Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bend Me, Shape Me #5: GodWeenSatan

(ween is in big trouble dudes)

I think that thing in the middle is a Boognish

I credit Ween's first studio album GodWeenSatan*, released on Twin/Tone in 1990, for breaking me out of the mindset that I liked certain genres of music and disliked others. Suddenly any genre could be enjoyable (and they tackle heavy metal, punk, funk, psychedelia, weasel, pop, glam, country, prog and indie here, and many many more!) as long as you listened to it through Ween's ears. Oftentimes, you could never listen to certain genres the same way again after you'd heard them interpreted by Ween. Finally, Ween created so many all-new categories (how do you describe "I'm in the Mood to Move" or "Nan"?) that pretty soon classifying music by genre seemed pretty pointless anyway.

"I'm in the mood to move my body like a weasel goddammit.
4-8-16 feet to the left goddammit"

Gene Ween and Dean Ween are, um, Ween

You like music that transports you to another place, far away from the mundane? GodWeenSatan takes you so far outside what you thought music and sanity was that you feel yourself going a touch mad... and liking it.

Ween are virtuosos of loco, blackjacks of the ditty.
Ween makes you laugh.
Ween rocks you out.
Ween is fun.

Years ago, someone close to me saw that I was reading Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho and proceeded to rip me a new one in the "how dare you read a degenerate book that that!" vein. I was so flabbergasted that anyone who knew me could think that I supported out-of-control misogyny, materialism and murder that I failed to defend myself from their judgment in any cogent way. Later, I realized that all I needed to say was "Hey, it's satire! Get over yourself!"

It's true- you can like this book AND not hate women!

The same holds true for Ween, particularly on GodWeenSatan. This is brilliant satire as can only be created by someone who loves in some way the very thing they are satirizing. Anyone who had had this album described to them, or maybe just listened to one or two songs might think that only a freak could enjoy music like this. Trust me, you have to listen to the whole thing before you can really understand what the apeshit crazy individual parts are all about.

"Don't laugh I love you"

* The official name of this record is GodWeenSatan: The Oneness, but the CD I had/have makes no mention of "The Oneness" anywhere on the cover or the liner notes, so I never include it when I'm talking about the album (which was all the time in 1990-92 and virtually never now).

**If you're new to the site, the goal of the Bend Me, Shape Me series can be found here.**

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bend Me, Shape Me #4: 3 Feet High and Rising

"Let me introduce myself, I'm Mr. Monkey"

De La Soul's debut record 3 Feet High and Rising was released on Tommy Boy Records 19 years ago.

They cultivated, then rejected their early "hippie" image


This is one of the very few records that I loved immediately (many of my all-time favorites took several listens to warm to), never got sick of, and believe sounds as good today to my 36-year-old ears as it did to my 17-year-old ears when it was released.

Rare is the debut that instantly changes an entire genre, but that is exactly what happened to rap* when Long Island, NY teenagers De La Soul (Kelvin Mercer/"Posdnuos", David Jude Jolicoeur/"Trugoy the Dove" and Vincent Mason/"P.A. Pasemaster Mace", plus producer Paul Huston/"Prince Paul") first hit the record stores. I imagine it's what rock and roll fans felt when Jimi Hendrix released "Are You Experienced" in 1967... things would never be the same (and in a good way!).

*I say "rap" because nobody called it hip-hop back then. Well, at least nobody in North Carolina.

Native Tongue in tha house

Before 3 Feet, I had no idea what sampling was. Their sampling, like in most of my favorite hip-hop records, not only gave you instant listening pleasure but also served double duty as a "heads up" on semi-obscure records containing the funkiest of drum breaks, horn sections, and contextually relevant lyrics.

There's no counting how many records I've dug up because at some point I recognized a De La sample in a song on the radio or wherever, but here are some of my favorite discoveries:

"Rock Creek Park" by The Blackbyrds on "Ghetto Thang"
"Five Feet High and Rising" by Johnny Cash on "The Magic Number"
“I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (We’re the Royal Macadamia Nuts)” on "Say No Go" and "You Showed Me" by The Turtles (from the underrated concept album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, the usage of which cost De La many dollars)

not to mention

"School House Rock" fave "Three is the Magic Number by Bob Dorough (on "The Magic Number") which was one of the first and most/mos deft/def) instances of applying positive Gen-X childhood memories to elicit a pleasure/purchase response.

These fellow music nerds were made cool(er) when De La used "Peg" in "Eye Know"

For me, one of the great joys in listening to/absorbing so many great hip-hop albums from the late 80s to the mid 90s is the constant process of discovering samples and influences in the music I continue to hear/buy today. When I pick up a top-shelf funk compilation like The Mighty Mellow or The Sound of Funk, I can count on a few "ah HA" moments when I finally match a song with a favorite sample usage.

Guys loved 3 Feet High and Rising. Girls loved 3 Feet. Rap fans, pop fans, dance music fans, soul fans all loved it. The stoned and the straightlaced. Hip-hop heads and hip-hop haters.

"Mmm when a D.A.I.S.Y. grows in your mind."

In the calendar year containing early 1989 thru early 1990, 3 Feet, Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys and Fear of a Black Planet by Public Enemy were all released, and for that moment all other genres of music seemed obsolete by comparison. A full album (i.e. not just a single) has rarely been as much fun to listen to alone, with friends, or with hundreds of fellow dancers as 3 Feet. It has it all- a booty, a funny bone, a mind, a conscience, a soul.

"De la Soul, from the soul"

**If you're new to the site, the goal of the Bend Me, Shape Me series can be found

Monday, June 9, 2008

Dog Ears #15: The Screaming Mimi

Summertime is time for "beach reading", so I picked a book from my list that I hoped had no redeeming qualities other than sheer entertainment. Fredric Brown's 1949 pulp The Screaming Mimi hit the nail luridly on the head.

Not to be confused with the NYC vintage store"Screaming Mimi's"

Fellow Cincinnatian Brown's book has been adapted for film at least twice, first in 1958's SCREAMING MIMI (starring legendary looker Anita Ekberg as the stripper Yolanda) and then as the uncredited inspiration for Dario Argento's 1970 shocker THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. Particularly for a book almost 60 years old, Mimi's world of smart-ass narrators, hard-drinking beat reporters, sleazy underworld figures and psycho killers feels gritty and authentic (even during its many flights of fancy).

The writing is hard-boiled and often hilarious, and if I were still angling to produce movies I would go off to a motel in the desert, pound out another adaptation of this sucker and get it to Brad and Angelina ASAP. They would be perfect as binging Bill Sweeney and his curvy obsession Yolanda (which reminds me, the tagline for the 1958 MIMI was "Suspense around every curve!", which is pretty damn good methinks).

Starring Anita "La Dolce Vita" Ekberg (aka Anita "Va-va-voom" Ekberg)

If you decide to do that, please thank me in the credits.

p1 (the first lines of the book)
"You can never tell what a drunken Irishman will do. You can make a flying guess; you can make a lot of flying guesses."

"There's murder before the story proper starts, and murder after it ends; the actual story begins with a naked woman and ends with one, which is a good opening and a good ending, but everything between isn't nice. Don't say I didn't warn you."

p6 crease |krēs| verb [ trans. ]
2 (of a bullet) graze (someone or something), causing little damage : a bullet creased his thigh.

p10 "It's the easiest thing in the world, Sweeney. Take rich men. Easiest thing in the world; anybody can get rich. All you got to do is want money so bad it means more to you than anything else. Concentrate on money and you'll get it. If you want other things worse, you don't."

p20 "There are strange things in the world and then there are stranger ones."

There are strange films in the world, and then there are Dario Argento films.

p22 "Sweeney headed for the Blade. There's a nice pun in that, if you don't mind your puns obvious. The Blade. If you saw that pun yourself, forgive me for pointing it out. You got it, yes, but somebody else would have missed it. It takes all kinds of people to read a book."

p30 "'Well,' said Sweeney, and thought it over. He had to get some nourishment into him somehow, a little at a time, until his appetite came back and he could look at a full meal without flinching. 'Beer with an egg in it, I guess.'"

nictitating membrane |ˈniktiˌtāti ng |
noun Zoology
a whitish or translucent membrane that forms an inner eyelid in birds, reptiles, and some mammals. It can be drawn across the eye to protect it from dust and keep it moist. Also called third eyelid .

p32 "Isn't civilization a marvelous thing, Mr. Sweeney? That two men can sit around like this and insult one another, amicably but sincerely, and enjoy the conversation?"

p111 "He... knocked on a heavy door. It opened a few inches and a face looked out, the eyes–and they weren't nice eyes–well above the level of Sweeney's head. Under the eyes was a broken nose, and under the nose was a pair of thick lips that said "Yeah?" and showed broken teeth between them."

complaisant |kəmˈplāsənt|
willing to please others; obliging; agreeable : when unharnessed, Northern dogs are peaceful and complaisant.

p118 "Unconsciously, one judges others by comparison with oneself; and two people both of whom have eaten onions cannot smell each other's breath."

151 goldbrick informal
a thing that looks valuable, but is in fact worthless.
• (also goldbrick or goldbricker) a con man.
• a lazy person : [as adj. ] hardworking Amos and goldbrick Andy.
verb (usu. goldbrick) [ intrans. ]
invent excuses to avoid a task; shirk : he wasn't goldbricking; he was really sick.
• [ trans. ] swindle (someone).

156 "He strolled over to Clark Street, stopped in at Ireland's and ordered a lobster."
- i don't know what it is about that sentence, but there's something magical and transporting about it for me...

Finally, a bonus Dog Ear that I found at Brown's IMDB page. Brown is credited with writing the shortest horror story of all time:

"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door."