Unlike the previous 2 chapters, this album was created entirely by Roberts. She is credited with playing saxophone, Korg Monotron and a 1900s upright piano. But like the others, the tracks bleed into each other and seem to end indiscriminately.
This disc also quotes from The Star Spangled Banner, Beautiful Dreamer, The Pledge of Allegiance, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Lift Every Voice and Sing and All the Pretty Horses. As well as samples from Malcolm X and a field recording of a travel through Mississippi, Louisiana Tennessee and NYC.
The first song, “All is Written” is 10 minutes long. She sings quietly and starkly (voice breaking) while spoken words overlap behind her voice (and the saxophone and drones). Her singing is at times pained and strained—aching with the truth of her words. As “The Good Book” begins, the spoken word continues but the main sound is an industrial throbbing. Near the end, a new metallic sound comes screeching in and then resolves into a kind of drone while angelic voices takes over for song three, “Clothed to the Land, Worn by the Sea” which is more pleasant.
“Dreamer of Dreams” resumes some spoken word and synth noises while two overlapping tracks of sax solos play. “Always Say Your Name” has some more drones and a wild sax solo. “Nema Nema Nema” experiments with analog synth noises while she sings a pretty melody with other voices circulating behind her. “A Single Man o’War” has a high pitched drone. which is accompanied by several three note chants.
“As Years Roll By” is spoken words, with drone and church bells. And lots of “Amens.” “This Land is Yours” has lots of voices speaking and overlapping. It ends with someone singing “come away with me come away,” which segues into “Come Away” with a noisy background and spoken voices talking about Zanzibar. Then there is a keening, pained voice singing the middle. “JP” is a speech about he slave trade.
Although this album is difficult, it is more manageable than her other releases in this series. But manageability clearly isn’t her plan, she is making a statement and it is exciting and frightening to listen to.
[READ: August 10, 2016] Original Fake
You should never judge a book by its cover. But I really liked the cover of this book a lot. And the title was intriguing, so I grabbed it off the new book shelf.
And what a great, fun story it was.
The book opens with Frankie sneaking into his school at 6:30 AM. No one else is there except maybe the janitor. He is sneaking into the school to do a small amount of vandalism. But the vandalism is not your typical vandalism. On the school hallway is a mural that is currently being painted. Frankie is an artist but he was not asked to paint the mural (no one really knows he does art). The mural is a of a lake and farm fields and all that. And he has decided to tag the mural. He has painted a water-skiing abominable snowman giving the hang loose sign in the corner of the lake. “He’s maybe six inches tall, and I kind of put him close to a rock so he’d blend in, but if you get close, its pretty obvious he doesn’t belong. He’s completely amazing.”
Amid the telling of the scene is a drawing of Frankie painting the snowman–this book is full of illustrations by Johnson. Most of the illustrations complement the story but a couple actually tell the story, too.
When Frankie is finished (just before students start piling into school), he looks up and sees that Rory Carlson is watching him. She walks to the mural and he walks away, hoping she didst see what he was doing.
Rory is the prettiest girl in his grade. She’s in art club and is in Frankie’s Spanish class. She has no idea who he is, but he loves the smell of her hair (he sits behind her).
Frankie works at Pizza Vendetta, a crazy name for a pizza place but one that I like quite a lot. Their thing is that they put the toppings on the pizza in the shape of a giant V (with other toppings around the sides as well). As such, every chapter in the book is called “V is for.. Vanish or Vagabond or Validation.” Everyone loves Pizza Vendetta and all the kids from school hang out there on a Friday night, each in their own clique. And one of those kids is Frankie’s sister Lou.
The first page of the book has a graffiti drawing of his sister and she is all graffiti’d up with the words, “She’s my sister. I can’t stand her” “painted” on the page. And we soon find out why he hates her so much. Lou is a theater geek–she dresses in tulle dance skirts like all the time. She is an artiste and his parents love her for it. (More on them in a moment). Lou’s popularity is not what bugs Frankie. There are two major events in his life that she has been a part of. The first was soon after she was born–a moment that he remembers but his parents may not (it has something to do with the Rocky Horror Picture Show). The second is more painful.
There was a contest for an art camp. The winning submission got a scholarship to the camp. Frankie drew a painting. Before he was able to show it to his parents (he had to make it perfect), his sister copied it straight out and showed it to them. When he turned his in next, they assumed he copied her. She won the scholarship. He didn’t go to camp. And he never showed anyone his artwork again.
The action of the story revolves around a bit of revenge against his sister. But there’s something much bigger going on as well. Their city has a street artist known as Uncle Epic. The book is aware of artists like Banksy and it plays off our understanding of public art installations. Epic had initially done kind of graffiti things like Banksy but he soon relented and stopped doing vandalism type art. Rather, he did public art that could easily (or maybe not) be removed without causing any damage to property. He’s a good guy, a legend, and he is Frankie’s hero.
One night a boy in a skirt named David approaches Frankie at work. He says they need to borrow his delivery van (long story short, his parents had a van for their business and bought a new one, so he inherited the old one). It turns out that David is Rory’s little brother (he is a freshman). The two of them are asking to borrow the van for an art project. And they slowly reveal that the art project is being done by their Uncle, Uncle Epic. THE Uncle Epic (and he is really their uncle). Frankie can’t believe that he can help Epic with a project.
They go to Epic’s garage studio and the siblings tell him what the project involves. They ask hm to stay and help and he winds up working in their garage until nearly first light. When he gets home, his parents are waiting for him. And here’s where the book goes from good to great. His parents (on sideline from their real job) are actors. His mother does Frank Sinatra songs and his father plays Frank N’ Furter (at midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show performances). That’s why he is named Frankie–they both act as Franks! When he gets home they are both in character–so they are both cross-dressed. Hilarious!
The next day, the art is revealed in the city center and Lou is furious that Frankie got in trouble because it puts more parental scrutiny on her.
Frankie has but one refuge in his house–an attic room that every one has pretty much forgotten about. In it he creates his art. Currently his art involves a mannequin that he has dressed up as a man and a woman and has used images from magazines to make a face for him/her. He calls him/her Donna Russel. This room is his sanctuary and Donna Russel is the only “person” he can talk to.
The next day in school, Rory sits next to him instead of in front of him. She is very cool and is actually going to talk to him Then he notices that rather than paying attention in class, she is knitting–a very very long item–right in class. She tells him about a video they have to watch.
The video is of a Flash Rob. I love the idea that the author thought of this even if the actual thing is horrible. A flash rob is when people get together in one place dressed the same way and then rob it. In this first one, they are all dressed in Victorian costumery. Which is again pretty awesome, until they actually start robbing the convenience store. As they are watching the video, Frankie notices something about one of the people. He knows one of them. And now he has some leverage.
Frankie decides to make mannequins of the people who did the robbery (based on what he can figure out from the video). He cuts up and collages pictures of students from the year book, dresses the mannequins in somewhat appropriate clothing and then puts the mannequin down by the convenient store. He makes up a Twitter account called Miss Vixen and posts pictures of his “ghoulies” as he calls them. And soon Miss Vixen has a huge following. And someone else is taking the fall.
The story progresses. Epic’s art keeps getting bigger and bigger and Frankie is staying out later. He begins to get in real trouble from his parents. At the same time, his ghoulies are causing more trouble in the community–and people think that maybe Epic is responsible for them or for the Flash Robs–the last thing Frankie wants is for Epic to get in trouble!
During all of this, Rory is getting more and more turned on by Frankie. She starts getting up close and personal with him, including a scene (which is done in illustrations that threw me off because it shows the plot without any accompanying text) in which Lou sees them getting busy in the van. David tries to warn him about her–although her reputation for throwing away men is pretty well-known at this point.
The threads are obviously going to come to a head–his van has been seen near some of Epic’s works (but there’s lots of plain white vans in the neighborhood). And the events of the Flash Robs (more are happening–copycats or the same kids?) are starting to impact his home life as well. Not to mention how much trouble he is getting into with his parents for disobeying curfew and sneaking out all hours of he night. And there’s the whole matter of Uncle Epic…just who is this guy anyhow? And does he appreciate how much Frankie is doing for him?
And what and bout David in the skirt (it’s a subplot that is minor but is also really major because of how well it is handled).
I really enjoyed this story a lot–the plots weaved wonderfully and the conclusion was really quite perfect. The book seemed to make a big deal about the mixed media aspect of the story. I didn’t really feel it had that big of an impact on the story (and in fact I didn’t really like the way Frankie and especially Rory were drawn–that’s not how I pictured them at all). But it was still kind of cool–especially the dream sequence that was done all in graphic style. I feel like perhaps the book could have used more of the graphic story telling so that the other parts were more than just illustrations for the book. But that’s okay, I liked them as illustrations too.
I’m intrigued by what else Cronn-Mills had written and I’m wondering if these books are as enjoyable or if they are more serious: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children; The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind.