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Archive for the ‘Jacques Derrida’ Category

vonlastintSOUNDTRACKSURFER BLOOD-“Demon Dance” (Live at SXSW, March 27, 2013).

surfer blood

I’ve liked Surfer Blood since I first heard them.  They write catchy, mostly short, poppy songs.  And usually after a few listens, the hooks really grab you.  The strange thing about the band is that the hooks aren’t always readily apparent, which makes their songs sound kind of samey sometimes.

Of course, samey isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.  Surfer Blood is quite distinctive and I tend to enjoy everything they do.  This new song sounds like their other stuff, which is fine.  But the most distinctive thing about the band of probably their singer who sounds like a less-affected Morrissey.

Having also listened to the song from the album I can say that the singer is far harder to understand live, so maybe live is not the best way to hear a new song from them, but for an old favorite, Surfer Blood has a great energy live.

Watch the show here and hear the studio version here.

[READ: March 27, 2013] The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Melville House has published a number of these “Last Interview” books, and as a completist I feel compelled to read them.  I have read criticisms of the series primarily because what the books are are collections of interviews including the last interview that the writer gave.  They don’t have anything new or proprietary.  The last interview just happens to be the last one he gave.   So it seems a little disingenuous, but is not technically wrong.

There’s so far five books in the series, and I figured I’d read at least three (Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace and Roberto Bolaño–the other two turned out to be Jorge Luis Borges–who I would be interested in reading about and Jacques Derrida (!) who I have always loved–I guess this series was tailor made for me).

At any rate, these interviews are from various times and locations in Vonnegut’s career.  There are six in total.  I don’t know if the titles they give here were the titles in the original publications but here’s what’s inside:

  • “Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction” from The Paris Review, Spring 1977 (by David Hayman, David Michaelis, George Plimpton, Richard Rhodes)
  • “There Must be More to Love Than Death” from The Nation, August 1980 (by Robert K. Musil)
  • “The Joe & Kurt Show” from Playboy, May 1982 (by Joseph Heller and Carole Mallory)
  • “The Melancholia of Everything Completed” from Stop Smiling, August 2006 (by J.C. Gabel)
  • “God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut” from U.S. Airways Magazine (!!!), June 2007 (by J. Rentilly)
  • “The Last Interview” from In These Times May 9, 2007 (by Heather Augustyn) (more…)
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SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI & MAGOO-Do The Rock Boogaloo (2002).

This split CD features a song each by Magoo and Mogwai.  Both songs are Black Sabbath covers, with Magoo doing “Black Sabbath” and Mogwai doing “Sweet Leaf.”  This was released by Fierce Panda records and it’s clearly kind of a joke (the top of the disc says: two sonic scratches of the big bad rock arse”).

And yet despite the jokey nature of the project, the covers are actually quite faithful.  I’ve never heard of Magoo in any other context so I don’t know anything about them.  But their version of “Black Sabbath” is pretty right on.  The big difference is that it seems like Magoo have no bass in their band.  Everything from guitars to vocals is much more tinny than anything Black Sabbath put out.  In fact, when the really fast part at the end comes up, you can hear the bass, but it sounds like perhaps just more guitar notes.  The vocalist is also far less than scary.  And yet for all of that, the song isn’t really jokey, it just doesn’t sound scary like the original.

Mogwai’s cover of “Sweet Leaf” seems even more jokey.  It opens with a pretty heavy sounding riff and then stops after a few seconds so someone can say “give me the microphone.”  There’s also a lengthy conversation going on throughout the background of the song.  The vocals are quite fascinating.  They are utterly understated, bordering on spoken.  As such, there is a notable Scottish accent for the verses.

After the main body of the song, they never quite get to the heavy drum part at the end, in fact, the song kind of just fades out while the lengthy (drunken?) conversation (and burping) continues for over a minute.

No one is going to say this is an essential recording, although it’s good for a laugh, I suppose.

[READ: February 28, 2011] Consider David Foster Wallace [essays 10-12]

More than half way through the essays, we’re moving away from infinite Jest era and into the Brief Interviews era.  These articles look at sincerity, love and footnotes.

Because I don’t have a lot to say about the pieces (I’m not an academic anymore), I’m only going to mention things that I found puzzling/confusing.  But be assured that if I don’t mention the vast majority of the article it’s because I found it interesting/compelling/believable.  I don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing the articles’ argument, so I won’t really summarize. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AZTEC CAMERA-“Jump” (1984).

This is a wonderfully twisted covered of Van Halen’s “Jump.”  VH’s version of “Jump” is bouncy, lively, fun, it makes you want to yes, Jump!  It was many years after the release of VH’s “Jump” that I heard the Aztec Camera version (even though it was released the same year).  The first time I heard it I assumed it was a joke.

I didn’t know much about Aztec Camera (and actually still don’t–looking at their Wikipedia page I don’t recognize the names of any of their singles).   But I have grown to love this cover of “Jump.”  In fact I prefer it to the original.

The opening chord structure makes me think it’s going to be the Rolling Stone’s “Waiting on a Friend” but instead of Jagger’s ooh oohs we get Roddy Frame’s deep voice practically whispering the lyrics that David Lee Roth made famous.  And it stays with this delightfully mellow acoustic style and pacing throughout.  The guitar work in the bridge is actually much more interesting than the bridge in the Van Halen version (ouch).

The chorus seems kind of odd with his very mellowly saying “jump” (although David Lee Roth doesn’t scream “jump” either, it’s the backing vocals that do the exciting part).  I feel like the original VH version hasn’t held up that well, but the Aztec Camera version shows that it’s quite a good song.

Check it out here.

[READ: Week of November 8] Consider David Foster Wallace [first three essays]

I lied.

I said that I wouldn’t feel up to writing posts about all of the articles in this book on a regular basis.  As it turns out, I don’t have a lot to say about these essays, but I had a few thoughts about each one.  Since there’s a group reading going on, I thought it might be fun to post these thoughts now while people were still speaking about the articles instead of waiting until the end.

Before I say anything about this articles, I want to preface that I’m not going to repeat things that were said in the group read (for a couple of reasons).  Everything here is going to be things that I felt about the article and maybe, if something another reader says really sticks with me, I’ll mention it as an influence on me.

Having said that, in one of the comments, author Clare Hayes-Brady says that her article is a part of a longer thesis.  I found this to be a very useful thing to know, and I assume that she is not the only one who had to compress her article because of size and time constraints.  With that in mind, I’m going to accept that if it seems like the author could/should say more about a certain thing within the article that there is probably a larger version of the piece.

And finally, because I don’t have a lot to say about the pieces, I’m only going to mention things that I found puzzling/confusing.  But be assured that if I don’t mention the vast majority of the article it’s because I found it interesting/compelling/believable.  I don’t feel comfortable paraphrasing the articles’ argument.  Besides, what would be the point of that?

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG BLACK-Kerosene [live] (1990).

It never occurs to me to go looking for live versions of songs online, even though there are clearly  thousands of songs I would like. So, I wait for them to come to me.  My friend Andrew posted a video of this song.  And it’s the first time I’ve seen Big Black live.

I’ve liked Big Black for a while (I got into them after they broke up). It’s not pleasant music by anyone’s standards, but there’s something visceral and unsettling about the lyrics and about Steve Albini’s guitar sound that I really enjoy.

I’ve seen pictures of Albini before, but I’ve never seen him in action, and I have to say, I can’t believe a guy as skinny and frankly, nerdy, as him is making sounds like this (although I can see someone like him being this angry).  Watching him in this video is pretty great.  He’s got huge glasses, his t-shirt is tucked into his pants–no that’s not right, it’s tucked into his guitar strap…how is he holding his guitar up??– and then he plays this guitar that sounds like, what…glass, needles, pins, shards of something, certainly.

And just when you think that the song is only noise, this fantastic bassline kicks in.  The riff is outstanding: it’s heavy and propulsive and balances the sharpness of the guitar perfectly.  In this version, about midway through the song he seems to be walking out into the crowd, and they sort of hold him up or push him back on stage, while he’s playing.  And at the end, of course, he destroys the guitar.

Lyrically, it’s as disturbing as anything Albini has written, but man is it cathartic.   And this live version is even more stark and brutal than the studio version.

[READ: June 2010 & October 12, 2010] “Extreme Solitude”

After reading “The Oracular Vulva,” I decided to re-read this, his recently published story.  When this story came out in June, I heard that to some readers the main character reminded them of David Foster Wallace, and they speculated about whether or not this story was inspired by or a tribute to him.  Unfortunately, I read that analysis before I read the story and it automatically influenced my reading (which if you haven’t read it I have now done to you, sorry).

I’m not in any way convinced that it is about him, although there are many similarities–size, athleticism, chewing tobacco, intelligence, semiotics.  But since I know nothing about DFW personally and I don’t know if Eugenides does either, I won’t pursue that line any further.  I will say that I didn’t find that train of thought terribly distracting while reading, though.

Anyhow, this story is about a senior in college named Madeline.  Madeline was a good student and a good girl.  She had dated some, but never had any crazy affairs (and was a bit uncomfortable when her roommate proudly wore (or displayed) her diaphragm–the joke about wearing it to an event is particularly funny).

By her senior year, after breaking of a long relationship with Barry, Madeleine was prepared to settle into her major: English.  She was excited to read and to read a lot (it was her passion as well as her major).  She also decided to sign up for a Semiotics class, which is where she met Leonard.

The description of the semiotics class is wonderful, from the pretentious students to the insanity of the class assignments–from Lyotard to Derrida and everyone in between, authors that I loved in college but since leaving academia I find so convoluted as to be kind of silly. I adored the sentence: “(Could “the access to pluridimensionality and to a delinearized temporality” really be a subject [of a sentence]?)” (more…)

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onlyrev.jpgSOUNDTRACK: BARENAKED LADIES-Everything to Everyone (2003) & Barenaked for the Holidays (2004).

bnl-every.jpgEverything to Everyone. I was pretty down on this album when it first came out. I remember being rather disappointed in it because BNL had, gasp, matured somewhat, and were making more “serious,” less “wacky” songs. To me, the whole CD was somewhat flat. But, after a recent listen (possibly the first time in 4 years) and expecting the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the record.

“Celebrity” is a decent start off, although it breaks from their standard set up of rollicking lead off tracks. “Maybe Katie” is a somewhat disappointing track 2 (a track that seems to produce great results for them)…. It seems to be so close to a single, yet it just misses. There is a somewhat zany song “Shopping,” which sets off a run of three or four good songs. It also ends on a pretty high note with, “Have You Seen My Love?” being a slow, but, sensibly, short song, so it doesn’t just drag on.

The noteworthy thing about this album, is what its title alludes to: everything for everyone. It seems like this album has fifteen different styles at work. There’s an Irish jig type song, a crazy rocking song, a soft ballad, a salsa beat. Basically everything is on here. It’s either crassly commercial or (more likely) a funny jab at their complex styles.

The overall sound of the album is definitely more mellow and “mature” than their earlier ones. There’s not a lot of outright silliness involved, and the tunes themselves have certainly calmed down a lot. If you’re not expecting the zany BNL of old, then the album works pretty well. Just don’t have high hopes for “If I Had $1,000,000.”

bnl-holiday.jpgBarenaked for the Holidays. This has become one of my favorite Christmas/holiday records (and it’s a good time of year to be writing about it.) It ranks up there with Brave Combo’s It’s Christmas, Man, brave.jpg South Park’s Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics, hankey.jpg Sufjan Steven’s great boxed set Presents Songs for Christmas, sufjan.jpg and Brian Wilson’s What I Really Want for Christmas, wilson.jpg which has also quickly jumped to the top of my Xmas list.

BNL’s is definitely silly, but it is also somewhat reverential for the time of year. They mix classics with originals (and if Jews don’t adopt “Hanukkah Blessings” as an official Hanukkah song, then they have no taste!).

The recording is a mix of old and new tracks (“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was recorded almost ten years (more…)

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mcs24.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GUIDED BY VOICES-Universal Truths and Cycles (2002).

gbv.jpg

I like Guided By Voices more in theory than in actuality. In theory, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that are all snappy, catchy and brilliant. In practice, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that he puts out whether they are finished or not. A vast quantity of GBV output is about a minute long. And for the most part the songs feel like fragments, rather than real songs. Nevertheless, I find that just about everything he writes is catchy and quite good, it’s just that so much of it is so forgettable.

Despite that, they have several songs that are fantastic. I could easily make a greatest hits record of GBV songs that I think are fabulous, and it would probably have 20 songs on it. The only problem is Pollard has released probably a thousand songs, so that’s not such great average.

I received this copy of Universal Truths and Cycles as a promotional copy many years ago. I had really enjoyed Do the Collapse, and so I grabbed this CD, and much like my assessment above, I find that there’s nothing I really dislike about the album although at 4:59, almost three times longer than a typical GBV song, “Storm Vibrations” tends to drag, but overall there’s not that much that’s memorable. Of course, “Everywhere with Helicopters” is fantastic and “Christian Animation Torch Characters” is also pretty wonderful. I could pick maybe 3 of the 19 songs here to go on my hits collection, but overall, the album is typical GBV, a little weird, but very catchy.

[READ: October 2, 2007] McSweeney’s #24.

I just flew through this latest issue of McSweeney’s. It was a real treat to read. The packaging was another one of their fun covers. It is designed in two parts, with a gatefold type of sleeve that reveals a full nighttime scene if you open it all the way. These guys have so much fun with their design, I’m surprised they’re not noted more for that.

Anyhow, the contents: the one side is a selection of six short stories, they all seem to feature guns, and they’re not afraid to use them. The other side is a symposium of reasonably famous authors writing tributes about Donald Barthelme, and two short stories by Barthelme himself. It also comes with an excerpt from Millard Kaufman’s Bowl of Cherries, which I have not yet read, but if it’s good I will get the book and review it later. (more…)

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