Friday, August 25, 2006

Horses, Scarcely Better

The lawnmower dies as I ease off the throttle. The last of the grass is finally cut. Eleven o'clock in the morning, the good summer sun sinking heavily into the trees. My brother picks me up on the avenue, and we load the lawnmower into the trunk of the Hyundai. Large patches of damp grass slip from the bottom of the machine onto the floor of the trunk. "Why didn't you clean it off?" my brother says. I shrug. I'll vacuum the car out when we get home. Perhaps not. My brother puts the key in the ignition and leans his head back. "Is that gasoline?" The lawnmower, I realize, is probably dripping gas. We head east, my brother turning left, right, right again, left again, and now we're on the road which will take us back to the town I call home for two more weeks. The trip will take us forty minutes, maybe longer. No turning. "Let's stop at McDonald's," I say. "I'll buy." We get out of the car, and, as he shuts the door, my brother wrinkles his nose and says, loudly, emphatically, "Man, this car smells like grass!"

The man in the truck beside us shakes his head.

Michael Dracula + "Destroy Yourself" I have no idea where to listen to this music. The car? Strictly headphones? Near as I can guess, 1963, in thin black slacks, across from a girl with dark make-up who is earnestly seeking the liberation of les femmes québécoise—that would be most likely-nearly-maybe the fitting place to hear this tune. But never the time and the place, and the music all together.

The band is releasing a debut full-length this October, and you can listen to a demo version of the lead single, "What Can I Do For You?", on the label's site. But this tune, "Destroy Yourself", is a simple tune, easily drummed up on a laptop or a four-track. The signature die-away voice and scattered bits of controller.controller guitar are something else, though, middle-of-the-road registers almost-but-not-quite cutting at the memory. Sounds like, then? Sounds like Tom Waits' favourite contemporary adult euro-pop, is what. Not as bad as you were hoping, not as good as you remember, but something there, always there, to make you listen again.

JFK has just been assassinated, Rigaud Mountain will soon see The Great Train Robber Charles Wilson, and the girl across the table is never going to go to bed with you. You squint through your menthol cigarette at the band in the background and think that if you hadn't gotten your hair cut so atrociously the day before, you might hit on the lead singer after the set. You're WAY out of your league.

Nick Hornby + "How To Read" Hornby writes a few words about words:

But I do not wish to produce prose that draws attention to itself, rather than the world it describes, and I certainly don't have the patience to read it. (I suspect that I'm not alone here. That kind of writing tends to be admired more by critics than by book-buyers, if the best-seller lists can be admitted as evidence: the literary novels that have reached a mass audience over the past decade or so usually ask readers to look through a relatively clear pane of glass at their characters.)

Hornby's influences bear him out—he cites Anne Tyler and Dickens among his greatest authorial inspirations, and if there are two clearer narrators of voice over language, please, show me. Hornby's influences also do NOT bear him out—um, Dickens, again? I mean, if there is a MORE famous scribbler of language for the sake of language, a man who created entire worlds out of words, please, then, show him, show her to me. Bleak House, please, the famous beginning:

LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

If this is not prose that draws attention to itself, well, what is? The three opening paragraphs of the novel do not contain, between them, a single complete sentence. The place, and not the people, are what make Bleak House so great. The medium and not the message, is what is remembered. Because, sometimes, the paint is also part of the picture. Sure, but was this very wordy Bleak House popular among les peuples? Please. This is Dickens we're talking about. Yes, of course this book was popular: it's still being filmed today!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Aye, There's The Rubdown

The Wolf Parade show was a bust. Do you think that "bust" is a positive? Let's ignore the obvious one there, please. I'm thinking of To The Moon Or. And Monday night's show at The Starlite didn't go near the White Lady. In fact, you would have thought there was a lunar eclipse. Listen, it was a great set, the sound was good, all the right notes, chords, strings, golden striking of golden guitars. Doors opened at eight. We were there at nine. Carey Mercer's band opened pretty much at eleven. And the Parade didn't hit the stage until midnight. What? Was this a New Year's show? This is not some big stadium concert here, this isn't a once-in-a-lifetime set, what is the fricking deal? Godsake, it was a Monday night! Get on the stage already! Let me put it this way: between the time the doors opened and the first band went on, I could have gone to dinner and watched a movie. Between the doors and Wolf Parade, I could have eaten dinner, watched a movie, gone bowling and STILL been back in time to watch the Parade set up. The music was great, but the show bit it big. Big big bitingness. I've got no use for you, bad show.

"Click Click Click Click" + Bishop Allen We all know the deal by now. One a month, right? To me, however, there was nothing coming close to their earlier efforts. Not in terms of matching up music and words. "Little Black Ache" is something else, after all, perfection of harmony and earnestness. "Things Are What You Make Of Them" still remains my favourite, but barely, barely, because "Click" in the same room as "Things" is like your two best friends at the table having two different conversations and you don't know who to pay attention to the most. Right now, I'm paying more attention to the newest friend.

The rest of the band cutting in at 1:04 is what makes this song, but 1:38 is just beautiful, too, like opening a dark cuboard, warm. Oh, 2:18, did you think I had forgotten you, no, you're the best—no, not the best, but equally elegant. This song deserves to be heard everywhere.

Foucault's Pendulum + Umberto Eco Posit: I read Eco's The Name Of The Rose. Exposit: I own a Penguin softcover of Eco's The Island Of The Day Before and a hardcover copy of his Foucault's Pendulum. Conclusion: Because I own copies of Island and Foucault, I refuse to buy Eco's Baudolino or The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana

Umberto Eco's passion for creating lists, if hindsight is anything to go by (and if not, what is?) was pretty much beaten into a corner by the powerful pyramidical plot structure of his first novel, The Name Of The Rose. Everything in that novel, and there is a LOT, is directed toward the conclusion of the story. Rightfully so, since the story is a mystery, unabashedly of the detective genre. I mean, the investigating monk is called William of Baskerville, for crying out loud. Eco not only pays his literary debts, he revels in the paying. But he revels in lists even more. And not one of Eco's novels, not since Rose, has had the neccessary structure to smooth down his hydra-headed digressions. I am on page 291 of Foucault's Pendulum, and I am bored stiff. Nothing has happened. The narrator, in a musuem which houses the titular subject, is recalling how he arrived in his hiding place. He's written a dissertation on the Knights Templar, apparently graduated from university, gone to Brazil and encountered voodoo, and is back in Italy working for a publishing house which wishes to start up a line of books pandering to an audience interested in the occult and conspiracies. Two hundred and ninety-one pages of interminable itemization of the occult and quasi-occult, but where is the plot? This book is the worst, Jerry, simply the worst.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

RIP, Death From Above 1979

"I'm leaving while you turn away / In the basement is where I'm gonna stay". It's over. Heartbreaking.