Archive for November, 2008

Chinese Democracy

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Metallica: “Death Magnetic” – “Death Magnetic” is quite a gonzo album, with a few weird Iron Maiden moments and other ideosyncratic non-Metallica moments.  It also sounds rather like “…And Justice For All,” which is not a bad thing. Cool cover showing a coffin garlanded with a magnetic halo of iron filings, the booklet pages are cut through to give it some depth (literally).  Opening track “This Was Just Your Life” sounds a bit like “Blackened,” the opening track of the 1988 album that “Death Magnetic” is called a revival of.  Somehow “The End of the Line” comes out a bit bluesy, although it quickly begins to headbang.  “Beaten, Broke and Scarred” is a pretty good track, while the infectious “The Day That Never Comes” sounds like something from the Black Album.  They have a pretty good video for it out already that should appeal to all the young Metallica fans serving in Iraq. “All Nightmare Long” is one of those fast fast things with lots of wah in the solo.  “Cyanide” is a dull song with a good solo that has a brief, strange Iron Maiden moment. “Unforgiven III” is another catchy song, not a sequel to the Clint Eastwood/Morgan Freeman film. The squeaky guitar solo is not too bad. “The Judas Kiss” is loud and angry with a very fast solo, lots of wah and a bit of flange. No bass, of course, it’s trapped at the bottom of the mix, I don’t know why Metallica needs a virtuoso bassist like Robert Trujillo, although a bit of burbling does come out in the instrumental “Suicide & Redemption” (an ironic poke at Trujillo’s old band, Suicidal Tendencies?). Following the album’s longest song is its shortest, “My Apocalypse,” which closed “Death Magnetic” with five minutes of fury. Good, fast, punky.

Gone Sentosa way…

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

Had a nice week last week. I took a day off and we went to stay in the Rasa Sentosa resort hotel on Sentosa. Sure, it’s boring to take your vacation in Singapore if you live in Singapore, but it was a nice little splurge and an indulgence and hey – we didn’t need to take a passport or hustle onto a ferry or cross a crowded bridge or anything like that, we were there in 15 minutes! I went to work as per normal on the 19th, then Naoko and Zen came to join me for lunch. We jumped in a cab and were at the hotel by 2:15 and checked into a room on the ninth floor. Yay. Hung out a bit, then got changed into our swim gear and went to the pool for a swim and read the newspaper a bit. Zen found the kids pool with the slide and away he went. After that we went to the nearby beach for a swim there. Unfortunately, after only about 15 minutes there it began raining, and we went back to the room and spent the rest of the afternoon there, reading on the balcony, watching TV, drinking coffee. Around 6:00 we went down and explored our dinner options, finally opting for the first restaurant we went to, which is the main one in the hotel. We all ordered burgers, which in hotels usually come out looking like super burgers. Zen got a kiddy burger, which was more like a snack, but he was a good sport and didn’t complain and we shared our fries with him. A band came in and serenaded us, which was nice. Went up to the room and slept. It rained all night, but when we woke up on the 20th it had stopped so we went for a long swim, both in the hotel pool and on the beach nearby. We were the first ones on the beach, but before long local people were coming to work on their tans. At 9:45 we went for our buffet breakfast and stayed there about an hour. Nice. Checked out, and went along the “Dragon Trail” up to the top of the hill, passing fake waterfalls, bogus archeological displays, and finally a cool stone dragon path. Looked around on the top of the hill, then took the chairlift down to the beach, walked along the beach, and there we were back at the Rasa Sentosa! Grabbed our bag, then went on the beach tram and the monorail back to Vivo City on the main island. Hung out in Vivo City for a while, mainly in the kids play areas for Zen, then took a taxi back to Signature Park. What a lovely overnight trip!

Rare shot of Pete reading the local newspaper
reading the paper

We all ordered burgers for dinner!
burger dinner

The view from our hotel room
hotel view
Hotel view too

This was labelled a “waterfall”, but it was more like a fountain
forest fountain

More artifice – spooky Dragon Trail fake skulls
Skull hill

This lion looks pretty scared…
Lion tamer

The coolest part of the trail was the moss-covered dragon path
Dragon tamer

Vivo City misadventures
Orang-utan tamer


Zen’s Chinese performance, recited at home:

Zen imitates the TV announcers

CD reviews:

Nagisa Nite: “Yosuga” – Nagisa Ni te, one of my favourite Japanese bands, has released their fifth album. With 13 relatively short songs (although several hit seven minutes, the band’s epic songs are among its fines), the album is dreamy, folky, soft and mellow for the most part. It starts off at a relatively fast pace with Premonition, which has the awkward English refrain “take me to za heaven,” before getting into one of the best song on the album Seven Seas. The tune is sprawling and has the odd guitar work of Shibayama-san on top of the slow drum beat of Masako-san. Great searing guitar solo right in the middle of it to blast the blues away. It is followed by another very strong number, “Seeing the Sea,” a gorgeous duet between Shibayama-san and Masako-san, probably the album’s strongest track. “Reaction in G” sounds like a million Nagisa Ni te songs, with a cool guitar solo, ditto for “Secrets” and “Midsummer Overheard,” making them pleasant to listen to, if not a little boring. Then there are strange compositions like “Ishi River” which almost sound like a spooky Nico number, or maybe a weird Sonic Youth song done by Kim Gordon minus the weird guitars. There is a nice song, “Kumao,” sung by Shibayama-san, for the couples’ dog, who seems to have died (they had two dogs, Malo and Kumao, that they sang about in “Wonder” on the 1999 release “The True World,” and it seems that Malo died a few years ago). The rest of the album passes without any real standout tracks, although it does leave a pleasant, lingering feeling provided by the twopretty album-closers, the long title track “Yosuga” and the brief “Dewdrops from Heaven,” both sung by Masako-san. One complaint overall is that this is the first album by the group to NOT feature a beautiful photograph of one of the band members on the cover, rather there is a cryptic illustration that looks like “6d” or something, on a yellow background. But this is a quibble, I still really love Nagisa Ni te.

Sasquatch: “II” – Good stoner rock fun.  The first song “Let it in” starts off with some sort of Om-like bass drone, but then it comes in with a Filter-like guitar riff before the band just picks up like Soundgarden or some sort of Blue Cheer/Iron Butterfly combo with a lot of Clutch thrown in.  Name checking all of those players means that Sasquatch really do have a great big huge ‘ol sound (and probably rule as a live act), and most of the songs on II are kickers, even if they are shorter than the usual stoner rock fare and not quite as awe-inspiringly heavy as Acid King or Electric Wizard.  But, not being as dark as those bands, they are quite good fun in the Atomic Bitchwax sense of the term, if slightly less blistering.  I’m fascinated by the cover, which has a sort of retro Good/Bad/Ugly feel to it, and I was attracted to the generally good reviews the album has gotten.  I may be one of the few (only?) people in Singapore to have a copy of this slab of good times.  Highlight is “Seven Years to Saturn,” which is a dense pile of heavy goop with a stutteringly brilliant solo.  “Nikki” and “Catalina” are trippy hippy dippy stuff that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Mother Love Bone/Temple of the Dog/Pearl Jam album.  “What Have You Done” closes the album, at over seven minutes in length it is a sludgy, grungy rocker worthy of “Louder Than Love”-era Soundgarden.  Good stuff guys, keep up the good work.

Book Reviews:

I’m With The Band, by Pamela des Barres – The classic groupie book, written by the young lover (in the late “60s) of members of the Byrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, as well as actors like the pre-fame Don Johnson and Brandon de Wilde, who died in a car accident in 1972 at age 30 but is best known for playing the kid in Alan Ladd’s “Shane.” Hanging out with the Zappa family, she also became a member of the all-girl group the GTO’s (sic), which released one album even though none of the members could sing or play instruments. Miss Pamela falls in and out of love with wild abandon, hints at crazy orgies and salacious one night stands while also getting into hippy-dippy spirituality. She tempers her guilt about stealing other people’s men with a little girl innocence that somehow, confusingly, does come together as she seems sincere and quite a bit regretful about how “shit happens.” Perhaps the more interesting point of the book is about how she finally met the man she married (for 14 years, at least), Michael Des Barres, glam rocker from the never-quite-made-it band Silverheart, I’d like to check this band out but Amazon doesn’t sell their stuff unfortunately – and where else could I get it? Des Barres later went on to play the role of Murdoc in the MacGuyver series, and other bit roles, but his big claim to fame is probably playing Live Aid with Power Station after taking Robert Palmer’s place. Miss Pamela is now a journalist, and her more recent stuff reads a bit better – there’s a big difference between the added-on 2005 material and the early stuff from the journals. Also, the first 100 pages of the 320-page book are about her early life and can be skipped.



Exile on Main St: A Season in Hell With The Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield – A pretty well-written, but heavily reliant on other source material, description of the world of the Rolling Stones when they recorded Exile on Main Street, a sprawling double album. Lots of lyrical descriptions of the setting and the eccentricities of the Stones and their hangers-on as they decamped from the UK for tax reasons to go to the south of France to record what is now regarded as their finest work. For more on this, please see My Big Bad Exile On Main Street Page.

Hammer of the Gods, by Stephen Davis – A great book, covering the full career of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, depicting Jimmy’s rise as a godfather of the London music scene, his creation of a real supergroup, how he discovered Robert Plant and John Bonham, and all the amazing adventures with visionary manager Peter Green, who protected the band and helped them earn decent money. There’s tales of groupies and sex, of how Jimmy Page and Ron Wood swapped wives/girlfriends one fine day, and then also his slide into drug use. Robert Plant’s life is nicely fleshed out, mentioning the tragedy of his son’s death at age six and also the terrible car crash that almost robbed him of the use of his legs. The chaos of destroyed hotel rooms is there, exploding TVs and shark invasions, as well as tales of robberies, beatings and arrests. There is also a good post-breakup section that talks about Robert and Jimmy’s stormy relationship, as well as the alienation of John Paul Jones. Of course, the band did play together in 2007, which is described in the book, and is the latest word in Led Zeppelin, so far at least.

Let’s Spend the Night Together, by Pamela des Barres – While Miss Pamela has basically covered her colourful life in three other books, this one looks at other groupies, starting off with the fascinating and tough as nails Tura Satana, the burlesque dancer who achieved counter-culture immortality as the murderous Varla in “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” but who also taught a young Elvis Presley how to shake his hips. She meets, interviews and profiles 24 groupies, among them Gail Zappa (wife of Frank), Patty D’Arbanville (girlfriend of Eric Clapton and Cat Stevens and the inspiration for “My Lady D’Arbanville), as well as the infamous Cynthia Plaster Caster, who made an art form out of casting the “members” of rock musicians. There’s Dee Dee Keel, who was with nearly everybody who passed through L.A. and worked at the Whiskey A-Go-Go, who married the guitarist from Ratt (?!?!). Cassandra Peterson, who later became Elvira, was a groupie as well, and Lori Maddox was glorious jailbait for Jimmy Page and many others. She wrote about her fellow surviving GTO member, Miss Mercy, who nearly became a chapter in Miss Pamela’s rock ‘n’ roll burnout book Rock Bottom. There’s even a chapter about Pleather, a male groupie. All chapters are short-ish, but tell most of what we want to know, well-written with aplomb and vim. Good job, Miss Pamela, I feel like I’ve been able to glimpse into a legendary era that was very real for the protagonists – young, beautiful, and accomodating all.

DVD Review:

“God is in the House”, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Great concert video of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live in Lyon, France, in mid-2001. The set includes several songs from his 2001 release “No More Shall We Part,” which is probably my favourite Nick Cave album (I own them all). The band is tight, but not freaking out onstage, the crowd is into the band and shouting out requests like Deanna. One strange point is the tall guy in the front row who seems to know every lyric of every song and is singing along. Most of them are wearing suits, Blixa Bargeld even in a three-piece with vest! It must be hot onstage, and Nick does shed his tie and jacket for the encore of “The Curse of Millhaven.” Songs from “No More Shall We Part” include “Oh My Lord,” “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side,” “God Is In The HOuse,” “We Came ALong This Road,” and “Hallelujah.” Standout is the title track “God Is In The House,” which shows Nick at the piano, a close-up on the tattered left cuff of his jacket, his sweaty face, his emotional facial expressions, great. The DVD also comes with a video of the Bad Seeds in Abby Road Studios putting together the song. They seem to have every song composed and are working out the arrangements and the sounds, perfecting the tambourine sounds, asking the female singers to try a few different things, Blixa is battling his feedbacking guitar and patch cords and crazy headsets. Lots of kids in the studio, one of them goffing around with Blixa, the other with Nick (his son?) in his studio booth. No narration, just scenes. Nick Smoking. Warren toking. Warren wearing his AC/DC shirt, or his Michael Jackson jacket. There are also videos included: “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side,” with head shots of Nick on a black background, then multiplied by mirrors, showing sparks, fireworks, background images of war and savagery, shattered gunshots, KKK goon, splatterpunk. “Sixteen Feet of Pure White Snonw” shows a disco full of middle-aged Russians boogying, then doing a zombie dance. With Jarvis Cocker, Jason Donovan, and a bunch of other people. Looks like it was a lot of fun. “Love Letter,” Nick pictured on an old black and white TV on a short stand, then lots of shots of interior spaces, outdoor spaces, like things from the Atom Egoyan film “the Adjustor.” Nice.

By the way, here is a great song Nick Cave did for the bird film “Le Peuple Migrateur” that is not on any of his albums:

Zen’s 7th birthday

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Today was a great day – Zen’s seventh birthday! It’s the day he’s been looking forward to it for at least 11 months now. He woke up early, like around 7:15 or so. We gave him his presents right away – it was a picture book of warplanes, also a Bionicle creature. He also opened his present from uncle Ralph, auntie Nicole, Evan and Lauren in Japan, that was another (different) Bionicle creature, great. He got to work putting it together in the morning and I went off to work. It was only a half day, so I got my work done, jumped in a cab, and was back home at 12:30 or so. Ate lunch of Naoko’s awesome scones (see picture below), then went off to Zen’s 1:30 performance. We were five minutes late, and dismayed to see that it started on time and Zen had a song at the beginning! Later on he had his performance (see below) so we didn’t miss the main thing. The whole day of performances was quite bad – they are performing the same songs that kids do in nursery school, and not as well – Zen’s performance three years ago at Kismis Montessori Playhouse was top notch – so we were quite embarrassed for the teachers who announced that the kids have been working hard for three months. It looked more like three hours work. Zen’s class’ performance was pretty good, but some of the kids’ performance consisted of one child making an announcement, then the kids would wiggle through a lacklustre dance performance to some recording of a kids song. I wonder if the kids knew what the song’s lyrics were talking about?

Went home, did some tidying and birthday party prep, then Zen came home at 6:45, then the kids slowly came, then we ate and played and the adults chilled out and talked. The kids started going home at 9:00, and by 10:00 it was just us. Talked to Oma and Opa, then Zen wanted to build another Bionicle he’d received as a present from Kai, but later he felt too tired and just went to bed. Poor exhausted kid…

Naoko cooked some great and yummy buns for our lunch today!!! Scones-like, but with sun-dried tomatoes and olives in them. Awesome!!!

Zen had an awesome Cars birthday cake!

Here’s Peter cutting the cake:

Here’s some video from Zen’s Chinese drama day. He did quite well:

Zen’s birthday song:

Sing, sing a song…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Nice day today, I worked from home, wrote six articles, ate a nice lunch with Naoko, even slipped away to check out Zen’s class performance of “the big pumpkin,” which was kind of like “the big turnip,” but with a pumpkin instead.

I also took some nice video clips of Zen singing:

Chibi Maruko-chan theme song, in Chinese

Zen singing The Acorn Song (Donguri Koko-Koro) in Japanese

Zen singing Kamen Rider Kabuto in Japanese


Saturday, November 1st, 2008

The Boredoms are back, sort of, with a massive percussion project. Looks pretty cool. Check it out:

Introduction video – It’s a Long Way From Amemura

First interview with Eye (takes a while to load)