Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Rush, Fly By Night

Today we remember Neil Peart who passed away on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 with a look back from our archives via our resident in-house provocateur Michael H. Little.Ed.

I have hated Rush with a passion since the first time I heard Rush, or for 40 years, give or take a year or so. Rush exemplified everything I despised about rock: it was a show-offish band eager to demonstrate its sheer technical prowess and prog chops, fronted by a lead singer who screeched like a giant bird of prey. I reserved my greatest loathing for Geddy Lee, whose voice drove me nuts and whose bio I always felt should include a wingspread.

But recently I felt it incumbent upon me to give the Canadian power trio a second chance, probably because I’ve been so dead wrong about so many metal bands (e.g., AC/DC and Black Sabbath, to name just two) over the course of my long, strange career as a music critic. So I did something I’ve never done before: I listened to a Rush album in its entirety. I huffed Rush the band with the same avid dedication that I used to huff Rush the drug with my pal Dan “I’m Wasted Incorporeal!” Baker underneath the railroad bridge (now gone, alas) by the Littlestown Hardware and Foundry during the daily 9 a.m. coffee break, returning to the unspeakable tedium of my grinding machine with one walloping fandango of a skull-splitter.

And I’ll be damned; Rush isn’t half bad. Then again, Rush isn’t half good either. Let’s just say that Rush is better than I expected. Then again, I chose Fly By Night because it was recorded before the band started to devise 20-minute prog-epics with titles like “The Fountain of Lamneth,” and before lyricist Neil Peart’s hard-right turn towards science fiction and fantasy themes, to say nothing of the despicable objectivist philosophical notions of Ayn Rand. Such detestable subject matter—I’d sooner associate with Hirohito than a Hobbit, and that goes double for Ayn Rand—kept me at arm’s length from the band for eons, and I wasn’t sure I could give their later work a fair shake even now. When I hear the words “fantasy” or “science fiction” I reach for my Revolver—the Beatles’ LP, that is.

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TVD Radar: Maniac
OST, 2LP yellow and pink vinyl in stores now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Maniac, 2018 psychological dark sci-fi series starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill deluxe 2LP soundtrack in stores today on neon yellow and pink colored vinyl.

Waxwork Records is proud to present Maniac Original Netflix Series Soundtrack by Dan Romer. Starring Jonah Hill and Emma Stone, Maniac is a 2018 psychological dark sci-fi series that follows two strangers who connect during a mind-bending pharmaceutical trial. The soundtrack by Oscar nominated composer Dan Romer is an orchestral and electronic hybrid with incredible production and diverging sounds. Playful electronics alternate between fast moving and ambient synth work. Chasing percussion transitions seamlessly with dramatic, lush strings. The soundtrack to Maniac is a textural playground that caters to any listener. Like the series, the soundtrack is cerebral, emotionally provoking, and hypnotic.

Waxwork Records had the pleasure of creating a deluxe 2xLP soundtrack package to Maniac featuring 180 gram neon yellow and pink vinyl, old style gatefold jackets with overall UV gloss coating, printed inserts, and design by Aesthetic Apparatus.

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TVD Radar: Betty Davis, Betty: They Say I’m Different documentary DVD in stores 1/17

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Funk Queen Betty Davis changed the landscape for female artists in America. She “was the first…” as former husband Miles Davis said. “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince.”

An aspiring songwriter from a small steel town, Betty arrived on the ’70s scene to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion and outrageous funk music. She befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, wrote songs for the Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, and married Miles—startlingly turning him from jazz to funk on the album she named Bitches Brew. She then, despite being banned and boycotted, went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. Betty was a feminist pioneer, inspiring and intimidating in a manner like no woman before. Then suddenly—she vanished.

Creatively blending documentary and animation, Betty – They Say I’m Different traces the path of Betty’s life, how she grew from humble upbringings to become a fully self-realized black female pioneer the world failed to understand or appreciate.

After years of trying, the elusive Betty, forever the free-spirited Black Power Goddess, finally allowed the filmmakers to creatively tell her story based on their conversations.

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K.C. Clifford,
The TVD First Date

“My father is a bluegrass musician. He founded a band in the early ’70s called Mountain Smoke. They are notable for several reasons, but the most widely known is Mountain Smoke was Vince Gill’s first band. They opened for Kiss and have had wild things happen, like playing on the White House lawn for several presidents, being written about by Billboard, and most recently, they were featured and had a song licensed in Ken Burns’ 8-part documentary series, Country Music. By the late ’70s, my Dad had left the band behind for the world of business. But music was in his blood, and in so much of how he raised me. Decades later, he would reunite with the band and his love of playing. They still perform today.”

“My dad set music aside and went on to be a very successful businessman. He took deep pride in providing for his family, and he worked and travelled a whole lot of the time. Although we have since repaired the wound of his absence, the truth is he missed many of the little moments in my childhood. One of the most crystallized memories I have as a young girl follows here.

My dad has a huge vintage vinyl record collection. He isn’t just a musician, he is a true music lover. Among his collection, he owns a 45 record for every hit single from the years 1955 t0 1965, and many, many more. He once ran into our burning house to rescue the records and his vintage guitars from certain destruction.

On the rare nights I remember him being home at my bedtime, if I played my cards right I’d get to go down to his study in my pajamas, hair still wet from my requisite bath. Dad would play records for me, I would dance and we’d sing along. It was the freest I ever saw him—no stress, no weight of the world, no anger—just his love of music.

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Graded on a Curve: Sweathog,

Lookie here: This here reviewer wouldn’t be talking about this here album if this here band hadn’t come up with their name a good 4 years before Welcome Back Kotter made its television debut in 1975. Or if the band hadn’t slapped a salacious pair of ass cheeks on the front sleeve of its eponymous debut Sweathog, raising a lot of censorious eyebrows when it oinked its way into record stores back in 1971.

You’d think I have better ways to spend my time than reviewing LPs based on such trivialities. But you’d be wrong, so here goes: Sweathog was a San Fran band that scrapped the Bay Area’s prototypical hippie shuck and jive in favor of a slightly less MOR alternative to the likes of such corporate monopolies as Chicago, Three Dog Night, and Grand Funk Railroad.

Sweathog dished out a highly resistible hash of rock, funk, gospel, and misspelling (“Layed Back by the River”), and while you probably won’t want to actually listen to Sweathog much, its caboose of a cover will look simply fabulous on the wall of the basement you refuse to go into because you bought your house from the Smurls, the West Pittston, Pennsylvania family whose claims of a cellar poltergeist culminated in Papa Smurl’s claiming he’d been raped–twice–by a scaly she-crone with a young girl’s body and green gums. You can read all about his awful ordeal in 1986’s The Haunting.

Sweathog boasted a high-quality Three-Dog-throated vocal approach and the crack–but hardly innovative–musicianship of keyboardist (and lead singer) Lenny Lee Goldsmith, guitarist Robert Morris “B.J.” Jones, and drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith. But slews of other bands with less talent made a successful go of it, for the simple reason that they had a unique sound to hang their hippie headband on.

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TVD Radar: Charlie Parker, The Savoy
10-Inch LP Collection

in stores 2/28

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Craft Recordings is proud to announce the release of The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection, which spotlights Charlie Parker’s groundbreaking bebop sessions for the legendary jazz label, spanning 1944 to 1948. The deluxe, four-LP box set—also available digitally—features newly restored and remastered audio, faithfully reproduced artwork from the original 10-inch albums, plus a booklet containing vintage photos, rare ephemera and new liner notes from GRAMMY® Award-winning journalist and author Neil Tesser.

These historic recordings, reissued as the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Parker’s birth, feature such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Bud Powell, and Max Roach. Set for a February 28th release date, The Savoy 10-Inch LP Collection is available for pre-order today (1/8), while the instant grat single, “Ko-Ko,” can now be streamed or downloaded on all major digital outlets. “Ko-Ko” was one of Bird’s early masterpieces and his first recording as a leader. In 2003, “Ko-Ko” was added to the National Recording Registry, categorized as a recording that is, “Culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”

When saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker and his contemporaries introduced bebop in the ’40s, they were ushering in a bold new style that would influence modern music for decades to come. Nowadays, as Neal Tesser argues in the box set’s liner notes, it’s easy to forget that bebop was considered avant-garde. “Bebop undergirds such a vast swath of American music that its revolutionary nature recedes into the background. It is now so familiar and comfortable, such an ever-present part of the family history, that non-historians can hardly envision it ever being ‘revolutionary.’”

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TVD Radar: Stop, Hey What’s That Sound: Classic Protest Songs Reinvented in stores 1/31

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Next month Americans will get set to vote in the presidential primaries, kicking off nine months of what might be the most important election in this nation’s history.

On January 31, Petaluma Records will release Stop, Hey What’s That Sound: Classic Protest Songs Reinvented—a call to action, featuring liner notes from famed music critic Rob Tannenbaum. Today they premiere the latest single, an updated cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” featuring Sasha Dobson. Dobson grew up in Santa Cruz, CA in a musical family: her dad, a jazz pianist, and her mom a well-known singer. Sasha moved to Brooklyn at 17, releasing five solo albums and EPs, touring with Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, with whom she started the Americana trio, Puss N Boots, along with Catherine Popper. Proceeds from the single, out Friday, will go to support

In 2016, when Trump was elected, political pundits and cultural vanguardists, while trying to look on the bright side of a global catastrophe, predicted Trump’s election would catalyze a great new era of protest songs, a revival of punk-rock activism and idealism. The children of Joe Strummer and Joan Baez would run free and set fire to our culture, purifying it by burning it… We’re still waiting.

Acclaimed songwriter and producer, Roger McEvoy Greenawalt, who has worked with Strummer, Nils Lofgren, Iggy Pop, Ric Ocasek, and Rufus Wainwright, among others, got out his sling-shot. After moving from New York to Los Angeles, Greenawalt launched Petaluma Records with his cousin Nion McEvoy, the illustrious Chairman & CEO of San Francisco’s Chronicle Books, and co-executive producer of the wildly successful Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor.

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TVD Radar: Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock Sunday August 17, 1969 3LP in stores 1/31

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The 3-LP set comes inside a gorgeous, double-gatefold jacket sporting photos of the band at Woodstock, most taken by legendary lensman Henry Diltz with liner notes by folk-rock guru Richie Unterberger. Comes pressed on limited edition “vibrating” violet vinyl to commemorate Grace Slick’s comment on stage that “Everyone’s vibrating.”

At the muddy miracle that was Woodstock, the most miraculous performance just might have been Jefferson Airplane’s. The band had been one of the first to sign on for the festival, their imprimatur prompting many other acts to hop on board, and their stature had landed them a coveted headlining slot closing Saturday night’s schedule. But, as the torrential downpours and the unexpected crush of half a million people kept on delaying their set, the chances of putting on anything approaching a quality performance seemed to diminish.

According to Paul Kantner, “We were supposed to go on at 10:30 at night and we’d been up and down about four or five times on acid that night, getting ready to go on, and then everything was delayed for whatever reasons. So, we didn’t get on until like 7:00 the next morning and everybody was pretty much burned out.”

Kantner’s protestations to the contrary, the Airplane (with guest pianist Nicky Hopkins in tow) played a scorching two-hour set that defied the elements and the circumstances. Grace Slick led the charge as the band plunged into a frenetic version of Fred Neil’s “The Other Side of This Life”: “Alright, friends, you have seen the heavy groups. Now you will see morning maniac music. Believe me, yeah. It’s a new dawn!”

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Needle Drop: Francesca Brown, “Hashslingin’ Blues”

PHOTO: ERIK AUSTIN SAVOY | California wildflower Francesca Brown specializes in the kind of weepy folk vibes made popular by Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Rosanne Cash.

Brown served in Hollywood, slingin’ food and drink for many years, imbuing her countrified tracks with a thick-skinned charm that conjures up that classic working girl twang. She is decidedly all for throwing in the apron, literally and metaphorically, scattering her paycheck to the wind in favor getting stoned, which makes for a damn good modern country song.

It’s also a bit of a proclamation—she has now arrived as an artist who is fiercely connected to this outstanding lineage, ready to claim the success that is deservedly hers. It seems to be working, with champions like American Songwriter and Nic Harcourt lauding the uncompromising new single as a sign of great things to come.

“Hashslingin’ Blues” is available in stores and on all streaming platforms now.

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Graded on a Curve:
Blue Ash,
No More, No Less

Blue Ash is the power pop group that got away. Hailing from the Buckeye State–that epicenter of power pop that also spawned the Raspberries–Blue Ash delivered the goods, but hardly anyone outside their limited Rust Belt state touring circuit took notice. Like Memphis, Tennessee’s Big Star, Blue Ash didn’t make much of an impression while they were around; unlike Alex Chilton, Chris Bell and Company, they’ve even been denied posthumous immortality.

Blue Ash only released two LPs (if you don’t count the 2004 compilation Around Again and 2015’s Hearts & Arrows), but it’s their debut, 1973’s No More, No Less that matters. Fellow Ohioan and Deadboy Stiv Bators was so taken with Blue Ash he recruited B.A. bassist and chief songwriter Frank Sesich to lend his formidable skills to his own power pop outing, 1980’s Disconnected. Take that Eric Carmen.

Blue Ash’s retro sound relied largely on power chord punch, Byrds-school jingle jangle guitars, and heavenly harmonies–the power pop formula, in short. The songs on No More, No Less push you around, bounce up and down, and are as romance friendly as power pop gets, but the boys in the band have more than girls on their minds; Pete Townshend homage “Smash My Guitar” is a real bang-up, and anticipates the bash’n’pop of the Replacements by a half-dozen years.

The LP includes a pair of covers, the big surprise being an amped up and vamped up reimagining of Bob Dylan’s folksy traveling carnival ode “Dusty Old Fairgrounds.” I kinda figured they covered it because Bobby name-drops Ohio, but upon close listening he doesn’t; Minnesota, North Dakota, Florida, Kansas and Michigan all get their props, but Ohio may as well be Hawaii. Less shocking is Blue Ash’s take on The Beatles’ “Anytime at All.” It retains that classic Lennon/McCartney flavor, but the boys have added some Raspberries crunch to the recipe.

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Graded on a Curve:
Sore Eros, Sore Eros

Northampton, MA’s Sore Eros began stirring up a psych-laden yet songlike haze a little over a decade ago, and they persisted with a steady flow of material on a variety of formats and labels, at least until roughly five years back. Formed and led by Robert Robinson, the band, which includes members Adam Langellotti and Jeff Morkeski, has been working on their latest release across the intervening time; exuding considerable depth of motion while avoiding the overworked, it’s a winner. Featuring guest contributions from Daniel Oxenberg (formerly of Supreme Dicks) and Kurt Vile, the Adam Granduciel-produced 45 rpm 2LP is out January 10 in a slim edition of 200 copies through Feeding Tube Records.

Sore Eros debuted with an earlier self-titled CD in 2003, a 50-copy edition followed the next year by three tracks on Light Dead Sea Volume One, a CDR compilation corralling soon-to-be heavy-hitters Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile, and Gary War (who, like Vile, figures as a contributor to the Some Eros saga). However, per leader Robinson, the Sore Eros scenario, then based in Connecticut, didn’t really “become good” until Langellotti entered the scene and they cut Second Chants in 2008.

If I’d heard this early material, I might beg to differ with Robinson’s assessment, but I haven’t so I can’t. I do possess some familiarity with Second Chants, and I’ll concur that by that point they’d indeed gotten good and were occasionally even a little better. The productivity since hasn’t derailed the positive growth, though in terms of profile beyond the contempo psych u-ground, they are primarily known for sharing two split releases with Mr. Vile.

The Sore Eros sides of the untitled 9-inch from 2013 and the “Jamaica Plain” 10-inch from the next year are mighty fine, but for those seeking a quick kernel of knowledge into the band’s thing prior to grabbing a copy of their new one (for it won’t be around long), I’d recommend checking Second Chants, or 2010’s Know Touching (both on SHDWPLY Records), or the superb “Just Fuzz” 12-inch from 2011 (on Blackburn Recordings) or their last effort before this one, Say People from 2015 (on Feeding Tube), which was one long track broken over two sides and accompanied by a VHS tape.

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TVD Radar: Me and
Mr. Cigar,
a novel
from Gibby Haynes in bookstores 1/14

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes wrote a YA book as weird as the band’s music.”The AV Club

Me and Mr. Cigar (Soho Teen | January 14th, 2020) is the wonderfully weird debut YA from psychedelic rock legend Gibby Haynes. It is as strange as you might imagine, more surreal than you would expect, and will move you in ways you could never anticipate. Part road trip, part coming-of-age, and part redemption, Me and Mr. Cigar takes Oscar Lester and his best friend/ enforcer/ magical pet dog, Mr. Cigar on a journey to save Oscar’s sister, Rachel, who has been abducted by a sinister cabal for reasons unknown. Along the way, Oscar encounters ultra-secret technology, agents of the US government, super-wealthy corporate interests, and nefarious art dealers. But his motive to save Rachel always comes back to his dog. Five years earlier, Mr. Cigar bit off Rachel’s hand, and she’s been estranged from them ever since. In other words, this is YA the Gibby Haynes way.

It might seem strange that Haynes, once known as “The Weirdest Man in Show Business” for his lurid lyrics and intense stage presence, would set out to write a book for kids. But take a closer look at the surreal and often darkly comedic lyrics of the Butthole Surfers, and you’ll see it all makes perfect sense. Haynes is a natural storyteller. He is a Texan, after all.

Haynes is also a visual artist, a music teacher, and the father of a young son. Butthole Surfers fans will find plenty of Haynes’s specific brand of weird to rejoice over in Me and Mr. Cigar, but readers will also find the heart and earnestness of a devoted father and mentor. And his (?) dog-loving bonafides are evident on nearly every page. What’s to lose? Take the trip.

“It takes a book as hilarious, bizarre, profane, and heartfelt as Me & Mr. Cigar to truly convey the surreality of coming of age as a teenage boy. This book hit this former teenage boy and new dog owner right in the heart, by way of the gut.”
Jeff Zentner, Morris Award-winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days

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Graded on a Curve:
Laura Nyro,
More Than A New Discovery

In terms of elevated 2oth century pop songwriting, Laura Nyro has remained part of the discourse for decades, with her highest profile recordings likely her second and third LPs, both cut for Columbia in 1968-’69. But hey, don’t get the idea that her ’67 debut for Verve, More Than a New Discovery, is merely formative or somehow negligible. To the contrary, many know it under its reissue title of The First Songs, which featured a reshuffled track order and a mix with increased reverb. However, the Real Gone Records-Second Disc reissue, the first time the Verve edition has been repressed on wax, sets the track order right and offers Nyro’s preferred (and rare) original mono mix. It’s out January 10.

The latter portion of the 1960s is loaded with singer-songwriters whose work is best known through the interpretations of others. Many of these cult figures are folky in comportment, but even as Nyro recorded her debut for Verve’s Folkways imprint (later renamed Verve Forecast) and made a crucial early song sale to Peter, Paul and Mary (“And When I Die,” later butchered by Blood, Sweat & Tears), she was a pop stylist of pronounced sophistication.

She was appealingly introspective as well, a quality putting her in the same neighborhood as Carole King, with sales figures excepted, as Nyro’s own albums never made a big impact commercially, although they did shift enough units that she never fell victim to record company disinterest. In this regard, she was similar to Randy Newman, and if he’s better known today that’s partly because he’s still alive and kicking (Nyro passed far too soon of ovarian cancer in 1997). Additionally, he benefits from a lucrative late-career pursuit in film scoring.

But the bigger difference between Newman and Nyro is the lack of the satirical and ironic in her work, though the songs of his that evince a palpable degree of sincerity provide a strong point of unification, as the two songwriters share a Tin Pan Alley foundation (and a piano-based approach) that is ultimately manifested in distinct sensibilities. That is, Nyro is as much of an auteur as Newman; once heard, she’s impossible to confuse with anybody else.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Bonzo Dog Band, Tadpoles

Today we remember Neil Innes who passed away on December 29, 2019 with a look back from our archives.Ed.

I am tempted to call The Bonzo Dog Band (or the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, take your pick) the greatest group in the history of rock. And this despite the fact that they only occasionally got around to playing what could be called a rock song. They were too far too busy cracking themselves up with their hilarious, brilliantly surreal, and utterly deranged wit. If Monty Python had turned to music full-time, they might—although I honestly doubt it—have been as funny as The Bonzo Dog Band.

The genre-hopping mobile insane asylum that was The Bonzo Dog Band might throw anything at you: trad jazz, oldies covers, bizarre street interviews with perplexed normals, and parodies, heaps of parodies—of thirties songs, music hall songs, fifties songs, blues songs, hard-rock songs, psychedelic songs—you name it. And they were excellent musicians—when they wanted to be—with a genius for arranging songs. Your average Bonzo tune may sound anarchic, but you can be certain it was put together with an exacting eye for detail, and every detail is in its right place.

There’s really no one to compare The Bonzo Dog Band with except Frank Zappa, and the comparison is a poor one. Zappa’s humor was sneering and juvenile; his Brit counterparts favored an intelligent and good-natured Dadaism. Just check out “The Intro and the Outro,” a parody of a band introduction that grows stranger and stranger as it goes on, with the announcer snazzily saying, “And looking very relaxed on vibes, Adolf Hitler… niiiice” and “Representing the flower people, Quasimodo, on bells.” No yellow snow here.

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Graded on a Curve:
Brian Eno,
Discreet Music

1975’s Discreet Music, Brian Eno’s first foray into ambient music, always reminds me of the Rodney Yee yoga videos my ex-wife used to play. Ten minutes of the insipid music playing behind Yee’s insufferably zen calm voice, and I was ready to assume Destroy Television Pose.

Asked about Discreet Music a while back, my pal William Honeycutt said astutely, “It’s music for when you don’t want to listen to music.” That said, it’s the perfect musical accompaniment to a coma. And I’ll bet it sounds great when you’re listening to another album at higher volume. Discreet Music can hardly be accused of drawing attention to itself; it’s too busy oozing silently into the aether without your noticing.

Discreet Music falls into the fine tradition established by Erik Satie, the French father of “furniture music.” Satie was known to carry a hammer wherever he went, and I can only assume its function was to ward off the attacks of discerning citizens outraged by his monotonous Ogives, Sarabandes, Gnossienes, and Gymnopédies. Satie also refused to talk while eating, out of fear of strangling. He should probably have worried more about his dinner companions taking his garroting into their own hands.

The title track makes up side A. It goes on for 30-plus minutes and is designed to turn your brain into rice pudding. To say nothing happens is an overstatement; it’s akin to listening to a jacuzzi, and I avoid jacuzzis because you never know who’s peed in them.

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