SOUNDTRACK: THE DEAD MILKMEN-Not Richard But Dick (1993).
After the mature Milkmen of Soul Rotation, they followed up with this mini disc (at 28 it’s probably an EP (even the title suggests that maybe it’s an EP) but it’s not considered one).
This album is a bit more twisted that Soul Rotation, although it still offers some of this newer more mature music.
The two most twisted songs are the largely spoken-word “I Dream of Jesus.” It’s a rant in which the singer (who now goes by the name Arr. Trad.) talks about his mother keeping Jesus in a bottle, and the ramifications that that can have. (It also features a sung chorus of “Jesus Loves Me”). “Let’s Get the Baby High” has vocals that are processed so who knows who is singing. But the title is pretty much spot on for the content of the song.
And you can pretty guess who is singing “The Infant of Prague Customized My Van.”
Butterfly Fairweather once again sings the bulk of the songs. And most of them are fast rockers. The first song, “Leggo My Ego” could have been a hit (with the cool keboard opening) and “Little Volcano” probably should have been a hit, it’s very catchy.
He’s also on vocals for some of those mellow songs (that remind me so much of Dromedary Records’ Cuppa Joe. In fact, “Not Crazy” could have been done by Cuppa Joe.
The final song is a wonderfully hilarious Lou Reed impersonation with simple guitar chords, and a tin whistle! It’s a very mellow spoken word piece about “The Woman Who was Also a Mongoose”.
Not Richard But Dick is no longer in print (Hollywood Records really gave DM the shaft). I’m not sure if it’s worth tracking down at this point, but there’s some interesting and fun stuff on this disc.
[READ: April 7, 2010] Antwerp
Continuing with Roberto Bolaño’s fascinating melange of styles, Antwerp (technically the first “novel” he wrote (circa 1980 although he didn’t have it published until 2002) is a series of numbered sections. I’ve heard it described as a prose poem, and, given his (at the time) recent switch from poetry to prose, that makes sense.
I had read an excerpt from this some time ago, and I found it difficult to read as excerpts. Unsurprisingly, I also found the entire thing a challenge as well. And that’s because, wow, there is so much crammed into these 79 pages, and there are so many different points of view and so many unclear events (written in great detail, but trying to piece those events together…phew) that even after reading it twice, I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on.
These things I’m aware of. There is a hunchback. There is at least one woman, but it may be as many as three, who have sex with their behinds up in the air and their face buried in a pillow (the details of the sex acts are pretty explicit and as such are the clearest things in the book). The men that these women have sex with may indeed all be policemen. There’s a character named Roberto Bolaño who may have aided the hunchback. There’s an Englishman who may or may not be imaginary. Some of the action is set in a campground where a narrator is working as a night watchman (shades of The Skating Rink there). And there are an unknown number of first person narrators in the book.
The basic plot is that there has been a murder. There are photographs which may be related to the murder. And the hunchback may or may not be involved in the murder.
Despite my confusion (and I don’t think that it has anything to do with the translation (by Natasha Wimmer the fantastic translator of 2666) I still rather enjoyed the story. As with all of the Bolaño I’ve read, his sentences are beautiful, and in this case, each numbered section is compelling, intriguing, beguiling. It’s only when trying to tie them together (and I am fairly certain it is intentionally written this way) that the confusion sets it.
And while, yes, not being able to figure out a puzzle may be the fault of the reader, some of the fault must lie with the writer as well. Of course, when you’re dealing with Roberto Bolaño, master of elliptical works, all bets are off. Perhaps one needs to really work to put the puzzle together (I read it twice, but I wonder if I should have been taking detailed notes). I think, however, that the repetition and misstatements are designed to keep us guessing. Maybe they’re designed to keep you reading this book over and over and over and over.
This is definitely not the book to start your Roberto Bolaño reading with (even if it is so temptingly short).