SOUNDTRACK: RA RA RIOT-The Rhumb Line (2008).
I have a hard time describing this album. It has a lot of ingredients that don’t make sense individually, yet which work very well. I would almost resort to calling them pretentious rock, but that seems so derogatory. Vampire Weekend falls into this category of highly literate pop too, and we know how much I love that album!
Ra Ra Riot play catchy indie pop, but their main instruments are cello and violin. And yet they’re not anything like Rasputina’s string-laden goth music. Rather, they write catchy poppy songs that are punctuated with strings. I even wanted to say they don’t have a guitarist, (they do) but I guess that just shows how well his licks meld with the rest of the music. And, indeed, on some tracks, the guitar is up front and wonderful.
They also get labelled pretentious because one of their songs (and one of their catchiest) has lyrics from e.e.cummings, or rather, they use his poem “dying is fine)but Death” as the lyrics for the song “Dying is Fine.” They also cover Kate Bush. Now the Futureheads covered Kate Bush a few years ago, so perhaps Kate is the next go-to artist for covers.
Ra Ra Riot wins extra points for covering a fairly unknown, and utterly bizarre song, “Suspeneded in Gaffa.” This happens to be one of my favorite Kate songs, so I’m a bit critical. However, they do a very good job of making it a pop song (There’s enough weird stuff in Kate’s version to never give it mainstream acceptance). And the strings work very well for it.
Ra Ra Riot was also featured on that paragon of good taste: the show Chuck [And since I have mentioned the music of Chuck on many occasions, I would be remiss if I didn’t send a shout-out to this site which lists all of the songs in Season One–gotta update Season Two fellas]. Chuck played “Can’t You Tell” in a romantic scene, and it worked quite well.
So, after all that, what can I say about the band. They may be too commercial for some, but I think their combination of strings, intelligent lyrics and good vocals is pretty great. Incidentally, in case you were wondering, a rhumb line (or loxodrome) is a line crossing all meridians at the same angle, i.e. a path of constant bearing. Following a rhumb line requires turning the vehicle more and more sharply while approaching the poles (thanks Wikipedia).
[READ: May 26, 2009] South of the Pumphouse
So this book is by Les Claypool, lead singer and bassist of Primus.
Claypool’s lyrics are typically stories, full of weird characters in weird situations. Oh, and fishing. Lots of fishing. And that sums up this book pretty well.
The book is set in El Sobrante, California, a redneck haven that has not progressed along with the rest of the state. Earl is a fisherman and meth addict. In that order. Fishing is Earl’s life. His father fished every weekend, and Earl and his brother Ed went with him. Rain or shine.
Since he was a kid, things have changed in their fishing waters: many of the fish have been fished out (due to commercial fishing mostly), and there have also been new limits capped on the size of the fish you can bring home. Back in the day, you couldn’t keep the small fish, but now, you also can’t keep the really big ones. And so the days of Earl and Ed’s uncle catching a 300 pound sturgeon are long gone.
For sturgeon is what their family always fished for.
Earl’s brother Ed was a more sensitive kid. As soon a he was able he left El Sobrante for Berkeley (there’s a joke about Phish, which is clearly gentle ribbing from one member of Oysterhead to another), where he proceeded to do just about the most unthinkable thing: he married a black woman.
When Ed and Earl’s father died recently, Ed made plans with his brother, who had not seen in over a year) to go fishing. He anticipates a day of memories, catching up with his brother and a mushroom experience in an old familiar hangout. When Ed learns that Earl’s old buddy (and tormentor of Ed) Donny Vowdy will be coming along, his dreams of a beautiful trip go down the tubes.
When Don shows up, he picks up where he left off: calling Ed Pee-Wee because he dressed like Pee-Wee Herman (in actuality he was dressed like a mod, but Don didn’t know what Quadrophenia was). He proceeds to make gay jokes and racist jokes and sex-bragging jokes. Ed grows more and more angry as the day goes on. Things only get worse after Ed takes his ‘shrooms; his buzz is killed over and over by Don’s comments.
As the day progresses and nobody catches anything, the teasing and bickering grows more intense. And yet, for all of Don’s awful qualities, he is a pretty funny storyteller. And one of his more outlandish stories finally warms up Ed’s cold shoulder.
But just as soon as things start thawing in the boat, one act causes everything to come crashing down in a violent storm. And at the same time, Ed’s line snags a giant. THE Giant sturgeon that lives south of the Pumphouse.
The book was an easy read. The chapters were short and the action moved along very briskly. Although the first chapter felt a little sluggish, by the time the story really kicked in, I couldn’t put the book down.
For the record, I don’t care about fishing at all. But a good story is a good story regardless. It’s not a masterpiece; it’s not going to win any awards, but it’s clearly a story that Les had to get out, and I’m glad he did.
I also appreciated that he gives Donny the line from Primus’ greatest hits album. When Donny tells a joke to the boys that no one laughs, he busts out: Well, they can’t all be zingers. (The book and CD were both released in 2006, so I’m not sure which came first).