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Archive for October, 2007

img_1269.jpgOur new baby, Tabitha Mae was born on October 20. Needless to say there’s little time for reading, although I did get to finish the new Terry Pratchett.

Bear with me while I get my reading schedule back online.

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esquire.jpgSOUNDTRACK: THE CARS-Greatest Hits (2002).

cars.jpgFor the longest time I didn’t like The Cars. I got really sick of them, especially around the time of “You Might Think.” I guess I was watching a lot of MTV, because I just couldn’t seem to get Rik Ocasek’s face out of my head (your sympathy is appreciated). Anyhow, Sarah had said something about getting their Greatest Hits; so we did. And I’m glad.

The first ten or so songs on this thing are really great, it’s practically their entire first album, and it’s a bounty of new-wave delights from just before they got really commercial. Of course, the commercial songs are also here, but after all of these years, the commercial songs sound pretty good too. For me the best thing about the record is that it conatins “Moving in Stereo” the song that will make any red blooded young lad of around my age immediately envision Phoebe Cates climbing out of a swimming pool and…. Doesn’t anybody fucking knock anymore?

[READ: October 10, 2007] “So Far from Anything.”

This story has a gimmick. Although it is a publishing gimmick and not a story gimmick. The gimmick according to Esquire is this: The story is such a page turner, that we are going to print it along the bottom of every page of the magazine (about fifteen words per page). (more…)

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perlman.jpgSOUNDTRACK: NED SUBLETTE: Cowboy Rumba (1999).

sublette.jpgTypically I’m the one who introduces our house to new music. My wife has great taste, but she doesn’t typically seek out new stuff like I do. So, it was a nice surprise when she found this record. I think she heard about it on NPR. I was trying to figure out how best to describe the record, but really the title says it all. It is a country-tinged record that is primarily backed by horns in a “rumba” style (although Sublette admits in the liner notes that it’s not really a rumba). I’m not a big fan of country music, and I’m not a huge fan of South of the Border horn music (sambas, rumbas etc). However, Sarah and I took some ballroom dance classes, and my appreciation for these styles has really grown. We even requested one of these songs (“Feelin’ No Pain”) for our wedding reception.

Overall, the album is good fun, the songs are boozy and dancey, upbeat and downtown. Sublette called in some players from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which adds some authenticity to his tales of loss and lust. In general, all the songs overstay their welcome a little. I don’t know if this is a feature of the region’s songs, or if Sublette would rather stretch his pieces out to 5:30 when 4:30 would suffice. Despite that, “Cheater’s Motel” “Ready to Be Your Lover” and “Feelin’ No Pain” are really great, fun songs. It was only after a number of listens that I really got to hear what he was saying in his monologue pieces (like “Her Point of View”), and they’re all pretty amusing tales. So don’t just listen for the fun horns, stay for the story!

[READ: October 9, 2007] The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming.

There are nine short stories in this collection. It’s tough to review a series of short stories simply because you don’t want to give away too much, or even devote a lot of space to a small part of a book. These stories seem to fit very well with each other, so I think it’s safe to make some claims about the book as a whole, but there are enough distinctions between the stories to select some details from each. (more…)

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navigator.jpgSOUNDTRACK: HÜSKER DÜ-Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987).

husker.jpgMy friend Al, who introduced me to Marillion, also introduced me to Hüsker Dü (go figure). And he did so with this album. I think for big time Hüsker fans, this is something of a sellout, but for me, it is such a great poppy punk record. And it is clearly a lead-in to Bob Mould’s far more commercial solo stuff. I guess what is amazing to me is how it’s a pretty noisy album, and yet it was considered a sellout. By today’s standards, sure, it’s pretty commercial, but back in 1987, it was still cutting edge.

This album got me to check out the back catalog of Hüsker Dü records on SST. Even the crazy Land Speed Record on Alternative Tentacles (it’s a live record that is basically a blur, 20 minutes of noise, listed as 20 songs or something…a huge leap from that to Warehouse!). Their SST records aren’t recorded very well, which I think is why I don’t listen to them as much. They sound kind of tinny to me. Nevertheless, the song craft is great throughout their catalog.

Warehouse in particular is full of great songs. I hadn’t listened to this record in a while, but when I popped it in, I remembered the whole thing, and could still sing all the choruses, if not the verses. Mould and Grant Hart (what ever happened to him?) seem to be feuding for who could write the catchiest chorus, and as they broke up right after making this, I’m not sure what it says about their songwriting. Again, it’s an amazing departure from their earliest stuff, and man this one rocks!

[READ: October 3, 2007] The Navigator.

I stumbled upon this book when I saw that the author was going to be signing at my local Borders. I didn’t buy it, but I took note of the author (apparently I like to read books by Eoins). (more…)

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mcs24.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GUIDED BY VOICES-Universal Truths and Cycles (2002).

gbv.jpg

I like Guided By Voices more in theory than in actuality. In theory, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that are all snappy, catchy and brilliant. In practice, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that he puts out whether they are finished or not. A vast quantity of GBV output is about a minute long. And for the most part the songs feel like fragments, rather than real songs. Nevertheless, I find that just about everything he writes is catchy and quite good, it’s just that so much of it is so forgettable.

Despite that, they have several songs that are fantastic. I could easily make a greatest hits record of GBV songs that I think are fabulous, and it would probably have 20 songs on it. The only problem is Pollard has released probably a thousand songs, so that’s not such great average.

I received this copy of Universal Truths and Cycles as a promotional copy many years ago. I had really enjoyed Do the Collapse, and so I grabbed this CD, and much like my assessment above, I find that there’s nothing I really dislike about the album although at 4:59, almost three times longer than a typical GBV song, “Storm Vibrations” tends to drag, but overall there’s not that much that’s memorable. Of course, “Everywhere with Helicopters” is fantastic and “Christian Animation Torch Characters” is also pretty wonderful. I could pick maybe 3 of the 19 songs here to go on my hits collection, but overall, the album is typical GBV, a little weird, but very catchy.

[READ: October 2, 2007] McSweeney’s #24.

I just flew through this latest issue of McSweeney’s. It was a real treat to read. The packaging was another one of their fun covers. It is designed in two parts, with a gatefold type of sleeve that reveals a full nighttime scene if you open it all the way. These guys have so much fun with their design, I’m surprised they’re not noted more for that.

Anyhow, the contents: the one side is a selection of six short stories, they all seem to feature guns, and they’re not afraid to use them. The other side is a symposium of reasonably famous authors writing tributes about Donald Barthelme, and two short stories by Barthelme himself. It also comes with an excerpt from Millard Kaufman’s Bowl of Cherries, which I have not yet read, but if it’s good I will get the book and review it later. (more…)

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