Archive for the ‘True Crime’ Category

CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACKBOSNIAN RAINBOWS-“Turtle Neck” (2013).

bosnian rainbows_cvr-a5c79faedffc0dc27b9e81b5eb566b7c02c426e9-s1I had listened to most of the preview of this album, and I was mixed about it.  But I have to say that of all the songs “Turtle Neck” is my favorite.  It begins as most of these songs do with a very simple melody.  There’s an easy vocal melody, accompanying guitars and interesting keyboard notes dropped in.  As with most of these songs it has a very 80s feel to it.  The big difference with this song is that it is 6 minutes longs and allows Omar Rodriguez-Lopez some wiggle room to goof off.  Like the weird little noises (effects, guitars what have you) that sprinkle the ends of the verses.

 But it’s at the 3 minute mark that Omar really takes over—the song turns kind of sinister with a  great dark bassline.  And then comes the guitar solo—screaming, noisy, more or less out of control, while wailing notes and off-kilter scales litter the one-minute instrumental section.  Then Teri joins the tone with a wholly new vocal section that compliments what Omar is doing.  The wildness kind of wears itself out until the end of the song recreates the beginning sweetness.

It’s probably the best encapsulation of the combination of pretty and wild that Bosnian Rainbows put together.

[READ: June 18, 2013] “Pedigree”

This is a Personal History, so I assume it is true.  I don’t know Walter Kirn at all, and really I only read this because the main person he talks about is named Clark.  Of course, the Clark in this story, Clark Rockefeller, is an unmitigated fraud.

It turns out that the story of Clark Rockefeller, and his real name Christian Gerhartsreiter, is fairly well-known  in popular culture (there was even a Lifetime movie made about him.  Of course, I don’t watch movies on that network, so this whole story passed me by.  I wonder if this narrative is more or less interesting if you already know the truth.

This narrative begins with Walter explaining how he got to know Clark.  Clark had signed up to take a dog who had been injured and rehabilitated (it was a Gordon setter who had been hit by a car and now used a wheelchair for its back legs).  Clark had been vetted and talked to Walter, who was supposed to transport the animal.  Things were complicated and the trip from Montana to Manhattan was more difficult and costly than Walter imagined.  But Clark was there with an envelope and an offer of a place to stay and fabulous people to meet and a tour of all of Rockefeller Center.  When asked about his source of income, Clark explained his job as “a freelance central banker for Thailand.”  And Walter accepted it all.

Later, the envelope proved to hold a check for $500 (not even half of what Walter spent).  None of the famous people showed and the tour didn’t materialize.  Nevertheless, the ruse was surprisingly complex–like the man who claimed to be from MOMA authenticating the Mondrians and Rothkos that Rockefeller had on his wall.  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: PAUL WILLIAMS-“The Hell of It” (1974).

pwI learned of this song because the guys in Daft Punk said it was one of their favorite songs.  I don’t know all that much about Paul Williams except for a few things:

He wrote a bunch of songs that you don’t know he wrote, like: “Rainbow Connection,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and “An Old Fashioned Love Song.”  And, back in the 80s a random customer at the grocery store that I worked at said I looked like him (which I did not consider a complement).  I have since been told I look like Philip Seymour Hoffman, so I’ve got that going for me.

So this song starts with a rather dark and dramatic guitar riff.  When Williams starts singing, the lyrics are really dark and mean:

Winter comes and the winds blew colder
While some grew wiser, you just grew older
And you never listened anyway,
And that’s the hell of it.

But then the bridge comes in and it’s bright and uplifting (with chipper backing vocals and bouncy pianos). Although the lyrics remain dark dark dark:

Good for nothing, bad in bed
Nobody likes you and you’re better off dead
Goodbye, we’ve all come to say goodbye (goodbye)
Goodbye (goodbye)
Born defeated, died in vain
Super-destructive, you were hooked on pain
Though your music lingers on
All of us are glad you’re gone.

And then there’s another very short section section that is even more musically uplifting.  And yet the lyrics: are the most ruthless:

If I could live my life half as worthlessly as you
I’m convinced that I’d wind up burning too.

The music returns to that sinister guitar riff and the verses continue:

Love yourself as you loved no other
Be no man’s fool and be no man’s brother
We’re all born to die alone, you know, that’s the hell of it.

The last minute of the song  is all instrumental with that dark guitar sound underpinning a bright vaudevillian piano.  And since the song was from a  movie, I wonder if the end if all closing credits?

This song was written for the movie Phantom of the Paradise.  I have never heard of the film.  But I see that it was made by Brian DePalma, is a musical, starred Williams and was a mixture of of The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust, with hints of Frankenstein, Psycho and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.  Who would have guessed why it flopped (or why it now has a cult following).

Enjoy the strangeness:


[READ:June 17, 2013] “After Black Rock”

Joyce Carol Oates has the final True Crimes story in this weeks New Yorker.  And her story is quite different from the others.  Indeed, it was quite delightful how varied the topics of this special series were.

This piece concerns JCO’s historical family.  Back in 1917, her mother’s father was killed in a bar fight (he was Hungarian and prone to violence).  This devastated their family because he was the primary source of income.  Her mother’s mother had nine children.  Most of JCO’s siblings already worked (long hours for little pay, because immigrant kids didn’t go to school and there were no labor laws at the time).

And then came the shocking thing:  JCO’s mother’s mother gave JCO’s mother away.  She was none months old, they couldn’t afford to feed her, so they gave her to newlywed relatives who desperately wanted a child.  They were John and Lena Bush (the Americanized version of Bùs).  She was raised by them–given some school and some farm work and basically treated as their own. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Closer” (2013).

Tegan and Sara have teganandsarabeen making interesting folkie pop music for years.  While they’ve toiled in indie-land for years, their last album had a couple of songs that fell squarely into the pop world.

Well, “Closer” says, hey pop world, here we are.  It’s got everything that Tegan and Sara do well–catchy melodies and great harmonies–and it adds all manner of treacly delights to it.  There’s little keyboardy sound effects that sprinkle around the song.  There’s a big swirling keyboard chorus, and the song even slows down briefly so that it can build back up.

It’s frankly hard to swallow.  Aalthough I can appreciate just how well written it is.  And I hope they can make some cash off  of it.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “The Crime of Our Life”

Roger Angell’s True Crimes story talks about crime in New York City in the 70s and 80s.  I recall growing up and being afraid of the City (and for all that we complain that it has been Disney-fied and cleaned up, it is nice to not be worried about getting mugged on every dark street).  And Angell, who lived through it, has some less than cheery anecdotes to relate.But he opens with the good news: burglaries and street robberies are down 80% since 1990!  And, as he puts it, “even lifelong Manhattanites like me have almost forgotten the mixture of anxiety and scary anecdote we all shared back in the seventies and eighties.”

He gives some examples: leaving any place at night and immediately walking in the street if you saw someone even remotely suspicious on the sidewalk.  The friend of his who heard “Sorry, Mister, you’re going down” just before he did go down.  The friend who took karate lessons–and then wound up in the E.R.  And the other friend who took to carrying a sword/umbrella and had a chance to use it (with much success it turns out–“Yow–a fuckin’ sword”).  Even the Angells were broken into (their door taken off the hinges and leaned against the wall. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: BOSNIAN RAINBOWS-“Torn Maps” (2013).

bosnianBosnian Rainbows are the collaboration of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (At The Drive In, Mars Volta) and Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes).  Interestingly, I normally think of Omar as being the dominant force in the music he makes, but for this song, it seems to be all Teri.  Teri is a Latina singer who takes no shit.  In her Tiny Desk concert, she is fierce and intense, and that comes across here as well.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how synthy this song is.  It has a very retro feel–like a lot of 80’s bands (Missing Persons and ’til Tuesday’s darker moments and of course, there’s an element of Siouxsie in her voice as well).  But there is something especially intense that Teri brings to this song that takes it out of the realm of safe synth pop (perhaps it the dark bridge).  Omar peeks through a bit during the instrumental break which has a pretty wild guitar solo and some intriguing effects that I wish were more prevalent.

I’m fascinated by this song (although I wish I could hear the vocals more).

NPR is streaming this whole album as I write this, although I’m not sure if it will still be available as of this posting.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “The Ripper”

The second in the “True Crimes” series is from David Peace (an interesting name, hmmmm).  In this one, the year is 1977 and young David is obsessed with Sherlock Holmes (and I would assume Encyclopedia Brown, but he doesn’t mention the boy detective).  Peace was ten years old and set up his own detective agency, intent on solving all local small crimes.

And then he learned of the Yorkshire Ripper.  In the piece he says “I was a lonely ten-year-old boy who found the Yorkshire Ripper” which proves to be untrue.  That was a real bummer because that would have made a great story.  As it turns out, he thinks he has found the Yorkshire Ripper, but he hasn’t.

For those of us not following English serial killers, the Yorkshire Ripper was a man who killed dozens of women from 1977 to 1979.  Peace spent his time poring over clues, certain that he could find what the police could not.  And then came the breakthrough—a tape sent in to the local police station stating “I’m Jack.  I see you are still having no luck catching me.”  Peace listened to that tape (which was available at the local police station for the public to see if they could identify the voice) dozens of times.  And his prime suspect became his science teacher “Jock” Carter.  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_10_13Schossow.inddSOUNDTRACK: ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF-“Funeral for My Future Child” (2013).

anna-von-hausswolffThis was selected as one of NPR’s favorite songs of the year (so far).

It’s probably hard to like a song with a title like that, but there’s something strangely compelling about the whole proceeding–the great intricate percussion and drums that start the song, the ponderous pipe organ that lays down the melody, and then Anna’s voice which has a country-ish feel (kind of like Neko Case), but also has a kind of Dead Can Dance vocal style.   Or perhaps that’s just because she is Swedish.

By the time the chorus comes around, the ache of the song is apparent.  And the end has more of that amazing percussion.  I rather like the beginning and the end of the song more than the middle, which I guess doesn’t say a lot for it, but it is intriguing.

Evidently this album is primarily full of pipe organ, an interesting choice for a rock album.  I’d be curious to hear more.

[READ: June 17, 2013] “Twisted”

As if anticipating that I would not be able to write posts this week, the New Yorker has supplied me with a series of very short “True Crimes” pieces.  In fact, the whole issue is a fiction issue, which means a half a dozen or so stories as well.   But it’s these “True Crimes” that will keep me posting this week.

The first is from George Pelecanos, and it’s a story of his own crimes.  He explains that when he was younger, he did all manner of illegal things but had never been caught (aside from a few minor infractions).  He broke into houses and stole records from someone he didn’t like.  He rode in a stolen car, stole wallets from strangers at stores (at this point I really don’t like this guy).  But he doesn’t try to make excuses for himself.  He was a boy and he was having fun.

But the crimes continues long past adolescence.  In 1985 he was 28 and got involved in a high-speed chase.  He was drinking and smoking pot at a wedding.  He and his fiancée stopped at a convenience store where he backed  into someone’s car.  A gang of people came out and the threat of violence was imminent.  But he hopped in his car, drove on the sidewalk and sped off with the police in pursuit. (more…)

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