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Archive for the ‘David Rakoff’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-“Smoke on the Water” (2012).

There’s a new Deep Purple tribute album coming out shortly (is this the year of tributes?  what’s going on?).  Anyway, the lineup isn’t all that inspired, but I was curious to see what the Flaming Lips would do with that song

As with their recent reinterpretation of Dark Side of the Moon, this cover is respectful and utterly disrespectful.  Musically the song is pretty accurate. Well, the notes are the same.  But the style is very different, kind of wahwahed delicate chords–no heavy bass or anything.  But it’s the vocals that are the contentious point–he recites the entire song (which kind of works because it is a story) in a stilted, faux British accent.

The second verse has a very computerized voice singing an autotuned melody along with the recitation–sort of a harmony but not.  This voice continues through to the chorus (which the main vocals also simply recite).

I appreciate the Flaming Lips’ approaches to popular songs, but this version renders a big loud song kind of anemic.  Which is so weird because the last few Lips albums were so loud and bass-heavy.  I listened twice, I probably don’t need to listen again.

So, this is yet another tribute I won’t be buying.

[READ: August 22, 2012] Don’t Get Too Comfortable

I’m already making good on my promise to read more David Rakoff.  Indeed, as soon as I heard that he died, I put this book on hold at the library.  The strange thing about this book is that I feel like I read parts of it already.  I don’t feel like I read the whole book because some things were unfamiliar to me, and yet there was a strange feeling of déjà vu throughout the book.  But I looked in the front of the book to see where these essays had appeared and I don’t read any of the magazines where they initially showed up.  And while I like This American Life, I don’t really listen to it very often.  So either I read this book seven years ago or these pieces are inspirations for other pieces I have read (which is possible–two or three articles in here reminded me of things that A.J .Jacobs has since done).

So this collection of essays takes place during the early 2000s, George W. Bush’s first term (not the happiest time to be a gay Canadian living in New York).  But in addition to the first essay which is all about his quest for citizenship, it seems that Rakoff was now gainfully employed as a freelance writer.  Most of these essays seem to have been requested for magazines–like they sought him out to write them.  So his fame was clearly growing.  And, again, like A.J. Jacobs, he seems to have been picked as a guinea pig for certain pieces.   I don’t really know if this is a “genre” per se, I mean lots of un-knowledgeable people have gone into new experiences to write about them (insert inevitable David Foster Wallace reference here–but of course he wasn’t the first either).  But Rakoff’s subjects in the last couple essays seem to be closer to what Wikipedia calls Jacob’s “stunt” journalism. (more…)

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David Rakoff (1964-2012)

David Rakoff died Thursday from a resurgence of cancer.  For those unfamiliar with his work, think of darker, more cynical David Sedaris (did you think that was possible?).  The biggest difference between Rakoff and Sedaris is that Rakoff is Canadian.  And he is more of a world traveler.  I say this not really knowing anything about how much they actually traveled.  I mean, sure, Sedaris travels the world for book tours and such, but Rakoff actually lived in foreign lands.  Wait, you say, Sedaris lives in France.  Yes, but Rakoff lived in Tokyo (which automatically makes him more exotic).  And he actually knew Japanese (kind of) whereas Sedaris seems to have not learned any French in the years he has lived there–if his essays are to be believed.

All of this is by way of introduction to using Rakoff’s description of himself as a “New York writer” who also happened to be a “Canadian writer”, a “Jewish writer”, a “gay writer'” and an “East Asian Studies major who has forgotten most of his Japanese” writer.

I’ve only read one of Rakoff’s three books, Fraud.  And about that I said: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEEZER-Raditude (2009).

I didn’t buy this Weezer album when it came out because I had heard really bad things about it (like the “guests”), but when I saw it cheap I decided to check it out.  This has to be the most polarizing Weezer album of them all.  I listened to it twice yesterday.  The first time I thought I had been too harsh on it.  The second time I thought it was godawful.  It’s amazing what a couple of hours can do.

It opens with a wonderful bit of poppy wordplay ala Cheap Trick: “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To.”  It’s catchy as anything and is a wonderful start to the album, even if it is probably their poppiest song ever.  From there though, the album really degenerates.  And mostly it’s because it’s so dumb.  I mean the album title should tell you what you’re in for, but who would have expected the moronic sub-pop-metal of “The Girl Got Hot” or even the reprehensible lyrics of “I’m Your Daddy” “You are my baby tonight And I’m your daddy.”  It’s just creepy.  Or gah, a song about the mall?  “In the Mall.”  It’s not even worth mocking.  And really, try to picture Rivers Cuomo in a mall.  Any mall.

But nothing could prepare anyone for “Can’t Stop Partying.”  Unlike Andrew WK’s ouvre, which is so sincere about partying that you can’t take it seriously, this song really seems to be about the guys partying.  It’s laughable.  The anemic rap but Li’l Wayne certainly doesn’t help.

Even the collaboration with Indian musicians on “Love is the Answer” (yes, seriously) doesn’t really work.  It feels like they wrote the song and then said, “Hey let’s throw some sitar on it.”  It’s not enough to be exciting but too much to ignore.

This is not to say that these songs aren’t catchy.  I mean, geez, I still have “Can’t Stop Partying” in my head while I’m listening to something else.   Rivers knows how to write a pop trifle.  And the more he writes songs like this, it makes me thing that Pinkerton was the fluke.  Which is fine. The music world needs poppy songs, right?

[READ: early August 2011] various nonfictions

I thought about doing individual posts for all of Arthur Bradford’s non-fiction that’s available on his website (that’s right,  yet another author that I have read short uncollected pieces by without having read any of his bigger works–I’m looking at you Wells Tower).  Bradford has links to all of his nonfiction ( I assume) on his website.  There are 12 links in total.  One is to his blog (which I’m not reviewing).  The rest are for articles covering a pretty broad array of topics from a pretty broad variety of sources.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMETRIC-Fantasies (2009).

I was hooked by the song “Gold Guns Girls.”  I liked it so much, I bought the disc, and I was absolutely not disappointed.  This disc reminds me of all of the best things about late 90s alt rock (one of my favorite musical periods).  There are echoes of later period Lush, or of Garbage or some other slickly produced commercial alt-rock.

I’m led to understand that this disc would merit cries of sell-out from older fans (their earlier stuff it a bit rougher, I gather), and yes, this is a pretty commercial release, but I don’t mind.  The songs are all top-notch: great songwriting, catchy choruses, wonderful production.  And there’s something slightly uncommercial about the lyrics which I think is what keeps this album from being too slick for its own good.

I have listened to this disc dozens of times at this point and I never get tired of it.  And, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back and get some of their earlier releases too.

[READ: May 15, 2011] Fraud

I’ve seen Rakoff on the Daily Show, and his name has been cropping up in various places lately.  So I decided to read his actual published work to see what he was all about.

Fraud is his first book.  It is mostly funny, although it also dwells on serious matters by the end of the book.  In many ways Rakoff is like a slightly wilder, slightly edgier version of David Sedaris (the two have a long history of friendship and working together, so this may not be totally surprising).

I’m not going to compare him to Sedaris in any meaningful way, just to say that there are similarities of temperament and style; I don’t think either one of them is hilarious, but that I enjoy both of them and often laugh pretty hard at their material.

I’m also not going to review each essay in this book.  It seems to be constructed in a vague sort of narrative arc.  Well, actually, the second half of the book has the narrative arc (I suspect that the essays that were published previously were modified slightly and that the new essays allude to some of the incidents mentioned there.

The first few essays of the book are the funnier ones (insert joke about Woody Allen’s early funny movies here), and they stick more to the idea of Rakoff as a “Fraud.”  In them, Rakoff, a Canadian ex-pat (he’s from Toronto), somewhat neurotic, gay, New York Jew goes to different locations where he is an atypical person and then reports on them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MEAT PUPPETS-KEXP in studio November 10, 2009 (2009).

According to my stats, this is my 1000th post.  Wow!

I had liked the Meat Puppets somewhat when I was into SST back in the 80s, then I really got into them in the late 90s (when Nirvana introduced us to them).  I thought Too High to Die was a great album.  But they kind of fell from those heights (and Cris Kirkwood fell into serious trouble–drugs and jail) by the end of the decade.  So Curt Kirkwood continued without Cris and I kind of didn’t care anymore.

This session from 2009 sees the return of Cris (who came back for their 2007 album) with songs taken from their 2009 album, Sewn Together.  I don’t know what the album sounds like but this session is heavy on the country feel.  The new songs seem quite mellow, and a bit less bizarre than some of their earlier songs.

They sound good though.  Even with the drummer playing garbage cans and recycling bins.  As a sort of encore, they play “Plateau” (a Nirvana cover, ha ha).  About midway through, Curt messes up the lyrics and gives up singing.  But they play the extended coda regardless.

Curt doesn’t come across as the nicest guy in the world, but he’s been through enough to not give a toss what anyone thinks.  I’m glad the Puppets are back together and recording, but I don’t think I’ll be delving too deeply into their new stuff.

[READ: April 19, 2011] Five Dials Number 3

Five Dials Number 3 ups the page quantity a bit (26 in total) and also includes several art print reproductions  from Margaux Williamson, an artist who is mentioned in one of the articles.   This issue really solidifies the quality of this magazine.  It also introduces the possibility of correspondence with the readers.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Alibis and Public Views
As mentioned, this letter introduces the idea that people are writing to the magazine.  Sadly there is no letters column (even if Paul F. Tompkins hates letters to the editor, for this magazine, I thought they’d be interesting).

CHERYL WAGNER-Current-ish Event: “The Ballad of Black Van.”
This is a true account of Wagner’s life in post-Katrina New Orleans, where a man in a black van is squatting in abandoned properties and selling everything imaginable.  And there’s no cops to help.  It’s a sad look at the state of New Orleans.

DAVID RAKOFF-A Single Film: Annie Hall
I haven’t read much David Rakoff, but he persist in amusing me whenever I do (hint to self: read more by David Rakoff).  This is an outstanding piece about the beloved film Annie Hall.  It’ s outstanding and goes in an unexpected direction too. (more…)

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