The folks on NPR played this song as part of a “new songs” segment and I couldn’t get over how noisy and chaotic it was. I had always thought of Akron/Family as being kind of an indie folk outfit (I know they were on Swans’ label, but I still thought of them as more folkie than noisy). So I was surprised by just how chaotic and wild this song was.
It opens with a distorted, echoey guitar that settles into a ringing sound which reminds me of Fucked Up. Then the drums come in (tribal and various) until it all settles down into a thumping song with a kind of spastic guitar riff. Then the vocals come in–full bodied and sounding like more than one person. And after the first verse, it seems like everything that happened before happens again–this time all at once. But now, the music occasionally pauses to let the vocals come to the fore. And at one point everything stops and a chorus of voices sings a nice melody as the band slowly resumes playing. And this echoing fugue-like music continues apace until it all kind of slows down and then ends.
It’s quite a challenging song and one that I found rewarding after just a few listens. I have to reevaluate what I think this band sounds like, and I definitely have to listen to the rest of this album.
[READ: May 1, 2013] “The Night of the Satellite”
What I really liked about this story was the way that Boyle plays with two ideas of randomness. The first is the possibility of a piece of a satellite falling out of the sky and landing on you. The second is of running into a couple in several different and unrelated locations.
As the story starts, a couple (graduate-school aged) are excited that the summer is upon them. They plan to take a trip to visit some friends (with their dog) to get away from it all. En route they see a car pulled over at the side of the road facing the wrong way. The young man is sitting on the hood, the young woman is crying near the road. Mallory tells him to stop the car. He is reluctant but does so (childlocking the doors). The girl says that her boyfriend is a jerk. She is crying but says she is not hurt. The boyfriend is yelling across the road that she should just get in the car and leave with them. But after a few minutes, she decides not too. So he drives on despite Mallory’s protests.
She is super pissed for the rest of the ride and as soon as they arrive at their friends’ house, Mallory commandeers a bike and Anneliese goes with her, biking back to the girl to make sure she’s okay (why they didn’t take the car I’m not sure).
While they are gone, the men (who are confused by the women’s anger) have a crisis of their own. Their dogs (there are three total) climb under the fence and chase the neighbor’s sheep. They do some damage to the sheep and the men themselves are mildly injured while trying to stop the dogs. By the time they get the dogs settled, the women have come back and say that the girl and her boyfriend drove off just as they arrived.
And things remain not good between them (although the friends don’t seem too upset by the whole thing). They all go out to a bar that night and while the narrator is getting drinks, the man from the stopped car, dressed exactly the same, shoves him from behind, causing the narrator to spill his drinks and cause a general commotion. When he returns to the table, Mallory is mad that he took so long and came back without drinks. Basically the rest of their vacation is spoiled.
And when they return back home, there is still a lot of friction between them. They decide to go to the park to walk the dog and that’s when the piece from the satellite falls from the sky and hits the narrator on the shoulder. At first he wondered if it was the guy from the car pushing him again, but then he saw that it was a small piece of meshlike substance which did no damage to him (it’s not even hot). But he is amazed by this coincidence–that in all the world, a satellite piece lands on him. He saves the piece and puts it on the bookshelf with plans of calling NASA. She does not believe him, or at least she says she doesn’t, even though she was there. She says it’s a part of some machine or lawnmower. This adds to their tensions and causes more friction.
As the story ends the narrator has a decision to make about how he is going to deal with everything that’s been going on, and while he’s thinking he sees that same gray car that the couple was in. Will that impact his decision? I
thought this story was really interesting, and I was delighted at the directions it went. Boyle continues to impress me with his short stories–he is very prolific and his quality remains undiminished.