing those ABBA songs that are NOT on their greatest hits albums, saw me pick up their second release, “Waterloo.” I should have have bought this 20 years ago, considering the fact that I went to the University of Waterloo, but better late than never. Of course, the album begins with Waterloo, which we’ve all heard a million times, but then goes into a weird reggae song sung by Benny and Bjorn that sounds very… Dan Fogelberg. Or maybe how a song would sound if there were two Dan Fogelbergs singing at the same time. The third sond is the decidedly weird hard rock/doo-wop “King Kong Song” that hears the guys really screaming their lungs out in parts (is this the same ABBA we all know? But it was only their second album and the band was still experimenting with their sound to an extent, as is evidenced by the wild stylistic shifts from song to song. Familiar-to-everyone songs on the album include “Hasta Manana,” and “Honey Honey”, while the superb “Dance (While the Music is still on)” is at once familiar and also intoxicatingly fresh. “My Mama Said” is a sort of strange, spooky Blondie-like song that’s somehow quite intriguing. “What About Livingstone” sounds like an old-time bubblegum song that is quite good fun. “Watch Out” is sort of about heavy guitar riffs and rock ‘n’ roll drumming… and then in come in the cheezy lyrics and one of the guys singing. Oddly enough, a few songs like this prove that ABBA was the rock ‘n’ roll band where the backup girls were better than the main vocalists… so the main vocalists gave the girls the band. “Gonna Sing YOu My Lovesong” sounds like that famous Wilson Phillips song, decades before it was recorded. Very grandiose and catchy. ‘Suzy Hang Around” has a catchy Birds-like guitar riff. Sung by Bjorn, or Benny, but quite nice.

Black sABBAth: Past Lives – Yes, the mighty Black Sabbath dug into the archives and pulled out “Past Lives.”
I was wondering recently why I’ve become so fixated recently on both ABBA and Black Sabbath. It’s confused both me and others, but I think I hit on the connection one night when I was looking at the band names, realizing that the word ABBA is part of Black Sabbath (i.e. sABBAth). Weird, huh? The disc starts off with the relatively uninteresting “Tomorrow’s Dream” before jumping into a grunged down version of “Sweet Leaf” that sounds odd without the cough-cough intro. The bluesy “Killing Yourself to Live” has Ozzy in savage top form, and by following “Children of the Grave” with “War Pigs” shows the band showcasing two of its best songs. Ozzy’s hooting and hollering, especially in song intros, is good fun, and the band has an incredible energy for many of the numbers on this track. “Oh Lord, yeah.” Of note on the album is the 18 minute version of “Wicked World”, a 4:46 track from the first album that starts off with the band in its full glory before becoming its regular old bluesy self, then an extended guitar and drum solo that includes snatches of “Into The Void,” some blues song that Ozzy sings on, as well as “Supernaut”. Of course, Tony Iommi’s guitar solos are pure blues jams, with some of the obligatory guitar shredding. “Thank you, good night, we love you all. You’re beautiful.” A nice version of “Hand of Doom,” followed by a cool version of “Hole in the Sky” that has Ozzy in his full nasal glory babbling to the audience something like “quite a few guys stop me and ask me about the new album that we will have really soon, we’re going to do a little number from our new album so you may not know it, you probably don’t, even so you might like it,” before screaming “ARE YOU HIGH?!? ARE YOU HIGH!?! SO AM I!!!!” One of the cool tracks on the album is “Megalomania,” one of the gems of Sabotage. It’s not a big hit with other critics, particlarly considering the way that Ozzy’s voice cracks and goes off-key, but in a way that’s some of the appeal of this warts-and-all collection. With his voice mangled, someone else (Geezer? Tony?) steps in to rescue Ozzy. For me the biggest disappointment on the album is “Black Sabbath,” which has a sort of noodly medieval acoustic intro before clumsily launching into the three notes of the song. “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” another blues song from their first albumd, is also good fun, and the album closes with the silly ole “Fairies Wear Boots.”

Strangulated Beatoffs: Greatest Hits – For some reason, I can’t seem to find an image of this SB album online, so we’ll have to go without one. But the cover is interersting, it shows Johnny Cash and Martin Sheen together in what appears to be an image capture from a movie they both appeared in, like a cop show or something. In the recordings, which again remind of Killdozer, someone’s playing around with a drum machine and a guitar with distortion, playing strange keyboard riffs and reliving lurid, odd “alternative lifestyle” experiments. Naturally, song titles are things like “Lick my Butthole,” “Facesaucer,” “Everbod Loves the Circus,” “Beat Me With a Rump Roast,” and the real mature “Shake Your Dick.” “Exorcist III” at least provides something of interest as it goes on a doom-loop of sorts with very heavy guitars and bass, chanting and feedback interlacing the mess, it’s very much a Butthole Surfers song from the band that would be Butthole. To the point, “Porky the Pig and Bess” is a wild Butthole-a-thon. Meanwhile “Fake Eyeball” is very Hawkwind spacey. “Strangle Me” is a silly acoustic song, but perhaps not so silly considering the band’s name. The last song, “It’s A Vile, Vile, Vile, Vile World” is a remix that uses the same electronic loop endlessly, although it incorporates a soundbite from the George C. Scott film “Hardcore”, i.e. the scene where he’s watching the film and shouts “Shut it off, shut it off…”

Drunks With Guns: Drunks With Guns – Scumbag rock, listening to this CD it’s hard not to be reminded of Killdozer, which they sound exactly like. Which band came first? Cool titles like “New Wave Negro Girl” and “Beautiful Happiness” probably have nothing to do with the band’s gritty sound and general weltanschauung. Some of the songs are instrumentals, like “Cowbo,” and hence quite funky. Bonus track “A Beer” has very simple lyrics, mainly just “a beer…” repeated endlessly over a fuzzed out riff. This band doesn’t use a rhythm section for this track, and it might really just be one guy goofing around in the studio.

Zero Landmines

Zero Landmine – A charity album organised by Sakamoto Ryuichi after he read about landmine victim Chris Moon. Moon, a Scottish teacher who lost an hand and a leg while removing a land mine in Mozambique, had also run a full marthon with an artificial hand and an artificial leg. Sakamoto put the project together, writing a very pretty Sakamoto song, and this CD has six versions of that song, with lyrics by David Sylvain of the band Japan. The first version, at 18 minutes, has contributions from a wide variety of world musicians, including Kraftwerk, an Inuit child singer, music of the Dong poeople, Korean musuic, DJ Krush, Takuro of Glay, Cambodian music, Indian Tabla and vocals, Tibetan chanting with the Dalai Lama, Brian Eno, Bosnian music, a soundbite from Princess Diana speaking in Angola about landmine abolition, Angolan music with guitar backing by Arto Lndsay, Mozambique music, and a huge choir. It’s followed by a simple version of the song sung by Sylvain himself with Sakamoto accompanying on guitar. Then there’s the cello version. Then there’s the short version (with all the bells and whistles), the piano version, and finally – the VERSION. Perhaps more inspiring then the music is the booklet. Chris Moon writes that “landmines are evil environmental pollution. They lie active in the ground for decades after the fighting has stopped and cannot tell the difference between the footfall of a soldier and that of a child. Many of those injured by mines die slow, dirty deaths. Those who survive often live lives of misery, poverty and discrimination.” The good news that he reports is that the initial estimates of the number of landmines around the world is turning out to have been a bit high. A more depressing statistic is that while there are 60-70 million landmines planted around the world, there are 250 million more stockpiled and ready for use in the arsenals of 150 nations. Wow! The booklet also has a map showing where there are landmines, the countries with over 10 million landmines are Angola, Egypt and Iran. China, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Iraq have 5 million to 10 million. Of course, Cambodia’s are distributed over a much smaller area than China’s are.


Balzac / Sobut: “Oldevils / Legend of Blood” – Japanese punk rock split 6-song CD, with three songs from each band. Balzac starts off the set; the world’s most wanna-be Misfits copy band from their album art and typography to their costumes and devillocks, their first song “The End of the Century” sounds like California hardcore and not at all like anything that Glenn and gang ever did (and no, it doesn’t sound like the Ramones either). The second song is more like the Misfits with all the “woah woah woah” stuff. Third song “No Resistance 1968″ is a bit more like Japanese punk, such as the Blue Hearts, but hardly as good. The real Misfits should eat these guys alive, I wonder why they ended up recording a split single together. Earnestness from the fans?  Sobut are also by-the-numbers punk rock, the vocals are really watered down.  I wonder what these guys would sound like with a real producer, they sound technically proficient at least, and it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into this.  Actually, no, they also need a new lead singer, and a bit of an edge.


Acid Eater: “Virulent Fuzz Punk A.C.I.D.” – Yamasaki Maso, a.k.a. Masonna, put this band together. It has a retro sound, with wild ’60s guitar sounds and cheezy Doors keyboards, so it is a bit like his Christine 23 Onna project, but he has lots of screechy noise mixed in as well, and his vocals are full on Iggy Pop and very distorted.  Wild craziness.   I’ve listened to it a few times, and I can’t distinguish real songs – it’s like Guitar Wolf in that way – but it’s all good fun.
Movie Reviews

Captain America – People who thought that Ghost Rider was totally awful should catch this film, starring Matt Salinger, the son of J.D. Salinger. Worse even than the Roger Corman “Fantastic Four” (yes, I watched that one too), it has all the things you’d expect to see in a really awful B-movie comic book adaptation: horrible action scenes, love interests getting killed, bad fashion, Ned Beatty wearing over-sized ’80s glasses, people finding needles in haystacks, and bizarre plot developments – for example, Steve Rogers goes back to the lab where he turned into Captain America in 1990 and finds everything exactly as it was left in 1943, including the only copy of research notes describing how to cook secret soldier serum. At least the Captain America costume looks great – it has fake six-pack-stomach padding, as well as little wings sprouting out from the sides of the mask – but Matt Salinger’s not impressive as a super soldier considering he constantly gets defeated. The Red Skull’s make-up is passable, but for some reason he’s Italian and not German. Did the producers think it was too corny to have him be a Nazi?

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