Archive for the ‘Thomas Bernhard’ Category

may2016SOUNDTRACK: FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE-Tiny Desk Concert #164 (October 6, 2011).

fowI have never really gotten into Fountains of Wayne even though a) they write incredibly Cathy indie pop, the kind of music I rather like and b) their name comes from a store that I have driven by many times in my life.  I think I didn’t like their first single when it came out or something, so I just dismissed them and never looked back.

Which is a shame because this set is full of delightful, slightly dark pop gems.

Fountains of Wayne put out a couple records in the 1990s and then went away and put out a couple more in the 2000s.  There are two excellent songwriters in the band singer guitarist Chris Collingwood and bassist Adam Schlesinger.  Schlesinger has been writing pop hits for (a lot of) movies and other lucrative gigs.   Clearly he has a knack for pop goodness.  And Fountains of Wayne is on the good side of pop.

“The Summer Place” opens with bouncy chords (the two guitarists play acoustic guitars).  But despite the poppyness, the lyrics are a little dark: “She’s been afraid of the Cuisinart since 1977 / now when she opens up her house she won’t set foot in the kitchen.”  I love the harmony vocals and how the second acoustic guitar sounds vaguely like a violin on the single notes.  “Valley Winter Song” is an older song.  It still has that sound–catchy guitars, nice harmonies and a notable bass line.

“A Dip in the Ocean” (like the first song, it comes from their then new album) features a prominent bass line and wonderful oohs and ahhs.  The lyrics are clever and funny.  Based on these two songs, I’d say that the 2011 album is pretty excellent.

When they ask if they can do one more, Stephen Thompson says that “that clock is one song fast,” and they launch into one of their older songs, the lovely ballad, “Troubled Times.”  The video of the song gets cut off just before the end, but if you listen to the audio you can hear the last few chords.

My friend Steve yelled at me for not liking this band, and I can see that he was right.

[READ: April 21, 2016] “In the Tower”

I had been trying to get caught up on all of the Harper’s stories that I’ve read.  These next two get me caught up to the present, with a couple really old ones left. And man, these two stories are pretty dark.

This is an excerpt from a short story (it must be a long short story).  The narrator, now forty-two years old, explains that he has found a refuge from his family–his tormentors–in the tower of their house.  The tower is a long-unused library which he was familiar enough with to know that the left side was philosophical books and the right side was belletristic books.  He was told over and over to not go into the library.  But it was his refuge.

He grabbed a book, it was by Montaigne.  He didn’t know what he was grabbing as he didn’t light a lamp for fear of mosquitos.

Much of this excerpt is filled with a kind of perverse Oscar Wilde litany:

“In every one of my statements there was nothing but this mockery and scorn in which they will one day perish, but I think that one day I will perish in their mockery and scorn.”

“Our unhappiness isn’t something we are talked into, unlike our happiness, which we talk ourselves into daily”

After several paragraphs denouncing his parents as conflating everything he has ever said he says he has always been in good hands with Montaigne.

“My family was too late in seeing that they had bred their destroyer an annihilator….How often they said that they would have preferred a dog to me, because a dog would have guarded them and cost less than me.”

As the excerpt ends and he is hiding with his Montaigne, he hears his family looking for him saying they hope nothing has happened to him.

It’s hard to know what is really going on, as this narrator sounds totally paranoid, but I didn’t love the excerpt enough to want to find out more.

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURA CANTRELL-“Cowboy on the Moon” from Score! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers (2009).

I only know Laura Cantrell because she sang “The Guitar” with They Might Be Giants.  The original of “Cowboy on the Moon” is by Lambchop, who I also don’t really know.

Lambchop’s version is very country-sounding and the singer has a deepish voice.  Laura Cantrell has a beautiful voice and sings this song quite faithfully.  The strange thing is that her version reminds me so much of The Beautiful South’s “Don’t Marry Her” (although the original doesn’t…must be Cantrell’s voice).

It’s an enjoyable song (about watching the first space landing), even if it is a little too country for my tastes.  Once again, I like the cover version better.

[READ: April 1, 2012] “Old Masters”

Lucky Peach is a magazine about food.  And chefs.  And recipes.  And, apparently fiction.  Like most McSweeney’s publications, there can usually be found a piece of fiction inside it somewhere.  In this issue it is “Old Masters.”

Strangely, Bernhard does not get a bio in the back of the magazine–this is almost unheard of in McSweeney’sland.  Equally as strange is how much I did not like this fiction.

It’s frankly hard to even know what to do with this fiction, and it’s hard to know why it was included in this magazine.  It is not about food at all.  It is about art.  Tangentially.

What it is really is a rant.  A repetitive rant.  A repetitive rant that seems to build in anger.  A repetitive rant that seems to build in anger until it just stops.  A repetitive rant that seems to build in anger until it just stops, but which stops in a location that one might not have expected from the opening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The 90’s Are Back, Or Whatever… NPR.  (2011).

This is a 90 minute podcast about the music of the 90s.  And, of course, it opens with “The Dream of the 90s” from Portlandia.

I don’t listen to too many full discussions on the All Songs Considered site, but since the 90s were definitely my favorite era of music, I thought it was worth a listen.  Incidentally, it’s funny that the 90s are so meaningful to me when, really I should be a child of the 80s.  But in reality, my 80s music was mostly heavy metal, because I hated all pop radio then.

This radio show (available for free download here) features four NPR music geeks talking about the music they loved during the 90s.  There are some obvious points (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “1979,” “Song 2,” “Loser”), but some unexpected songs as well: “Grace” (Jeff Buckley), “Long Snake Moan” (PJ Harvey).  And of course, probably the biggest surprise: Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire as “song of the decade.”

The hosts have a lot of fun with bad songs (severe bashing on Collective Soul or hilariously cueing up “Can’t Touch This” to punk one of the speakers when they are talking about Missy Elliot–yup, it’s not all alt rock, Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill crop up along with Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

But let’s not forget my perennial favorite from Cornershop: “Brimful of Asha.”  And, yes, My Bloody Valentine.

These days, when I do listen to the radio, I find that the stations I prefer tend to play a lot of 90s songs, but it’s surprising to me how infrequently they play some of these really big artists (I hear a lot of Harvey Danger, but no My Bloody Valentine).  It’s funny that one of the songs they talk about, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” I actually heard coming out of a radio at a pool while on vacation in Florida this past January (!?!).

It’s a fun segment and makes me think that although I do like a lot of new music, I’m a gonna hafta retire to Portland.

P.S. Stay till the end of the show for the hilarious impersonation of Trent Reznor.

[READ: February 17, 2011] 3 book reviews

Zadie Smith is an author whose output I fully intend to ingest one of these days.  So I figured why not read a few of her book reviews, too.

Smith reviews three new titles: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard; and While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías.

I’m intrigued by her review of Harlem is Nowhere.  She seemed to be rather critical of the author, especially of her mannerisms: like calling James Baldwin’s “habit of speaking to Harlem folk, having experiences, and deriving from these encounters “a metaphor about all of black existence”–“The Jimmy.”  (where others might have simply called it “writing”).  Or the fact that the author describes herself as a “single girl” as if that has anything to do with anything.

The second half of the review concedes that once you abandon wanting to known anything precise about historical Harlem, it’s a lovely book.  Smith revels in learning about James VanDerZee, Raven Chanticleer and Alexander Gumby (and her enthusiasm makes me want to investigate this book, if not their own works).

So, despite initial criticisms, she ends the review very positively and gives a thumbs up to the work. (more…)

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