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Archive for the ‘Javier Marias’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Matinee Day 3] (February 27, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-March 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Green Xmas, Floating and one of the earliest Desert Island Discs. This is the all ages Sunday afternoon show 3/5.

Sadly there was to be no celebratory party for the Canadian hockey team who lost the final match and took silver (they’d have to wait until 2002).

They’re going to play a lot of new songs and some old songs.  So they start with “Crescent Moon” from Greatest Hits (it’s so synthy!).  Midway through they seem to mess up and Dave says, “We know the new ones well we just don’t know the old ones very well.”

As the start “Green Xmas,” Dave Clark says, “I love Christmas Time so much so that I love playing this song even though it’s not Christmas.”  When the song is over there’s lots of talk about gum–I assume someone had some in the audience: Black Cat, Ton o Gum or Bubbalicious.  He asks what kind and they start talking about Dubble Bubble and how so many bad things happened to Pud (He could never win).  He contends that Ziggy ripped him off.

They get an organized snap going for Fishtailin’.  They play a verse and then hold it, Dave says “We usually play this song in A, Martin.”  However we will employ “capo technology.”

Clark says he enjoys playing that song because it reminds him of …Dave.  And all the good times they had…before the bad stuff happened (ha).  Clark describes how he met Dave when they were kids.  Bidini says he doesn’t remember the meeting and jokes “did you steal something off of me?”  Clark says Bidini’s aunt and uncle got the first in ground pool in the area and that’s where they met.  Bidini asks what he thought of him.  After shouting “Doofus,” Clark says, I thought “he would become a well kempt perhaps overspoken person.”  Bidini says he remembers being in his Delta 88 going for a drivers test in 1981 and picking up Clark and thinking “he has lips as big as mine–we can be square together.”

It’s a good segue into “Me and Stupid” (which they make family-friendly by singing “messed up” instead of fucked up).  For the fish chant at the end “pike, trout, bass, smelt,” Dave says they are the “four fish of the apocalypse.”

Dave apologizes that he “spit on you from afar but luckily I hit one of the Wooden Stars and I think that will bring me good luck in 1994.”  The Wooden Stars are the band that’s playing during the break.

Once again Tim says that “Introducing Happiness” is about having cats–not birthing cats, just discovering them.”

Clark says that they are “one of the laziest bands in rock.”  Bidini says they have inherited the mantle from Valdy.  Then he says I thought you meant “laid back.”   Clark says “I didn’t say lamest.”  But Bidini says that Valdy once paid The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos $1500 to open for them at the Port Credit Arena.  Clark says he wasn’t talking about Valdy, he wrote the Four Seasons.  Tim says he also sells really cheap groceries (I assume he’s joking about Aldi).

For “In This Town,” Martin asks for “Lots of reverb on the intro.”  Bidini says it’s like they’re in a cave.  Then there’s a great “Michael Jackson, ” followed by a rocking “RDA.”  A sloppy intro to “Soul Glue” is fixed and then the song starts for good.  Midway through Bidini tells them to do it nice and breezy, like Valdy would do it, and they make it very smooth.  “Zero angst, Tim.”  The gentle ending segues nicely into “Self Serve Gas Station.”

Clark tries to wax eloquent about the loss of sun, but he can’t get the words out.  So they encourage the kids to dance, which it sounds like they do.

They play the mellow “Row,” which features a really great solo from Martin in the middle.  After a discussion of new wave, they play the rapid, rather odd “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”   They play “Floating” again–one of those songs that has never gotten official release.  It’s pretty cool with a few different parts that complicate the song.

They ask, “Any teenagers in the audience?  I heard that teenagers don’t like to be called teenagers what do they like to be called?”  Someone shouts “Young adults.”  They play “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too.”

They ask that the lights to go up and they play a song/game called “Desert Island Picks.”  You say three albums you’d take with you if you were stranded on a desert island (in this case New Providence Island).  They walk around singing the folk song and then some people come up: it is really fun and very funny, a great good time is had by all.  They even bring up a little kid and he sings his three favorite things in the world.  When they ask another kid what school she goes to, she says  “uh…what?”  And someone shouts “Must be U of T!”

Someone had picked three Beatles albums, and Martin says “This is from our next album Let It Be…”  He sings “Jo Jo was a…” before beginning “Take Me in Your Hand” properly.  Then they play a lovely version of “Claire” and then a noisy messy sloppy verse of Neil Young’s “Farmer John,” which morphs into the crazy trilogy “Artenings Made of Gold/Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry.”

Clark asks if they should play longer or shorter, and longer wins.  But he must take a five-minute bathroom break.  So Martin plays a gentle acoustic version of “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.   Then, “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” is introduced as “Saskatchewan Part 2”.  And then (despite some apparent crying from children) they play “Horses” (the moaning child actually sounds like a pretty good fit for this intense song).  There’s even a kid who sings the “Holy Mackinaw, Joe” part.  At the end, there’s kids doing the whole ending with them.

And then it’s a couple of covers: Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour” and a rocking rendition of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”  They leave the stage and there is a truly wild and rowdy encore cheer (banging things and lots of screaming).

Dave gives away a prize–nightgowns (?) from Sire Records–which Clark says he doesn’t want because he’s ashamed of being on a major label.  I’d love to see those.

It leads to a cool trippy version of “Dope Fiends,” and the end guitar section segues perfectly in to “Earth Monstrous Hummingbirds,” a version which doesn’t ever get really weird but which still sounds fantastic.

I can’t get over how cool it is that Rheostatics played matinee shows like this.  The show lasted over 2 hours, tickets were $6 and it was all kind-friendly.  That’s pretty awesome.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Curse”

This is an excerpt from Marías’ recent nonfiction book To Begin at the Beginning. It is a reflection on the art of writing fiction.

This brief section looks at how he writes; he doesn’t know how things are going to turn out when he begins–that would be boring for him.  And if he was bored, it would reflect in his writing and then his readers would be bored.

Just as we do what we do when we’re twenty without knowing that when we reach forty we may wish we had done something else, and just as when we’re forty we have no alternative but to abide by what we did when we were twenty, we can’t erase or amend anything, so I write what I write on page 5 of a novel with no idea if this will prove to have been a good idea when I reach page 200, and far from writing a second or third version, adapting page 5 to what I later find out will appear on page 200, I don’t change a word, I stand by what I wrote at the very beginning — tentatively and intuitively, accidentally or capriciously. Except that, unlike life — which is why life tends to be such a bad novelist — I try to ensure that what had no meaning at the beginning does have meaning at the end. I force myself to make necessary what was random and even superfluous, so that ultimately it’s neither random nor superfluous.

He cites an example.  When Marías’ Cuban great-grandfather was still a young man, he refused to help a beggar. The beggar put a curse on him: “You and your eldest son will both die before you are fifty, far from your homeland and without a grave.”  He wrote about this curse in his book Dark Back of Time. (more…)

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fivedials_no29SOUNDTRACK: BOB & DOUG McKENZIE-“The 12 Days of Christmas” (1981).

bob & dougThis is my preferred old school version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  It was one of the first parodies of the song that I had heard (and I was big in parodies back in 1981).

I loved how stupid they were (on the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a beer).  I loved trying to figure out what a two-four was, and it cracked me up that they skipped a whole bunch of days.

I also enjoyed how they continued to snipe at each other throughout the song.  Not comedy gold perhaps (that would be “Take Off” recorded with Geddy Lee, but a nice way to start, or end, the season on these “mystery days.”

Evidently, decades after SCTV went off the air, Bob & Doug got an animated TV show (without Rick Moranis).  And they made a video of the song. Hosers.

[youtube-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2oPio60mK4]

[READ: December 3, 2013] Five Dials #29

Five Dials Number 29 was the first issue I had read in a while.  (I read this before going back to 26-28).  And it really reminded me of how great Five Dials is.  I don’t know why this isn’t Part 2 after Number 28’s Part 1 (there was no 28b either), but that’s irrelevant.  This is an independent collection of great writing.  I was instantly surprised and delighted to see that César Aria was included in this issue (I didn’t even know he had made inroads in England).

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: In Swedes and Open Letters
Taylor’s usually chipper introduction is saddened by the contents of this one.  The discussion centers on Sweden and the city of Malmo, where integration is proving to be tougher than they’d hoped.  Black skinned people are profiled pretty explicitly.  Taylor talks about meeting the writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri (who they subsequently published in issue 21) who deals with issues of race.  In March of 2013, Khemiri wrote an open letter to Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask after she brushed off concerns about racial profiling. The letter went viral including getting translated into 15 languages.  So I guess there is some positivity after all. (more…)

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42SOUNDTRACK: IRON MAIDEN-Iron Maiden (1980).

Steve Harris was on That Metal Show recently.  Harris is the baimssist and primary songwriter for Iron Maiden and has been since their first album in 1980.  When I was in high school Iron Maiden was my favorite band hands down.  I had all their albums, I had all their singles, all their hard to find British vinyl 12 inch singles, even a few pictures discs.  Wonder if they’re valuable?

Every album was an epic event for me–I even played “Rime of the Ancient Mariner “off of Powerslave to my English class (not telling anyone it was 13 minutes long).

And then, after Somewhere in Time, I just stopped listening to them. Almost full stop.  I did manage to get the first four albums on CD, but the break was pretty striking.  I actually didn’t know that they’d had personnel changes in the ensuing years.  I’d vaguely heard that Bruce Dickinson  left, and that others followed, but I don’t think I quite realized that they were back to their big lineup these days.

Anyhow, Harris was so earnest and cool that I had to go check out some of their new stuff. Which was okay.  I’d need more time to digest, but then I had to listen to the first albums again.

And wow I had forgotten how much the first Iron Maiden album melds punk and prog rock into a wild metal hybrid.  There’s so much rawness in the sound and Paul Di’Anno’s vocals, not to mention the speed of some of the tracks.  And yet there’s also some epic time changes and starts and stops and the elaborate multipart Phantom of the Opera….  Wow.

The opening chords of “Prowler” are brutal.  But what’s surprising is how the second song “Remember Tomorrow” is a lengthy song that has many ballad-like qualities, some very slow moody sections–although of course each chorus rages with a great heavy riff and a blistering solo.  On the first two albums Paul Di’Anno was the singer.  He had a fine voice (it was no Bruce Dickinson, but it was fine).  What’s funny is that Bruce does the screams in “Remember Tomorrow” so much better in the live version that I forgot Paul’s vocals were a little anemic here.

However, Paul sounds perfect for the rawness of “Running Free” a wonderfully propulsive song with classic Harris bass and very simple metal chugga chugga riffs.  And this has one of the first real dual guitar solos–with both players doing almost the same riff (and later Harris joining in on bass).

“Phantom of the Opera” is the band’s first attempt at an epic multi-secton kinda-prog song.  It opens with a memorable, if slightly idiosyncratic riff and some wonderfully fast guitars/bass.  There’s a great slow bit that morphs into an awesome instrumental soloing section with bass and twin guitars playing a wonderful melody.

“Transylvania” is an instrumental that is challenging but probably not one of the best metal instrumentals out there, although again when Dennis Stratton and Dave Murray play in synch solos it’s awesome.  This track segues into “Strange World” a surprisingly trippy song (with effects that seem like keyboards but which aren’t).  It’s slow in a “War Pigs” kind of way, but it doesn’t entirely break up the album, because there are other slow bits on the disc.  It is a little out of place though.

Especially when “Sanctuary” blasts forth.  True, it wasn’t originally on the album (in the UK), but man, blistering punk or what!  “Charlotte the Harlot” was always one of my favorite songs (it taught me what a harlot was after all), it’s quite proggy, with a lot of stuttered guitar work and a middle section that features some loud and complex bass.  The disc ends with the by now almost immortal “Iron Maiden.”   A great raw riff opens the song, a harmony guitar partners it and the band blasts forth.  Who even knows what the lyrics area about, the song just moves and moves–There’s even a great chaotic bass/drum break in the middle.  And listening to the guitar noises in the solos at the end.  Amazing.  It’s quite the debut.

[READ: June 7, 2013] McSweeney’s #42

I have made it a point of (possibly misguided) pride that I have read every word in every McSweeney’s issue.  But this issue has brought that to an end.  As the title states, there are twelve stories in the book.  But there are also sixty-one authors writing in eighteen languages.  And there’s the rub.  One of my greatest (possibly misguided) shames is that I don’t speak any other languages.  Well, I studied Spanish and German, I know a few dozen words in French and I can read the Greek alphabet, but none of these would help me read any of these stories.  So, at least half of this book I didn’t read.

But that’s kind of the point.  The purpose of this book is to make a “telephone” type game out of these stories.  Stories are translated from one language to another and then re-translated back into English.  The translators were mostly writers rather than translators and while some of them knew the second language, many of them resorted to Google Translate or other resources to “read” the story.  Some people read the story once and then rewrote it entirely, other people tried to be as faithful as possible to the original.  And so what you get are twelve stories, some told three times in English.  Some versions are very similar and others are wildly divergent.

I normally write about the stories in the issues, but that seems sort of beside the point as the original stories were already published and were selected for various reasons (and we don’t even see any of the original stories).  The point here is the translation(s).  So, in a far less thorough than usual way, I’ll list the contents below. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAMBCHOP- “2B2” (2012).

I don’t have much exposure to Lambchop.  I know of  them mostly as a slow, country-type band.  And that’s why I haven’t listened to them much.  So I picked one song from their latest album, Mr. M, to talk about (because they are associated with Five Dials, see below).

And, indeed, they are slow.  I wouldn’t say country so much as roots, maybe, traditional folk or something.  It’s certainly slow.  This song reminds me in someways of Tindersticks, although a very stripped down Tindertsicks.  Of course, what I like about Tindertsicks is that they are not stripped down.  So this song kind of leaves me a little flat.  I like it, but I’ve already got music that’s like this ti listen to.

I’ll bet though, that it would make great background music to an engaging story (see below).  I wonder what song they chose to remix.  It’s be crazy if I picked it.

[READ: May 3, 2012] Five Dials 23

Five Dials 23 was recently released with quite little fanfare.  That may be because it is like an appetizer for the soon to be released Issue 24 which promises to be very large.

Five Dials 23 contains only one piece (and an Letter from the Editor).  The piece is by Javier Marías, whom I’ve read and enjoyed and have put on my list of authors to explore more.

CRAIG TAYLOR-“On That Fiction Feeling and Lambchop”

Craig Taylor’s introduction wonderfully encapsulates why I prefer to read fiction to non-fiction.  I have friends who say they only like to read non-fiction because at least they’re learning something (or some variant of that).  And while it’s compelling to argue that you learn stuff from fiction too, it’s not always easy to prove.  So Taylor’s Letter from the Editor is where I can point people in the future:

I remember it happened when I read part of Runaway by Alice Munro, specifically the three linked short stories ‘Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence’. I remember the names of the North London streets I was compelled to walk – from Messina Avenue to Woodchurch Road to Greencroft Gardens – just to free myself from the sensation that had blossomed within me after I set down the book. During that walk, the neighbourhood seemed raw and responsive. I was unsettled, but in the best possible way; I was in the midst of experiencing the kind of sadness that can only be induced by fiction, which is more potent sadness than most. Also in this jumble of sensation brought on by Munro was a vow to live better, to somehow dodge the mistakes of her characters. There was a bit of a ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’; a bit of a ‘pay attention to the details’; a bit of an ‘appreciate life more’. In short, the great inner churning that comes at the end of a few extraordinary pieces of fiction.

The details aren’t relevant, it’s the overall mood and idea that he conjures that is.  Although he mentioned Munro, he begins to talk about The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa.  How this debut (and only) novel has left a strong impact not only on him and many more who have read it but also on Marías.  And that that it was Marías’ essay is about: The Leopard.

The second half of his introduction talks about the next issue and that a 10″ vinyl album will be released with it.  It will feature a double A side with author Hollis Hampton-Jones reading from her novel Comes the Night, while backed by Lambchop.  The other side features a remix of a song by Lambchop from their Mr. M album.  The end of the Letter from the Editot is given over to Hampton-Jones and her remembrance of the recording session.  (It’s very cool).

EMILY ROBERTSON and TUCKER NICHOLS drew the cool pictures of leopards.

JAVIER MARÍAS-“Hating The Leopard

This essay, translated by Margaret Jull Costa,talks about the novel The Leopard and how as a novelist, Marías hates it, even though as a reader, he loves it.

I love the surprising way he opens this: There is no such thing as the indispensable author or novel.”  Because even if the best novelist in the world never wrote, the world woul dnot be different.  I also love this insight, which I actually used recently when talking about Ulysses to someone (yes, I’m that guy) that books which “aspired to being ‘modern’ or ‘original’… leads inevitably to an early senescence or, as others might say, they become ‘dated.’  …. They can sometimes seem slightly old-fashioned or, if you prefer, dated, precisely because they were so innovative, bold, confident, original and ambitious.”  But he quickly points out that The Leopard does not fall into this dated category.

Before explaining why The Leopard has stayed with him, he gives some basic background about its publication and near lack of publication.  Indeed, Tomasi di Lampedusa (how do you say that last name?) died before it was published (but not before receiving several rejection letters).  What’s especially surprising is why he wrote the novel in the first place: “the relative late success of his cousin, the poet Lucio Piccolo…led Lampedusa to make the following comment in a letter: ‘Being absolutely certain that I was no more of a fool than he, I sat down at my desk and wrote a novel.'”  Nothing inspires like jealousy!  He also wrote because he was a solitary person.  He was married, but he seems to spend a lot of time alone.  He wanted the book published but not at the expense of his heirs (that’s nice).

Marías talks a bit about why he finds the book so extraordinary (although he says that so much has been written about the novel that he is reluctant to add more).  But one thing that impressed upon him was how the book is about preparing for death, but how, “Death stalks the book not in any insistent way, but tenuously, respectfully, modestly, almost as part of life and not necessarily the most important part either.”  As far as hating the book, Marías feels that perhaps some novelists have earned the right to hate it.

I always enjoy Five Dials.  I can only hope that my posting about it here can get more people to check it out.  Now to see why my library doesn’t have a  copy of The Leopard.

For ease of searching I include: Javier Marias.

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SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC ENEMY-Fear of a Black Planet (1990).

NPR recently broadcast a PE show from the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival.  I didn’t know that PE was still touring, so that was a surprise to me.  The show was largely a celebration of Fear of a Black Planet, which meant that I had to go back and listen to the original.

Man, is this a solid album.  The lyrics pack a punch even twenty years later and what is perhaps more amazing is that the sound collages that Terminator X created, which were something of an oppressive sonic assault are now fairly mainstream-sounding (forward thinking or what?).

What I like about this (and most PE) albums, is that  they have little skits between songs, but unlike most rap skits they’re not one-not jokes that you listen to once and then skip every future time.  A wonderful skit (for lack of a better word) is “Incident at 66.6 FM” in which we hear an amazing amount of racist epithets thrown at PE apparently on the radio.  Or the rather disturbing “Meet the G That Killed Me.”  “Anti-Nigger Machine” is a great collage of samples like “Think” and James Brown and a dozen more songs.

“Can’t Do Nuttin for Ya, Man!” is a (sort of) comic song from Flav that is catchy as anything. While “Reggie Jax” is a confusingly titled song that has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with funk.

Of course, this disc has some of PE’s best songs as well.  From the awesome “911 is a Joke” to one of the best rap songs ever, “Welcome to the Terrordome” (my favorite story of this song is when I was wearing a  Welcome to the Terrordome shirt and my philosophy professor asked me quite pointedly, “What in the hell is a terrordome.”  That was a fun conversation).  “Terrordome” is still amazing–powerful, musically intense and for all of its lyrical acuity, it still has funny moments….boing.

And of course, “Burn Hollywood Burn” is an amazing critique of the movie industry (and it’s catchy too).  I got Black Caesar back at the crib, right Lar?

I’ve always been a little confused by “Pollywannacracker.”  Not lyrically, but vocally, as Chuck’s (is it really Chuck?) voice is treated in a surprisingly tinny way.  I liked the song more on this listen than any other, I guess in the past it just kind of snuck by me.

The album is a little front loaded with greatness.   “Power to the People” is another powerful song, but it’s not quite as memorable as the other tracks.  “Fear of a Black Planet” has some really cool sounds on it (where did they get that “black man, black woman, black baby” sample?).   “Revolutionary Generation” is a great track in which Chuck and Flav stand up for black women: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, my sister’s not my enemy.”  Not your average rap subject.

And the last couple of proper songs, “B Side Wins Again” and “War at 33 1/3” are fast paced and furious, but they don’t really have much in the way of a hook.  Nevertheless, lyrically they are really great, and I love to hear Chuck D flow that quickly.

The biggest surprise for me is the censored version of “Fight the Power” (the song that got me into PE in the first place, thanks Spike).  It’s really surprising to me that PE allowed their music to be bleeped–unless it was just for a deliberate radio play (which I can accept).  Although they also list a title as “Leave This Off You Fu*Kin Charts” (did I buy a Columbia House version or something?)

This is an amazing album, one that still sounds fresh and sadly, is still relevant.

[READ: October 15, 2011] Between Parentheses

I never expected to get so addicted to Roberto Bolaño.  And despite his death, there is no shortage of works coming out in English (that is one of the advantages to reading a translated author–even death doesn’t cease the available materials).  Indeed, this year alone, New Directions is publishing Between Parentheses, and Tres and FSG is publishing The Third Reich (a collection of non fiction, a collection of poetry and a novel respectively).

When I really get into an author, I fall for his or her works, not necessarily him or her as a person (heck, some author are downright jerks).  But there are some authors that I want to know about, personally.  Bolaño is a pretty polarizing figure–he seems obnoxious, his works don’t shy away from very specific opinions, and sometimes it’s unclear what kind of views Bolaño himself has in his works (or if he’s even telling the truth about his so-called truths).  One thing in particular is the constant use of the word “faggot.”  It is used often in 2666 (and I know that is a translator’s choice, but still) and used derogatorily.  Now, clearly the context is everything for something like that.  But it seems to speak badly of Bolaño.  And yet, when reading these essays he is not homophobic in the least.  He is obviously well aware of institutionalized homophobia in Latin America, and he is obviously not supportive of it.

But that’s just one interesting thing about this book.  So let me back up. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The 90’s Are Back, Or Whatever… NPR.  (2011).

This is a 90 minute podcast about the music of the 90s.  And, of course, it opens with “The Dream of the 90s” from Portlandia.

I don’t listen to too many full discussions on the All Songs Considered site, but since the 90s were definitely my favorite era of music, I thought it was worth a listen.  Incidentally, it’s funny that the 90s are so meaningful to me when, really I should be a child of the 80s.  But in reality, my 80s music was mostly heavy metal, because I hated all pop radio then.

This radio show (available for free download here) features four NPR music geeks talking about the music they loved during the 90s.  There are some obvious points (“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “1979,” “Song 2,” “Loser”), but some unexpected songs as well: “Grace” (Jeff Buckley), “Long Snake Moan” (PJ Harvey).  And of course, probably the biggest surprise: Sebadoh’s “Soul and Fire as “song of the decade.”

The hosts have a lot of fun with bad songs (severe bashing on Collective Soul or hilariously cueing up “Can’t Touch This” to punk one of the speakers when they are talking about Missy Elliot–yup, it’s not all alt rock, Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill crop up along with Johnny Cash and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan).

But let’s not forget my perennial favorite from Cornershop: “Brimful of Asha.”  And, yes, My Bloody Valentine.

These days, when I do listen to the radio, I find that the stations I prefer tend to play a lot of 90s songs, but it’s surprising to me how infrequently they play some of these really big artists (I hear a lot of Harvey Danger, but no My Bloody Valentine).  It’s funny that one of the songs they talk about, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” I actually heard coming out of a radio at a pool while on vacation in Florida this past January (!?!).

It’s a fun segment and makes me think that although I do like a lot of new music, I’m a gonna hafta retire to Portland.

P.S. Stay till the end of the show for the hilarious impersonation of Trent Reznor.

[READ: February 17, 2011] 3 book reviews

Zadie Smith is an author whose output I fully intend to ingest one of these days.  So I figured why not read a few of her book reviews, too.

Smith reviews three new titles: Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America, by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard; and While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías.

I’m intrigued by her review of Harlem is Nowhere.  She seemed to be rather critical of the author, especially of her mannerisms: like calling James Baldwin’s “habit of speaking to Harlem folk, having experiences, and deriving from these encounters “a metaphor about all of black existence”–“The Jimmy.”  (where others might have simply called it “writing”).  Or the fact that the author describes herself as a “single girl” as if that has anything to do with anything.

The second half of the review concedes that once you abandon wanting to known anything precise about historical Harlem, it’s a lovely book.  Smith revels in learning about James VanDerZee, Raven Chanticleer and Alexander Gumby (and her enthusiasm makes me want to investigate this book, if not their own works).

So, despite initial criticisms, she ends the review very positively and gives a thumbs up to the work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKLOS CAMPESINOS! Live in studio at WEXP, July 31, 2008 (2008).

For this brief in studio performance Los Campesinos! play four songs from their debut album Hold on Now, Youngster.  The band sounds great in this setting.  I don’t have this album, so I don’t know if they deviate at all from the originals, but the live versions are tight and very effective.

The interviews are informative and rather gushing (I’ve never heard a DJ kiss the ass of a performer in such a nice way before…and the band seems really flattered by it…it’s all very sweet).  The DJ also has a funny conversation about their tendency to scream in their songs.  (It’s cathartic).

What I didn’t notice so much on Romance is Boring was how many different lead singers the band has.  With these four songs, there are enough lead vocalists to show a lot of diversity (and a lot of screaming, too–“don’t read Jane Eyre!”).  And, as one might expect if you know their later disc, the lyrics are smart, funny and wicked.

The difference between Romance and Hold On, seems to be that the band were much punkier on this early disc, and that all comes out in these live tracks.  And the songs are all short: 3 minutes and under.  They really pack a lot in here.

[READ: January 13, 2011] Voyage Along the Horizon

Most of Javier Marías’ books are translated and released through New Directions. But for reasons I’m unclear about, this book, Marías’ 2nd novel, was published by Believer Books (an imprint of McSweeney’s).   I haven’t read any of Marías’ other novels, so I have no idea if this is similar to any of the others (there’s a Q&A at the back of the book which suggests that this is typical of his earlier novels), but it absolutely makes me want to read more by him.

What I loved about this story first off was the sense of distance we received from the main story itself.  (Marías is Spanish, but this is a technique employed by Roberto Bolaño (Chilean) extensively…. Obviously, others do this as well).

The set up of the story is this:  1) An unnamed narrator has a party at his house.  At this party, two individuals, Miss Bunnage and Mr Branshaw (or is it Bragshawe?–he never learns) discuss author Victor Arledge.  Miss Bunnage is a scholar of Arledge and Mr Branshaw has in his house an unpublished novel that investigates the disappearance of Arledge and why he stopped writing.  And so, Branshaw invites Bunnage and the narrator to his house the next day to have the novel (called Voyage Along the Horizon) read to them.

2) So, the next morning, the two go to Branshaw’s house where he does not let them see the book, preferring rather to read the novel aloud (which gives us essentially 3 levels of remove from the action of the story).  That’s a long way to go before you even get to the meat of the book. (more…)

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