I learned about Le Butcherettes from their Tiny Desk Concert. So I thought I’d check out their album. I’ve listened to it a few times now and it’s really quite good.
While the Tiny Desk Concert showed a subtle side of Teri Gender Bender, this album rocks really hard. All three songs from the Tiny Desk Concert rock much harder here, and are actually better in this full band context (especially “Henry Don’t Got Love”).
It has a punk feel and reminds me of a more commercial sounding Bikini Kill or other Kill Rock Stars punk. “Dress Off” is all Teri’s voice shouting over drums: “You take my dress off. Yeah, you take my dress off.
Yeah, You take my pretty dress off.”
In the Tiny Desk concert, Teri Gender Bender channeled PJ Harvey completely. On the album, she has a bunch of different vocal styles that all work well for the songs. Although “New York” is totally PJ, “The Actress That Ate Rousseau” reminds me of punkier No Doubt and”Tainted in Sin” has a simple stark keyboard melody with Teri singing a more aggressive guttural style.
Unsurprisingly for someone named Teri Gender Bender, there are some political songs as well. “Bang!” has the lyric, “George Bush and McCain taking over Mexico. Next thing you’ll see is their army banning seranata“
Although there’s a lot of short songs (7 are 2 and a half minutes or under), there’s a few long ones too. “The Leibniz Language is over 5 minutes and “I’m Getting Sick of You” and “Empty Dimes” are both over 4. There’s also an instrumental, “Rikos’ Smooth Talking Mothers” which is a simple song spurred on mostly by scratchy guitars.
The final song, “Mr. Tolstoi” is the anomaly on the album. Teri “sings” with a fake Russian accent over a very Soviet-style keyboard march. The chorus:
I want Raskolnikov To be inside of me. I want Sonya’s eyes. I want Sonya’s eyes.
Weird. But not outrageously crazy for this record. It’s good noisy fun.
[READ: January 23, 2012] “Labyrinth”
It’s no secret that I love Roberto Bolaño. And I’ve said before that one thing I love about him is the astonishing variety of subjects and styles that he comes up with.
So this short story is forthcoming from his newly translated collection of unpublished short stories called The Secret of Evil. What I love and find so unique about this story is that the entire story is based upon a photograph. The New Yorker includes the photograph (I wonder if the The Secret of Evil will include it also). In the photograph, eight writers/thinkers sit around a table. Thy are: J. Henric, J.-J. Goux, Ph. Sollers, J. Kristeva, M-Th Réveillé, P. Guyotat, C. Devade, and M. Devade. The only person I know of this list is J. Kristeva, whose work on semiotics I have read. [I just looked her up on Wikipedia and learned that she has also written novels, including: Murder in Byzantium, which deals with themes from orthodox Christianity and politics and has been described by Kristeva as "a kind of anti-Da Vinci Code." Gotta put that on my list]. But the others are (evidently) prominent in their fields as well (editor of Tel Quel, author of several novels and non-fiction, etc).
The beginning of the short story is an extensive detailing of the photograph. Bolaño looks at each man and woman in the photo and describes them with exquisite accuracy. Beyond that he imparts a bit of speculation about what they are wearing, where they are looking, their attractiveness and even, about the length (or lack) of necks.
It would have been interesting to read this without the picture, but with the picture it’s even better, because you can compare and you can see how comments like “It’s the face of a man who enjoys a good meal” are true!
Then after devoting these paragraphs to the photo, he tries to imagine when the picture was taken based on their dress. He’s just as thorough with this as well. Then he extrapolates from the photo what the web of relations between these people is.
Some he knows: Sollers and Kristeva are man and wife, C. Devade and M. Devade are either brother and sister or man and wife (and looking at them he says it’s safe to say they are married, not related). But the others he puzzles out: who is hanging out with whom, who is having an affair? Even what kind of sex the married couples are having (which seems awkward to me, since I assume they are still alive).
All of this is designed to help illuminate the photo even further (albeit fictionally), both by imagining what happened prior to the photo being taken and also what happened afterwards.
I admit that not all of the rest of the story is completely compelling. Without knowing much about these people (and Bolaño doesn’t go into too much detail about them aside from their physical appearance) their little trysts are just stories about not-so-well-defined people. Of course, Bolaño’s best works are stories about well-defined people, so it’s understandable that this wouldn’t be mind-blowing. It almost seems like a kind of exercise, and a fun one at that. I feel like it would be an excellent exercise for any writer to attempt. It’s pretty impressive that he could get five pages of content from a photograph of 8 scholars sitting around a table.
As with much Bolaño, it’s his attention to detail that really impresses–his concern for the plants in the picture is hilarious and spot on.
Chris Andrews did the translation and as usual, he did a wonderful job. And, yes indeed, I’m looking forward to the release of The Secret of Evil in April. (I’m still waiting for my library to get Tres, although I suspect a bilingual poetry book is probably not that high on their list of acquisitions).
For ease of searching I include: Bolano, Reveille