Monday, August 30, 2004

Jonathan Mayhew's reactions a few days ago over at Bemsha Swing to the new Best American Poetry guest edited by Lyn Hejinian has been gnawing at the back of my brain. Not that anything about it particularly angers me, but say the labeling (quarantining?) of Charles Wright, Rita Dove, etc. as mediocrities-of-the-moment-to-be-dismissed fits in smoothly with a well-stated thesis of Dr. Mayhew's, that the experimental line is the valuable one in our culture; according to this thesis, the poems of Wilbur, Justice, etc. aren't on a par with the cultural expansions of the innovators & outsiders:

If anyone were making list of significant cultural achievements of the 20th century. Jazz, abstract art, the great modern poets like Rilke, Pessoa, Stevens, Cavafy. The invention of motion pictures, a wholly new art form. The development of myriad genres of popular music (Bossa nova!) and graphic art. Who would include in this list the conservative reaction against modernism? Mid-century "academic" poetry of the 1950s? Wilbur, Nemerov, Justice... It would be hard to make a case. Surrealism, jazz, the movies, comic strips, made an impact on the culture, defined the look and feel of the century.

Interruption: Time to let on a bit of my own strange world: I keep an internal list of blogging tendencies/cliches of individual bloggers & poetry bloggers in general. There's the "This is why I don't subscribe to the Poetics list" link cliche, etc. Anyway, I like a lot of what's on Bemsha Swing, but there's one thing that irks me, & I'm interested in Mayhew's take on this. It's an aspect that I've given a label to. It's called Mayhew's Fallacy, which is just simply assuming that the reason someone has fundamentally different tastes than yours is because they are less sophisticated/informed/etc.

A rhetorical question a few months ago concerning W.S. Merwin & David Shapiro lodged itself in my mind & put me on the lookout for this tendency in JM, myself & others. I think it was the implied lack of self-questioning or self-skepticism that struck me.

Yesterday, at some point, a term, one that might be already coined (probably is), presented itself to me concerning this tendency: cultural privilege.

A context: Will Oldham aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy aka Palace Music recently released a greatest hits disc where one of his personas covers the songs of a different persona -- fans voted for songs on a website & Oldham re-recorded them with veteran session players in Nashville. The results, I think, are wonderful: a completely new context for the songs & the songs work regardless of your previous exposure to the songs or knowledge of Oldham. The new recordings are classic Nashville, in the perhaps mid 70s Don Williams & Charlie Rich sense -- richly layered, dramatically rendered songs with the vocalist as almost a guest star in the track, narrating some situation that the music describes. Really interesting, I think, aesthetically. Before I'd heard the album I read reviews from Pitchfork and other hipster review mags that aging hipsters like myself read, and none of them seemed able to approach Oldham's decision to recast the songs as he did as an aesthetic decision -- many thought it was a joke, or a test perhaps. There's nothing in the tracks to suggest a lack of sincerity, at least to my ears. But I think these reviewers were listening from a position of cultural privilege, & a hip, smart musician like Oldham seriously & sincerely working in Nashville didn't fit the privileged paradigm where sloppiness & tape hiss equal integrity. So reviews were either dismissive, or jokey (one review was in the form of a CB broadcast) -- apparently country is ok when recorded cheaply or primitively, but not when done professionally.

Back to Mayhew. I don't know if it was on Jonathan's blog, or others', or both, but folks' reaction to the inclusion of Billy Collins & Rita Dove in the BAP seemed to be "well, this is David Lehman's influence" or "a marketing decision". I also was surprised by the inclusion of Collins/Dove/etc., but to present what I think is a realistic question: isn't it possible that Hejinian just liked the poems? That she found them to be of value & was able to read them with an open mind? To harp on Mayhew: in his great BAP Bob vs. Yusef grudge match that we reprinted in Octopus #2 there seemed to be a similar tendency informing his commentaries, that Creeley would only include Maxine Kumin or Donald Hall because they're old buddies, not that there was something there in the poem that was interesting/moving/engaging. I need to go back & reread to see if the same charge is leveled against Komunyakaa when he goes outside his expected range, or if he's praised for being adventurous.

I haven't read the new Best American Poetry, but the Dove & Collins etc. are the poems I'll read first. & I'm also kind of excited by the fact that Hejinian picked these poems. I liked Dove's 2nd book a lot, & I've always just dismissed Collins out of hand after reading a dozen or so poems-- I like the fact that Hejinian's selections have got me second guessing my own paradigms, however slightly.

& to be a jerk, I think that reaction is a healthier one than the privileged one, a reaction that doesn't presuppose that one has it all figured out & everyone else has to catch up. I often think that, of course -- it takes a poet of Hejinian's stature I guess to jostle me.

So, in summary: Go Tost.

I really am the thinking man's Zukofsky!


I also hope Hejinian doesn't make any sort of big self-congratulatory deal in her intro about including these unexpected poets because that would simply swing attention away from the poems themselves and towards her own open mindedness. I bring this up simply because there's a small thing in the new Fence that I've been wanting to blog about: there's two pieces by Kyle Kenner titled "Drafted" & "The Man in the Window". The pieces seem to graft elements of Stein & Tate. Fairly interesting. All good, except for the following footnote at the bottom of the page:

Kyle Kenner currently attends school at Coke R. Stevenson Middle School in San Antonio, Texas; he is in the 8th grade, and enjoys writing and reading fiction.

Well, if I was Kyle Kenner I'd be pissed off -- no one else has a bio at the bottom of their page. It's as if Fence is saying "hey, aren't we cute that we're publishing this kid -- don't take it too seriously though, it's just a kid -- but anyway, aren't we cute?" Maybe Kyle Kenner is actually Kent Johnson and the bio is part of the piece. But otherwise, I say either print the pieces like everyone else's or don't run them.

It's just kind of chickenshit, actually, at an important level: no paradigms or assumptions are threatened by this decision: the bio note right there below the poems (I noticed the footnote before the pieces) makes sure of that. If they would've ran the pieces & readers liked them and wanted to know who this new voice was & then they turned to the bios in the back with all the Real Poets, the readers would've had a healthy little jarring when finding that this was a middle-school aged poet working. But maybe Fence just didn't want to take the risk that their readers thought Fence actually decided that the poems stood up on their own as poems and not just as adventures in stunt editing. Is this like a small glimpse at a lack of seriousness behind Fence? That's probably ungenerous. But the question presents itself, I think.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Terrific discussions going on over at Chris Vitiello's blog.

A few days ago I posted the Table of Contents for the manuscript I've been working on called On the Oblivious Pool. So I've been mentioning off & on the length of the manuscript, which at one point was up to 98 pages, etc. Now it's down to 60. Some major cutting has been going on. For the better. The weird thing is what I'm working on now, a poem called Complex Sleep, which is On the Oblivious Pool's holographic double, & will be of basically the same length (since it is taking On the Oblivious Pool as its model line-by-line/sentence-by-sentence). I have lots of weird motivations behind this, one of which is a desire to hold myself accountable for aesthetic decisions -- word choices and such that don't just affect their given poem but that infect other ones. & I'm not totally convinced of my motivations behind this, whether I want to present an aesthetic model that may have vague ethical underpinnings, or if I'm simply compensating for perceived lacks in my writing/life.

It's sort of gimmicky, but if/when I get this thing finished & published in a book form my ideal is for it to be one of those books that's two books, one that faces up & one that faces down. Back to back, like in a streetfight. This idea skips right over anxieties of what hoops I'm going to have to find & then jump through to get the thing published.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


One of the best things about being here in NC is the Lucifer Poetics Group.

Lucipo is branching out more & more into the blogosphere. Some highly suggested links:

Ken Rumble's Desert City blog. Ken is poet, readings organizer, Lucipo administrator & drinking buddy extraordinaire -- check in now to get the history of the Desert City Reading Series, which will be starting its 3rd season, & which is going to be amazing.

Also, Chris Vitiello's The Delay blog is up & running. The newest post is a really open one on his own methods as he wrestles w/ how much of his current work is Vitiello & how much is Hocquard. Chris is a stunningly fecund poetic mind & is a great resource for me -- we share many interests, so it's great to sit back & have a beer & learn more & develop a more complex appreciation of people like Brakhage, Cornell & Darger.

& lastly there's the Goat's Head Soup blog, which is Lucipo's 'New & Noted' blog in the spirit sharing possible poetic materials from whatever genres or sources.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004



(a dozen for Leigh)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

My favorite albums.

#8: Captain Beefheart, Clear Spot

I'd always sort of grouped him w/ Zappa, whom I've never cared for. I've loved Safe as Milk, but hadn't found the later, weirder albums all that compelling. Then my friend Robert Bell got me a copy of this, & it's brilliant. The Magic Band is inventive, in the groove, & sold out on soul. Beefheart perfects his Howlin' Wolf/Wilson Pickett bit on this album, sounding fully capable of leading a band and commanding an audience -- he falls right in the line of brilliant frontmen on this album. Shelve him right between James Brown & Mark E. Smith. At least half of these songs are in my personal canon: Too Much Time, Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles, My Head is My Only House Unless It Rains, Nowadays a Woman Gotta Hit a Man, Low Yo Yo Stuff. This is a great party album -- dance w/o kitsch, brains w/ a body to move it around the room. Art Tripp is the drummer, & amazingly inventive throughout.

The album is so heterosexual that it seems to border on being misogynistic in spots: in a way that almost feels like a way of acknowledging a tradition, in ways that I don't think many contemporary albums would risk:

None o' my women have tears in their eyes
You can ask 'em about me I swear'n they'll tell you
That's one man I swear
Yeah, that's a man


Sometimes when it's late and I'm a little bit hungry
I heat up some old stale beans
Open up a can of sardines
Eat crackers and dream
About somebody to cook for me


I don't like to talk about none of my women
But this one sure could hold her long neck bottle beer down

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Why I could never desire to completely abandon narrative: the other day I gave myself goosebumps summarizing the plot of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" to a friend at the coffee shop.

Possible equation (concerning power)

Putting on narrative = Dylan going electric


Now playing: Bruce Springsteen, Darkness at the Edge of Town

Monday, August 09, 2004

Olson wanted to let the dream back in. Okay. There is no difference between waking and sleeping. That sentence makes even more sense when you're asleep. A century can thus be condensed into a collective mask. The outer man is attached to a man inside. The poetics of the situation are beginning to be found out. Forget sleep / and be there.

-- Bob Perelman

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Paul White in Croatia:

what have i done? I didn't think it was possible to spend that much money in a country like this. And why did I buy a round for the marines guarding colin powell. that's like getting stuck in an elevator with the gestapo and only a bottle of liquor between you and just throwing your arms together and making love. well, not quite. but still, it's bad.
i'm glad its rainy. it made the kentucky fried chicken and scotch go down so much better. we rolled away our afternoon listening to 50 cent and reminiscing our digestive organs.

my first mistake in this town was asking this woman if a huge statue outside the train station was Lenin. She looked at me with these eyes as if to say, "Are you FUCKING INSANE!!! God, i've replayed that incident a thousand times. No, I mean John Lennon. Or, I mean, Linen. Is your dress linen.

when i see the real lenin, and the real stalin as statues, dressed for winter in their hats and scarves and looking cute like little toddlers being dangled over a river bridge is both real scary and cute,
when you let them go, but there's nothing left except a t shirt in your hand. you cry and blow your nose in the t, hand it back to mother staring shocked at her empty carriage, a feeling as though, you know, you've really done something. well, i've never danced so hard in my life.

thought i was going to have to sleep on the street with a german last night. shit. then fate came in a dancing with a key

Friday, August 06, 2004

Below is a prose poem of sorts, a strange experiment. I was reading through some of Pound's Italian radio talks posted at Benjamin Friedlander's homepage & was struck at how many of his arguments seemed to echo more virulent current anti-war arguments & rhetorics. In the spirit of Negative Capability, I've inserted my own name for Pound's & altered his examples & names to match up w/ the current situation. The purpose is neither to exonerate Pound or condemn the anti-Bush crowd (of which I'm a part), but to explore gray areas between settled assumptions; namely, my own assumptions of Pound's politics/motivations & of my own. So, the rhetoric is Pound's, the substitutions are mine. I've excised sentences from the original (a link is provided at the bottom of this post) that I couldn't see immediate possible parallels to.
Tony Tost Speaking from Home
"The Pattern"

FIRST ANNOUNCER: We, in accordance with the academic policy of intellectual freedom and free expression of opinion by those who are qualified to hold it, following the tradition of American self-expression, have offered Tony Tost the use [skip in recording] twice a week. It is understood that he will not be asked to say anything whatsoever that goes against his conscience, or anything incompatible with his duties as a citizen of the United States of America.

SECOND ANNOUNCER: [inaudible] Tony Tost with a [inaudible] talk entitled “Patterns.”

TONY TOST: Chapel Hill calling. Tony Tost speaking from home. Title: “The Pattern.” When are the American and English people going to take note of the pattern? The pattern in which wars are made. Not one war, but wars in plural. Ah, whether you go back to the start of this, when the virus of death, the invisible silence was shot into the American people. Halliburton finding gold in a vacuum & levying interest tax in respect to it. Well, we can’t all be students of history. Look to what you can remember if you are over 40.

How was the war started? Murder at dawn. Look [skip in recording] the data that has served as spark for wars, and that were intended to start wars, but something went wet in the fuse. Connect them up. Think what might have been back [skip in recording] to use a people, to send a people into war unprepared, is called destroying them. It is called destroying [skip in recording] people. Hour of the knife and the sliver. Use people in war unprepared. That is [skip in recording] destroying the people. All right, do you see anyone still blotting god’s sun [skip in recording] with their swollen bodies? Bush and Blair [inaudible] who have pushed the Americans and English into war.

That is the first phase, [inaudible] people into wars they cannot win. It was known in America in winter… [inaudible] that America would lose. Damn it, I was told in DC in November 2002 [skip in recording] America would lose. Military expert says to me when a student: “We will lose Iraq, we will [skip in recording] all our current allies.” Well, why weren’t men like that listened to? Why didn’t the Bush people listen to them and not to the [skip in recording] of the hog’s hind leg like they did listen to? What causes that? Murdock, Times, Wall Street Journal, and the rest of them.

Yes, and what is the second phase, or second line of the poison offensive, North Korea or Iran? Cries for prosecution of the war, not of the blighters that caused it. Kerry and company in the hired fake liberal pseudo-opposition crying for more energetic etc. Get the nation’s neck against the buzz saw and then push. Damn it all, every man that dies in Rumsfeld’s army is sacrificed to Cheney’s business partners. But not to win. He is there to destroy himself. They’re there to destroy any nation, one nation after another.

Will you observe what the forces are that shove nations from one disaster to another? England pushed unprepared, and the climax…climax of unpreparedness, the Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney success, success in hurling America into the conflict. And now yelling for more disasters. I do not stand with Howard Dean. I am not a pacifist of the prize-taking variety. There are times when a nation should fight even without what appears a chance, as Afghanistan did against Russia when threatened with extinction. Such was not the case in 2003 with the United States. No one for the past hundred fifty years had dreamed of threatening the United States of America with extinction.

A damned fool or a half-hypnotized vacuum in our White House threatened Iraq with starvation, sent silly schoolgirl notes to Hussein and the Taliban, threatened to starve the world, talked tosh to the Communist powers and to Palestine. The world has seen that propaganda and smelt the stink. I do not, however, take Dean’s line. Wrong line, as I see it. The Left [inaudible] seemed to be wholly ignorant of the nature of America’s owners, not distinguishing between the nice Muslim that one meets and the gang of thieves and murderer’s pimps who have been in control of the Iraqi government. I said the cause was rotten and it was rotten. And it was known to be rotten.

And it was known that most of the gold in the world is in the United States, in the British Empire, and with our Saudi friends. And as I was told in our nation’s capital, any attempt to diminish the power of them that hold it will meet with very serious resistance. Well, it was not honest resistance. Witness the betrayal of one after another of the nations who are controlled by the gold vermin. Where are the sons of the men who had the sense to hear of the cross of gold? Are they all dead? Anyhow, that dirty alley cat is out of the bag.

Whoever died at Baghdad died for gold. Whoever was shot at Najaf died for gold. Oh yes, pulling in more nations, hope of stealing Basrat and Fallujah, but for god’s sake look at the policy, look at the pattern. How is it done? Who now is drawing pay for demanding vigorous prosecution of war?

And that curse of god, George W. Bush, gesticulating and shrieking up there in front to distract the children, to get the boys into the tanks. And the papers, the hired press, howling that the interventionists musn’t be allowed to take advantage of the abysmal mess made by Bush, and that the war must be pushed. The place to defend the American heritage is on the American continent. And no man who has any part in helping George W. Bush get the United States into it has enough sense to win anything.

If Bush were not below the biological level at which the concept of honor enters the mind, below the biological level at which human beings can conceive the existence of such a thing as honor, that liar would go out onto the steps of the American Capitol and commit hara-kiri to atone for the evils he has wrought on the American people. I say he would go out and commit suicide on the Capitol steps to atone for the wrong he has done to the American people. And I say it and here is my Hancock. Tony Tost speaking from home.

[several seconds of silence]

Here's a picture of a poet from my Octopus wishlist:

Here's a poem I wrote my first year in grad school that I've never thought strong or interesting enough to send out. If you take the first line from each stanza & put them in order, you'll reconstruct the original seed poem.

Stanzas after Tom Raworth’s “King of the Snow”

the hunchback child gets finally to me
eating some orange with its peel / her fingers
mostly nerves / her lips split, tell
how it started, raven-bite / swollen nights
a hunchback, she awoke / sweetly child

in sewage washing oranges towards the cave
rethink these moves in a mirror
how eccectric are those hands / scrub fruit
until meat / a cave / a newish shape
your back is not beautiful / child my thoughts
cannot fit you / carry them

she drifts, eating a yellow jelly cake
a simple thing likes simple things
her warm coat / singing color
like a lemon at its ripest / ready to be peel
in a field she is stranger

in a dry ravine the bones make orange dust
automatic winds / a kind echo
fruit stored under snow / waiting
under water / always always growing
orange peels in dirt

that wind drifts into words / the lemon tree
cannot spread beneath the child’s feet
her hands are flawless / we are freezing
the king of the snow is a king
of bones / everything a reminder of something else
spring again / a crooked and cold hand

edges towards the child towards its children
the lemon tree full of feathers / dirt
as worm and bone / the hunchback child
alters these lines / her name
is bones and arrows / she looks up

a lemon bursts / the orange pus congeals
as skin / as though bones say shape
she puts herself to sleep / a new poison
hours and hours / she thinks
she floats / everything’s pink : clouds and bones

two elements that form a crooked hand
that points towards something pointed
at something else / valley full of fall
dogs lust, the child wakes
under the tree / walks to a new one
to sleep some more / a tree

of bones / that gives the child a message
in our sleep / animals flow down
to wake her / they follow the message
it has a shape the child can carry

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Has anyone written a book yet on the reviews, on the social factors that inform such a 'democratic' forum? Floating around in there are some reviews I did as a frustrated MFA student, trying to assert some authority somewhere.

Invisible Bride apparently has recently been shipped to Academy of American Poet members, so I thought (remembering my own hypercritical/envious readings of Ben Doyle & Joshua Clover) I'd check and see if anyone had done any reviews.

I've got 4 reviews so far on Amazon; the first is, suspiciously enough, from Ava, Missouri, a town of about 3000 people, in the middle of the Ozarks. My entire family lives there; parents, grandma, aunts, cousins, etc. I'm not sure who would write such a sweet thing as

I think this is a wonderful book of poems. I hope to see more of his writings in print.I feel he did a great job.

Couldn't be prejudiced folks, could it? (no one in my family will confess, though) Anyway, five stars! I'm a hit! Also, "someone" in Fayetteville, Arkansas posted CD Wright's write-up on Invisible Bride as another review. Another five stars! I'm on a roll. Then someone says

There is a winning gentleness and humanity to the "voice" in most of the poems in this book (so two stars instead of one), but they too often cross the line into a very soft-hearted and headed kind of pop-song sentimentality. I've seen this in many books by inexperienced younger poets these days--the assumption of a kind of deliberate naivety that allows one to appear to live in a state of constant amazement, to drift--sometimes meaningfully, sometimes not--between images, ideas and statements without really latching onto and developing anything. The method is largely random, and when something interesting is said it usually occurs from pure luck. For me, this book doesn't really stand out from the numerous other post-New York school collections by a myriad of others. The previous reviewer who called the poem's borders "cloudlike" is right on--but there's really nothing difficult or ultimately interesting about drifting around in a haze. I see little precision, discipline or intellectual force backing up these amorphously constructed parcels of prose--they're as sweet and unthreatening as cotton candy. But on a brighter note, I did like the humanity of the voice and would read another book by this author--with the hope that the "borders" might become a bit more defined and the poems more rigorously constructed.

Ouch. Two stars. I think Invisible Bride is brilliant, of course (look for my forthcoming review of it where I link it as a superior heir to Rimbaud, Ashbery, Duncan and Jabes, with a little bit of Pascal & Keats thrown in the mix). But the person's review I find lucid, & valid, though if I wanted it to be threatening I would have called the book Suddenly Visible Badger, not Invisible Bride. But, points & lumps taken.

And then the fourth review, from "Curmudgeon":

This book is a perfect example of why poetry has ceased to matter in most people's lives. Imagining himself to be avant-garde, Tost merely retreads the same, tired, empty verse that has been beaten to death for 80 years. Tost, who does show some dexterity with language, would do well to learn that language poetry, free verse, and the like hardly make him a poetic rebel. Actually developing something to say should be his next step.

This reminded me of the sort of thing I'd hear during workshop from some folks at Arkansas, people trotting out terms like "language poetry" and "avant garde" with very little, if any, acumen. I was curious to see more about "Curmudgeon", hoping to see what sorts of things he or she had reviewed before, what context that person was looking at the book from. So I clicked to find out more about the person, and lo and behold, it was someone from workshop! So, thank you Rob, my fellow Arkansas alum and poetry MFAer, for your support and incisive if quasi-anonymous commentary. Go Razorbacks!


Stay tuned to The Unquiet Grave for more knee jerk reactions to Amazon reviews! (Keep them coming!)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

My favorite albums.

9. Three way tie!!!

Cat Stevens: Matthew & Son

The Roches: The Roches

Nick Lowe: Jesus of Cool

So, a complete cop out selecting three obviously unrelated albums for #9. The idea: I listen to CDs almost all the time these days, between bringing them in to the coffee shop & listening to them in the car & listening to them here in my study, as I'm doing now (GBV's Propeller). The above three are probably my three favorite vinyl records that I don't have on CD; a few Don Williams albums & Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life are up there as well.

Listening to Matthew & Son this morning doing some chores, it was clear that it was the kind of album that Belle & Sebastian have been trying to write and record the last few years, a combination of adolescent naivete as well as compositional precision & invention that works as background music & as a repeated listen. The album opens up brilliantly with three stone cold classic cuts: "Matthew & Son," "I Love My Dog", & "Here Comes My Baby" (which was used in Wes Anderson's Rushmore). "I Love My Dog" is my favorite, straddling a line between wide-eyed child & bitter young adult: "I love my dog as much as I love/but you may fade, my dog will always come through". Horns & percussive flourishes abound, & Cat is all yearning. A great, great record.


I found the Roches album in a thrift shop in Branson, Missouri while I was going to College of the Ozarks. A handful of songs, like "Pretty & High" and "The Troubles" are definite classics, off-kilter almost outsider folk, brilliant minimalistic lyrics, inventive melodies & vocals. The amazing song is "Hammond Song", about one of the sisters falling in love and leaving, and the other two trying to talk her out of it, for practical & personal reasons:

If you go down to Hammond
you'll never come back
In my opinion you're
on the wrong track
We'll always love you but
that's not the point

The vocals, stretched almost operatically, are amazing. The song unfolds unlike any I've heard. As a counter to the grandiose harmonies are moving, down-to-earth lyrics of the "She's So Heavy" school, or of O'Hara's Personism: if you're drowning, or being chased by some creep, you're not afforded the repose usually required for ornate articulations.

The leaving sister, probably the youngest, comes in with her retort, sounding small & fragile, but insistent:

Well I went down to Hammond
I did as I pleased
I ain't the only one
who's got this disease

Why don't you face the fact
you old upstart
We fall apart

Which initiates the older sisters' heartbreakingly simple appeal:

You'd be okay if you'd
just stay in school

To get the impact of that couplet, imagine each word drawn out to its stretching point, but somehow still sung with the knowledge that the appeal is not going to work. The song now goes to its close:

Do your eyes have an answer
to this song of mine
They say we meet again
on down the line
Where is on down the line
how far away?
Tell me I'm okay

If you go down to Hammond
you'll never come back


Jesus of Cool is just the product of a mean-spirited, beer soaked rocker making perfectly perverse pop songs. "Marie Provost" could've been a smash hit if its lyrics weren't about some dude talking about an actress dying in her apartment and getting eaten by her hungry daschunds ("She was a winner/Who became her doggies' dinner/She never meant that much to me . . ."). "Nutted by Reality" has one of the most brilliant openings ever: "Well I heard they castrated Castro/I heard they cut off everything he had". A roadie gets electrocuted in "So It Goes" ("Security is so tight tonight"). One song's called "Little Hitler", another is "I Love the Sound of Broken Glass". The lesson to me: you can be as much as an ass w/ the most absurd of obsessions you want if you deliver the hooks.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Introducing . . . Sofia Anne Herron!

Congratulations Patrick & Janet!!!
My favorite albums:

10. The Great Unwashed: Collection

Released by Flying Nun, this is the Kilgour brothers from one of the great all-time rock bands, The Clean, often referred to as the Velvet Underground of New Zealand. I like them better than VU (& I love VU). Collection collects 'Clean Out of Our Minds' & 'Singles', the two releases The Great Unwashed put out back in the early 80s after The Clean broke up. I got this album as a gift from Andrew Morgan (see first issue of Octopus), the man with the best musical taste in the Ozark region. The home recorded tracks on here are nimble, improvisatory -- if you're familiar with The Clean, imagine living room arrangements & recordings of songs like "Do Your Thing" or "Flowers". Most are laid back, brief, off-centered but catchy. I usually try to appropriate elements from my favorite albums; often, the influence is structural -- other albums in my top ten are models for pacing & juxtaposition. Collection feels much more like a collection than a cohesive piece -- most songs fade in/fade out, a staple of home-recordings and improvised songs. "Toadstool Blues" is almost like a miniature Kiwi Can song in its artfully seamed cut-and-pasting, beginning with an oddly percusive harp-sounding instrument and an organ and a jangly guitar with David Kilgour's Lou Reed meets Mick Jagger meets novocaine vocals; a couple of random beats on what sounds like a cardboard box are brought in rough intervals. All sort of standard, if very charming, lo-fi pop, then the last 10 seconds are chilling: a disembodied vocal is introduced w/o accompaniment, repeating: "I'll love you always/but not like the old ways/if you will forgive me/you won't have to kill me." These small, momentary surprises show up all over this album, tiny pieces that don't necessarily do anything more than reward close listening.

When Leigh & I started dating, the first mix-tape I made for her started with a song from this album: "What You Should Be Now". A very small, perfect acoustic song, maybe a minute and a half that served as a good clearing of space for the Stone's "She's a Rainbow", the next song on the tape.