Monday, 24 July 2006

Indian man eats all the food at all-you-can-eat place

A bloke in India has made like Homer Simpson and taken an all-you-can-eat restaurant at their word.

"Once college students took sweet revenge on a restaurateur with Rappai’s help. He took an “unlimited meals” coupon and emptied the day’s food -- three buckets full of rice, one bucket of fish curry and 10 kg cooked meat -- in no time. Finally, law-enforcers had to be called in to end his sumptuous feast."


Monday, 17 July 2006

Straight Outta Compton

I have a feeling this might be quite old, but it's new to me.

Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt has recorded this version of NWA's Straight Outta Compton.

Pretty fucking cool.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Syd Barrett, RIP

Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett has died at the age of 60.

Barret was a genius whose career as a musician was curtailed in the 1970s due to mental illness.

If you haven't ever heard The Madcap Laughs, I recommend you get a copy right away.


Album Review: Preaching To The Fire

Perhaps chilled by the prescience of their debut album Unconscious Pilot, which was written in the summer of 2001 and depicted the escape from America during the outbreak of an unspecified war, The Great Depression (duo Todd Casper and Thomas Cranley) took breather for a year or two before returning with Preaching To The Fire.

With a name as overtly gloomy as The Great Depression, the grey, wintry atmospherics should come as no surprise; like Unconscious Pilot before it, the band's inspiration comes from anxiety, paranoia and alienation, but unlike their debut album, Casper and Cranley keep the atmospherics intense and alluring instead of blurred and repressing. To that end, there is no repeat of Unconscious Pilot's 8-minute Meet The Habsburgs. In fact, only one song stretches past the five minute mark, and even then, just barely. The relative brevity of the songs ensures that the sonic details carry more weight than they otherwise might.

Opening track The Telekinetic layers piano, warm ambient washes and gothic guitar patterns, while Make Way For Nostalgia features wistful, lilting horns. Snatches of background conversations filter through the hazy guitars of Somewhere Over The Counterculture, adding a further level of intimacy.

While their recent Prefix EP was distinct for its instrumental work, Preaching To The Fire features lyrics on every track. Written In Coal's vocal refrain of "who did this to you?" is gritty and desperate, while towering centerpiece Lux has the vocals flit between conciliatory whisper and desperate wailing.

The album's final track serves as a perfect sonic capstone to the anxiety and pensiveness that colours the rest of the album. At the same time, it's a fragile and beautiful flourish to a haunting and quite exquisite album. Rarely are darkness and melancholy so appealing.

Friday, 7 July 2006

Album Review: 1968

Despite (or perhaps because of) recording under more monikers than Will Oldham and having been a figurehead in underground music for at least two decades, David Pajo remains remarkably elusive. We do know that he was born in 1968 (hence this album's title), that he's recorded with Will Oldham, Billy Corgan, Royal Trux, Stereolab and was part of Slint when they created their landmark album, Spiderland, and that he was also a principal member of Tortoise and The For Carnation.

With last year's Slint reunion an unmitigated success, Pajo has once again forgone his M/Papa M/Aerial M/Thirteenth Letter confusion in favour of just Pajo. 1968 is the second album recorded under this name and instead of shrouding himself in the willful obscurity that marked many of his earlier records, Pajo is, once again, far more confessional on an album that shares his name.

All but one song on 1968 features drums and bass, whereas most of the previous album found Pajo alone with his acoustic guitar. Despite the extra instrumentation, 1968 is still decidedly honest and frank. His trembling timbre on Who's That Knocking sets a brittle tone, while the livelier tempo of Foolish King belies a dark centre ("my foolishness has lifted me far beyond man").

Later, We Get Along, Mostly is a superior indie-rock number that finds Pajo striking a balance between Elliott Smith's depressive sparsity and Simon & Garfunkel's airy lilt, Wrong Turn offers mild Magnetic Fields-style electronica and Cyclone Eye is backed by gentle, unobtrusive strings before the album closes out with the stirring, confessional I've Just Restored My Will To Live Again.

For someone whose earlier efforts with Slint forged a reputation deconstructing melody, 1968 has David Pajo in surprisingly winsome form.

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Album Review: Graciously

Charity compilations are always a noble concept but often contain less than brilliant music. Not so with Graciously. One third of the proceeds from sales will go towards the recovery effort in New Orleans following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina last year and all the songs were recorded at the Tucson-based Wavelab Studios by artists with a strong affinity for the place.

No Tucson-based compilation would be complete without Calexico and John Convertino, and Joey Burns' collective's Griptape Heart is an early highlight. Steve Wynn (formerly of Dream Syndicate and Gutterball) offers the delightful Riverside and Nick Luca's (musician/producer and second-in-command at Wavelab) Shadow Painting is boisterous, Counting Crows-esque rock.

Elsewhere, Denver, Colorado's Devotchka offer Twenty-Six Temptations, a quirky mélange of cabaret and Eastern dance music, Richmond Fontaine perform The Gits with their typically quirky punk energy and country and western twang, Amelia White does her best impression of Lucinda Williams on Skeleton Key and I Wish I Was Doing This by Robin Hitchcock is packed with typical lyrical inanities.

Tucson's most famous resident, Howe Gelb, teams up with Nottingham's Scout Niblett for a rambunctious version of Bow Wow Wow's I Want Candy, in what proves to be the album's stand out moment.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Album Review: Avalanche

It seems that while Sufjan Stevens was locked in his bedroom from an annoyingly young age honing his craft, he was never party to a vital lesson: no one likes a show off. So, not content with the arduous schedule of his ambitious state-by-state travelogue - Stevens first decided to take a detour with 2003's gorgeous Seven Swans album - he's also decided to give us a compilation of the off-cuts from last year's Illinois album.

A little known and not all that interesting titbit is that Illinois was originally conceived as a 50-track double-CD. Presumably to prevent it becoming utterly unwieldy, it was cut in half and originally ran as a relatively spare 23-tracks. The Avalanche, therefore, represents the musical debris liberally scattered from an abundant epic.

With most of the unused recordings in skeletal form, Stevens invited many of the original musicians back into his studio to fill in the gaps, while he plays banjo, guitar, drums and an English horn on many of the songs. There is nothing about the resulting album that sounds even relatively unwanted.

The titular song was originally housed as a bonus track on the vinyl version of Illinois and it could easily have formed the centrepiece of the original album. Positioned as the opening track, it sets the bar absurdly high for an album of outtakes and extras. Chicago, meanwhile, is dense and challenging enough to warrant the three supplementary versions on offer here.

Additionally, each track from Illinois seemingly has a counterpart on The Avalanche; Carl Sandburg arm-wrestles Saul Bellow, the aliens from Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois, salute a statue of Clyde Tombaugh and the loneliness of Casimir Pulaski Day deepens further into the despairing Pittsfield.

A compilation of outtakes and extras it may be but, as an exercise in form, The Avalanche reveals the working habits of one of the most productive songwriters around.

Album Review: Yell Fire

Returning from a visit to war-torn regions of Iraq, Israel and Palestine in 2004, Michael Franti first put together a documentary called I Know I'm Not Alone, before deciding that the film required a musical accompaniment, hence the creation of Yell Fire!, Franti's most socially conscious album to date. Coming from the man responsible of the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy that's a bold claim, but somewhat ironically, the trips to Baghdad, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have inspired Franti to create his most uplifting set of songs to date.

As he approaches 40, Franti no longer exudes the rage which marked his earlier albums as a member of The Beatnigs, but that doesn't prevent him using Yell Fire! to drive home important matters like the precarious state of the planet and those who've rendered it so, the fragile condition of human relationships and the urgency with which people need to repair them.

Against the thread of righteous positivity, universal unification of spirit and aphoristic pacifism, Yell Fire! is stacked with deep grooves: the opening Time To Go Home, Everyone Ona Move and Light Up Ya Lighter all exhibit Franti's revolutionary attitude and contemplative lyrics, while featuring Spearhead's enriching cadence.

While the title track and Time To Go Home are calls to action, other songs such as I Know I'm Not Alone (an inspirational volley of hope), One Step Closer To You, which features a soulful backing vocal performance by Pink, and the beautiful Is Love Enough?, all tap into the album's compassionate side.

Yell Fire! succeeds in blurring the lines between Franti's worldview and his music so sufficiently, it makes it difficult to imagine one existing without the other. A tendency to raise the level of his vocals in the mix can leave Spearhead's reggae/funk/dancehall/hip-hop amalgams rather shadowed by their leader, but what Franti is saying here needs to be heard.