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Archive for the ‘Shelley Jackson’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MOGWAI: GovernmentCommissions: BBC Sessions 1996-2003 (2005).

It’s unlikely that Mogwai will ever release a greatest hits (well, someone probably will, but the band themselves don’t seem likely to do so).  As such, this compilation of BBC Recordings will certainly work well as one.

As I’ve mentioned many times, the BBC recordings are universally superb.  The quality of the recordings is unmatched.  And, typically the band takes the sessions very seriously.  The major different between these sessions and the official studio release is that the band is playing these songs live.  They are mixed well and sound great but they are live, so you can catch occasional subtle differences.

Mogwai, despite their seemingly improvised sound (all those noises and such) can recreate everything they do perfectly, and their live shows are tight and deliberate (except for the occasional moments where they really let loose).

The ten songs here span their career and are not played in chronological order.  This allows all of these wonderful songs to play off the tensions of each other.  And it shows that their later songs, which are less intense than their earlier ones, are still quite awesome and in a live setting don’t really lack for intensity after all.

The highlight of this disc is the scorching eighteen minute version of “Like Herod.”  The original is intense and amazing, and this live version allows them to play with the original in small ways, including allowing the quietness to really stretch out before they blow the speakers off the wall with the noise section of the track.

Even though I’m a fan of Mogwai, I don’t hear a radical difference between these versions and the originals.  Or should I say, it’s obvious which song they are playing.  There are some obvious subtleties and differences as befitting a live album, but unlike some live discs you don’t immediately notice that this version is “live.”

And that works well for both fans of the band (because as you listen and you hear the subtleties) and for newcomers–(because you’re not listening to weird, poorly recorded versions or versions that are for fans only).  And so, you get ten great Mogwai tracks.  Just enough to make you want to get some more.

[READ: June 11, 2011] The Burned Children of America

I found this book when I was looking for other publications by Zadie Smith.  This book kept cropping up in searches, but I could never really narrow down exactly what it was.  As best as I can tell, it is a British version of a collection of American authors that was originally published in Italy (!).  Editors Marco Cassini and Martina Testa work for minimum fax, an Italian independent publisher.  In 2001, they somehow managed to collect stories from these young, fresh American authors into an Italian anthology (I can’t tell if the stories were translated into Italian or not).

Then, Hamish Hamilton (publisher of Five Dials) decided to release a British version of the book.  They got Zadie Smith to write the introduction (and apparently appended a story by Jonathan Safran Foer (which was not in the original, but which is in the Italian re-publication).  This led to the new rather unwieldy title.  It was not published in America, (all of the stories have appeared in some form–magazine or anthology–in America), but it’s cool to have them all in one place.

The title must come from the David Foster Wallace story contained within: “Incarnations of Burned Children,” which is one of his most horrific stories, but it sets a kind of tone for the work that’s included within (something which Zadie addresses in her introduction): why are these young successful American writers so sad?  So be prepared, this is not a feel good anthology (although the stories are very good).
Oh, and if you care about this kind of thing, the male to female ratio is actually quite good (for an anthology like this): 11 men and 8 women.

ZADIE SMITH-Introduction
Zadie Smith was a fan of David Foster Wallace (she wrote a  lengthy review of the ten-year anniversary of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men which is republished in her book Changing My Mind), so she is an ideal choice to introduce this book.  Especially when she provides a quote from DFW’s interview in 1995 about how living in America in the late 90s has a kind of “lostness” to it.  With this in mind, she sets out the concerns of this collection of great stories: fear of death and advertising.

Zadie gives some wonderful insight into each of these stories. The introduction was designed to be read after the book, and I’m glad I waited because while she doesn’t exactly spoil anything, she provides a wonderful perspective on each piece and also offers some ideas about the stories that I hadn’t considered.  And it’s funny, too. (more…)

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31SOUNDTRACK: THE REPLACEMENTS-Hootenanny (1983).

hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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