Friday, May 27, 2016

Reelin' In The Years: Political Accounting

(Forgive me, D&W)

Some numbers:

I've been around the sun 50 times.

For 20 of those trips, the person occupying the Oval Office has had one of two last names: Bush or Clinton.

That accounts for nearly half my life, and the bulk of my adult life.

Four years ago the MSM suggested the 2016 Presidential race would likely be between a Bush and a Clinton -- with a result that would up the total years of B-or-C occupancy to at least 24. A quarter century, in other words.

Neither party seemed to think anything was amiss about this possibility.

It surprises me not at all that Trump, bloviating his way into this scene, felt to many like a breath of fresh air.

It astounds me that Dems think Clinton is their best match against this guy. The wise (or desperate) among us urge voters to consider the "Three Cs" -- competence, character, conviction -- when backing a candidate. Democrats seem to think meagre "competence" will sway voters away from the candidate who possesses none of the above.

Alright, other, better commentary: Matt Taibi explains why young voters distrust Clinton. To that I would only add that if younger voters personally identify with anyone from the Clinton years in office, it's probably Monica Lewinsky.

Trump took a crack at making Scotland great again -- with controversial results.

Nuffadat -- happy thoughts, happy thoughts...

Friday, May 20, 2016

Return To The Rock Show

I awoke yesterday with a need for distraction. I checked concert listings, then consulted That On-Line Admissions Gateway Which Shall Not Be Named. There was still room for me, it seemed. I hit "Buy Tickets," and my evening was booked.

"This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife!"

Corrosion of Conformity, Clutch and Lamb of God at TD Echo Beach, Toronto - May 19, 2016

I missed all but the final three numbers of the Corrosion of Conformity set. Traffic into town was abysmal  which I had anticipated. But I had not accounted for the overabundance of Lakeshore Avenue construction which chokes traffic flow into a single lane, nor the masses of basketball fans flocking to "Jurassic Park" to collectively experience the gradual extinction of their playoff hopes.

And I'd forgotten what every out-of-town parent of school-age children learns through bitter experience  Ontario Place is the absolute worst Toronto destination to get to. It couldn't be more challenging if they'd built it under water.

After bending over a barrel to pay for my parking spot, I finally arrived at this new-to-me venue  admittedly with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. My first impression? Outdoor stage, fleets of porta-potties, all parked next to the tepid grandeur of industrial Lake Ontario  what's not to love? Bonus points  the foundation of sand is not just a convenience for attenders needing some place to extinguish their various smoking materials, it also aids fogies hampered with plantar fasciitis.

I hobbled close to the stage and picked up the final notes of CoC's set.

Leafs fan, joyously unburdened of playoff dreams.

I wish I'd caught more of these guys. They add a pleasant layer of Sabbath-sludge atop Molly Hatchet-style anthems and riffs. Check 'em out.

Next was the act I'd come to see: Clutch.

No need for a smoke machine out here.
Clutch kicks out goofy, unfussy rock 'n' roll. It's super-infectious tuneage, tarted up with the sort of hooks a midlife newcomer to guitar finds aspirational. I've been giving their last two albums  Earth Rocker and Psychic Warfare  a great deal of play.

Fallon's got a cowbell: must be 'DC Sound Attack!'
Finally we came to the headline act, Lamb of God. Considering the gear their roadies schlepped on-stage, I was mightily impressed they kicked off on time. I readied my phone for the opening number, and . . .
Wups. A little too close to the stage...
I retreated to a safer distance.

...still too close...
Finally . . .

Four numbers in I figured I'd caught the gist of their outrage, and decided to call it a night.

Linking the first two bands  both of whom have been labelled "stoner rock"  with LoG's listener-friendly thrash struck me as odd, though not egregious. Listening to between-set chatter, I got the impression the kids enjoyed the warm-up. The preponderance of T-shirts indicated, however, that they were not going to be sated until they got their fill of double-bass fills  strictly the purview of LoG this night.

They're happy; I'm happy  mostly. Truth be told, I went out hoping this concert might somehow magically repeat itself, just for me. Didn't happen, but I'm not complaining  I've got my garden-watering T-shirt.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

RIP, Darwyn Cooke

What shocking, rotten news.

If the comic was Cooke's, I gave it my attention. His style had its own ribald life force, pleasantly frisky, and imbued with a sense of sass and joy entirely Cooke's own.

Teen Titans, rockin' it.
I can't think of another working comics artist (still very much a boys' club) who loved women the way he did -- the way women love to be loved, I daresay.

Function, capitalizing on Form: Cooke's Catsuit.

Cooke's Wonder Woman was the only Wonder Woman I ever cared for (she towers over the boys, even Soop).

I didn't blog about everything of his I read -- but he certainly got me to the keyboard, with greater frequency than even Frank Miller. Speaking of whom, Cooke's recent tribute to Miller makes me wish they'd colluded.

I am going to miss him something fierce.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Randy Craig Wolfe Trust v. Led Zeppelin

Interesting times, no?

If you click on the above link, midway through the piece is a chart of the various infringement and potential infringement suits courted by Page and Plant, back in the day. I can certainly understand ageing bluesmen getting peevish and recruiting lawyers to correct the younger band's* cavalier attitude toward attribution and wholesale appropriation. But this is something else. We're talking about a chord progression.

It's curious to consider the ramifications should the Trust win the suit. What's to stop, say, Chuck Berry's people from suing AC/DC for 95% of the songs they've committed to record -- the ones reliant on the "Johnny B. Goode" half-boogie structure? Why not also demand recompense for Angus Young's gimped-up appropriation of Berry's famous duckwalk?

Or some other signature move? California, in action.
Musicians "steal" riffs and progressions from each other all the time. The best ones actually improve what they've "stolen." I've zero familiarity with Randy "California" Wolfe and his catalogue but now I'm giving it a close listen. He seems to have carved out his own ouevre (wiki, obit), which I'm keen to discover. But I'm also wondering -- what's there that he might have "borrowed"?

Or, more likely, their label's lawyers'.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Spring Cleaning Soundtrack, '16

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom
Is someone that you love and soon
You'll find you're dancing to the tune
                  - "Whistle While You Work"
My first exposure to NRBQ was on Stay Awake, Hal Willner's 1988 oddball salute to the musical legacy of Disney Studios. NRBQ covered "Whistle While You Work," retaining and capitalizing on its upbeat architecture, while throwing in a few stalls and dissonant whistles to please the listeners who bought the package for the smirks and sneers.*

I loved it -- love it still. It's bright, catchy, celebratory, delightful. At the time and the age I was at, it took very little enticement to dance around my shabby apartment, happily imagining the broom was the latest gal to turn my head.

And so it is that, nearly 30 years later, as I roll up my sleeves for spring cleaning, I find myself reaching for NRBQ's Brass Tacks (2014).

The qualities from '88 are all there -- the assured musicianship, the cheeriness, the humour, the (at times) lacerating intelligence. Just one example of the latter: even semi-aware listeners of "I'd Like To Know" -- a sweet, low-key Louvin Brothers style of serenade -- can't help but register a growing awareness that the one being serenaded is almost certainly reaching for her-or-his phone by the third verse, and Googling "How to obtain a restraining order."

But the album and the band are finally devoted, not to irony and knowing winks, but sheer delight -- an effect I can appreciate any time, but especially this particular spring.

Unexpected discovery of the Spring:

      Oz Noy, Who Gives A Funk.

Not sure how I stumbled across this, but if (like me) you've never heard of this guy, you've almost certainly heard him play with one of your favourite performers. The disc credits are a who's who -- and if you can't wait for Mr. Noy to click his ball-point and sign and send you a CD then page over to your preferred digital warehouse and commit a few sheckels for primo blues- and funk-based delight.

I finally watched the Coen Bros' Inside Llewyn Davis. I get that there are moviegoers who simply can't enjoy watching the bros play cat-and-mouse with yet another too-clever-by-half schlemiel -- but I am not one of those people. I will admit to much laughter, even as I understood I was watching the unraveling of a kid whose life had been previously untouched by grief.

Which one's the cat?
The Coens do a terrific job of communicating just how infectious a music scene can be -- O Brother (and its subsequent best-selling soundtrack) capitalized on this, and Llewyn does it also. It sure ain't glamorous -- those precious moments of bliss that occur in performance are heavily bracketed by the unnecessarily adolescent psycho-dramas the characters generate. And yet the bliss occurs.

Hey, it's May the Fourth! Here's a clip, starring two recent alumni from Star Wars, singing next to Justin Timberlake. Check out the non-verbal cues -- Llewyn's disbelief at the rubbish he's being paid to perform, followed by the realization he's just stepped in it with said rubbish's creator, the uncertainty that generates in them both -- and then the final surrendering to the song. Sure, it's a farcically bad novelty tune. But it's fun!

Don't forget about delight, y'all.

*Supplied by Ringo Starr and Tom Waits, respectively -- among others.