Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Susan Sontag’ Category

SOUNDTRACKSPIRIT OF THE WEST-Live at Massey Hall (June 6, 2015).

This proves to be a pretty powerful show.

I was introduced to Spirit of the West by my Vancouver based friend Amber back in the 1990s.  I didn’t really keep up with them, but I have long enjoyed their album faithlift.

But here it is 2015 and as the blurb at the beginning of the show says:

In 2014, at the age of 51, John Mann, Spirit of the West’s lead singer, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.  On June 6, 2015, Spirit of the West would play their one and only show at Toronto’s Legendary Massey Hall.

The rest of the band includes Hugh McMillan, Vince Ditrich, Tobin Frank and Matthew Harder all of whom play various instruments including keyboards, accordion and all things with strings.

Most of the band have never been in Massey or even seen it.  But they marvel at the venue and are genuinely moved by the end of this show.

They open with their hit (from faithlift) “And If Venice is Sinking.”  It’s got accordion and a big bass line and some funny lyrics and a full backing vocal chorus.

We made love upon a bed
That sagged down to the floor
In a room that had a postcard on the door
Of Marini’s Little Man
With an erection on a horse
It always leaves me laughing

John Mann is the lead singer, Geoff Kelly is the co-lead guy.  He does most of the speaking.  He says “This is as close as were every gonna get to Beatlemania.”

Next up is “King of Scotland” about a man who desperately wanted to be Scottish.  It, like many of their songs is a rousing half-trad/half rocking song.  Incidentally, Mann has been singing off of an iPad to help with his memory.

“Doin’ Quite Alright” is the first of many songs sung by Kelly.  he also plays bodhran.  It sounds quite trad and is much faster with a  cool bassline.  The addition of 70s sounding keyboards is a little odd though.

“July” sees the introduction of what I think is a bouzouki and sounds an awful lot like “Love is All Around” by Wet Wet Wet except for the fun and powerful chorus of JuLYYYYYYYY!

Kelly jokes that someone in the band is delighted by Massey Hall because it is finally something he’s found that is older than Kelly is.

Up next is “Political,” a song “we recorded on our Labour Day record in 1988ish and then again on Go Figure and then again with the Vancouver symphony.  I guess we really like this song.  Kelly is on flute and plays a wild harmonica solo.

Next up is their newest song, which is about 12 years old.  It’s about how every year New Year’s parties just get worse and worse.  “Another Happy New Year” starts out with slow staccato piano and then it really takes off (with Kelly on the penny whistle).

After sincerely thanking everyone for their kindness (it’s getting pretty emotional), they are going to play a drinking song called The Crawl.  The crowd really gets into the raucous song.

The night ends with Kelly saying this was the most awesome night ever.  They are going to leave everyone with “Home for a Rest.”  The audience sings along with Mann for the first verse and then Mann backs off and lets them sing it all.  It’s pretty great.  As is the song which ends with a wild instrumental jam that’s basically a flute-led jig which ends the sing and the show.

I imagine being there was pretty special.

[READ: May 15, 2018] “Nothing But”

This is a wonderful short essay on memory with the epigram: “The truth–that thing I thought I was telling.”

He begins by talking about a chapter in his book White Sands about a visit to the house of Theodor Adorno.  The essay takes its title “Pilgrimage” from a short story (why is it not considered a memoir?) by Susan Sontag in which she and her friend Merrill went to the house of Thomas Mann when she was 14.

It came out later that Merrill never understood why Susan left their friend Gene (who had gone with them) out of the story entirely.  (It happened in 1947, she wrote it in 1987).   This shows “a startling manifestation of the vagaries of memory and a vindication of what can sometimes seem like the fussiness of editorial fact-checking.” (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

5dails33bSOUNDTRACK: PUNCH BROTHERS-Tiny Desk Concert #427 (March 16, 2015).

punchtinyIt is Chris Thile’s birthday and Bob and the gang brought him a cake, and Chris seems so genuinely touched, it is adorable.

Bob explains that they usually don’t invite artists back more than once but Chris has been on Tiny Desk four times by having five different “groups.” (Chris Thile And Michael Daves; Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile And Stuart Duncan; Nickel Creek and now Punch Brothers).

I had heard of Punch Brothers, but didn’t know them.  I instantly became a fan after watching Chris’ great mandolin playing and his familiar but always interesting voice. The rest of the brothers provide great harmonies and lots and lots of strings (violin, bass, banjo and guitar).  They play four songs, “My Oh My,” a great, fun original and a traditional song “Boll Weevil” which is a rollicking fast fun bluegrass song.  “Magnet” is a “fairly debauched song,” which is even more rollick and more fun.  And Chris’ visuals during the song are very funny.

The final song is longer and much slower.  “Julep” is a mellow song with nice harmonies and delicate playing.  This Tiny Desk Concert really showcases how diverse this band is and I’m really interested to hear more.

[READ: April 5, 2015] Five Dials 33 Part II

Five Dials Number 33 Part 1 was dedicated to women and part II, the more substantial of the two, continues that theme.  And it features illustrations by Melanie Amaral.

The issue opens with a Centenary Appreciation of Marguerite Duras, the ultimate writer of euphoria and despair.  I don’t know much about her although I am familiar with her titles The Lover and Hiroshima mon Amour.

There are brief accolades from SUSANA MEDINA; OLIVIA LAING; DEOBRAH LEVY; AGATA PYZIK; JOANNA WALSH; CARI LUNA; ZOE PILGER; SUZANNE JOINSON; MARINA WARNER and EMMA WILSON all of which makes me think I should stop reading Five Dials and read Duras. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MY MORNING JACKETZ (2005).

I’ve enjoyed My Morning Jacket since I bought their live album Okonokos.  I’ve enjoyed all of their releases since, but I never listened to Z, the album that forms the basis of much of Okonokos. Finally, I saw it cheap and picked it up.

And I was really surprised.  The reason I hadn’t gotten it was because I figured I had all of the songs already in live format, so who needed the studio?  Well, it turns out that the studio versions are quite different from the live ones.  In fact, on my first listen, I didn’t really like the studio versions all that much.  After a few listens of course, I like them just fine, but they are indeed quite different.

There are three songs here that didn’t make the live record: “Into the Woods,” “Anytime” and “Knot Comes Loose.”  But the other seven songs appear (often in slightly longer form) on the live disc.  And the live disc is fuller, louder and more energetic than the studio.  That’s what a live album is supposed to sound like.

Z, on the other hand, sounds a bit more polished, more almost dancey–reflecting the kinds of sounds they would incorporate down the road (like on Circuital).  But Z isn’t quite as full-sounding.  Despite that, the songs are top-notch.  And Jim James’ voice is truly a thing to behold (check out that crazy high note at the end of “What a Wonderful Man”).

I hate to sound like I’m down on this disc, because indeed, I am not.  It’s a really fascinating mix of psychedelia and Prince-inspired keyboard rock (I’m not going as far as funk, but it’s certainly Prince-y.  There’s some folk tracks, there’s the amazing “Wordless Chorus” which has a kind of 70;s soft rock feel, which is followed by the Prince-titled “It Beats 4 U” which sounds nothing like Prince, but has a great subtle guitar intro.  “Gideon” doesn’t match any of the over the top epics of earlier records, but it sure feels close.  And “Off the Record” is a practically ska.  The album even has a near 8 minute closing track, the awesome “Dondante.”

All in all, Z is pretty great.  But I still like the live versions better.  That’s what happens when you listen to things out of order, I guess.  But when do live albums count for anything?

 [READ: July 11, 2011] 3 book reviews

According to Five Dials, Zadie Smith is an official member of Harper’s staff now (funny I found out about it from Five Dials, but they really do have tentacles in all aspects of my life).  Congratultions, Zadie.

I can’t imagine having to review two or three books a month (I know I review a lot here, but most of them are short stories).  Zadie plows through a lot of books for this column, but what is wonderful is that the diversity of what she reads is really pronounced.  Just witness this months’ books.

MELA HARTWIG-Am I a Redundant Human Being?
Zadie takes a great angle on this novel.  She (with the help of an online reviewer) compares the protagonist of this novel (written in the 1930s) with Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City.  Why?  Because both protagonists seem to live their lives in the male gaze.  And yet they both also continue on their merry way regardless of what the men say or do.  True, Hartwig’s novella has much more angst, but really, there is a similar attitude present.

I especially like Zadie’s argument that women writers have never really had they way to express the bragging rights that men have employed time immemorial “We can’t, as the saying goes, pull it out and slap it on the table.”  And as such, women have had to achieve their victories through more roundabout means.  I rather liked this analysis.  And, I think it makes for more interesting reading most of the time. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

[READ: September 24, 2001 & May 9, 2011] Talk of the Town

After 9/11, I read everything about the incident (like the multiple comics that came out).  About a week after 9/11 my friend Al and I went down to Hoboken and absorbed the decay (and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why I’ve developed adult asthma).  My 9/11 story is no more compelling than anyone else’s and may even be far less compelling (you can read a snippet at Al’s blog, should you care to).  Anyhow, when this issue of The New Yorker came out (with the amazing cover that you can’t really see here–the towers are in a shiny black that reflects the light), I read all of these accounts and recollections.

I came upon them again recently when I was doing a New Yorker search for Jonathan Franzen.  I recently read all of his New Yorker entries, but when I saw that he had one that was part of this 9/11 issue, I decided to put it off.  It was reasonably close to the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, and I told myself I’d wait until then to reread and see what I thought.

And then President Obama gave the order to capture and kill Osama bin Laden (hooray!) and that seemed like a far more propitious reason to go back and re-read these articles.  Now I can feel a bit lighter about the whole thing (just a bit, but a bit can be a lot).  And so, here’s a somewhat facile reaction to these reactions.

I’ll preface by saying I can’t imagine what it must have been like to write something, anything at that time.  Some people respond well to pressure and tragedy and perhaps that’s what happened here.  I can’t help but wonder how paralyzing it must have been for other writers (as it was for most people).  So that these writers had the wherewithal to write anything coherent is pretty amazing.  And the fact that the could express the range of emotions that they do is extraordinary. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »