Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Enomania, or 23 Years in Six Songs

Part Two: Third Uncle

Up through 1983's Under a Blood Red Sky, U2 were speaking to me in a way Brian Eno was not. U2 were bold and direct; Eno was subtle and elliptical. He could rock like a motherfucker, but everything was off-kilter. Nothing was straightforward. Incidentally, Boy (1980) was the first U2 album I ever heard. It was introduced to me by my much hipper radio show co-host, Missy, who had grown up on Bay Area college stations like KALX and KUSF. A fan was born. (Oddly enough, she would abandon radio before the year was through, while I kept at it for another couple of decades.)

From then on, I was on my own and the well-stocked, 100-watt KWCW ("Walla Walla's finest") was my oyster. Meanwhile, I kept getting better and better time slots. I was in my element and enjoying my show more than many of my classes, not counting creative writing and a particularly eye-opening seminar on Camus. So, why did I abandon U2? They released 1984's The Unforgettable Fire and I decided they'd taken the "anthemic" thing too far. (That said, I still sing along with "In the Name of Love" every time I hear it. It's like some kind of Pavlovian response.)

In 1985, I took a road trip from Seattle to San Francisco with my friend Brian. He brought along a mixtape another friend had made. He didn't know who many of the artists were, only that he liked them, and we played it through the night and into the next afternoon when we arrived in the city by the Bay. I never tired of it. The artists were all UK acts from the 1980s, except for one skinny little dude from the 1970s, who fit right in. The contemporary acts included OMD, Simple Minds, and Love & Rockets. The "skinny little dude" was, of course, Eno. I hadn't heard most of the selections before--at least not in that context (more on that later). The songs were: "Burning Airlines (Give You So Much More)," "The Fat Lady of Limbourg," "Third Uncle," "Put a Straw Under Baby," and "China My China." Turns out all were from 1974's Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy). Half the album, in fact. Years later, while reading Anchee Min's quasi-autobiographical Red Azalea, I found out where Eno got the title: From one of Madame Mao's revolutionary operas (in which Min performed alongside comrade Joan Chen). As for Brian, he gave me the tape at the end of our trip, though I saw him less and less as the years went by. We never lived in the same place at the same time. The last time we got together, it was to see Chen Kaige's epic tragedy Farewell, My Concubine (1993). "China My China" indeed.

Third Uncle

There are tins,
There was pork
There are legs,
There are sharks
There was John,
There are cliffs,
There was Mother,
There's a poker
There was you,
Then there was you

There are scenes,

There are blues
There are boots,
There are shoes
There are Turks,
There are fools
There are Rockers,
They're in schools
There was you,
Then there was you

Burn my fingers,

Burn my toes
Burn my uncle,
Burn his books
Burn his shoes,
Cook the leather,
Put it on me.
Does it fit me
Or you?
It looks tight on you.

Part of what drew me to the Strategy cycle is that I was already familiar with "Third Uncle" via Bauhaus's fantastically faithful rendition (1982's The Sky's Gone Out), and I was really getting into those arty goths. As usual, my timing was off; Bauhaus had recently broken up and splintered into Tones on Tail, Love & Rockets, and Dali's Car (a name swiped from Eno). In fact, I was convinced that "The Flat Field" ("I could get bored / I could get bored / In the flat field") was written just for those of us, like my Bauhaus-loving, Galoise-smoking pal Chris, who happened to be pursuing an art degree in the rather un-artistic flatlands of Walla Walla. Scion of a wealthy Wapato apple dynasty, Chris, who was friends with fellow Whitmanites Chris and Carla, from the Walkabouts, would go on to design the album cover for 1987's See Beautiful Rattlesnake Gardens. (He also dated Missy for awhile.)

But back to Eno-by-way-of-Bauhaus. I was thrilled to get to hear the original version of a song I didn't even realize was a cover. Not only did it rock just as hard as punk--it rocked harder. "Third Uncle" remains one of the fastest songs I've ever heard. But not too fast. No one would mistake it for speed metal and the bizarro lyrics are perfectly, intriguingly clear. Of course, I shouldn't have been surprised that "Third Uncle" wasn't a Bauhaus original. I knew that "Telegram Sam" (from their first 1980 Peel Session) and "Ziggy Stardust" (which can also be found on the 1979-1983 collection) were covers as I was already familiar with T. Rex and David Bowie, for whom Eno would produce the landmark Low/Heroes/Lodger trilogy (and only a few years later, I would wade further into the wide wonders of glam). They're all good covers and just make me regret all the more that I wasn't able to catch the Bauhaus reunion gig in Seattle last week--$35 was just a bit too rich for my blood--but at least I got to see Peter Murphy and Love and Rockets when I was living in London in 1986, between graduating from college and moving back to Alaska.

After a year of being "anchored down in Anchorage," in which I made a little progress--very little--in paying off my student loan (by working at KWHL, writing for The Anchorage Times, etc.), I moved to Seattle. (And I'm happy to say that that debt is many years behind me now). The year was 1988 and I got a job at Cellophane Square shortly after I arrived. The pay was shit, but it's what I wanted to do. I also started doing a radio show on KCMU and writing for The Wire and the short-lived Hype. Meanwhile, I began building up my music collection in earnest (while discovering more new bands by the minute). Three Eno CDs were part of the hoard I acquired during my four years in the music retail trade: Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain, and Before and After Science. Incidentally, as I'm writing this, I'm listening to the station KCMU morphed into, KEXP, and the DJ is playing "Head On" by the Jesus and Mary Chain. I hadn't noticed it before--until this very second--but they nick the stuttering guitar line from "Baby's on Fire." Who's the DJ? Why a fellow named Jack, who was in my class at Whitman. I didn't know him well, but he was friends was Andy, with whom I had gone to high school (and who lived next door to my friend, Katie, whose mother, Betty, was friends with my mom). In 1994, Jack contacted me, out of the blue, to ask my advice about getting into commercial radio. I had left KCMU in the early-1990s and was working full-time at Microsoft as a queue announcer and part-time at KNDD as a DJ. I suggested he look into volunteering at KCMU. Well, I never heard from him again, but not long afterwards, he was doing a radio show. Next thing I knew, he became the station's full-time production manager, a position he has held for over a decade now.

Note: Part one of four. Lyrics and cover image from enoweb.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Enomania, or 23 Years in Six Songs

Part One: Throw the Fiery Baby in the Backwater

I first made Brian Eno's musical acquaintance when I was a freshman in college. The song was "Baby's on Fire" (1974's Here Comes the Warm Jets). Long story short, a fellow student selected it as the background music for some dorm-related skit we were working on. (Okay, it was a sorority skit; please don't hold it against me.) I'll be damned if I can remember what the skit was about, but it involved blue hair and wrap-around shades. I'm guessing they chose that sneery ditty because it sounded so quintessentially "punk" (i.e. "Baby's on fire / Better throw her in the water"). It was 1982 and I didn't care if a song/album was from the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s--if it had that punk energy, I was there. The fact that it sounded like something off White Light, White Heat didn't hurt as I was just starting to get into the Velvet Underground. Well, whaddaya know, in Kristine McKenna's Book of Changes, Eno states, "When I first heard the Velvet Underground it had an immediate rightness for me." When she interviewed him four years later, in 1984, he went on to say, "I was talking to Lou Reed the other day and he said that the first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years...that record was such an important one for so many people! I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band."

Baby's on Fire

Baby's on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter

Baby's on fire
And all the laughing boys are bitching
Waiting for photos
Oh the plot is so bewitching

Rescuers row row
Do your best to change the subject
Blow the wind blow blow
Lend some assistance to the object

Photographers snip snap
Take your time she's only burning
This kind of experience
Is necessary for her learning

If you'll be my flotsam
I could be half the man I used to
They said you were hot stuff
And that's what Baby's been reduced to...

Juanita and Juan
Very clever with maraccas
Making their fortunes
Selling second-hand tobaccoes

Juan dances at Chico's
And when the clients are evicted
He empties the ashtrays
And pockets all that he's collected

But Baby's on fire!
And all the instruments agree that
Her temperature's rising
But any idiot would know that.

I had just started doing a radio show after years of listening to commercial radio and thinking, "I could do that!" Along the way, I discovered 1977's Before and After Science, but I usually only played one song: "Backwater." The rest of that record was too "restful" for my college-era taste, with the exception of "King's Lead Hat" (but more on that later). I think I was attracted to "Backwater," an uncharacteristically jaunty tune, because of the maritime imagery it shared with Split Enz's "Six Months in a Leaky Boat," and I was a big Enz fan at the time. (I'm still fond of those crazy Kiwis; they're pretty underrated, as far as I'm concerned.) But I didn't dig deeper. I knew I liked Eno, but there were so many other artists yet to discover. Another big 1970s revelation, for instance, was Germany's Can. I loved them then and I love them now. And not just a little bit--I love Can dearly. They're what I'd call a "top five" band (along with the Beatles, Big Star, Kinks, and P-Funk). Well, guess what? Can's Jaki Liebezeit plays drums on "Backwater." I didn't realize until I checked the credits. Of course!


We're sailing at the edges of time
We're drifting at the water-line
Oh, we're floating in the coastal waters
You and me and the porter's daughters
Ooh, what to do?
Not a sausage to do.
And the shorter of the porter's daughters
Dips her hand in the deadly waters
Ooh, what to do in a tiny canoe?

Black water!
There were six of us but now we are five
We're all talking
To keep the conversation alive
There was a senator from Ecuador
Who talked about a meteor
That crashed on a hill in the south of Peru
And was found by a conquistador
Who took it to the Emperor
And he passed it on to a Turkish Guru...

His daughter
Was slated for becoming divine
He taught her,
He taught her how to split and define
But if you study the logistics
And heuristics of the mystics
You will find that their minds rarely move in a line
So it's much more realistic
To abandon such ballistics
And resign to be trapped on a leaf in the vine

Then there were the European punk/post-punk bands from the late-1970s/early-1980s that I was just getting to hear for the first time: the Sex Pistols, the Damned, the (early) Clash, Kleenex/LiLiPUT, and Gang of Four--who are finally getting the full acclaim they deserve. (And thanks to the seminal Rough Trade compilation Wanna Buy a Bridge for introducing me to some of these acts.) Of course, I'd heard of a few of these bands in high school, like the infamous Pistols, but I hadn't actually heard much of their music while growing up in Anchorage, AK, where they never came and never got played on the radio. On the other hand, I was already familiar with new wavers like the B-52s, the Police, and the Eno-produced Talking Heads (More Songs About Buildings and Food, etc.). They got airplay. Then there were all the records hitting KWCW's racks at the time. Every time I turned around, there was something new: U2's War! the Violent Femmes' debut! The English Beat's Special Beat Service! But for me, in the fall of 1982, it all came back to War. Every day for weeks, maybe even months, I would return to my dorm after lunch to play that damn thing. It helped to rev me up for the afternoon. Was it Bono's sweeping vocals? The timely anti-war lyrics? The martial sound of Larry Mullen, Jr.'s drums? The very "Irishness" of the entire enterprise? All of the above, I suppose. And, what do you know--U2 would go on to work with Eno (on later recordings like The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, by which point I was starting to lose interest). Although I couldn't have predicted it at the time. Eno seemed downright "delicate" compared to the anthemic U2.

Note: Part one of four. Lyrics and cover image from enoweb.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Incompleteness: On Jack Nitzsche's Hearing is Believing

I've always wanted to know more about producer/arranger Jack Nitzsche, whose name appears on so many great albums and soundtracks, so I decided to start with recently released MOJO favorite Hearing is Believing: The Jack Nitzsche Story (Ace Records). In the boffo liner notes to this single-disc, 26-track retrospective is a list of songs that were unavailable. It's pretty heartbreaking as a lot are better--better known, at any rate--than the songs that actually appear on the collection, like Nitzsche's own "The Lonely Surfer" and Jackie DeShannon's "Needles and Pins" (both 1963) or Graham Parker and the Rumour's "You Can't Be Too Strong" (1979).

Bob B Soxx & the Blue Jeans: "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" (1962)
Terry Day: "I Love You Betty" (1963)
The Crystals: "Then He Kissed Me" (1963)
The Ronettes: "Be My Baby" (1963)
Darlene Love: "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" (1963)
MFQ: "This Could Be the Night" (1965)
Timi Yuro: "Teardrops Till Dawn" (1965)
Ike & Tina Turner: "River Deep - Mountain High" (1966)
The Rolling Stones: "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?" (1966)
The Cake: "Baby That's Me" (1967)
Buffalo Springfield: "Expecting to Fly" (1967)
Merry Clayton: "Poor White Hound Dog" (1970)
Mick Jagger: "Memo From Turner" (1970)
Neil Young: "A Man Needs a Maid" (1972)
Ringo Starr: "Photograph" (1973)
The Tubes: "Don't Touch Me There" (1976)
Captain Beefheart: "Hard Workin' Man" (1978)

Fortunately, I already have my favorites, like "Then He Kissed Me," on recordings by the Crystals, the Ronettes, the Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, etc. Still, a list this long calls for a sequel, although I can only assume the release date would be many years in the future. Let's hope it adds the Monkees' sublime "Porpoise Song" (from 1968's Head) and avoids goopy Oscar-winner "Up Where We Belong" (1982's An Officer and a Gentleman). For initiates like myself, Hearing is Believing is a great place to begin, but I'm saddened by what could have been.

For an unvarnished take on the Nitzsche legend, check out Andrew Loog Oldham's "Turning the Key of the Universe: Jack Nitzsche Remembered."

Note: Image from Jack Nitzsche's Magical World.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

List: Searchin' Every
Which A-way, or Recent Review Reproductions

With apologies to the Coasters, if you go searchin' Google using my full name, Kathleen C. Fennessy, you'll get approximately 49,800 hits (Kathy Fennessy nets 13,800).

Don't be impressed; the vast majority are duplicates of reviews originally written for the All Music Guide, Amazon, and Tablet. Every few months, I check to see where they're ending up and these are some of the more interesting sites I encountered when I checked this month.

Incidentally, most of my Amazon reviews are automatically shared with/licensed to Amazon.co.uk and linked to the IMDb, whereas a lot of my AMG reviews/biographies are automatically shared with ARTISTdirect, eMusic, mp3.com, and Yahoo! Music, so I'm not counting those sorts of instances.


The Dirtbombs:
Link to Tablet interview with Mick Collins

[This barely qualifies as I brought it to the attention of the webmistress; it's still cool to be mentioned on a Dirtbombs site.]

Girl Trouble:

Link to AMG biography of Girl Trouble

The Golden Girls Online:
Amazon reviews of The Golden Girls -

The Complete First and Second Seasons

K Records:
AMG biography of the All Girl Summer Fun Band

Link to Amazon review of Veronica Mars -

The Complete First Season

Harry Nilsson Web Pages:
Amazon review of Around the Bend

[The movie features the Nilsson track "Daddy's Song."]

The Scoundrelles:
AMG review of Various Artists - The Sympathetic Sounds of London (Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Amazon review of Eric Clapton - Back Home (Warner Bros)

[There's a lot of Billy Preston's Hammond B3 on Back Home, but I didn't notice any Theremin. Meanwhile, I'm currently listening to Jack Nitzsche's closing theme to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (from Hearing is Believing)--the Theremin is unmistakable.]

Link to AMG biography of Visqueen

[Is Wikipedia one of the coolest sites on the Web or what?]

Other sites: Always on the Run (AMG biography of
Kathryn Williams), DavidByrne.com (Amazon review
of Ilé Ayé), Lushy.com (Tablet review of Lushy), PasteMusic.com
(AMG biography of Keren Ann), Queery.com (Amazon review
of Will & Grace - The Complete Fourth Season), and WOXY.com
(Amazon review of the Directors Label, Volumes 4-7).

Postscript: Image of Keren Ann from the AMG. So, has anyone else ever noticed the resemblance between her and Charlotte Gainsbourg? Maybe it's because both are part-French, part-Russian. Speaking of which, here's a quote from the Sunday Times ("The Unfairest of Them All") on the concept of jolie laide ("pretty-ugly"), "Today's version of an iconic jolie laide is the French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose complex gamine charm has pedigreed status: her mother is the actress Jane Birkin, and her father is the weltschmerz-ridden crooner Serge Gainsbourg, who actually penned a song with the title 'Jolie Laide.'"

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Liner Notes: The Raw and the Cooked, or Seu Jorge vs. Serge Gainsbourg

[Part one in the "On Covering Gainsbourg" series.]

I just received the new Seu Jorge CD, Cru, and I'm quite enjoying it. If the name doesn't ring a bell, you may know him better as "Knockout Ned" in City of God, one of my favorite films of 2003, or as the otherwise-silent crew member who sang acoustic versions of Bowie songs--in Portuguese--in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Well, part of the reason I wanted to get the album is because Jorge covers Serge Gainsbourg's "Chatterton." Aside from the translation, he's changed some of the words, i.e. "Hannibal" becomes "Kurt Cobain." See below for both sets of lyrics (sorry about the unfortunate formatting on Gainsbourg's original; couldn't find a way to get rid of the "negative space"). Anyway, it looks like Jorge has also dropped a few verses. All in all, it's not a bad song, but I prefer the album's other cover, "Don't" (Lieber and Stoller), an Elvis Presley hit which he doesn't translate--it's the only English-language song on the CD and it's quite affecting.

According to the Amazon editorial review, that "jungle sound" (as I like to call it) that you hear throughout much of the recording--and so many others from Brazil--is created by cuicas ("friction percussion played with an oil-soaked rag"). The reviewer, Christina Roden, describes it as "shrieking" and "whining." Exactly. I wasn't sure if the noise was created by an instrument or some bizarre style of singing. The "harp-like cavaquihnos" is another one of the indigenous instruments that gives the album its unique sound. A couple other things I learned from her review: That cru means "raw" and that Mania De Peitão ("Big Chested Mania") is an anti-breast implant song. Okay, I'm in love.

[Gainsbourg] Adapt: [Seu Jorge / Dani Costa]
Pub: Melody Nelson Publishing

Chatterton, suicidou
Kurt Cobain, suicidou
Vargas, suicidou
Nietzsche, enloqueceu
E eu, nao vou nada bem

Chatterton, suicidou
Cléopatra, suicidou
Isocrates, suicidou
Goya, enloqueceu
E eu, nao vou nada bem

Chatterton, suicidou
Marc-Antoine, suicidou
Van Gogh, suicidou
Schumann, enloqueceu
E eu, nao vou nada bem



Pub: Melody Nelson Publishing

Chatterton suicidé

Hannibal suicidé

Démosthène suicidé


Fou à lier

Quant à moi...

Quant à moi

Ça ne va plus très bien

Chatterton suicidé

Cléopâtre suicidé

Isocrate suicidé


Fou à lier

Quant à moi...

Quant à moi

Ça ne va plus très bien

Chatterton suicidé

Marc-Antoine suicidé

Van Gogh suicidé


Fou à lier

Quant à moi...

Quant à moi

Ça ne va plus très bien

Postscript: I'm currently reading Sylvie Simmons's Gainsbourg bio, A Fistful of Gitanes, so this album couldn't have arrived at a better time (I received it for my birthday, along with Bjork's Vespertine, Jack Nitzsche's Hearing is Believing, Them Featuring Van Morrison, and a couple of Eno titles). I should also mention that the cover of Jorge's debut, Carolina, which was produced by Mario Caldato, Jr. (the Beastie Boys), features the favela king in a loud shirt and knit cap holding a cat. Okay, so now I'm really in love...even if it is one of those whiny Siamese gatos.

Note: Images from the AMG.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Your Cat is a Friendly Bother and Other Catchy Quotations

Just call me Bartlett. I collect quotations the way kids used to collect baseball cards. (Speaking of which, what are they collecting these days? I'll be damned if I know.) So anyway, this is a collection I've been working on for the past two years. Unfortunately, my computer crashed in 2003 and I lost all my mail files. Otherwise, I'd have twice as much. So, what makes a good quote? Well, to me, it's about truth and humor. If I can find one that combines the two in equal measure, more's the better. I'm particularly fond of quotes about the writing game. (It makes me feel better to be reminded that I'm not the only one who finds it a tough racket.) Bonus points for those that deal with race in a unique manner, that puncture pretension with wit, or that attempt to define the innate inscrutability that is Cat. And artful absurdism--along with embarrassingly over-the-top sadism--is always welcome. I recently found out that my grandmother collected quotes, so I guess you could say I inherited the hobby.

For the most part, quotes are in the order in which I found them. Sources include books, CDs, movies, and publications/websites including The New York Times, The Village Voice, and Salon.


"Our Father, who art in heaven,
The white man owed me 10 dollars,
and I didn't get but seven.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
I took that or I wouldn't have got none. Amen."
-- Sister Jones, Goodbye, Babylon gospel boxed set (2003)

"Instead of adapting to the white perspective, he forced white audiences to follow him into his own experience."
-- Hilton Als on Richard Pryor (1999)

"Man, he was a funny motherfucker."
-- Miles Davis on Richard Pryor (1990)

"If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who realizes that she can't have what's being conserved."
-- Deborah J. Dickerson, An American Story (2001)


"With those beady eyes and that moustache he looks like a cross between Steve Buscemi, John Waters, and Edgar Allen Poe."
-- Det. John Munch (Richard Belzer) describing a victim on Homicide (1993-1999)

[Homicide: Life on the Streets was set in Baltimore, home of Poe, and featured appearances by Buscemi and Waters.]


"Chris is like a poem. Trying to define him is like trying to define a cloud."
-- Sean Penn on Christopher Walken (2005)

''It seems to me that we humans sometimes forget that we are animals too; in the best sense--the pure sense of the forest where our first memories were made. And there are as many kinds of us as there are of them: solitary, gregarious, monogamous; the beach master with his harem; those who meet once and move on; the hunters; the vegetarians.''
-- Christopher Walken, Keep It Simple Guide to Cat Care (2001)

"Your cat is a friendly bother
Who’d offer his heart with allegiance
And if he could talk we’d be best friends
The only friend he has is his food."
-- Vashti Bunyan with Animal Collective, "Prospect Hummer" (2005)

"They never leave me alone,
It's always pitter patter on my floor,
Please fill up our bowls and can you maybe pet us some more!
You know that I'm so in love with my little friends."
-- The Ponys, "Little Friends" (2003)

"Cats are so intelligent it's frightening, especially this cat of mine named Garland. He's as smart as a chimpanzee and he tricks me in every way. You know, we don't know that much about cats. Cats just came in and started living among humans. You wouldn't believe what I do for Garland--I bend over and pet him for fifteen minutes while he eats! Garland likes Lightnin' Hopkins but he has too much ego to listen to my music. If I'm listening to my music while I paint and Garland's outside, I have to turn off the music or he won't come into the room."
-- Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart), Book of Changes (1988)

[From Kristine McKenna's Book of Changes, a collection of interviews--it's quote heaven!]


"You should make a point of trying every experience once, excepting incest and folk dancing."
-- Sir Arnold Bax (1883 - 1953) , Master of the Queen's Musick, quoting "a sympathetic Scot"

"Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony."
-- Franz Kafka (1883-1924), "Leopards in the Temple"

[Thanks to Bob Cumbow for the above, which he had memorized.]

"When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary."
-- Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."
-- Rebecca West (1892-1983)

"Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks are born with their trauma. They're aristocrats."
-- Diane Arbus (1923-1971)

[I like Nicole Kidman, I really do, but I'm deeply disappointed she's been cast as Arbus in the upcoming bio-pic.]

"I like boring things."
-- Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

"Decorative gestures add romance to a life."
-- Don DeLillo, White Noise (1984)

''I really miss Joe Strummer. Even though he's dead, I still get advice from him...I have Nick Ray, Sam Fuller and Joe--I have some great spirits when I need guidance. I hear William Burroughs a lot, too, but I don't really want to listen to his advice.''
-- Jim Jarmusch (2005)

"If, after having been exposed to someone's presence you feel as if you've lost a quart of plasma, avoid that presence. You need it like you need pernicious anemia."
-- William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)

[Joe Economy brought the above to my attention.]


"Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art."
-- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

"Every writer, without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an 'injustice collector' and a depressed person constantly haunted by fears of unproductivity."
-- Edmund Bergler, M.D. (1933–1961)

"As long as human life lasts, art will go on being the one activity for which no amount of calculation can provide a substitute, and the job of the critic will be to explain why this is so. The ability to realize that he can never attain to an exhaustive analysis of the thing he loves best is the indispensable qualification for signing on. What he has to offer is his life, of which his learning can only be a part: the more he knows the better, but if he thinks that nothing else counts then he will count for nothing."
-- Clive James, Unreliable Memoirs (1980)


"The Internet has a marvelous democratic possibility. I'm aware of all that, but I haven't the vaguest idea. I'm just learning the wonders of the electric typewriter. It's fantastic!"
-- Studs Terkel, author (2003)

"Whether you're browning, searing, or just setting things on fire, a kitchen blow torch is fun for the whole family!"
-- Ted Allen, The Food You Want to Eat (2005)

"If only birthdays happened in reverse. We could enjoy our youth when we were wise enough to take advantage of it."
-- Kevin Fansler (2005)

"It's easy to make the case that comic strips are art. Of course they're art. Now more than ever I think it's necessary to quantify them as garbage as well, and to quantify garbage as art, to level the playing field and take it all in as whatever human activity produces."
-- Mark Newgarden, graphic artist (2006)

Note: "Prospect Hummer" image from Amazon, Pryor from Wikipedia, Burroughs from the William S. Burroughs Internet Database, and Beefheart from the AMG. For "Black Irish" quotes, please click here and for movie quotes, click on over this way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Review: Danger Doom, The Mouse
and the Mask, Epitaph

Inspired by Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night animation block, The Mouse and the Mask is a collaboration between Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and MF Doom (Daniel Dumile).

Adult Swim includes such pot smoker favorites as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law.

Character voices, like Master Shake and Brak, all make appearances, along with such real-life musicians as Mark Linkous/Sparklehorse, Ghostface Killah ("The Mask"), Cee-Lo Green ("Benzie Box"), Talib Kweli ("Old School"), and Money Mark ("No Names"). For the most part, the cartoon voices are kept to a minimum, so they're not as irritating as you might think.

There's nothing earth shattering going on here, but The Mouse and the Mask features sweet beats and typically bizarro lyrics, like "midgets into crunk" ("El Chupa Nibre"), "hills spills muddle flows" ("Mince Meat), and "the gem drop of well spit" ("Bada Bing").

Highlights include "Benzie Box," with its Funkadelic/Outkast swing (dig that "la-la-la" chorus), and "Space Ho's" with its sprightly rhythm and Morricone whistling ("It ain't Doom Coast to Coast!").

Note: For more info, please visit the official Danger Doom site. Danger, in Donnie Darko garb, from the Gnarls Barkley site.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Interview: Jammin' With Spoon's Jim Eno

Here's another Tablet interview that never made it to print, although it was posted to the website at one point. It isn't a great piece, but I do believe Spoon is a great band, and I'm happy to do what I can to get the word out. Since this 2004 interview, I caught the group live at the Showbox and, a year later, they released Gimme Fiction (sadly I missed their tour in support of it). Anyway, the new album is on par with the fine Girls Can Tell, but not as good as the stellar Kill the Moonlight, one of my all-time favorites.


It’s fun to say you were into a band or album before everybody else. To be able to proclaim, once your faith has been vindicated, "I was into them from their first album" or "I saw them open for [some-band-or-another] before they had released a thing." Take, for instance, the White Stripes. For those who were hip to their 1999 debut on Sympathy for the Record Industry, I salute you. My introduction to the band, on the other hand, was via 2001’s White Blood Cells. Although initially released by Sympathy, it was re-released by V2 the following year and the hype machine soon kicked into high gear. If anything, though, I prefer this year’s Elephant, a major label release all the way, even if it doesn't sound like one (it's more wide-ranging than White Blood Cells). The Spoon story follows the same trajectory--but in reverse. For my money, both bands are equally good, although the comparison stops there, as they certainly don't sound much alike.

As with the Stripes’ first album, there are only so many people who heard Spoon's 1996 debut on Matador, Telephono (let alone 1994's "Nefarious" single), at the time of its release. If you were one, you were definitely ahead of the curve. You were also part of a fairly exclusive group as it led to Spoon’s deal with Elektra, which released 1998's A Series of Sneaks. Alas, despite the major label backing and positive reviews, the record didn't go anywhere and, a few months later, the band was dropped. Fortunately, they made a good record; Sneaks was no sell-out by any stretch of the imagination. And that may have been part of the problem; Elektra didn't know how to--or want to--promote the spiky little recording the band had delivered. Which isn't to say the label didn't get behind it, just that their efforts were half-hearted at best and Sneaks was doomed from the start. Spoon could have broken up at that point--it's what a lesser band (one only concerned with commercial success) would have done--but instead they went back to the studio and issued the more accessible Girl Can Tell, which would be released by Merge in 2001. Why they didn't make a record like it for Elektra is a mystery to me, but I'm glad they didn't as Merge got behind Girls in a big way and a lot of people heard and loved it, to judge by all the top 10 lists it showed up on at the end of the year. Then, in 2002, Merge re-released Sneaks, so now it's more readily available than if Elektra had retained the rights to it (how's that for revenge?). The US version even includes a 1999 single Spoon recorded for Saddle Creek about the Elektra debacle ("The Agony of Lafitte" / "Lafitte Don't Fail Me Now").

Which brings us to Spoon's latest and greatest CD, Kill the Moonlight. Released by Merge in 2003, it has brought them a bigger, more enthusiastic following than ever before. In a sense, it reminds me of Elephant in another way--the band takes more chances than on previous recordings and most pay off. Ironically, they've also been able to promote it in high profile ways usually only associated with major label acts--an installment of Austin City Limits, along with appearances on Late Night With Conan O'Brien and Last Call With Carson Daly. Not too surprisingly, Spoon sings Merge's praises whenever they get the chance.

I spoke with drummer Jim Eno in June, in advance of Spoon’s second US tour in support of Moonlight. Along with singer/songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel, Eno is a founding member of the group and they record their albums in his garage-based studio. (Bass players have come and gone over the years.) As I didn’t have access to a tape recorder, I've recreated a portion of our hour-long conversation via memory and some hastily scrawled notes. The first thing I asked Eno was whether he had grown up in Austin, where the band has been based from the start. He said he didn't and nor did Daniel. Eno grew up in Rhode Island, whereas Daniel grew up in Temple, rather than Austin, Texas. Eno then went to school in North Carolina. I told him I was surprised to hear he was from the East Coast as he does have a bit of a Texas twang. This surprised him, although he admitted that once he moved down South, he did consciously try not to sound like too much of a Yank (I'd say his efforts have paid off).

After asking Eno about his favorite cities to play, I added, "You're under no pressure to say Seattle." But he admitted that Seattle is, in fact, one of Spoon's favorite touring destinations. "Seattle audiences have been really enthusiastic," he noted, and singled out the Crocodile Café for making the band feel so welcome (it's too bad, then, that Spoon's gotten too big to play there anymore). "Clubs usually kick out a band when they're finished playing," he explained. The Crocodile, on the other hand, would allow them to relax awhile before packing it in for the night. He also mentioned San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. "No small towns?" I asked. "Not really," he replied, "although we'll be playing Lawrence this tour." He explained that Spoon usually only tours for two weeks at a time, so it's just not possible to hit the smaller cities.

I next asked Eno about his favorite drummers. Interestingly, he didn't mention Charlie Watts--I thought all drummers were supposed to cite Watts --although I do hear Exile on Main Street Stones in the way Eno’s drums and Daniel’s keyboards bounce off each other. Instead, he mentioned Mike Joyce of the Smiths and Pete Thomas of the Attractions. Spoon has often been compared to Costello, so I couldn't resist mentioning it's a comparison I just don't hear. I figured it was something they had grown tired of hearing anyway, but Eno seemed a little disappointed (it wasn't meant as criticism, although I do love Costello). It makes sense to me in theory, just not in practice. To my mind, Daniel's songwriting approach has more in common with Ray Davies or Paul Weller, circa All Mod Cons, than to Elvis, with the possible exception of "Pump It Up" (a song Spoon could really do justice to live). I suppose Daniel does sound a bit like Costello, though, in terms of his singing. "I think you sound more like a cross between the Jam and the Who," I stated, and Eno said he liked that analogy. "But I can see the Attractions in terms of your approach to rhythm," I acknowledged, and he liked that, too.

So then I asked who he would like to meet if he could meet anyone in the world--musician, author, actor, etc. "Stephen Street," he answered immediately. "He produced Morrisey's Viva Hate." "Really?" I asked, figuring he would have been more likely to say Costello, Davies, or Colin Newman (Spoon has also often been compared to Wire and A Series of Sneaks is a play on Wire’s A Serious of Snakes). "Why Street?" I asked. "He's gotten some really great sounds out of the bands he's produced," Eno explained.

"So, of all the people you have met," I asked, "Who were you most excited about?" "Hmmm, I'm still in 'work mode'," Eno laughed. "We're going to have to get back to that one..." This led, naturally enough, to a discussion about work. "I've read that you and Britt have day jobs. That still the case?" "Yes," Eno acknowledged. "I don't consider myself a full-time musician." "Really?" I asked. Spoon has kept pretty busy these past few years for a bunch of "part-timers." "Do you work five days a week?" I asked. "Yes," Eno answered. "And you work as an electrical engineer?" "Yes." "What about Britt?" "He does some editing." Daniel also keeps busy with extra-curricular music endeavors like the Drake Tungsten solo project, collaborations with Conor Oberst, etc.

We returned to the previous question. "I've thought of an answer," Eno decided. "But it's a place, not a person." "That's okay, " I said. The answer was London's Abbey Road, where the Beatles did most of their recording. "I mastered a record there, " he explained. As it turns out, Eno may be closer to a full-time musician--or "music person"--than he was willing to admit at the time, since he also records bands in his studio and has worked with the likes of Tobin Sprout, John Vanderslice, and Sally Crewe. "So, you're pretty much working all the time?" I asked. "Uh, yes," he laughed.

Note: For more information about Spoon, please visit their official site. Fuzzy picture of Eno taken by Daniel's "watchcam."

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A History of Book Club

In the fall of 2000, the love-
ly and talented Wendy Har-
ris formed Book Club (to
be pronounced in the same
hushed tones as Fight Club,
i.e. "The first rule of Fight
Club..."). The initial selec-
tion was Cormac McCar-
thy's Blood Meridian.

At that point in my life, I was working full-time/overtime
at Amazon and doing contract work for Microsoft, and was
unable to join, as much as I wanted to. But then, due to bud-
getary constraints, my MS gig came to an end and, all of
a sudden, I had a little free time on my hands...

So things went fairly swimmingly for the next year or two, but
Wendy wasn't happy, so she pulled the plug on the old club and
reformed it as an all-woman group (even her future husband,
Kristian, got the boot) and instituted a few new rules. Nothing
unreasonable, but more structure would be part of the game.

I wasn't too excited about the all-female thing, but decided to
give it a try. Had a fine time at the first meeting, and a terrible
time at the next (too much "girls talk," as Nick Lowe might say).

For the next couple of years, I read most of the books, but never
attended another meeting. I really missed the old group, so in late
2004 I ran the idea by Clarke Fletcher, and we decided to start
it up again. Since then, we've been meeting regularly and things
have been going well. We've read some fine literature, enjoyed
some lively conversation, and consumed some tasty food and
drink ("The third rule of Book Club: No booze, no meeting!").

After consulting my sales records, I've put together a list of the
books the various groups have read between 2001 and now. All
dates are approximate, and I'm sure I've left out a few titles (like
Reading Lolita in Tehran, which held little interest for me

I would've preferred to read Nabokov's original novel). Because
the list is getting so long, I've created a separate entry for it.

As for the new/old group, we now meet every six weeks (as op-
posed to four), but this can change if someone's going out of town
or if the sixth week falls on a holiday. If you'd care to suggest a-
ny titles, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.

Endnote: Portrait of Ian McEwan from his official website.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Reviews and Such for Oc- tober October kept me pretty busy, but not as bus- y as Sep- tember, which was a real banner month, i.e. probably not too impressive by most freelance standards, but I was pleased. Amazon: Cream - Royal Albert Hall: May 2-3-5-6 2005 [two- disc set], Crónicas (John Leguizamo's best performance since Moulin Rouge), Hart to Hart - The Complete First Season [six- disc set], Popstar (with Aaron Carter--yipes!), Bomb the System, Unscripted (HBO series from George Clooney and Steven Soder- bergh), Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - The Fab Five Collection [eight-disc set], The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Happily Ever After (Yvan Atal's second film with wife Charlotte Gainsbourg; features a cameo from Johnny Depp), Pixies - Sell Out, The Adventures of Pete & Pete - Season Two [2-disc set] (Iggy Pop and Michelle Trachtenberg join), A Different World - Season One [4-disc set], and Veronica Mars - The Complete First Season [six-disc set]. Seattle Film Blog: Shopgirl and two short posts about SIFF events. Reel News: I didn't do any writing for Reel News, but I get a nice acknowledgment in the new issue, "Special thanks to Kathleen Fennessy" (for the articles I edited last month). That meant a lot, so I let Tara Morgan know when I saw her at last night's screening of Capote. Great movie, by the way. Highly recommended to anyone with even the slightest interest in the craft of writing--particularly the tricky art of the interview, i.e. Capote's In Cold Blood heart-to-hearts with Perry Smith; both beautifully portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Clifton Collins, Jr. (Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, Chris Cooper as detective Alvin Dewey, and Bob Balaban as New Yorker editor William Shawn are also quite good). Random notes: You might not guess it from my cinematic taste, but I love Veronica Mars. It's like a cross between The O.C. and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as written by Raymond Chandler and directed by David Lynch with Veronica as a post-millennial Nancy Drew by way of Veronica Lake and Lauren Bacall (Kristen Bell has Lake's petite good looks and Bacall's poise and smarts). And that's pretty much what I say in my review. I'm not sure why the net- work moved it from Tuesday to Wednesday--at the same time as Lost. For a UPN program, the ratings have been pretty good, but they don't compare to ABC's powerhouse. It's a great show. Please watch it (and it repeats on Saturdays). Incidentally, if you're not much of a TV watcher, you may still stumble across Bell on the big screen from time to time. A couple of years ago, she appeared in David Mamet's Spartan and, according the IMDb, she'll next be seen in 50 Pills with Thumbsucker's Lou Taylor Pucci and an Am- erican version of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Pulse (here's hoping it's bet- ter than the US remakes of The Grudge, Dark Water, etc.). Postscript: After an inexplicable delay of several years--in- explicable to me, at any rate--Pulse is finally getting a US re- lease. Although the marvelously twisted Bright Future--killer jellyfish, Che Guevera t-shirts, and Tadanobu Asano--got a limited release last year, the equally twisted Doppelganger went straight to video. For shame. They're two of his best films. Seance, which was produced for Japanese TV (and was never released in the US) is even better. Pulse will be playing Seattle's Varsity from December 2nd through the 9th. See you there! Endnote: Image from UPN's Veronica Mars site.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oral Fixations & Other Delights: My Favorite Films of 2005

Oral Fixations & Other Delights: My Favorite Films of 2005

I first posted this list on October 6th, 2005. At the time, I had seen 216
films. By December 31st, I had seen 52 more and made two revisions.
The first time was to make room for Capote, the second for Breakfast on 
Pluto, which meant kicking Look at Me and Kontroll off the list. That
said, these selections are in no particular order, with the exceptions of
Breakfast and Thumbsucker, my current favorite—despite the prepon-
derance of Polyphonic Spree on the soundtrack (a little goes a long way).


1. Thumbsucker (Mike Mills)
2. Breakfast on Pluto (Neal Jordan)
3. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
4. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard)
5. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
6. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
7. The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles)
8. Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July)
9. Capote (Bennett Miller)
10. Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch)

Quick analysis: This is my most American-centric list since, well, ever. I'm a huge fan of French and Japanese films and, although I saw some good ones this year (Hana and AliceTony Takitani, etc.), there isn't a single Japanese film on this list (although there is one from France). Past Japanese favorites include Seance (Kiyoshi Kurosawa), All About Lily Chou-Chou (Shunji Iwai), The Happiness of the Katakuris and Audition (both by Takashi Miike), Hana-bi (Takeshi Kitano), and Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku), my number one for 2001.

Here are a couple of previous top 10s:


1. The Good Thief / L'Homme de la riviera (Neil Jordan)
2. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
3. City of God / Cidade de deus (Fernando Meirelles) (2002)
4. Chaos (Coline Serreau)
5. Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki)
6. The Man Without a Past / Mies vail-
la menneisyyttä (Aki Kaurismäki)
7. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle)
8. Elephant (Gus Van Sant)
9. Morvern Callar (Lynn Ramsay) (2002)
10. Divine Intervention / Yadon ilaheyya (Elia Suleiman) (2002)


1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
2. Last Life in the Universe / Ruang rak
noi nid mahasan (Pen-ek Ratanaruang)
3. The Mother (Roger Michell)
4. Hellboy (Guillermo del Toro)
5. Tie: Bright Future (Akarui mirai) /
Doppelgänger (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
6. The Best of Youth / La Meglio
Gioventù (Marco Tullio Giordana)
7. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)
8. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)
9. Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space (Tol)
10. Coffee & Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch)

And here are my runners-up for 2005:

11. Look at Me (Agnès Jaoui)
12. Kontroll (Nimrod Atal)
13. 3-iron (Kim Ki-duk)
14. Million Dollar
Baby (Clint Eastwood)
15. Murderball (Henry-Alex
Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro)
16. Asylum (David Mackenzie)
17. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
18. Pulse (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
19. Head-On (Fatih Akin)
20. The Holy Girl (Lucretia Martel)
21. Downfall / Der Untergang (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
22. King Kong (Peter Jackson)
23. Kings and Queen -- Mathieu Amal-
ric portion only (Arnaud Desplechin)*
24. My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski)
25. Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa)
26. Tie: Domino (Tony Scott) and
Pride and Prejudice (Joe Wright)
27. Junebug (Phil Morrison)
28. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (Jane Anderson)
29. Hotel Rwanda (Terry George)
30. Happy Endings (Don Roos)

*Amalric also rocks the house in Munich. Kudos to Steven Spielberg for casting this fine French thespian, an irresistibly elfin cross between Jean-Pierre Leaud and Roman Polanski.

And my favorite documentaries:

1. Be Here to Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Sant (Margaret Brown)
2. New York Doll (Greg Whiteley)
3. The Aristocrats (Paul Provenza)
4. White Diamond (Werner Herzog)
5. That Man: Peter
(Jim Tushinski)
6. William Eggleston in the
Real World (Michael Almereyda)
7. March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet)
8. The Gits (Kerry O'Kane)
9. The Loss of Nameless Things (Bill Rose)
10. Tell Them Who You Are (Mark Wexler)

Note: Images from About.com, the All
Music Guide
and The New York Times.