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Archive for the ‘Geoff Dyer’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Railway Club Vancouver (November 1988).

This is a “very good sounding show considering it is from 1988. This has a mix of unreleased songs, Greatest Hits songs, Melville songs and even a couple that would end up on Whale Music.”

Like the 1987 show here, this is also their last night in Vancouver. It’s hard to believe that previous show was the same band, as just a few months later (Nov-Mar), the sets are radically different.

It opens with the end of “Lyin’s Wrong,” and then moves into a fun version of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bridge Came Tumbling Down,” and then one of my favorite unreleased songs: “Woodstuck.”

The opening is to the tune of Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done”

I called on Crosby and I called on Nash / I asked them if they want to buy some hash / Oh the deal is done / Hanging out with Stephen Stills, I asked him if he wants to buy some pills / Oh the deal is done.

And then the main body is a rocking bluesy number with the chorus: “You can’t go back to Woodstock baby, you were just two years old.   You weren’t even born” and a big chant of “BAD KARMA!”

Things slow down with a version of “Triangles on the Walls.”

During the banter, Dave Clark talks about going up Grouse Mountain in his jeans and he says he was automatically a “Wofuh”–as soon as you get into the skis you’re going to start saying “Woah… fuck.”

A great sounding “Dope Fiends” is followed by “Green Sprouts” which is “the silliest song of all… about the worms of New Jersey.”  “What’s Going On” has an accordion!  And “Italian Song” has them singing in over the top Italian with an almost ska beat and melody.

There’s a goofy, slap funk cover of “Take the Money and Run.”  It’s fast and rocking, but they leave out the signature five claps after some verses.  Nevertheless there are some great harmonies at the end.

They play an unreleased song “Sue’s Mining Town” which is a bit of a rocker, and then one from Greatest Hits (released the previous year) called “Churches and Schools.”  The set ends with a slow and pretty “Higher and Higher.”

This is the only place you can hear “Italian Song” and “Sue’s Mining Town” and one of the few places you can hear “Woodstuck” (except for this video)

[READ:August 28, 2016] Tennis Lessons

I’ve enjoyed some stories by Dyer but I was actually reading this because he reviews the new David Foster Wallace collection String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis.

But it turns out that this is not so much a book review as a delightfully funny discussion of Dyer’s own tennis playing and how he also wanted to write a book about tennis–but never did.

Dyer proves to be a funny protagonist. In 2008, (age 50) he was about to sell his novel to a new publisher and he imagined writing a book about taking up tennis at age 50. Dyer is British and the popularity and success of Andy Murray was making tennis very popular in Britain again.  It seems like a great idea.

And then Dyer is honest with us:

as a perennial bottom feeder for whom writing has always doubled as a way of getting free shit, I as also hoping that a top-notch coach might be willing to give e free lessons in return for the massive exposure guaranteed by inclusion in the book.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GYPTIAN-Tiny Desk Concert #102 (January 2, 2011).

dec2014gyptian I had not heard of Gyptian.  He is a Jamaican singer.  His singing style is kind of like rap, but with all of the Jamaican inflections and emphases that make it sound more flowing and smooth.

I enjoyed his sound quite a lot.  It helps that he has an acoustic guitar player (Anthony “Tony Bone” DiFeo) keeping the melody and rhythm.

Evidently his first song “Hold You” was a huge hit, although I didn’t know it.  “Beautiful Lady” has a bit more of a reggae feel, a bit slower with lyrics about, yes a beautiful lady.

The final song, “Nah Let Go” feels like a lullaby with his gentle delivery.  I don’t listen to this style of music very much but when it’s done well, I can totally groove on it.

[READ: January 7, 2015] “Travel Day”

“Travel Day” is a photo essay about airports.  Dyer was assigned to write a short essay for it.  I like Dyer’s work and I found his essay a lot more compelling than the photographs.

Dyer begins by talking about how when he was 8 years old, his family was on vacation in London and took a special trip to Heathrow Airport because, back then, it was a destination.  In the sixties and seventies the glamour of air travel was at its peak.

The earliest airports were designed to look conservative to reassure nervous flyers.  But by the Sixties, airports gleamed with sleek confidence and modernity.  But now airports are just hubs–non places.  The allure of the future that guided the design of airports in the sixties and seventies also makes airports look really dated now.  Especially since the “future” was based on designs from the Sixties anyway.

You can also see it in flight attendants outfits who had sort of futuristic look back in the Sixties (at least what the future was supposed to look like).

He talks about Garry Winorand who took photos of the social landscape in the Sixties and Seventies and has a book devoted to airports.   He says the photos really documented the social life of Americans as much as it did airports.

In addition to the main photos of this essay, there are two small older photos included.  The first is by Sklava Veder and it is a photo of Lieutenant Colonel Robert L Stirm being greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in 1973 after spending five years as a POW in Vietnam.  It’s an amazingly powerful photo.  The other is by Winorand which shows a subtle version of the same image– a fellow with a beaming face holding a sign that says “Welcome to California Jane.”  It’s about a person coming to a new place and Winorand captured the eternal promise of flight and of the American West in a single moment.

These photos in the essay were taken all over the world and do show the human condition.  But it is less glamorous and therefore to my eyes less interesting.

The one interesting idea however, is that people have stopped reaching for their cigarettes when the get off the plane and have started reaching for their phones.

But that doesn’t make for very interesting photography.  And with a few exceptions these photos aren’t that compelling.  Perhaps because airport themselves are no longer compelling places.

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dec2014SOUNDTRACK: BOOGIE-Live at SXSW (March 21, 2015).

boogieAt this year’s SXSW, NPR had a showcase featuring 5 artists.  One was Courtney Barnett (see Saturday’s post).  The other artists were Stromae, TV on the Radio and Shamir.  I assumed that they’d be posting full shows from all the artists.  But aside from the Courtney Barnett show and two songs from Stromae, the boogie show is the only other one that we can view.

The first artist was rapper Boogie. Boogie is from Compton and he defied Compton stereotypes by not only not singing about gangs (well, he does but not as a gang member) but actually speaking about love and change. Like many rappers he has a weird tic (most seem to say Uh huh, yeah, but he says “wuh wuh” a lot). It’s a bit tiresome but not the end of the world.

I didn’t enjoy his first few songs because although his introductions to the songs were really nice—about love and respecting women while disrespecting bitches etc, I thought his lyrics were really poor.  Just a ton of repeated fucks and bitches. It was lazy.  And the second song “Bitter Raps” was just list of things he doesn’t like, which I also thought was weak—although may be the crowd enjoyed it.

And the beats weren’t all that interesting to me—I don’t really like the music behind West Coast rap so that’s a strike against it for me anyhow.

But by the end of his set I thought he really showed some good stuff.  “Gangbangin’” was a really good song (rhyming bullshit with pulpit was clever). “God Work” was also good, but “Oh My” was the best song of the night—a great chorus of “Oh my goodness” was funny but also effective.  Using his 5 year old son as a sample was also fun as the boy really enjoyed putting so words down for his dad.

By the end of the set with “The Change,” he had won me over, and while I won’t be listening to him again, I imagine he was a good warm up for the night.

You can watch his set here.

[READ:March 25, 2015] “Forbidden City”

I enjoyed this story a lot more than I was expecting to.  It’s not that I thought it would be bad, I just didn’t really have any expectations.  I barely know Dyer at all.  But it proved to be really enjoyable.  Although I feel like the ending was a bit of a let down (and how could it not be, with the way it was set up?).

James is a (British) author on a tour of China.  He has been to many cities in China and he is exhausted.  He had been to Shanghai and Beijing and he had been plied with many many drinks.  These combined with his jetlag to wipe him out.

He was being chaperoned by Min, the coordinator from his Chinese publisher and although she had done just about everything with him, she was relentlessly cheerful and up.  And on his last day the last thing he wanted to hear was that she had scheduled a tour of the Forbidden City.  He feared the well meaning and knowledgeable tour guide would bore him silly as they walked around the huge Forbidden City in stultifying Beijing heat. (more…)

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44SOUNDTRACK: WNYC SOUNDCHECK GIG ALERTS (2009-).

soundcheck There are so many places to listen to free music.  But i prefer places where you can (legally) download free music.  So here’s a place I’ve just discovered: WNYC Radio’s website which features a section called “Gig Alerts.”  The feature talks about a different interesting band playing that night (in New York).  After a small blurb, there is (almost always) a free downloadable track.   There’s twenty listings per page and 86 pages.  Do the math and that’s a lot of songs.

The feature covers virtually every genre, although there is a preponderance of alt- and indie- rock (mostly lesser known bands).  If you are interested in new (to you) music and in exploring different artists, this is a great resource for a ton of free music.  So, check out Gig Alerts here.

[READ: May 20, 2014] McSweeney’s #44

I was pretty pleased with myself when I got caught up on the McSweeney’s issues.  But I remember wanting to take a break when this one came in.  I now see it has been almost a year since I read the last issue.  So the break was too long and now I have three issues to catch up on again.  Sigh.  But this one proved to be a great issue to return on.

This is a pretty quintessential issue of McSweeney’s.  It’s got letters, some fiction, a special section dedicated to Lawrence Weschler (which includes a lot of art), and a cool, interesting section of plates with full color art.  It’s also got an interestingly designed hardcover with a kind of raw cardboard in the back, a slightly raised colorful section for the spine and then a further raised section for the giant 44 on the front cover.

LETTERS (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AUDIOSLAVE-Audioslave (2002).

Despite the pedigree of this band: Rage Against the Machine + Chris Cornell, I wasn’t all that interested in the band when they came out.  I was over Rage and was bored by Cornell’s solo stuff.  But then recently, someone donated a copy of this album to th elibrary, so I thought I’d see what all of the fuss was about (nine years ago).

There are times when this album is really superb.  The Rage guys get an amazingly full sound out of their instruments (the choruses of “Show Me How to Live” are so full).  And when it works, and Cornell’s amazing voice is in full force, this seems like a genius pairing.

But there’s a lot that feels kind of clunky here (and there’s some really bad choices of guitar solo work by Tom Morello–the weird noises that compriose he solo of “What You Are”–in Rage the noises were weird but exciting and inflammatory, these are just kind of dull.  Worse yet, is the, well, stupid solo in “Like a Stone”–boring and ponderous at the same time).  Although he redeems himself somewhat with the cool solo on the otherwise dull “Intuition”.

The biggest surpise comes in “Like a Stone” which is insanely catchy and mellow–something one assumed Rage didn’t know how to do).  Lyrically the song is pretty stupid (as are most of the songs), but the combination of melody and Cornell’s great vocal lines really raise this song high–shame about the solo).  Also, a song like “Shadow of the Sun” seems to highlight Cornell’s more mellow moments (and shows that the Rage guys can actually play that slow), and they all seem to be in synch.

And there are several songs that rock really hard, sounding at times like Rage and at time like Soundgarden, but working on all cylinders together.  “Cochise” and “Set It Off” are simply great riff rock songs.

But ten or so years later, and twenty years since Badmotorfinger (my favorite Soundgarden album), it’s nice to hear Cornell rocking again.  Although man, the record is too long!

[READ: June 1, 2011] Five Dials Number 8

For Issue Number 8, Five Dials went to Paris.  And so the whole issue is given over to French concerns and ideas.  For a magazine that didn’t need a change of pace, it’s a delightful change of pace.  The feel of the magazine is different, and there’s an air of vacation about it (which is not to suggest that it is slacking off in any way), and it feels really vibrant.

I don’t know a lot about France in general.  I mean, I’ve been there, and I keep up with things, but I am not a Francophile by any means. So a lot of this stuff was simply new to me, which is always fun.  What I especially liked about the issue was that they were not afraid to show some of France’s uglier sides as well–it’s not just a tourism booster.

It even starts out differently than the other issues. (more…)

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LoveLettersSMSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 7: J’accuse Ted Hughes/Agnès B Musique (2008).

syr7The first side of the disc (for it was only released on vinyl) is a ballsy blast of music.  Ballsy because it was the opening track of their live set at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in 2000.  And who opens up their set at a festival that features bands like Super Furry Animals, Sigur Rós, and Stereolab (basically a who’s who in awesome Brit-rock) with this 22 minute shriek of noise?

The set was so derisively received that the cover of the NME (hilariously reproduced on the cover of the LP) stated “Goodbye 20th Century, Goodbye Talent.”

The noise is palpable: squeals and squalls and all manner of feedback.  Kim even gets a strange little spoken word section in the middle.  I would think fans might have enjoyed it for 5, maybe even 10 minutes, but by 23 it’s pretty numbing.  The rest of the set included instrumentals from the not yet released NYC Ghosts and Flowers.  It almost seems like the set was payback for the invitation.

The B-side is an 18 minute “soundtrack” of sorts.  Agnes B. is a French clothing designer and yet somehow the music feels like it could be for some scary kids’ movie.  It has a number of creepy elements to it.  I kept picturing people sneaking around a little cottage.

The liner notes are written in Arpitan, a steadily-declining-in-use language spoken mostly in Italy and Switzerland.

Not for the faint of heart (or the vinylphobic).

[READ: August 31, 2009] Four Letter Word

I read about this book in The Walrus and then I ordered it from Amazon.ca as it doesn’t seem to be available in the US.

The book is a collection of “love letters.”  What is so very interesting about the collection is the varied nature of the letters themselves.  It’s not just: “I love you XOXO” (of course).   There are letters to mothers, stepmothers, mountains, and the Earth itself.  There are letters of love, lust, anger and respect.

I was most attracted to the book by the great list of authors, some of whom I read religiously and many others whom I just really like (and of course a bunch who I’ve never heard of).

It’s hard to review a collection of short stories that is as varied as this, especially when the pieces are this short (as most of them are).  And, I guess technically, they aren’t even short stories.  They are just letters. I would never base my opinion of these authors from this work.  Although some of the authors that I know well definitely retain their signature style.  There were only one or two letters that I didn’t enjoy, but for the most part the entire collection is very good.  And if you like any of these authors, it’s worth checking out.

I’m going to list all of the authors, mention who the letter is to, and any other salient features (without trying to give anything away–several letters have a surprise in them)! (more…)

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