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Archive for the ‘Pavement’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Live At Brixton Academy (December 14, 1992).

Sonic Youth (well, more accurately, Steve Shelley) has been releasing all kinds of old Sonic Youth releases on bandcamp.  I used to collect a lot of Sonic Youth stuff, so this should scratch all kinds of itches.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less “gotta-catch-’em-all” about stuff like this.  Plus, there’s something so impermanent about digital releases, that it sort of doesn’t count.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to see this live recording because this is my favorite era of Sonic Youth.  I first really got into them with Goo and Dirty so this show really pushes all the buttons for me.  Sonic Youth is the one band I really regret never seeing live (especially after having seen Thurston Moore solo–his show was fantastic, so I can’t imagine how good a full band show would have been).  This era would have been the one I would have most wanted to see.

Recorded live on the first of two December nights in 1992 at the Brixton Academy in London, near the end of Sonic Youth’s European tour with Pavement and Cell. This concert was recorded and broadcast by the BBC, and then subsequently widely-bootlegged. This sound-recording is from the band’s own audio master of the December 14th concert and includes performances not broadcast by the BBC or on bootlegs.

The set opens with a little jazzy sax intro music.  The band starts playing some feedback noise and then after a minute and a half Steve Shelley starts the nifty drum pattern for “Shoot.”  Then comes the recognizable bass line and guitar noises before Kim starts whispering the lyrics.  Her voice sound rough and whispery.  It segues into “100%” with a wall of noise and scraping guitars.  I always enjoyed the noises that this song throws around the simple riff.  It’s not as controlled as on the record, but it’s all there–I’d have loved to see this live.

This set feel like a greatest hits to me, perhaps because of how much I like these albums.  To segue from “100%” to “Dirty Boots” is terrific. This song sounds fantastic live–some wild guitar noises from both Thurston and Lee and some really intense drumming from Steve in the middle.  This basically means that Kim is holding the whole song together.

“Kool Thing” starts up–once again the guitars duplicate the record remarkably well for a sound that I don’t understand how its made.  Kim’s delivery is unusual here–she seems strained and like she’s improving things (unless that’s just how she sings).

Thurston sends “Swimsuit Issue” out to Cass from the Senseless fucking Things.  The noisy guitars coordinate with the rumbling drums as Kim growls through the song.

“I Love Her all the Time” has what I assume is a loop of guitar noise that is a sort of the bedroock for Kim and Steve’s rhythm. The song is slowly sung until the middle freakout–another thing I wish I’d seen live.  During the end part as Thurston whisper-sings the lyrics, someone (Lee?) is making terrific waves of noise and feedback.

Lee sings “Genetic” and his song adds such a nice distinction–a catchy song with a great melody.  It’s a shame this is his only song of the show.

“There’s a Sound World” is a another slower Thurston song.  It’s followed by “Tom Violence” which is dedicated to Richard Hell (who I assume was not there).

Then Thurston says “I’m pretty happy for the freedom and liberation of Princess Diana.  [I had to do a little historical digging, because i thought he was talking about her death, which seemed really harsh.  But she made news in 1992 when she divorced Prince Charles.]  “She should never have married that fucking asshole.  But her baby is the king.  And this is for her, this is called “Sugar Cane.” It’s catchy and smooth with some great noises.   There’s a quiet jamming session in the middle with them quietly getting their guitars to ring out.  At the end of the song it sounds liek Thurston says “you’re way out of tune there.”  This is fascinating given the noise that just came out.

They follow it with a bunch of guitar gibberish as a way of introduction to the simple and catchy “Shizophrenia.”  The middle has a fun juxtaposition of gentle harmonics and noises.   The end of the song sounds like a manic saxophone solo and drums–presumably prerecorded.

Thurston thanks Pavement and Cell [what a bill!].  He says they’ll be back tomorrow if any of you have enough money to afford it. Huggy Bear are playing tomorrow.

Then he introduces the next song: “This is an anti police song called “Drunken Butterlfy.”  It starts off but immediately crashes Thurston says “I’m not drunk” and Kim says “You mentioned that world police and it put total bad juju all over the fucking song.”  I always enjoyed the presumably Doors-mocking chorus of “I love you. I love you. I love you.  What’s your name.”  I also absolutely love the short feedback noise that separates the chorus from the verses.  I’m so glad its duplicated here. Sometimes you never know if the noises are purposeful or just happy accidents.

The song is fairly short and the band leaves for an encore break with a wall of low end feedback and crashing sounds–I assume it was deafening.

The band comes back to start “JC.”  This slow song features Kim singing and a lot of scraping and noisy elements especially during the stretched-out middle section.

Up next is the anti-white power song “Youth Against Fascism.”  He says it’s an anti-Skrewdriver song.  I’ve never met the guys from Skrewdriver.  They might be nice guys but they sound like fucking assholes.”  Skrewdriver is  neo-Nazi band I’m glad I’ve never heard of before.  “Y.A.F.” has the most explicitly political and clear lyrics of all of them.

Then he says he’d like to send this song out to Sinead–I believe you.  I can’t recall what was happening with her at the time.  “Expressway to yr Skull” is the final song.  It starts slowly and turns into glorious noise fest.  The first part of the is loud and brash.  The second half slows things down with the guys manipulating feedback and Steve hitting the occasional cymbal.  I’m sure Kim is creating feedback, but she’s still adding some low end rumble to the noise.  This song is listed as 14 minutes but the noise ends around 11.  It’s replaced by a really beautiful acoustic guitar piece.  No credit is given to the creator. I wonder who it is.

This is a great live concert document.  It sounds great and is like a greatest hits for me.

[READ: September 7, 2020] “Flashlight”

This story concerns Louisa.  She is a young girl who is suddenly afraid of the dark.

Her mother is in a wheelchair and Louisa been punishing her in subtle ways.  Mostly by being distant.  The first time, when her mother came to say goodnight “she couldn’t stand another second of her mother being there,” peering in through the cracked door.  From that moment on she has said every night, “close it all the way please.”  It was satisfyingly hurtful without being wrong.

Then she would lie in bed listening to her mother wheel away.  When she was safely far enough away, she would get out of bed and reopen the door a crack.

On this night she overheard voices talking about sending her to a child psychologist.

The therapist was nice, the room was friendly, but Louisa wasn’t having any of it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 2 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 12, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 12, 2004. This was the 2nd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  This show was exactly 13 years ago!

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the repeated songs are new ones–they played a lot from 2067, which makes sense.  But for a Fall Nationals, there’s really not a lot of “popular” or “rare” stuff.  But the band is in terrific form for all nine shows and the recordings are consistently great.

They open intensely with “Christopher.”  It’s a great version and Martin is in very good voice.  Similarly, “King Of The Past” sounds terrific.  Once again, “Pornography” opens a lot like “Bread, Meat peas and Rice,” but the backing vocals sound great .  At the end, Dave notes: “a bit of folk disco there for ya.”

Introducing “The Tarleks,” Dave says it’s “from our new album called 2067.  It’s the year of Martin’s 100th birthday and Canada’s bicentennial and the year we get a hit single.  We’re having a party and you’re all invited.  Martin: “Unfortunately so are these guys, the Tarleks.”  The song is perfect and segues right into “Marginalized” which is also great.  The whole band is in great form and I love the guitar sounds as it segues to the chorus.

“Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” is slow and fine.  And Dave says, “and you doing the super tokes you are…. from the country.  Tim: “Mmm smells good. Smells like grade 12 math class.”  MPW:  Shop class.  Dave: Back in the 70s they let you do that sort of thing …80s.  Tim, snapping fingers: “It’s cool.  Foosball is like soccer crossed with shishkabobs.”

“Fish Tailin'” rocks and then comes “Me and Stupid,” which hasn’t been played in a while.  Tim plays the riff and sings “Dave is tuning, tuning his guitar, Dave is learning how to use a tuner on his guitar.”  Dave starts the song and after the first verse he stops the song “I gotta re tune.”  Tim: “He’s just leaning.”  MPW: “That’s okay my hands hurt a little.”

“PIN” and “Mumbletypeg” sound terrific and mid song Dave says, “We’re the Rheostatics were from Etobicoke, it’s west of here.”

Dave: “We’re gonna take it down a bit.”  Tim: “We’re gonna take it down but its gonna become very heavy” with “Here Comes the Image.”  While waiting Tim pays the bass riff to “Tom Sawyer.”   Tomorrow at 2 o’clock we’ll be at Sam the Record Man.”

“Shack In The Cornfields” sounds quite different with Dave’s bass backing vocals.  It takes a while for the song to start really rocking but once it does it’s so much fun.  I like the chorus of “Try To Praise This Mutilated World” more and more.  I’m assuming by now that the spoken part is prerecorded.

“In This Town” starts quietly but martin sings a big growly ending.  “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” slows down in the middle with a drum solo and a clapping solo.  After the solo, Selina Martin comes out and sings the end with Martin.

Martin: “Dave Alexander Herschel Bidini wrote that in 1972.”
Dave: “Hell of a year.  What with Ian Sunter’s field goal and everything.   This refers to the 60th Grey Cup in which Hamilton ran the clock down while getting close enough for Ian Sunter to kick a 34-yard field goal on the last play of the game to win.]

Tim plays a great “Bad Time To Be Poor” and Dave says “We will conclude with a song from 2067.”
Someone in the audience shouts: “what do you mean conclude?”
Dave: “what do you think I mean?  We’re fucking right off after this one.  The limo is idling, baby.”
Tim: “conclude the first set.”
Martin: “it’s really just a smoke break for me.”
Dave: “oh we got rail and hoo-ers waiting, don’t worry.”

“Making Progress” is lovely as always.  “Feed Yourself” starts off a little rocky but it sounds great.  Dave gets a little crazy with the “inside his head” bit at the end (and someone is manipulating his voice to echo and process in one way or another, which is cool).

After a quick encore break, they’re back with a Dave song while Martin smokes.  In “My First Rock Concert” he changes The Ramones to Johnny Winter for some reason.

Someone keeps shouting “Saskatchewan” and you can hear a rhythm guitar playing the melody.  Mike says this ones for the greasy wheel, but then the guitar switches to “Self Serve Gas Station” and Mike says “make up your mind I’m trying to decide which way to adjust the chair.”

Before “Desert Island Discs,” Martin notes: “We stayed in the same hotel as Van Halen a week ago.  (Those hookers in the lobby were not for us).

Desert Island Discs is sloppy and fun with people picking these discs:

Dave: Ramones-Rocket to Russia; Cars-Cars; PiL-Metal Box.
Tim: Bob Marley-Survival; Tom Waits-Closing Time (huge cheer); Pavement-Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
MPW: It’s his first time.  He says it’s like ordering last in a restaurant.  Anything by Gino Vanelli; Music for a Large Ensemble; Steve Reich (Tim: try to follow the groove) Metal Machine Music-Lou Reed.
Martin: my first record is (plays “Tom Sawyer”); Second Mary Margaret O’Hara-Miss America; Third uh… uh… uh… uh…  Mood Music for Beer and Pretzels
audience members
first one has a hard time: Led Zeppelin, Martin Teilli-Operation Infinite Joy; Rheostatics, of course.
second one: Weakerthans-Left and Leaving; The Beatles-Rubber Soul  and… [Dave: you don;t want to hear the E minor chord] Weezer-Weezer.
As they wrap up the song Mike keeps going after the final chord.  They bust his chops and say he is in the legion hall trance.

The set ends with a great “Legal Age Life At Variety Store.”

They take an encore break and Martin comes back out with  a ‘suede banana’ jacket “Very Century 21–he sold the most houses in the band.”

For the encore, they play “Rain, Rain, Rain” and Martin introduces “Mister Dave Bidini on lead” (it’s sloppy but fun).

This show runs about 2 and a half hours and it sounds great.

[READ: April 6, 2017] Star Scouts

Boy I loved this book.  I loved everything about it, from the understated to the perfectly stated.

The book opens with an alien creature getting yelled at.  Her name is, humorously, Mabel.  Mabel is scanning planets to collect a new species.  It turns out that she is doing this for a badge for scouts.  She selects a newt.  But she accidentally switches from Newt to New Kid (an amusing joke if not a little strange) and the teleportation begins.

The New Kid is Avani.  Avani speaks Hindi (which in itself is pretty awesome).  She and her dad (there is no mention of a mom) have just moved to a new place.  Avani has no friends.  She thinks everyone thinks she’s weird.  Even though she feels like an outsider she is also keeping people away, determined to feel sorry for herself.

The only social activity she has is Flower Scouts. Back home he Scouts were awesome, but here they just talk about make up and boys.  When Avani tries to talk about rodeos, the other kids laugh at her.  And they are equally horrified when she doesn’t swoon over Chaz Wunderlip the boy band sensation.  She would like nothing more than to get out of Scouts but her dad won’t let her quit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE RESIDENTS-Meet the Residents plus Santa Dog EP (1973/1972).

Like a proto- Negativland meets Primus, The Residents took the world by storm in 1973.  Their debut album (pictured here) bore the unmistakable tagline: The First Album by North Louisiana’s Phenomenal Pop Combo.  And so it is.

Read more about the album in the Jon Savage essay below.

“Boots” is a sampled and remashed version of “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”  “Gylum Bardot” sounds like a Primus demo.  “Breath and Length” is noise and noise and effects and a soothing female vocal singing the title.   “Consuelo’s Departure” is a noisy soundtrack to nothing and “Smelly Tongues” sounds like a hammered dulcimer with a menacing bassline behind it until the vocals come in: “Smelly tongues looked just as they felt”.   And all 6 of these songs last less than ten minutes total.

“Rest Aria” changes tempo of things.  It’s five minutes long.  It starts as a simple piano track (slightly out of tune) but it slowly adds crazy horns and what sounds like children’s instruments.  The other longish song, “Spotted Pinto Beans” comes with a kind of faux chorus (female and then male) singing a kind of call and response which is overtaken by noise.

The one-minute “Skratz” comes between these two longer songs and is mostly  mumbling spoken vocal.  “Infant Tango” sounds like a normal song.  It opens with a funky wah wahed guitar.  Of course, the skronking horns and mumbled bass vocals tell you this is not going to be a hit.  It runs 6 minutes long with a strange little “guitar solo” in the middle.

“Seasoned Greetings” (with it’s weird holiday wishes at the end) segues into the 9 minute “N-Er-Gee (Crisis Blues”).  “N-Er-Gee” is a piano “melody” which is really someone banging the same notes very hard on the piano.  The voice on both tracks sounds like the aural equivalent of blackface until the sample (a very long sample that apparently voided placement on some releases) of “Nobody But You” morphs into a manipulated sampling of the word “boogaloo” and eventually becomes a dissonant chant of the title.

The appended Santa Dog is a bit more song-like.  Totally weird songs yes, but there’s actual melodies and lyrics.  Like on “Fire”: “Santa dog’s a Jesus fetus.”  “Aircraft Damage” is mostly a bunch of people reciting bizarre lyrics over each other.  The whole EP was about 12 minutes.  It’s weird but more palatable than the LP.

Despite how much this album foreshadowed loony alternative bands in the future, there is a clear predecessor in Trout Mask Replica.  Although Captain Beefheart followed a (relatively) more conventional song structure, you can hear elements of the Beefheart within.  This album is also notable for being made in the early 70s when the technology to do this easily was very far away.  You could whip this album up in a few minutes now, but back then with splice and paste, it would take ages.

It did not sell as well as the similarly titled Meet the Beatles.

[READ: June 16, 2011] Five Dials Number 11

Five Dials Number 10 was a special issue, but Number 11 goes back to the format we know.  It sort of has a theme about lists.   It contains half a dozen short essays and one long short story by Paul Murray (author of Skippy Dies).  This issue is also something of a surprise as it weighs in at a fairly small 16 pages (sometimes smaller is perfectly fine).  The issue also raised a couple of totally weird coincidences which I will point out as they come up.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Wilton’s and Lists
Number 10 was designed to be ready for an evening at Wilton’s Music Hall on February 26th.  But the real theme of the issue is lists.  In part this is inspired by the Raymond Chandler entry, it’s also inspired because Taylor keeps lists around the office.  At the end of the letter he provides a list of all of the notes he’d left to himself in the office.  Some are about the issue (Paul Murray manuscript), other are seemingly more random (USA 5 Canada 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result;  Canada 7-Russia 3, men’s Olympic ice hockey result; ‘Range Life’–Pavement).  And the one that is most coincidental to me–(The Umbrellas of Cherbourg–Jacques Demy).  This is coincidental because on the day that I read this, my friend Lar wrote a post about this very movie, which was completely unknown to me. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT “Stereo” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (2010).

Pavement were making the rounds of lat night TV around the time of t their Central Park reunion concert.  They showed up on Jimmy Fallon.  I don’t really like his show, but he has consistently great musical guests.

Pavement played “Stereo” which is a song I’ve always liked (the Geddy Lee part makes me smile), even though I never bought the album that it’s on.  This is one of their weirder songs (which is saying a lot).  The opening is all kinds of crazy noises (feedback and keyboard nonsense).  When the verse starts it’s all bass and drums, but when the song kicks in it rocks heavily and crazily.

The live version features a crazy cal and response from the keyboardist (which I enjoyed a lot) and some really great guitar work.  The video also has the winner of Fallon’s “Play Guitar with Pavement” contest, although I can’t tell how much he adds/subtracts from the performance.

[READ: September 24 & 25] “FC2” & “Books”

These three pieces were short, so I’ve decided to lump them together.

“FC2” is a Shouts & Murmurs piece.  I thought that the Shouts & Murmurs were all comic pieces. This one is funny but it’s not as “ha ha” as many of the other pieces I’ve read.  It even seems to be autobiographical.

Franzen says he had just recently written a section of “The Fifth Column” for the Village Voice.  And on this particular day he received a very suspicious package whose return address was FC2.   He speculates that the content of his section of the story may have triggered a psychopath to come after him.  (The Unabomber used to use the letters FC as his code, so perhaps FC2 is his protegé).

Obviously it didn’t blow up or anything, and the revelation is anticlimactic, but it’s still a mildly amusing tale. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT-Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1993).

Now this album, Pavement’s second (after the Watery, Domestic EP, which I’ve never heard) is my idea of perfect Pavement.  Some might complain that this album is too commercial (although it hardly is) but to me is shows a consolidation of the talents into actual songs.

It opens with “Silence Kit” which sounds like a twisted take on a Buddy Holly song–disconcerting and familiar at the same time.  The second track “Elevate Me Later” ups the ante a bit with a noisy raucous chorus.

“Stop Breathin'” is a dark song, a sort of minor ballad that sounds even more disconsolate with the slightly out of tune guitar work.   But the lengthy instrumental at the end is (although simple) quite pretty.

And then there is the sublime nonsense of “Cut Your Hair.”  This was the first Pavement song I’d ever heard all those years ago.  And from the silly “oo oos” at the beginning to the crazy screaming guitar solo and crunchy “NO BIG HAIR” line I fell in love immediately. It was a wonderful left field hit (not unlike “She Don’t Use Jelly”) that brought a great band some attention.

It’s followed by “Newark Wilder,” a slow track that fits wonderfully after “Hair.”  One might even call it a ballad.  But it is definitely not standard fare, when the bass (or baritone guitar) plays a riff instead of a bridge.

The album picks up the rocking vibe again with, “Unfair” which I noticed is like a rough precursor to Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.”  It’s a fairly conventional song but it’s made unconventional by Malkmus’ delivery and guitar style (and would probably be a hit if it was released today).

I recently mentioned “Gold Soundz”.  (And it’s amazing how much the live version sounds just like the studio–as if everything was intentional).  It’s followed by the goofy Dave Brubeck parody/tribute “5-4=Unity.”  And of course, “Range Life” is just an awesome slacker anthem.  It’s got everything.

The last three songs offer a lot of diversity.  “Heaven is a Truck” is a piano based, drunken-sounding ballad.  “Hit the Plane Down” is a rambling wonderful shambles that devolves into a complete chaos, and “Fillmore Jive” is a 6 minute “epic.”  It opens slowly, and then builds into a fairly conventional sounding (drunken, sloppy, end of the concert) rock song.

I feel that Pavement peaked with this disc.  It’s really fantastic.

[READ: September 23, 2010] “Lost in the Mail”

As I am wont to do, I have gotten a little obsessed with an author. Recently it was Wells Tower (there’s still a few Harper’s pieces by him I haven’t read yet). And right now its Jonathan Franzen (even though I haven’t read any of his novels yet).  After reading the previous New Yorker piece, I wanted to see what else he had written for them.  Seeing his entire list at the New Yorker site is daunting and it makes it seem like he was constantly writing quite long pieces for them.  And yet, parsing it out, it comes out to about one article a year.  And yet some of these article, whoo boy, are 12 or 13 pages…quite lengthy for the New Yorker.

And so, I’m going to read these pieces over the next few weeks–I thought about reading each year’s piece during a different week, but that seems too regimented.  And since the majority of these pieces are non fiction (there are about 5 short stories in the mix) I’m going to be reading them with an eye towards these questions: Can a good writer make a story that I don’t care interesting?  Would I enjoy this same piece if it were written by someone else?  As a reporter (at large) does Franzen bring some kind of personality to the way the piece is constructed that someone else may not have?

This questions are unanswerable of course, because no one else wrote the piece in a different way.  But, when scanning the titles, some of the subjects interest me but others do not.  And those will be the real test.

This piece, about the Chicago Post Office is something that I didn’t care about specifically.  However, I have a certain love of the Postal System, and so I found this story heartbreaking and something of an illusion-shatterer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT-“Gold Soundz” live on the Colbert Report (2010).

Philistine alert: I never loved Pavement.

Yeah, let that sink in.  It’s shocking, I know.  I have liked a great many of their songs, and I could definitely see myself enjoying the entirety of their new greatest hits record.  But even though I have their first three discs, and I adore them in theory, in practice I just don’t love all of their output.

When they broke up in 2000 or so I wasn’t really that bummed.  I felt they’d done a number of great (and by now) classic alt rock songs, but I didn’t really feel like music had ended or anything.

Having said that, the fact that they’ve reunited makes me happy.  It’s nice to see yet another “classic” alt rock band banging out some tunes together.  And, in this case, it means that I get to hear them play a great classic track live on The Colbert Report.

This song is a kind of The Platonic Form of Pavement songs.  It features everything: noisy guitars, vocals that go from mid-range to high pitched with almost no warning, inscrutable lyrics and, in spite of itself, a catchy liquid center. I’ve never seen them live (and I missed a chance in Central Park recently, sorry Al) but this clip sure makes me think they’d be a great show to see.

And who knows, maybe I’ll have to actually get Terror Twilight.

Colbert’s interview with Stephen Malkmus is hilarious, too.

[READ: September 20, 2010] “Bodies”

As with a previous time that I scoured a New Yorker back issue, I found a short story that came directly after the article I wanted.  The name Jessica Shattuck sounded familiar (and her debut novel The Hazards of Good Breeding also rang a bell), but apparently I’d never read her before.

This story opens with a woman named Anna who we learn has recently been diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkins lymphoma.   She is currently living in her bosses’ house with her boss’ husband and five-year old son.  The arrangement is not ideal, but Anna had nowhere else to turn.  And, since she is not working, while she is recovering she is acting as the boy’s nanny (the boss is away a lot and the husband spends much of his time working out).

She is beginning to feel better, stronger, and is even feeling confident enough to leave the house for a little while.  And so, to me, the last thing I expected was for this story to grow sexual.  And yet it does. (more…)

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