Profile for owlberg > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by owlberg
Top Reviewer Ranking: 538,253
Helpful Votes: 6

Guidelines: Learn more about the ins and outs of Amazon Communities.

Reviews Written by
owlberg (Seattle, WA USA)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991
by Michael Azerrad
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
34 used & new from CDN$ 10.38

3.0 out of 5 stars OK, but not great, March 23 2004
This is an interesting look back at many bands that defined my youth, and as such made for an exciting read. However, in the end it feels incomplete and somewhat meandering, and often seems based more on available sources rather than on true significance to the genre (and some staggering genre-jumping is part of the problem here).
A complete history of second-wave American punk needs to include Germs, the Dead Kennedys (referenced by allusion and the occasional quote repeatedly, reiterating their importance), X (same as above), and Meat Puppets, just for starters.
The book at first seems to try to place its focus on the nascent hardcore scene, but then takes wild detours when focusing on Butthole Surfers (who were more symbolically associated with the noisy/thrashy aspects of the genre rather than being an actual hardcore band) and Beat Happening (who have no relation whatsoever to hardcore, and only peripherally to punk). I mean, Bad Brains, Flipper, and the Big Boys were as seminal to the HC scene as anyone else, even if they don't have the same 'founding fathers' legacy that characterizes Black Flag or Minor Threat (I also agree with many reviewers that the Fugazi chapter really belongs elsewhere).
Although I am a big fan of Sonic Youth and Big Black, I don't really consider them as defining elements of the hardcore or the 'indie scene' when compared to the Germs or the DKs. Furthermore, I *really* didn't see the value of including the Replacements and Dinosaur Jr... again, apparently more of a decision based on access rather than on actual significance. Mudhoney's chapter, more than anything else, seemed like an excuse to include Bruce Pavitt's generous musings on Sub Pop and the Seattle 'scene' that helped 'break' (in both senses of the word) home-grown punk.
In a different light, this could have been a worthwhile (although limited) outline of a history of important punk and post-punk indie labels (SST, Twin/Tone, Touch 'n' Go, Homestead, Sub Pop, Dischord, and K), but as such would have needed to include Alternative Tentacles, Slash/Ruby, Shimmy-Disc, Posh Boy, Ralph, and quite a few others. Sometimes the bands seemed to be mere commodities within the larger label-centric narrative, which would have been fine if the focus had been to document the rise and fall of the punk indie.
Anyhoo, to wrap up, it was cool to read about Black Flag, Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, and Hüsker Dü. The rest of the book pretty much dragged. I actually find the decade-long scope of the book to be utterly appropriate (from the first rumblings of west coast punk to the 'year punk broke'). I just didn't find it to be either comprehensive or consistent. I didn't feel totally ripped off, either, and that's why the book gets 3 stars. I'd recommend it to those who weren't there and would like some insight on the period, but would probably suggest they check it out at the library or borrow someone's copy first.

Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest
Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 50.47
7 used & new from CDN$ 39.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Secret Pleasure, Secret No More, Nov. 14 2003
For the longest time I delighted in playing this for people who ordinarily would turn up their noses at Paul McCartney, never letting on that they were actually listening to and enjoying ol' Mr. Silly Love Songs himself. Partnering with Youth from Killing Joke, and calling the project The Fireman, Paul stitches together a fantastic trance album based primarily on outtakes from his 'Off The Ground' album (and, if you listen closely, also including segments from the spoken-word tracks on Wings' final album 'Back To The Egg'). The Fireman's follow-up (Rushes) definitely lived up to StrawberriesOceanShipsForest, so hopefully that means this type of experimentation will be a continuing sideline for Macca (along with the classical albums). Nicely done...

Bobby Conn
Bobby Conn
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 36.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars He's Bobby Conn, and that's all there is to it, Sept. 27 2003
This review is from: Bobby Conn (Audio CD)
Well. Let's start off by saying that there is no way to take a neutral position on Bobby Conn: either he's the most hysterically funny abuser of established forms from the past (specifically 70's funk and 'Shaft-soundtrack'-styled R&B, 60's Motown, and drug-fried lurching slow-ass blues), or he's an insulting offensive abomination that revels in an annoying faux retro-decadence and pseudo-bad-trippy fake 'wild-man weirdness' that just makes you wish Screamin' Jay Hawkins would walk up and smack Mr. Conn down but good. In between, there's a long cut-up collage that reveals an unhealthy obsession with Paul McCartney. Works for me.
If you don't mind hearing about a number of rather unsavory subject matters (sacrilege, sodomy, substance abuse, Paul McCartney) and can cope with a vocalist that occasionally sounds like a 'slow child' in the grip of a Tourette's Syndrome fit, you'll find something of value here. Conn is essentially the punk rock Beck, or a white George Clinton on seriously bad mescaline. His musical cohorts sure know their stuff, allowing Conn to screw with your head while you try to 'dig the grooves' they 'lay down'. That flanged wah-wah pedal sure gets a lot of use. To test people's endurance to mind-numbingly wacky stuff, I usually play either this or the Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes compilation. If they get past either one, they get a nice drink and a Pere Ubu song as a reward.
You might want to start considering getting down upon it, hep-cat. I know that I did, and regretted it not.

Beginning Stages Of...
Beginning Stages Of...
Price: CDN$ 17.81
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Could only have come from Texas, Sept. 24 2003
This review is from: Beginning Stages Of... (Audio CD)
Ah, Texas... there's something about the place that inspires this kind of stuff. Anyhoo, to those who might be thinking "OK, why, when we already have early ELO, the Beach Boys' SMILE (almost nearly compiled within the context of the GOOD VIBRATIONS box set), everything by the Cowsills, Pink Floyd's ATOM HEART MOTHER, and Jellyfish's SPILT MILK, do we need this?", I'd answer "why not?". Yes, just about everything here has been done by someone before. But the concept of assembling a full-blown band/orchestra-and-multi-voiced-chorus specifically for the purpose of performing this type of material is pretty darn cool.
'Have A Day' and 'Soldier Girl' (the stand-out tracks, IMHO) are basically blissed-out sing-alongs, and I mean that as utter praise, similar to the giddy rush you get from singing along to the coda of "Hey Jude". These are not songs as much as they are chants: invocations of good cheer, if you will. There's not much lyrical depth here, because it simply isn't necessary. If Brian Wilson yearned to write 'Teenage Symphonies to God', then these are 'Schoolyard Jingles to Everybody', a series of incantations (literally... look the word up) designed to conjure up a smile and a bit of inner peace. If that makes them hippies, or worse, a musical version of a cult, whatever... I guess Texas is still breeding hippies then. Doesn't bother me a bit... quite the opposite, actually, if these are the results.

Metal Machine Music
Metal Machine Music
Price: CDN$ 7.99
42 used & new from CDN$ 3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambient for Rock Fans, Sept. 9 2003
This review is from: Metal Machine Music (Audio CD)
You'll read many reviews here dismissing MMM as an elaborate joke Lou pulled on pretentious posers salivating over the implicate 'art' value of the atonal noise that encompasses the recording's 60+ minutes. Hell, if it's 'difficult', it's gotta be 'art', right? Haw haw haw... what a character, that Lou. Kudos for ripping off a bunch of morons by releasing the first coffee table record: an unlistenable conversation piece for decadent trendies. Right? RIGHT?
Um... WRONG.
If it were only that simple, to live in such a simpleton world. But anyone with a clue can easily figure out why MMM matters. If your aesthetic already included things such as Hendrix, the Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Black Sabbath, King Crimson, and so on, this made perfect sense in context, as ambient music for people with noise-attuned ears (much like Eno's ambient does the same for those with pop-attuned ears). Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you want to hear something inspired by a malfunctioning record player set at a near-inaudible level in a hospital room (Eno) and sometimes you need a sound inspired by something a bit more substantial (Reed).
Of course, to those who don't share the above aesthetic, MMM simply means that you paid X amount of dollars to own and listen to what sounds like a bunch of guitars and amps being thrown down a very long flight of stairs, or (as someone said back when this was first issued), 'the soundtrack of someone being administered electro-shock therapy for an hour'. Perhaps... but those reviewers mincing and squealing about how this is such a 'rip-off' probably don't see much in Pollock but a bunch of splattered paint, or get a headache from trying to read "Finnegan's Wake". Try to be charitable to them, even if they ARE clue-impaired to the point that they are obviously resentful of what they just can't understand.
Truth is, we still ended up with Throbbing Gristle (who toned down the foreground treble and added somewhat of a beat and 'lyrical content' to the concept), Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department (who added everyday appliances to the mix, amped up the rhythmic aspects considerably, and re-incorporated a semblance of song structure) and Boyd Rice/Frank Tovey's EASY LISTENING FOR THE HARD OF HEARING (which dispenses with anything involving traditional instruments, and employs record player cartridges, tape snippets, and found sounds to create what are truly metal machine instrumental pop songs), just to name a few that emerged thereafter MMM hit the fans.
Would these things have happened without MMM being released? Is MMM truly valid as a retail item from an established singer/songwriter recording for the fine RCA label, or could any speed freak with enough time and equipment put this together? Does the fact that Lou already did it make that last point somewhat irrelevant? Is MMM the 'root' of 'industrial' music? Does Lou owe props to Ussachevsky and Luening, who were making similar noises in the early 50's? If so, is MMM Lou's 'musique concrete' album?
Whatever. Opinions are like the nether aperture: everyone's got one, and they all stink if you get right down to it. So I'll take MMM as Lou's attempt at noise-friendly ambient music, ideal shifting audio wallpaper that hangs around while I do everyday chores around the house. It's useful, it's utilitarian. It serves a purpose. And I, for one, am glad that it happened.

Re-ac-tor
Re-ac-tor
Price: CDN$ 14.82
28 used & new from CDN$ 5.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly underrated, Aug. 25 2003
This review is from: Re-ac-tor (Audio CD)
This one never really got the respect it deserved, but in 1981, it was all about the synth (which makes a couple of appearances here, mostly as atmospheric filler amongst the familiar chaos of guitars, drums and bass).
It's a big, sludgy mess, of course, which is why it's so delicious. "Opera Star" is hysterically funny, because it's just so damn STOOPID. "Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze" carries a serious wallop, a killer riff, and not much more. "T-bone" gets even more granular: one huge riff pounded into oblivion for nine-plus minutes, while Neil laments the fact that he's "got mashed potatoes, ain't got no T-bone" over and over and over.
"Get Back On It" isn't gonna make things any harder for you: over one of the most basic of 'oldies rock' structures, Neil and Horse muse on the virtues and pitfalls of getting back on the road. Do they miss some of the simplest chord changes in rock history, more than once? Do they sound like a bunch of drunks trying to remember a Little Richard song on barely-adequate equipment? Oh yes they do, and it's a joy. NOBODY makes looseness sound quite this... uh... loose. It just goes from there. Neil sounds like he's having a total blast on this one.
Is it essential Neil Young? Probably not. Neil has written some tremendously insightful, thoughtful songs. He's written some fierce, timeless rock anthems. He's experimented with electronics and bluegrass and old-school country. Don't look for anything like that here.
This is the Neil Young you know from side two of RUST NEVER SLEEPS. This is the Neil Young of SLEEPS WITH ANGELS' 'Trans Am'. This is the 'whoo' thrown off before the solo in 'Cinnamon Girl'. It's just good ol' fashioned blast-in-the-car riffage. Take as needed.

Re-ac-tor
Re-ac-tor
Price: CDN$ 14.82
28 used & new from CDN$ 5.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly underrated, Aug. 25 2003
This review is from: Re-ac-tor (Audio CD)
This one never really got the respect it deserved, but in 1981, it was all about the synth (which makes a couple of appearances here, mostly as atmospheric filler amongst the familiar chaos of guitars, drums and bass).
It's a big, sludgy mess, of course, which is why it's so delicious. "Opera Star" is hysterically funny, because it's just so damn STOOPID. "Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze" carries a serious wallop, a killer riff, and not much more. "T-bone" gets even more granular: one huge riff pounded into oblivion for nine-plus minutes, while Neil laments the fact that he's "got mashed potatoes, ain't got no T-bone" over and over and over.
"Get Back On It" isn't gonna make things any harder for you: over one of the most basic of 'oldies rock' structures, Neil and Horse muse on the virtues and pitfalls of getting back on the road. Do they miss some of the simplest chord changes in rock history, more than once? Do they sound like a bunch of drunks trying to remember a Little Richard song on barely-adequate equipment? Oh yes they do, and it's a joy. NOBODY makes looseness sound quite this... uh... loose. It just goes from there. Neil sounds like he's having a total blast on this one.
Is it essential Neil Young? Probably not. Neil has written some tremendously insightful, thoughtful songs. He's written some fierce, timeless rock anthems. He's experimented with electronics and bluegrass and old-school country. Don't look for anything like that here.
This is the Neil Young you know from side two of RUST NEVER SLEEPS. This is the Neil Young of SLEEPS WITH ANGELS' 'Trans Am'. This is the 'whoo' thrown off before the solo in 'Cinnamon Girl'. It's just good ol' fashioned blast-in-the-car riffage. Take as needed.

Greendale (W/ Bonus DVD)
Greendale (W/ Bonus DVD)
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 23.95
7 used & new from CDN$ 13.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly amazing, Aug. 25 2003
"Sun Green" pretty much puts it in context: a young woman chains herself to a huge bronze sculpture of an eagle in the lobby of the local power company. While security and police attempt to separate protester and sculpture, she makes her stance known via megaphone: "when the city is plunged into darkness by an unpredicted rolling blackout, the white house always blames the governor, saying the solution is to vote him out!".
Anyone who argues Neil's position as America's most empowered observer simply doesn't read the news.
Oh, the album? The music? The first tentative guitar notes on "carmichael" rattle the snare drum. I no longer take that sound for granted. It's a sound that, as Neil himself said years ago, "is as real as the day is long". To these ears, Greendale is a close relative to RUST NEVER SLEEPS' 'first-take, live in the barn/garage/soundcheck' aesthetic... Whoops! Just missed it... what did he say?
Built around what seems the drunken ghost of The Beatles' 'Day Tripper' riff (ambling amongst many other slow, meandering stabs at familiarity), 'carmichael' does what only Neil can do, especially when backed by the Horse: pulls you into a story dripping with slapstick, horror, anger, and regret, and prevents you from just wandering off (which the offhanded, seemingly aimless playing would imply is a viable option).
It's like a sonic mirage... as you look/hear for the blurry atmosphere to take some kind of tangible shape, you're mesmerized, and 10 minutes later, you've finished one of the ten chapters of this complete narrative told in song form.
This is yet another peak in Neil's career, but one that's unlikely to yield any bold NEIL YOUNG IS BACK pronouncements. Not just because the album is low-key, fiercely unrepentant in its examination of the state of things, and often as downright scary as parts of TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT or SLEEPS WITH ANGELS. It's mostly because Neil has in fact become less of a rock phenomenon (prone to 'comebacks' and 'setbacks' and whatnot) and more of a familiar correspondent. The relationship is far more intimate and immediate than one would expect from a recording artist with 30+ years of 'public service' behind him.
"How's the weather look to you, Neil?"
"Heh... well, let me sing it for ya..."
Plus, the story itself (supported by the essential notes in the booklet) is likely to throw more than one listener off their comfortable perch. Those who don't get Neil will dislike it. Their loss. Thanks again, Neil. THIS note, faithful friend, is for you. Troublemaker...

Foucault's Pendulum
Foucault's Pendulum
by Umberto Eco
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of brain, July 17 2003
One of the more amusing reviews for this phenomenal book refers to Foucault's Pendulum as the kind of 'unintelligible' stuff that erudites claim to understand in order to show off how smart they are. Isn't that just sad? No surprise then that the most anticipated book of recent times was a children's story.
Foucault's Pendulum is giddy, dense Fortean fun: an Eternal Golden Braid of fact, folklore, history, and hearsay, where religion, mythology, science, superstition, hermetic lore, and just plain crackpottery get their tendrils tangled by three cynical, data-overloaded scholars and one innocent computer. From this morass of rosy-crossed-references emerges a fantastic meta-conspiracy theory that sets our very unwilling heroes on a feverish journey towards... the truth?
Be certain: this book will require some higher education, and will only make sense if you paid attention in class at least once in awhile. But for those who like a little challenge from their reading once in awhile, you'll be well rewarded by Eco.

Up
Up
Price: CDN$ 16.33
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Many Petes Meet, Oct. 11 2002
This review is from: Up (Audio CD)
*sigh*...OK, let me say from the get-go that PG means a great deal to me, as a inspiration for my own yodelling and scribbling, as the focal and vocal cornerstone of the greatest incarnation of Genesis, and as a multifaceted enigma whose only constant is change... or WAS, at least until recently.
Too much of this album sounds either like recycled Gabriels past (some from the Third album, some from Security, and some from So and Us), and yet much of it also sounds like Soundtrack Gabriel (which is great in context, but underwhelming when part of an official PG vocal album release), while some of it just sounds like someone playing with Nine Inch Nails' (or recent Los Lobos') effects rack. Peter's voice is still one of the most heart-rending instruments known to humanity, but there are very few lumps-in-the-throat-and-goosebump moments here. The voice still soars, but it seems to be a well-rehearsed airshow rather than a flight of pure inspiration, or of urgent psychic need.
Perhaps this means Peter has finally exorcised (or exhausted) the demons that haunted him, and as a fan of the man I'd find that news to be good. But as a fan of the man's work, I might have to accept the fact that a non-haunted Gabriel is a rather mundane Gabriel, and that's not so good.
It may be called UP, because that's where he's looking these days... but the results are definitely downers. I don't want Pete to be chained to a Promethean rock just so I can get "Peter Gabriel 3", Volumes Two, Three, Four, and etc. Maybe UP will grow like a strange plant in the corner and I'll see flowers later. Right now, it resides away from its more exotic older cousins, who get the same attention they've always had, and always will: Car, Scratch, Melt, Mask, So and Us.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3