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Archive for the ‘Adrian Tomine’ Category

McSweeney’s #13 (2006)

13SOUNDTRACKPARTS & LABOR-Stay Afraid (2006).

partslaborParts & Labor have changed t heir style over the years going from noisemakers who have a melody to being melodious noisemakers.  This album is one of their earlier releases when noise dominated.  Right from the opening you know the album is going to be a challenge.  The first song has pounding drums (electronics that sound like bagpipes) and heavy distorted shouty vocals.  By the end of the songs there is squealing feedback, punk speed drums and screaming distorted vocals (complete with space sound effects).  It’s an aggressive opening for sure.  Song two opens with a long low rumbling and then “Drastic Measures” proves to be another fast-paced song.

“A Pleasant Stay” is 5 minutes long (most of the rest of the album’s songs are about 3 minutes).  It continues in this fast framework, although it has a bit more open moments of just drums or just vocals.  The way the band plays with feedback in the last minute or so of the song  very cool.

“New Buildings” has a hardcore beat with a guitar part that sounds sped up.  “Death” is a thumping song (the drums are very loud on this disc), while “Timeline” is two minutes of squealing guitars.  “Stay Afraid” has a false start (although who knows why–how do these guys know if the feedback sounds are what  they wanted anyhow?).  The song ends with 30 seconds of sheer noise).  The album ends with the 5 minute “Changing of the Guard” a song not unlike the rest of the album–noisy with loud drumming and more noise.

The album is certainly challenging, it’s abrasive and off putting, but there;s surprising pleasures and melodies amidst the chaos.   Indeed, after a listen or two you start to really look forward to the hooks.  If you like this sort of thing, this album s a joy.  It’s also quite brief, so it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: April 15, 2011] McSweeney’s #13

I have been looking forward to reading this issue for quite some time.  Indeed, as soon as I received it I wanted to put aside time for it.  It only took eight years.  For this is the fabled comics issue.  Or as the cover puts it: Included with this paper: a free 264 page hardcover.  Because the cover is a fold-out poster–a gorgeous broadside done by Chris Ware called “God.”  And as with all Chris Ware stories, this is about life, the universe and everything.  On the flip side of the (seriously, really beautiful with gold foil and everything) Ware comic are the contributors’ list and a large drawing that is credited to LHOOQ which is the name of Marcel Duchamp’s art piece in which he put a mustache on the Mona Lisa.  It’s a kind of composite of the history of famous faces in art all done in a series of concentric squares.  It’s quite cool.

So, yes, this issue is all about comics.  There are a couple of essays, a couple of biographical sketches by Ware of artists that I assume many people don’t know and there’s a few unpublished pieces by famous mainstream artists.  But the bulk of the book is comprised of underground (and some who are not so underground anymore) artists showing of their goods.  It’s amazing how divergent the styles are for subject matter that is (for the most part) pretty similar: woe is me!  Angst fills these pages.  Whether it is the biographical angst of famous artists by Brunetti or the angst of not getting the girl (most of the others) or the angst of life (the remaining ones), there’s not a lot of joy here. Although there is a lot of humor.  A couple of these comics made it into the Best American Comics 2006.

There’s no letters this issue, which makes sense as the whole thing is Chris Ware’s baby.  But there are two special tiny books that fit nearly into the fold that the oversized cover makes.  There’s also two introductions.  One by Ira Glass (and yes I’d rather hear him say it but what can you do).  And the other by Ware.  Ware has advocated for underground comics forever and it’s cool that he has a forum for his ideas here.  I’m not sure I’ve ever read prose from him before. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DINOSAUR JR.-Live at the 9:30 Club, Washington D.C. October 8, 2009 (2009).

This was one of the first shows I downloaded from NPR.  I’ve been a fan of Dinosaur Jr. since my friend Al turned me on to Green Mind back in college.

This is an amazing show created by the original Dino Jr. members.  This tour is in support of their second album since reuniting, Farm. This set-list is an outstanding mix of old songs, new songs, Barlow-sung songs and even some songs from when Barlow and Murph weren’t in the band.  (Green Mind is still my favorite album by them).

When the band reunited there was much joy, and I’ve said in reviews of the newer albums, I’m not entirely sure why.  I mean, Dino Jr has always been about Mascis, and it’s not like Barlow is such an unusual bassist (although Murph’s drumming is always solid).  I’ve nothing against Barlow (I love Sebadoh and Folk Implosion) or Murph, it just seems odd to get excited about having them back in the band aside from nostalgic reasons.

Having said that, the band sounds amazing (and yes, Barlow does get to sing on “Imagination Blind”).  What never really came across to me until hearing all of these great songs live was that Mascis has always been a great pop song writer.  These songs are catchy as hell. But Mascis buries them under loud squalling guitars and a voice that is almost whiny, almost off-key, a total slacker voice.  (But you’ll notice it is never actually off-key.  He must work very hard at that.)

By the nd of the show Mascis chastises the audience for not moving (we obviously can’t see what they’re doing), saying he forgets that people don’t move in Washington, D.C.  But during the encore break, NPR host, Bob Boilen, points out that Mascis himself doesn’t move either–he just stands in front of that wall of Marshall stacks (Boilen wonders how he can hear anything anymore).  And looking at the pictures it’s comical the way he looks, surrounded by amps.  The picture above doesn’t fully do it justice, but check out the extra photos at the NPR page.  And while you’re there, listen to this show. It is amazing.  For a total slacker, Mascis can rock a guitar solo like nobody’s business.

[READ: July 20, 2011] The Best American Non Required Reading

I’d been meaning to read this series for years (yup, Eggers fan), But I have a hard time starting “collections” because I feel like I’d rather be reading a novel.  Nevertheless, I have most of these Nonrequired books, so it seemed like I should dive into one and see what it was like (I don’t think the year really matters all that much–some of the articles are topical but most are not exactly).  Then Sarah said this would be a great book to read on vacation because it’s all short essays, and she was right.  It was perfect for late nights when I wanted something to read but didn’t feel like getting involved in the novel I was reading.

DAVE EGGERS-Introduction
Eggers’ introduction is actually a partial short story about kids who go swimming in pools around town. It reminded me of the opening of Life After God by Douglas Coupland, but of course, lots of kids did that so I’m not saying it was “lifted” from DC.  The story “ends” (it doesn’t really end so much as stop) with an interesting scene between two unlikely kids who get caught.

After this story Eggers includes these three notes about the collection: It’s not scientific, It’s alphabetical, and We had a lot of help with this.  Of the three, it’s the middle one that’s most useful because Eggers says that you shouldn’t necessarily read them in order just because they are printed this way: “In the first half of this collection, you get a good deal of hard journalism, primarily about war and refugees, from Afghanistan to the Sudan, followed immediately by a number of less serious pieces, about malls and Marilyn Manson.  We didn’t group anything by theme , and won’t be offended if you skip around.”  This was good to know (not that we needed the permission of course), but yes, the beginning of the book is pretty heavy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DO MAKE SAY THINK-Other Truths [CST062] (2009).

I’ve always enjoyed Do Make Say Think’s CDs.  They play instrumentals that are always intriguing and which never get dull.

But this CD far exceeds anything they have done so far (and  they’ve done some great work).   There are only four tracks, and they range from 8 to 12 minutes long.  Each track is named for a word in the band’s name: Do, Make, Say, Think.  And each one is a fully realized mini epic.

“Do” sounds like a gorgeous Mogwai track.  While “Make” has wonderfully diverse elements: a cool percussion midsection and a horn-fueled end section that works perfectly with the maniacal drumming.  “Say” is another Mogwai-like exploration, although it is nicely complemented by horns.  It also ends with a slow jazzy section that works in context but is somewhat unexpected. Finally, “Think” closes the disc with a delightful denouement.  It’s the slowest (and shortest) track, and it shows that even slowing down their instrumentals doesn’t make them dull.

It’s a fantastic record from start to finish.  This is hands down my favorite Constellation release in quite some time.

[READ: December 2009 – January 13, 2010] McSweeney’s #33.

The ever-evolving McSweeney’s has set out to do the unlikely: they printed Issue #33 as a Sunday Newspaper.  It is called The San Francisco Panorama and, indeed, it is just like a huge Sunday newspaper. It has real news in (it is meant to be current as of December 7, 2009).  As well as a Sports section, a magazine section and even comics!

[DIGRESSION] I stopped reading newspapers quite some time ago.  I worked for one in college and have long been aware that the news is just something to fill the space between ads.  I do like newspapers in theory, and certainly hope they don’t all go away but print issues are a dying breed.  When I think about the waste that accompanies a newspaper, I’m horrified.  Sarah and I even did a Sunday New York Times subscription for a while, but there were half a dozen sections that we would simply discard unopened.  And, realistically that’s understandable.  Given how long it took me  to read all of the Panorama, if you actually tried to read the whole Sunday paper, you’d be finished the following Sunday (or even two Sundays later).

Their lofty goal here was to show what print journalism can still do. And with that I concur heartily.  Even if I don’t read the newspaper, the newspapers as entities are worth saving.  Because it is pretty much only print journalism that finds real, honest to God, worthy news stories.  TV news is a joke.  There is virtually nothing of value on network TV.  Fox News is beyond a joke.  CNBC is sad (although Rachel Maddow is awesome!) and even CNN, the originator of all of this 24 hour news nonsense still can’t fill their airtime with non-sensationalized news.

Obviously, there are some decent internet sites, but for the most part they don’t have the budget to support real news investigation.  You either get sensationalized crap like Drudge or rebroadcasts of real news.

So, print is the last bastion of news.  And you can see that in journalistic pieces in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Walrus, Prospect and, yes, in newspapers.

But enough.  What about THIS newspaper?  Oh and unlike other McSweeney’s reviews I’ve done, there is NO WAY that I am writing a thorough comment on everything in here.  There’s just way too much.  Plus, there are many sections that are just news blurbs.  Larger articles and familiar authors will be addressed, however.  [UPDATE: January 18]: If, however, like Alia Malek below, you bring it to my attention that I’ve left you out (or gotten something wrong!) drop me a line, and I’ll correct things.

There is in fact a Panorama Information Pamphlet which answers a lot of basic questions, like why, how and how often (just this once, they promise!). There’s also a Numbers section which details the size, scope and cost of making this (it shows that with an initial start up, anyone could make a newspaper if they talked enough about what the readers were interested in). (more…)

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