Archive for the ‘Parts & Labor’ Category

McSweeney’s #13 (2006)

13SOUNDTRACKPARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).

partslaborParts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers.  This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated.  Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge.  The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals.  By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects).  It’s an aggressive opening for sure.  Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then “Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.

“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes).  It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals.  The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song  very cool.

“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up.  “Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars.  “Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what  they wanted anyhow?).  The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise).  The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.

The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos.   Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks.  If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy.  It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13

I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time.  Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it.  It only took eight years.  For this is the fabled comics issue.  Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover.  Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.”  And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything.  On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares.  It’s quite cool.

So, yes, this issue is all about comics.  There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists.  But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods.  It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me!  Angst fills these pages.  Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor.  A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.

There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby.  But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes.  There’s also two introductions.  One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do).  And the other by Ware.  Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PARTS & LABOR-“Runaway” (2011).

Parts & Labor cover Kanye West’s “Runaway” at the AV Club

I didn’t know Parts & Labor when I played this, but I was really curious to see how any band of non-rappers would perform this awesome Kanye West track.  It’s a testament to how great the song is that Parts & Labor (who totally kick ass) can play around with it as much as they do (they wisely don’t rap) and retain the greatness of the song. 

Parts & Labor seem like a pretty standard punk-type outfit: guitars, bass, drums and keys (although some of their studio albums belie that simplicity).  But the keyboardist (who opens the song) is playing notes while manipulating effects pedals on top of the keyboard.  It’s a great introduction.  The bassist (with his amazing beard) sings in a couple of different registers that work out the angst of the song wonderfully. 

But for me the guy I can’t stop watching is the drummer. He opens the track with his snare drum on his lap.  While keeping the beat with one finger on a floor tom he is clearly playing the snares of his snare drum with a guitar pick.   When the song breaks half way through and he puts his snare back, he is a maniac of intensity and cacophony. It is amazing.  The second half of the song is a cathartic release for the noisy beginning. 

This is a wonderful cover.  And I’ll be checking out Parts & Labor on Spotify to see what I’ve been missing.  Watch it here.

[READ: July 20, 2011] “High School Confidential”

Continuing with the New Yorker’s Fiction Issue, we get this Starting Out essay from Téa Obreht.  Now, Obreht’s story was the least believable of the five for me.  As you can see by this photo, Obreht is adorable.  Now we all know people who blossomed from an ugly childhood or had a youthful gangly phase or grew into beauty or whatever.  But the introduction of her essay, when she describes herself in quite unflattering terms seems like it may be, if not over the top, then at least wishful thinking.


She claims she was awkward, tall, gangly with coke bottle glasses a huge gap in her teeth from one that never came in.  In reading it again I guess it’s not as dramatic as I though the first time, and corrective work could fix those things, but still.  It seemed a bit like that MTV show Awkward (second mention in a few days–it’s been a slow summer, TVwise), in which the main character is way too cute to be considered an outcast.

Too cute to be that awkward

But hey, maybe cute people have problems too. 

It’s when Obreht moves past that and talks about being made fun of for what she wanted to be that things get interesting.  

Obreht has always wanted to be a writer and when she let her classmates known that, they picked on her (oh are you going to write about that).  But she pressed on.  She was most devastated when the stories she gave to a boy in confidence were soon being read, aloud, by a girl who hated her.

Maybe cute girls are unpopular too. (more…)

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