Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Gone-Away World
By Nick Harkaway
500 pp., $25.95
Readers of a certain age and above are familiar with the chilling, kill-'em-all concept of mutually assured destruction: the idea that if one nation armed with nuclear warheads attacked another, the resulting domino-effect would effectively render our world uninhabitable, assuming anyone or anything survived the fiery, man-made cataclysm. A horrific possibility to contemplate, yes? But what if worse weapons existed? Bombs, say, that effectively erased matter but left a void in its stead that cracked open a gateway for an other-dimensional substance that rendered our mental and nocturnal terrors real.
Wonder no longer, because The Gone-Away World does that for you. This debut doorstopper — 500 pages deep — from UK author Nick Harkaway follows a team of ex-Special Operations soldiers-turned-drivers-for-hire as they navigate this ruined world of half-formed monsters, mythical creatures, soldiers beamed in from bygone battlefields, and a long length of pipe emitting a spray that creates a zone of sustained reality. This isn't the grim post-apocalyptic Hades of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, though; Harkaway's tale is blackly comedic and lighthearted enough that the full weight of the titular catastrophe doesn't quite register. Twenty expository, overdescriptive pages pass, then the writer yanks us back in time to the unnamed narrator's youth to reveal how everything came apart. That's a long, winding highway that encompasses every story genre from buddy-movie tropes to undergrad activist hoo-hah to espionage thriller to Manhattan Project moment to martial arts flick winks, but — until World turns into a variation on Fight Club — the unlikely journey is more fun than the fucked-beyond-fucked destination and a denouement that feels cruelly perfunctory. Which is fine, actually. Harkaway's quicksilver tongue-through-cheek prose — post-David Foster Wallace, post-Dave Eggers, tastily postmodern — is the primary reason why. Passages like this one are monuments in and of themselves: "I wear skintight black PVC and white foundation and I glower and mourn the death of Byron in the back of the bar. From there I discover punk, and briefly have no hair at all, then am mistaken for a fascist by a group of businessmen who proceed to celebrate my bravery and drink my health, and driven by this horror I grow it out again."
Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Is it possible to invest in Mediafire, Zshare, Rapidshare, and Megaupload? Because if so we all need to dump our dwindling cash reserves into them, like, last month.
How much more economic turmoil must we all suffer before rappers get mad real and start bragging about their cubic-zirconia Jesus pieces and their tricked-out bronze Vespas?
Mark my words: by 2011, cassette and vinyl will be the only safe formats left for purchasing non-major label music. Compact discs will be worthless, mp3s will be booby-trapped with killfiles, and you will happily plunk down $5 for the latest Hototogisu double-vinyl live masterpiece without batting an eyelash.
Coming soon to a theatre programme-thin alt-weekly near you: 10-word live show previews, 20-word album reviews, 200-word in-depth profiles of visiting acts, plus 50 ads directing you to the paper's web site, where the real action is.
So Tha Carter III's warm glow has dimmed a bit since the first dozen times I heard it, and the laziness I wanted to pretend I didn't sense therein jumps out and smacks me around everytime I throw the disc into the player. (God, doesn't that last phrase feel totally old dude-esque? It just comes out wrong, even typed.) But admit it: deep down inside, we - read: critics - caught the laziness at jump, but gave Weezy a pass because the zillion prior free-for-download mixtapes were so superior, right? This was payback, in the positive sense of that term, and a desperately-needed re-affirmation of the album-release-as-event concept. We needed this album to matter so that we'd matter; Wayne knew this, too.
The various publication/outlet/website '08 best-of lists I've come across in my surfing are neglecting Matmos something terrible. Which is a shame, because Supreme Balloon is unquestionably the duo's finest album to date: a United Colors of Benetton ad saturated with squeaky-synth clown balloons instead of bare limbs. The various sonic gimmicks MC Schmidt and Drew Daniels have traditionally relied upon have always made for good to really good albums, but it took the absence of conceptual sampling to make for something extraordinarily bouyant, helium airy, and outright orgasmic.
Kanye West probably didn't go into making 808s and Heartbreak intending to comment indirectly on the deepening recession - dude just wanted to lash out at his ex without rapping. But Yeezy's fourth album inadvertantly underlines the virtues of all-American self-reliance by shrugging off the usual cascade of too-familiar and somewhat-obscure samples to unleash a self-centered artistic statement so streamlined and cold that it's simultaneously impossible to turn away from and the most involving entry of his growing catalogue.
Every year, the Pazz & Jop Ballot entreaty asks voters to submit - in addition to albums and singles votes - contact information and publications we write for. Personally, I'm finding that the list of web sites, magazines, and newspapers keeps shrinking. It's not so much that outlets are folding so much as they're scaling back for economic reasons: this one's limiting itself to local music coverage only, that one's shelving reviews for months due to lower-than-ever page counts, and so on. It won't be long until everyone's just out on their own, blogging hard into our own echo chambers for comments and (hopefully) Adsense hits.
R.I.P. paperthinwalls. Not so much because I'm forced to bid adieu to yet another repository of sparkling crit wit and talent or because another stream of steady work's gone dry, but because now my excuse to pummel Whiney with babbling emails all day when I'm supposed to be working is no more.
I've never gotten smashed and made a fool of myself at a holiday party. Mildly drunk, maybe, but never annihilated. The last holiday party I went to was like two years ago, one of those Baltimore City Paper things that's held in a huge loud club with no real seating and is total Hell-in-a-Cell unless you like huge loud clubs with no real seating and are okay with being able to get blasted on free drinks and not being able to actually talk to or find anyone you know. Oh wait, forgot - I've gone to one since then, for a job Alecia had in late 2006/early 2007, but that was at somebody's house, and it wasn't a dancing-naked-on-a-table-with-a-lampshade-on-your-head kind of deal. It was actually really, really nice! Too bad the lady who ran the office turned out to be full of crap. And now that I think about it, we went to another super-duper holiday party for a different job of Alecia's a few years before that. Oh, my memory.
I've yet to awaken on Christmas morning to find a brand spanking new luxury vehicle awaiting me outside of my home, wrapped in an oversized red bow. Fuck you, Santa.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
STALL IS BROKE
A head's up to whoever left this note in one of the men's rooms on the first floor of the building where I work: a toilet can be broken, but never broke. A toilet's always got a few extra ducats tucked away in the event of a tight paper clog, defecation gone awry, or any other restroom mishap. Savvy?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
You will have two minutes to complete this quiz. Feel free to use as many blue books as you need, but be sure to write your name and "THE VOGUING TO DANZIG 2008 HOLIDAY POP QUIZ" on each one. No talking, no sharing of information, no gum-snapping, no finger-tapping, no lip-syncing to whatever ungodly bullshit you've got humming on your iPod. Each question will be worth 50 points. You will be graded on thoughtfulness, hyperbole, wit, profanity, digression, and, of course, contextual acuity. Bonus points will be awarded if (1) you're able to reference Plato or one of his contemporaries in a way that isn't awkward or overreaching or (2) you can pose a better question than those below, which shouldn't be especially difficult for any of you. Comments are strongly encouraged; they're actually pretty much the entire point of this exercise. If there aren't any questions, let's get cerebral:
a. Shouldn't Clipse have referenced CSI: Miami at least a few times by now? I mean, they've gotten a ton of mileage out of Miami Vice quips over the past decade, but given the propensity of rappers to refer to cocaine by using the names of white female celebs or well-known personages - that white girl - it's bewildering to me that Malice or Pusha T haven't woven Emily Proctor or Eva LaRue into their rhymes. And sweet Jesus, David Caruso's character's name? It's Horatio fucking Caine. That's a gimmie if there ever was one. Additionally, please provide a reasonable explanation as to why Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas have not yet appeared on CSI: Miami. Or, failing that, postulate why, in the event that both men were approached, they may have rejected the invitation. Could it be a luck thing? A bit of a falling out? Insulting pay? All three? Remember: Thomas guested on a few episodes of Nash Bridges, and the years since haven't been kind to either actor. I mean, they probably haven't. It's not like they're all over the tabloids, right? So they may as well not exist.
b. Does anybody - anybody - really believe that multi-medalling swimmer Michael Phelps used Rosetta Stone to prepare for the Beijing Olympics? I'm not buying it. That dude's all about the swimming and the eating and then some more swimming. He doesn't give any more of a flying karate chop about learning the Chinese language than I do about learning Latin. Like the U.S. Olympic team didn't hire guides. Like there weren't signs directing visitors to the waffle buffet. Like anybody had to ask permission to raid the condom pail in Mandarin. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Matmos, Supreme Balloon (Matador)
The Atlas Sound, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky)
Prurient, And Still, Wanting (No Fun)
Jason Crumer, Ottoman Black (Hospital Productions)
Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City)
Harry Pussy, You'll Never Play This Town Again (Load)
Nisennenmondai, Neji/Tori (Smalltown Supersound)
Burning Star Core, Challenger (Hospital Productions)
Thurston Moore, Sensitive/Lethal (No Fun)
Little Joy, Little Joy (Rough Trade)
Ponytail, Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free)
Human Bell, Human Bell (Thrill Jockey)
Wye Oak, If Children (Merge)
Cash Slave Clique, White Props (Panic Research Audio)
Beach House Devotion (Carpark)
Jason Willett, The Sounds of Megaphone Limited (MT6)
Wilderness, k(n)o(w)here (Jagjaguwar)
Teeth Mountain, Teeth Mountain (self-released)
Whistletips, Mother Fuckers (MT6)
Rosemary Krust Slow Amber (MT6/Spleen Coffin)
1. Jhumpa Lahiri Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf)
2. Marcus Reeves Somebody Scream!: Rap Music’s Rise to Prominence In The Aftershock of Black Power (Faber and Faber)
3. Tara Yellen After Hours at the Almost Home (Unbridled)
4. Carl Wilson Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste (Continuum)
5. John Joseph The Evolution of a Cro-MagNon (PUNKHouse)
6. Elizabeth Farrelly Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness (MIT Press)
7. James Howard Kunstler World Made By Hand (Atlantic Monthly Press)
8. David Browne Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth (Da Capo Press)
9. Grant Bailie Mortarville (Ig)
10. Sebastian Horsley, Dandy in the Underworld (Harper Perrenial)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Animal Twat Animal Twat (MT6)
The Atlas Sound How I Escaped The Prison of Fractals (self-released)
The Atlas Sound Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel (Kranky)
Beach House Devotion (Carpark)
Black Pus Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus! (Diareahrama)
Blitzen Trapper Furr (Sub Pop)
Boredoms Super Roots 9 (Thrill Jockey)
Burning Star Core Challenger (Hospital Productions)
Cash Slave Clique White Props (Panic Research Audio)
Clipse Road to Till The Casket Drops (Re-Up)
Controlled Dissonance Cleaning Out The Cupboards (self-released)
Jason Crumer Ottoman Black (Hospital Productions)
Kimya Dawson Alphabutt (K)
The Dead C Secret Earth (Badabing!)
Deerhoof Offend Maggie (5RC/KRS)
Deerhunter Microcastle (Kranky)
Fuck Buttons Street Horrrsing (All Tomorrow's Parties)
Gang Gang Dance Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry)
Girl Talk Feed the Animals (Illegal Art)
Growing All The Way (The Social Registry)
Harry Pussy You'll Never Play This Town Again (Load)
Hototogisu Under the Rose (Heavy Blossom)
Human Bell Human Bell (Thrill Jockey)
Indian Jewelry Free Gold! (We Are Free)
Istituzioni Ambienti Naturalismo / Lolita Vibrator Torture L'AIDS Alza la Voce e Noi Alziamo il Volume (Monstres Par Excès)
Khate 13 (self-released)
Kings of Leon Only By The Night (RCA)
Lil Wayne The Carter III (Cash Money/Young Money)
Little Joy Little Joy (Rough Trade)
Matmos Supreme Balloon (Matador)
Max Tundra Parallax Error Beheads You (Domino)
Thurston Moore Sensitive/Lethal (No Fun)
Nisennenmondai Neji/Tori (Smalltown Supersound)
No Age Nouns (Sub Pop)
The North Sea Gated Community (Root Strata)
Of Montreal Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl)
Ponytail Ice Cream Spiritual (We Are Free)
The Present World I See (LOAF)
Prurient And Still, Wanting (No Fun)
Prurient Arrowhead (Editions Mego)
Prurient Cocaine Death (Hospital)
Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month (Soft Abuse)
The Re-Up Gang We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3: The Spirit of Competition (Re-Up)
Rich Boy Bigger Than The Mayor (self-released)
Rosemary Krust Slow Light (MT6/Spleen Coffin)
Satellite Clouds Ascension of the Golden Torus (Mosfet Fono)
The Silver Jews Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea (Drag City)
Kanye West 808s and Heartbreak (Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam)
Wavves Wavves (Fuck It Tapes)
Whistletips Mother Fuckers (MT6)
Wilderness k(n)o(w)here (Jagjaguwar)
Jason Willett The Sounds of Megaphone Limited (MT6)
Wye Oak If Children (Merge)
Yellow Swans Deterioration Yellow Swans (Modern Radio Record Label)
Yellow Tears The Pissmop LP (Hospital)
Young Dro I Am Legend (self-released)