Entry 0113: Call of Cthulhu summary

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7-inch: English Civil War by the Clash

1979 CBS Records, CBS 7082

Favorite Track: Pressure Drop

 

You may remember my last blog post was a little background story about Wendell Christmas. Wendell was a handyman from Buffalo, NY, had a fondness for taxidermy, was dealing with the death of his mother, and was going hunting in Vermont. I had high hopes for Wendell. I was really expecting him to start creating alien taxidermy to sell to weirdos in New York City or Arkham. However, the stars were not aligned last night and poor Wendell as well as the rest of the investigating crew met their demise.

Here’s how it happened:

In one way or another, all seven of us knew Bryant (? I’m forgetting the exact name) who was a reporter gone missing in the Strafton Mountain region nearby the small town of Jenner. Almost immediately, we got the sense that the locals did not enjoy us asking too many questions. Yes, there were fires up there occasionally. Most likely, Harney was just sacrificing goats again. The reporter was last seen at the feed store, but who really cares. With mounting curiosity, we visited his house and found an odd clue. At night, we decided to visit Harney with one of our characters dressed in a diving suit and pretending to be a pest control agent. This is where the alcohol must have started kicking in. Unfortunately for us, this is exactly when some tall centipede creatures with glistening wings came to his farm. Our shotgun fired valiantly and dangerously in its face, but the creature still managed to wound our investigator. A drunk Harney shotgunned another sitting in the getaway car. Wendell, having been left behind, stole into the farmhouse, found a letter, then spent the night crazily dashing through the woods back to our inn.

That was the end of our first session. Last night, we gathered together as it just started to rain outside. We knew we were toward the end and were excited to solve the mystery. Our wounded tried to fast talk the doctor, but with no success. Right there, we should have paid heed to the lack of quality dice rolling. A few others went back to Brattleboro and bought weapons and a lot of dynamite. Wendell asked around the other farms but found out no other information. Some others in the day time went back to visit Harney and pull a gun on him, forcing a confession. He was working for the bugs, trying to get them home although we did not really believe that. The group decided to split up: one party would join Harney for the ritual with his buggy friends; the others would build a blind and stop any danger the others might get into.

And that’s where it all went wrong. Those who joined Harney immediately fell intoxicated with the chanting of strange, nearly unutterable words. A portal was growing and the world was turning icy cold. Wendell and two others pulled out their shotguns. Wendell muttered he would be the one to do the worst: shot the lady with all the hidden dynamite and blow up everyone down there. Wendell did not want to do it, already it weighed heavy on his mind. But he knew he was witnessing something not Christian, hell not even human, and this would be the safest way. We had failed to conceal dynamite around the stone circle earlier.

But this is where my stat sheet ruined the game. Wendell was slow with a 9 Dexterity.

One character got to fire first and they decided to target the dynamite lady even though that was suppose to be Wendell’s job. He fired and blasted the poor head off of the lady. Sadly, he was not lucky enough to hit any of the dynamite. One investigator dead. This senseless killing awoke one member from their trance, but the other kept on repeating gross syllables. The other investigator in the blind ran away screaming in terror. Wendell went homicidal.

Now, I could have shot the corpse of the lady anyways and maybe we would have won. But that didn’t seem inline with what just happened to my character. I was told that I now hated the human race. So, naturally, why would I not shoot the person who shot my target? I missed, but one of the creatures snapped his neck very soon after. Two investigators dead.

Wendell walked forward as the portal grew larger than even the tallest of the creatures. Clearly, they were not going home. Wendell aimed his shotgun again at the nearest target. She was still chanting when the spread tore through her neck and chest. Three investigators dead. Another bug creature got the guy who awoke from his trance. Four investigators dead. The screaming guy regained his sanity and came back to see if anyone was still alive. Wendell was moving along the circle getting ready to shoot the next person, Harney.

But the portal was open and out came a long, long arm. It thumped the ground and all of us flew into the air. Screaming guy only went 20 feet into the air, but feel and was severely injured. Wendell went up 70. He thought of his mother. He thought maybe I can get off one more shot. Harney should die after all. Then he landed on his neck and was dead. The screaming guy died as he froze to death. All seven investigators dead.

I laughed. The dynamite plan would have worked if it ignited. Or if I or someone else had killed Harney, the chanting would have stopped although the creatures may have still party wiped us. Alas, no alien taxidermy this time.

But, I am already at working creating Wendell Christmas’s brother, Hank.

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Entry 0111: Black Coffee, Part One

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LP: Queens of Noise by the Runaways

1977 Mercury Records SRM 1-1126

Favorite Track: Queens of Noise

 

The laser snake surged with potential energy, its purple scales pulsing with biofed power. It was coiled around a memory tree on the lowest branch where the data was richer. Cy and I had our converter packs with us, but weren’t interesting in computer history right now; we were smuggling. Black coffee was a crime. The president general had demanded a sweet world, a media wash on all things bitter. Every morning was video loops of cats stretching and children writing new patents. Outside my house, eight dead bodies laid in the gutter. Coffee addiction was the only thing keeping me alert and alive. Same with Cy. So we pooled our limited sources together and decided to wake up the world.

But we could only do that if we could get past this laser snake. We were not prepared for it. Laser snakes spawn where government secrets get filled with radiation six-packs. Nearly silent, able to read barcodes and ID chokers, laser snakes are typically used to guard something valuable, but, frequently, one or two will go rogue and eat for sport. They were most deadly around water, which, thankfully, wasn’t within a hundred miles of us. Well, thankfully because we were near a laser snake, but that lack of water was actually one of our biggest headaches in the black coffee world. We hated to serve our patrons powder.

Cy turned to me. “I forgot my sodium bicarbonate balloon at the guild.”

I saw a flicker of tension drain his face of its usually calmed countenance. I didn’t have much in my bag either, but I had a jacket because I get cold easily. It was my father’s–the only thing I had of that legendary figure. His wanted poster was still at the post office although that place was abandoned seventy years ago. Briefly, I thought of all the unread love letters and post cards. There was a story there I would have to write later.

“Cy, be prepared to run.” I tried to sound confident but the laser snake hissed, a zillion ones and zeros booming like thunder.

“Now!”

I threw the jacket on top of the snake. It was on fire before it even left my hands and I felt my fingertips blister. But the snake thrashed wildly, incinerating its way through the cloth, but Cy and I were long gone, 18 bags of coffee grounds awaiting their water source.

We just didn’t know at the time that we were under the eye of the president general.

Entry 0109: Why Never to Ask Me What I Had for Lunch

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LP: Hard Attack by MX-80 Sound

1977 Island Records ILPS 9520

Favorite Track: Civilized / Demeyes

 

Friends today learned the hard way not to ask me what I had for lunch. Food was still digesting in my belly so my brain was on fire with quick, silly responses. Here is the transcript (I am the Librarian Demon):

Pippi Gothstockings: how was everyones lunch?
Hero Scientist: I had taco truck pork burrito with spicy salsa
Librarian Demon: let me describe mine: I stood waiting by the counter, counting my chin hairs.
Pippi Gothstockins: where is there a taco truck
how many were there
this is important
Librarian Demon: the food seemed to be taking its time as if the chef had to grow it, water it, sing it Brahms, then slaughter it herself
Hero Scientist: it is the best taco truck
in the BP parking lot in pleasant ridge
Librarian Demon: a man approached me with a plastic bag. “oh my food” i said
mostly to myself as the man returned to the screaming kitchen
Pippi Gothstockings: oh youre at other a—s
i forgot about that
we’ve talked about that taco truck
Librarian Demon: i walked back to the library briskly, remembering that I had to pay a prank on C——
at my desk, I unveiled my succulent prize: sytrofoam
the fork was handy save for my fingers which i dropped a few times
after securing my fingers, i decided to press my nose into the styrofoam, inhaling the robust odor of mango, until the foam was pierced and a semi-burning liquid filled my nostril
to eat, I use my teeth but I have learned of stranger ways
the colorful array of snap peas, zucchini, ginger, pineapple, and mango on top of the saucy red (jack the ripper) tofu was ruined by the pale brown rice. why did I get brown rice???
only after overcoming all my fears that my poisoners had finally found after i escaped Buffalo, i place foods in the many places of my mouth
to save for later
my stomach farted happily as the stir-fry tore holes through my lungs with a rush of nicotine tar
now I peek at my desk, smiling fondly at the tragedy of my lunch hour: sixty minutes of my life to take sixty bites and sixty bites for my marriage to fall apart, leaving me alone with my tofu gun
*noticeable silence from the other two*

Entry 0108: Patti Smith plays Horses in Cleveland

LP: Horses by Patti Smith

1975 Arista AL 4066

Favorite Track: Land

LP: Horses by Patti Smith

1977? Arista AL 4066, reissue

Favorite Track: Land

The chill of the icy morning air woke me up a minute before my alarm went off. Daylight saving time had robbed me a precious hour of unconsciousness. I still hadn’t packed. My mouth felt fuzzy, but tolerable. I hoped my body odor was the same. I was bound to Cleveland to see Patti Smith play her seminal album Horses in its entirety. Horses is everything to me. This album changed my life more than probably any other album besides Smash by the Offspring, which was the album that made me fall in love music. But Patti Smith saved my taste in music.

When I first decided to collect records, I thought I was going to amass a small sample of jazz albums. I had an idea about having music to listen to while cooking plus realized that I could name five or six jazz musicians but have never heard any of their music (or at least not consciously). So I set off to the record store and bought a few jazz albums and then I happened to find London Calling by the Clash (one of my all-time favorites) and Horses by Patti Smith. Back at home, I listened to the jazz and enjoyed it. But it was when I put on Horses and Gloria started up with its sneering provocation of “Jesus died for somebody sins but not mine” that I knew what I had to do: I had to collect punk albums. Sorry jazz. You are wonderful and needed, but punk is my soul.

Sitting in the car in the back seat, my feet kept tapping awkward rhythms to the alternative playlist coming from the speakers. I was with two wonderful co-workers on the road trip of our lifetimes or, at least, it felt that heavy at the time. The father-daughter duo bantered in the front and I laughed along with them, but my mind kept spacing out during the long stretches of Ohio farmland. I couldn’t wait to eat. A beer would be the best. Actually, just get me out of this car already! I’ve pulled some super long car trips in my childhood, but I’m secretly starting to get real antsy in them. Getting old means feeling like you are going strange–maybe not crazy in its full sense of mental illness, but that feeling you cannot tolerate certain annoyances as easily any more.

We arrive on good time and with plenty to kill. Being a cold Sunday, we have few places to go within the Playhouse Square area. After a cozy and necessary Irish meal and beer (I had a black and tan for the first time in probably 7 years), we took an Uber to A Separate Reality record store where all three of us scored some dream records. My haul were nice original copies of Tim Buckley’s self-titled and Lorca album, the Bush Tetras’ Ritual EP, and the Live at CBGB’s compilation with Mink Deville’s Let Me Dream if I Want to (a song I love so much from that No Thanks punk rock CD box set). On the way back to the hotel, I imagined my next day off: a bottle of wine and all these new records.

The State Theater is beautiful. A Discordian miracle happen: I had bought my tickets separately than the Rileys. I only vaguely remembered where they sat. I picked a random seat. We were seated by the polite staff only for us to discover that I picked the seat directly behind theirs. Hail Eris! Then the lights dimmed and applause thundered from the 1,000+ audience members. Patti Smith strolled on stage dressed in her black vest and pants, a slight hop in her step as if she got some really good news right before entering stage left. Lenny looked the same as on the back of the album except for the obligatory white hair of venerable age. Then the piano chords rang out and Patti sings “Jesus died for somebody’s sins…” The place is already going nuts.

“Gloria” was a wonderful opener just like on the album. At first, I think they had Lenny Kaye’s guitar too low, but as the night went on, the more impressed I became with him. It’s so easy to get distracted by Patti’s frantic lyrics coming-at-you with beautiful imagery and brain-exploding meanings that the power of the music is present but not demanding of your ear. But if you listen to the individual instruments: damn, this is a tight band. Which they displayed with a relaxed version of “Redondo Beach”, which made me think of Pina Coladas. Then came the first vocal challenge of the night: “Birdland”. How was she going to do this? She did it with power in her voice. Anyone who believes that you should only see a band during their prime time or that no band is worth seeing 30 years later is a shit head. Patti Smith was as powerful now as she was then. Maybe, possibility, she could be better. When she hit the chorus for “Birdland” even the most prolific Patti Smith hated would have melted and been moved by her performance. “Free Money” rocked on and the band seemed to only get more energetic as the night wore on. As soon as that song ended, Patti quipped, “That was the end of Side A.This is where you physically flip the record to side B.” Us vinyl nuts found that funny, at least.

“Kimberly” is one of my secret favorite songs off that album. Patti told the audience about “Break it Up” which she wrote with Tom Verlaine of Television and how it is about Jim Morrison and his lack of grave at the time in France. “Land” well, do I even need to say how powerful, floor thumping, and volcanic explosion of catharsis and improv that had everyone on their feet dancing awkwardly in the confined seating areas of the State Theatre. For “Elegie” she sang the names of the musically dead while allowing people to add their own names. At that point, I think most people thought the concert was over. But they were not done. We were treated to “Dancing Barefoot” (my favorite non-Horses Patti Smith song), “Ghost Dance”, “Citizen Ship” and “Pissing in the River” from Radio Ethiopia!!! The hall reverberated with the magic of the band’s talent. Someone threw a Jerry Garcia shirt on stage and Patti launched into a rant against Jerry Seinfeld only to realize she misread the shirt. She also told us what she bought at the store: turmeric drink and a pear is all I remember.

And then the encore happened. After making us wait and clap and whistle and shout (like a professional) Patti came out and they tore into a ten-minuted rendition of “My Generation”–their famous cover that destroy’s the Who’s version in classic pass-the-torch-and-burn-the-past fashion. Patti even shredded on a guitar, wailing mad feedback like a proto-Kim Gordon and ending the cacophony by ripping all six strings off.

I had to immediately have food and a bourbon after that. For two hours, I was in heaven.

Entry 0105: Xmas Conan Reviews

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7-inch: Long Distance Lovers by Huggy Bear

1994 Gravity, Gravity 9

Favorite Track: Tuff Lovin

 

Happy holidays and anti-holidays to all of you crazy people out there! I had a wonderful trip to visit family down in the Carolinas. There was plenty of family photos, the traditional watching of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, cookies and other good food, presents, and, of course, time to bond with my nephew, an expert in insects, birds, and Jenga destruction. Also, I picked up this sarcastically wonderful head cold. But that gave me some time to catch up on my Conan the Barbarian stories, so let us see what he was up to this time! Spoilers below, of course.

“The Frost Giant’s Daughter” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

How long I have waited to read this tale? This is the tale that inspired The Sword to write a song about (and probably other bands as well). This is one of Fran Frazetta’s best Conan pieces and is the cover of the book (and an album cover for Dust). When I first started to show interest in Conan the Barbarian, it was the first tale whose name I learned. So how did it stack up? Quite well. Conan has found himself with an AEsir war party who has been slain in a mighty battle that leaves Conan all alone. A semi-nude woman appears and taunts him which drives the battle-weary barbarian into a lusty anger (how rude Conan! What are you a barbarian or a gentleman?) and he pursues her deep into the winterlands. Conan can never quite catch her and she sends two Frost Giants, her brothers, to attack Conan, which leads to an excellent fight. At the last moment, the woman calls upon her godly father’s name and a blindly bolt of lightning causes Conan to pass out (something he does a lot. I should have kept track of that.) When he wakes up, he thinks it was a dream until he sees her veil in his hands.

The tale is based upon Bulfinch’s version of Atalanta mixed with Apollo’s chase after Daphne after having been struck by Cupid’s arrow. This may be the mythological justification for Conan’s pursuit with intent to rape, but that aspect of the story is problematic. Now no one should be reading Conan and thinking he is a good guy and modeling their life after his behavior, but this action is too far wrong even for an “anti-hero”. In fact, Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter added Conan’s code of honor towards women in the very next story, stating specifically that Conan would never rape a woman, which I think was their (perhaps lame) attempt to gloss over this story. The rest of the story, however, is brilliant. It contains some of Howard’s best landscape descriptions and the battle with the Frost Giant’s is vicious. Also, it was a nice break from all the treasure hunting. A man overcoming the powers of nature and some gods before ultimately being humbled by a very powerful god, reminding Conan that even he has limits.

“The Lair of the Ice Worm” – 5 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

This title excited my brain to no end. I wanted to just pull out a piece of paper and draw what I thought the Ice Worm looked like and its lair. The story did not disappoint. Conan is traveling through the mountain ranges at the beginning of spring. A woman’s scream alerts him to some cave people circling a strange woman, so Conan begins to impale them upon his lance until it breaks. But his war axe handles the rest. The woman hardly knows a word Conan can understand, but she follows him into a cave so they can stay warm. Soon, they make love–okay, I did roll my eyes at this. While Conan slumbers, the girl sees two giant eyes. When Conan wakes up, he finds her missing and his honor shamed that he did not protect her. He follows the Ice Worm’s tracks to its lair and uses an ingenious idea (Conan understands science!) to defeat the Worm. I loved this story because the descriptions were just like out of a movie or an excellent D&D campaign. I love stories set in cold mountains during the winter. The Ice Worm was a great villain: a giant mouth with thousands of teeth to eat the flesh off the skeleton, but also a freezing breath to save food for later. Perhaps the plot is a bit too simplistic, but it show cases Conan as a maser fighter against even the most vicious of beasts.

“The Queen of the Black Coast” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

The first epic Conan tale. Some people rank this as the best Conan tale. Although I disagree, it certainly is a strong one. But like “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” even its lush language and large-scope plot cannot hide the sexism and racism in the story. The story starts with Conan fleeing a crowd by leaping on a barge and quickly befriending the captain, Tito. Conan admits he does not understand civilization: he had been called into trial as a witness (this may be the third time Conan has gone to court; is this another thing I should be keeping track of?) and frustrated at not understanding why he was there, Conan broke the skull of the judge and fled. What is interesting about this is you have the typical American “anti-hero” attitude against the Man (court system, police, government, etc.) which is commonly thought of as happening in the ’60’s, being presented in a Conan story written in 1934. Unfortunately for Tito, Conan is a bit of a curse of his companions as they are almost immediately attacked by Belit, the Queen of the Black Coast, which is exactly the groan inducing title you think it is: a white woman considered a goddess by superstitious black natives, who come with tom-toms, spears, and circular shields. By Crom, Robert E. Howard! She is also topless although maybe because she is also sailing around the hot southern oceans that would make a little sense…okay, looking at all the ladies glaring at me, nope, nevermind! Tito and his crew are killed and Conan leaps aboard Belit’s ship expecting to die, but Belit is sexually turned on by his savage nature and she asks him to become her mate. The sex hinted at suggests BDSM. Thus, Conan becomes a pirate and makes raids along the Black Coast until Belit decides to find a fabled lost city full of treasure. Okay, people have to stop doing this around Conan. It is definitely bad luck. As they travel down a lonely river, a giant snake eats one of the crew members. I suspect the Weird Tales editor said to Howard: “It has been five paragraphs since someone has died. Kill someone quick!” Then we get to the real meat of the story where they find the treasure, Belit issues some bad commands maybe under a curse, a winged creature has destroyed their water supply, Conan leads some troops into the jungle only to pass out at the touch of a black lotus. There he hallucinates the eons of history of the forgotten city: where superhumans lived but devolved into winged apes and other humans were turned into hyenas. Then comes a lot of death, including Belit who is hung from the yardarm. Conan’s final showdown expertly combines brutal wartime with the supernatural, which makes these Conan tales so special.

I really appreciated the scope of this story. It takes the normal Conan tale and stretches it into three distinct sections, pushing the limits of what Howard could get away with. A movie could be made out of this tale alone. Belit is a bit hokey as a character, but a better woman character despite her nakedness and immediately sexual attraction to Conan. Had Howard wrote out her background and how she become Queen of the Black Coast, this may have earned another broken skull in my ratings system. The dialogue between her and Conan feels comfortable and sort-of believable despite how fast they seem to pair up. Besides there is a jump-cut of time between sections one and two of the story, where obviously the two love birds would learn about each other. We are treated to Conan’s inner thoughts about gods including Crom. I did not expect this sudden religious contemplation at all! Then you get a Lovecraftian ancient history lesson followed by a bloody fight and a mourning Conan who gives Belit a Vikings funeral. Like I said, the scope of the story is impressive and had Howard only fleshed it out just a little bit more–say another 3,000 words–this would be contending with the best (minus the sexism and racism, of course). That being said, I would recommend this story to people first picking up Conan as an introduction besides “The Tower of the Elephant.”

Entry 0104: Mix Tape 2016

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7-inch: She is Beyond Good and Evil by the Pop Group

1979 Radar Records ADA 29

Favorite Track: She is Beyond Good and Evil

 

2016 was a terrible year. I shed many tears, clasped many a friend to my shoulder as we tried to hold each other up. However, 2016 was a great year in music for me. I discovered two bands that I binged on, finally got Hex Enducation Hour by the Fall, found some of my favorite punk albums as originals, discovered the groove in Veneuzuela during the 70’s thanks to Soul Jazz Records, and, like every one else, enjoyed the Stranger Things soundtrack. In fact, after making this list, I discovered this year I spent a lot of time listening to early electronic/industrial music–a good bit of it instrumentals. Needless to say because of the size, I am not going to put them in any particular order. You are going to have to be your own DJ (or just use the shuffle button).

2016 Mix

Song ————— Artist

  1. No One Can Find the War – Tim Buckley
  2. Carnival Song – Tim Buckley
  3. Pleasant Street – Tim Buckley
  4. Hallucinations – Tim Buckley
  5. I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain – Tim Buckley
  6. Once I Was – Tim Buckley
  7. Phantasmagoria in Two – Tim Buckley
  8. Get On Top – Tim Buckley
  9. Strange Feelin’ – Tim Buckley
  10. Buzzin’ Fly – Tim Buckley (Now in my top ten favorite songs of all time)
  11. Gypsy Woman – Tim Buckley
  12. Other – S U R V I V E
  13. Dirt – S U R V I V E
  14. Copter – S U R V I V E
  15. Angels and Demons – Echo and the Bunnymen (another favorite!)
  16. Erotic City – Prince (I already loved this song, but I rediscovered it)
  17. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lee Ving
  18. Another Christmas Beer – Fear (a classic!)
  19. Soldier of Love – Arthur Alexander (also knew about this one but was excited to get it on vinyl)
  20. She is Beyond Good and Evil – the Pop Group
  21. Mind Your Own Business – Delta 5 (also just super excited to get on vinyl)
  22. I Remember – Suicide
  23. Radiation – Suicide
  24. Mr. Ray – Suicide
  25. Touch Me – Suicide
  26. Harlem – Suicide
  27. Breath the Fire – the Soft Moon
  28. Circles – the Soft Moon
  29. Out of Time – the Soft Moon
  30. Parallels – the Soft Moon
  31. Insides – the Soft Moon
  32. Want – the Soft Moon
  33. Black – the Soft Moon
  34. Wrong – the Soft Moon
  35. Deeper – the Soft Moon
  36. Rainbow Demon – Uriah Heep
  37. Sunrise – Uriah Heep
  38. Spider Woman – Uriah Heep
  39. Rain – Uriah Heep
  40. Sweet Lorraine – Uriah Heep
  41. Tales – Uriah Heep
  42. The Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep
  43. Green Machine – Kyuss
  44. Le Coeur Au Bout Des Doigts – Jacqueline Taieb
  45. Laisser Tomber Les Filles – France Gall
  46. Roller Girl – Anna Karina
  47. Je Suis Folle De Tant T’amier – Arlette Zola
  48. Black Star – David Bowie
  49. Lazarus – David Bowie
  50. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie
  51. Nine Plan Failed – Adam and the Ants
  52. Never Trust a Man (With Egg on his Face) – Adam and the Ants
  53. Paralysed – Gang of Four
  54. What We All Want – Gang of Four
  55. In the Ditch – Gang of Four
  56. Song I – Wire
  57. Internal Exile – Wire
  58. Dead Weight – Wire
  59. Still – Wire
  60. I’m on Fire – Chelsea
  61. Decide – Chelsea
  62. Blank Reflection – Nots
  63. Inherently Low – Nots
  64. Entertain Me – Nots
  65. Ha Ha Ha – the Julien Ruin
  66. Just My Kind – the Julien Ruin
  67. Cookie Rd. – the Julien Ruin
  68. Lookout – the Julien Ruin
  69. I Decide – the Julien Ruin
  70. Mr. So and So – the Julien Ruin
  71. Time is Up – the Julien Ruin
  72. Calverton – the Julien Ruin
  73. Araguaney – Vytas Brenner
  74. Amor en Llames – Pablo Schneider
  75. Machu Picchu – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  76. Polvo Lunar – Miguel Angel Fuster
  77. Basheeba – Angel Rada
  78. Son De Tambor y San Juan – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  79. Dame de Comer – Miguel Angel Fuster
  80. Caracas Para Locos – Ofrenda Vytas Brenner
  81. Panico a las 5 a.m. – Angel Rada
  82. Deny Everything – the Circle Jerks
  83. Back Against the Wall – the Circle Jerks
  84. What’s Your Problem? – the Circle Jerks
  85. Nine Million Rainy Days – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  86. April Skies – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  87. Stranger Things theme – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  88. Kids – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  89. This Isn’t You – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  90. The Upside Down – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  91. Hanging Lights – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  92. Over – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  93. Danger Danger – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  94. Making Contact – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  95. Breaking and Entering – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  96. Baby Please Don’t Go – Budgie
  97. In the Grip of a Tyre Fitter’s Hand – Budgie
  98. Jumping Someone Else’s Train – the Cure
  99. Plastic Passion – the Cure
  100. Fire in Cairo – the Cure
  101. Dusseldorf – La Dusseldorf
  102. Time – La Dusseldorf
  103. Rheinita – La Dusseldorf
  104. Geld – La Dusseldorf
  105. Miss Fortune – Faust
  106. Der Garten Sandosa – Amon Duul
  107. Ein Wunderhubsches Madchen Traunt von Sandosa – Amon Duul

 

Whew, enjoy. It could have been longer.

Entry 0101: Return of Conan Reviews

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7-inch: House of Suffering Bad Brains

1986 SST Records PSST 065

Favorite Track: House of Suffering

 

The weather is rapidly cooling down and the air is brisk. A heavier coat is required when outside and I find a bounce in my step. Goodbye autumn, a friend but not as faithful as my lover, winter. Her cold kisses embrace me morning and night. The perfect time to sit and read by a fire, stretched out on a rug or pillow. I have just started the second Lancer book in the Conan series. The cover is one of Frank Frazetta paintings, which was also used for a Dust album starring Marky Ramone. Almost immediately into starting the first short story, I am drawn back to the clash of battle, the smell of death, the warcries, the desperation, the sneaky heists, and the lustrous women. Conan occupies a much simpler world: there is no good versus evil, there is only a question of honor and strength. As I crack open the cover of the book, I wonder what danger will Conan recklessly throw himself into this time?

*spoilers below*

“The Curse of the Monolith” – 2 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

I was about to dismiss this story as the worst story yet, but for a grisly image during the ending. Perhaps it would be better in comic book format. The plot is simple and, at this point, the most common Conan plot. Conan is still serving in the Turan army and while delivering a message, the man he escorts tells him of a fabulous treasure. The two of them sneak off only for Feng to betray Conan. The story feels rushed with almost no characterization, a hastily and not convincingly hidden treasure is used to lure a suspicious Conan dumb, and then magnets! Now Feng could just kill Conan as he helplessly struggles to free himself from his armor, but, no, instead he pulls out a flute and plays a piping song that summons an amoeba. All of this is groan worthy until the writing suddenly kicks into gear and, for a brief moment, you wonder if Conan is going to die. Then Conan does what he does best and saves himself and throws Feng into the monolith so he meets his own amorphous demise. There is not much to discuss in this story so I will move on.

 

“The Blood-Stained God” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

 

Once again, we get the tired Conan goes treasure hunting, begrudgingly befriends a companion who dies, and, ultimately, does not end up with any treasure than he started with. However, this is a pretty good tale and, most likely, a fun one to read out loud. Conan has finally quit the Turan army. A dying man gave him a map that has been stolen sometime before the story starts, so we begin with Conan searching the dangerous parts of a city looking for someone. We get an early fight scene and Conan is knocked unconscious while climbing a wall. He wakes to a stranger who has been spying on him, but willing to help. They set off on a chase for the treasure when they are ambushed, but the real excitement of the story starts when the cast of characters thins out to the main players. Then we get a hidden temple built into a mountainside, a hilarious death scene due to a trap door, and then the treasure–an short, squat apish statue that can become animated and throw people into a chasm. This story is about action. The landscape is described in lovely detail, but not really in an ominous or atmospheric way. Probably the best descriptions come with the trap door and Conan’s clever, but convenient fix. The story needs more time with Sassan, who could have been much more interesting–after all, he followed Conan around with him knowing and whose sudden greed for the treasure (his downfall) seems forced. Zyras and Kerspa also seem little more than names. Why is Kerspa so protective of his lands? Zyras is trying to kill Conan but allows him to temporarily join sides because of a Kezankian horde approaching? Are they particularly ferocious in combat or is Zyras a mastermind in betrayal? It would have been nice to have more background to these new cultures we are introduced to in this story. But the brutal ending proves the title right: it sure is a blood-stained god.

 

Another set of decent tales, but I am anxiously awaiting the next really good story. The next three stories all have promising titles: The Frost Giant’s Daughter, The Lair of the Ice Worm, and Queen of the Black Coast.

Entry 0093: The Other Sound

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7-inch: It’s the New Thing! by the Fall

2016 Superior Viaduct, SV108

Favorite Track: Various Times

 

“What do you do when you fall in love with a new band?”

Daryl looked worried. His round blue eyes seemed to be trying to spin around 360 degrees or to look through shadows. He wasn’t on drugs, but Karl knew that music could be just as addicting. When he first heard Marquee Moon…

“Who is your fancy this time?”

Daryl coughed. His breath stank of last night’s beer and old tuna. “This Manchester group. The Fall. I’ve-”

Daryl was never hesitant. Rarely did he change the subject like he did now.

“This book I’m reading, well, really it is a collection of short stories, but I meant they flow thematically or, perhaps, really they are just the same story…ghost story…told over and over again as if there is one true horror in the world…death can speak to you.”

Karl nodded his head, pausing to brush aside some strands of unwashed blond hair from his eyes. It had been a year or longer since he had read a book and he was almost envious of the way Daryl devoured them. Except when he began to speak of certain supernatural authors…as if what they wrote were more real to Daryl than Hemingway or Proust. Karl had only one favorite book: a book about caterpillars. And he told no one how much he loved it.

“Daryl, here you go again over-reacting to the fact that you found something that resonates with you. That you enjoy. I’m starting to imagine you are some kind of ascetic trying to live like Francis of Assisi-”

“There is this story with a secret staircase. Two men go down into the darkness and find what they are looking for: a loose stone. One carefully pulls it out while the other stands guard, expecting something but not being able to name what it is. And beyond the stone is a bundle of sorts, so the first man reaches in and that’s when the bundle moves. It’s alive you see. It is a ghost.”

Daryl smile faded from his face. Karl noticed his lower lip looked slightly chapped but chewed. The winter this year had been brutal with cold winds and negative temperatures. Class had been cancelled twice so far with tomorrow being a strong possibility for another closure. As if the howling winds outside their dorm room attested, a tree branch scratched the window with the intensity of a puppy wanting back inside.

“It always does that. I jumped myself a little. What story is this Daryl? And what does this have to do with the Fall? Were they the ones who sang Sonic Reducer?”

Daryl shook his head, eyes never leaving the tree branch. Karl was started to notice there was a small black bird perched on it even though it was still scratching against the window. It wasn’t there just a second ago…

“No, that’s the Dead Boys. The Fall had some singles like It’s the New Thing and Bingo Master’s Breakout. But I dug up Dragnet the other day and when I put it on, I was transformed…or possessed…or something supernatural like in the story…”

“Yes, what about that story? It sounds like I might have to give it a go-”

“No. It and Dragnet are like the bundle. They are ghosts. But alive. Don’t put your hands on things that leave stains or won’t let go. The shape of your mind after such an encounter. I…”

The bird was gone but just as Karl had turned his head from the window, he saw Daryl react, his mouth tensing in a thin line, and Karl checked over his shoulder and sure enough the bird was back on the branch but with a struggling purple worm in its mouth.

“Well, you can’t fault a bird for being hungry. And are you sure you aren’t taking these stories, this music a little too seriously?”

Daryl bowed his head for a moment. He seemed like he was welling up to spill a long overdue monologue. Instead, he asked a simple question: “But what if these stories are word for word true?”

So the dead can speak but we do not know the language. Or is the language of the dead so frightening, so offputting, that we could only react with screams, mental anguish, and moody depression?”

The worm went down the bird’s gullet in one fast disappearing trick.

“They need us. The dead. We keep their spirits alive by learning about them or listening for them or reading about them. And, at first, they were happy because they were not being forgotten, but now they are angry. We aren’t saving them. They miss life and want it back. And, maybe, they can come back if we…if we keep touching those secret bundles…”

The wind shook the oak again and the bird flew away. It darted in a curious zig zag pattern, its small furry body somehow untouched by the wind. Karl shook his own head and again brushed aside strands of hair.

“I think I am turning in for the night. The question reminds: should I listen to the Fall or not?”

Daryl did not bat an eye. “At your own risk. The other side has its consequences.”

 

The next day, Karl awoke and Daryl had already left for his sculpture class. On his desk was the seven-inch single titled It’s the New Thing. Karl shrugged. Daryl was a little batty in the head. They became friends in grade school because both of them knew about Dungeons and Dragons. Their friendship mostly consisted of them indulging on finding new esoteric entertainments whether it be comics, novels, music, art, or, although rarely, Irish folklore.

The vinyl was light and the needle ran over some small bits of dust setting the speakers into static-like thunder. Then the song came on and Karl tapped his finger along. Mark E. Smith yapped a string of words like a cultish prayer. The guitar and keyboard and drums suddenly smashed into each other as if a car accident happened in the recording studio. Mark E. Smith continued his chant. A rhythm was found then lost. More chaos.

Karl did not notice that the song was over and the record was spinning endlessly. He also did not notice the small black bird, back at the window. Karl looked into the other side and hear the almost inaudible breathing, the soft pads of feet inching closer, the implacable limbs reaching for this throat…

Entry 0090: Savaged Again

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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

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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.”