SOUNDTRACK: DANGER MOUSE AND SPARKLEHORSE present: Dark Night of the Soul (2010).
Seems like most things that Danger Mouse touches involve lawsuits. I’m not entirely sure why this disc had such a hard time seeing the light of day. But it is due for a proper release in July. Although by now, surely everyone has obtained a copy of the music, so why would anyone give EMI any money for the disc (since they hid it away in the first place).
The name that is not listed above is David Lynch, who is an important contributor to the project. He creates all the visuals (and the visuals in the book that was the original release format). He also contributed vocals to two tracks on the CD. (His vocals are weird and spacey, just like him…and if you remember his voice from Twin Peaks, just imagine Gordon singing (but with lots of effects).
The rest of the disc is jam packed with interesting singers: Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips), Gruff Rhys (from Super Furry Animals), Jason Lytle (from Grandaddy) on my two favorite tracks, Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes), Black Francis, Iggy Pop, James Mercer (from The Shins), Nina Persson (from The Cardigans), Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt.
I’m not sure if Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous wrote the music already knowing who the singers were going to be, but musically the tracks work very well. And yet, despite the different sounds by the different singers, the overall tone and mood of the disc is very consistent: processed and scratchy, melodies hidden deep under noises and effects. Even the more “upbeat” songs (James Mercer, Nina Persson) are dark meanderings.
It took me a few listens before I really saw how good this album was. On the surface, it’s a samey sounding disc. But once you dig beneath, there’s some really great melodies, and it’s fascinating how well the songs stay unified yet reflect the individual singers.
EMI is going to have to pull out all the stops to make it a worthy purchase for those of us who have already found the disc. Since The Lynch book was way overpriced for my purchase, (and they surely won’t include it with this CD), they need to include at least a few dozen Lynch photos (and more). And with a list price of $19 (NINETEEN!) and an Amazon price of $15, the disc should clean your house and improve your wireless connection too.
[READ: June 1, 2010] Bloom County Vol. 1
Boy, did I ever love Bloom County. Back in high school I had more drawings of Opus and crew in my locker than anything else. (I used to reproduce the cartoons by hand, I was never one of those “cut out of the paper” people.) And so, there are tons of punch lines that I still remember twenty-five years later.
And yet, despite my fondness for the cartoon (and the fact that I owned (and read many times)) all of the collected books, I was amazed at how much of the early strips I had no memory of, at all. True, some of the really early ones are here for the first time in collected form (according to an interview there are hundreds of comics in collected form for the first time in these volumes). But those early 1980 comics…wha?
It’s amazing to read a collection like this all at once and see the Comic develop and grow, test ideas and then dispose of them. It’s also funny (given that this is written in order) that there are some weeks where he has a thread run for just one or two days, and then he throws in say one strip about nuclear disarmament or cockroaches and then moves on. More often than not (as with Doonesbury, the obvious parent to this strip–which he acknowledges) the idea runs for an entire week–six days in total, so these short spurts are funny to see.
It’s also interesting how long it took for him to start doing Sunday color cartoons (and how little fanfare there was when he started them).
What was initially shocking (and seemed a little sad to me) was how many annotation he included about the figures he cited back then. I mean, do people really not know who some of these famous people are? But then, of course, he got to some that I had forgotten or didn’t even know (or didn’t remember how just how yucky they were–James Watt, shame on you!). So, not everyone can keep track of minor political figures or celebrities, so the notes are very handy.
The early days started with Milo playing football, of all things. He lives with his grandfather, a militaristic general. And he has a dog (!). There’s some interesting feminist theory thrown about (the men are mostly louts). And there’s brushes with insecurity (although insecurities about forthcoming puberty seems odd).
Slowly, over the years, new, familiar characters were added. First Binkley. Then Steve Dallas (who dated Milo’s teacher, Bobbi–she is introduced as something of a main character, although I don’t remember her). Then comes Cutter John. And then finally we get Opus, introduced without fanfare as Binkley’s new pet.
And then, with lots of fanfare, comes Bill the Cat, introduced proudly on a Sunday color spread. Hail hail the gang is pretty much all here.
It’s funny to see the continuation of characters that I had pretty much forgotten about (Milo’s grandfather, for instance). It’s also funny to see Opus slowly morph over the months from a really funny looking, kinda dumpy penguin into the adorably funny-looking penguin that everyone knows and loves.
So what topics were going on in Bloom County back then? Well, despite its obvious political stances, the strip is not overtly political yet. There’s some general mockery of figures, but it’s not like Doonesbury by any stretch. I think the whole key to Bloom County was its otherness from society. In which they could look at politics from a distance, without getting their hands too dirty.
Having said that there were many many topics covered that can only be described as political (especially Milo as a reporter(!) attacking the local Senator). There’s not a lot of specific politics, just general abuse of politicians. And of course, the major No Nukes attitude. And when he did attack political actions, his main point was always humor (like hiring the air traffic controllers to work as Santa’s elves).
But let’s not forget that he certainly had it in for the Reagan administration (and the country’s shift to the right). Anyone longing for the good ol’ days of Reagan should take a gander at some of these strips to remember some of the day-to-day shenanigans of The Gipper’s empire.
Breathed was also clearly fascinated by media and pop culture (especially TV). There are many, many TV jokes. But there’s also jokes about things we see on TV: Shows, commercials, talk. He writes in his notes that the publishers didn’t know what to do when he mentioned Leave It To Beaver because (and this is hard to believe) no one had even joked about a TV show before). And, of course, the umpteen jokes about Burger King and “Have It Your Way.” There’s even a joke about “Be a Pepper” which needed a footnote.
But by and large the biggest fascination seems to be with the Royal Wedding. The Charles/Diana courtship, marriage and upcoming baby take up a shocking amount of space in this strip.
Even though I was somewhat aghast at the fact that he had to footnote his cartoons, the notes are very informative and educational. But probably the best ones are the ones that explain the evolution of the strip (the aha! moment about Opus, the blatant thievery of Doonesbury, etc).
There are going to be 5 (FIVE!) volumes in this library (I had no idea it ran for so long). And, while I know the later ones will be more familiar, I’m still pretty exciting about hunting them down (vol 2 is recently published, vol 3 is due late this year).
Sometimes, when you get older, you realize that the things you loved as a kid actually kinda sucked. It’s nice when things don’t.