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Archive for the ‘D.T. Max’ Category

dtmaxSOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS & KEITH RICHARDS-“Shenandoah” (2013).

roguesgallery-f8be47f3887d51de57ea842a129f0a722e53ef74-s1This tune comes from the album Son Of Rogues Gallery.  The album is, of all things, a sequel to the album Rogues Gallery.  The full title is Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.  The first album was a kind of novelty–I can’t even say novelty hit as I don;t know if it was.  But it must have had some success because here’s a second one (and there’s no Pirates of the Caribbean movie to tie it to).

The album has 36 songs (!) by a delightful collection of artists, including: Shane MacGowan, Nick Cave, Macy Gray, Broken Social Scene, Richard Thompson, Michael Gira and Mary Margaret O’Hara (among many others).  I enjoyed the first one, but I think the line up on this one is even better.

“Shenandoah” is not a song that I particulalry like.  Because it is traditional, I have a few people doing versions of it, but I don’t gravitate twoards it–it’s a little slow and meandering (like the river I guess) for me. And this version is not much different.  What it does have going for it is Waits’ crazed warbling along with even crazier backing viclas from Keith Richards (there;s no guitar on the track).

[READ: January 7, 2012] Every Love Story is a Ghost Story

I had mixed feelings about reading this biography.  I’m a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, but I often find it simply disappointing to read about people you like.  And yet, DFW was such an interesting mind, that it seemed worthwhile to find out more about him. Plus, I’ve read everything by the guy, and a lot of things about him…realistically it’s not like I wasn’t going to read this.  I think I was afraid of being seriously bummed out.  So Sarah got me this for Christmas and I really really enjoyed reading it.

Now I didn’t know a ton about DFW going into this book–I knew basics and I had read a ton of interviews, but he never talked a lot about himself, it was predominantly about his work.  So if I say that Max is correct and did his research, I say it from the point of someone full of ignorance and because it seems comprehensive.  I’m not claiming that he was right just that he was convincing.  And Max is very convincing.  And he really did his research.

It’s also convenient that DFW wrote a lot of letters–Max has a ton of letters to quote from.  And DFW wrote to all kinds of people–friends, fellow authors  girlfriends, colleagues….  Aside from old friends, his two main correspondents were Don DeLillo, whom he thought of as a kind of mentor, and Jonathan Franzen, whom he considered one of his best friends and rivals.  I guess we can also be thankful that these recipients held on to the letters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RA RA RIOT-“Is It Too Much” (2013).

raraI loved the first Ra Ra Riot album The Rhumb Line.  This song expands on some of the ideas from that album, but I fear that it goes in the one direction I would have preferred they not go.  The album had strings, nice harmonies and a great singer all melded into an interesting rock structure.

This song retains all of the elements that were interesting, but it removes it from the rock structure, making it  sound much more lightweight.  It’s pushing too far into easy-listening.  And do I hear autotune on the vocals?  The instrumental middle section is the most interesting part of the song.  But Ra Ra Riot seems to have removed the riot part of their sound.  If this is the direction of the album, I’m afraid I won’t be following.

[READ: January 8, 2013] “Consider the Writer”

I just finished the D.T. Max biography of David Foster Wallace.  I was curious what kind of reception it received.  And lo, here’s a review by Rivka Galchen (something I would have read anyhow since I enjoy her so much).

Galchen opens with two main points–the biography is gripping (and it is, I’ll be saying more about that tomorrow, too).  She writes: “In writing a chronologically narrated, thoroughly researched, objective-as-­imaginable biography, Max has created a page turner.”

The second idea is that you keep thinking “that you just don’t find Wallace all that nice”  (which I also thought).  But then she wonders if it is fair to be worried about that.  We should not judge others after all.  Especially since, as she points out, “We don’t always find ourselves asking whether a writer is nice. I’ve never heard anyone wonder this at length about, say, Haruki Murakami or Jennifer Egan.”  So why is that a concern about Wallace?  Because niceness is what Wallace wrote about, tried to encourage.  And perhaps “One understandably slips from reading something concerned with how to be a good person to expecting the writer to have been more naturally kind himself.”  But that is not necessarily the case–people strive for things that they cannot achieve.   I like her example “the co-founder of A.A., Bill W., is a guru of sobriety precisely because sobriety was so difficult for him.”   And her conclusion: “Wallace’s fiction is, in its attentiveness and labor and genuine love and play, very nice. But what is achieved on the page, if it is achieved, may not hold stable in real life.”

And Galchen talks a bit abut DFW himself (the book is a biography after all).  How he wore the bandana because he sweated so much–how self conscious he was about that and by extension nearly everything he did.  This mitigates his not-niceness somewhat.  It also ties in to his alcoholism  drug use and depression.  And his competitiveness, which is obvious in the biography.  She enjoys the pleasure of Wallace’s correspondences, “especially with his close friend and combatant Jonathan Franzen, but also with just about every white male writer he might ever have viewed as a rival or mentor. Aggressive self-abasement, grandstanding, veiled abuse, genuine thoughtfulness, thin-skinned pandering — it’s all there.”  I rather wished that the authors’ own reactions were included (of course it’s not biographies of them, and they are still alive), just to see if they sparred back with Wallace or if they were put off by yet indulgent of his needs. (more…)

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newyorkerSOUNDTRACK: LOVE-Da Capo (1967).

dacapoA few years ago, my friend John gave me Love’s Forever Changes. I’ve enjoyed that disc very much and decided to get some other Love music.  I chose Da Capo (their second album, and the one just prior to Forever Changes) for two reasons.  One: Rush did a cover of “Seven and Seven Is” on their Flashback CD and two: there’s an 18 minute song on it, and I love me an eighteen minute song.

The first side is a bunch of shorter songs; each one is quite charming. In fact, “Orange Skies” is so sweet, complete with flute solo, that you can pretty much hear Arthur Lee smiling all the way through it.  The song is borderline cheesy, and yet I can’t help but find myself walking around singing “orange skies, carnivals and cotton candy and you….and I love you too.”

“Stephanie Knows Too” is kind of angular with a weird jazzy interlude.  And “Que Vida” is just a poppy little number that is fun and interesting.  It fits well with “The Castle,” another stop/start song that has a beautiful guitar melody at the opening.  The side ends with a classic psychedelic track “She Comes in Colors.”

The only oddball of the side is, paradoxically, the single “Seven and Seven Is.” It’s a fast rocking number with the fascinating chorus of “Oop ip ip Oop ip ip, yeah!”  Perhaps the only line that’s stranger is “If I don’t start crying it’s because I have got no eyes.” And this was the single?  Clearly Arthur Lee liked his psychedelia.

Then we move to the 18 minute gem.  Well, in fact, “Revelation” (the first song ever to take up an entire side of an album) is something of a disappointment to me.  It is basically a jam that sounds like it was done in one take, although since Arthur Lee was a taskmaster I doubt very much that it was one take.

It’s starts promisingly enough with a rapid harpsichord intro, but it moves into a fairly mundane jam session. There’s a great line from a Paul F. Tompkins skit, in which he says that jazz is just music of solos: “everybody gets one, it’s not like regular music where only the best dude gets one, in jazz everybody gets one.”

And that’s the case with this song.  The solos go: guitar, harmonica, vocals (Arthur Lee improvising some pretty lame segments (Mostly about how he feels good), and let me tell you, he’s no Jim Morrison when it comes to this sort of thing), another guitar solo, a clarinet solo (!), then a bass solo and finally a drum solo, rounded all out with a harpsichord outro that mimics the beginning.  The problem is that none of the solos (excepting the guitar) is particularly noteworthy, and it’s not recorded especially well.  It’s all rather flat.  In particular the sing along part, where Lee is screaming and whatnot, it’s just not convincing, especially since the band doesn’t seem all that excited about the proceedings.  I got tired of it at after about 5 minutes (although the opening of the clarinet solo which sounds an awful ot like a flock of geese is pretty cool).  It’s a shame really, because I wanted to like this track a lot.  Nevertheless, it hasn’t put me off of Love.

[READ: March 3, 2009] “Wiggle Room”

This week’s New Yorker featured not only a story by David Foster Wallace but also a sort of biography/obituary of him.  D.T. Max, a name straight out of Wallace’s imagination, writes a moving and depressing epilogue to the story of DFW.  (It’s available here) The main thrust of the article is that DFW had a hard time writing fiction after Infinite Jest, but that he had been working on a new book (which, although unfinished, is due to be published sometime this year). (more…)

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