I reviewed the first Go! Team record a few months ago. I really enjoyed it but I wondered what they could do for a follow up. And, indeed, I was right to wonder. This album follows very similarly to their first record. They use a similar style of cheerleader/chanting over fuzzed out dance songs. About half the songs are just as catchy as on the first record, but overall, the whole album just doesn’t live up to the first one.
Part of the problem is the guest rappers they add, and there are quite a few. On the first song. “Grip Like a Vice,” Lisa Lee does a rap that I’m still not convinced isnt’ lifted wholly from a 1980s rap album. The chorus ends: “Party people in the place, get ready for this To you! So what you wanna do? So do you wanna rock the house and turn this mutha out?” Really? That’s the best you can do in 2008? How many times have we heard this couplet before? I mean, heck, I understand the whole sound is retro but COME ON!
The second strike against the record is the use of Chuck D. Now, Chuck D is, simply, the greatest voice in rap. Or speaking, or anything. He has a commanding presence, he has great rhythm, and he really made Public Enemy a force to be reckoned with. So, how could I complain about his use on this record? Well, because his voice is completely lost in the cacophony. You can barely hear him. What a waste of talent! I’ve listened to the song about 6 times and I’m still not sure what he’s saying. Public Enemy told us to Bring the Noise, but you could always hear Chuck telling us to bring it. Gah!
So, anyhow, the rest of the album contains this cacophonous mindset; however, because the cheerleader singers are high pitched girls, you can hear them over the static, the bass and the general sense of noise. You can’t help but hear that everything sounds kind of staticky. I know it’s done on purpose, but it just sounds like there’s a white noise machine on in the background.
This album came with a bonus disc, which is always nice. It’s weird though that the album itself is only about 35 minutes long, so the bonus tracks could easily have fit on the same disc. I’m glad it was separate, as I prefer the bonus disc aspect as it keeps the continuity of the original record together (don’t you hate when you ‘re listening to a remastered CD that includes bonus songs, and they put 7 versions of the same song in a row at the end of the disc? No, of course you don’t, you all listen to iPods. Well never mind). Anyhow, the bonus disc is a few more tracks and, of course, a remix of “Grip Like a Vice,” so you can really clearly hear how bad the rap by Lisa Lee is.
Overall, if this was their first album, this would be pretty amazing, it just suffers in comparison to itself.
[READ: March 2008]: End of I.
This book is a continuation of the novel I. a collection of short stories, that is technically a novel by Dixon. This book is similarly a collection of short stories that are, in fact, a novel. This novel follows the same unnamed (except for the letter I.) character through some more incidents in his life.
Okay, it turns out that this is the third book in a trilogy: I., Old Friends, and End of I. Old Friends was not published by McSweeney’s, where I got the other two, so I didn’t realize there was a middle book.
The first book focused a lot of attention on I. and his wife. His wife has a debilitating disease that keeps her confined to a wheelchair most of the time. The first book showed I.’s attitudes about his life and the circumstances surrounding his life. I. often came across as a nasty, bitter man, but he was also a reflective man, who clearly felt bad about his behavior but who seemed to be unable to control himself.
End of I.‘s stories are less about his life with his wife and family and are more about flashbacks to different parts of his life. The style is consistent with the style in I. He writes as if he is actually writing the stories this very minute. They are very much “now.” He corrects himself as he writes, often editing himself, reorganizing his thoughts and really questioning his behavior and attitudes.
The first piece, “Friend,” is about a boy he knew in grade school who died while still in school. As with most of these stories, the narrator is detached. He writes as if he is trying to remember the incident. The story also concerns his mother’s memory of the incident. In the story she claims to have gone to the funeral, yet as he engages his mother about it, she doesn’t remember anything about it and even wonders why she would have gone to a funeral of someone whom she barely knew. It’s an interesting look at I.’s early life and that of relationships with parents.
In the first book, I. proved himself to be something of an obsessive character, really honing in on one aspect or person and following it to an illogical conclusion. “Breakup” continues this trend. It concerns an early girlfriend who broke up with him. He spent much of the next several months trying to “accidentally” run into her. He knew her schedule and often walked past her home and work. Eventually, when he “accidentally” runs into her again, his own neuroses overtake his ability to talk to her.
“Go” really highlights Dixon’s…one could almost describe it as a nervous tic…restarting the story over and over again. The line “She wants to go. Fine…” occur many times throughout the story. Each incident shows a possible or likely reaction to his wife’s decision to leave him. He thinks of various things he can say to convince her to stay, none of which are convincing either to him or to her. It really gets into the mind of I. and really, into the mind of anyone who has had a loved one leave.
“Brother” introduces his brother, a character I don’t think we’ve met before, and includes a letter from his father, written as he (the father) was dying. It shows how I.’s father must have treated I. as a young boy. The letter was meant as a peacemaking attempt, but just degenerates into constant browbeating, especially about his son’s decision to become a writer.
“Party” is quite different from Dixon’s other stories. In this one, I. remembers crashing a party back in high school. The party was hosted by a very wealthy college girl, and he was able to crash with some other friends. The party quickly devolves when a violent man shows up with his girl. This story probably has the most “plot” of any story of Dixon’s. As the violent man becomes verbally and physically abusive to his girl, I. and his friends watch, feeling helpless, even though they could have collectively helped out. It has the most disturbing image (to me) of any of his stories. (And that includes some images in past stories of having to clean up bathroom accidents).
“Three Novels” shows an interesting aspect of I.’s life and reflects on writing in general. It shows a letter that I. receives from a reader of one of his novels. But the letter writer is not a fan; she is quite angry, as she reveals that she was the basis for a character in one of his novels. She is livid that details of her life, which were not even thinly disguised, were included in the story. At first, her case seems slight, but as she adds more details you start to feel quite sympathetic toward her. Knowing that many writers write from life experiences and that many stories are pseudo-autobiographical, this story shows an interesting aspect of that…how responsible are you to the people whose lives you use in your books?
There’s an interesting interview with Dixon about this story here.
“End” Is a ruminative story that spans his entire adult life. When he was a young man, he subletted his apartment to a couple. The story of the rental was interesting in and of itself. He became quite friendly with the couple. When the friend dies I. realizes how much he had lost touch with this once close friend. He realizes that he’s been a lousy friend over the last few years. In a very touching scene, he talks to his daughter about how he feels he’s let his friend down. It is one of the most touching moments in all of the stories.
I found this collection to be somewhat more moving overall. Perhaps because I. is shown to be more of a sympathetic character, and a more empathetic person. His rages seem less intense (except with his mother-in-law in *) and although he tends to sabotage everything he does with other people, he seems to be more regretful or sad about the incidents.
Once again, it’s hard to think of this as a novel since each story has its own title and they are not really connected to each other. But regardless of how the book is categorized, it is a wonderfully reflective collection. It really gets into the mind of a man.
And here’s another link to an interview with Dixon. It’s a good look at the author.