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« Ingenuity | Main | Shiny Objects — No. 7 »

Shiny Objects — No. 8

1. Deutschland83

Sundance TV is the place to see this terrific German-language series set in Cold War 1983. Jonas Nay is the charming star of this multi-layered spy story set in East and West Germany amid intense threat of nuclear war. There are all kinds of plot twists and switchbacks that will keep you guessing. The series — which Grantland’s Andy Greenwald has proclaimed the best TV series of the summer — is five episodes into an eight-episode run (at least for the first season).Underlying the storylines is the penetration of synthpop into pop culture at that time, and listeners my age will fondly remember some of those songs (including “99 Luftballons”). There’s a great scene where Nay’s character — who grew up insulated from progress in East Germany — discovers the joys of a Sony Walkman while undercover in West Germany.

Unless you understand German, “Deutschland83” requires full attention to read the subtitles interpreting fast-paced storylines. But like “The Wire” and “Game of Thrones,” you’ll be rewarded for your focus.


2. “Paul Weller: Four Decades and Three Perfect Songs”

I grew up adoring The Jam’s mod-infused punk and R&B, and count “Setting Sons” among my Top 10 favorite albums. I’ve only casually followed band leader Paul Weller’s subsequent long careers in The Style Council and as a solo artist but respected his experimentation into new styles and refusal to spend too much time fondly recalling the past.

I’d argue with Weller’s suggestion that he’s written only three perfect songs, but admire that humbleness, which comes through loud in this “Soundcheck” interview.


3. Noel Gallagher on Loving 'Seinfeld,' Hating Most Everything Else

Noel Gallagher may be our last great rock star. He’s talented, successful, opinionated and unbelievably funny. Now that Oasis is dead, he’s focusing his energy on a new band, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. With a new album to promote, he’s been doing a series of interviews, including several with Rolling Stone that are illuminating and hilarious. Here’s just one of the many funny bits in a recent Rolling Stone interview that capture’s the directness that serve Gallagher well, and for better and worse: 

Rolling Stone: Do you listen to much pop?

Gallagher: No. It's fucking awful. Modern pop music is bland nonsense. There isn't even a word yet that's capable of describing it. If it was a color, it would be beige. Do you know what color beige is?

Rolling Stone: I do, yeah.

Gallagher: It's like a milky brown. Not for me.

Rolling Stone: What about Taylor Swift? She's a pop star, but many people praise her talent as a songwriter.

Gallagher: [Laughs] Who says that? Her parents?

Rolling Stone: Lots of people.

Gallagher: Who's "people"? Name these people. You're fucking lying. She seems like a nice girl, but no one has ever said those words, and you fucking know it.

4. “5 Best Bourbons Under $10” and a memorable review for the worst

Paste Magazine does a pretty good job of covering stuff that interests me: music, TV, pop culture and booze. And that’s where I stumbled across this gem by Asher Gelzer-Govatos that documents an interest band that gets little attention from liquor geeks: cheap liquor.

 But the best bit about “5 Best Bourbons Under $10” is not the good stuff, but the “Two ‘Bourbons’ to Avoid at All Costs, Even in Case of Emergencies.” Tucked at the end of his entertaining article is this memorable review of Kentucky Deluxe Blended Whiskey:

“... Somehow this influx of grain spirits does nothing to calm the flames of Kentucky Deluxe’s rage. The moment it hits your tongue it commences a symphony of pain. I imagine it does to your digestive tract roughly what paint remover does to paint, except instantaneously.

Nor does the flavor make up for it. KD traffics exclusively in medicinal flavors, starting with the overpowering aura of rubbing alcohol that greets your nostrils upon smelling it. Not even cola can mask the taste; Interestingly, the combination tasted more like a gin and cola than a bourbon – albeit the cheapest, grossest gin you can imagine. Kentucky Deluxe should be avoided at all costs, unless you really dig the taste of medicine, in which case… nope, you’re better off downing a bottle of witch hazel.”



5. "Born to Drum"

“Born to Drum” is the worst music book, possible the worst book, I have ever read. It’s appallingly bad.

Yes, as a drummer I’m going to be overly critical about a book about drummers. But “Born to Drum” is criminally comical in its repeated exaggerations and sweeping generalizations of all things related to drumming. Author Tony Barrell regularly takes isolated instances of something he finds out of the ordinary (large numbers of tattoos, addiction, even memory loss) and then tries to link those oddities to some kind of extraordinary trend isolated to people who drum (even though guitarists, vocalists, bassists, etc., likely exhibit the same degree of behaviors). There’s even a patronizing chapter on women drummers that stresses that women drummers shouldn’t be singled out by their gender. Fine, but in the Acknowledgements, Barrell’s list of thank-yous alphabetizes the male drummers he interviewed, then moves onto a separately alphabetized list of “some phenomenal female drummers.”

There are a few interesting bits, such as some detail on complex time signatures in famous songs, but generally the book reads like poor self-published drivel. Sadly, respected publisher Harper Collins has its name on it.

Please, by all means, if you want a great book about drumming please consider “The Ultimate History of Rock ‘n’ Roll Drumming: 1948-2000” by Daniel Glass.


6. "The Vegas Plot"

 California Sunday magazine takes a deep and disturbing look into the "sovereigns" whose hatred of police and yearning for an alternative government is so intense that murder is seen as a calling rather than a last resort. 

I won't spoil the ending, but this long story is worth the full read. 

7. Josh Ritter’s “Sermon on the Rocks”

Josh Ritter is one of those critically acclaimed but little known performers who consistently creates great music. Like Ron Sexsmith, he weaves detailed stories into beautiful song structures.

“Gettng Ready to Get Down” — no doubt inspired by Bob Dylan’s 50-year-old “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in its folksy rap — taps into a variety of emotional and philosophical issues that color the debate over spirituality and the realities of life.

Ritters lays all tha tout in this conversation with NPR’s Bob Boilen. He even talks about the title of his upcoming album, “Sermon on the Rocks.” That’s a phrase that can be defined several ways, but I’ll take Ritter’s view that it’s a good pun for whiskey in an ice-filled glass.


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