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Archive for the ‘Post Office’ Category

artofmcSOUNDTRACK: SUGAR-“Helpless” single (1992).

helplessI loved that first Sugar album and even bought the single for “Helpless” (back then singles were ways for record labels to get more money out of fans of a band rather than for people to pay for one song).  In addition to “Helpless,” the single contains three songs.  “Needle Hits E” is a poppy song–very Mould, very Sugar.  The song is a bright and vibrant addition and would fit nicely on Copper Blue.

The second track is an acoustic version of “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” which sounds wonderful.  Mould really knows how to record a 12 string guitar to make it sound huge.  “Try Again” is the final track.  It reminds me of The Who, especially the bass line at the end of each verse.  It’s a darker song (especially for his single which is so up).  But I love the way the acoustic guitar seems to make it build and build.  Then, some time around the two and a half minute mark, a feedback squall starts building.  It’s way in the background (and actually sounds a bit like squealing balloons).  It continues until the last thirty seconds just degenerate into full blown feedback noise–just so you know Sugar aren’t all pop sweetness.  All three songs were later released on Sugar’s Besides collection.

[READ: May 10, 2013] The Art of McSweeney’s

Sarah got this book for me for my birthday and I devoured it.  It answers every question I’ve had about McSweeney’s and many more that I didn’t.  It provides behind the scenes information, previously unseen pieces and all kinds of interviews with the authors and creators of the issues as well as The Believer, Wholphin and some of the novels.

The real treasure troves come from the earliest issues, when there was very little information available about the journal.  So there’s some great stories about how those early covers were designed (ostensibly the book is about the artwork, but it talks about a lot more), how the content was acquired and how the books were publicized (book parties where Arthur Bradford smashed his guitar after singing songs!).

The cover of the book has a very elaborate series of very short stories by Eggers (these same stories appeared on the inside cover of McSweeney’s 23).  For reasons I’m unclear about, the rings of stories have been rotated somewhat so it is does not look exactly the same–although the stories are the same.  The inside photo of the book also gives the origin of the phrase “Impossible, you say? Nothing is impossible when you work for the circus.”

The opening pages show the original letters that Dave Eggers sent out to various writers seeking stories and ideas that were rejected by other publications (and interesting idea for a journal). (more…)

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weltySOUNDTRACK: PAT JORDACHE-“Radio Generation”/”Radar” [CST074] (2010).

jordache“Radio Generation” appeared on Jordache’s album Future Songs in 2011.  This 7″ single has an otherwise unreleased B-side called “Radar” as well.

I think of “Radio Generation” as an unusual “single from the album because, as I wrote of the CD: It opens with “Radio Generation,” which has a really cool bouncy guitar riff and bassline.  It doesn’t quite display the signature sound that I think of this album as having but it certainly points to it.

“Radar” has even less of the Future Songs feel.  It is very sparse, with guitars that sound almost like a Western.  The vocals are slow and drawn out and then the spoken word section begins–continuing the meandering nature of the song.  The melody is pretty, but this is justifiably a B-side.

[READ: January 7, 2012] “Why I Live at the P.O.”

I read about this story in the D.T. Max David Foster Wallace biography.  I’d never read anything by Welty before, and I have no idea if this story is representative of her work.

There’s not a lot of plot to the story, which is probably why it is so successful.  Welty constructs a very funny home scenario (one that I actually had a hard time understanding at first because the names of the characters are rather odd–although perhaps not odd to Southerners?)  I had to read the first sentence a few times before I could really parse it.  It’s not complicated but the names and the dialect are…odd.

I WAS GETTING ALONG FINE with Mama, Papa-Daddy and Uncle Rondo until my sister Stella-Rondo just separated from her husband and came back home again. Mr. Whitaker!

The narrator is Sister, the older and much aggrieved sister of Stella-Rondo.  As the opening says, Stella-Rondo has moved back home.  And she has arrived with a baby (which she swears is not hers).  Sister is put out by the intrusion because she says that Stella-Rondo has always gotten everything she wanted (unlike Sister).  We have no direct proof of that although, if Sister’s telling of this story is to be believed, Stella-Rondo is a major instigator  trying to get Sister in trouble as soon as she returns.  Of course, Sister also tries to get Stella-Rondo in trouble, but her parents don’t seems swayed by her complaints. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DJANGO DJANGO-“Default” (2012).

This song was featured in a post on NPR’s All Songs Considered site on July 31.  Django Django are a Scottish duo and they sound very retro.  The two guys sing in close harmony that is more of an echo than a harmony.  The music is mostly very old-sounding guitars–big and unprocessed–and yet the rest of the track is quite processed and electronic.

It’s a simple, straightforward song (with some cool effects).  The NPR write up about them says that they are more of an electronic band, although this song doesn’t really suggest that (except in the middle section where the sounds are manipulated in a cool way).  I’m not sure if I’m all that interested in the rest of the album  In fact, after a few listens, I’m not as excited by this song as I initially was.  But it’s still fun.

[READ: July 31, 2012] The Rector and the Rogue

The Collins Library is back!  And since this seems to be the summer of non fiction, I decided to read it now.  I have loved every Paul Collins book so far in the Collins Library (old, out of print and forgotten titles that Collins resurrects) and this one–which I admit seemed questionable–was just as wonderful as the others.  The Rector and the Rogue details a much-forgotten episode of a grand-scale prank–the systematic public abuse of Dr Morgan Dix, Rector of Trinity Church by a trickster known as “Gentleman Joe” in 1880.  Yes, 1880.

Swanberg told the story, eighty years later, as a rather gripping tale.  The afterward explains that he just happened upon some information about the story and needed to know more.  So, he did the research and compiled first an essay and then this (reasonably short) book.

And so he begins his tale without letting the audience know what they are in store for (just like Dix had no idea what he was in store for).  One morning in February 1880, Rev Dix opened the door to see a safe salesman from Acme Safe in downtown Manhattan.  The salesman says that Dix inquired about safes.  Dix had done no such thing and sent the man on his way.  Then a man from a local girls’ school rang the bell and said that Dix’ charge was more than welcome to attend.  Dix had no daughter or interest in the school. The schoolmaster showed him a postcard from Dix which asked for information.  The postcard was not his own (obviously) and was not in his handwriting (obviously).  Then came a man selling two horses, replying to his postcard….  This went on all afternoon.

The afternoon mail was full also of responses to similar inquiries–about wigs, dance lessons, kitchenware, etc.

And so began the botheration of Dr Dix. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PAVEMENT-Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1993).

Now this album, Pavement’s second (after the Watery, Domestic EP, which I’ve never heard) is my idea of perfect Pavement.  Some might complain that this album is too commercial (although it hardly is) but to me is shows a consolidation of the talents into actual songs.

It opens with “Silence Kit” which sounds like a twisted take on a Buddy Holly song–disconcerting and familiar at the same time.  The second track “Elevate Me Later” ups the ante a bit with a noisy raucous chorus.

“Stop Breathin'” is a dark song, a sort of minor ballad that sounds even more disconsolate with the slightly out of tune guitar work.   But the lengthy instrumental at the end is (although simple) quite pretty.

And then there is the sublime nonsense of “Cut Your Hair.”  This was the first Pavement song I’d ever heard all those years ago.  And from the silly “oo oos” at the beginning to the crazy screaming guitar solo and crunchy “NO BIG HAIR” line I fell in love immediately. It was a wonderful left field hit (not unlike “She Don’t Use Jelly”) that brought a great band some attention.

It’s followed by “Newark Wilder,” a slow track that fits wonderfully after “Hair.”  One might even call it a ballad.  But it is definitely not standard fare, when the bass (or baritone guitar) plays a riff instead of a bridge.

The album picks up the rocking vibe again with, “Unfair” which I noticed is like a rough precursor to Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.”  It’s a fairly conventional song but it’s made unconventional by Malkmus’ delivery and guitar style (and would probably be a hit if it was released today).

I recently mentioned “Gold Soundz”.  (And it’s amazing how much the live version sounds just like the studio–as if everything was intentional).  It’s followed by the goofy Dave Brubeck parody/tribute “5-4=Unity.”  And of course, “Range Life” is just an awesome slacker anthem.  It’s got everything.

The last three songs offer a lot of diversity.  “Heaven is a Truck” is a piano based, drunken-sounding ballad.  “Hit the Plane Down” is a rambling wonderful shambles that devolves into a complete chaos, and “Fillmore Jive” is a 6 minute “epic.”  It opens slowly, and then builds into a fairly conventional sounding (drunken, sloppy, end of the concert) rock song.

I feel that Pavement peaked with this disc.  It’s really fantastic.

[READ: September 23, 2010] “Lost in the Mail”

As I am wont to do, I have gotten a little obsessed with an author. Recently it was Wells Tower (there’s still a few Harper’s pieces by him I haven’t read yet). And right now its Jonathan Franzen (even though I haven’t read any of his novels yet).  After reading the previous New Yorker piece, I wanted to see what else he had written for them.  Seeing his entire list at the New Yorker site is daunting and it makes it seem like he was constantly writing quite long pieces for them.  And yet, parsing it out, it comes out to about one article a year.  And yet some of these article, whoo boy, are 12 or 13 pages…quite lengthy for the New Yorker.

And so, I’m going to read these pieces over the next few weeks–I thought about reading each year’s piece during a different week, but that seems too regimented.  And since the majority of these pieces are non fiction (there are about 5 short stories in the mix) I’m going to be reading them with an eye towards these questions: Can a good writer make a story that I don’t care interesting?  Would I enjoy this same piece if it were written by someone else?  As a reporter (at large) does Franzen bring some kind of personality to the way the piece is constructed that someone else may not have?

This questions are unanswerable of course, because no one else wrote the piece in a different way.  But, when scanning the titles, some of the subjects interest me but others do not.  And those will be the real test.

This piece, about the Chicago Post Office is something that I didn’t care about specifically.  However, I have a certain love of the Postal System, and so I found this story heartbreaking and something of an illusion-shatterer. (more…)

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