Just months after their in-studio session, The Head and the Heart played South by Southwest. This set seems somehow louder than the in-studio (which seems a very common phenomenon–the bands just seems to be quieter in-studio somehow, even if they are playing hard, it still seems subdued, which isn’t bad at all, just odd). So here, the band really lets loose (or maybe it’s because they’ve been playing no for six extra months?) and they sound like they’re really having fun.
Their sound is loud and (somewhat) chaotic, and it really suits them. The set list is similar to the in-studio (they also play “Cats and Dogs” which segues into “Coeur d’Alene”). ”Ghosts” and “Lost in My Mind” are also here (“Lost” sounds great in this rambling, somewhat shambolic format). They also play “Down in the Valley.” Added to the set are “Winter Song” and “River and Roads.” These two songs feature vocals by violinist Charity Thielin, and I have to admit I don’t love her voice. Perhaps it’s in this context or that she is mixed a wee bit to loud (because I didn’t dislike her voice in the in-studio). As I said, I haven’t heard the studio version yet, so I’ll chalk it up to a very large crowd.
But otherwise the set is outstanding, and I’m becoming a huge fan of the band.
[READ: March 28, 2011] Here They Come
I had been thinking about reading this book for a while (the blurbs on the back are quiet compelling) but I kept putting other McSweeney’s books in front of them (I had hoped to finish an entire stack of McSweeney’s novels before The Pale King came. But it shipped two weeks early and threw off my plan).
I have read two pieces by Murphy in previous McSweeney’s issues, but looking back they didn’t prepare me for this strange story. And the strangest thing is the point of view of the narrator (but more on that later).
This is actually a simple enough story. Set in New York over an unspecified time period (there’s a couple of winters and a couple of summers, but I’m not sure if it’s new seasons or flashbacks), the (as far as can tell) unnamed narrator girl leads a pretty crap existence.
Firs there is John, the hot dog vendor. He’s a married man from a middle eastern country (his family is back there). And basically the narrator lets him feel her up (for what it’s worth on a flat chested 13-year-old) for free hot dogs and candy bars. She doesn’t seem to upset by the groping and keeps going back to pass the time with him.
Then there is her brother, an obnoxious boy who walks around in a silk dragon bathrobe all the time. When he is not smashing things with his guitar when he walks past the furniture, he is smashing things in his room or threatening to shoot himself with their old, unloaded gun.
Her mother works all the time but really can’t afford to take care of them or feed them. And she says “Merde” night and day (she is French). But worse is her mother’s mother, la mere, who stays with them from time to time. la Mere seems like she has money but she never gives them any.
Her father has money as well, but he has been living with the slut for quite some time. She won’t talk to the girls who are often invited to his house. He tries to take care of them, but it seems clear that his burgeoning film career isn’t bring in the money he wants. He’s also not above taking money (or valuables from the girls’ house).
And what happens when he goes missing?
Her father going missing is more or less the plot of this plotless book. His disappearance doesn’t really seem to bother anyone (except the slut). Although the narrator puts up a half-assed poster offering a reward for his return, she doesn’t really seem all that upset that he has been gone for months.
Eventually, they receive evidence that their father might be in Spain. The narrator convinces the brother to go to Spain with the slut to find him. They spend a lot of time (very close together) in Spain together, following one vague lead after another.
The story also has two sisters, several dogs, a few cats and the policeman’s horse.
The thing about the narrator’s voice is that it seems to be close third person from the unnamed girl. “My father’s slut” and all that. However, there are several chapters that absolutely cannot be from her purview, and yet they still start with “My father’s slut” (who then proceeds to do many things in Spain that no one else sees). It’s a strange conceit. It works contextually, but logically it doesn’t work).
This was a really fast paced story. It is fairly amusing (the craziness of the family and the house they live in,as well as the neighbors), and yet the whole family is almost a caricature of unsuitableness (they store their garbage bags in the house since they can’t put them outside (for reasons that are unclear to me), the windows are broken and snow just drifts in). And yet at the same time, the narrator is a such a strangely flippant individual, tough and yet not nasty, she’s a wonderful story-teller, and you want to follow her exploits regardless of how ridiculous.
There is no satisfying conclusion to the story, but the story feels like there isn’t meant to be, that it’s just a series of events that could happen over and over again (which is probably why the chapters aren’t numbered). It’s not for everyone, and I don’t know how long the story will stay with me, but it was certainly enjoyable for its unique properties.