Thursday, September 27, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
Bob Mould – SILVER AGE
Bob Mould’s latest album SILVER AGE is probably the most straightforward rock record he’s made since his second solo album BLACK SHEETS OF RAIN which came out in 1990. There are no electronics or acoustic guitars here. There’s just Bob fronting a power trio the way the rock gods intended when they created Bob’s old band Husker Du, my second favourite American band of all time and a band I still have great memories of seeing when I was in college in the 80’s. The ten songs here are simple yet heavy and mine his usual lyrical territory of angst, loneliness, and missed connections in relationships. In many ways, this is a record tailor made for fans. Nothing weird or challenging here just Bob Mould at his loudest and poppiest best.
The Candle Thieves - BALLOONS
The Candle Thieves channel a lot of the usual new wave softer 60’s oriented sounds such as Squeeze, XTC not to mention even quieter acts such as The Lilac Time and Aztec Camera in their album (I believe their second) BALLOONS. Plenty of beautiful moments here such as Earthquakes, We Won’t Ever Be Rich (but We Could Be Happy), The Way the World Spins etc.. At times, they also remind me of Tears for Fears but are not so deliberately commercial. I’ve said this in prior reviews but I am always heartened when I discover a band still making this type of music.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Upon my completing the last two novels in F. Sionil Jose’s Rosales Saga THE PRETENDERS and MASS, I’m struck by their resemblance to Zola’s Rougon Macqart series. That was 20 books as opposed to Jose’s five book series but ,like Zola, Jose moves up and down the social order from the slums to the highest skyscrapers and biggest mansion. I discussed one of Jose’s earlier books MY BROTHER MY EXECUTIONER here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-brother-my-executioner-by-fsionil.html .
Actually, this was the second time I’d read THE PRETENDERS and I must say reading it back to back with MASS (perhaps the best novel by Jose I’ve read so far) gave me new appreciation of it.
The first time I read THE PRETENDERS I didn’t understand the motivation of Antonio Samson especially why he committed suicide (this is not a spoiler, it’s revealed early on and his story is told in flashback through his own writing) but reading it a second time followed by MASS which is the story of his illegitimate son gave me new insight.
Antonio is a weaker version of his uncle Luis who is murdered by his half-brother (Antonio’s father) at the end of MY BROTHER MY EXECUTIONER. Antonio has some high principles but they are quickly subsumed by his marriage to the selfish, amoral Carmen Villa and his new position working for his wealthy father in law.
Rather than being the cause of his suicide, his discovery of Carmen’s affair with a family friend is just a microcosm of the decadence and corruption and evil of the wealthy. In addition he feels guilty as he unknowingly sired a son with the cousin he had a love affair with. He had left her to study in the US for a PhD where he met Carmen.
His illegitimate son Pepe is the protagonist of MASS and he is the most fully formed of all the characters I’ve encountered so far in Jose’s books. In him is the poverty, the overpopulation, the dog eat dog life of the Philippines. Touched on are class struggles, the fact that during the Cold War and even now America supports the 1% in third world countries- The wealthy that have all the power and keep everybody in poverty. Any attempt to fix this was labelled communism during the Cold War.
I think Jose does an excellent job of creating female characters who struggle even harder than men in a society such as The Philippines. In particular, in MASS, the character of Lily, who had a baby with an American who promptly left and went back to the US, as she tries to support herself and ends up sinking into prostitution is a very powerful realistic creation.
To know where you come from, the history and the present and how one influences the other as well as injustices and challenges your people and your nation deal with is the challenge for the writer. F. Sionil Jose juggles these literary ingredients about as well as any writer I’ve ever read.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
The Midge Ure version of Ultravox was the perfect combination of New Romantic synthpop
and guitar driven commercially realized post punk. I was never a fan of the John Foxx 70s version of Ultravox which to my ears was a poor second hand copy of Roxy Music but Ure’s years with the band were a perfect representation of the celebratory beauty of 80’s music with a strong rocking foundation. You could sit and listen to it, you could dance around the room while listening to it, you could play air guitar to it.
All four of the original Midge Ure Ultravox releases are superb – VIENNA, RAGE IN EDEN, QUARTET, LAMENT. If I had to pick a favourite it would be LAMENT but they are all great records. The Ure version also made another album as a three piece U VOX but at that point they did not sound so interested in what they were doing.
My reaction to band reunion is always great trepidation. Most of the time band reunions don’t work. Those that do work are usually of bands that haven’t been broken up for very long and/or when one or two band members are in charge as opposed to a group where everyone contributes equally. My further thoughts on band reunions are here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2009/04/few-thoughts-on-band-reunions.html
The Midge Ure Ultravox (and there was a version that made a few records in the 90’s with a female singer under the name U Vox) hadn’t played together since the 80’s when they got together a couple of years ago for some concerts.
BRILLIANT the Ure Ultravox's first album of new material since 1986 is awesome. It’s a great listen because it basically sounds like the next album they would have made had they stayed together. It’s a no apologies complete return to the sound that made them stars in the 80’s. It’s a glorious beautiful albeit slightly mellower record (there are a lot more slow songs here).
They sound like they are having a ball. What a great record full of optimism, full of nostalgia for a time that really was great and diverse and magical for music. I hear the lyrics for “Remembering” If i could gather all the moments so precious to stay with me
what would i be, what would i see? And I reflect they have brought back all that was great about their music- No question about it!
what would i be, what would i see? And I reflect they have brought back all that was great about their music- No question about it!
Thursday, September 6, 2012
It has become an offhand response to any discussions about Mahatma Gandhi and the non-violent struggle for independence in colonial India to say “well, it wouldn’t have worked against the Nazis” which implies that a democratic society albeit one that has colonies is on a higher moral level than a fascist, undemocratic one as it has a moral conscience that can be jerked into action by film or photos of unarmed unresponsive protestors being beat down by truncheon wielding thugs.
I would disagree not so much with the statement but with the false premise that is the foundation of the statement.
First off, The British in India and their other colonies were thugs maybe not as bad as the Dutch in Indonesia or the French in Africa or Indochina but they were pretty bad. Here’s a list of some British massacres during colonial times http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100402031023AAzFofX
Second, it wasn’t morality that forced the British to leave India. It was a combination of being bankrupt after World War II and skillful use of the media by Gandhi and the non-violence movement. The civil rights movement would learn a very important lesson from that. “The whole world is watching”
Third, there has been a move on the last few decades to slander Gandhi as much as possible. It seems to be mostly people of a right wing bent doing this – good god fearing “Christians” who love to attack anyone who doesn’t fit in with their autocratic sexually repressed materialistic dogma. According to these folks, Gandhi was any number of things (take your pick) – Pervert, anti-semite, bisexual, hypocrite, liar, all around weirdo etc. The same folks also hate Martin Luther King by the way.
You can’t make an “if” statement if the premise is incorrect. Britain did not give up India due to it being a more moral society as I’ve already discussed. Arguing that Britain is anymore “moral” in the colonialist sense vs. Nazi Germany. Yes, the Nazis killed millions of people but how many people died globally over time as a result of the displacement of colonialism? The forced famines etc? Using non-violence against a state like Nazi Germany may seem ridiculous but you’ll have to come up with a better way to critique it than praising British colonialism and/or slandering Gandhi.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Now that the last season of BREAKING BAD is half over with the remaining eight episodes to come next year, it is interesting to review what I wrote prior to the start of the season
My thoughts on the remaining 8 as well as last episode of this year….
1.) I’ve read some criticism of the way in which Hank discovers, in the last few seconds of the last episode, that Walt is the one he’s been chasing all along. A lot of people feel Walt would never be so careless as to leave Gail’s book in the bathroom where it could be discovered. I would answer that by saying that the whole point of the series is the transformation of Walter White and part of that is his negative side (his arrogance, his pride, his bitterness) taking over. It is exactly because Walt is now in charge that he would make a small error like this feeling powerful and immune from any consequences. It’s also worth pointing out that Hank used the bedroom bathroom rather than the hall bathroom due to convenience. Some degree of privacy would be expected in that case. In any event, I always felt it would be a small thing that would trip up Walter rather than big thing.
2.) Most of the last eight episodes were fairly anti-climatic except for Mike’s death and the last episode with its big reveal. One of the greatest things about Breaking Bad is how they explore the full ramifications of an event like the death of Gus Fring at the end of the fourth season or the plane crash at the end of the second. Rather than show the event and then move on as if it never happened only mentioning it on occasion, Breaking Bad shows its full effect on its motley cast of characters taking its time to accomplish this. This season was about the effects of Gus’s death and the explosion of Walt’s ego through setting up his own business and getting into “the empire business”.
3.) I am still hoping for some explanation of Walt’s early life and what happened with Elliott and Gretchen. We know Walt like we know our fingertips but we know based on action not on his personal history. That would nicely tie up some of our loose ends in Walt knowledge.
4.) I thought Skyler was doomed but they went in a different direction and had Walt quit the meth business in the season ender. Whether a reoccurrence of cancer (we see Walt have an exam and stare meaningfully at the dispenser he punched in when he was told he was in remission) caused this or he’d accomplished all he’d wanted – the rise to the top is more of a thrill than being at the top., it will be interesting to see how his new partners take this news.
5.) The Ricin hidden behind an outlet will figure prominently in the last eight episodes. Perhaps Holly will eat some (lot of foreshadowing on that already) or he will poison Hank and in doing so perhaps poison Marie by mistake
6.) The flash forward at the beginning of this season – who’s the machine gun for? Walt is with hair, an assumed identity, and an unhealthy cough looking very unhappy just nine months from when these episodes end. It’s clear he’s going to have to battle someone. My money is on his sinister new partner Todd and the other criminals he is doing business with.
7. Hank’s supervisor was fired quickly due to his friendship with Gus Fring. What do you think the DEA would do to Hank if they found out about Walt? Look for Hank to move slowly and cautiously and perhaps try to find another way to deal with his brother in law.
8. Jesse is out of the business and seems to be a paranoid shut-in relapsing into drug abuse. Something will bring Walt and Jesse back together again I imagine and perhaps split them up with Jesse finally finding out all the bad things Walt has done (His girlfriend’s death, the poisoning of the child, Mike’s murder).
9. Walt never just does something. There is always a plan or some meaning to it. We still have much to learn about Walt and specifically to what depths he can lower himself. We’ve already seen much darkness but I fear much more is to come including the deaths of many of the main characters.
10. I’ve mused in prior postings about a possible fate for Walt. One I’ve read as a possibility in a few forums recently based on Walt’s overwhelming desire to be recognized and his ego is for Walt to die totally anonymous without the general public knowing he was Heisenberg. I’ll take it a step further – What if he lived on in prison, or just back to the humdrum life had before his cancer diagnosis? How ignominious would that be?! Although I do think his death at the end of the series is a foregone conclusion.
Such a long wait until next summer….
Monday, September 3, 2012
Been exploring the Bandcamp website recently....I agree It’s a good way for artists to communicate with and most importantly sell their merchandise directly to their fans.
Here’s a few bands I’ve discovered recently on Bandcamp....
A Leaf is from Washington and they have a big epic sound like the 60’s at their most excessive and psychedelic but also bring to mind glam, power pop, and Britpop. Complex, intriguing, yet hummable songs. The debut is self-titled.
The Housekeeping Society is British and bring to mind both Squeeze and XTC as well as The Beautiful South, The Divine Comedy and The Lilac Time. The last group especially as the vocals are very Stephen Duffy and the instrumentation acoustic. This is beautiful music. Highly recommended. Their most recent release is POSTCARDS
Slink is from San Diego and they have a power pop sound reminiscent of Big Star and Badfinger as well as Cheap Trick and The Smithereens . These guys have a studied tried and true sound that is perfect because it is backed up by just great tunes, sunny summer day songs. Their most recent release is DESERT GEM.
The Corner Laughers play ditzy fun music like The B-52’s with ukulele’s or Altered Images (remember them?) with a folkie bent. The female vocals remind me very much of Echobelly’s Sonya Mandan. A good time record. Their most recent release is POPPY SEEDS
The thing that all four of these releases have in common is that they mine influences and sounds – the 60’s, power pop, new wave, that are not so recognized anymore in our disposable pop world. Bandcamp it appears is a refuge for true music fans.