Entry 0090: Savaged Again

13247848_10153699130233590_6730149375352425572_o

LP: Adore Life by Savages

2016 Matador Records OLE-1076-1

Favorite Track: Sad Person (but The Answer live)

 

Here I am again reviewing the Savages. I wish I could do this every night. I am in awe about this band. You must go see them live. They reach deep inside you, pluck the most vital organs and nerves, and spread a feeling of being welcome throughout your soul. Let them in.

I arrived at the show late, in my work clothes and dress shoes, and a bit winded running four city blocks. Yes, I ran to the show. Also, I have never been to the Taft Ballroom before so when I heard the grinding opening notes of City’s Full start while the attendees scanned my ticket, I considered just running straight past them. They were older and I doubt (but maybe be surprised?) that they could catch me. Down the stairs I went and bam! there stood the Savages on a raised stage surrounded by people reaching for them. Ayse was just smiling and playing her bass with measured control, fingers sliding up and down the neck like forked lightning. I pushed through the crowd till I found my friends right at the front, Jehnny Beth right in front of me looking down with those intense face of hers. (I love it when she sings No Face. Her face is wields a lot of power, almost as if she was an actress, and is easily a face that stands out from the crowd.)

Speaking of Jehnny Beth, I heard many people talking after the show about how she changed their lives. One friend claimed she fell in love when Jehnny looked right at her and sang When in Love. It’s true. Jehnny’s stage performance (or maybe it is just who she is and it shines out twofold while she is on stage) makes everyone feel welcome and included: she shakes people’s hands, she stares with those beautiful and haunted eyes directly at you, she keeps her face still and calm but will break down and laugh every now and then, and she embodies the noise and music her bandmates create around her. It is impossible not to feel elevated heights of emotions. Even listening to their records is like a needle scratching dust away from the groove. The acute introspection leads to a clearer glass reflection.

She also does all this in some high heels. I went dancing in high heels once in college. My feet were bleeding. I could still dance like the maniac I am but there was definitely a challenge to it and perhaps a fear of turning my ankle.

The set list was different in order from the show I saw in Cleveland. They did not play Evil or I am Here, but played Shut Up. No criticism here because I looked up their ridiculously long tour schedule for this year, but they were a smidgen less energetic than in Cleveland. Plus the Grog Shop’s low ceiling lead to more of Jehnny’s stage-diving antics whereas the Taft Ballroom’s high-ceiling gave the venue a sense of openness like a stadium show. Jehnny still dove into the crowd: first being carried out on her knees while she sang pointing at people, then she fell back and drifted back to the stage. So, yes, they were still ferocious in Cincy.

Once again, The Answer is just so incredibly powerful. Gemma Thompson’s guitar work rips the airs apart, each note a savage tearing of sonic structures. Fay Milton smiled a couple of times as I jumped up thrusting my fist into the ear. T.I.W.Y.G. sounded better in Cincy then Cleveland: they have harvested its raw power into a fantastic finisher with crazy lights casting you in dark shadows, then blinding you to a greater light as if you were under attack by bombardment. They dedicated a song to Alan Vega, who recently passed and traveled to another planet according to Jehnny, but I am surprised they didn’t play their cover of Dream Baby Dream.

Adore was breathtaking. “Maybe I will die maybe tomorrow so I need to say / I adore life.”

I agree.

Entry 0089: The Adventure Begins

13652956_10153802252093590_7809625561365692664_o

LP: Run Fast by the Julie Ruin

2013 The Julie Ruin TJR101

Favorite Track: Lookout

 

“Not much of a tavern,” grumbled the hairy dwarf as he doffed his heavy helmet unto the table, which groaned under the weight, “I bet the strongest tankard their ale tastes like my grandmermer’s feet.”

Adlace chuckled and surveyed the smoky room. It smelled of pumpkin spice, tobacco, and fish frying in lemon. The bar keep was a tough looking man of taciturn nature and scabbed knuckles. A few thieves and rouges were in all the corners, hoping shadows and low candlelight protected their identities from the right people. Adlace began murmuring a few words, attempting to detect magic in any of the people or the weapons they carried.

Starl came back with three glasses of a hazel color, a few breadrolls, and the fish fry over some local leaf of an anise-flavor. She sliced her roll with her jewel-encrusted dagger and more than a few eyes looked over at them.

“Put that away,” muttered the dwarf, Granitetooth, as he splashed as much beer into his beard as he did his mouth. “I suggest we sleep with one eye open tonight. Or move through this damned rain. There’s something here I just don’t trust.”

“Could it be because we are in the southeast? Far away from your Glitter Mountains? You’ve been surlier the further we have traveled–” Starl began but Granitetooth interrupted her.

“The air’s too warm. It’s not the people. They are…pleasant.”

Starl flickered a burnt piece of fish into the nearest fire and turned back to the dwarf. “You use that excuse every time. First, the air was too moist in the Forest of Seven Stars. Then it was too much in Tower Clomax. By the time we got to the fishing village of Pl’aan, you said the air was too sterling.”

Adlace was laughing. The emaciated man in the blue cloak sitting by the fire emitted a strong magical presence although Adlace was not sure if he was a wizard or if he carried a magical item that gave off an aura. For the moment, he kept his eyes of his friends.

“Also,” Starl continued, “don’t interrupt me again or you will lose that stubby tongue of yours.”

“Aye,” Granitetooth scowled, “I mean no disrespect, my Lady, but it is a habit I’ve picked up sitting on the Dwarven Gem Guild console. We would have been there all day arguing with each other if we went one at a time.”

“Didn’t they dissolve last winterfall without ever settling the market prices for certain precious stones?” Adlace watched as the magical stranger was approaching them with a slight limp in his steps. His face was streaked with dirt, but his eyes seemed unnaturally white.

Granitetooth now chuckled, a sound much like rocks rolling down a cliffside. “Aye, the Guild was really an excuse to swap tales about collecting rocks. One time, Jagcleft…”

The stranger stood in front of the table, his hands twitching slightly. “I hate to join your party unannounced but secrecy is of the utmost importance. And time is slight.”

Granitetooth had reached for his axe but Adlace restrained him. Starl measured the stranger with her piercing green eyes but saw no visible weapon on him. In fact, he looked rather sickly or of poor constitution. His voice was as soft as his body.

“I need some people willing for a dangerous adventure. But the reward would be quite significant.”

Granitetooth finished his tankard. “And what would be the reward?”

The stranger smiled and all three of the adventurers noticed that all his teeth glowed an eerie cerulean color.

“A dragon’s horde of treasure.”

 

Entry 0088: Wisconsin Wonderland

12011127_10153218924488590_8015296145644747652_n

7-inch: Time of the Season by the Zombies

1968 Date Records 2-1628

Favorite Track: Time of the Season

 

I love this Zombies song and I can’t believe I forgot to request it during our drive up to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Is there a more magical state? It was still bright when we drove over the state line, stopped at a rest stop and took photographs by the state sign. Soon, it would be dark and stormy. My friends and I did not mind; we were enjoying an IPA called Steve Doesn’t Use His Rearview Mirror and Steve himself who was sitting at the counter asking if he could sign some boobs. After a long car ride in which I read the entirety of the first Hawkmoon book, and with the sense of adventure before us, what was a little rain?

Setting up camp in a field overgrown with wild plants, I surveyed the surrounding environs. We had some shade provided by three or four trees that served as our hammock city. In one direction was a large farm and sometimes motorcycles went past on the road. Other than that, we were alone save for squabbling of Sandhill cranes and the mosquitos. Blue Team was victorious but Green Team was sexier. The night quickly turned into country songs and beer competitions. Cheese curds were consumed. More alcohol was consumed. The Milky Way gleamed above us like a glistening spider web, each star an insect caught on its strands. This time I blew up an air mattress and didn’t have to sleep on the cold ground, not that this land was very cold.

And then it was morning. The tent was stuffy, unbearable, but upon opening the flap, cool air soothed my soul. So did the hammock as I read the second Hawkmoon book. Although it was the second, it was they day to celebrate the fourth and we do so in mighty Wisconsin style. First, we pontooned around Lake Wisconsin until we found a sandbar by the source of the Wisconsin River. I don’t know what I like about boats so much but I find them very therapeutic: a nice wind blowing through my hair, beautiful water and trees as far as the eye can see in any direction, and the slightly bumpy ride which shakes me out of the deep reveries I often fade into during traveling. The water was nearly perfect and it wasn’t long before we were splashing and dunking each other. Everyone we met were super friendly; Wisconsin reminds me of Buffalo in that sense–it must be the hard winters. Then it was time to head back to shore after throwing a mixed CD into the lake for the sake of comedy. We went to a small town firework show, which was bright, loud, dazzling, and maybe a tad dangerous–the fiery firework remnants were still on fire as they came down and hit the ground. But the music was good and the night sky clear.

On the actual fourth, we were drinking beers in tubes floating down the Wisconsin River when four bald eagles flew over our heads. American as hell. Each night we wound up in bed or at last down at the camp site earlier and earlier, watching the shooting stars and cracking each other up.

On the ride home, I finished the third Hawkmoon book. We rolled into Cincinnati late at night. I got five hours of sleep before having to wake up and go to work the next day. After eight hours and barely being conscious, I came home, ate dinner, closed my eyes for a nap and woke up at one A.M.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Easily, it my top five favorite trips.

I did manage to read another Conan story that I will now review with spoilers:

“The Hall of the Dead” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

 

I found that this story was too similar to the last story, “The Tower of the Elephant”. Both starred Conan befriending another person to steal fabled treasure from some mysteriously booby-trapped building. I liked the set-up of the story with its beginning with Nestor leading his men after Conan. His troops have various opinions about Conan, which is a good way for an author to build up character development with a bit of suspense. A rock slide trap easily disposes of the troops, leaving Nestor on his own. Their fight was predictable, but I was glad that Nestor wasn’t killed; throughout the rest of the story I waited to see how he would return. Of course, Conan gets chased around and then kills a giant slug which felt similar to the giant spider fight, but not as scary and immediate. When Nestor catches up I was hoping for a final showdown, but instead they befriend each other for the sake of treasure. This is probably a smart move story-telling-wise, but it didn’t seem completely plausible. The mummy fight was not nearly as strong as the one in “The Thing in the Crypt”. It felt a little bit like forced action. The resolution with Conan discovering his gems turned to dust, the jade statue turning into a live snake, and him having to leave his (first?) woman behind only to discover that Nestor lost his treasure too really tied the story together. There is something dark but grimly humorous that they can laugh off the experience that cost people their lives and put themselves in danger. I guess it is the rough barbarian life style.

Entry 0087: The Savage Pen of Car Trips

12109323_10153259516918590_5184498457463805475_n

LP: Jeopardy by The Sound

2012 1972 Records if02

Favorite Track: I Can’t Escape Myself

 

I just came back from a very adventurous and amazing camping trip in Wisconsin that I will have to blog about soon. But I also enjoyed reading a lot that trip including reading an entire book on both car trips. In between Hawkmoon novels, I read Conan the Barbarian short stories and I’m just craving them so much (I haven’t gotten my monthly DnD bloodshed in yet) I have to review each story in the series.

*Spoilers below*

“The Hyborian Age, Part One” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

The purpose of this essay was to flesh and map out the different regions so Robert Howard could maintain consistency within his Conan stories. As a first time Conan reader, this was a dry way to start the journey, but a necessary one. Also, by the time I’m done reading the stories, I feel like re-reading this will be almost essential. For the reader, you can important historical information about different people including the Picts and Cimmerians. There is not much to say other than this is an excellent tool for writers who are working in the fantasy genre. Even I am thinking about writing a similar essay for a novel idea I have set in a fallen city. How did that city fall, Adam, how?

“The Thing in the Crypt” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

This felt very familiar because it was in the movie. It is almost a plotless tale; more like a chapter of a larger work. This is how a young Conan finds his sword while escaping from prison. How this story succeeds is in its urgency. From the get-go Conan is in trouble, running cold and half-nude through the snow being chased by wolves. He hides in a rock which has a secret crypt inside of it. There a dead king sits in a throne holding a sword which Conan takes without questioning and is attacked by a mummy. The battle scene is great with Conan hacking the mummy to bits but the bits keep coming until he learns to use fire. A Weird Tales vibe haunts this pastiche which beguiled me into trusting further stories written or touched upon by de Camp and Carter. They are truly Conan-dorks.

“The Tower of the Elephant” – 5 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

I always forget that Conan is linked to Lovecraft’s Mythos in a sense. This tale almost could be a Lovecraft tale and is certainly great to read around a campfire. Conan is a young man who makes his living by stealing. Hanging out in a den of thieves (god, I want to play DnD so bad!), Conan overhears a braggart talking about the treasures inside the Tower of the Elephant, so mysteriously named as elephants do not roam in this land. Conan picks a fight with this man and kills him in the dark when the candles are sniffed. He then leaps the wall and immediately runs into another thief with the same idea. They team up and fight off some lions with the handy use of a poisonous gas. Upon climbing up the tower, Taurus is killed by a giant spider and the ensuring fight may be the best spider fight scene I have ever read. Sorry, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, you got nothing! Then Conan meets the “trans-comic being” of Yag-kosha, a blind elephant man who is being tortured by the evil sorcerer Yara. At its behest, Conan stabs out its heart and bleeds it over a jewel which he throws at Yara. The jewel eats Yara and Conan escapes with nothing.

The writing is excellent. The violence is handed well and the eerie cosmic horror atmosphere makes this ones easily my favorite so far and a tough one to beat. And it was the first Conan story written, I think. Doing research, I discover that it was the third one published in Weird Tales magazine. The First was The Phoenix on the Sword, which was published in December 1932, and written up as “a tale of the incredible thing that happened in King Conan’s bedchamber.” Yowza! I particularly like the different puzzles Conan and Taurus had to figure out as they climbed the tower like it was some kind of Legends of Hidden Temple game. An interesting tidbit I’ll have to watch is how many unjustified murders Conan gets away with in this series. His killing of the braggart reminds me of some of the violence Delilah gets away with in A Darker Shade of Magic and its sequel. It would have been nice to have more time with Yara. I love evil wizards.

 

More later, lunch break is over!