Archive for the ‘In These Times’ Category

vonlastintSOUNDTRACKSURFER BLOOD-“Demon Dance” (Live at SXSW, March 27, 2013).

surfer blood

I’ve liked Surfer Blood since I first heard them.  They write catchy, mostly short, poppy songs.  And usually after a few listens, the hooks really grab you.  The strange thing about the band is that the hooks aren’t always readily apparent, which makes their songs sound kind of samey sometimes.

Of course, samey isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.  Surfer Blood is quite distinctive and I tend to enjoy everything they do.  This new song sounds like their other stuff, which is fine.  But the most distinctive thing about the band of probably their singer who sounds like a less-affected Morrissey.

Having also listened to the song from the album I can say that the singer is far harder to understand live, so maybe live is not the best way to hear a new song from them, but for an old favorite, Surfer Blood has a great energy live.

Watch the show here and hear the studio version here.

[READ: March 27, 2013] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Melville House has published a number of these “Last Interview” books, and as a completist I feel compelled to read them.  I have read criticisms of the series primarily because what the books are are collections of interviews including the last interview that the writer gave.  They don’t have anything new or proprietary.  The last interview just happens to be the last one he gave.   So it seems a little disingenuous, but is not technically wrong.

There’s so far five books in the series, and I figured I’d read at least three (Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolaño–the other two turned out to be Jorge Luis Borges–who I would be interested in reading about and Jacques Derrida (!) who I have always loved–I guess this series was tailor made for me).

At any rate, these interviews are from various times and locations in Vonnegut’s career.  There are six in total.  I don’t know if the titles they give here were the titles in the original publications but here’s what’s inside:

  • “Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction” from The Paris Review, Spring 1977 (by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, Richard Rhodes)
  • “There Must be More to Love Than Death” from The Nation, August 1980 (by Robert K. Musil)
  • “The Joe & Kurt Show” from Playboy, May 1982 (by Joseph Heller and Carole Mallory)
  • “The Melancholia of Everything Completed” from Stop Smiling, August 2006 (by J.C. Gabel)
  • “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” from U.S. Airways Magazine (!!!), June 2007 (by J. Rentilly)
  • “The Last Interview” from In These Times May 9, 2007 (by Heather Augustyn) (more…)

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evolAh, EVOL.  Here’s where Sonic Youth became Sonic Youth.  Who knows how much Steve Shelley had to do with it, but he shows up and the band becomes amazing.  The cover art is pretty darn scary and yet the music inside is amazingly beautiful.  While by no means a commercial album, the album is chock full of melody.

And yes, I believe it is mandatory to type the title in all capitals.

“Tom Violence” opens it up with a fantastic chord progression and words that are sung almost delicately.  And “Shadow of a Doubt” is amazing!  Guitar harmonics drift around while Kim whispers about a dream.  An astonishing leap from their past records!  “Star Power” seems like their attempt to right a catchy hit.  It would certainly never be one, but it’s pretty close.

“In the Kingdom #19” is a lengthy spoken piece by Lee Renaldo.  My friends Lar, Aurora and myself saw Lee play a show with Mike Watt in the city on Bloomsday.  We have a  special affinity for Lee’s songs.  I’m going to try to remember to point out all of his vocal turns on SY discs, but on those first few, it’s nigh on impossible.

“Green Light” seems like it could have been a Velvet Underground song.  “Death to Our Friends” is a pretty instrumental, while “Secret Girls” morphs from a noisy abstract soundscape to a delicate piano backed poem read by Kim.

I tend to think that SY’s early stuff was all noise and bombast, and yet only three albums in and they produce a masterpiece like this.

Known as “Expressway to Yr Skull,” the originally titled “Madonna Sean and Me” shows just how much SY knew about catchy tunes.  And maybe that’s the key to longevity, having a catchy tune somewhere underneath whatever layers of nonsense you throw on top (and SY throws the best nonsense I know).  Admittedly, “Expressway” kind of devolves into a few minutes too many of fading notes. The disc ends with “Bubblegum” a surprisingly rock and roll song.  I especially like Kim’s “hit it girls” comment.

EVOL marks the beginning of a staggeringly fantastic collection of discs.

[READ: July 16 2009] A Man Without a Country

I hadn’t been planning to read any of Vonnegut’s book out of sequence (except for the collected stories which I figured I’d read in their own sequence).  But when I went to join my local library’s Adult Summer Reading Program (in mid-July, how punctual!), I received a coupon for a free book from their free book shelf. Largely they were books that I didn’t want.  And just as I was about to give up, I saw this small Vonnegut book poking its spine out from the rest.

I grabbed it and brought it home. (more…)

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