Archive for July 21st, 2009

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Worst Music Video Ever Of The Week: Hobo Humpin Slobo Babe

July 21, 2009

Wrong on every level.

The “band” is Whale, which had just this one hit, proving that the combination of Scandinavian rapping, bad Euro-whoosh techno, Shatnery “singing,” a guy in tighty whiteys and an incomprehensible title do not add up to a music classic.

Wait, I just checked Wikipedia, because it was the only online reference I could find in a hurry, and it appears Whale was HUGE. Either that, or someone from Whale wrote the Wiki page.

Note: Whale also “wrote” a song called Young Dumb and Full of Come. I know this because I had Whale’s CD, We Care. Don’t look at me like that. I was a newspaper music critic, and it was sent to me for review. I believe I said much the same thing I said here.

You wouldn’t believe the crap I used to have in my CD collection.

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Music Review: The Left Banke

July 21, 2009

If you know this band, you’re either (a) a fan of obscure 60s pop, (b) a hipster musician with funky glasses, (c) old or (d) all of the above. I am none of those; I am (e), A guy who could pick up nothing but an American AM oldies station on his crappy boombox in French River bush in the early 90s, and got a song stuck in his head despite never being able to hear it clearly.

The song was Pretty Ballerina, which sounds nothing like anything else I like, but hooked me with its bizarre melody and oddball orchestration. It would be a couple of years before I learned who performed the tune, thanks to a (d) all of the above I met at a used record store. Finding stuff was hard before the Internet.

Later, when I sought out more Left Banke music, I was happy to learn Pretty Ballerina wasn’t a one-off or a novelty. This is what these guys really sounded like. Led by a hairball prodigy named Michael Brown, a multi-instrumentalist who wrote the band’s ethereal, trippy music, The Left Banke put out one fantastic LP in 1967, which included Pretty Ballerina and another early hit single, Walk Away Renee. People liked it. I won’t say they loved it. But they liked it.

Why haven’t you heard of The Left Banke? Maybe you know a song or two, but really, Michael Brown and the boys were never household names. Part of the problem was a bizarre breakup, which saw Brown firing the band, who then toured as The Left Banke, while Brown also toured as The Left Banke, leading a gang of hired hands (Wikipedia claims one of those players was David St. Hubbins … er, Michael McKean, but I’d have to check that out). In other words, some serious soap opera bullshit for a band with only a couple of minor hits.

Later, the original lineup, including singer Steve Martin, reformed for a while, but the magic was lost, and the members of the band slipped into obscurity. Brown went on to play with The Beckies. Martin changed his name to Steve Martin Caro so you wouldn’t think he was a comedian, but nobody noticed.

I still play this music a lot. It works on sunny, warm days when you think you should be feeling bright and cheery, but you aren’t. And I know a lot of people swear vinyl offers more than CD, but let me tell you: when I finally got the compilation disc There’s Gonna Be A Storm, I heard so many layers in this music that it was like the first time with a new lover.

For a while, I used to think it was a shame that The Left Banke hadn’t scored huge the way other unusual bands of the time did, like The Doors or the Jefferson Airplane. But now I’m glad things worked out the way they did, for purely selfish reasons: I love that moment when I play their music for someone for the first time, and they take a visible trip through “what is this crap” to “hey, this is all right” to “holy shit, this is amazing!” Works every time.

Podcast link: The Bass Player tells all …

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Today’s Moron: The Satanist at the Beach

July 21, 2009

Dear Satanist,

I don’t have a problem with your unusual religious beliefs. Not that I condone the worship of evil and the drinking of blood or whatever it is you do, but if you want to dress up in robes and dance in the forest, that’s your business. Of course, I don’t really consider devil worship a religion; we all know it was invented in California in the 60s as an excuse to get naked and get funky. Like they really needed an excuse.

You were at the beach today when I was there with my daughter. She thought you had interesting tattoos. The pentagram on your back, with SATAN across your shoulder blades, was a nice touch. It nicely accented the word HATE on your left arm, in big black letters. I wasn’t sure what that had to do with ol’ Lucifer until the next group of beachgoers showed up.

I won’t presume to guess their ethnicity, but I would lean toward Sri Lankan. I could be wrong. They were pretty far away, and you were between us. I didn’t take note of them until you started packing up your gear in a huff, complaining about their presence on “your” beach. Your pale, bony girlfriend, or wife, or living sacrifice, or whatever, waited to finish her cigarette before she started helping you. Your kid whined a bit, but you yelled at him, so that was over quickly.

Maybe you didn’t know I could hear you. Wait, no, you had to have known, and you didn’t care. I just wanted to point out a couple of things:

  1. It’s wrong to use the N-word, but it’s wrong AND stupid to use it to refer to people who aren’t of African origin.
  2. I don’t think the devil is caucasian. Every time I see his picture, he’s pretty red.
  3. If you’re going to use your body to advertise your minority religious status, you might want to be more tolerant of other minorities. Hey, you’ve all had to deal with The Man at some point, right?

Anyway, I wasn’t sorry to see you leave. And part of me hopes that eventually, when you die, you get your wish, and you descend to hell, and the devil looks at you, smiles, and says “What up, dog?”

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Book Review: Scarecrow, Michael Connelly

July 21, 2009

I never expect to be disappointed by a Michael Connelly novel. And I never have been, not since the day I picked up The Black Echo, all those years ago. I’m no great fan of detective novels or police procedurals, but something about Connelly’s epic, mystic creation, Harry Bosch, resonated with me, and I’ve stuck with him ever since. Even his non-Bosch novels — the standalones Void Moon and Chasing the Dime, Blood Work, and his masterpiece, The Poet — kicked me in the jeans like no other mainstream crime writer. His latest creation, backseat defence lawyer Mickey Haller, has pounded through two fantastic books so far, with more to come.

Over the past few books, Connelly’s worlds are starting to converge. Terry McCaleb, the hero of Blood Work (played by Clint Eastwood in the film) pops up in a Bosch book. Jack McEvoy, the reporter star of The Poet, wanders in and out of other novels. Haller and Bosch have a connection. Even Cassie Black, the rascally heroine of Void Moon, rates a sneaky mention here and there. It’s always handled well, and never becomes a what-the-hell moment; the reader believes, easily, that Connelly is writing about a connected world of crime and criminals. It works. Connelly can do no wrong, and like I said, I never expect to be disappointed.

However.

I have just finished The Scarecrow, Connelly’s sequel to The Poet. Superstar crime reporter Jack McEvoy is back, this time serving out his last two weeks after being laid off by the L.A. Times in the midst of an economic slump that’s hurting newspapers. Where have I heard that story before? Oh yeah, it’s my life, except for the part about being a superstar crime reporter.

Connelly, a former crime reporter in Los Angeles, nails the crisis affecting newspapers in his first few pages. Brilliant stuff. Writing as McEvoy, he explains exactly why a 40-ish reporter who came of age in the 1980s is irrelevant in the 21st century, or at least why newspaper managers would think so. He said the same thing I’ve been saying in the six months since my employer told me a just-out-of-J-school kid in Toronto would be doing my job from now on for a quarter of the salary. I soaked Connelly’s words up, nodding, reading sections out loud to Elizabeth, saying “He gets it! He really gets it!”

But then it goes south. McEvoy, as he does, learns something about a seemingly straightforward murder case and before long is on the trail of an organized serial killer who uses the Internet as a weapon. After the first few random leaps of logic, I was still with him. Hey, I watch Star Trek. I can take random leaps of anything.

However.

  • McEvoy figures things out that he shouldn’t be able to see, with the available facts. This book is told largely in first person, so we know what Jack knows.
  • FBI agent Rachel Walling, another character threaded throughout Connelly’s books, does stupid thing after stupid thing, for no apparent reason.
  • The killer uses the Internet in ways taken right from that Sandra Bullock movie, The Net. You know, like in real life.
  • Too much happens too fast. The slow buildup and creeping menace of the Bosch novels — and The Poet, for that matter — is absent here; this was written like a John Grisham book: with the movie rights in mind from Page 1, if not already sold. There’s a stupid action sequence every 50 pages or so, and we are suddenly expected to believe that Jack McEvoy would be played by Bruce Willis circa Die Hard.
  • Nothing makes much sense, until the ending, which is rushed, silly and suffers from McEvoy’s final, and telegraphed from the second chapter, deduction.

So was I disappointed? Yes. But to be honest, I kind of expected it going in, come to think of it. Connelly is really cranking books out these days — two this year, in fact — and something had to suffer. But every great writer is allowed a misstep now and then. It’s just too bad it had to be the book about the reporter, the book that started off with such personal depth for me.

I didn’t like this one much, but I quite enjoyed The Brass Verdict (the book before this one). And I can always go back and re-read Lost Light, or Trunk Music, or even The Poet again if I want to. You could, too.

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