Music Review: Tangerine Dream – Chandra (the Phantom Ferry, Pt. 1)

June 22, 2010

Release date: 2009 Genre: electronic music Label: Documents Classics

Rating: listened to: often

Is it paradoxical to wish for a band that you enjoy not to release new stuff all the time? So that you can finally sit down and catch up with their old albums? Giving their fans a breather is clearly not on TD’s mind, for through the years they (more precisely, main man Edgar Froese) have been releasing new work in a tempo that make workaholics like Neil Young appear positively lazy. TD makes an album faster than Asimov could write a book.

Chandra, the phantom ferry is a solid addition to the TD discography. Nothing spectacular though, and you’ve heard most if it before in one form or another. This is not meant literally, TD do have a habit of repackaging their older work but this album isn’t one of those. The exception is Silence on a Crawler Lane, a variation of which has apparently appeared in Froese’s solo work.

Stylistically the album is somewhat in between Mota Atma and the late nineties album Transsiberia. It is also not unlike The Atomic Seasons series. No heavy percussion (which was very cool on Mars Polaris), no Melrose era saxophones. Thank god no singing -TD albums with vocals have been almost uniformly dreadful not in the least due to the lyrics. Just synthesizers. Bleep, bleep.

So who should listen to this? Only the really hardcore fans and suckers like me? After the first spin I was ready to dismiss the album as stale and more of the same. But then a funny thing happened, it never left my playlist. For some reason I kept on playing it as background music during my work. And I became addicted to its opening track Approaching Greenland at 7 PM and its cool follow-up the Moondog Connection. And halfway through the epic The Dance Without Dancers cemented my opinion that the album is actually pretty good. Those new to TD and somehow ending up with this particular disc as their entry point do well to first listen to the tracks I just mentioned (and of course they should realize that the sound of TD has varied radically over the many years). If they like what they hear, they can safely buy an album that will grow on them. With the possible exception of Child Lost in Wilderness which I came to find boring and vaguely annoying.

track list
1. Approaching Greenland at 7 PM
2. The Moondog Connection
3. Screaming of the Dreamless Sleeper
4. The Unknown is the Truth
5. The Dance Without Dancers
6. Child Lost in Wilderness
7. Sailor of the Lost Arch
8. Verses of a Sisong
9. Silence on a Crawler Lane

When time becomes a loop

June 10, 2010

I’ve just read an article on the Huffington Post, titled What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests Time Simply Reboots, by a guy named Robert Lanza. I had never heard of him, but that is completely my fault, for according to the author description I just linked to he is one of the greatest scientists currently walking on the face of the planet… seriously:

Robert Lanza was taken under the wing of scientific giants such as psychologist B.F. Skinner, immunologist Jonas Salk, and heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. His mentors described him as a ‘genius,’ a ‘renegade thinker,’ even likening him to Einstein himself [..] Robert Lanza is considered one of the leading scientists in the world

Anyway, these are just words and sarcasm is easy, and the rest of his resume actually does list some impressive achievements in the field of stem cell research.

But that makes the nonsense written by Lanza, M.D., Scientist, Theoretician, only more baffling. It is rather disappointing that nowhere in the article Lanza even coherently addresses the question (nor the answer!) posed in the title of his piece. Instead we get a rambling anecdote that is too boring and lengthy to repeat here, followed by the following horrendous paragraph of gibberish:

Before he died, Einstein said “Now Besso [an old friend] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us … know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” In fact, it was Einstein’s theory of relativity that showed that space and time are indeed relative to the observer. Quantum theory ended the classical view that particles exist if we don’t perceive them. But if the world is observer-created, we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s destroyed with each of us. Nor should we be surprised that space and time vanish, and with them all Newtonian conceptions of order and prediction.

Aside from doctor Lanza, it would be very difficult to find a Scientist, Theoretician who does not at least roll his eyes upon reading such tripe. There is so much misunderstanding packed together here in a few sentences that it is almost a pity that no abuse of the concept of entropy has been thrown in for good measure.

the theory of relativity

Space and time being relative to the observer in the theory of relativity only means that the spatial and temporal relation between different physical objects depends on their relative motion. Such physical objects can be anything, elementary particles, galaxies, scientists, theoreticians. Any object A moving towards an object B will be, as far as B is concerned, shortened in length. For B, object A will also be perceived to pass through time more slowly. For example, this is the reason we can receive cosmic rays on earth. These are caused by particles that are accelerated in distant galaxies to enormous speeds and are extremely short-lived before falling apart -short lived in relation to anything moving along at the same velocity, that is. It is due to the relative velocity between earth and the cosmic ray particle that the two manage to meet each other before the latter falls apart.

Nowhere in the above the observer plays an active role. Although profound in its implication for the structure and interconnection of space and time (now mathematically merged in a single concept spacetime), the special theory of relativity is essentially all about coordinate transformations between different reference frames. Nothing really changes when moving from one frame of reference to another, in the same way that the world is not destroyed and made whole again but different when I choose to use spherical coordinates instead of x,y,z when charting the walk between my home and my workplace.

In the general theory of relativity a complication is added. Again something which has profound implications for the structure of spacetime, but again nothing that elevates the observer to a special status. According to general relativity the structure of space time is altered by the presence of matter (or energy), so in a very real sense everyone makes a dent in spacetime. But this has nothing to do with observing or experiencing spacetime, the dent would be just as big if one is, in the words of Lanza, rotting in the ground. When performing scientific calculations, the bookkeeping of the local structure of spacetime is done via a mathematical tool called a metric (a four-by-four matrix). An abstraction of a ruler, a set square and a watch mixed into one, this stores the local connections between angles and space and time intervals. Cosmology and the big bang are all about the values of the metric becoming zero as one goes further into the past

Actually relativity theory has not rendered time an illusion either. Although purely within the framework of relativity theory the difference between time and space can almost be reduced to a single minus sign in the metric mentioned above -which is perhaps what prompted Einstein’s remark. But within physics as a whole the arrow of time firmly points in one direction: the future. Unfortunately we are running out of space on this blog entry and not even Lanza mentioned entropy, so lets not pursue this further but move on to quantum mechanics.

quantum mechanics

Perhaps no single topic in physics has been hijacked as much for the purpose of New Age mumbo jumbo as quantum mechanics. The idea that a measurement alters that what is measured has proven irresistible. However, when you get down to it, it is really not this aspect of quantum mechanics that is so weird. Of course a measurement alters that what is measured, for a measurement is precisely that: an interaction between the means of the measurement and the measured object. When we touch a wall to feel what it is like, we have altered it, but in practice we won’t notice that because a macroscopic object like a wall is far less delicate than a single particle that has been specially isolated from its surroundings in a laboratory. Prod the latter and you are bound to make an impact. But that is because of the prodding, both the particle and the wall couldn’t care less about the conciousness and thoughts of the Scientist, Experimenter doing the prodding.

There is a a genuinely difficult and counterintuitive aspect to quantum mechanics however, but it does not mean that particles cease to exist when they are not perceived. It is this: like space and time in relativity’s spacetime, certain properties of particles are interconnected in a way that is counterintuitive to us because we are used to the blunted relationships between material objects on a macroscopic level, like the wall, with the properties of the individual particles making up things remaining invisible to us. This interconnectedness means that when we measure for example the position of a particle, we necessarily change its momentum as well. It is not possible to measure both position and momentum of a particle simultaneously; once we exactly manage to narrow down its position at a given moment in time we will be clueless by default about where it will be directly afterwards. We could keep running after the particle like a toddler Lanza running after dragonflies with his little net, but there will always be a fundamental uncertainty between position and momentum. An uncertainty that, again, has nothing to do with the mind of the observer, but everything with the akwardness in choice of the quantity that we choose to measure. Sometimes interactions between particles and other particles, or measurement apparatuses or whatever, will probe properties of a particle toward which it happened to be attuned at a given time. Then nothing changes for the particle. But if, for example, a particle is left alone after its position has been measured, it will gradually spread out again to occupy the empty space between its stated position and surrounding particles that repel it. When a new measurement of position is made, the particle may be forced in any particular position within this space. Which position will be random (the fact of this randomness is again a truly profound change in our understanding of reality, and arguably one of the things that drove Einstein to his deathbed in the first place). The particle did however not cease to exist in any way other than that it became less attuned to the ruler used to measure its position. In technical terms, all its quantum numbers, like mass, electric charge etc. remain solidly conserved.

To summarize a long story, Lanza may be a good scientist in his own field but when it comes to physics he is so clueless it is painful to read. I shudder at the thought of all those people tricked into reading his book biocentrism, for which I can only assume his Huffington Post piece was a badly thought out advertisement.

And what happens when time reboots and becomes a loop… Orbital knows.

[update:Seems I am far from the only one baffled by Lanza, Scientist, Theoretician, see Pharyngula]

Book Review: Thomas Frank – What’s the matter with Kansas?

April 21, 2010

First published: 2004 Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Rating: Times read: once

…I also know Washington and state politicians have no idea how to improve miner safety. The very idea that they care more about coal miner safety than we do is as silly as global warming, Massey energy CEO Don Blankenship says here a year before a horrible mining accident. And it has to be true, because he has literally wrapped himself in an American flag.

What is the matter with Kansas is apparently also ailing West-Virginia, and the despicable Don serves as a nice illustration of the continuing relevance of a book that was first published in 2004 and that I came across a few weeks ago.

In What’s the matter with Kansas? author Thomas Frank argues that the Republican political movement in Kansas has been hijacked by ultra-conservatives who deliberately use cartoonish distortions of cultural issues and fake outrage to further an agenda that in the end is more about funnelling money to big business and their own pockets than the sanctity of marriage, abortion or creationist ideas. And that the Democrats have largely let it happen by failing to force the discussion back to economical issues that will directly impact Kansan voters. He shows how over the course of a century, populism in Kansas has shifted from being a left-wing phenomenon to being a right-wing phenomenon.

To a relative outsider to the U.S. like me (I moved here just a month ago), the book has been an interesting read. Frank is witty when he shows how hollow the red vs. blue stereotypes are when follows up a quote from conservative author David Brooks describing people from coastal metro Blue areas,

Very few of us know what goes on in Branson, Missouri, even though it has seven million visitors a year, or could name even five NASCAR drivers…. We don’t know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We can’t tell a military officer’s rank by looking at his insignia. We don’t know what soy beans look like when they’re growing in a field.


One is tempted to dismiss Brooks’s grand generalizations by rattling off the many ways in which he gets it wrong: by pointing out that the top three soybean producers -Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota- were in fact blue states; or by listing the many military bases located on the coasts; or by noting that when it came time to build a NASCAR track in Kansas, the county that won the honor was one of only two in the state that went for Gore. Average per capita income in that same lonely blue county, I might well add, is $16,000, which places it well bewlow Kansas and national averages, and far below what would be required for the puttin on of elitist or cosmopolitan airs of any kind.

The book is also fascinating when describing politicians than I’ve never heard of and likely never will hear from again, like Todd Tiahrt

From the Wichita Eagle: His social views are what most people talk about. But his thinking on economics is what company officials aare more interested

Or Sam Brownback

Brownback had been chosen for the post [of Kansas secretary of Agriculture] by the state’s largest agricultural interests- by the heads of the very industry he was charged with overseeing. For example, when he made limits on dangerous herbicides voluntrary, Brownback was acting as government regulator, but the kind of regulator conservatives approve of, the kind who answers to private industry instead of the public.

It is however unfortunate that after some time Frank has made his point, but keeps on going, occasionally scraping the bottom of the barrel for examples to support his case. The chapter antipopes among us, where he introduces a guy called David Bawden (or Pope Michael I. as he prefers to call himself), a complete lunatic by any standard, for us to read about and mock, is a low point in the book.

Nevertheless, the book is still highly relevant today. Although Obama won the election, a lack of understanding on the left on how to explain or deal with a phenomenon like the tea partiers shows this relevance. However unsanitary (Tancredo at tea party: why don’t send Obama back to Kenya?) just plainly weird or actually corporate (just like Frank could have predicted it would be), the answer is economical. Following Thomas Frank, there would be only one way to answer the incoherent cry for attention from the tea partiers:

While Republicans trick out their poisonous sterotype of the liberal elite, Democrats seem determined to live up to the libel.

Such Democrats look at a situation like present-day Kansas and rub their hands with anticipation: Just look at how Ronald Reagan’s “social issues” have come back to bite his party in the ass! If only the crazy Cons [conservatives within the Kansas Republican movement] push a little bit more, these Democrats think, the Republican Party will alienate the wealthy suburban Mods [moderate Republicans] for good, and we will be able to step in and carry places like Mission Hills, along with all the juicy boodle that its inhabitants are capable of throwing our way.

While I enjoy watching Republicans fight one another as much as the next guy, I don’t think the Kansas story really gives true liberals any cause to cheer. Maybe someday the DLC dream will come to pass, with the Democrats having moved so far to the right that they are no different than old-fashioned moderate Republicans, and maybe then the affluent will finally come over to their side en masse. But along the way the things that liberalism once stood for -equality and economic secutiry- will have been abandoned completely. Abandoned, let us remember, at the historical moment when we need them most.

There is a lesson for liberals in the Kansas story, and it’s not that they, too, might someday get invited to tea in Cupcake Land. It is, rather, an utter and final repudiation of their historical decision to remake themselves as the other pro-business party. By all rights the people in Wichita and Shawnee and Garden City should today be flocking to the party of Roosevelt, not deserting it. Culturally speaking, however, that option is simply not available to them anymore. Democrats no longer speak to the people on the losing end of a free-market system that is becoming more brutal and more arrogant by the day.

The last sentence is the key here of course, when it comes to answering the tea party. And if the Obama administration finally starts to take on Wall Street, it will not be a moment too soon.

I started this review by quoting the Despicable Don on global warming, so let me end there as well. Thomas Frank also helps in understanding why it is that so many people plainly refuse to listen to a reasonable exposition of the facts showing why global warming is real, a refusal coming with an amount of hostility which baffles scientists.

Anti-intellectualism is one of the grand unifying themes of the backlash, the mutant strain of class war that underpins so many of Kansas’s otherwise random-seeming grievances. Contemporary conservatism holds as a key article of faith that it is fruitless to scrutinize the business pages for clues about the way the world works. We do not labor under the yoke of some abstraction like market forces, or even flesh-and-blood figures like executives or owners. No, it is intellectuals who call the shots, people with graduate degrees and careers in government, academia, law, and the professions.
Today this kind of anti-intellectualism is a central component of conservative doctrine, expressing in glorious brevity the unifying theme of nature beset by overweening artifice, The corporate world, for its part, uses anti-intellectualism to depict any suggestion that humanity might be better served by some order other than the free-market system as nothing but arrogance, an implied desire to redesign life itself. The social conservatives, on the other hand, use anti-intellectualism to assail any deviation from a system of values that they alternately identify with God and the earth-people of Red America. Just who the hell do these conceited eggheads think they are?

The sun wakes again

January 31, 2010

The astronomy department of the University of Amsterdam recently moved to a new building which will eventually house all science research of the UvA. One of the best things out of this is that the institute now has two brand new telescopes for educational purposes, one of which for looking at the sun. Last Monday the astronomy professor in charge of the two observation domes finished mounting the solar telescope and I took some pictures with my mobile phone of the image that it projects (it took me a while to get them off the phone and on the computer, I had some troubles with the Bluetooth settings of the phone)

The pictures show the image from the telescope as it is projected on a white screen mounted directly behind the telescope, taken on January 22nd. The white spot is the sun shining directly on the screen, the grey / yellow disc is the projection. The blurry edge around the disc is caused by the atmosphere in Amsterdam. The little black dot and the baby dots on the right in the disc are sunspots – the only visible sunspots on the entire sun! The professor was ecstatic that there was at least one proper sunspot, for he had set up an elaborate astronomy class elsewhere a week before and the students ended up disappointed because there wasn’t a single sunspot to be seen.

The sun has been extraordinarily quiescent the past years, even beyond the normal solar cycle. Which may be boring for astronomers, but from the perspective of climate science has been a relief. Although not much of a relief, for the past decade nevertheless still is the warmest decade on record. This record is likely to be broken by the following decade as the sun becomes active again. To quote p. 37 of my copy of The New Solar system (4th edition) which I bought approximately one solar cycle ago for an introductory astronomy class:

The sun becomes brighter overall as the number of sunspots on its surface increases, and vice versa. This seems counterintuitive, since sunspots are cooler than their surroundings. However, the sunspot cycle is accompanied by variations in magnetic activity, which create an increase in luminous output that exceeds the cooling effects of sunspots. Indeed, the entire spectrum of the Sun’s radiation varies in step with the 11-year cycle of solar magnetic activity.

The Copenhagen diagnosis

January 20, 2010

The big climate conference in Copenhagen last December has resulted in a disappointment. Although it can be argued that US president Obama is working very hard to address the climate issue and is making progress, Copenhagen came at a bad moment for the US administration.

Nevertheless, the stakes remain incredibly high. This becomes clear when one reads the Copenhagen Diagnosis, an update on the state of the science of global warming that has been issued by leading climate scientists, independently from the IPCC assessments that are issued every four years. Although the report has been made available already last December (obviously to coincide with the Copenhagen conference), I think it is important enough to call attention to even if I am a bit late to the party. It is freely available from For the impatient, I have copied the Executive Summary below.

The most significant recent climate change findings are:

Surging greenhouse gas emissions: Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were 40% higher than those in 1990. Even if global emission rates are stabilized at present-day levels, just 20 more years of emissions would give a 25% probability that warming exceeds 2°C, even with zero emissions after 2030. Every year of delayed action increases the chances of exceeding 2°C warming.

Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-induced warming: Over the past 25 years temperatures have  increased at a rate of 0.19°C per decade, in very good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short-term fluctuations are occurring as usual, but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.

Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps: A wide array of satellite and ice measurements now demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world has also accelerated since 1990.

Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline: Summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. The area of summertime sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% less than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.

Current sea-level rise underestimated: Satellites show recent global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be ~80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice-sheets.

Sea-level predictions revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4; for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as ~ 2 meters sea level rise by 2100. Sea level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperatures have been stabilized, and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.

Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets, Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if warming continues in a business-as-usual way throughout this century. The risk of transgressing critical thresholds (“tipping points”) increases strongly with ongoing climate change. Thus waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized.

The turning point must come soon: If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2 °C above pre-industrial values, global emissions need to peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly. To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society –with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases – needs to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-95% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.

I highly recommend reading the report itself. It is only 64 pages, including clear graphs and a number of gorgeous pictures (and lots of citations of scientific papers for further reading, for those who share my luck of having internet access to peer-reviewed journals). It also very specifically addresses and debunks a number of layman arguments that have often been put forth against climate change (“CO2 increase historically trails temperature increase and therefore it still does now”, etc).

In my opinion the report is an example of scientific outreach at its best. The climate debate has become heavily politicized (the public debate, that is. Although there exists a fierce and lively scientific debate about the details, the genuinely scientific debate on the reality of man-made global warming is long over. The basics of man-made global warming have been firmly established using the same scientific principles that are found in other natural sciences, like my own field of astrophysics). Whatever climate scientists do, it will be held against them: if they don’t invest time and energy in outreach they will be painted as stuck in their ivory towers and out of touch, and if they do, they will be labelled activists. The Copenhagen diagnosis presents a very strong case that outreach from active climate scientists is crucial to the public conversation. And someone who tells a disturbing truth is not by definition an activist.

Blog reviews and opinions: what’s the point?

December 1, 2009

I have just added my first blog music review, on the album Petit Fours by Grand Duchy. I even rated the album and gave it four-and-a-half stars out of five. The .gif images for the stars I shamelessly stole from Allmusic (most of the options were available from the front page. To get images for ratings below two stars I only needed to enter Limp Bizkit in the artist search engine).

Of course, I am hardly the only one who ever wrote a review. So why did I bother? For a number of reasons, really. On one hand, I feel some stuff is so good that everybody should know about it. On the other hand, I feel some stuff is so bad that everybody should know about it. But more importantly, when you read a review on this site, you’ll know who’s telling you. Review sections like those found on amazon or imdb are easily compromised, with publishers or others with an agenda adding rave or scathing reviews without honestly assessing the book / album / movie under review. You’re obviously free not to agree with or not to trust my reviews. If so, then just ignore them… Or even better, sit down and write your own reviews about stuff you’ve seen and read. The more people do so, the more it will stand out against the white noise from all those anonymous trolls and company stooges.

I’ve added a qualifier to my review(s), showing how often I’ve read / seen / listened to what I review at the moment of writing. This is either once, twice or often, and it should tell you how serious to take my review.

Music Review: Grand Duchy – Petit Fours

December 1, 2009

Release date: 2009 Genre: Indie Pop Label: Red Ink Records

Rating: listened to: often

Grand Duchy is not just Frank Black’s latest solo project. Instead, Frank Black merely is a band member of a two-person band headed by Violet Clark (who just happens to be his wife)… and Violet Clark, she is in a word spectacular! Part Madonna, part Kim Deal, part Kristin Hersh, but always Violet Clark, she channels various female alt-rock leaders and pop stars but never imitates them. She’s having a great time, and Frank Black and the listeners happily go along for the ride. If it weren’t for the fact that the album references a lot of indie music (in a good, self-assured way) instead of presenting something entirely new, I would have rated it five stars. But then again, maybe using that as a criterion would make it impossible to rate an album five stars nowadays. Petit Fours succeeds completely in what it sets out to achieve.

The album starts with Come over to my house and from this you might be lulled into expecting Frank Black to be in charge. He’s in fine form, and as usual I love the lyrics. Come on over to my house / I’ll make you buckets of tea. He may be ironic in his songs, but he’s always sincere and never pathetic. Violet Clark takes over next, continuing the theme and celebrating love in Lovesick: Don’t stop for breathing / leave it when you’re older / Listen to that devil on your shoulder / Don’t stop for reasons / be a little bolder / Everybody’s got their lovesick seasons.

Fort Wayne is apparently the oldest song on the set list. Pleasant, but not really remarkable in my opinion. It did however rightly raise expectations for the forthcoming album when it was played in concerts.

Their age obviously works for Frank Black and Violet Clark. They’re veterans of rock and of love and don’t mind showing it on this record. Black Suit, the highlight of the album, benefits from this perspective. And the song itself is just plain awesome, with perfect vocal deliveries from both Black and Clark and an insidious post-punk sound reminding me of Killing Joke and Echo and the Bunnymen (or Interpol, for a more recent obvious comparison). Soul slipping down the coal chute into the alien mine / The boy looks good in a black suit / we all know that he looks divine! I’ll probably never figure out exactly what the song is about, but the glimpse offered by the lyrics is tantalizing.

On the other songs Violet Clark is teasing, jubilant, or just sweet. The album fittingly closes the party with Volcano! Violet Clarks starts with Is this song starting? / I’m a little confused before morphing into Kristin Hersh, but by then we’re already in on the joke. Everybody on the dance floor, to celebrate love and three decades of alternative music.

I can highly recommend the album. Lately, I have been collecting albums that are good-natured in tone without being flat, boring or embarrassing (although I still like my gloom and doom… albums from bands like Tindersticks, Sisters of Mercy remain more than welcome). When it comes to this, Frank Black always delivers. I do not agree at all with the (otherwise positive) Allmusic review where they call the album a bit long – both Break the angels and Fort Wayne are fine songs.

track list
1. Come on over to my house
2. Lovesick
3. Fort Wayne
4. Seeing stars
5. Black suit
6. The long song
7. Break the angels
8. Ermesinde
9. Volcano!