Japndroids are two guys from Vancouver. And man, they make a racket fit for a group double its size. There’s a lo-fi quality to the recording but that’s mostly because the guitar is buzzy and noisy and distorted and the drums are miked very loud (and there’s cymbal splashes everywhere). The vocals (which are mostly screamed/sung) are also pretty relentless (especially when the backing vocals come in). And yet for their simple punk aesthetic their songs aren’t short. “Young Hearts Spark Fire” which opens with some slower guitar (before crashing into a huge verse) runs over 5 minutes. That’s five minutes of thumping drums and super fast guitars. Well, they do take small breathers in the song, but they don’t last long.
But for the most part, the songs are simple, fast rockers and while there is a sameness to the album, there is diversity within their sound. ”Rockers East Vancouver” has a bit more treble in the guitar and a slow middle section. It also has what sounds like a bass guitar break–but remember there’s no bass. The thudding guitar and drums that open “Heart Sweats” also sound very different, as do the groovy Ooooohs that punctuates the verses–making it a very distinctive song.
“Crazy/Forever” opens with a nearly 2 minute instrumental before turning into a slow rocker that last for 6 minutes of catchiness. The album closer, “I Quit Girls” has a cool feedbacky sound on the guitar that makes it sound rather different as well. And the song itself is a slow almost ballad (bit not really a ballad, don’t worry) that really stands out on the disc. So this debut is 8 songs in 36 minutes–a great length for a fun rocking album.
[READ: February 19, 2013] This One is Mine
If you named a book Unlikable People Who Do Foolish Things it probably wouldn’t sell. Or maybe it would. Regardless, it’s an apt subtitle for this novel. Semple is extremely daring to write a story in which nobody is likable at all. Luckily for her, though, is that she writes really well and the book itself is very likable, so much so that I stayed up way too late several nights in a row to finish it.
So this book is about a small group of people who run somewhat parallel lives. David Parry is married to Violet. His sister Sally is single. Although David is the sort of fulcrum between the two women, the story is about the women far more than David. But it’s important to start with David to set things up. David Parry is a multimillionaire. He works in the music industry–he’s the asshole that all the bands need on their side. So, he has autographs with everyone (working on getting his daughter a photo op with Paul McCartney, had Def Leppard play his wedding, etc). But he’s cold and distant to his wife.
Or at least he seems to be from Violet’s point of view. Violet is a writer. She wrote a very successful TV show but wanted out of that life. When she met David, they had an amazing first date (and David still swoons when she looks at him that way, but it seems like she hasn’t been looking at him that way very much lately). And when they settled in, she realized she didn’t have to work anymore. But then she felt odd realizing that she wasn’t making any money herself. So she threw her creativity into a new house. Which took forever. Then they finally managed to have a child (Dot), but Violet found being a mother overwhelming as well, so the nanny (called LadyGo) takes Dot much of the time (and yes, David is resentful of this too).
Violet is at loose ends with her life. And then she meets Teddy. Teddy is a loser–a former addict with Hepatitis C, he plays double bass in a Rolling Stones cover band. When she first sees him, he is playing in the park for some kind of function (not as the Stones cover band, but in some other kind of band) and she is entranced by the music they make. Teddy has a double bass and, when Violet runs into him after the show, because she parked near him, he is trying to fit it into his crappy car that breaks down all the time. Indeed, it won’t start now. He can;t afford to fix it which means he wont be able to get to gigs, which means he won’t have money for rent, etc. He’s about as far from Violet’s one can get. Yet, despite the fact that he is an asshole: verbally abusive, cocky and prone to make very bad choices, she falls for him. She offers to pay to have his car fixed. And then imagines when they can meet again.
They meet for lunch and a few other casual dates (and he is never not an asshole), and then she decides to blow off the planned yoga retreat weekend with her husband so she can have sex with Teddy. David is super pissed that she blew off the retreat and while on the drive there, he gets some information that pieces together what might be happening with Violet and some guy named Teddy (the car repair went to David’s accountant, so he actually paid the nearly $2,000 repair).
Violet and Teddy have very rough sex, which she enjoys as her sex life with David is dullsville), but afterward, he plays it very cool (as an asshole would). She is smitten with him, and the fact that he never calls her back makes her want him even more. She promises him things–like an autographed bass from Geddy Lee (that’s right Rush fans, Geddy Lee turns up in the book and even has a line of dialogue). But he plans to remain faithful, well 85% faithful, to his real girlfriend Coco Kennedy (she is a real Kennedy, even though she was born in Palm Springs).
Meanwhile, Sally, remember Sally?, Sally is David’s sister. Sally was born with diabetes and David took good care of her until her doctor warned him that she needed to start doing things for herself, so he backed off. And she did well–she learned to take her medicine, she learned to control her problems. She even became a successful ballerina–until she lost a toe to gangrene and lost her career. She now teaches dance and yoga and she is a complete mess.
When we first meet Sally she is hell bent on dating Jeremy, a guy who is uncanny at picking the spread in sporting events. He is so well-regarded that he is about to move from a newspaper column to TV. And Sally wants to snag him before he becomes famous. Basically, Sally is a calculating woman who manipulates Jeremy into dating her (by having sex with him at the party she arranged to meet him at). Jeremy is shy and awkward and is utterly overwhelmed by her in every way. Jeremy’s friend convinced him to buy a ring for Sally (he can’t possibly do better than her right?), but Jeremy is afraid to give it to her.
Sally, of course, has read his credit card bills and is aware of the expensive jewelry purchase and finds the ring. She approves although wishes it was bigger. But now she’s just waiting impatiently to get it. When Jeremy has a traumatic experience and Sally takes care of him (and I must say despite her detachment she handles it so well), he proposes. Sally had also sort of fixed the deal by stopping her birth control and getting pregnant without him knowing.
Sally’s backstory is pretty much nothing but tragedy. Despite being David’s sister (and he does help her out financially), she has really nothing. At 15, she got pregnant from a member of Def Leppard (the scene is darkly comic, but whereas Geddy Lee comes off pretty well, Joe Elliots might just be pissed about his appearance). She then got pregnant again from a married man (both babies were aborted). She then got mixed up with a guy, Kyle, who had bad business ideas and she basically lost $45,000 for him. So now she is in debt and looking for a rich husband.
You see–not a nice person in the story so far (excerpt Geddy Lee).
The story reaches a massive climax at Sally’s wedding (although there’s still nearly 100 pages left), when all manner of things comes together. I also appreciated that while some things do go wrong it’s not a movie/sitcom scene where all kinds of unlikely things goes wrong–although there is of course a problem with the cake). At the last minute, Jeremy wants to cancel the wedding, Violet booked The Rolling Stoners as the wedding band (imagine how pissed Sally is when she was expecting someone the caliber of Def Leppard) and Kyle, whom Sally inexplicably invited to the wedding, hears about some highly stealable gear in the trunk of Violet’s car.
The denouement brings out some decency to all of the people. And while it doesn’t excuse anyone’s behavior, it makes you feel a lot better for wanting to read about them. There are comeuppances and rewards and a surprising focus on something that was a minor part of the story early on. And by the end there is general feeling of wellness (after all, there’s a yoga retreat and a sweat lodge and a chanting buddhist to keep you spiritually pure as you read).
As I said I really enjoyed this story. It was the kind of story where you keep going “she didn’t just do that!” and you want to throw the book across the room, and yet it’s so well written that you don’t want it to leave your hands. I’m excited to see what Semple does next.
Sarah read and enjoyed the book as well, and here’s what she had to say about it. Incidentally, the cover on the right is the hardcover version, which I like so much more than the paperback. Yes, it’s very simple and it makes it seem kind of chick-lit but it’s a slightly more relevant image. Of course, I think maybe a Rickenbacker bass guitar and a syringe would have been even more appropriate.