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Archive for the ‘Fukú’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KISS-Dynasty (1979).

I was pretty excited to buy this album when it came out–a new Kiss album that wasn’t solo albums!  Woo hoo!  And the fact that it was disco?  Well, even though I said I “hated disco,” I didn’t really know what disco sounded like then (and really, aside from the middle “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” it’s not really a disco record) and plus my other favorite band was the Village People (and really, that makes a lot of sense–tw0 bands in over-the-top costumes talking about sexuality that I totally didn’t understand).

So, this album is hard for me to be critical about because it was such an essential part of my childhood, especially “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.”  I love it, and yet I can listen critically and appreciate that it’s really not that good.

But I’ll move on to the other songs.  “Sure Know Something” and “Magic Touch” really don’t seem that out of place chronologically with, say, the Kiss solo albums–they sound an awful lot like something off of Paul’s album.  So, despite the sort of slinky 70’s bass on “Sure Know Something”, they can’t have been that much of a surprise.  The guitar solos are short but have some interesting Ace sounds (I like the harmonics on “Magic Touch”).  It seems that while the other guys were embracing disco, Paul was keeping the Kiss sound alive.

Then there’s the Ace songs.  “2,000 Man” made total sense as an Ace song. I had no idea it was a Rolling Stones cover until fairly recently (and I like Ace’s version much better).  “Hard Times” feels like the sequel to “New York Groove.”  Not the music so much although maybe a little, but the lyrics–now that he’s in the city here’s what happened–the gritty reality. It’s one of Ace’s great, lost songs.  And check it out, Ace sings on three songs here!  (Guess having a #1 hit wasn’t lost on the Kiss powers).  “Save Your Love” has a cool descending chorus and a nice bass feel to it.  Ace certainly wins on this record.

Peter got only one song, “Dirty Livin'”.  In fact, this is the only song that Peter had anything to do with (his drums were re-recorded by Anton Fig).  It reminds me (in retrospect) of the Rolling Stones disco era even more than “2,000 Man,” the backing vocals remind me of something like “Shattered.”  I always liked this guitar solos on this (cool feedback).  Although I liked the song (along with the rest of the album), I don’t think it holds up very well.

Gene only gets two songs.  It amuses me how little he has to do with these late 70s albums even though he is always the leader of the band.  I always liked “Charisma” (I had to look the word up back then) even though it is, admittedly, rather discoey and really not very good.  It is fun to ask “What is my…charisma?”  But “X-Ray Eyes is the better Gene song on this record.  It harkens back to earlier Kiss songs and even has a bit of menace in it.

So, Dynasty was a huge hit for the band.  And they even got to mock it in Detroit Rock City the movie.  Cynical marketing ploy or genuine fondness for disco?  Who would ever know.

[READ: November 1, 2011] “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”

Readers of this blog know that after finding an author I like, I will try to read everything that he or she has written.  Close readers will know that if a writer is reasonably young and reasonably unpublished, I will try to read his or her uncollected work as well.  Well, I really enjoyed Oscar Wao the novel, so I decided to see what else Díaz had written. There’s really not a lot, to be perfectly frank.  There’s his short story collection Drown and a few fiction pieces published here and there (mostly in the New Yorker) and a few non-fiction pieces as well.

So this “short story” from the New Yorker (with the same title as the novel) is in fact an early, mostly the same, version of the Oscar story in the novel.  The thing here is to note the date: 2000(!).  The novel came out in 2007.  So, Junot had been working with this character for easily five years (giving time for the publishing industry to get a book out and all). The remarkable thing the is just how accomplished and polished this piece is and how much of it was used in the novel.

I’m curious to know whether this was written as a short story (it’s quite a long short story) or if it was always intended as a part of a novel.  Interestingly, when you read this story by itself and you realize that it is pretty much all of Oscar’s story in the novel, you realize just how little of Oscar is actually in the novel.  The novel is about Oscar, obviously, but it is really about his family and the fukú that was placed on them by the Trujillo clan.  Oscar is sort of the touchstone for the fukú, and the person whom the narrator knows most intimately but his story is also brief. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: COLIN STETSON-Live at All Tomorrow’s Parties, October 4, 2011 (2011).

In addition to playing SXSW, Colin Stetson also played All Tomorrow’s Parties, and NPR was there.  Unlike with SXSW, this set appears to be full length (about 50 minutes–which is a pretty amazing amount of time for him to blow that horn).  Like SXSW (and the album) Stetston starts with “Awake on Foreign Shores” and “Judges.”  What I love about this recording is that after Stetson finishes “Judges” a guy in the audience shouts (in a voice of total amazement) “That shit was off the hook!”  And he is right.  It’s not even worth me going into how amazing Steston is once again (check previous posts for  that), but man, just look at the size of that horn he’s playing (seriously, click on the link to see it bigger).

Stetson plays a few more songs from New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges like “The Righteous Wrath of an Honorable Man” (which is outstanding) and “A Dream of Water” (which works without Laurie Anderson, although he does say he’s sorry she’s not there).  He also introduces two news songs “Hunted 1” and “Hunted 2” which show new levels and new styles that Stetson employs.

This is a remarkable set, and Steston is clearly in his element (and the crowd is rapt).  The only problem I have is the recording level.  It must be very difficult to maintain recording levels for Stetson’s brand of noise–his louds are really loud–but you can’t hear him talk at all.  And most of the time, the introductions to his songs are worth hearing.  I’m sure if they tried to get the speaking level a little louder the music would have sacrificed though, so I think they made the right choice–I only wish there was a transcript available.

[READ: October 31, 2011] The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Apparently it’s pronounced, “Wow”, by the way.

Because of my new job, I don’t have a  full hour of lunch-time reading like I used to.  And so this book took considerably longer than I intended.  However, once I set aside some time to read it, I flew through the book.

I’m going to get this part out of the way because I was thinking about it throughout the book and I want to mention it without having it bog down the post.  This story reminded me a lot of Roberto Bolaño.  On the surface, sure this is because they are both writers from “Central America” (Diaz is originally from the Dominican Republic but moved to the US, while Bolaño is originally from Chile but moved to Mexico and then Spain).   But I’m not really talking about their origins so much as the style of storytelling.

Without going into a lot of Bolaño here, I’ll just say that Bolaño tends to write very detailed character studies–stories that follow one person throughout his whole life on something of a fruitless quest.  And the details of that person’s life include information about family members and distant relatives.  Further, Bolaño has written about the brutalities of both Chile and Mexico and how a person can survive in such a place.  Similarly, Díaz follows the life of Oscar and his extended family and he talks about the brutalities of the Dominican Republic.

This is in no way to suggest that there is any connection between the two writers. I mean, The Savage Detectives came out in the States in 2007 (same years as Oscar Wao) and while he certainly could have read it in Spanish, I have no evidence that he did (and as I recently found out, the first draft of the Oscar story was written in 2000).  Again, the parallels are only from my reading and have nothing to do with Díaz himself.

Okay, now that that’s out of my system…

This is the story of Oscar de Leon.  But more than that, this is the story of a fukú–a curse that befalls the de Leon family and follows them through several generations.  Oscar is the youngest member of the family and the person whom the narrator knows best.  So we see this fukú as it impacts Oscar.  And although the book is ostensibly about Oscar, it is about much more.

Oscar was born in Paterson, NJ (the town next to where I grew up!) and went to Don Bosco Tech High School (where many of my friends went).  Oscar is Dominican (his mother is from the DR, but he and his sister were born in NJ), but unlike every other Dominican male, Oscar is totally uncool, into geeky sci-fi and D&D and is clearly destined to be a virgin because he is fat with terrible hair and no social skills.

And, (no spoiler), as the title states, his life will be short. (more…)

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