I’ve been a fan of the Rheostatics for a long time. I recall traveling to Toronto from New Jersey back in the 90s and tracking down Introducing Happiness at Sam the Record Man. And then later driving around the Niagara Falls region listening to the strange and wonderful album. I’ve enjoyed all of the subsequent albums.
You were a unique band with a unique sound. I was sad when you split up, even if that meant that now there were three solo projects to enjoy. Of course, there’s been a lot of bands that have broken up, it’s just part of being a fan. But the thing about the Rheostatics breakup is that you three (or four or five or six) have remained friendly. You’ve done a few reunion shows since the breakup, which I think that’s super cool. It’s especially cool because RheostaticsLive tends to post them after a while so that those of us who don’t make the shows can hear them.
I’ve never seen you guys live, and I imagine I never will. And I’m okay with that. What I’m mostly bummed about is that there will be no more new music from you. You put out approximately ten albums (there’s a few miscellaneous things that are hard to qualify). Those records include soundtracks and live albums and all manner of things, so there’s really seven proper albums (the others are great, don’t get me wrong). Anyhow, my gut feeling is that there needs to be some new Rheostatics music. I know you’ve all been doing solo stuff (and I have it), but sometimes the sum is greater, etc.
Clearly I’m getting at that it’s time for a new album from the Rheostatics. Before you scoff, I’m not talking reuniting for a grand tour, or even any tour, I’m not even talking a live show. Heck, I’m not even talking about you guys hanging out for more than a couple weeks. Just an album of new songs. A decade ago it would have been unthinkable that you would get together for the expense of an album without major label support. But now, the cost is so much lower and with your fan base expanding, I assume it would be easy to recoup the expenses.
So what do you say? Since it seems like everyone is still friendly and creative, maybe you can throw some ideas around in the email, see if there’s anything magical happening. Obviously, if there’s nothing there or you just can’t work together, then don’t continue. No one wants to hear a crappy Rheostatics album. But if there’s even a chance that you guys can throw some ideas together and pull out another “Horses,” or “Northern Wish” or “CCYPA,” or holy cow, “King of the Past,” or, hell, anything you’ve done, then it’s absolutely worth it.
I don’t imagine any of you will read this, but maybe if you google yourselves, Tim Vesely, Dave Bidini, Martin Tielli, you’ll see this and think that, yes, dammit, seven records of Rheostatics music is not enough.
Thanks for the music, Paul Debraski.
[READ: January 26, 2014] Worst. Person. Ever.
I told myself that I wanted to read this book before anyone requested it. And I did. In fact, I wanted to finish it before the weekend was up, which I did as well. It’s nice to meet a minor goal.
The last few Coupland books that I read (see last week) were very dark. Since those books, he has broadened his palette somewhat, including writing a children’s book and some more non-fiction. And then we get this. A vulgar, very funny sendup of modern culture. The introduction to the book says that it was based on a short story that he wrote for McSweeney’s #31 called “Survivior.” That story was written in the style known a biji which they described as
Biji is sort of a notebook, which contains legends, anecdotes, scientific notes and local wisdom. Accounts of everyday life mix with travel narratives as well as lists. It is meant to represent a picture of the culture at the time of writing.
I thought that this style was well suited to Coupland, because he includes all of that stuff anyway. And so he has taken that story and fleshed it out into this full novel.
The worst person ever is named Raymond Gunt. He thinks he’s Jason Bourne, but he’s really just a metaphorical extra in a Bourne movie (one who probably gets killed). Gunt is a cameraman working in England. He is divorced. His wife is a raging harpy (at least from his point of view, which is all we see). Since their divorce, she has become wildly successful in television production. He calls in on her at work and she tells him about a job working as a B cameraman on a show called Survival. He knows that the job must suck or she wouldn’t give it to him, but he needs to work. Of course, he is most upset at the thought of having to work with Americans (Americans are majorly abused in this story). Although by its very nature a B cameraman position is not as good as an A cameraman, Ray needs the work, so he agrees to fly to some godforsaken tropical island to watch beautiful people starve and try to have sex with each other.
On his way out of the building he sees a homeless guy. And since Ray is the worst person ever, he kicks him. But the homeless guy is no pushover and he chases after Ray. He catches Ray in an alley and pummels him, ultimately pushing his face into some garbage. The man is Neal and although he acts crazy, he’s actually quite sharp (why he is homeless is not addressed). After forcing Ray to sing the female verses of “Don’t You Want Me,” Neal gives him this sage advice:
“Stop being a cunt to the world and the world will stop being a cunt to you.”
Advice which Ray simply cannot follow.
When ray learns that he needs a personal assistant, um, slave, he immediately thinks of Neal. So he tracks him down, cleans him up and gives him a job. And off they jet to make some TV.
In the course of the book, a series of crazy things–the kind of things only Coupland thinks of–sidetrack them from Ray’s goal. (His real goal is to get laid, naturally). First, it turns out that Neal, despite being homeless, is a total babe magnet. And throughout the story, as he gets cleaner and fresher, he becomes irresistible This, of course, ruins Ray’s plans of bedding hot women. And as Neal gets cleaner, he becomes less and less Rays assistant and more and more Ray’s equal.
They jet to L.A., (he was supposed to be in first class, but was bumped and is super angry). He also gets in trouble with the airport bartender, Lacey, who comes back to haunt him in ways one could never predict. He gets first class seats on the way to Hawaii and he abuses the privilege. Then, because of unforeseen circumstances, they have to stay in Honolulu (with lots of Spam jokes). And because of those unforseen circumstances, they need to recast the show, which means Ray’s wife has to jet down and be around them. And Ray’s wife, Fiona, is delighted to make Ray’s life miserable. Eventually, they head to their intended island and prepare to set up for the show.
In the meantime, the U.S. has decided to destroy the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–in a very imaginative way. And ray is on hand to witness the destruction. This plan causes all manner of trouble with shipping and airplane traffic. Which has the effect of isolating everyone on the Survivor island–causing a literal survival situation.
Raymond Gunt may not be the worst person ever, but he is pretty darn close. He tries to sleep with anyone. He tries to screw over everyone else (but never seems to get anywhere). And he genuinely likes to torment others. And all the while he repeats his mantra, “I consider myself a reasonable enough citizen.” Despite Gunt’s personality, he (or at least the story) is funny enough that you want to keep reading (and maybe even to succeed in some of his designs). And that made this story a major page turner. And it was very funny as well.
Coupland really gets the feel for writing a British story. It doesn’t read like any of his other books and while it’s not full of crazy accents or overt Britishisms, his main character is defiantly not American. As I said, all Americans are fat, sweaty, stupid and prudish in Ray’s mind.
This is also the worst person that Coupland has ever written. He is such an abominable person with an incredibly filthy mouth. The above quote is just one of just many curses in the book. In fact there’s a whole subplot about how prudish Americans are about people saying “fuck” despite their cavalier acceptance of violence and other things (we say friggin, when everyone knows we mean fucking).
I have to assume Coupland had a ton of fun writing this. And it really comes through. I’m also going to guess that a lot of people’ won’t like this book because Gunt is so reprehensible. But if you can get past that, the story is funny, and makes some pointedly humorous observations about a lot of contemporary life. Like “Survival [sic] is a popular reality TV show… You’re either into this show or you’re not. It’s binary.” or “‘Come on Eileen’ was a single in 1982…What’s weird about this song is that it was so huge at the time and now you listen to it and wonder, what the hell was everyone thinking? Well, that’s pop culture for you.” It even has what seem like Wikipedia entries of things throughout in the book (and a YouTube link which is bizarre to see in print).
I really enjoyed this, and I’m thrilled that Coupland has unleashed his inner black humorist.
Watch him talk about the book with Jian Ghomeshi, a great interviewer