Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2014 October 31 • Friday

Happy Halloween!

2014 October 29 • Wednesday

One of the great things about living in Park Slope is finding books on the street. In this case it was a book I'd read a review of and remembered wanting to read, Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. And I even found it on my block! It turned out to be really great, up there with James Lasdun's Give Me Everything You Have.

The first line is "When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, 'The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'" This is Winterson's adoptive mother, a frightening and troubled person, sympathetic mostly by virtue of her own misery.

Instead of a blow-by-blow account of her incredibly harsh childhood—Winterson's mother's reaction to her daughter's homosexuality is literally an exorcism, a brutal ordeal that includes abuse and starvation—Winterson has made this into a larger story.

She examines the culture of her North England community and how it has changed, mostly for the worse. She has interesting things to say about industrialization and its effects. And of course she covers the changes in herself, her struggle to find her birth mother and the complex emotions this brings out.

It's a fascinating account of the making of a writer and it is, unsurprisingly, very well written.

2014 October 27 • Monday

The 342nd Soundtrack of the Week comes from our old friend Nico Fidenco: Candido Erotico.

There are basically two themes that get several treatments. The first is a song called "A Devious Man", which sounds very inspired by the song "Everybody's Talkin'", famously used in Midnight Cowboy.

The second theme, "A New Love", is a more wistful and melancholy piece of music, suggesting romantic longing more than the sunnier "A Devious Man" does.

It's a very agreeable record and Nico Fidenco fans should enjoy it.

2014 October 24 • Friday

Well, this must be a first. I like Bill Frisell's new record so much I even prefer it to the performance of this material I saw last June. Part of the reason is probably the boomy acoustics up at Lincoln Center. Nice-looking room but the sound quality on this CD is much clearer and better balanced.

And then there's the music itself. For about twenty-five years I've been devoted to both Bill Frisell and mid-twentieth century electric guitar music, especially of the surf and instrumental variety.

And so here comes Bill Frisell with an album of just that material! Link Wray, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, The Kinks—even Joe Meek's "Telstar"! It's nice to hear him play "Baja" again, which Naked City used to cover. The two Frisell originals are also lovely. I've been a fan of "Lift Off"since I heard Frisell play it at the Vanguard last spring with his "Beautiful Dreamers" trio.

I've listened to this over a dozen times already and even though a friend gave me a copy of this record I went and bought my own because I liked it so much. I would definitely like to see this band again, though ideally somewhere like the Village Vanguard.

And a great band it is: Greg Leisz on pedal steel and second electric guitar, Tony Scherr on bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums. Kenny is especially tasty on this. Check it out!

2014 October 22 • Wednesday

2014 October 20 • Monday

Leonard Rosenman's score for Fantastic Voyage is the 341st Soundtrack of the Week.

It begins with a suite of sound effects that accompany the main title sequence. (I believe that this title sequence was the model for the opening credits of The Six Million Dollar Man.)

Then there's a program of challenging "modern" music, dissonant, eerie, angular and unpredictable. This is not a groovy record. It's moody, intense and otherworldly and I think that it's a greater achievement than the movie.

2014 October 17 • Friday

2014 October 15 • Wednesday

This 6-CD Beach Boys box set recently found its way to me and I listened to the whole thing straight through. (Dexter heard a lot of it but made no comment other than to ask what the song "California Girls" was about.)

I didn't keep the whole thing on my iPod but removed as many songs as possible, ending up with sort of an expanded Greatest Hits/Hawthorne, CA collection, which is what I'd wanted.

The Beach Boys are always celebrated for their vocal harmonies, but I find myself more impressed by the melodies of their songs, as well as the bits of instrumental business that make the songs so memorable. Check out "Don't Worry Baby" and "The Little Girl I Once Knew".

2014 October 13 • Monday

Francesco De Masi's Ti-Koyo e il suo pescecane is the 340th Soundtrack of the Week.

This record has lots of "island" exotica music, as well as some easy-listening sonic wallpaper. It's mostly very nice to listen to, swaying, lyrical and enchanting. "Manidu" is a particularly strong cue with great electric guitar playing. Dramatic underscore is also served well, in such pieces as "La caccia ai pescecani" for example.

2014 October 10 • Friday

Windup Bird Cafe, Toronto
Rob Price, Chris Cawthray, Jim Sexton

2014 October 08 • Wednesday

Before J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World there was this very different take on apocalypse by water, John Bowen's After the Rain.

It seems quite indebted to John Wyndham's end of the world/survival of the species novels (The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes—water again—and The Midwich Cuckoos) but pursued its story in a different direction.

One day it starts to rain and never stops, all over the world. The cause of it is ambiguous. While it coincides with an experiment by a rainmaker, the actual rain appears to begin before the release of the mysterious rain catalyst. It could be a combination of the experiment and natural forces or one or the other.

The main action is confined to a ship with a handful of survivors who find themselves together by chance. They become a society unto themselves and pass through democracy and despotism to a messianic worship arrived at so gradually and in reaction to such extreme hardship that its lunacy is perfectly acceptable. (It's also slightly reminiscent of the future of society in George R. Stewart's Earth Abides.)

It's a great book and interesting to read now, as more and more people talk about climate change. The main character is a copywriter and when the rain starts and never stops, the reaction of his employers is that their periodicals must be "flood-conscious".

As the rain continued, and the snow followed it, our copy became more and more "flood-conscious"—"Get flood-conscious copywise," one of the directors told me, and an account executive nearby said, "Surely, surely!" I was concerned to sell, not the raincoats, gum-boots and all the various forms of water-proofing that people were already buying without encouragement, but the luxury articles that nobody in his senses would want during an emergency. It was all a little like a New Statesman and Nation competition. "STOCKING A RAFT?" I wrote, "Remember OYSTERS! Succulent and easily digested, Buxtable OYSTERS carry a lot of nourishment in a little space…."

I wrote copy about barometers ("FIRST WITH THE GOOD NEWS"), diamond necklaces ("SO LIGHT, SO HANDY, SO EASY TO CARRY"), and for Ford cars with the new rustless finish.

There's a good amount of this satirical kind of writing, never overdone, and it makes the book much more than an exploration of a "What If" premise. Certain passages gave me pause, such as "It is not bad to be a coward; that is a natural thing. But it is bad to make excuses and feel ashamed". The coverage of the British government's plan to take care of its people is grimly realistic. The way people actually behave is left out of the equation, and so the plans are doomed.

Stories like this should help us appreciate what we take for granted and how much better we could make the world if we fought harder against greed and fear.

The drawers had been lined with newspaper, and the columns of print told of an old happy time before the Flood. They told of the tantrums of statesmen and Trade Union leaders and of the divorces of film stars. They told of hydrogen bomb tests, and of geneticists who protested against the increase of radioactivity in the atmosphere, and of Cabinet Ministers who accused the geneticists of communist sympathies. We read of the dangers of Britain's becoming a second-class power, of inconvenient documents suppressed, foreigners of liberal sympathies deported, private citizens dismissed from their jobs for reasons of security which they were not permitted to answer, and of Her Majesty's Home Secretary, who had remarked while opening a Charity Bazaar at Hendon, that he could not doubt that Great Britain, in these troubled times, was an example of enlightened democracy that the world would do well to copy.

That comes after this:

The rain turned to snow, the flooded fields to ice. Planes were earth-bound; trains ran slowly and infrequently; buses, cars and vans clanked about in chains. Attendances at factories and offices fell away, and the people stayed at home (and for the most part in bed) fireless and hungry. The London County Council organized a service of vans that brought one meal a day to old people, but, even so, many of them died. So did the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

Things get much, much worse than this, and at least half of the book takes place among the small group of characters sailing and drifting on an endless ocean.

The cover, wonderful though it is, does not depict a scene from the book though it will be echoed years later in advertising materials for The Day After Tomorrow. I'm beginning to pity Lady Liberty. She's always the first to hit the ground, it seems, when the world slips on a banana peel. The previews for the 2014 Godzilla movie flaunted a battered Statue that was absent from the movie itself and who could forget her cameo in Planet of the Apes?

Fans of The Goon Show may wonder if the introduction of the character of Sonya (holding on to a floating piano) is a reference to "Napoleon's Piano".

2014 October 06 • Monday

The 339th Soundtrack of the Week is To Live and Die in L.A. by Wang Chung.

This William Friedkin movie is basically a transposition of Friedkin's famous The French Connection. L.A. instead of NYC, counterfeiting instead of drug smuggling and so on. It's a decent movie, though.

I don't remember how the music works in the movie but I enjoy listening to this very '80s soundtrack album. Wang Chung! Who would have thought it? The title song is great, cold and rhythmic but with flourishes of emotion and lyricism.

"Lullaby" is a soft funky tune, romantic and pulsing. "Wake Up and Stop Dreaming" reminds me of a David Bowie take on Phil Collins's "Take Me Home" (which I only know because it was on Miami Vice). A groove similar to The Pretenders' "Don't Get Me Wrong" provides the foundation for "Wait".

"City of the Angels" is an intense instrumental that probably could have fit well into an episode of Miami Vice, while "The Red Stare" is a creepy piano piece. This is followed by another instrumental, the pounding and relentless "Black-Blue-White".

The record closes with the five-minute instrumental piece "Every Big City", quasi-industrial with different sections but always a steady beat running throughout.

2014 October 03 • Friday

Thanks to all of our friends old and new who came to the Chris Cawthray-Jim Sexton-Rob Price gigs in Guelph and Toronto this week!

The show in Guelph was at this really cool space called Silence. They have a chimney of tape cassettes that goes up from the floor and continues through the roof and up into the sky.

Then we played at a great spot in Toronto, Windup Bird Cafe. Great food, nice people, perfect place to play.

And we all celebrated Chris's fortieth birthday! (Note to self: really learn how to play "Happy Birthday".)

2014 October 01 • Wednesday

It hardly seems possible but this is the first David Goodis book I've ever read. I've had some on the shelf for years but never got around to any. This one was excellent, though, one of the most nightmarish and fatalistic novels I've ever read.

It starts out with a team of burglars stealing a hundred thousand dollars' worth of emeralds. Then the leader meets a woman, falls in love and decides to quit the business. This would be fine if the woman weren't part of a set-up.

From then on it's a series of really horrible things happening to everybody, doom and despair worthy of Woolrich. The quality of the writing is very high, with beautiful yet succint descriptive passages, admirable understatement and flashes of wit. I'm looking forward to reading some more of Goodis.

The first line is "At three in the morning it was dead around here and the windows of the mansion were black, the mansion dark purple and solemn against the moonlit velvet green of gently sloping lawn".