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Archive for the ‘Colson Whitehead’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANDREA CRUZ-Tiny Desk Concert #836 (March 27, 2019).

I was really surprised by the music that Andrea Cruz played, especially when I learned she is from Puerto Rico.  It felt very folk-music, in the way she strummed and the trombone (Jomar Santana) was used more as a solo instrument rather than a dance-accompaniment.  That’s certainly reductive, and yet the blurb backs me up:

It’s important to note that the instrumentation of the band that traveled with her (keyboard, two percussionists and trombone) hardly fits what you’d expect music from the island to sound like these days. But Cruz is part of a movement in Puerto Rico that emphasizes largely acoustic instruments and a folk-based approach to interpreting life before and after the hurricane of 2017. It’s a bold creative statement in a land of reggaeton and salsa.

I was very pleased to see that Cruz’s live performance is very much like the stripped-down sound on her album and the handful of singles she’s released. In fact, I would say her music is a perfect soundtrack to a growing, back-to-nature movement in Puerto Rico that encourages local farming and a careful stewardship of the environment.

Cruz sings three songs, all from her first album, 2017’s Tejido de Laurel.

“No Toquemos Tierra,” opens with a lone trombone and Cruz’ guitar.  I love the delicate keyboard accents from Antony Granados. It looks funny that there are two of them playing the tiny percussion kit, but that changes later.  The way Cruz plays her guitar here I almost expected her to bust out into something like Laura Marling a few times.  The coda at the end is really pretty, too.

The emotion of the lyrics of the first song, “No Toquemos Tierra,” is evident in her angelic voice as she makes a declaration of love for the earth as a metaphor for a lover. The beauty of the song is in her poetic lyrics set to a melody that defies language.

“Santas Flores” is a prayer to the flowers.  I love in the middle that everything drops away except for the percussion and her voice.  I’m very curious how that trombone is so quiet.

“Canción de Amargura” begins with a martial beat from Francisco Marrero but when Ángel Rafael Rivera plays the cuatro venezolano, the mood lightens.  Despite the fact that this is an intense song

there was no mistaking the intense feeling behind her song about femicide on the island in the song, “Canción de Amargura.”

Their voices raised in harmony at the end are really powerful and the way her own voice just soars in the last few seconds is really lovely.

“Contigo” is listed as a fourth song but she doesn’t play it, I don’t think.

[READ: March 31, 2019] “The Match”

This is an excerpt from Whitehead’s not-yet-released book The Nickel Boys, which is set around 1964.

This part is about a boxing match at The Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys.  The main competitor is a black boy named Griff.   He is a miserable bully most of the time and the other boys really hate him.  But if he has the chance to defeat a white boy, they are all for him.

The “colored boys” had held the boxing title for fifteen years.  “Old hands on the staff still remembered the last white champion [Terry (Doc) Burns] and talked him up.”

Griff arrived at Nickel just after the last champ turned eighteen and was released back in to the free world.  Griff pulverized his opponents.  At the end of the school year, they would pit the dorm’s best fighters against each other and then in the finale, the best black fighter fought “whatever chump the white guys put up.”

Obviously, racism is inherent in this system.  Indeed, Trevor Nickel who opened the Academy was a member of the Klan.  During one of the brief asides, Turner, brought Elwood to the two trees in the back.  There were rings embedded in the trees, part of the trunk now: “Human bones would break before it came loose.”  This was where the black boys who disobeyed were brought.  The official word was that they escaped, obviously they did not. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YISSY GARCÍA & BANDANCHA-Tiny Desk Concert #755 (June 15, 2018).

Yissy García & Bandancha from Cuba give jazz just what it needs–a wicked turntablist (and some amazing drumming from Yissy García herself).

The blurb tells us:

There is a sonic revolution happening in Cuba these days. A new generation of musicians are taking the training they received in Cuba’s fabled classical music academies to new heights by incorporating not just jazz, but hip-hop, funk and any manner of experimental music. Yissy García and Bandancha may be the best example of that vanguard.

I love that the opening song, “Última Noticia” (which runs about 7 and a half minutes) starts with static and a tuning of radio stations (in Spanish).  Then the jazz begins–piano, trumpet, bass, turntables and Yissy’s fast and complex drumming.

The compositions (all by García) are modern and reflect the cosmopolitan attitude that is common in big city life in Cuba. For example,

About 2 and a half minutes in, the song goes from smooth jazz to a really funky riff (with great scratching and a cool catchy trumpet solo (it is still jazz after all).  But it’s a lot of fun to see Yissy, with her Mohawk and somewhat shaves head playing cowbell and the rims of the drums.

After a lengthy piano solo, it’s Yissy’s turn to show off her chops:

“Ultima Noticia” is highlighted by the riffs thrown back and forth between drummer García and the turntablist, DJ Jigüe. The command of time and imagination García displays in her first drum solo of the set is simply astonishing.

It’s followed by “Universo” which features a rap in Spanish.

The rapping on “Universo” reminded me of Cuba in the early 1990s when hip-hop entered the national consciousness as the Soviet Union left the island to fend for itself economically. On this track, it’s a celebration of the universal goodness we all share.

The song is slower, more commercial with a grabbing riff by the trumpet and that smooth rap.  It’s also got a great 1970s sounding keyboard solo (very Stevie Wonder

The band winds up their time behind the desk by going back to Cuba’s African roots for a rumba-soaked jam “Te cogió lo que anda” which has sampled Afro-Cuban drums and rhythms. The complexity of the music meshes lockstep with passionate singing and dancing.

He plays lots of samples on the keyboards, including a repeat of “habla…”  But when the trumpeter sings in his rich voice, the whole song comes together.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Wow, Fiction Works!

I’ve really enjoyed Colson Whitehead’s works and this essay makes me like him even more.

This is part of a talk given at the Tin House Writers Workshop, the whole thing was called “James Root on How to Read”

He starts by saying that in his writing classes he teaches people how to write but for this lecture he will teach them how to read.

“By returning to the beginning of the sentence to perform close reading, we unlock its essence. I learned this skill at university.”  I imagine the humor was evident more in the reading, but the deadpan is just wonderful.

He speaks of Raymond Carver and a line from Carver that has stick with him for years.  After a lengthy build up, he says: “As Carver put it, channeling the sublime: ‘He lifted the cup.’  This is minimalism at its well-marbled finest.” (more…)

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dec20133SOUNDTRACK: FRANKIE SPARO-Welcome Crummy Mystics [CST023] (2003).

sparo3It’s a shame that Welcome Crummy Mystics proved to be Sparo’s last album, because it is by far his best.

This album has more sounds, sounds that accentuate the simplicity that Sparo has constructed.  So there are all kinds of unexpected instruments on th opener “Hospitalville” including horns and bass, And the whole thing has a noir feel that pervades much of the disc.  It was was completely absent on the debut (intentionally obviously).  There are harmony vocals on “Sleds to Moderne” and “Akzidenz Grotesk” has electric guitar and Sparo’s voice mixed a bit louder.  There’s more rocking out on “Back on Speed.”

But it’s not all uptempo.  “Bright Angel Park” is a pretty  instrumental with lots of piano while “My Sistr” is a menacing slow piece that begins with just bass and voice.  Although as more instruments are added the menace is replaced by a kind of jazz feel.

“Camera” is sung in French and has interesting electronics throughout and “City as it Might Have Been” has beautiful strings layered on top of each other as it builds to an epic conclusion.  “This Lie” ends the disc with piano and organ an excellent accompaniment to his lyrics.  And on this album you can really hear what a great lyricist he is.

It’s amazing what a change this is from the debut and that he packs all of this great music in to a mere 37 minutes.

[READ: April 15, 2014] “Loving Las Vegas

I felt like I had read something else from Whitehead about gambling and it turns out he wrote an article for Grantland about the World Series of Poker in Atlantic City.  This essay is an excerpt from the upcoming book that he is writing about said World Series.

This is a story about Whitehead’s appreciation for Vegas from when he was young and dumb (well, not so dumb, really).  His friend Darren got a job writing for Let’s Go, the funky travel guide.  And the assignment was Vegas.  In 1991.  They were Gen X and they were going on a great road trip.  So naturally, the first thing to do was get new speakers for the crappy car.  [I have often felt a strong connection to Whitehead, feeling that we could have been soul mates if I were a little more daring and had lived in NY instead of NJ].

They go on a great road trip (Colson hadn’t gotten a license yet so he was a navigator).  They went to Chicago and saw the Sears Tower, they went to New Orleans to visit an old friend whose frat buddies wanted to know why he was “bringing niggers and Jews” into their chill-space (yikes).  Then they got out of there and went to the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead (which they wrote about).   And then it was on to Vegas. (more…)

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questionableshapeSOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait Vol 09 (2013).

live bait 9I just recently realized that Live Bait 9 has been released.  So I grabbed it just in time.  Vol 9 is full of long jams.  The shortest track here is 10 and a half minutes and there are three over 30 minutes (true, some of them are actually multiple songs melding into one track, but they still retain that long jam feel).

What I especially liked about this set was that it included a few songs that I feel like aren’t represented all that well in the Live Bait catalog.  Like “Foam” from 1994—a solid rocking jam (at 10:47).  And “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” (from 2004—I like how they splice the cuts together, so in this case they jump a decade but it doesn’t sound it).  I feel like this song is not played as much, so it’s nice to hear.  And then there’s a lively “The Moma Dance” from 2000.

There are a number of quirky moments in many of the songs.  Like “Split Open and Melt” which comes in at 31 minutes.  Around 11 minutes, they morph into “Kung,” and what’s weird about this version (aside from the fact that the song itself is bizarre) is that instead of it just being them making noise and shouting, there’s actually music behind it—mostly drums—I’ve not heard it done like that before.  During the jam, at around 15 minutes, Mike plays Collective Soul’s “Shine” riff on the bass, but the rest of the guys don’t join in.

“Mike’s Song” (from 1999) begins a 40 minute jam.  The song seems slower than usual, which I find odd.  But it works well for the very mellow jam that constitute the big instrumental section—they even use the echoey guitar the runs for a few minutes keeping the beat and setting a pace.  At 17 minutes the song morphs into a rousing version of “Twist”.  Then at 31 minutes they morph into “Weekapaug Groove” (with Gordon’s great bass opening.  At 36 minutes Trey starts playing the Macarena, although not exactly right, which is pretty funny in and of itself.

“David Bowie” (from 1995) is a 25 minute jam that gets pretty dark in the middle.  Then comes the most interesting juxtaposition of songs jam.  From “AC/DC Bag” one of their earliest songs to “Ghost” one of their then newest ones.  “Tube” a, to my mind, underplayed song is next.  It has a funky jam and is appreciated.

This free set ends with “Undermind,” one of my favorite new songs (this one recorded n 2012). It opens with a staccato riff which gives it a kind of reggae feel.  But it soon returns to its normal sound and proves to be a great ender to this “set.”

I can’t say enough good things about the Live Bait series.  I’m not one to buy many concert sets, but having free samples is really cool.

[READ: July 28, 2013] A Questionable Shape

Karen read this book and not only raved about it, she personally recommended it to me. So imagine my surprise to find out that it’s a zombie novel!  But it is a zombie novel like no other.  If Colson Whitehead (in Zone One) made a zombie novel that was literary, Sims has gone one step further, making a zombie novel that is philosophical.

The story is set in Baton Rouge and takes place some time after a zombie epidemic has broken out. In the time since the zombies started appearing (worldwide, it is suggested), the police and emergency teams have managed to contain the worst of it (already that’s something new).  Panic has subsided somewhat and the government has even released a pamphlet on how to deal with everything that’s been going on (called Fight the Bite–I never checked to see if there was a version online, it would make a great “online extra” (having now read Karen’s review, I’m glad to see she agrees)).

The book focuses on two primary characters: the narrator (Michael Vermaelen–referred to mostly as Vermaelen whose name is not given until very long into the story) and Matt Mazoch.  There is a third important character–the narrator’s live-in girlfriend, Rachel, who plays as something of a foil.

The simple plot takes place over a week.  Mazoch is searching for his father.  Mr Mazoch died just before the epidemic and Matt believes that he is among the walking dead.  And so Matt has asked Michael to go with him to try to find him.  There’s a couple things to note right off the bat (the pun was not intended, although Matt carries a bat with him as his line of defense and who knows what else).  Matt and Mr. Mazoch had a weird relationship, one which fell apart considerably over the last few years. Mr Mazoch let himself go completely and seems opposed to everything that Matt believed in–physical fitness and intellectual pursuits (or, as Michael points out, perhaps Matt pursued them to be the exact opposite of his father). The second is that while Michael is happy to go along with Matt, he has no idea and is even afraid to ask what Matt plans to do should he find his father.  And this issue comes to a head later with Rachel.

Matt has given them exactly one week to find his father, with the explicit instructions that after a week thy give up pursuit so that it doesn’t drag on indefinitely.

Okay so far so good–they are going zombie hunting.  But the thing is, the zombies have become a part of the landscape, but they have been tamed.  It is illegal to kill them (what an interesting twist).  Despite their zombie-ness (it’s actually considered an insult to call them zombies), and their desire for human flesh, rather than eradicating them, they are being rounded up and put in camps.  Naturally there are still a number of stragglers (zombies get everywhere), but there is a hotline to call if you see one and within minutes the police come and quarantine them.

So, what’s one to do on a day long adventure hunting zombies–or more specifically, one zombie–if you aren’t actually hunting them?  Well, mostly, you talk.  Michael is a philosophy student (he intended to read all of the important philosophical works although the outbreak has taken him off his goal somewhat), Matt is a literature student (Rachel is an art history major), so the discussions get very philosophical.  In addition to quoting Heidegger, Kant, Nietzsche and many other big names, they also talk video games and seek for metaphors for the zombie invasion.  The video game discussion was quite fascinating–Matt imagines the grid of zombie takeovers to be like a video game–going into blank nothingness. But Michael imagines it more like a filmy haze.

Indeed, since this is all told from Michael’s first person point of view, we learn a lot about what is in his head.  And it turns out that Michael is obsessed with the zombies (which is understandable, really).  But his obsession is different.  When the outbreak first happened he, like everyone else, refused to go outside.  But soon, when the government gave the all clear, Rachel not only went outside, she volunteered at the facilities. But Michael refused–seeing potential contamination everywhere. Indeed, even though he goes out with Matt every day, he still imagines and worries what would happen if and when someone he knows is infected. When they go to a diner, Michael won’t even eat the food, imagining some kind of contamination.

He even tries demilitarization exercises with Rachel (which she is understandably freaked out by).  But as the story moves on Michael’ footnotes (did I say there were footnotes? There are–almost one per page) spend more and more time wondering what the zombies are experiencing–he seems to be trying to pick the best one.  And he goes over and over these ideas in great detail.

After a few days (each chapter is a day) Rachel needs to know what Matt is intending to do if (when) he finds Mr Mazoch, especially since Matt suddenly believes he has some “evidence.”  Michael doesn’t want to know, which enrages Rachel.  She assumes the worst (that he wants to kill his father).  She assumes he would kill him out of malice towards zombies, but Michael suggests it would be to put him out of his misery).

Rachel has a personal stake in this issue.  Her father died before the epidemic, but she was convinced that he would be turned (before they proved that the longer-dead weren’t rising, it was only the recently dead).  So she waited at his graveyard, with the intent of digging him up if need be.  She proves to be a real bleeding heart on the issue.  To make her case, she gives the recent example of a scientist training a  zombie to speak.  She discusses the emotions of the woman whose father was the zombie.  She says this shows that these creatures still have humanity in them and to kill them all would be genocide.

By the end of the book, Matt has taken a polar opposite position–hurricane season is coming and these things are a security risk for all the living.   They should all just be killed.  For the safety of everyone.   Michael–always the intellectual–has a somewhat more nuanced position–he feels that perhaps they should be spared because we have so much to learn from them. And each case is made rather convincingly.

There are some wonderful passages–the discussion about leaves and greenery and the amazing description of Michael’s first encounter with a zombie (not at all frightening, just chilling) show what a great writer Sims is.

The strange thing about this book (aside from the whole “it’s about zombies, but not” premise) is that for such a short book (just over 200 pages), it’s a pretty slow read.  Between the footnotes and the philosophy, the book doesn’t exactly flow quickly.  It’s not light reading by any stretch.  And at times it’s a little…dull?  too in its own head?  Something?  But those moments seem few and far between, because ultimately the language is so interesting and fulfilling.

The end is one of those endings that’s not a real ending–it’s more of a “what would you, the reader, do?” kind of ending.  That’s always unsatisfying.  And yet at the same time, I have not stopped thinking about what I would do in his case.  And so it almost becomes the perfect ending.

Bennett Sims was a student of David Foster Wallace and although this book does have footnotes, the author he resembles most is Nicholson Baker–where not much happens in the body of the work and all of the “action” (which is really thought) is in the notes.

Karen put Bennett Sims along  with Seth Fried and Manuel Gonzales on her “magnificently weird” list, a list that I am intrigued enough by to hunt down these other two authors (and Sims’ story “House-Sitting” which i don’t seem to be able to find online.  So thanks Karen, i wouldn’t have found this one on my own.

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SOUNDTRACK: INVISIBLE GUY BLOG (2012).

Jonas from Invisible Guy contacted me about a project he’s working on.  I’m not quite the right fit for it, but I had to check out his site to see what he was all about.  As his About page explains; “This blog is generally a platform for unknown bands to get promoted and interviewed.”  That’s pretty awesome in itself.  But as I browsed the site, I saw that in his post Invisible Guy recommends: 80s Post-Punk – 1982 (Part II) he includes not only The Birthday Party but also The Virgin Prunes.  Much respect there (especially for someone who wasn’t alive when those records came out!).

But the bulk of his site is full of really obscure bands (lots of bands that I’ve never heard of).  He interviews band members (sometimes in Swedish!) and has quite an impressive list of publications that he’s worked for.

So head on over to Invsible Guy for a wonderful collection of punk and hardcore music as well as some iconic (and really obscure) new wave and post-punk tunes.  He’s also got some great stuff on death metal too.  Not bad for a site that’s only a few months old.  Invisible Guy has a lot of samples and videos as well as a bunch of streaming music from unreleased or just-released albums (like this demo from the Swedish band Regimen called Välkommen hem).

And here’s a video for the Swedish stoner metal band Skraeckoedlan.  The song is “Apple Trees” and no you can’t understsnad the words because they are in Swedish.  I love that.

It’s a great site.

[READ: June 15, 2012] “A Psychotronic Childhood”

The more I read Colson Whitehead, the more I like him, not just as a writer, but as a “person” (the person he presents to us anyhow.  Although I met him briefly at a convention and he was super friendly and very nice).  This essay shows that he and I occupied some of the same headspace when we were kids (we were born in the same year)—watching sci-fi and horror movies on Channel 7 & 11 after school and on the weekends.  Of course, I didn’t really get into horror movies until much later them him (his first time was when his parents took him to  a horror film in the theater at the age of 5).  FIVE!

These early horror movies really shaped his outlook.  He lists about 70 movies in this article, of which I have seen at least half (although more from MST3K than actually sitting through them unaccompanied) and his summaries about them (four or five parenthetical words) are apt and often hilarious:

  • Food of the Gods (giant chickens rain pecking doom on a small island)
  • Alien (an outbreak of tummy trouble among space miners)
  • Demon Seed (rom-com about a horny computer that wants to impregnate Julie Christie)
  • The Devil’s Run (A negligible and mind-numbing film, notable only for the utter ineptitude of its attempt to cash in on the brief occult-movie fad that followed Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist.

The Devil’s Run is the first movie he saw, back in 1975, in the theater.  He says that there was something good in it, that it really captured the element of terror when your loved one turns on you.  And he tapped into this for his novel Zone One.

Then he reflects back on 1981, when his family bought a VCR and he and his brother would head to Crazy Eddie (remember Crazy Eddie?) to rent 5 movies for the weekend (I didn’t even know they rented movies!).  The movies were inevitably 4 horror movies and one mainstream film.  And the family would gather by the TV and watch together.  How wholesome!  Except when you read what they were watching (I can’t IMAGINE my family watching these together when I was a kid–even now, Sarah hates horror films).   This is getting into the era of Friday the 13ths and Halloweens as well as classics like Terror Train, Prom Night, Slumber Party Massacre, Silent Night, Evil Night, Mother’s Day and My Bloody Valentine (“not even the holidays, hallmark or otherwise were safe”). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALEC BALDWIN reading “Lost and Found” (Selected Shorts September 10, 2011) (2011).

Alec Baldwin’s reading of Whitehead’s “Lost and Found” is really great.  His delivery is perfect and he strikes the ideal balance of humor and pathos, even if his inner-Boston peeks through this New York tale once in a while.  You can hear it for free at soundcloud.

[READ: February 12, 2012] “The Way We Live Now: 11-11-01; Lost and Found”

I didn’t know who Colson Whitehead was in 2001 (at the time of this piece, he had written two novels, neither of which have I read even now).  I read a lot of things about 9/11 after the attacks; however, I didn’t read everything (and really I didn’t want to try).

Strangely, the only way I found out about this is because my brother-in-law’s wife linked to the soundcloud page on Facebook the other day.   (I’m not sure what made her link to it now, either).

The amazing thing about this essay is that it was written less than a month after the attacks and yet it is it is humorous and wise (but not silly or light-hearted).  It strikes a perfect balance.  And in fact, doesn’t even mention the attacks by name.

The piece is more of an ode to New York City and how “No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, ”That used to be Munsey’s’ or ‘That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.'”  Your first memory of the City is how you will always think of the City.  Whether you were dragged there at Christmas time as child or to help a friend move. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKBABE THE BLUE OX-“Basketball” (1998).

This was the first song I’d ever heard from Babe the Blue Ox, and I was hooked (sadly, The Way We Were, where this song is from was their last album).  This is also my favorite songs about sports (and it will never be played in an arena).

It opens with this great funky keyboard over a cool walking bass line.  And after a verse about playing basketball, we get the gorgeous bridge: “pass it to me, I am free, look there’s no one guarding me) sung by one of the women in the band (who sounds vaguely like Edie Brickell).  When the chorus kicks in “And when she gives it to me, I am as high as can be” both singers harmonize wonderfully.

There’s even a cool instrumental break.

Everything about this song is catchy and wonderful.  And it should have been huge.

[READ: December 21, 2011] Grantland

McSweeney’s seems to keep trying to push me away.  Or maybe they are just trying to push me out of my comfort zone.  First they publish Lucky Peach, a magazine about cooking (with recipes that contain ingredients that I couldn’t find anywhere).  I don’t read cooking magazines, but I loved this one.  Now they publish Grantland, a book about sports.  I don’t follow sports.  At all.  I used to play sports and I used to watch sports, and then when I got out of college, I did neither.  I have a very good knowledge of most sports (so I can still follow any game that’s on), but as for actual people playing the games right now–I’m ignorant.  So, why on earth would I want to read this book about sports?

I was pretty sure I would finally not be getting this book until I read the author list: Chuck Klosterman, Colson Whitehead (!), Malcolm Gladwell (?)  I knew this was going to be no ordinary sports book.

So it turns out (and I didn’t know this until just now) that the book is a collection of works from the website Grantland, which is created and run by Bill Simmons.  I haven’t explored the site but it sure looks interesting enough–longish articles about sports and culture and all kinds of interesting things.  And evidently this issue is a sort of best of the website.  The whole Grantland experience, including this book, are connected to ESPN, indeed, ESPN gets a copyright for the book, McSweeney’s is just the publisher.

And this volume was wonderful.  I couldn’t put it down.  I even wound up putting aside a book I was in the middle of to read it.  None of the articles are terribly long and, despite the basketball textured cover (which is very cool–no one can walk by and not touch it) the variety of sports covered is wonderful: from boxing to cricket!  And there are short stories and essays about the entertainment industry as well (articles on Shia LeBeouf and Amy Winehouse (!)).

If I had one complaint about the book it’s that many of the articles don’t give a time from when they were written.  I assume they are all fairly recent but since I don’t follow sports I can’t say for sure.  The other problem is that several of the stories end with a game/match unresolved.  Clearly they have been resolved since then, but even one line saying what happened would be comforting for those of us not glued to ESPN. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RUSH-The Fifth Order of Angels (bootleg from the Agora Ballroom,Cleveland, 26 August 1974) (1974).

I have mentioned this concert before, but I played it again today, and was struck by a couple of things.

1) According to the liner notes, Neil Peart had been in the band about two weeks.  How did they decide that their new drummer was going to be doing a drum solo during the show?  I mean, by now, everyone knows that the solo is its own song.  But, he’s been in the band two weeks.  It’s obvious he’s a good drummer, better than their original drummer, but a drum solo?  Is that just what rock bands did back then?

2) I’m struck by how much this show sounds like early Kiss.  I never really thought that  their first album sounded like Kiss, but in this live setting, a number of the songs, or perhaps just  the way they are recorded make me think of early Kiss.  In particular, during the crazy “one, two, three, FOUR!” of “In the End,” when the guitars kick back in, it sounds like a Kiss show from circa Alive!.

3) It’s amazing how guitar-centric the band was back then.  The mix is a little rough so it’s not entirely clear how insane Geddy is on the bass (when he gets a few solo notes, the bass sounds really tinny).  But the concert is like a showcase for Alex’s solos.  True, the whole first album really demonstrates what a great soloist he is, but it’s really evident here that Alex was the star.

4) Their earlier songs are really not very good.   I mean, every Rush fan knows that the first album is almost not even a real Rush album, but it’s shocking how pedestrian these songs are compared to even what would show up on Fly By Night.  Still, circa 1974 I’ll bet this show kicked ass.

It’s available here.

UPDATE: The missing content has been added!

[READ: August 9, 2011] Zone One

After reading the excerpt from Zone One in Harper’s I decided it was time to read the book (which is due to be published in October).

I admit I haven’t read Whitehead’s other works, but I have read excerpts, and I thought I knew the kind of things he wrote.  So it came as a huge surprise when the excerpt ended the way it did. I didn’t want to spoil anything when I wrote the review of the excerpt, but since the entire book is set in the dystopian future and since it explain what has happened right on the back, I can say that Zone One is set in the aftermath of a kind of zombie apocalyptic plague.  And I can’t help but wonder if the rousing success of McCarthy’s The Road has more or less opened up the field of literature to more post apocalyptic, dare I say, zombie fiction.  [I haven’t read The Road, so there will be no comparisons here].

Actually there will be one.  Sarah read The Road and complained that you never learned just what the hell started the end of the world.  Indeed, in this book you don’t either.  There is an event called Last Night, and after that, there’s simply the current state of affairs.  I suppose you don’t really need to know, and since the story is all about dealing with the zombies, I guess it doesn’t really matter how it all started, but I think we’d all like to know.

Now what makes this story different from the typical zombie story is that for the most part there aren’t all that many zombies (or whatever these undead people are called) in the story.  There are some of course, and they are inconvenient to the main characters, but unlike a story like Zombieland, (which was awesome) or the more obvious Night of the Living Dead, the story isn’t really about fighting zombies, it’s more about the rebuilding of the country in a post-zombie world. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-June 2010 Rehearsal (2010).

Just when I was convinced that Primus were a done deal, I learned that they were not only touring but had just released a free downloadable EP of their recent rehearsals.  It’s got 4 songs: two super oldies, 1 pretty oldie and one not terribly old one (these designations are in terms of albums releases, not length of time ago, as they would all be old ones by that reckoning).

The two oldies are my favorites: “Pudding Time” sounds wonderful–a few updates, and slight improv things, but basically that’s the song that introduced me to Primus.  “Harold of the Rocks” is the other one.  I love Harold, because it is such a weird, crazy song (even by Primus standards).  Lyrically, it’s about some guys who meet the fabled Harold of the Rocks.  Sometime later the narrator meets Harold again.  Harold is currently lit up like an old Christmas Tree and he tells the narrator that he doesn’t remember much about what happened that night.  And that’s pretty much it.  It even mentions Schooly D!  Great stuff.

The other two songs are “American Life” which comes from Sailing the Seas of Cheese.  It’s a deep cut as opposed to the more obvious single, “Jerry was a Race Car Driver.”  It’s nice to hear that song again, as it wasn’t very high-profile, although it is surprising to me that it’s 3 minutes longer than the original.  “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” is from The Brown Album, an album I don’t know all that well.  It’s got some good stuff in it, including a pretty good solo from Ler.

This EP features the drumming of Jay Lane, who was in Primus even before “Herb” (who I miss very much) and was in Sausage.  “Herb” by the way, was in A Perfect Circle and THE BLUE MAN GROUP!  Holy cowboys!

Primus sucks!

[READ: July 25, 2011] “Last Night

This is an excerpt from Zone One, a book Colson Whitehead signed for me at BEA (I really must read it one of these days).

The story opens with something happening on Last Night.  It’s a little confusing, and since no context is provided, it doesn’t make all that much sense until the very end of the excerpt which (the end) blew my mind.

The story concerns Mark Spitz–not Mark Spitz the swimmer (or maybe it is Mark Spitz the swimmer–again, no context), –a teenager who goes to Atlantic City with his friend Kyle.  And for the most part, the story is pretty tame, almost dull (but Whitehead is a great writer and he invigorates what could have been a pretty typical Atlantic City gambling weekend).  The boys gamble, get comped and basically don’t leave the casino for the duration of their stay.

What I love about the story is that little things, meaningless sentences like, “They did not watch the news nor receive news from the outside” [when you are on a casino weekend with buddies you do not check the news] seem innocuous–like little details that would fill out any story.  It’s only later that… (more…)

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hapersSOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981).

sorrymaSince I’ve been talking about The Replacements so much, it made me want to go back and listen to their stuff.  The Replacements are the quintessential band that “grew up” or “matured” and for better or worse sounds utterly different from their first album to their last (a span of only nine years!).  In fact, I don’t imagine that there are too many people who would enjoy all seven of their discs.  One suspects that if the band themselves were given a copy of their All Shook Down disc in 1981, they would have smashed it.

So this was their first release. It has 18 songs in about 30 minutes.  That’s pure hardcore, right?  Well, not exactly.  Even though the songs are short and fast and quite sloppy, there’s something about Paul Westerberg’s voice and delivery that makes these songs seem not quite hardcore.  He enunciates!  And you can understand him most of the time. And, maybe this is a better indicator: there’s parts to these songs, it’s not just breakneck pacing.  They also have song titles that belied how good their song writing would become.  Like: “Shiftless When Idle.”

In fact, “Johnny’s Gonna Die” isn’t fast at all.  It shows what the kind of songs that they would eventually write: literate and moving indie rock.

There must have been something in the water in 1981 in Minnesota.  Hüsker Dü, the other amazing punk outfit out of Minnesota (referenced in the ‘Mats song “Something  to Du”) also put out a blistering live hardcore record in 1981 called Land Speed Record (17 songs in 26 minutes, listed as 2 tracks on CDs because they don’t pause in between songs).  Like the ‘Mats, Hüsker Dü wouldn’t recognize their later incarnations in 1981 either.  And why are The Replacements abbreviated as The ‘Mats?  I don’t know.

But this ‘Mats record is the kind of sneaky record that can get you to enjoy punk even if you don’t think you like it.  There’s something so fun about Sorry Ma, that you don’t really notice that it’s all done so fast.

[READ: May 22, 2009] “My Great Depression”

This essay collection is tough to catalog.  Do I include all of the authors in the title of the post, do I pick selected ones, or just go with none.  Yes, go with none.

Harper’s asked ten authors/artists to send stories from the near future, after the economic collapse of the country. All of the pieces are three columns or less, and some are more enjoyable than others. (more…)

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