Friday, April 25, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I should point out that I love this album, and this is the book that brought me around on the issue of breaking the MOJO article mold. I bought a copy of the book while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest and ended up giving it to a friend after I read it. At the time, I'd just started Shoot Out The Lights, and I was still committed to writing a journalistic take on the album. I'd read Piper At The Gates Of Dawn a while before and disliked the deviation into the author's personality. But Lewis's book convinced me that a 33 1/3 book could be personal and still work. So I'm not going to review Piper here until I re-read it, and I can thoroughly recommend this one.
Style of book: personal, contextual, meditative, sympathetic.
Sisario spoke to all the Pixies except Kim Deal, getting firsthand information about the making of the album and the band dynamic. He offers an interpretation of the lyrics, but for the most part, it's a journalistic approach. He's an entertaining guide, and it's an entertaining book about a phenomenal album.
Style of the book: Journalism and song analysis.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
For those who have tickets to the upcoming April shows, we're sorry to bear
the bad news that Richard received a scorpion sting while on vacation in Mexico,
incapacitating his right hand for an expected 2-3 weeks. Reluctantly, he is
forced to postpone all of the April shows until later in the year, but expects
to be back up to speed in time for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
on May 2. Stand by for news of rescheduled dates.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
If you're like me, you love Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea with a passion that few other albums achieve, and you have been looking forward to the 33 1/3 book for as long as you've known about it. Well, ok, there's probably only 1000 or so people in the country who fall into that category, but MAN, what a great album and what a great book about it.
Kim Cooper (the editrix of Lost In The Grooves, Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, and Scram Magazine) gets to the heart of the story about this album. As NMH fans know, Jeff Mangum produced only one prior NMH album, On Avery Island (released in 1996), which was pretty much created without a band, then brought in a group that became the NMH that we all knew and loved. NMH put out the amazing In The Aeroplane Over The Sea in 1998, went on a short tour to support the album, then more or less disappeared. I remember when they came to Chapel Hill on that tour, but I didn't go see them because I thought I'd have plenty of options to see them again. I was wrong.
Cooper spent some time with Jeff Mangum while researching the book, and it shows, despite his unwillingness to be directly quoted, in her insight into his elusive genius. She also spoke with the other major members and friends of the band, who provided her with the in-stories that show exactly how this band bottled the lightning in 1998. Cooper's depth of research and sympathy for her subject are wonderful to read.
I probably should have mentioned that I owe Kim Cooper a huge debt of gratitude for including my contributions in the music encyclopedia Lost In The Grooves, which she and David Smay edited back in 2004. Despite my omission (which I mentioned elsewhere), I thought In The Aeroplane was a tremendous book about an underappreciated gem. The album has been growing in notoriety since, partially - I hope - due to Kim's book.
At the end of the review, I said:
I pitched Richard and Linda Thompson's Shoot Out The Lights to 33 1/3, and I can say with confidence that this is exactly the sort of book I'd attempt to write about that album if the editors give me the go-ahead. Some of the other 33 1/3 books have been too much about the ego of the author; Cooper disappears into her narrative, and her book is infinitely better for it.
While it was true that I pitched Shoot Out The Lights to Continuum in the oral-historical style with a desire to emulate Kim's book, I wrote a very different book, part novella and part album review. Some people will certainly be disappointed. Also, I've grown to appreciate the more personal 33 1/3 books since, and regret the comment about the other author's egos. That was unfair and untrue.
Style of book: journalistic, enthusiastic. Generally refuses lyrical analysis. This kind of journalistic approach is especially great for an album like In The Aeroplane Under The Sea, which is somewhat obscure by design.
Incidentally, I saw REM on the Colbert Report last night, and even though the music they're playing now is so pale in comparison to their auspicious beginnings, it reminded me (again) just how important they were to me when I was young. For Southern white kids wanting to play college rock (while wearing onions on our belts, as was the style of the day), REM made it seem like anything was possible.
Style of the book: MOJO-style journalism, song analysis, personal introspection. Well-rounded!
Bruno's book doesn't seem to have a central thesis about the album, but is full of fascinating little details and detours (rather like Bruno's music, I think) and similarly heightened my appreciation for an album already near the top of my personal pantheon.
I haven't re-read it since, so I don't have anything new to add.
Style of book: thoughtful, ruminating, blending journalistic detail with lyrical and contextual analysis of the album.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Anyway, this one won't tell fans anything new about the Replacements, but I suspect most Replacements fans love the hell out of Let It Be already. It's easily one of my favorite albums, and one of the most formative tastemakers from my teenage years. I'm a couple of years older than Meloy, but as a guy who grew up in the cultural wasteland of southwest Alabama, I get where he was coming from, and I appreciate the chance to share that with him.
Style of book: memoir, almost no journalism. Mostly about Meloy's youth and teenage years, and it's written with panache, although it is a bit too verbose for its own good at times.
Continuum's 33 1/3 series has writers and musicians writing about albums they love, and TKATVGPS (the album) is certainly a worthy subject for such a book, being one of the finest albums ever recorded. As much as I've loved this album in my life, my personal connection to it is even greater since I played in a cover band last year that did this album, start to finish, and pretty much nothing besides.
Miller discusses the circumstances surrounding the album's recording (the Kinks in crisis point, unable to tour America, and bassist Pete Quaife about to quit the band) and the themes of the songs. TKATVGPS is a concept album about memory and regret, one of the best examples of idiosyncratic songwriting and point of view with a inestimable influence on indie rock, with a few tracks that veer from the main concept into loosely-connected character studies. Forget Lola and Arthur, this is Ray Davies at the top of his game.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Miller's discussion was the context for the least-coherent song on the album, "Last of the Steam-Powered Trains." Miller argues that the "Smokestack Lightnin'" riff was intended to lightly mock the British bands, contemporaries of the Kinks, who got their start playing American blues songs and later embraced pop songcraft. Like the best of Ray Davies songs, though, the sarcasm is underscored by a deep humanity and compassion for the subject. Although the singer lives in a museum, he's driven insane by all the peaceful living because he simply wants to be a good old renegade.
Anyway, enough dancing about architecture. Miller's book was a fun, short read about an album that belongs in every music fan's home.
Style of book: Long MOJO article, journalistic.
Hultkrans's book is much more enjoyable than Barney Hoskins's Arthur Lee book, which I read last year, although he uses Hoskins as a source. Hultkrans is mainly concerned with the voice of Forever Changes, a voice he calls prophetic in the Old Testament sense. I'm a little distanced from my initial impressions now, but I have a new, greater appreciation for the lyrics of the album, which I had already thought fantastic. "Live and Let Live," in particular, sounds even more like the end of the world, and maybe it is.
Style of book: New interpretation of lyrics. Lots of context about late-60s LA rock scene. Thoughtful descriptions of Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean, the primary songwriters for Love. More interpretative than journalistic.