Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Squeal, Grunt, Burp, Fuck

Mike Patton - Adult Themes For Voice

Many years back Mike Patton released a couple of albums for John Zorn's experimental/avant-garde Tzadik* label, one of which is Adult Themes For Voice. Believe it or not, they're completely off the deep end even compared to his normal output (yes, it even makes Fantomas seem accessible). Now you can't make an avant-garde album without a pretentious gimmick, and this album is no exception. The entire forty-five minutes was recorded using only Patton's voice and a microphone in hotel rooms all over the world as he toured with Faith No More.

By using all sorts of weird effects and mixing tricks Patton gets a lot of mileage out of a very limited set of instruments (not that Patton's vocal range is at all limited, but it's still only one instrument). Most of the time the result is a bewildering ear-splitting noise, fully indulging in the most confrontational, inaccessible tendencies of the avant-garde (not an obstacle to my enjoyment of the music of course), at other times he creates more conventional kinds of songs, which stand out as being cleverer than the others because of their unconventional composition methods. The most notable of these is the last track Orgy in Reverb (10 Kilometers of Lust), which is an ethereal ambient soundscape.

Now I'm normally a bit skeptical of avant-garde weirdness for it's own sake but I quite like this album. Sure it's not what I'd put on at a party, or even an album I'd listen to unless I'm in the mood for something peculiar, but it's very cleverly composed and a lot easier to listen to than Patton's other release for Tzadik, Pranzo Oltranzista (even I get a little impatient listening to three minutes of someone doing the dishes).

*Hey, wikipedia tells me that Tzadik means 'righteous one' in Hebrew. Wikipedia is cool.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

But You Don't Shave Your Legs Every Day!

Seinfeld Season 4

The fourth season of Seinfeld is when the show suddenly became a huge success. Coincidentally, it was also the one when they moved away from the 'show about nothing' conceit and began to get a little more surreal. In the first episode Kramer is mistaken by the police for a serial killer, and the season as a whole has an overarcing plot thread where Jerry and George develop a sitcom show, neither of which are situations in which people would ordinarily find themselves in their everyday lives.

Fortunately the shift to a more mainstream style only enhanced the shows quality, proving that while being the show about nothing was a clever idea, the reason it was so good was simply brilliant writing. Some of the best episodes of the series run come from this season, most memorably 'The Contest', where the four main characters have a bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating. Not only is it hysterically funny, it was also written slyly enough so that the word 'masturbation' is never mentioned once, nor any other term that could trip the censors bad-o-meter, not too easy given the strict rules prime time TV must obey in the USA.

Other popular episodes include 'The Outing', where everyone believes George and Jerry are gay (“not that there's anything wrong with that!”), and 'The Bubble Boy', which you'll remember if you've ever seen it (“I'm sorry, the correct answer was actually 'The Moops'.”). My personal favorite has to be 'The Opera', which stars the character of Crazy Joe Davola, who likes dressing up as a clown and is obsessed with Elaine (“Are you scared of clowns Kramer?”).

DVD extras are little scarce on this collection, especially when compared with the first volume, but I guess there probably just wasn't that much interesting stuff to say that hadn't already been said on the previous discs other than 'Yay we won an Emmy!'

Volume 1
Volume 2

Sunday, August 28, 2005

All I Want to Do is Go Out and Kill

Throbbing Gristle – Live Vol 2

If you consider yourself even a casual fan of Industrial music, you have to own at least one album by the original Industrial band, Throbbing Gristle. I used to own their 'best of' (almost a joke for a band as decidedly non-commercial as them) but it was stolen in the great CD heist of aught-two. Their CDs aren't exactly the kind of thing you see lying around in the music store in the mall, so when I saw one of their albums in a random market stall in Sydney I snapped it up.

Hardcore noise isn't really my thing anymore, but while such music makes up the heart of Throbbing Gristle's style, they often go on weird tangents, from jazz to their own twisted idea of pop. As the title implies this is a collection of live tracks, taken from three different shows. The first emphasises their full on confrontational noisy side, with their customised synths in total atonal squawk mode and Genesis P. Orridge indulging in his distinctive 'yell random phrases in a strange voice' vocal stylings. The second set consists of ambient, gentler songs, including the ever popular Hamburger Lady. Even in this mode their music is still the farthest thing from easy listening, but it is a little less teeth-clenchingly confrontational. The last set moves back to the more aggressive style, with the last track, D.O.A, being one of their more upbeat, vaguely poppy numbers.

I'd thought that my tastes had moved away from this sort of thing but I found that I liked this album a lot more than I expected to. While I definitely prefer the ambient songs to the aggressive ones, and the seven minute average track length does cause a few songs to wear out their welcome (especially given the repetitive nature of Throbbing Gristle's live performances), I've found the album as a whole quite listenable. Maybe the reason I stopped listening to this stuff is that I've been subjected to too many lame imitators and have forgotten how good the best industrial noise bands were.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Happy Birthday to Me

The Wildebeest Asylum celebrated its first birthday last night. It's customary to mark this sort of occasion by highlighting some of your favorite posts over the last year, but frankly I can't be fucked reading through the whole lot of them to pick out a few good ones. Go read them yourself.

Here are a few pictures from the Wildebeest Asylum staff anniversary party:

Thursday, August 25, 2005


by Neil Gaiman

So I just finished rereading Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic series last week. With the benefit of knowing the story (and Hy Bender's Sandman Companion book), I picked up on a lot of things that I missed the first time around. Gaiman's even cleverer than I thought, the way he foreshadows and sets up a lot of things before hand. It's even more clever considering he was writing it in monthly installments.

The concept behind the Sandman is not too far afield from that of your standard superhero comics. The title character is a fantastic being with strange powers who travels to exotic locations and battles strange creatures. To be precise, he is an immortal being who has existed almost since the beginning of time, and is responsible for the dreams (and stories and imaginations) of all the mortal creatures of the universe. But Gaiman handles his story completely differently to the usual comic book story. Firstly, the Sandman is almost invincible, he and his family are known as the Endless, and with good reason. While they can be imprisoned, driven mad or blackmailed, destroying one of them is almost unheard of. Because of this the Sandman is almost never in any actual danger, leading to a very non-action oriented story.

Even when the story focuses on characters other than the Sandman, the story remains dialogue driven and in everyway goes against the cliché of comics being written for teenage boys and geeks. One of the reasons this series is so well respected is because it catered to a more mature audience than most of its fellow comic series'. Despite the fantasy trappings, Sandman is at it's heart about a guy who takes his work too seriously and can't sort out his love life, a story that wouldn't be out of place in any other medium or genre.

Having said that Gaiman uses the fantasy genre brilliantly, creating many original and fascinating characters. The most memorable of these are the Endless, each of which (with some exceptions) has a personality completely the opposite of what you'd expect of someone with their function. Most obviously there's the title character, Dream, who is stern, unfriendly and inflexible. His brother Destruction is jovial and good-natured, his sister Despair is surprisingly gentle and soft-hearted, despite her hideous appearance, and the androgynous Desire is in contrast cold-hearted and cruel. And of course there's Death, the sensible, perky goth chick. On the other hand Delirium and Destiny are pretty much exactly how you'd expect, although at various times they do hint at paradoxes within their function. Destiny says “The choice is yours”, offering free will. Delirium at times shows she has a better insight on reality that many of the saner characters.

The artwork is great from beginning to end, although it varies so much in style over the course of the series run that it would be impossible to talk about it in detail in the limited space I have.

Pretty much anything Gaiman writes is gold, but Sandman is his crowning achievement. Well worth a periodic reread.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Go Trent Go!

Nine Inch Nails Live

So, the concert. Again, I don't have any photos, this time because they didn't want us taking cameras in there. In retrospect I probably could have snuck in with one quite easily, but never mind. Instead I shall endeavour to describe the gig in such luscious detail so as to paint an image in your minds eye to far surpass any mere photography.

Picture, if you will, a mighty throng of drunken Australians, all clad in black, and all pushing and shoving in an attempt to reach the front of a raised platform. Upon this platform a small pack of roadies work industriously, hurrying back and forth with effects pedals and bottles of water. A hot asian girl in a short skirt and with a number of facial piercings crosses your path. Being somewhat drunk yourself, you give her the glad eye but it is met with a steely 'fuck off' glare. But that's goth chicks for you.

Speaking of which, I was rather pleased to note how much more girls dress when they go out over there. I've noticed that wherever I travel people in general put more and more effort into their appearance in proportion to the size of the city, and I was quite delighted to see the display at the concert. I could try and paint you an evocative picture in words of what I was looking at, but I'd probably have to go and have a cold shower afterwards and never get round to writing about the actual performance. It will suffice to say that it was corsets, little black hotpants and thigh high boots for as far as the eye could see. (And people wonder why I want to leave Christchurch.)

My favorite outfits though were the half dozen or so people wearing shirts saying “Go Trent Go!” accompanied by a childish drawing of a black clad stick figure. Gave me a good giggle it did.

The opening band were pretty terrible. I thought their songs sounded interesting, but they made a bit of a mess of their first few songs. I know it must be very hard engaging the audience when you're opening for a big popular band like NIN, but having to stop ten seconds into your first song to get in tune with one another is more than a little unprofessional. The guy behind me helpfully yelled out, “Go back to the garage!”. I went back to the bar and waited for them to finish.

So after the obligatory half hour wait, the lights went out and we heard the menacing chords of Pinion being played. Naturally, every one went nuts, and started pushing like mad towards the front. Expecting a heavy, punishing song to open, I was surprised when Trent walked onstage alone (looking quite old with his short, sensible rugby players haircut) and sat down at the piano to play The Frail, while bathed in soft blue lights. He played it pretty much the same as on And All That Could Have Been, so it was no surprise when the rest of the band joined him onstage to go straight into...

The Wretched: I though it was a bit of a slow song to start with, but the audience didn't mind, with the moshpit pumping and everyone singing along, “It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to!”.

Wish: Always a solid crowd pleaser, and guaranteed to send everyone nuts.

Sin: There was no theremin solo on the intro like there is on the live album, which disappointed me a little. Other than that, it sounded pretty much exactly the same. It's all good, but I wonder if NIN aren't maybe a little too tight as a live band for their own good.

The Line Begins To Blur: I was surprised to hear this one, since it didn't strike me as a song that would go over well live, but I was very pleased, because it's one of my favorites off the new album. It did work well live too, although a lot of people didn't seem to know it, and the more aggressive punters didn't seem to appreciate the trippy, quirky chorus.

March Of The Pigs: Another heavy stomper, and another guaranteed crowd pleaser. It went down well, with Trent drawing out the peaceful piano breaks, and the extended outro sending the moshpit into a frenzy as one should hope.

Something I Can Never Have: Straight from one of their heaviest songs into a very very mellow song. Again I was surprised at how well this one worked live, for such a gentle song. Trent seemed to put a lot of passion into it.

The Hand That Feeds: As the swampy beat introduced the song, there was a gradually building cheer as people clicked to the songs identity. It got the whole moshpit jumping up and down, no surprise for a catchy upbeat single.

With Teeth: Not my favorite song off the new album, but I was looking forward to seeing it live, mainly for the chance to scream out “AWITHA TEETHA!”, which I did with much enthusiasm. One of the highlights of the night for me was when Trent pulled out a tambourine to close out the first section of the song, somehow I don't think you'd have ever seen him do that on the Downward Spiral or Fragility tours. He threw it into the audience when he was done with it too, it would have been awesome if I had caught it. The gentle middle section with the piano was really good too, with Trent singing “I cannot go through this again.” over and over, and I especially liked the way Aaron played the accompanying solo on the guitar.

Terrible Lie: Another catchy old favorite, but it didn't seem to engage the crowd very much, at least where I was standing. I decided to move closer to the middle, where the 'real fans' would hopefully be.

Closer: My decision to move was given greater impetus when this song started and the couple in front of me started making out. People making out in the moshpit are one of my pet peeves. Most annoying guys in the moshpit are easily dealt with by a timely push, elbow or shoulder barge. You can't do that when there's a girl in the way though, it wouldn't be gentlemanly. As for the song... I don't remember it that well, I was trying to get away from that couple, who seemed to be following me. I do remember how they mixed a riff from Down In It into the outro, which was pretty cool. I still think they should add Down In It to their setlist.

Home: Another good song off the new album that no-one knew. By this time I was starting to get a little annoyed with the lame audience.

The Big Come Down: One of my favorite songs off The Fragile. Of course, no one knew this one either, but it was great to hear it nonetheless. I really liked Trent's improvised non-vocals at the end. He ordinarily goes a little overboard on the 'Woah's and 'Hey's, so it was good to hear him doing some quirky and unusual improvisations.

Burn: An old b-side which almost no one seemed to know, but a track I was really looking forward to hearing. Trent seemed to be expecting the crowd to complete the 'call and answer' part of the chorus, but there didn't seem to be many others who caught on. Come on, all you have to do is yell "Burn" periodically, it's not that hard, and it's a damn cool song. I did my best on my own.

Reptile: This one didn't really work for me, but it seemed to be popular with the audience, I guess because it's off The Downward Spiral. I liked the dying-computer style light show in the background though, that was cool.

You Know What You Are: One of the rockingist tracks off the new album, it's really almost mandatory for them to play this one at every show. For a song that most of the audience wouldn't have known, it seemed to go down fairly well.

Suck: Another cool song that seemed to meet an unappreciative audience.

Gave Up: Like Wish, this is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and they performed it pretty well. By the time it was finished I was feeling pretty wasted so it was just as well the next song was...

Hurt: Everyone knows this song. It must be weird for Trent, having this emotional, personal song be such a sing-a-long crowd pleaser. The guy next to me yelled out “We love you Trent!”, I wanted to do the same, but I bet he doesn't like people saying things like that during this song.

Dead Souls: A very cool random b-side (a cover of a Joy Division song from The Crow soundtrack) that I didn't expect to hear. By this time I'd made my way to the centre of the moshpit so I was among more appreciative people for this one.

Starfuckers, Inc.: When that deep drum and brass groove kicked in I was treated to the amusing but cool spectacle of a sweaty moshpit full of angry goths hitting the floor and shaking their booties. There was quite a funny moment in the quiet breakdown, when everyone started clapping along. Trent starts singing, then stops and says “If you have to fucking clap, at least can you clap in time? You've put me off and now I've lost my place in the song.” After abusing us a little more they skipped the whole breakdown and went straight into the outro. He's right though, most of the time when people clap (or mosh) in time to the music at concerts they're completely out of time. Call me anal but it annoys me.

Head Like A Hole: The last song of the night, and it went off like you wouldn't believe. I liked how Trent sang the vocal samples from the album (Hoo. Hoo, hoo) at the start.

Random notes:
  • Aaron North (the crazy guitar player) was pretty passive for most of the show, but he did leap around a lot while he was soloing, which I found quite impressive.
  • No Getting Smaller, Beside You In Time, Sunspots or The Day the World Went Away. Which are the songs I really wanted to hear. They played Beside You In Time the next night. Damn it, I should have gone!
  • Trent says they hope to be back early next year (April/May).
It was a good show, but it was let down a bit by a somewhat ambivalent audience. I got the impression that NIN are a big name with a good reputation so they attract a lot of people (especially teenagers) who don't actually know the songs. That's all well and good, but I'd prefer it if they left the front of the moshpit to people who are actually going to go hard for the whole concert.

Another thing is that even though Trent is a great song writer, he writes for the album and worries about arranging it live later, and then makes the mistake of sticking too closely to how the album sounds. What ends up happening is that the live show doesn't quite live up to the very high standard of the album.

Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy myself or that it wasn't worth the trip, but if they come back next year I probably won't be going further afield than Auckland to see them.

My review of With Teeth

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Not-So-Bad City

So I arrived back in Christchurch late last night from a busy long, long weekend in Sydney. The purpose of the visit was to see the Nine Inch Nails concert, but there was a definite 'God I've got to get away from work and Christchurch for a little while' motivation behind the trip too.

The flight over was relatively painless. I was pleased because the movie they showed was 'The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy', although I only got to see part of since I was sitting behind the guy with the hugest head in Australasia. Of course, like most peasant class flights the seats were cramped and uncomfortable. In the future I think I'll make an effort to fly on one of the nicer airlines like Singapore or Emirates when I go overseas, since the extra comfort is well worth paying a bit more.

The first stop after the plane arrived was naturally to the duty free store, where me and my trusty companion loaded up on booze and cigarettes. Of course, trying to navigate the public transport system halfway across one of the biggest cities in the world while carrying my luggage and a bag full of liquor bottles turned out to be more than a little awkward. Fortunately our host met us at the central bus station, which was just as well because the directions to his house he had given me the night before had gone in one drunken ear and out the other.

So we spent Thursday evening wandering around the city, paying a social visit to another ex-pat, looking in all the cheap CD stores and debating the relative merits of Australian and Kiwi girls. Sydney reminds me a lot of Auckland. It's big (in that it sprawls out far further than most cities with it's population do), it's grown up around a harbour (with a big bridge) and the CBD seems to be laid out in a similar manner. Despite being way larger, Sydney also seems cleaner and more organised than Auckland.

Friday was much the same, i.e. wandering around, plus a visit to the aquarium. Jellyfish are neat. Later on we went to the beach. A somewhat strange idea on a grey cloudy day in the middle of winter but hey, compared to Christchurch at this time of year it felt like it was summer.

A Nine Inch Nails day at the beach:

Later on we went to the concert, but I'll save that for another post. Hopefully coming tomorrow.

On Saturday night we tried to go out. The evening started out well enough, with moderate to large quantities of alcohol being consumed (hence the somewhat incoherent posts earlier), but things went a little awry after that. Firstly I learned that it's a bad idea to go to the casino while plastered. You can lose a lot of money, and then keep gambling because you're 'pretty sure you're about to win it all back'. Anyhow, after that we wandered around looking for a good club to go to. As neither of us had been out in Sydney before we didn't really have any idea to go, and since all the clubs over there have $20 cover charges, we weren't about to go in to any of them unless it looked really good. So after a little bit more drinking and a lot more walking we called it a night. Of course, I later found out that if we'd kept walking just a little further down Pitt Street we would have come across a big three level club hosting the NIN after party. We never should have stopped following the green man! Either that or I should have just gone to the second NIN show on Saturday night.

So on Sunday it was a stunningly clear day so we walked around, watched some street performers, did the tourist thing and went to see the opera house. A visit to the botanical gardens was also in order, as J. wanted to steal some palm seeds. Don't ask why, those of you that know him can attribute it to another crazy scheme.

Anyway, a good time was had by all. Sydney really appealed to me, being so big and busy, so it's gone on the list of places I'll think about moving to when I decide to get the hell out of shitty old Christchurch.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Five Things I Have Learned From Watching Rock Star: INXS

1) INXS still have fans. May God have mercy on our souls.

2) American Idol singers are actually pretty shit. (Don't even ask about NZ Idol.)

3) Being married to Carmen Electra doesn't stop you from being incredibly horny.

4) If your ratings aren't meeting expectations, it's time to throw a few Britney Spears and Natalie Imbruglia songs into the mix.

5) If you're in a world famous rock band you can get away with wearing a pedophile mo.

God Bless You Merry Gentlemen

Hi everybody, in Sydney at the moment, which is why there's been no posting recently. But I'm somewhat drunk and I'm near a laptop while the posting muse has taken possession of me. Stand by for a semi-topical post (posts about Sydney and Nine Inch Nails live will follow in a few days).

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Dillinger Escape Plan have posted their new video (for their new, relatively conventional single) here.

The video obeys one of the cardinal principles of metal videos: "You can't go wrong with hot chicks in kinky nurse outfits".

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Milestone

My first bit of comment spam appeared today. It's gone now of course, but it's another indication of my blogs ever growing popularity!

This Useless Old Fucker, and His Twinkling Cunt

Nick Cave – The Boatman's Call

Now Nick Cave probably isn't anyones idea of amping, pulse-racing music, but 'The Boatman's Call' must be among the gentlest, mellowest albums I own. Maybe it's a little too mellow for me, I don't like this album nearly as much as the others of his that I own.

Having said that, a few of the songs appeal. 'Into My Arms', 'Brompton Oratory' and 'Far From Me' are all very pretty, sad songs, but I think the album as a whole could have done with a change of pace every now and again.

The lyrics are still great though. On this album Cave deals with his religion more explicitly than on the others. Somehow, despite my normal adverse reaction to religious expression, Cave manages to make it interesting and appealing. Maybe it's because he's not afraid to admit his own doubts and insecurities rather than pretending to be almost as good as Jesus (what I think of as 'Creed-styles'). After the half-way mark he moves on to the more familiar and comfortable territory of heartbreak and unfaithful women, which curiously enough doesn't appeal to me as much.

See also:
Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
The Good Son

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Random Shit Update

Touched by His Noodly Appendage

Scientific American: Little Kids are Stupid. My favorite bit is when they replace the playground equipment with miniature replicas, and the kids can't figure out why they can't use it anymore.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Excuses For Being Lazy

You may have noticed a lack of posting recently, this is the result of what I can only refer to euphemistically as 'personal issues'. Things will be back to normal after I've sorted my shit out a bit, which aught to be no more than a couple of weeks away.

In the meantime, here's an interesting article about how Saudi Arabia is fucked, and with it a quarter of the worlds oil supply.

Classical Music Day

So I bought a couple of classical albums the other week. 'The Best of Debussy' and the somewhat embarrasingly titled 'Chill with Ravel'. Not being a big classical fan I don't have anything really insightful to say about them. One thing that I did observe while listening to them was that I had to really pay attention before I got anything out of it, otherwise it just runs off my ears like elevator music, but I guess thats the problem with trying to appreciate a different genre of music.

Another thing I noticed was how many of the melodies I recognised. The start of Debussy's 'String Quartet No. 1 in G minor' is straight out of 'Even Deeper' by Nine Inch Nails (or rather, the other way around, but you know what I mean), and there are more than a few other examples of similar things. I wonder if it's deliberate or not?

Anyway, classical albums are cheap so I should definitely buy some more at some stage.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Just One More Sunday Lesson

Special Belated I Couldn't Sleep Properly for Three Days Edition:

'Herbal' highs my arse.