Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taking a writing break - revisiting older material

I actually started writing because of my brother.  He's always had an interest in film-making, scriptwriting, and the creative process associated with those two pursuits.  Seven years ago he first started mentioning writing as a way to break the shackles of the full-time job.

It was a trip to Washington D.C. that cemented this idea.  While I was touring the monuments and museums, I had the idea of a Civil War novel with a detective and his sidekick.  When I got back home, I started clumsily writing my first novel.  The work was harder than I expected and the end results did not meet my standards of quality either.  I obviously had some learning to do.  So I continued to write - churning out two more novels with these characters and settings.  Submitting this work to a handful of agents and book publishers resulted in no takers so I filed this work away for another day.

Instead, I worked on the books that eventually became Murder at Zero Hour and Of Ghosts and Gunpowder.   I not only changed my writing style, I was also able to write with better results.

A few months ago, I started on my 6th book which is departure from my 'normal' historical fiction.  With a self-imposed short deadline, I've been working furiously to complete this new science-fiction book.  But with the arrival of summer and my various (real world) work schedule, I've been pushing myself too hard.  I've hit a wall of creativity and I've realized I have to take a step back from this new book.  A short rest will allow my imagination to start flowing again.

So in the meanwhile, I will be revisiting those earlier books and see if I can make something good out of them.  Really, I find editing easier than creating new material.  So with any luck, I can push out my first book but have some much improved writing and character development.  Stay tuned!

Review: Sad Lovers and Giants - Feeding the Flame

Sad Lovers and Giants were another Midnight Music group that had a long and varied discography.  After splitting in 1983, they reformed again in 1986 with a new lineup since other members split to start Snake Corps.  In 1991, SL&G released their last album Treehouse Poetry on the dying Midnight Music label only to split up yet again.  Time marched on only to find them releasing albums yet again with a new one planned for this year.

Feeding the Flame is Sad Lovers and Giants second album and was released in 1983.  It's riddled with atmospheric keyboard, post-punk choppy guitars and moody vocals - the classic sound of Cold Wave.  Lovers of The Cure, The Sound, or Echo will find much to love here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Play Dead - From the Promised Land

1980s post-punk that has often been labeled as Goth Rock, Play Dead’s music centered around martial beats, buzz saw guitars and menacing lyrics.  There is also a distant undercurrent of Cold and Dark Wave that I find particularly appealing.

Because of label mismanagement and other circumstances, they never received the attention that other like-minded groups had.  Though they never achieved great popularity, Play Dead managed to churn out quite a large number of quality albums and singles.  Go ahead and check ‘em out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Review: The Felice Brothers - Celebration Florida

The Felice Brothers are known for their dark Americana-roots folk music - sounding like Bob Dylan singing about busking on the streets and scoring smack.  I've been a fan ever since I heard Frankie's Gun and was pleased to see they released a new album titled Celebration Florida.

To my surprise, this album is a massive shift in sound.  With Celebration Florida, the Felice Brothers are trying to capture the sound of the ghetto and the failing American Dream.  The core of the music is hardly different than their older material but the added bursts of ghostly children, horns, hip-hop and shout-alongs only end up confusing the message of the song.  Electronic effects, including autotune, come and go - stuttering and jerkily - only adding to the chaotic dirge. My first thought was they jumped the shark, but further listening revealed a few gems hidden in the dense mix -  the songs Ponzi and Oliver Stone are fairly good as is the lengthy River Jordan.

It's an epic vision - like their own Sgt. Peppers or perhaps a stretching into the realm of Tom Waits - but it's an odd departure from their signature sound.  Not all of it works, but I do give them kudos for trying to move beyond their comfortable boundaries.  I'm certainly not expecting every group to keep producing the same album over and over, but Celebration Florida misses the mark.

Review: Shout Out Louds - Our Ill Wills

I’ll admit that only a few modern groups truly catch my fancy.  For those reasons, check out my post on the death of rock music.

But even with the high levels of mediocrity coming out of the music scene, there are still a number of musical acts worth the effort.  The Shout Out Louds are one such example.  Hailing from Sweden, this group of childhood friends makes melodic and hooky music that touches on the best parts of the 80s.  I’ve seen them compared to The Cure, but there are deeper strains of melancholy intertwined with bright, hummable pop.  The guitars shimmer and the mixed harmonies of Adam Olenius and Bebban Stenborg lift even the more simple material to a higher plane. 

They have three albums so far – Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, which is more of a collection of their early singles, the great Our Ill Wills and their latest WorkOur Ill Wills gets the nod from me for being their best, but all are worth owning.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: T. Rex - Electric Warrior

Before T. Rex, there was Tyrannosaurus Rex, a 2-man folk-hippie group founded in 1967 by guitarist Marc Bolan and percussionist Steve Took.  Moderately successful, they churned out four albums before Took was replaced by Mickey Finn.  The name was changed to T. Rex and at the same time, the music became much more rock-orientated.

Marc Bolan’s songwriting and Tony Visconti’s production really took off at this point – creating the new sound of Glam Rock.  After the success of the 1970 album T. Rex, 1971 saw the release of Electric Warrior with the famous songs Jeepster and Get It On.  This record is really nothing but three chord wonders, but what massive hooks they have.  Visconti’s production really makes this record something special with strings, backing vocals and pounding bongos.  This was the big and fun sound of glam - a sound that has never been truly reproduced since.

Marc went on to make two more Glam albums of note – Slider and Tanx.  After that, the rock star lifestyle began to catch up.  Bolan’s cocaine and booze caused members of T. Rex to drop away.  Music quality began to drop as Bolan struggled to crack the charts once again.  By then musical tastes had changed and Glam had passed on from popularity.  It wasn’t until the throes of punk rock that Marc started to make his comeback with the 1977 release of Dandy in the Underworld.  But fate stepped in and Marc was killed in a car accident two weeks before his 30th birthday.