This song started off a recent All Songs Considered podcast and it starts with a bang–a big wall of fuzzy guitars and the vocals mixed way back in the song. It has a very early 90s vibe–a slow song despite the loud buzzy guitars.
It reminds me of a lot of bands from that 90s era–Swervedriver, Screaming Trees–although it has a few moments (bridges maybe) in which the guitars plays faster, almost a heavy metal riff. And yet the chorus is expansive (if still distorted)–bringing together a lot of interesting elements. And I love the way the song ends with nearly 30 seconds of feedback.
I definitely want to hear more from these guys.
[READ: August 9, 2013] “The Idiot President”
This story seems to be referenced in Alarcón’s recent short story “Collectors.” In “Collectors” we meet Henry, the author of the play “The Idiot President” and we hear how he was jailed for performing the political piece.
In this story, apparently written five years before “Collectors,” we meet an actor who has worked with Henry and who has acted in “The Idiot President” (which was well received by audiences, especially the big reveal at the end). They were in an acting troupe called Diciembre and for this “tour” three of them–Henry, the narrator and Paralarga–went to small villages to perform the play.
While Henry and Patalarga were in Diciembre for real, the narrator knew he was going to be leaving the country soon. His brother lived in California and promised him a visa…soon. So the narrator just assumed that nothing he did had any real consequence. And while traveling around and acting seemed like a good idea, doing it in the winter with very little in the way of provisions was not the best idea. He lost weight and was always chilled and sickly.
There are a number of brief episodes in this story (which I assume is actually an excerpt). The first involves Tania. Tania is Patalarga’s second cousin and Henry’s ex-wife (from many years ago). After their performance in Tania’s city, she sings for them during the after party (with a beautiful voice that the narrator falls in love with). It is clear that the narrator is bewitched by her–while the other two just seem bemused by everything. She takes pity on him and walks him back to his bed. And just when he thinks she is “interested,” she makes it clear that she was just walking him to his bed.
But the centerpiece of this excerpt is the performance they give to the local miners. The miners are the poor bedraggled workers in the area They have nothing and earn nothing. Indeed, when Diciembre is set to perform for them they learn that there is no electricity for the miners–but the wealthy people on top of the hill have more than enough. Diciembre wants to perform but cannot do so in the dark. So they improvise–using the miner’s helmet lamps.
The middle of the story talks about the performance and what it is like to act in it–how the miner’s lights were good indicators of the interest of the men–when they grew bored, the lights moved. And how later in his life he would remember that as a way of keeping any acting fresh.
The story suddenly jumps a few years ahead. The visa never materialized and the narrator is still loitering around, looking for work and occasionally getting scripts for soap operas.
Then he runs into Henry. There’s a funny moment about Paralarga and then Henry asks about that visa–the narrator was always going on and on about getting out of here, it drove Henry and Paralarga crazy. So why is he still here? And the narrator tells a version of the truth: “everything got so good around here”
I’m curious to see how this ties to Henry’s later story in “Collectors”– was this all after the events of that excerpt (I imagine so, but maybe not). I do hope the book gets written someday, it will be nice to piece these things together.
For ease of searching I include: Alarcon.