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Archive for the ‘Lydia Millet’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: LIZ PHAIR-Exile in Guyville Live October 6, 2008 (2008).

Like all indie rock hipsters I loved Exile in Guyville when it came out.  And like all indie rock hipsters, I hated that Liz Phair later made an album that is had the top cover below.  I didn’t even care anymore when she made the album with the second cover below.

The irony of course is that Liz made Guyville because she was sick of the hipster boys who were living in Chicago at the time.  And now it was the same hipster boys (only older) who were dismissing her for selling out.  (At least, that’s what I get from the interview that’s attached to the end of the concert and this separate interview from around the same time).

But regardless of my hipster cred (and subsequent loss of same) I really didn’t like Liz’s new pop style (but good for her for still being hot, right?).  In fact, I hadn’t even really listened to her since 2000 anyhow so when she came out with her pop albums I just kind of shrugged.

So, what’s up with this return to Guyville?  Well, the interviews mention her needing some closure on the rough time in her life when she made the record.  And also feeling that since could actually play her guitar now, it was worth giving fans (and herself) the experience of actually enjoying playing the album live.  So, good vibes and happy feelings all around (and sex and sex and more sex).

The concert is the entire Guyville album, played start to finish, with occasional banter in between.  And she is quite faithful to the original (she even has a special guest sing the “Every time I see your face, I get all wet between my legs” line on “Flower.”  The main flaw with the concert is that the bassist hits a number of flat notes and also on at least two songs is either out of tune or just mixed too loud or something.

The other flaw is directly related to Liz saying how much better she is at performing.  Because as the set opens, her voice sounds really off on the first couple of songs.  In the interview, she says that she still feels uncomfortable on stage until about the fourth song. And maybe that’s what’s happening on 6′ 1″ or, quite possibly, she can’t hit those notes anymore (her voice is considerably higher on her newer songs and 6′ 1″ is a low register, almost flat singing style and she just doesn’t seem comfortable doing it).  Indeed, by the fourth or fifth song, she seems more comfortable and seems to be having more fun and the set moves pretty smoothly from there.

She has a good rapport with the audience.  Humility was never her strong suit, and it shows, which makes me her a little less likable, but she still has good banter.

When the album is over she comes back for a brief encore.  She plays two songs solo (which are okay).  And then the band comes back for two of her other hits: “Supernova” and “Polyester Bride” which both sound fantastic.

Listening to Exile in Guyville again was great, the songs hold up really well.  I’ll have to pull her old CDs out and listen to the originals again (the concert is mixed a little low, but–good on NPR–all of the bad words are left in!).  The NPR page also said that Guyville had gone out of print until it was reissued recently.  Is it really possible that Matador let it go out of print?

[READ: April 22, 2011] Five Dials Number 4

The conceit behind this issue is “Eleven writers tell us Exactly What Happened …Days Before It Happened.”  And the authors tell us in past tense what happened on the fateful night of the election between Obama nad McCain.  (even though they are written some time before it has happened).

This issue is short again (all of 14 pages), but with such a tidy topic, the fourteen pages are packed with information.  There are eleven authors who write about the election.  Most are just a couple of paragraphs, so I’m not going to try to summarize them.  I’m going to say their predictions for what happened and (in one case) the uncanny accuracy.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor “On Elections and Chomsky”
He lays out what the point of this speculation fiction is: “We’ve become tired of the uncertainty and of the waiting.  It’s time someone told us exactly how this election ends.”   And also, Chomsky is almost 80, and he’s still vibrant. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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