MEDICINE: HOME EVERYWHERE

(CAPTURED TRACKS; 2014)

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After a brief, 18 year respite, Medicine’s original core trio (Brad Laner, Beth Thompson and Jim Goodall) reconvened in 2013 for the TO THE HAPPY FEW album (Laner released an album in 2003 called THE MECHANICAL FORCES OF LOVE, but it was a Medicine album in name only). Rather than tour to hype the new material, the band immediately began work on a new record; now, a little over a year later, comes HOME EVERYWHERE. My first true exposure to the band came with the 1995 release of HER HIGHNESS, their third (and final) record of their original run, and the ensuing tour; the record was okay, the live show was an exhausting lesson in feedback and noise that I’ve never forgotten and have never seen repeated in the ensuing 18 year gap (although Sons of Hippies do come close). The band handed me a copy of their second album, THE BURIED LIFE, which still receives frequent plays at home and in the car. HOME EVERYWHERE seems to pick up where that release left off in 1993.

Medicine (Jim Goodall, Beth Thompson, Brad Laner) (publicity photos)

Medicine (Jim Goodall, Beth Thompson, Brad Laner) (publicity photos)

The album’s opening salvo, “The Reclaimed Girl,” is wicked noise-mongering at its finest… just like I remembered; it kinda sounds like it was recorded in a toilet… just like I remembered. There’s an odd, bubbling bass thing and a weird tack piano part that come to the fore oduring the breaks. What a great way to start an album! “Turning” is a prototypical Medicine track, with a really dirty sounding, fuzzed-out bass, a funky guitar signature, vocals buried deep in the mix (as usual) and drums that Jack Black would call “gut-bucket.” A two-headed behemoth of uncontrolled abuse, “Move Along” and “Down the Road” features guitars that are strangled to within an inch of their metaphorical lives. The vocals, again, have a rather syrupy sweet sound, even if they are buried under tons of near-white noise. This pop music at its best. “Don’t Be Slow” kinda sounds like a girl group run through a blender with Brian Wilson at a Big Country kegger. Translation: Quite melodic and utterly dissonant. Sort of a clunky rhythm propels “Cold Life” along, under a bed of feedback enhanced guitar repetition. This is the type of headache-inducing noise that we all wanna hear from Medicine. “They Will Not Die” closes out side one of the vinyl version, for those so inclined, of HOME EVERYWHERE. It’s an oddly haunting tune – a little bit of a New Orleans voodoo vibe – with rather unique instrumental choices for this group. The number is a well-placed (mid-album) change of pace and very enjoyable.

It’s All About You” opens side two and is probably the poppiest that you’ll ever hear the group play. An echoey piano from Laner truly enhances Thompson’s dreamy vocals. The song actually got stuck on “replay” in my head! Has anyone ever been able to say that about a Medicine song? A percussion-heavy non-tune, “The People,” has Jim Goodall out front while stabs of vicious guitar feedback punctuate the mayhem before everything falls away into a spooky soundtrack of low noises and weird voices. “Home Everywhere,” aside from providing the record with a name, is also its piece de resistance. It starts out as a happy, hippie pop thing with a bass line that gets stuck in the cranial cavity, turns into a swirling cauldron of imaginative percussion and feedback, has a break with sort of a hypnotic hymn vibe at about the five minute mark and finishes up with four minutes of what can only be called a “droning hippie-fest… all with amazingly up-front vocals. As awesome as it is here, this eleven-and-a-half minute minimalist workout would be great live!

Medicine (Brad Laner, Jim Goodall, Beth Thompson) (publicity photo)

Medicine (Brad Laner, Jim Goodall, Beth Thompson) (publicity photo)

So, there you go… a really solid album with some truly great songs. It’s like the band has never been away. Now, if we can just get ‘em back on stage!


THE STORY OF MEDICINE: PAIN, PUS AND POISON

(ATHENA VIDEO/ACORN MEDIA GROUP; 2 DVD, 2014)

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Originally produced for the BBC, these programs (or, as they say in Britain, “programmes”) are interesting and accessible to any audience. This set will be well appreciated if you are a documentary fan and want to see how modern medical science has developed in three important areas.

These three major developments led to modern medicine: the development of anesthesia, of antibiotics and of treatments for poisonings and treatments based on toxins. These topics are effectively presented on this two DVD set from Athena. With an interesting narrative, energetic physician Doctor Michael Mosley provides a detailed history featuring dynamic video and effective graphics.

Pain: How were morphine drugs developed from poppy plants? What is anesthesia? The medical community, at first, refused to even admit the possibility that a medicine could render someone unconscious. In a scene reminiscent of an old horror movie, anesthesia was first demonstrated live in front of a group of surgeons in an arena-like surgical theater on a real patient. A surgery was performed with ether administered to the patient, which led to the anesthetics we have today.

Pus: More than just about the “gross” aspects of infection, this video talks about what kinds of microbes can cause infections and how scientists found ways to cure them. From the first sulfa and penicillin drugs, during World War II, to the present, the major successes and, more often, failures in the fight against infectious diseases are described.

Series Host Doctor Michael Mosley (publicity photo)

Series Host Doctor Michael Mosley (publicity photo)

Poison: Curare, the “poison dart” toxin, was first described by an eccentric Brit named Waterton. It paralyzes breathing. But the body remains conscious. Does that sound creepy? Have you heard of belladonna? The toxin whose name means “beautiful lady.” Its effects include dilation of the pupils, a sign which normally indicates excitement. It was used by women who wanted to appear to be exciting (and excited!). The study of toxins eventually led to the development of chemotherapy for cancer, as well as Botox, used for skin wrinkles by women and men today.

This is the tone of the three programs: They show what really happens in the case of wounds, infections and poisonings. It is fascinating! If these three topics weren’t enough, there is also a bonus video: “Seven Wonders of the Microbe World,” running about 27 minutes, features the single cell organisms that make such indispensable items as cheese, wine and beer! Don’t miss the history and description of the microorganism which causes “black death” and the development of the nursery rhyme we still know today, “Ring around the Rosie!”

Over the past 200 years, human life expectancy has been extended from a 30 or 40 year lifespan to an age of 80, 90 and beyond. Does this kind of medical history interest you? Do you want to see the 19th century development of modern medicine? Do you read mysteries involving poisonings or are you fascinated by steam-era technology? To see medicine’s past and glimpse its future, see this 2-DVD set of three videos.