Australia Day was on Tuesday. Unfortunately I was unable to participate in any barbeques or particularly "true blue" goings-on. I had especially hoped to catch the Dirty Three/Laughing Clowns show down the road, but had to pass due to circumstances beyond my control. I was, however, fortunate enough to see the Laughing Clowns at ATP last year, and if they sounded anywhere near as good on Tuesday as they did last January, I'm sure they were quite a worthwhile opening act for the Dirty Three.
The Laughing Clowns rose from the ashes of the Saints, though despite their creative excellence, they never gained anywhere near the acclaim the Saints did. Fortunately, the band has regrouped to show the world (or at least the continent) why they deserved more attention than what they received in their youth.
Mr Uddich-Schmuddich Goes to Town is the Laughing Clowns second full-length (sort of), released in 1982, in the heyday of post-punk. Unlike other post-punk bands from that era, the Laughing Clowns focused especially on expanding their songs while toying with melodic phrasing and interplay amongst different instruments. Their lineup continually expanded and contracted with trumpeters, pianists, bassists, and saxaphonists throughout their existence. Though the word "jazz" is often thrown around in regard to this band, the Laughing Clowns are hardly jazzy. The jazz aspect comes more from their experimental nature than the band's sound. They're art-rock, through and through, and a real testament to the calibur of bands coming out of ol' Gondwana back in the early 80's.
Laughing Clowns - Mr. Uddich-Smuddich Goes to Town
28 January 2010
21 January 2010
1) The Fall - The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall
2) Loudon Wainwright III - Album I
3) Blunt Mechanic - Blunt Mechanic EP
4) Spoon - Transference
5) Squeeze - BBC Rock Hour
I'm reading this book called "1968", basically all about the different revolutions that went on around the world during that year. I may be the last person on earth to know this, but it was talking about how the non-violent protests led by Martin Luther King were predicated upon the authoritative side acting violently. Basically, they were going to towns to protest, and where mayors and police chiefs were nice/bumbling/smart, they reacted professionally and the protest received no media coverage. So MLK started targeting towns with hot-headed authorities in order to gain media coverage, and, therefore, public outcry. I.e., non-violent protests require violence. Apparently Ghandi embraced this, despite how paradoxical it is.
This has nothing to do with weekly records. Just an interesting thing I learned this week.
19 January 2010
The good thing about seeing a band that hasn't released a new album in nearly 4 years is that they'll likely play some new stuff. Well, I guess that isn't always good. Nobody goes to see Dylan to hear those hot Modern Times tracks (or anything post 1980, for that matter). But regarding the Books, new songs are totally welcome.
Two new songs were centered around old hypnotherapy tapes, whose production values were bad even for the 80's, and whose content was completely non-existent. This, of course, was perfect fuel for the Books, enabling them to extract some intensely funny sound clips. Another new track was called "We Bought the Flood", a slow, touching song featuring footage from pre-1930's videos. But by far the best unreleased track was called "A Cold Freezin Night", featuring clips from Talkboy tapes found in thrift stores. If you don't know what a Talkboy is, look it up. It's well worth 30 seconds of your time. Of course, children with tape recorders is a guaranteed recipe for sound collage success.
Of the released songs they selected, "Classy Penguin" and "8 Frame" from their DVD Play All were excellent. The former contained footage of the duo from their youth, as well as, well, other people from their youth, all just generally being youthful. "Smells Like Content" was one of my favorites from Lost and Safe, and while the video does little to enhance the song, it's interesting to note that the lyrics come from Nick's older brother Mark recording them on a tape while alone in the woods.
But hands down the best song is "Take Time". While the message is simple and cliched (hey, Carpe Diem, man), the video is pure uplifting goodness, featuring old people playing games, guttural laughs from African women, and a religious zealot dancing...dancing...dancing...falling over.
Because the Books don't exactly tour much (they never even played a show until after they released their third album), I highly recommend going to see them whenever possible, even if you can't really get into their records or have never even bothered to listen to them. Because the videos are such an integral part of each song, it's wholly necessary to experience their songs with video in sync in order to get the full experience. That aside, the guys just seem like seriously the nicest dudes ever, zero pretension, and funny as shit.
17 January 2010
I've been a bit under the weather since returning home, all achy bones and respiratory infection. So I stayed in last night, spending my Saturday night watching a double feature: Food Inc. and Zombieland. The movies couldn't be more different (though I guess they share a common theme of eating mammals). And after watching the two movies back to back, I can understand exactly why people eat the way they do: mindless pleasure and instant gratification is much more enjoyable than measured restraint and rectitude.
Firstly, Food Inc. This documentary explains the inherent issues in mass producing food, especially within a government system full of cronyism and regulations that were established to protect individuals, but manipulated to serve big businesses, who are constantly handjobbing most departments of the US government that are involved in regulating the food industry.
Fortunately the movie isn't so sermonizing that it isolates viewers; unfortunately it also doesn't offer any solutions. The movie uses imagery and basic information that generally speaks for itself. Conditions in feed lots and slaughterhouses are squalid. We know this. Food is processed to be unnaturally preserved. We know this. Nutrition values in most foods are waning due to their manipulated DNA. We know this. Fast food, modified food, processed food- it's all cheaper than eating organic food. We know this.
The general "green" movement has gained a lot of attention since the 90's. While some of it is so extreme as to be marginalizing, the majority of it is a welcome attitude where people have historically been driven by price incentives. But unfortunately, price is always going to be the main incentive for most people, and so the issue here is not awareness; it's the other green movement- dollar bills. While the movie discusses this, it definitely offers little in the way of solutions. Buy organic! Shop at farmers' markets! Read labels! That's all well and good, but until enough people do this to drive economies of scale in favor of more healthy eating, the majority will be eating Rodeo Burgers and Bacon Splattered Chicken Chips.
The movie has good intentions, and while its solutions are not the most inventive, it's still worth watching. Some segments are startling (if you eat beef, it's pretty damn likely that you're ingesting ammonia). It's also enough to make one livid with the US government and major food producers. Unfortunately it just doesn't empower enough to make much of a difference.
As for Zombieland. It is, as I said, mindless entertainment. But where other 2009 big budget action comedies (The Hangover, namely) are completely contrived and asinine, Zombieland's humor is enough to pull it through. While it's somewhat predictable, it's still just generally fun to watch. I like Woody Harrelson and I like Jesse Eisenberg. I like zombie movies and I like funny. Where could I go wrong?
I will say, however, that Shaun of the Dead, of which this movie is obviously derived from, is a much better film. The humor is just simply fresher. But it's been a number of years since that came out, and in Zombieland's case, the big budget, constant action, and production values help to make up for its contrivance.
There is effectively no point to this movie. It's eye candy, through and through. But who cares? After the hard-hitting and frustrating message in Food, Inc., this was exactly the type of comic relief necessary to balance my viewing and make my little double-feature a very enjoyable evening.
16 January 2010
I've just returned from a solid 2 1/2 week visit to some of the more remote areas of New South Wales and Tasmania. What a country.
Much of the time was spent driving through the country (I drove some 2000 kms) with my family, listening to family-friendly music. One such album was Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run".
This album is a classic (of course) and one of Macca's finest. It's an album of masterful composition. Though short on lyrical depth, it's nearly perfect otherwise. Nobody expects Paul to be a poet anyway.
In 1999, a 2-disc release was issued. The second disc is basically Macca talking about the songwriting process and a bunch of 80's sound check versions of the more popular songs from the album (which are, in a word, terrible). But it's worth listening to the dialogue for his American and Cockney accents and the general ego involved. I guess it also helps if you're as obsessive about this album as I am.
Band on the Run Disc 2
And for fun, here's a video of "Jet" from 1976. Nothing better than mulletted Macca and about 7 hired guns to round out your live presence.