This album was self-released in 1997, but then the guys at Constellation took it and released it in a beautiful package in 1999. And Constellation did it right: CD gatefold jacket made from 100lb. textured uncoated cardstock with foil-embossed text and window cut. Three different two-sided duotone insert cards can be interchanged to show through the front cover window cut. Snazzy!
So this album was recorded in two different locations and it feels a bit more like compilation of their songs than an album proper. This doesn’t detract from the music at all, it’s just not as cohesive as their later releases.
“1978” has a raw sound. It builds slowly, with waves of sorta static getting slowly louder for the first minute. And then the drums kick in. They sound very “live” and crisp. There’s a jazzy pattern accompanied by an unusual bass line. At 3 minutes a big guitar riff breaks up the droning feeling as it rocks out and then disappears just as quickly. There’s some saxophone and trippy headphone panning going on, too. This sets in motion a more funky bass line that runs like a lead instrument through the proceedings. There’s some noise bashing around at 8 minutes and a even wah wahed guitar solo at 9. These occasional disruptions give an interesting melodic sense to this otherwise droney (in a good way) 10-minute song.
“Le’espalace” feels a little warmer. It opens with some analog synth trippy sounds and a pretty guitar riff. This is a lovely song that meanders around. The song gets more dense with a synth taking over the guitar line and another synth playing a contrasting melody, too.
“If I Only…” is 7 minutes long. It also has a rawer feel. It’s more staccato with keyboard notes propelling the song forward. There’s a trippy middle section with a nice drum breakdown. It stops at about 5 & a half minutes and resumes with a fuller sound as it rides to the end. “Highway 420” continues with that more raw sound. It opens with washes of synths like Tangerine Dream or something. There’s also a slick guitar line that begins about 3 minutes in. It’s all rather atmospheric.
Do Make Say Think have always had a bit of jazz at their roots. That’s evident in “Dr. Hooch” which has jazzy cymbals and slow atmospheric guitars. About half way through, a wild synth riff comes in and takes over the song for a minute or so before returning to the atmospheric sound.
“Disco & Haze” is a warmer song that slowly builds with a spacey keyboard section. Around 3 minutes in (of 9) a wah-wah’d guitar takes over—seemingly unrelated. At 5 and a half minutes the song crashes into a big noisy “chorus,” probably the loudest thing on the record. There’s a noisy skronking sax solo to accompany this as well and it ends with washes of keyboards. It really sounds like nothing else on the record.
“Onions” is only 90 seconds long. It’s a simple keyboard riff with echo and little variation. It’s an odd inclusion but maybe serves as a palette cleanser before the nearly 20 minute final song. “The Fare to Get There” is warm with spacey keyboard washes and occasional woodwinds–there’s even flute at the end. It’s 20 minutes long so just sit back and let it unfold over you. Around 5 minutes in, eerie and spooky drums begin. Then there’s some reverbed guitar chords and echoed notes which keep the song going. About three-quarters of the way through, they add a simple guitar riff that continues for several minutes. With a couple of minutes left the song introduces some flutes as it mellows it way to close.
This is a pretty impressive debut. The band knows the sound they are going for and they definitely achieve it. Later records are more consistent (and consistently better), but this (especially the opening track) is a great place to start with this band.
[READ: February 7, 2016] Alan’s War
One of the things that First Second hoped for in their ten-year anniversary was that people might read books that they wouldn’t normally. And boy was this ever one. The title didn’t sound very appealing to me–I don’t really like war stories all that much. And frankly I didn’t even know what to expect from the story, really. Certainly not what I got!
This is the story of a man named Alan Cope. And the origin of the story is as fascinating as the story itself (almost). Turns out that Emmanuel Guibert met Alan Cope in the street in France. Guibert asked the older for directions in June of 1994. Cope was 69, Gilbert was 30. They struck up a conversation. And soon after, Cope began telling of his experiences in World War II. What happened to him during and after the war and why this American solider now living in France.
Guibert asked if he could draw the stories that Cope was telling him and Cope said yes. So this is a story of World War II but it is unlike any story I have ever read. There is very little in the way of “familiar” WWII stuff in it. Cope wasn’t in any of the major battles, he never came under heavy fire. Rather, Cope had a fairly easy war, but he had a ton of stories that were interesting, funny, sometime unbelievable. And the number of famous people he encountered is pretty surprising.
I enjoyed this story so much. On a side note, My father was in WWII and he also had a fairly easy war, although he was in the Pacific, he was on a small island that saw no action.. I wouldn’t say he enjoyed the war, but he came out with good experience and good friends, which is what Cope did, too. My fathers stories were far less amazing than Cope’s, but it goes to show that everyone has interesting stories and that no amount of film or history channel commemoration will ever cover everyone’s story.
The other fascinating thing is that Cope is American, and yet he told his story in French (he’s been living there for decades). Then it was eventually translated back into English by Kathryn Pulver. Fascinating
This is a long book and a long read. It took me a couple of weeks to get through it. Not because it is hard but because it is just full of information and detail.
The first chapter tells the story of Cope’s enlistment. There’s a very funny story about their train pulling away while he and some friends went out to get provisions. He talks about learning to drive a tank (he couldn’t dive a car, but the tank instructions were so different it didn’t matter). He spends some time in New York City before shipping out. He even gets alienated from his parents–and pretty much never spoke to them again. It was on his 20th birthday (hard to believe all of what happened to him happened when he was 19) he shipped out to France.
Part II covers his experiences in France. He didn’t see a lot of action (again there was some weird transportation issues). He tells about the people in his regiment, giving special notice to a few of the men that he became friends with. He tells of Polski, the guy who drove the tank. He would drive into villages at super speed and clip some of the buildings. It terrified everyone.
And then Cope was in Germany. But he arrived as the war was heading to a close. Most of the Germans had surrendered, but he did see some terrible sights–a man getting over by a tank was especially horrifying.
There’s a funny sequence which involve him meeting General Patton (or not).
The third part of the story is post-war and talks a lot about people he met: women and men and even children who impacted his stay there.
As the story unfolds, Cope began working with a chaplain. He talks about being a civilian in military clothes and traveling the country side doing various jobs for the military.
After the war he returned to the States with the intention of getting married and becoming a minister. Neither of those things happened. He also gave up on America because he felt that no one was interested in real thought-it was all very superficial.
He made friends with people who knew famous people. He eventually received casual letters from Henry Miller (!) and Octavio Paz (!).
The last few chapters tie everything up–the people he knew and lost touch with and then found again. And the people who simply left his life.
Alan was closely involved in the creation of the book–advising on Guibert’s drawings and encouraging or asking for changes along the way . Unfortunately, Alan died in 1999 before the book was published. But he must be very proud of the result. It’s truly a beautiful book. Guibert’s art is really amazing. Some pictures are nearly photographs.
The end pages include photos from Alan’s collection which really show how much care Guibert took in rendering the drawings. It’s an excellent addition to anyone interested in the more personal side of World War II.