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Archive for the ‘James Hannaham’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MONSTER MAGNET-God Says No (2001).

It’s not often I have a disc with the same name as a book.  But lo, here they are.  I’ve no idea if the album inspired Hannaham at all (or if he even knows of it) although the title track song does rather work well with the book, with lines like:

You won’t get caught if you don’t get queer/And you’ll be ready for a new frontier  You try and live And God says no.

I had loved Monster Magnet’s Powertrip quite a lot.  So, I was more than willing to get this follow up.  I’m a little disappointed in the disc overall, but I’m not entirely sure why.  It’s not quite a sharp as Powertrip, but it’s also not quite a trippy as their earlier stoner rock releases.

Having said that, there’s some great tracks here.  It opens very prominently with “Melt” and the phenomenal heavy rocker “Heads Explode” which features delightfully obscure lyrics like “I am a pillar of salt.  You’ll never be worse than me.”  And then comes, “Medicine 2001” another fast, chunky rocker.

There’s also some other way-out (for Monster Magnet) tracks, like the bluesy slide guitar sleaze of “Gravity Well.”

I think it’s the tracks at the end that kind of drag the disc a little bit “Queen of You” is an interesting slow track, but at nearly 7 minutes and coupled with the 7 minute “Cry,” it’s a bit too much all at once.  The final track, “Take It” is a weird, weird (for Monster Magnet) keyboard and drum machine track. It’s very mellow (and sounds like early Depeche Mode), and works as a weird experiment.  The actual final track is a bonus track, “Silver Future” which rocks once again.

I’m pleased that Monster Magnet experiments so much, but it feels like a full disc of MM songs with an extra EP of experiments tacked on.  I’m not sure what they could have done differently, but for some reason the disc falls a little short.

[READ: March 18, 2010] God Says No

This is a very simple tale of an overweight black man struggling with life in the 1990s.  The twist on the story is that he is not struggling because of his race or his size.  He is struggling because he is a good Christian man who is, without question, homosexual.

The book is written in first person and as such it reads like a memoir (although the main character has a different name than the author).  You can’t help but wonder how much of this book is true (although really it doesn’t make any difference), especially when one of  the characters dies.  It feels like tribute to an actual person.

The book opens with Gary Gray living in a dorm at a Christian college.  He is completely obsessed with his roommate, a hunky white guy who walks around in his boxers.  The roommate is clearly not interested in him, in fact he goes so far as to say he is repulsed by Gary (for being fat and black, in addition to anything else he may find flaw with). (more…)

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31SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Hootenanny (1983).

hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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