Categories
Indie Rock Music Punk

Underground Rockers Vol.2

I came across this interesting 1992 compilation album while searching for Suicide Alley by Manic Street Preachers, as research for a piece I’m writing about Lo-Fi music. Not only does this compilation include Suicide Alley, but it also includes the B-side, Tennessee (I Get Low). This was later rerecorded for their debut album proper, Generation Terrorists, but this lower fidelity version was just what I was looking for for my Lo-Fi piece.

The original sleeve for Suicide Alley/Tennessee (I Get Low), 1988. Not at all inspired by the first Clash LP. image courtesy of Discogs.

Underground Rockers Vol.2 contains two songs each from several bands: H.D.Q., Senseless Things, The Abs, The Price, Manic Street Preachers, Identity and Suspect Device. It’s pretty much a punk album. It ranges from shout along ’70’s style, ’80’s hardcore and even ’90’s pop punk. I had personally never heard many of these bands before but I enjoyed the album and thought it deserved some publicity. It is an excellent time capsule for the British punk scene in the early ’90’s.

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RPG Videogames

Scruffy Undertale Adventures (part 3)

So, I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. So got up and played some more Undertale. So here’s some noteworthy stuff that happened.

Firstly, I added a border to my game.There are only three to choose from but I chose the sepia one. So after leaving the Ghost’s house I arrived in the traditional ‘lava level’. Every game has one. The first thing I found after the save point was a laboratory. Inside the laboratory, the scientist was watching me on a huge monitor.

After meeting the scientist, Dr. Alphys, she tells me that she has built a robot to be the ultimate celebrity/superstar. Unfortunately, she has also programmed it to be a human killing machine. Just as she’s telling me this it bursts through the wall.

This then turns into a boss fight where I have to answer questions until either I die or the robot gets bored and leaves. After the fight, I head out into the lava zone, solve some puzzles and meet a few interesting characters while remaining in contact, via cellphone, with Alphys. These characters on the bridge are talking about the quiz show I was on with the killer robot.

A couple of minutes later, i seamlessly walk from a lava field into a picturesque kitchen and the killer superstar robot reappears.

After taking part in Cooking with a Killer Robot, I return back to the start of the lava area (just in front of the laboratory) via a newly unlocked elevator. Heading south I find a river with a boat.

I can’t help but thinking of this person as Charon. and this river as Styx. I decide to get in the boat and we head back to Snowdin, the obligatory ‘snow level’ from earlier in the game. En route, the boat person (named River Person on the Undertale wiki) sings a jolly tune.

Well, that’s all for now. I returned to the save point as my real life doggo had awoken and was demanding to be taken out for toileting and exercise. Until next time.

Aforementioned real life doggo

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Indie Rock Music Punk

Thurston Moore – Various Pandemic Bandcamp Releases

Since the start of the lockdown, Sonic Youth guitarist & singer Thurston Moore has been steadily releasing unreleased archive material on his Bandcamp page. Since Moore has been kind enough to publish the lyrics to each track, and because he’s one of my favourite lyricists, I’ll reprint them here.

It started on 23rd March with TELEGRAPH which was written while touring with his former band Chelsea Light Moving in 2014. This track was originally performed on KEXP-FM under the title The Exstasie but later remixed in London.

Here’s where the mantra begins 
Where the wildfires reach for the wind 
Blue days break for yr pleasure 
And the gold rays color yr skin 
Here’s where we make our commotion 
Where the amplifiers all cry 
Raise yr guitar to sky devotion 
Let the high priests sing out the night 
And where do all the evil crazies go 
The drunken dripping demons down below 
This is where the messages rise above 
Shooting stars and candles lit for love 
Here’s where we fall into light dreams 
Where the flowers sweetly incite bees 
Yr guitar is a honey suck angel 
Drumsticks play in the free breeze 
And why do all the oceans erupt 
And all the mountains crumble to dust 
Destruction with no hope and no prayer 
Telegraph yr soul into the clear 

Next came a track called SUNDAY STAGE on 29th March. This was recorded circa-2013 by Chelsea Light Moving.

Sunday stage 
The ripped up page 
We’ll stay up late 
Til sunday babe 

Hush Arbors 
The dripping slurs 
The crushing verbs 
The smashing thirst 

NO GO, released on 4th April is a straightforward punk thrasher. Another Chelsea Light Moving recording from 2013.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL 
STAY WHERE YOU ARE 
SAY WHAT YOU WILL 
STAY WHERE YOU ARE 
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO 
NO GO 
NO GO 
NO GO 
NO GO 

INSTANT TRANSCENDENT CONJECTURE followed on 15th April. This was recorded by TMG (Thurston Moore Group) in 2016 during sessions for their Rock n Roll Consciousness album. According to Moore, it is a “cryptic suggestion into the realization of the poem as a springing into nature.”

WILD CRY STREAKING HEART REACTION 
ELEKTRO SOUL MAGNETIC ATTRACTION 

SOUNDING ROOM TELEVISON 
FREEDOM FLOWERS LIVE EXPLOSION 

INSTANT TRANSCENDENT CONJECTURE 
FEROCIOUS COHERENT REFLECTOR 

WILD CRY STREAKING HEART REACTION 
ELEKTRO SOUL MAGNETIC ATTRACTION 
REALIZATION COMPELLED TO RAPTURE 
COMPELLS A POEM TO IT’S CAPTURE 

MAY DAZE, released on 1st May is another Thurston Moore group recording. In the words of Thurston it is “a soundtrack for our usa sisters + brothers to register as voters today, if you still need to – we can change the world – free all political prisoners – insurrection for common decency – rock n roll consciousness – more to come”.

You must be on some kind of revolution kick 
Modernity is on the line and says you’re making them sick 
Wars and borders, prisons and swords we don’t understand how 
Let’s already overthrow overthrowing now 

I’m not the type of guy 
Who wants to change the world 
She’s not the type of guy 
He’s a new century girl 

Transparency especially in your soldier’s dress 
Screw policy if you’re in prison then we’re the one’s under arrest 
Star children have taken over they’re broadcasting peace 
Time and space have no place for a sister who needs to be free 

I’m not the type of guy 
Who wants to change the world 
She’s not the type of guy 
He’s just a new century girl 

You took me by surprise 
When you dared me to 
Glitter everything with change 
And i’ll break the rules with you

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Folk Music Punk

Billy Bragg – Can’t Be There Today

Can’t be there today is a slow and mournful folk ballad with clever and thought-provoking lyrics about the world we currently live in, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The arrangement is very minimal composed entirely from gently strummed guitar chords, lap steel and Billy’s distinctive voice.

The lyrics mournfully detail the things we are missing out on as result of the lockdown like weddings, gigs, Mother’s Day and other things which we took for granted just a few short months ago. The chorus turns this mournful listing into a positive, stating that “I love you and that’s why I’m going to stay away”.

Can’t Be There Today is a moving request to everyone to please be patient and to think of your loved ones and relatives in this unprecedented time of existential terror and simultaneous boredom.

Here’s the song and I’ll reprint the lyrics below, as they’re so important.

Lyrics:

[Verse 1]
An invite to a wedding
That no one can attend
A poster for a show that never happened
Two tickets for a holiday
I can longer spend
And a gift for Mothers Day I won’t be wrapping
This is all I’m left with
In a world that’s been shut down
I wannna come see you mum
But I fear that thing I might bring in

[Chorus]
So I’m sending you this message
With a heavy heart to say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s I’m gonna to stay away”

[Verse 2]
It feels like hope has been postponed
All plans put on hold
Prospects fade and expectations shattered
But all through these uncertain days
I’ve come to understand
Those few precious things that truly matter
Mama you’ve been on my mind
As the world has slipped away
Promise me you’ll do the things
That must be done in the days to come

[Chorus]
I don’t know when I’ll get the chance
To hug you so I wanna say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s why I’m gonna to stay away”

[Outro]
The time will come when this is done
And I won’t have to say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s why I’m gonna to stay away”

Lyrics courtesy of Genius

As an unrelated bonus to this blogpost here’s a better picture of that beautiful guitar Billy’s playing in the pic at the top.

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RPG Videogames

Scruffy Undertale Adventures (part 2)

So next thing I found amusing enough to blog about was the Joke book in Sans and Papyrus’ house.

Also in the same town, I knocked on this door and the occupant said:

So I knocked again and:

Subsequent knocks were met with:

I also went for a burger at Grillby’s with Sans. He passed me the ketchup but loosened the lid first. The entire bottle’s worth went all over my burger. Cheers Sans.

Later, at a waterfall in the pouring rain I shared an umbrella with Monster Boy. We spotted a spooky looking castle in the distance.

After falling down from the waterfall into an underground landfill I am attacked by a ghost-possessed training dummy but saved by a ghost friend I’d met earlier. The ghost invited me to it’s house and fed me. After which it invited me to lay on the floor with it. Things went pretty cosmic when I accepted the invite.

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RPG Videogames

Undertale – first impressions

I’ve just started playing Undertale this afternoon on Nintendo Switch. First impressions are pretty good. I’m around an hour and half in and I’m really enjoying it. As well as a brief explanation, I’ve taken some screenshots that I think are amazing. These screenshots alone justify this post (in my humble opinion).

The game, at least so far, plays a little like a classic JRPG. The combat, for instance, shares visual similarities with the early Dragon Quest (or Dragon Warrior in Japan) games. The exploration is also similar to Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. You walk around a 2D map solving puzzles and getting into random encounters.

The battle system is unique in that you don’t have to kill any of the enemies you fight. There is always another option. One monster I fought was a woodland creature a bit like a reindeer called a Gyftrot. Locals like to decorate the antlers of Gyftrots. You can “win” the battle by “undecorating” his antlers which makes him happy and you can select “Spare” from the combat menus.

I’m currently in a town called Snowdin. I love this bear’s grasp of political science.

Inside the bar, Grillby’s, that the bear is standing outside.

I previously had to fight the four dogs sat around the table in the four ground. I managed to spare them all from death with strategic petting. The two with armour and halberds had to be persuaded that I was a “strange puppy”. I had to roll around in the dirt and let them re-sniff me. Once they were convinced that I was a puppy, I then had to pet them again. Their minds were blown that dogs could pet other dogs and now they say their lives are changed forever.

Finally, I believe I may start using this picture at the top of any post I make about politics:

If you’re interested in this game, here’s a trailer to watch. Think it’s available on pretty much every platform except for Xbox. I bought it for Switch.

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Hip Hop Music Punk

Beastie Boys, late ‘80’s – Youthful Beastie Hijinks

Okay, see, what had happened was…I had a ticket to go see Bobby McFerrin, right, and you know, it was like, ’88 or’89 and Don’t Worry, Be Happy was a huge song and so I wanted to go and see what the fuss was all about. And I guess during the show I tried to start a mosh pit, and so security escorted me out. Adam and Mike were gonna pick me up outside at like 11:00, but it was only like 9, and so I hit the liquor store on the corner and sat on some steps to hang out to wait for them. They forgot to pick me up, but then remembered in the morning. I’m not sure, but I think the moral of this story is, get a tall boy instead of a 40.

Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz

And finally, here’s some music. Probably recorded around the time that the photo was taken. Depending on the reliability of Ad-Rock’s memory.

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Categories
History Music Politics

International Workers Day

To mark International Workers Day, my partner and I participated in a Zoom meeting with members of Unite the Union, the wider labour movement and people linked to the Miners Strike of 1984. To mark this day on this blog, I am sharing some of my favourite activist songs by Billy Bragg and some quotes from revolutionary leaders like VI Lenin and Ho Chi Minh regarding international solidarity.

misleading press image of anarchist protesters throwing a bomb at police, Chicago, May 1886

There are many things going on globally to mark International Workers Day. In the US, for example, I am aware of Mass Rent Strikes (the 1st of the month being rent day) and strikes at various US companies including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target, Amazon, Instacart, WalMart, Shipt and FedEx.

US labor movement (https://www.rlmartstudio.com)

The best way you can honour the many sacrifices of the international labour movement is by joining a union. It’s your best defence against unscrupulous employers, and in this age of rampant free market capitalism there is no shortage of those. And the defence that a union can offer you becomes more powerful as it gets bigger.

UK pro union poster

In the UK and the US, neoliberal free market zealots like Thatcher and Reagan have brainwashed many into thinking that the the unions had become too powerful before they came along. To believe that unions can become too powerful is to fundamentally misunderstand what a union is and what it is for.

Solidarity in the workplace. Educate! Agitate! Organise!

In the history of modern socialism this is a phenomenon, that the strife of the various trends within the socialist movement has from national become international.

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?, “Dogmatism And ‘Freedom of Criticism’” (1901)

All the martyrs of the working class, those in Lausanne like those in Paris, those in Le Havre like those in Martinique, are victims of the same murderer: international capitalism. And it is always in belief in the liberation of their oppressed brothers, without discrimination as to race or country, that the souls of these martyrs will find supreme consolation.

Ho Chi Minh, Le Paria, August 17, 1923
Billy Bragg playing There Is Power In A Union during the “Clap for the NHS & Key Workers”, 30th April 2020

If you are interested, here are some links to further reading about International Workers Day:

International Workers Day Wikipedia page

IWW archive

Solidarity Comrades.

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Facebook Challenges Music

10 days/10 albums Facebook challenge

Over on Facebook, a lot of people have been doing a thing where every day for 10 days you post the cover of an album which ‘greatly influenced’ your taste in music. On the Facebook posts, you’re only supposed to post the cover with no explanations or reviews etc. I decided to compile my ten into this blogpost with a little explanation/review of each one.

Day 1: Radiohead – Ok Computer

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Widely cited as one of the greatest albums of the 1990’s, if not all time, OK Computer catapulted Radiohead into The Big Leagues and topped most year-end lists in 1997. Since then it has also topped countless ‘greatest albums’ lists. Before OK Computer was released, I was happily listening to Oasis and Ocean Colour Scene. These were my favourite bands. When I first heard Paranoid Android, lead single from OK Computer, I was blown away. Music could be weird. Music could be creative. Music didn’t have to be boring four-chord, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus dadrock like Oasis. Guitars, while key to the sound, didn’t have to be the only instrument. Effects were used creatively and experimentally, like the Roland Space Echo on Subterranean Homesick Alien. Live drumming was cut up and rearranged in the studio – inspired by DJ Shadow’s seminal Endtroducing – like on opening space dub rocker Airbag. This opened up worlds of possibility for me. I began seeking out weird and experimental music as a habit. A habit which I retain to this day. And I’ve not really listened to Oasis since.

Day 2: Pavement – Brighten the Corners

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Pavement’s 1997 album Brighten the Corners is not generally considered to be one of their best records. But to me it was the first time I heard what would go on to be one of my favourite bands. I heard Shady Lane a lot on Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session on Radio 1 and John Peel. What attracted me to Pavement was the laid back, stoned vibes of the songs, the gentle effortlessness of the playing (which isn’t nearly as effortless as it first sounds) and the unusual, quirky lyrics – which 14-year-old me didn’t really understand but loved anyway. It’s definitely not my favourite Pavement album, but as the first I heard, it will always hold a special place in my musical tastes.

Day 3: Autechre – Tri Repetae

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The first electronic music album in my list and the first one that truly excited me about the possibilities of electronic music and made me want to produce it myself. The cold, sparse arrangements and the intricate glitches were what initially drew me in, but the warm bass and the solid drum programming and production are what made me stay. Closing track Rsdio is one of my favourite tracks of all time. A 9-minute slow build-up of various repetitive elements which form together into a glorious glitchy groove embedded in an echoey, desolate soundscape. My first copy of Tri Repetae was actually a CD-R which a friend burned for me. After the album ended, he’d added the generative glitchy mess that is Gantz Graf. This noisy electronic classic led me towards weirder, glitchier and more abrasive electronic music.

Day 4: Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump

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I could, and indeed will, write a lot more about this album than I have space for here. It’s a legitimate masterpiece, in my opinion. Jason Lytle is a ridiculously talented songwriter and the way he blends traditional rock instruments with bleeping atmospheric synths and drum machines is just so unique. And then to use this technique to tell a story about civilisation collapsing due to the Y2K millennium bug (a hot topic at the time) with a sad and beautiful subplot about an artificially intelligent humanoid robot named Jed who writes depressing poetry then drinks himself to death. I cannot recommend this album enough.

Day 5: Belle and Sebastian – The Boy with the Arab Strap

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This is another one that caught me by surprise. I’d read reviews of their music in NME and Melody Maker but thought that they didn’t sound like something I’d enjoy. I saw this album on a listening post (remember them?) in my local Virgin Megastore (remember them?) and gave it a go. The opening of the first track It Could have been a Brilliant Career absolutely hooked me. The melancholic vocal with the lush melody and the cleverly funny lyrics was so good: “He had a stroke at the age of 24, it could have been a brilliant career”. And the songs just kept getting better. This was the birth of my love for what is often described as twee pop, or just twee.

Day 6: At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command

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A definite change of pace here. After the melodic pop sensibilities of Grandaddy and Belle and Sebastian, I had to pick something a bit noisier. Aggro. Relationship of Command is a Post-Hardcore touchstone. The only album more important in the genre is probably Fugazi’s politically and ethically charged Repeater and that is high praise indeed. Relationship of Command is a savage burst of metallic punk noise and swooning melancholic melodies. It even features a cheeky cameo from the godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop, on Rolodex Propaganda. Lead single One Armed Scissor blew everyone away and for me at least, killed off Nu Metal. Dead.

Day 7: Boards of Canada – Music has the Right to Children

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Music has the Right to Children is a particularly special album. It’s universally recognised as a classic album in pretty much every single music-based Facebook group I’m a member of. It’s loved by hipsters, indie kids, hip hop fans, shoegazers, IDM fans and many more. Your grandparents have probably heard Board of Canada. As well as it’s lush arrangements and top-drawer production, it also introduced me to another concept which I have developed a slight obsession with, Hauntology. I will write a primer to hauntology at some point in the near future, so if you’re not familiar with what it is, don’t worry. Boards of Canada introduced, alongside Mogwai, introduced me to the idea of soundscapes. A common feature in many of my favourite bands.

Day 8: Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty

A photo of all Beastie Boys members sitting in a tuna can with the sun in the background

My introduction to the Beastie Boys was probably hearing Sabotage and/or Fight for your Right to Party on commercial radio or MTV. I liked them but I didn’t know any of their other music. This was also in the mid ‘90’s before you could investigate a band on Spotify or YouTube if you liked them and my primary source of income was a paper round. When you get paid £12 a week, you need to be damn sure you like the album you’re buying before you buy it. By the time the video for Hello Nasty’s lead single Intergalactic was released, I was already reading NME & Melody Maker regularly as well as watching MTV2 (MTV’s “alternative” offshoot channel) and listening to Radio One’s Evening Session (Steve Lamacq), John Peel’s show and Mary Anne Hobbes’ Breezeblock show. All of these outlets played Intergalactic constantly and I was even able to afford to buy the occasional single. I remember purchasing it on cassette and the B-Side was the wonderful Hail Sagan. As an album I believe it’s the Beastie Boys best kept secret. It’s probably my favourite of their albums (except for maybe Ill Communication) and contains some of their strongest singles. Intergalactic (obviously), Remote Control, Body Movin’, and the sublime Three MC’s And One DJ. A true late ‘90’s heavyweight.

Day 9: Beck – Odelay

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If you boiled the entire ‘90’s in a still then the end result, the distillate, would be Odelay. Beck’s magnum opus is a sprawling sound collage of pop, folk, country, hip-hop, alternative rock, grunge, breakbeat and almost any other genre which you care to think of. Produced by the Dust Brothers, its heavy use of sampling is revolutionary. Especially in the context of an “indie/alternative artist” like Beck. As well as its status as a solid album, Odelay spawned some of the most memorable singles of the ‘90’s; the laidback, line dancing hip-hop funk of Where It’s At; the crunchy post-grunge of Devils Haircut; the mutant lounge pop of The New Pollution and the melancholic psychedelia of Jackass. For a young person today, approaching indie and alternative music for the first time, Odelay is a fantastic primer and could theoretically send you out in any number of directions for further musical explorations.

Day 10: Sonic Youth – Screaming Fields of Sonic Love

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When I first discovered that the central library in my city had a CD and Tape section I felt like a child at Christmas. I took out so many CD’s and copied them to cassette that it would be very hard to argue I didn’t massively abuse the system. The album I remember lending from the library and copying to tape the most is this fantastic Sonic Youth “best of” compilation, Screaming Fields of Sonic Love. This is a collection of tracks from Sonic Youth’s ‘80’s output – up to their masterpiece, Daydream Nation – but it’s sequenced in reverse chronological order. This has the amusing effect of the songs becoming more lo-fi as the album progresses. The album begins with perhaps their most melodic song, Teen Age Riot, and towards the end you find their noisier, no-wave inspired material like Inhuman, Making The Nature Scene and Brother James. I don’t know why it works so well, but it does. And I’ve been hooked on Sonic Youth ever since. This is probably the biggest influence on me in this list except for OK Computer. Sonic Youth gently nudged my attention away from British artists like Radiohead and towards American artists like Nirvana, Pavement, Pixies and Silver Jews. Even the British bands I got into after this were heavily indebted to Sonic Youth for their sound, bands like Idlewild and Urusei Yatsura.

All record cover images in this blogpost courtesy of Discogs

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Indie Rock Music

Rosie Tucker – Arrow (Jeffrey Lewis Cover)

Singer/songwriter Rosie Tucker’s new single is a cover version of the Jeffrey Lewis track Arrow, from his 2003 album It’s The Ones Who’ve Cracked That The Light Shines Through.

“We were having a really hard time arranging it because it’s an unusually structured song,” Tucker told American Songwriter . “It’s just kind of a deluge of words and then it ends.” The first half of the cover follows the original fairly faithfully, with Tucker’s trancelike vocals floating over a sea of effect pedal guitar noise and subdued cymbals. This psychedelic guitar soundscape is courtesy of Tucker’s guitarist, Jess Kallen’s pedalboard. It’s the second half of the song, however when the bass and drumming begin, that Arrow really starts to differ from Lewis version. It morphs from an anti-folk anthem into a more straight forward indie rocker, albeit while retaining the psychedelic feel. Tucker practically screams the lyrics in places, giving it a raw edge which I imagine makes live performances of this particularly exciting. This is in stark contrast to Lewis’ original, which consists exclusively of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, voice and tape hiss. It has a much more subdued feel.

As well as the single, available from all good streaming services and digital music distributors, Tucker has put together a lyric video for Arrow. The video consists of footage of their native Los Angeles which they has taken whilst walking around during the quarantine. I particularly like the glitch-art aesthetic.

For those unfamiliar with Lewis, here is the original:

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