Misery Index – Rituals of Power

Misery Index are a death metal/grindcore band from Baltimore in the U.S. I got into them a few years back, and have all of their albums so far. This is their latest, just released a couple of days ago, and as soon as I heard it was released I immediately bought it for US$10 on Bandcamp.

I realise that absolutely no one reading this is probably into Misery Index, let alone death metal or grindcore, so I will keep it short.

It’s a good album, just as good as anything they have done before, but no real change either. A few more listens are required to decide if it is their best album.

Here is the video for the title track, followed by some comments left on YouTube.

This is gunna destroy the little subwoofer in my truck
My neighbours liked the song that much, they told the police about it…
The world does not deserve this band.
Boring…

Music count 2019: 7

System of a Tori

I have a couple of CD purchases to talk about.

System of a Down – Toxicity

I dropped by a Book Off I had not been to in a while and was chuffed to find this “limited edition” bonus CD version for only 280 yen. I already have this album as an iTunes download (does anyone use iTunes to buy music anymore?), so I was happy to get this on CD.

The bonus CD disc has a making-of video, which you can watch here if you are curious.

It is an excellent album, but all of their albums are really. It is just a pity that while they are still touring they have not released a new album for a very long time now. This is apparently because Serj, the vocalist, is mucking about while the rest of the band are keen to record again… musicians for you.

Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

This album came out in 1992, and I probably bought it in the same year, or thereabouts. I really liked it at the time, but the album and I parted ways years later for reasons unknown. But, just a few days ago I thought it would be good to listen to it again, so I found it used on Amazon and it arrived a couple of days ago.

After listening to it I realised that I had forgotten most of it, the only familiar track was “Crucify”. I must say I was a little underwhelmed by the rest of the album, it is good, but my jumbled mind seems to have held it on a higher pedestal. It needs more listens though.

Tori released her 15th album in 2017, I must check that out, as well as some of her other albums.

Music count 2019: 6

Library Listens: O.G. Original Gangster

An idea suddenly appeared in my head that I should review various albums from my library of CDs, just for fun, and to see how the music stands up. And in my never-ending quest for knowledge it will give me a chance to learn more about my favourite artists. I chose this album because I am listening to it as I type, and I like Ice-T, he is dope.

This was released in 1991, which I didn’t really need to look up, it was ingrained in my brain for some esoteric reason. Actually 1991 was quite a year for music with the release of albums such as Nirvana’s Nevermind, Achtung Baby from U2, Badmotorfinger from Soundgarden, and Bandwagonesque from Teenage Fanclub, and I have all of those in my collection. There were plenty more.

It peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Chart, and number 9 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Reviews in the day were mostly good, NME liked it a lot saying ” Ice-T’s best shot yet; riotous vignettes from a decaying America full of devious humour and striking pathos – all those things NWA profess to be but clearly aren’t.”

Select magazine, a now defunct mostly Britpop-oriented magazine, (the term “Britpop” was actually coined by one of the writers there), said: “Three tracks “Mind Over Matter”, “The Tower” and “The House” are outstanding while “much of the rest relies on a well-tested recipe of looped breakbeats and linear drums.” and that the album’s themes function “better as manifesto than as music”.

I remember buying this, probably in 1991 or 1992, and liking it a lot. It was refreshing stuff, and was probably the first Gangsta Rap album I ever bought. The only other rap bands I liked in those days were Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, Run D.M.C., and the Beastie Boys of course. I still listen to all of them regularly.

And I still like this album a lot, nothing changes with Ice-T. Good beats, lots of attitude, and funny at times. There are plenty of tracks too, 24 in all. I have a couple of other of his albums, but this one is always the bomb. The album artwork though is not the best.

If you want to see a good documentary then check out Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap. Ice directed and produced this in 2012 and it is about how rap artists go about their trade. He visited rap luminaries all over the U.S. such as Q Tip, Chuck D, Eminem, Kanye West, and Rakim. Ice is obviously a nice fellow, and is good on camera.

I have never seen Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but I imagine he is good in that.

Ice is also in Body Count, a thrash metal band, and they are pretty good too.

Ice-T has a few children from different partners, and is currently married to an ex-swimsuit model. They have a four year old daughter named Chanel Nicole Marrow, and they all seem to be happy. He is 61.

To end these posts off I have decided that I must find a photo of the musician taken with Lemmy, and Ice-T did indeed meet Lemmy. The other homey is from Ugly Kid Joe.

Star Maker

I read somewhere that this science fiction novel, written by British writer Olaf Stapledon and published in 1937, is one of the all-time classics. Being a purveyor of fine science fiction stories I was intrigued so I sought it out.

But, it was heavy going right from the start, mostly due to the way it was written. Olaf was a philosopher and pretty much wrote this book while still in heavy philosophy mode, as well as deciding that it should be written in a dry textbook style. There were plenty of words I had never heard before such as cepheid.

Some sentences which did not have any fancy words were still hard to decipher. Here is an example:

This most subtle medium the Star Maker now rough-hewed into the general form of a cosmos. Thus he fashioned a still indeterminate space-time, as yet quite ungeometrized; an amorphous physicality with no clear quality or direction, no intricacy of physical laws; a more distinctly conceived vital trend and epic adventure of mentality; and a surprisingly definite climax and crown of spiritual lucidity.

I found myself going over a sentence again time after time to make sure I understood what was being said. Heavy, man.

But, the actual storytelling was fantastic and quite original, and very large in scale. It was basically about a chap who went for a walk and suddenly found he could mentally transport himself through space and time and visit distant galaxies in an instant. He also found he could mind-meld with aliens he encountered, and together they could travel throughout the universe and mind-meld with other aliens so that they soon became a large space gang observing the cosmos and seeking out the meaning of life. He soon discovered that an all-powerful being was responsible for everything, and was able to have a chat with him. There is a lot more to it, but there is also no real story, it was just him describing what he saw and learned about other aliens, galaxies, and even the stars themselves which as it turned out were also sentient beings.

One interesting thing I learned is that the idea of the Dyson sphere, named after Freeman Dyson, came from this book. Freeman had read the book and it inspired him to write a paper in 1960 about the concept. It is a very pie-in-the-sky idea though, very much science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke had much more obtainable ideas as he is credited as being the inventor of the communications satellite. Read Arthur’s Rama series if you can, brillo stuff.

Good luck to you if you want to make this into a film, it would be like turning Ace Ventura: Pet Detective into a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel…although I would read that.

Highly recommended for those into deep and meaningful science fiction flights of fancy, best read with a pipe and glass of brandy, and the Oxford Dictionary on hand.

After finishing this book I immediately felt like an easy read, so I chose the next book I need to read in the Doctor Syn series titled “The Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn”. I am also simultaneously re-reading “The Way of Wyrd”, and old favourite.

Book count 2019: 1

Diamond Trail

This is a 1933 pre-code film about the daring adventures of newspaper reporter “Speed” Morgan and his run-in with gangster boss “Flash” Barrett.

Here is the full synopsis from IMDB: Reporter “Speed’ Morgan helps gangster “Flash” Barrett escape an ambush by rival gangster Mullin’s henchmen, and then escape the pursuing police. Posing as a wanted gangster named “Frisco” Eddie, Morgan is made a member of the gang and goes West with them as Barrett is looking for rancher Bill Miller, who was his in-between man on stolen diamonds until Miller dropped a package, found out it contained diamonds and hid and kept them. Miller’s sister, Lois, is unaware of her brother’s connection to the eastern gangsters.

“Hiya Doll!”

This is very simple story telling, and also made very simply. It is all-round simple.

It is also quite genre bending. The film starts off as a 1933 modern day style film, with the moider of a rival gang member by “Flash” barret, which “Speed” Morgan witnesses. Sensing a scoop he helps “Flash” flee the scene of the crime in the hope that he can infiltrate the gang, which he does. We are then introduced to the main plot of the story which takes place in the Wild and Woolly West. The gang members actually drive into a Western town like the one in Gunsmoke or Rawhide in a gangster-style convertible jalopy. The town’s folk are all dressed in cowboy garb of course, and all ride horses instead of driving cars, although there is a car in the town that they can rent if they need it.

“Tell me where da ice is at, or I’ll plug ya. See?”

It is as though the film producers thought it would be a great idea to mix a gangster land story with a western. Perhaps 1930’s America was actually like that…no idea.

Something I really liked is that everyone was wearing a hat of some sorts… those were the days!

Kirk Douglas was 17 years old when this film was made.

Silly entertainment, but entertaining it was, and thought-provoking on many existential levels.

Date watched: February 24th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2019: 4

Alphaville

I tried to watch this in full as the first film of the year, but I quickly lost interest in it and watched The Force Awakens instead. Last night I decided to finish watching it, and while it did get a bit better, I didn’t think much of it overall. It was directed by Jean-Luc Godard, so that basically means this is a high-art film that makes me a film snob just for watching it.

It is lauded on the interwebs as an intellectual, witty, stylish, and age-less film, amongst other adjectives. And yes, I suppose it is all of those, but for me it was strangely paced, a bit sloppily made, and things were happening which didn’t make any sense at all. The dialogue used lines and quotes from a couple of well-known poets which helped to confuse things a little.

The story is about Lemmy Caution, an undercover agent posing as a journalist who drives to Alphaville, a large city controlled by a sentient computer called “Alpha 60”. He gets there by driving his Ford Galaxie from “the Outlands”. Lemmy’s mission was to find out what happened to another agent, kill Alpha 60’s creator, Professor von Braun, and to destroy Alphaville. Lemmy is dressed just like The Bogart in Casablanca, and is constantly taking snaps with an Agfa camera.

Alphaville’s residents are conditioned to not show emotion, and to never say the word “why”, instead they must use “because”. Anyone showing emotion, digs poetry, or shows symptoms of free thought are rounded up and executed by being shot in the back next to a pool, then collected by several women in swimsuits who also do a little synchronised swimming while they are at it. The fellow in the white shirt below makes an emotional speech before getting plugged, but he survives that and continues his speech in the water, so the sychronised swimmer ladies push him under the water until he is quite dead…

There is of course a love interest in the form of the daughter of Professor von Braun (played Jean-Luc Godard’s wife at the time, Anna Karina). She has been brainwashed so cannot show emotion, but discovers she is falling in love, putting her in danger.

Throughout the film we could hear the voice of Alpha 60 talking to Lemmy, and his voice was quite unique, as well as a little annoying. From Wikipedia: The voice of Alpha 60 was performed by a man with a mechanical voice box replacing his cancer-damaged larynx. That certainly explains the weirdness there.

Also from Wikipedia: Despite its futuristic scenario, Alphaville was filmed entirely in and around Paris and no special sets or props were constructed. Buildings used were the Electricity Board building for the Alpha 60 computer centre and the Hotel Sofitel Paris le Scribe.

An American actor by the name of Eddie Constantine played Lemmy. He was popular in Europe and seems to have spent most of his career making French or German films. He named one of his sons Lemmy.

I think I will need to watch this again, perhaps I will understand it better second time around. If it was more polished and some of the editing less jarring it would certainly help to make it easier to watch. It did have some interesting ideas though, and some scenes were fun to watch. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a similar kind of film, but does it better in many ways.

Date watched: February 21st
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2019: 3

JPEGMAFIA x Freaky – The 2nd Amendment

I bought JPEGMAFIA’s “Veteran” album on Bandcamp a while ago and liked it, so I thought I would get this ,too.

The music is a mixture of rap and hip-hop, and is also tagged as punk rap on Bandcamp. The lyrics are political or race related, with the rappers always sounding quite angry.

Overall it doesn’t really grab me much, JPEGMAFIA’s “Veteran” album is much better. But, for only US$5 I am not complaining at all.

The best track also has a video…

Music count 2019: 4