Musical Whenever – Angels and Beads

Yesterday morning Doc Neeson of the Angels finally lost his battle against brain cancer. I can’t really add anything to the outpouring of tributes except to say he was a true great of Australian music and post one of his best songs. No, not Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again (NO WAY GET… ahem), but the equally wonderful No Secrets from 1980. Get a load of that riff!

Thanks Doc!

On and off for many years now I’ve been hoping onto the net and trying to find any evidence that Perth’s own Rosemary Beads were anything but a figment of my RTR addled 90’s imagination. They got played all the time, and I even had the privilege of seeing two thirds of them live at a lunch break concert during my short lived university career (they were great, even if I seemed to be the only person there who was actually paying any attention), but they seemed to be completely invisible on the web. Today they popped back into my mind, so I decided to search again, and bang! Up popped their biggest hit, 1994’s beautiful Breath.

I also happened upon a site where you can download all three of their albums, which I shall be doing as soon as I have the opportunity.

Well, back to work…

Musical Tuesdays – Tom Cruise’s G-String

Three weeks without a Musical Tuesday. Dreadful!

So I happened to catch the start 0f the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx vehicle Collateral the other week and was extremely impressed with the version of Air on the G String that featured.

Air on the G String is a 19th century arrangement by August Wilhelmj of part of Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. By messing around with the key of the piece Wilhelmj was able to play it entirely on the G string of his violin, which is kind of unfortunate because if he’d made it fit on the A string it’d have a lot less potential for awful puns.

In any case it’s a wonderful piece and the Klazz Brothers somehow manage to turn it into jazz without damaging it in any way.

And while discussing the Air, one can’t go past Procul Haram’s A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967). The entire song draws from Bach, but the memorable organ line leans particularly heavily on the Air. The song was a massive hit and was voted joint best British pop single since 1952 in 1977 (along with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody).

So that’s it for this week. Enjoy!

Musical Tuesdays – Soundtracks

I bought a new TV.

This isn’t as much of a sybaritic indulgence as it may seem, as my old TV was on it’s last legs. And when I say ‘last legs’ I mean that if I wanted to watch something I had to subject myself to the following baroque procedure…

1: Turn on the TV.
2: Wait for around 12 minutes as the screen changes via almost imperceptible stages from black to bright white.
3: Enjoy 15 minutes of an image appearing on the screen for half a second, followed by a loud ‘crack!‘ sound, and the screen going to black for ten seconds before the cycle repeats.
4: Once the cracking has stopped and the picture stabilised, turn the TV off, because there’s no sound.
5: Turn the TV back on, which will hopefully restore sound.
6: Actually watch any TV.

While I’m not the most demanding guy when it comes to creature comforts, having to turn my TV on a good half hour before I want to watch something was getting kind of wearing, so I splashed out and bought a brand new unit. A 40 incher would you believe, which is mostly because I screwed up the maths and thought it was somewhat smaller than it actually turned out to be.

Such a large screen has taken a bit of getting used to – more than once I’ve caught it out of the corner of my eye of an evening and been momentarily shocked into thinking that Adam Hills was actually in my apartment. But now that it’s settled in and gathering a fine patina of dust, it’s all good.

As I was making such a large purchase I decided to spoil myself with an add on and bought the box set of Misfits as well. Misfits has been one of my favourite shows for ages, but I’d only ever seen the first two seasons. I knew of course that the subsequent seasons aren’t meant to be as good – in no small part due to the absence of Nathan – but decided to give them a go anyway. To date I’ve watched all of season three, and will shortly move on to season four.

So, what did I think?

Season three, in my considered opinion, was OK. It’s definitely not the same show. It suffers for the lack of Nathan and the new powers everyone ends up with are really rather naff. There’s nothing that can be described as a story arc across the season and the whole thing lurches around from episode to episode with a complete lack of point or drive.

There’s also lots and lots of death. In the first two seasons someone getting killed was a big deal – much of both seasons revolved around concealing the bodies of the characters’ inadvertent victims. But this season people are dropping like flies and no one really seems to care. I suspect it’s actually deliberate self-parody, but even if that’s the case it’s a big change from the serious drama of the first two.

That being said, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had. Newcomer Rudy is both a terrible, terrible human being and a riot. The elements of self parody, although jarring, are fun. I was also surprised at how moving I found the conclusion of the Simon/Alisha/Super-Hoodie story arc in the final ten minutes of the season – it was like a sudden return to the tone of the original show, and was really rather epic.

So, what has this to do with Musical Tuesdays? Well, soundtracks my friends! Soundtracks!

Here’s to my mind the best bit of music from Misfits

Not bad eh? When I first heard it I wondered if it was by Murray Gold, but it’s actually by Vince Pope.

On the subject of Murray Gold, here’s one of his best pieces, from the soundtrack of Doctor Who.

For my money the best bit is 1:40 to 2:37, but frankly the whole thing is pretty wonderful.

Well that’s it for this week. I have Titans to build and lightbulbs to change!

Musical Tuesdays: Paranoia

Music can make you feel happy. Music can make you feel sad. Sometimes it can make you feel both. And on occasion it can make you feel like the walls are closing in.

Many years ago I was at a friend’s place who had recently splashed out on an extremely powerful subwoofer for his stereo system. To demonstrate it he asked for all of us coming over that day to bring a CD or two (this being back in the days when the CDs was the music storage medium of choice). I remembered this instruction at the last minute when heading out the door, and grabbed the first random CD I found to hand.

Also attending the christening of the subwoofer was an individual who had earlier on indulged in some, shall we say, less than legal substances. Once the power of the subwoofer had been adequately demonstrated by almost shattering the loungeroom windows, we put on the CD I’d bought with me, at which point our slightly worse for wear friend quickly became quite twitchy, and begged us to turn it off, because it was “making him paranoid”.

The song in question?

Yes. Seriously.

I had a rather twitchy experience myself recently when I stumbled over Phillip Glass’s soundtrack to the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi. The first time I heard the main theme I had to turn it off, because it sounded like the most lifeless, frightening and downright evil music I’d ever heard. It resembled the droning of Satanic monks on their endless rounds through benighted, lightless catacombs, deep under the earth, where the twisted bodies of the uneasy dead have long mouldered into dust. Or the tramp of a million workers trudging into a factory where the corpses of unwanted children are systematically rendered into ash.

After a few re-listens I can now tolerate it (no damn song is going to beat me!), but I can’t say I like it much. That said, plenty of people do, some even calling it “soothing”. I wonder if that says more about them or about me?

Finally (and with nothing to do with paranoia) I stumbled over Chvrches’ cover of Bela Lugosi’s Dead today. I really don’t know what to make of it. Getting a bunch of synthpoppers to cover a Bauhaus track is like hiring Andre the Giant to play a Munchkin. There’s nothing wrong with Andre the Giant, but he’s so at odds with the role that the end result won’t be anything like it should. Judge for yourself…

Or perhaps you might prefer this version?

Over and Out.

Musical Monday – Final Thoughts of Latvia

I’ve always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards Nirvana.

My parents were in their 40s when they had my brother and I. They were children of the second world war rather than baby boomers and came from fairly conservative stock – as such they viewed the popular music of the latter half of the 20th century with disdain and did their best to inoculate this view into us. As a result my childhood was marked with a stubborn refusal to entertain the idea that that horrible “rock and roll” music that got played on the radio could be anything but degenerate trash, a view that persisted until I started to develop a personality of my own around the age of 11, a point at which I would reluctantly concede that Livin’ on a Prayer was quite catchy and maybe some other rock music might be OK in limited quantities.

In my teenaged years this prejudice evolved into a kind of carefully maintained contrarian elitism. If a new band came along I would be willing to give them a chance, but if the great mass of unwashed plebs (ie: everyone except myself and my close associates) were crazy about them they were clearly populist garbage not worth considering. Nirvana’s Nevermind arrived right in the middle of this phase and its sudden, massive popularity led to my declaring the band emblematic of the worst excesses of youth culture and an anathema to all right listening folk. I regarded Kurt Cobain as a talentless hack distracting attention away from more worthy musical acts such at the KLF and Dire Straits, and refused to even listen to his works.

By the time Kurt did himself in, the year after my high school graduation, my attitude had mellowed a bit, but not enough to have any sympathy for the hordes of my peers who fell into various states of hysterical grief. I thought it unfortunate in a general sense that he’d taken such a step, but really didn’t care either way. Kurt Cobain dead meant as little to me as Kurt Cobain alive, and I regarded the crowds of mourners with the kind of disdain we reserve today for Beliebers and Directioners.

Over the next decade my attitude towards the music of Nirvana softened while at the same time my attitude towards the ongoing apotheosis of the band hardened. Being told that Kurt Cobain was the voice of my generation, and Smells Like Teen Spirit was the anthem of my youth would drive me towards a state of apoplexy. I’d go out of my way to point out that there were plenty of us who couldn’t stand Nirvana and thought that Kurt was a dickhead – a dickhead who came out with a few decent tunes, sure, but still a dickhead rather than the tragic hero everyone was making him out to be. It was about this time that I discovered the Pixies, and I reframed my criticism of Cobain into classing him as a sad, Black Francis wannabe – someone who could ape some of the sound and style of Doolittle while missing the weirdness and bizarre sense of humour that gave the Pixies their edge.

In the years since I’ve mostly made my peace with Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. As you get older you realise that what other people think about you and your ‘generation’ matter less than what you think about yourself and your place in the march of history. If someone looks at my birthdate and decides I must have spent my teenage years wearing plaid flannel and wishing I lived in Seattle, well good luck to them. Nirvana had some great songs and Kurt Cobain was a gifted, but troubled soul who didn’t get the help he needed. I don’t even mind Smells Like Teen Spirit any more, although it remains without any special meaning or significance to me. Which I guess is why I can enjoy madness like this so much, when many other people my age would regard it as absolute blasphemy đŸ™‚

The more you listen to this insane mashup, the better it works, although even on my first listen there were bits that I found absolutely sublime – the descending chords during “oh no, I know a dirty word” for instance, and the “hello” chant after each verse. The smoky images of moshing teenagers somehow really seem to suit the epic 80’s buildup at the start and the Europe guitarists at 0:55 seem to have internalised the old axiom that when playing rock your guitar is every bit as much a weapon as an AK-47 or M16.

Well I’m all pooped out after all that reminiscing, and still need to include another music video, so – apropos of nothing – here’s Laimutis Purvinis.

Musical Wednesday – Moulds, Spores and Fungi

When I was a kid, Egon Spengler was my hero. He was a weird, socially awkward nerd, but he was a genius, he got to run around hunting ghosts with a nuclear accelerator strapped to his back, he got all the best lines in the movie and he ended up getting the girl (at least until Ghostbusters II). Ghostbusters is still my favourite movie. So the passing of Harold Ramis, has hit me a bit hard.

Given this sad occurance, what song could I feature this week but the iconic movie theme itself?

The song was written by Ray Parker Junior, who had a lot of trouble trying to find a rhyme for “ghostbusters”. In the end he gave up and wrote an advertising jingle. An advertising jingle that became a number one US hit in August 1984, holding the position for three weeks. It was also nominated for an Oscar, but was beaten by Stevie Wonder.

Of course it all wasn’t all fun and containment grids. Huey Lewis sued Columbia Pictures over the song’s quite-obvious-once-it’s-pointed-out similarity to I Want a New Drug, which was released in January of the same year…

Columbia settled out of court on condition that Huey keep his mouth shut. He slipped up in 2001 though and told VH1 about it, resulting in Ray Parker Junior suing him. And round it goes…

Then of course there’s this work of genius…

Anyway. So long Harold. We’ll miss you.

Farewell Egon

Musical Tuesdays – I Shall Play for You the Symphony of Space!

Imagine, if you will, a European, electro-disco act, the members of which conceal their identities behind sci-fi influenced headpieces.

Daft Punk right?

No! Ganymed!

Ganymed were an Austrian/German “Space Disco” act who had a hit in their home countries with this track – It Takes Me Higher – in 1978. Space Disco was a short lived genre that – predictably enough – combined sci-fi imagery, glam rock outfits and disco music, and was mostly popular in continental Europe – although it did also have some mild success in Latin America.

What’s chiefly interesting about It Takes Me Higher is that not only does the band’s stagecraft resemble Daft Punk, but you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the song had been slipped into the middle of Random Access Memories. In fact I’d be willing to lay down hard cash that you’d find some Ganymed albums among de Homem-Christo and Bangalter’s record collections.

Now, while Ganymed may prove that Space Disco still has something to say to us here in the futuristic 21st century, it’s also true that the genre produced an awful lot of toss. A prime example is Dee D. Jackson’s Automatic Lover, which sounds like something that might result if you got Kate Bush extremely drunk, played her every Tom Baker episode of Dr Who then handed her the lyrics of Robyn’s The Girl and the Robot.

It might be somewhat bearable if that damn robot would just shut the hell up, but as it stands it’s just awful.

Well that’s it for this week’s Musical Tuesday. I have to vacuum my loungeroom in preparation from a strata company mandated pest control visit tomorrow morning.  Apparently some people in the complex are having cockroach problems. I’ve never seen any, but, whatever!

Musical Tuesdays – The Inner Life of the Gay Computer, circa 1987

Well, it’s been a while, what with the Christmas Season and interstate holidays and server problems, but Musical Tuesdays is back!

To make up for the break, I’m presenting not two, not three, but four videos this week! Amazing! And the theme? The Pet Shop Boys.

The Pet Shop Boys formed in London in the early 1980s after a chance meeting in an electronics store. They developed a distinctive style of electropop and went on to become the most successful duo in British music history, selling over 50 million albums. In 1987 they also made a rather strange movie, which was really just an extended series of video clips, including the one I’m featuring for their version of Always on My Mind.

Some background – our heroes have just been warned via the radio of a murderous hitchiker who has already slaughtered three people who gave him lifts. They pull over to pick up a young woman, but end up with a very strange man instead…

With the massive success of the Pet Shop Boys it’s inevitable that they’d attract imitators. For example, the KLF who attempted to follow up the ridiculously massive success of their novelty hit Doctorin’ the Tardis with 1989’s Kylie Said to Jason.

It sank without a trace. Probably just as well.

Imitation of course is the close relative of parody, and we close today with two comparatively recent pastiches, one from New Zealand and one American.

So that’s it. Maybe next week I’ll have enough energy to actually write something interesting…

Oh, and credit to John Allison for the title.

Musical Tuesday – Christmas Eve

It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank…

Yes, it’s Christmas Eve, and while I am not currently incarcerated in a drunk tank it’s an essential part of my festive season to make sure I dust off my copy of the Pogues’ (featuring Kirsty MacColl) Fairytale of New York (1987) and give it a spin (virtually speaking – clicking on it in iTunes doesn’t have quite the same ring).

Exactly why an Irish ballad about drunks, failed relationships and broken dreams should feel so quintessentially Christmasy has always puzzled me. But there’s no denying that it does. And a lot of people seem to agree. It’s been voted the best Christmas song of all time on numerous occasions, and re-enters the charts every December, over 25 years since it’s release.

Its enduring popularity however is not without controversy – chiefly over it’s use of the word “faggot”. It has been claimed that in Ireland the word traditionally means someone who’s lazy, but this hasn’t stopped numerous attempts at censorship, including by BBC Radio 1 who blanked the word (along with ‘slut’) for several hours in 2007 before public outrage forced them to change their minds.

Our second selection this week is Twisted Sister with We’re Not Gonna Take It (1984). It’s particularly well known for it’s video clip featuring Mark Metcalf more or less reprising his role of Neidermeyer from the movie National Lampoon’s Animal House.

By now you’re no doubt saying “Denys, that’s a great song and all, but what in the name of all that’s sane and holy has it got to do with Christmas?”. Well, let’s try a little experiment shall we? Sing with me mi amigos! We’re not gonna take it! No! We ain’t gonna take it! Did you sing along? Be honest, you didn’t did you? C’mon it’s not going to work unless you do!

Let’s try again. We’re not gonna take it! No! We ain’t gonna take it! Well, I have no way to tell if you did or not, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. So, now sing it again, but with some different lyrics. Come all ye faithful! Joyful and triumphant! See!? See!? It’s exactly the same tune!!

This is not some great revelation. Dee Snider has never made any attempt to conceal the fact that he borrowed the tune. It’s just an interesting little musical factoid that many people have never noticed, despite it being hidden in plain sight.

So that’s it for this festive edition of Musical Tuesday. A merry culturally appropriate festive celebration to all, and to all a good applicable time of day!

Musical Tuesdays – Filth


Warning – This week’s Musical Tuesday contains language unsuitable for British Schoolchildren and other folk of delicate sensibilities. You have been advised!

So, this week I thought we’d explore some music in that is – to say the least – in very poor taste. In fact, it’s sheer filth. But both songs – as I hope to demonstrate – have their latent merits.

The first song is not actually the one I wanted to feature. My ideal choice was Dicktatorship by Australia’s own TISM, a song that explores the relationship between sex and politics by way of “cunt” vs “country” puns. It’s a catchy, bluesy track with perhaps the most memorable opening line in musical history – “The New South Wales Right have cocks like Mastodons“. But it doesn’t appear to be available anywhere online, so I was forced to sub in the same band’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the House of Representatives from 1993’s Australia the Lucky Cunt.

This doesn’t really say an awful lot, but is possibly the only song in history to include a refrain of “Gimme Bicameral Legislature!” My original choice had slightly more to say, but we have to work with what we have.

(On the subject of TISM, here’s them being interviewed by Shaun Micallef back in his Full Frontal days. Champagne comedy!)

My second selection is a track from fairly indescribable grindcore group Anal Cunt (yes, you read that correctly). In their many years of recording, AC (as they are – thankfully – usually know) perfected the art of taking 10 seconds of cacophonous screaming and drumkit abuse, titling it something cryptic, then shoving it onto a CD with forty or so similar tracks. I don’t know if you could honestly describe the results as music, but they’re certainly interesting.

Perhaps their definitive album is 1997’s I like it When You Die which packs 52 separate ‘songs’ into 41 minutes 44 seconds. The naming conventions of these tracks are what make the compilation notable, breaking down into three distinct types…

You Something: You Live in a Houseboat, You are a Food Critic, You Have Goals.

Something is Gay: Recycling is Gay, Rich Goyette Is Gay, Technology is Gay, Windchimes are Gay.

Completely Randomness: René Auberjonois, Hootie and the Blowfish, Hungry, Hungry, Hippos.

Despite this, every track sounds exactly the same – like a hallucinating cannibal falling down the stairs accompanied by the contents of a kitchen cupboard.

Anyway, the track I’m featuring is from 1999’s It Just Gets Worse, and is titled I Ate Your Horse. It’s unusual in that you can actually – sort of – understand the chorus.

So, that’s it for this week. I promise next week will be less disturbing (it would be hard for it to be more…).

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