Death Cab for Cutie are immediately recognizable here. And they take this Superchunk song and make it sound like a Death Cab for Cutie song.
This cover is the rare cover in which the band takes a song and makes it clearly their own, and yet they don’t alter it all that much from the original. The Superchunk version is slow (for Superchunk), with buzzing, distorted guitars and Mac’s vocals riding over the top. The DCFC version features Ben Gibbard’s voice riding over the top as well. But DCFC make the song a bit cleaner. Rather than distorted guitars, we get chiming guitars and simple notes. Instead of being a kind of grungy anthem, it feels somewhat uplifting. And in true DCFC style, the uplifting sounding song really disguises something darker.
Even though the DCFC version feels slower, it’s not any longer than the original, and I think the pacing is pretty much the same. It’s a neat trick. I like both versions equally.
[READ: May, 2, 2012] “Men Against Violence”
This story came in third place in the Narrative Magazine Fall 2011 short story content. It had a very different feel from second place winner. It is set in college. It feels contemporary and it reads young. This, of course, means that I liked the style immediately. I admit I was a little confused by the opening—I felt the exposition was little convoluted and relationships were not established effectively. But once it got moving, the story was really engrossing.
This is a reasonably simple story. Kyle has a Hennessey scholarship—he received hundreds of thousands of dollars over his four years of college. As the story opens he is attending the dinner which announces the newest scholarship grant, and introduces Kyle to the latest scholarship winner, whose name is (in all lower case letters) madison pepper.
The guest speaker at the banquet is Brooke Hennessey. She is the granddaughter of Dorothy Hennessey and is currently is Kyle’s class at the college. She speaks eloquently about her family’s donation (of the Hennessey Art Museum). What she doesn’t say is that she ran away at 15, spent two years living in a car in Portland and that she accepts no money from her family (and has a mountain of debt). She also doesn’t say that she is currently dating Kyle.
Kyle has problems of his own. He recently got into a fight with a Trevor, a fairly important person on campus and he is now on a kind of probation—if he fights again, he loses the scholarship and has to back all the money. This is why he joined Men Against Violence. There’s a funny (but not really) insight into the existence of MAV on the campus, which leads to many unanswered questions about gender relations. And the subject of gender relations is all over this story. That delicate subject is handled very well.
The story is set all on one night. After the dinner, Brooke and Kyle go to a bar. They meet Kyle’s friend Sam, a lesbian who has been in a relationship for two years (but whose parents still ask when she’s going to find the right guy) and Olive, the girlfriend of Kyle’s friend Ayden. The characters proceed to get drunker and drunker with scenes of college debauchery occurring.
Trying to clear his head, Kyle runs into madison pepper (whose name I feel should have been left in all lowercase throughout the story). She is very drunk, but insists on going to another party. Kyle suggests she go home instead, but she insists. So he walks her there. At the party, she gives Kyle a hard time about Brooke, about himself, and about Men Against Violence. She also drinks a lot more and dances with many guys. It’s now very late and Kyle wants to get back to Brooke. So he leaves madison in the sketchy but reasonably safe hands of Johnny. Kyle tells her to call if she needs him.
Which she does two hours later. And that sets in motion the remainder of the story. With a title like “Men Against Violence” you know it’s going to end in violence in some way (how could it not?). When the inevitable happens, I was disappointed for the character, but not for the story. The story earned it.
Unexpectedly, though, the conflict does not re-occur with Trevor (something which was set up as a possibility since he was at the same party), but with someone else.
And it’s possible that little details like that, make the story less than perfect for me. There are a lot of different characters. And they certainly fill out the story and make it more real, but they don’t really impact the plot as fully as they might. Maybe it was too many people for a short story? Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the plot and the action. The college scenes were quite believable, and the conclusion was right on. There were just little things that made it hard to keep the action straight, and with a fast-paced story like this, that can really kill the buzz.
You can read it here.