I could tell this was a Mountain Goats song right from the start–it’s lo fi and yet it sounds clear (especially the vocals). Normally with The Mountain Goats you talk about the lyrics, but since he didn’t write the song, there’s not much to say about them (in this paragraph anyhow).
The original, by East River Pipe is also very lo-fi. It’s a very catchy song and it’s all about drugs: (“If it comes down to the drugs or you…baby we’re through.”). The original is guitar and keyboards and Cornog’s straightforward singing. The cover is simply acoustic guitar. It’s a little faster (and a little shorter) and because I like The Mountain Goats, I prefer the cover.
Although really, they’re not very different.
[READ: April 16, 2012] “Transatlantic”
This story was out of my comfort zone–it’s about army men and airplanes, that’s not my scene, man. And after reading the first few paragraphs, I wondered if I should keep reading it. But McCann wrote a compelling story and I’m really glad I finished it.
The story is basically an account of two men, Teddy Brown and Jack Alcock, as they attempt the first transatlantic flight in their modified bomber called The Vickers Vimy. Anyone with a working knowledge of the flight, or post WWI history knows that these are two real historical people. I do not have such a working knowledge, so I had no idea that this was based on a true story. If you know anything about them (and I swear, Google either of them and you will find all the details that you need) then you know how the story turns out.
I didn’t know how the story turned out and I found it thrilling. In part that’s because it’s an exceptionally exciting moment in history–two former army men modify a bomber and try to fly from Newfoundland, Canada to Ireland. And really, there’s no way it should work–bombers don’t have enough fuel, they have no radar. It could take days. Hell the planes don’t even have a windshield that covers them. But the excitement is also because of the way that McCann tells the story.
He opens with some basic history about the two men–both were shot down during the war. Both men were determined to win the £10,000 prize offer by The Daily Mail newspaper for anyone who could cross the Atlantic in 72 hours. And both men were skilled at what they needed to do to make this work.
For such a simple premise, the story was quite long (9 pages). At first I found the pace a little tedious–they don’t take off for several days due to inclement weather, there’s a possible romance with a reporter. But it was all well paid off by the thrill of flight once they do take off. I assume that McCann did a ton of research, because he really gets you into the plane, into the feel of the cold, flying in a cloud bank and in fog, instruments freezing over etc.
My only gripe was that I wish he had given a sentence or two of historical detail first. For those of us not familiar with the story, a date would have made me very happy. But otherwise the story was really gripping. If you don’t know what happened with their attempt, it’s worth not finding out before you read the story. But even if you do know about these two men, the story is very exciting indeed.
Sometimes slipping out of your comfort zone is a good thing.