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Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

SOUNDTRACKTHE RAILWAY CHILDREN-“Brighter” (1987).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

A looping almost marimba-like sound opens before a jangly guitar and steady bass.  Here’s another song where the main instrument is the bass with guitar flourishes added on top.  This band reminds me of The Church (who had put outa couple of albums by now).

Singer Gary Newby has a nice crooning voice and the chorus is quite catchy.  The instrumental break allows the guitar to shine a bit with a meandering solo.  But the biggest surprise comes about 4 minutes in when there’s a drum solo of sorts–played on something like a metallic bongo.  After all of the short songs, this one pushes five minutes and is something of a surprise.

There’s some other good stuff on Reunion Wilderness, like “Gentle Sound” which I thought was a bit catchier.

[READ: January 30, 2021] “A Poor-Aunt Story”

In this story Murakami discusses a poor-aunt. I don’t know of this is a universal idea as I’ve never heard it before, although I do get where he’s coming from.

He says it was a beautiful day and he was out enjoying it when he suddenly had the idea of a poor aunt.  There wasn’t even a poor aunt around, the idea just came to him and it stuck.  He needed to write a story about a poor aunt.

He told his friend he wanted to write a poor aunt story.  She asked if he had a poor aunt.  He said no.  She said she did have a poor aunt bit didn’t want to write about her.

He admits that chances are “you don’t have a poor aunt relative, but you have seen one.”

Every wedding reception has a poor aunt.

No one bothers to introduce her.  No one talks to her.  No one asks her to give a speech.  She just sits at the table like an empty milk bottle.

When people look at the photo album they ask about her and the groom says she’s no one, just a poor aunt of mine.

He woke up the next day and a found that a poor aunt–a little one–was stuck to his back.

Nothing alerted him to her presence, he just felt it. She wasn’t heavy and didnt breathe across his shoulder. People had to look hard to see she was there.  But people did see her–she gives me the creeps, a friend said.  He said it felt like his mother was watching them.

The narrator was unable to see the poor aunt but other people cuid and they all saw her as something else–usually something unfortunate–a friend’s dog who had died.  Soon enough friends stopped calling him–they found it depressing.  But the media swooped in on him. He even made it on the show “Look What Else Is Out There.”  He tried to explain what had happened but the show tried to sensationalize him–looking for a horror story or a joke.

One of his friends said she wished it had been an umbrella stand on his back–that would be more pleasant to look at and more practical.  He could even have painted it different colors.

The poor aunt left him in autumn. He was on a train ride and watched as a mother tried to deal with her squabbling children.  The boy was teasing his sister–stealing her hat.  She was getting very upset and complaining to her mother.  The mother was trying to read and was getting angry at the daughter for bothering her. Finally the girl reached across the seat and slapped the boy’s face and took her hat, feeling very pleased with herself.

The mother was furious and made the girl sit in a different aisle–next to the narrator.  The child protested but the mother said “You’re not part of this family anymore.”  He wanted to say something to the girl, to cheer her up.  Like that she had done a good job, but he knew it would only confuse and frighten her so he said nothing.

Sometime during that interaction, the poor aunt left him.  He wasn’t aware of it, she was just gone.

This was one of Murakami’s first experiments with the short story form.  It was translated by Jay Rubin.

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 dancingSOUNDTRACK: deLILLOS-“Forelsket” (1987).

delilloKarl Ove mentions many bands in this book, but the deLillos are the only Norwegian band that he plays.  They sing in Norwegian and play sprightly, jangly guitar pop–they would fit in very well with some of the lighter alt bands from the late 80s and early 90s.

I have no idea what they’re singing about (well, the title translates to “love” so I guess I know what they are singing about.

The singer has a high, delicate voice and there’s some interesting harmonies.  I really like the way the song transitions from verse to chorus with the picked guitar notes–very catchy.

It comes from their second album, Før var det morsomt med sne  (Before it was fun in the snow), which along with their first was quite popular and was reissued with a bonus disc in the 90s.  Having said that I see that Amazon has one copy of the disc and no album cover listed.  Worse yet, I can’t find many other songs online (Spotify lists the album, but I can’t get it to play).

Sorry, deLillos (even searching for you gives us more Don DeLillo than you guys).

[READ: June 24, 2014] My Struggle Book Four

struggle4I started including the British edition page numbers because at my work we received both editions of the book, and I received the British one first so I grabbed it and started reading.  I noticed the page numbers were quite different (the British book is taller and the print is quite bigger, although this doesn’t explain why the previous books have fewer pages).

I had been interested in the differences between editions from the get go.  I had enjoyed the American editions, but I enjoyed reading this British edition more (bigger print?).  But when I noticed on one of the pages that the word “realise” was spelled as I typed it, it made me wonder if the American edition changed that to the American spelling.  [Actually, I see that Don Bartlett lives in Virginia, so perhaps he translates it into American first].  While I wasn’t about to go into a deep inspection of the topic, when I saw the American edition on a shelf at work, I had to do a little comparison.

And what I found out was that even though Don Bartlett is the (amazing) translator for both editions, someone (perhaps Bartlett himself?) is translating the American into British (or vice versa).  I looked at a couple of pages and noticed these changes from British to American:

  • BRITISH EDITION = AMERICAN EDITION
  • Pack it in, now = Give it up, now
  • roll-up = rollie [about hand rolled cigarettes]
  • looked daggers at = gave her a dirty look
  • a complete prat = completely useless
  • is that possible? = really?
  • to cook and wash up = cooking and doing the dishes
  • I had got = I’d gotten
  • had penned = had written
  • and yes, realised = realized.

Other than select phrases, every word is exactly the same.  So somebody goes through the books and changes them to British english idioms and spellings.  That’s fascinating.

I also see that this is the first book I had not read an excerpt from first.  Not that it would have made any difference as to whether I read the fourth one.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

So book four is set in Håfjord, a town in Northern Norway near Finnsnes (a five hour flight away–okay I had no idea Norway was so big!).  Karl Ove is 18 and has decided to become a grade school teacher there for one year.  The tax breaks are great if you teach, and he plans to teach and write his masterpieces and then get out.  He has no interest in teaching, but the town is small (most grades are 3-7 students), so he figures it can’t be too hard.

As in most of Karl Ove’s books, the stories jump around and flash back and do not stay all in this one time, but it is largely set in this locale.

My first thought was that I have never read a story with as much semen (both nocturnal emission and premature ejaculation) in my life.  It is a strange take away from the book, but there it is.  Karl Ove is 18 and really wants to have sex for the first time.  About 3/4 of the way through the book he reveals that he never masturbated (it just never occurred to him, apparently, and at 18 he’s too old to start–what!?).  As such, he seems to have wet dreams every night.  And every time he gets near a woman, he has an orgasm too soon.  He is horny all the time–it’s a bit disconcerting.

And since I mentioned that, I don’t know if Karl Ove’s life is typical of Norway, but I am shocked by the number of women who take their clothes off around him (he may have never had sex, but he was about to on at least a half-dozen occasions).  And he says that all through school (from around age 13 and up) it was common place for the boys to lift up the girls’ shirts and kiss and or fondle their breasts.  It is mind-boggling to me.  And the 16 year olds all seem to be having sex all the time–this may be skewed from Karl Ove’s perspective, but that’s what I now believe happens in Norway.

But while sex is the main theme of the book–sex, sex sex, there is more to it.

Karl Ove’s parents have split up and his father has started drinking in earnest.  The dad has remarried and has just had a baby.  Incidentally, I was also shocked to read that Karl Ove’s father, who is an abusive stodgy old man who is cranky and mean and abusive and all the stuff that we read about in the other volumes was only 43 at the time that Karl Ove was 18.  So the old man who I pictured as a gray-haired curmudgeon in this book is actually younger than me.  Great.

In Håfjord, Karl Ove is teaching kids who range from age 13 to 16.  It’s disconcerting to read about him thinking lustful thoughts about his students, until he reminds us that for most of the students, he is only 2 years older than them.  I am pleased to say that he behaves himself (except in his mind) with all of the students.  There’s even a really interesting flash forward to eleven years later when he runs into two of them again.

He proves to be a pretty decent teacher it seems.  The kids mostly like him (the girls all think he is hot) and he is young and tries to make it fun (he himself hated school and everything about it).  He even seems to help out an awkward boy (although that is never resolved).  We see him teaching, trying to interact with the kids and generally being a pretty good guy.

Until the booze comes out.

For in addition to semen, this book is chock full of alcohol.  Before graduating from gymnas (high school), Karl Ove basically stopped caring about anything.  He spent most of his time drunk.  It is astonishing the amount of drinking he does–it’s practically like an Amish Rumspringa how crazy he goes.  But even in this retrospective look, he talks about how much he likes it, how it loosens him up and makes him less nervous.

But really he just spends most of his time drunk, hungover or sick. He even got into the hash scene for a while.  He was living with his mom at the time and she was appalled at the way he acted–especially when he threw a party which trashed their house.   She even kicked him out for a time.

He seemed to be over the drink in Håfjord, but it turns out that there’s precious little else to do except drink up there, especially when it grows dark for most of the day.  So there is much drinking–he only misses class once or twice because of it but he comes very close a lot.

The irony that he is appalled at his father’s drinking, while drinking so much himself, is apparently lost on him.

The other main preoccupation with Karl Ove is music.   He talks a lot about his great taste in music (he reminds me of me–a little insufferable).  Back when he was in gymnas, he spent a lot of time discussing his favorite bands and favorite songs.  He got a job (at 16) writing reviews for a local paper (holy crap, jealous!) and then later gets a job writing a column for another paper.  For the previous book I listed a lot of the bands he mentioned, and I wish I had written them down for this one.  U2 features prominently (this is 1987, so I’m guessing Joshua Tree), but also Talking Heads, a Scottish post-punk/new wave band The Associates and their album Sulk which he describes as “an utterly insane LP.”  he and his brother really like The Church and Simple Minds (before they got so commercial).  He also has a whole thread in which he makes connections with albums:

Briano Eno, for example, started in Roxy Music, released solo records, produced U2 and worked with Jon Hassell, David Byrne, David Bowie, and Robert Fripp; Robert Fripp played on Bowie’s Scary Monsters; Bowie produced Lou Reed, who came from Velvet Underground, and Iggy Pop, who came from the Stooges, while David Byrne was in Talking Heads, who on their best record, Remain in Light, used the guitarist Adrian Belew, who in turn played on several of Bowie’s records and was his favorite live guitarist for years. (64).

He also specifically raves about “The Great Curve” from the Talking Heads album, and of course, he raves about the first Led Zeppelin album as well.

Music is a huge part of his life (and he dresses accordingly too).  It’s unclear whether the kids think this is awesome or not, but he may be a bit too much for some of the locals.  The locals are mostly fishermen (which makes sense), and Karl Ove is a bit intimidated that he is so wimpy compared to them–one of the women even teases him about his tiny arms.

But his main focus is writing.  He writes a few shorts stories (to my knowledge he has never published any of them).  We see some excerpts and they seem fine–he fancies himself Hemingway.  But he also mentions a bunch of Norwegian authors (I love when he does that).  Sadly again, not too many of them have been translated into English.  [I really hope that some mega fan creates a database of all of the bands and authors he mentions].  He also talks briefly about his first novel which alludes to his time teaching here.  I happened to read a small summary of said novel (Out of the World) and feared that it spoiled what was going to happen.  But, in fact there does appear to be a difference between his fiction and non-fiction.

The book moves very quickly–from party to party, from failed sexual attempt to the next, even from his staying up all night long trying to write.  And most of the time he comes off as kind of a dick–he is also very self-critical, which somehow tempers that dickishness.

As with the other books I cannot figure out exactly why I am so addicted to his writing.  I brought the book home on Thursday night and finished it (all 548 pages of it) Monday night.  This really completes the picture of himself as he moved from childhood to adulthood and really lays the foundation for whatever is to come next.   Early in the book he talks about the books that he loved at that age, books that talk about the move from childhood to adulthood.  And thus, this book becomes something of a bildungsroman as well.  Although whether or not Karl Ove actually grew up at the end of this book will have to wait until volume 5 (which I have to assume is still another year away as there is no information about it online at all!).

For ease of searching, I include: Hafjord, For var det morsomt med sne.

 

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newyorker3SOUNDTRACK: AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT-“Sometime Around Midnight” (2009).

ateI’ve been hearing this song on the radio a lot lately (WRFF especially seems to play it a lot).  But they never said who it was!  I liked it, but I was sure it sounded like an old song.  Ack, but what was it?  I kept coming up with a band called Dear Mr. President.  And then I heard the truth.  It was the Airborne Toxic Event.

I’m still not sure that Dear Mr President is who I’m thinking of, but their song “Fate” has a similar vocal style at the beginning…it morphs into a different song altogether, but maybe that is what  was thinking of.

As for this ATE song, I really like it.  It’s got this weird quality that I find appealing.  It’s  a slow builder, but the vocals are what’s so intriguing about it…very understated with a whispered feel, until the big stadium chorus comes in.  And yet, there’s no chorus.  The song builds and builds to a chorus that never arrives.  Nice trick, guys.

Heh, I was just looking back over my previous post about Airborne Toxic Event, and I see that I do know this song from when I first listened to it on MySpace back in June 2008.  At that time I compared them to the Church.  I guess I can’t let them be their own band.

I’m certainly going to have to check out their CD

[READ: March 26, 2009] “Tails of Manhattan”

I don’t always include the one page pieces from the New Yorker, but since I like Woody Allen, I figured I’d include this one.  It also gets a special mention because in Allen’s collected essays he often has jokey pieces that are topical, and it’s rather rare that I am completely aware of the topical reference.

This piece is about two old Jewish men who are reincarnated as lobsters (funny in itself), but it also concerns Bernie Madoff.  And since it’s unavoidable, I know who Madoff is an what he did.  I assume this piece would be funny in even you didn’t know who that was (or in 5 years when we forget), because the idea of lobster revenge is always funny.

Allen’s New Yorker pieces aren’t always funny, so it’s nice to see that he can still do a concise little piece like this that really hits the mark.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT-4 songs from My Space (2008).

Since the author of one of the stories below is the singer in this band, I thought I’d listen to them and see what they were all about. With a name like that I was expecting some kind of hardcore band. And that is NOT this band! They don’t have a record out yet, but they have some songs on MySpace here. The first song “Sometime Around Midnight” made me think of a couple of bands from the 90s: The Church and Midnight Oil, and possibly The Alarm. The vocals are mixed loudly in the mix, and there is an earnestness about the vocals which made me think of those bands. The second one, “Papillion” has a keyboard solo (!) over some fairly raucous simple melodies. The third song “This is Nowhere” is a fun indie rocker with a good staccato riff and a cool/spooky chorus harmony. And the fourth song “Innocence” was rocking and bouncy. I can’t get over the use of keyboards on songs where you wouldn’t expect them. I enjoyed these songs quite a bit, and will certainly check out the CD when it’s released.

[READ: May 30, 2008]: McSweeneys #27

This volume contains three books in a slipcase. Even though each is a small paperback, the overall package is quite nice. The slipcase has many tiny holes in it to look like skyscraper windows (or Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti). (more…)

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