And when we think back to two years ago, it could have been so much worse… (Of course, two years ago, before last summer’s earthquake, those spires were perfect. Now they’re surrounding by scaffolding…)
Leica M9, Summilux 50mm
So the synchronous publishing of Rick Moody’s nearly endless but well-worth-the-effort essay on Brian Eno’s long career just as an ice storm hit D.C. provided us head-nodding entertainment and a wonderful distraction from the bilious news that Newt had taken South Carolina. We admire obsessives, and a 9000 word essay on Eno certainly qualifies. What we liked the most was we agreed with almost every word! Okay, Moody forgets to praise sufficiently Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy. (That’s the Eno album that launched 1000 imitators from, strangely enough, Joy Division to Garbage to the New Pornographers.) And he perhaps fails to give sufficient props for what Eno did for the Talking Heads on More Songs About Buildings And Food, not to mention his seeming to have missed that great Eno/Cale collaboration that produced “Been There, Done That.” We’d be willing to forgive his failing to mention the great Robert Wyatt collaboration with Eno that produced the brilliant “Heads of Sheep” if only he’d tell us where we could download “Seven Deadly Finns,” which although it has long disappeared, is still the only Eno song ever to crack the upper reaches of the British charts. But he views Eno’s four 1970s pop albums as a cultural high point for Western Civ, understands that those Lou Reed albums with Bob Quine were the ones that mattered, slags Coldplay, worships Radiohead, gives John Cale his props, etc. And he turns us on to an Eno-sponsored iTunes app (Bloom) that is more fun than our laminated Oblique Strategies cards. We herewith go on the hunt for all Rick Moody first editions. And Tulip Frenzy offers to adopt him as kindred spirit.
In a powerful essay on why World War One lingers in the imagination, British novelist William Boyd (A Good Man In Africa, An Ice Cream War, Stars and Bars, The New Confessions) addresses the hold the War To End All Wars still has on our culture, referencing PBS’ Downton Abbey, Spielberg’s War Horse, and even the — unknown to us — pending Tom Stoppard adaptation of Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End. The question Tulip Frenzy wants answered is: how is it possible that a British novelist could have written such an essay without a reference to the 2011 Album of The Year (so sayeth Uncut, Melody Maker, and everyone in Albion save for, um, Prince Charles) that was PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. Hard for us to believe a more powerful depiction of WWI will come along anytime soon, in any medium…
Mr. Boyd — loved those early novels (and have a soft spot in our heart for the Daniel Day Lewis performance in the movie version of Stars and Bars), but it’s time to open your ears!
In a brief and illuminating interview that was published last week, ex-Luna leader Dean Wareham outlines plans for a solo album. Yes, Britta will be on it, so there’s no news there. He just avers the boy-girl song-trading has limitations.
Oh, and by the way, his tour diary from the recent Japanese shows he did of Galaxie 500 material was published in the Paris Review.
Here’s a sample:
From the stage tonight I notice three different people crying as I sing “Blue Thunder,” which is a song about the power-steering action in my old 1975 Dodge Dart and doesn’t quite seem worth crying about, though admittedly it is also a song about being alone behind the wheel, and I wail about driving “so far away,” so maybe that’s what did it.
I recently played this song in São Paulo and young Brazilians sang and smiled and danced; it’s odd that the same song evokes smiles in São Paulo and tears in Tokyo. Of course there can be joy and sadness in a song at the same moment, and when you have been waiting five or ten or twenty years to hear a song live, it can hit you with surprising force.
Read the whole thing. It’s fun, and as we know from Black Postcards, the man can write.
“Take this candle with you,” sing Calexico on “Gift X-Change.” Which got us to thinking of San Francisco artist Andrew Bennett’s Millennium-era Collapsed Candles masterpiece* — 2000 gold candles stuck in melting wax.
Leica M9, 50mm Noctilux shot wide open, looking up from the floor as the winter sun set.
* For more artwork by Andrew Bennett go here.
They had us at the concept — for 13 years, Calexico would show up in dusty saloons and smoky gin halls, playing their parched Colorado River delta blues, and all the while — as card games are played by men with vests, and all the painted ladies smile from the stairwell — merchants in the back would sell limited edition vinyl, whole albums of music available only to their concertgoers. In November, they released the whole shebang as a vinyl-only 600 record set. (Okay, maybe not that many.) But then — who knew, til the new Uncut told us? — our friends from the border region went and released a sort of greatest hits of their most obscure releases in a single, 16-cut package, and it is pure gold glinting from the tin shaker.
These aren’t throwaways, the chafe left over when the real records are done. This sounds like as coherent a single record as their last ‘un, the magnificent Carried To Dust. Yes, artisanal music flows from the sandy regions, not just Brooklyn. And given their absence these last three years, we’ve been missing them a lot. In fact, other than the Black Keys, Calexico is the only American band that seems complete with just two permanent members. The strange thing about Selections From Road Atlas is that these specialty lagniappes for the long-converted make as powerful a testament for Calexico’s greatness as any single album they’ve ever done. If you’ve crawled across the desert of American pop music and are thirsty for pure refreshment, those hombres from Tucson have come through once more. They promise a new album sometime later this year. Until then, 13 year’s worth of specialty confections from the Saguaro badlands will tide us over.