The Hold Steady: “Heaven Is Whenever”

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 28th, 2011 by bill


The Hold Steady are a strange case – on the one hand, they are true rock’n’roll classicists, devotees of the vibrating string and skin. On the other hand, there is something distinctly 21st century about their tales of dissipated, disaffected, drug-addled youth.

I thought they had peaked back in 2005 with Separation Sunday. That album really snuck up on me with its combination of crunchy riffs and the uniquely nasal instrument of vocalist Craig Finn, the love child of Bruce Springsteen and Randy Newman. Not to mention the lyrics, highly literate and thoughtful without beating you over the head about it. Separation Sunday was a concept album about a lost generation struggling with faith and looking for redemption, and as awful as that sounds, it worked. Neither of the Hold Steady’s albums since then – Boys and Girls in America and Stay Positive – grabbed me much, so my expectations for this one were low.

Surprise, surprise – right from the opening notes of slide guitar, Heaven Is Whenever announces itself as a new kind of Hold Steady album. Not a complete departure, just an evolution, a little more sophisticated without sacrificing the gut-level oomph that they do so well. It moves smoothly from song to song without sacrificing momentum, and though there’s no obvious narrative through-line like there was in Separation Sunday, it seems as much as anything to be about…well, the Hold Steady. From how they got started:

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The Infinite Jest Deathmarch, Stage 21 (and Final!)

Posted in The Infinite Jest Deathmarch on February 26th, 2011 by bill

'...even the Classic Comics version of Ethan From was now beyond his abilities...'

Begin: Page 941 (“By a rather creepy coincidence…”)
End: The end.

Start Date: 2/25/11
Finish Date: ASAP

Can you freakin’ believe it?

Happy Belated Vigoda Day

Posted in Somebody's birthday on February 25th, 2011 by bill

Now that is one damn handsome man.

My old friend Tommy V popped up this morning to remind me that I missed an important holiday yesterday: the 90th birthday of the great, still-not-late Abe Vigoda. Usually 90 seems pretty old, but in this case most people’s reaction is probably something like, “Wow! Abe’s only 90?” After all, he’s been making a living by looking like he’s on death’s door since the mid-70s. But the joke’s on us; Abe will probably outlive us all, roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland with the cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Rudy the blind and deaf Shih-Tzu.

In honor of the occasion, here are a few more Vigoda factoids:

  • According to NNBD, “his first big break was a small, occasionally recurring role on Dark Shadows, the 1960s low-budget haunted house soap opera.” This was news to me – I couldn’t find much in the way of detail, other than the fact that he had played two different characters on three episodes – but it seems entirely appropriate, given that Abe himself is undead.
  • “Vigoda was born in New York City, the son of Lena (née Moses) and Samuel Vigoda, Jewish immigrants from Russia. His father was a tailor and his brother, Bill Vigoda, was a comic-book artist who drew for the Archie comics franchise and others in the 1940s.” (sez The Wikipedia)
  • Web searches for all things Abe are complicated by the increasing success of the rock band that appropriated his name. I don’t have an official position on whether they deserve to bear the Vigoda name, but based on an admittedly superficial sampling of their music, I am not impressed.
  • According to IMDB, Abe has three new movies coming out soon: Small Town Hero, Mafioso II, and The Driver. Is a major comeback in the works? It seems unlikely; but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll never bet against Abe Vigoda.

Jimi Hendrix: “Valleys of Neptune”

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 24th, 2011 by bill

You’d think that after 40 years and numerous posthumous albums, anyone attempting to assemble a collection of unreleased Jimi Hendrix recordings would be scraping the bottom of the barrel. And you wouldn’t be wrong, exactly; very little is new on Valleys of Neptune, released in 2010 by the Experience Hendrix label. “Stone Free,” “Hear My Train a-Comin’,” “Red House,” “Bleeding Heart,” “Lover Man,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” were recorded numerous times and can be heard on the Hendrix BBC sessions album, or the Blues compilation, or various live albums. “Mr. Bad Luck,” “Ships Passing Through the Night,” and “Lullaby for the Summer” are prototypes for the previously released “Look Over Yonder,” “Night Bird Flying,” and “Ezy Rider,” respectively. And the rerecorded version of “Fire” included here is not much different from the original version on Are You Experienced?, just cleaner-sounding and with a slightly extended outro.
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Grinderman: “Grinderman 2”

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 21st, 2011 by bill

Apparently, when alt-rock/art-rock superstars have their midlife crises, one of the things they do is start a new band that plays loud, guitar-based rock’n’roll. David Bowie had Tin Machine, Julian Cope had Brain Donor, and now Nick Cave has Grinderman, which is basically a stripped-down, four-piece version of the Bad Seeds.

This is actually the second Grinderman album; I never heard the first one because I only check in with what Nick is doing every four years or so. He’s one of these guys who’s so prolific that if I tried to keep up with everything he puts out, I’d have no time for all the important things I have to do, like trim my cats’ claws and watch every episode of Parks & Recreation at least three times. But judging by the song titles on Grinderman (“Get It On,” “No Pussy Blues,” “Go Tell the Women,” “Love Bomb,” etc.), both albums are concerned with the same basic subject matter; and if you don’t know what that subject matter is, read those titles again. Or consider these lyrics from Grinderman 2:

You know they call my baby the Mambo Rider
I cry storms of tears till the rising of the dawn
You know I’m only happy when I’m inside her
I guess that I’ve just loved you for too long
(“Worm Tamer”)

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The Infinite Jest Deathmarch, Stage 20

Posted in The Infinite Jest Deathmarch on February 19th, 2011 by bill

'...the closest Gately'd ever come to Xing a celebrity was the ragingly addicted nursing-student with the head-banging loft, who'd borne an incredible resemblance to the young Dean Martin.'

Begin: Page 896 (“I was going to go back up to see about Stice’s defenestration…”)
End: Page 941 (“Oh shit yes very much.”)

Start Date: 2/19/11
Finish Date: 2/25/11

Note Profile: We’re almost done with the notes at this point, so discontinuing this feature.

The finish line looms. The remaining pages are dwindling, as are the remaining Marchers. I just got a guilty phone call from another dropout, but I’m not holding it against anybody. People have lives. I’m just grateful for the hardy few who have stuck it out. Meanwhile, it’s a rainy day, perfect for reading – to the café!

Cee Lo Green: “The Lady Killer”

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 17th, 2011 by bill

For reasons of sheer boredom, I found myself watching the Grammy Awards broadcast this year for the first time in ages, and at times almost enjoying myself. One of those times was when Cee Lo Green performed his big hit accompanied by, and I don’t think I imagined this although it sounds unlikely, Gwyneth Paltrow and a bunch of Muppets. You know the song – the one they coyly referred to on the show as “The Song Otherwise Known as ‘Forget You.’ ”

It was indeed “forget you” that came out of Cee Lo’s mouth, and this didn’t ruin the song entirely, though it did dilute somewhat the frisson of a bouncy, irresistible pop tune called “Fuck You.” Never mind – this is Cee Lo’s moment, he is invincible, and you have to respect him for writing a surefire hit single and giving it lyrics that render it unsuitable for broadcast. The muse was truly with Mr. Green that day; were Willie the Shakes himself still with us, he would be envious of this couplet:

I see you drivin’ ’round town with the girl I love
And I’m like, “Fuck you!”

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Carmelo Loves Carmelo

Posted in The sporting life on February 16th, 2011 by bill

It wouldn't be a bad idea for Melo to take his hat off, because it makes him look silly.

I have a new addition to my sports quote hall of fame: this gem from Carmelo Anthony, congratulating himself for continuing to put up big numbers despite the distraction of trade rumors:

I take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff that’s going on and still be able to go out there and play at the high level that I can play at. I really don’t think an average person can walk in my shoes. I don’t think that.

The phrase “I take my hat off to myself” is definitely going to make its way into my regular rotation, right alongside J.R. Rider’s immortal “I said I was going to win it and I won it. I have to love myself for that.”

Just for the heck of it, here’s the rest of the top 5:

  • “Vonteego has a lot of confidence, and the Warriors are starting to have a lot of confidence in Vonteego.” (Golden State Warriors rookie Vonteego Cummings, circa 1999, speaking highly of himself. I mean of Vonteego.)
  • “Rickey don’t like it when Rickey can’t find Rickey’s limo.” (Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, still the record-holder for most third-person-self-references in one sentence.)
  • “I ain’t getting on no time machine.” (ABA player Marvin Barnes, refusing to board a short flight that would cross time zones and thus land before it took off.)

Gorillaz: “Plastic Beach”

Posted in Dancing about architecture on February 15th, 2011 by bill

I was a huge, huge fan of the first two Gorillaz albums. Like the Clash before him, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz’ musical mastermind, with artist Jamie Hewlett being the visual architect) found a way forward from a stagnant era of rock’n’roll by grafting in bits of all kinds of disparate styles, from hip-hop to Latin and African music to techno. Gorillaz and Demon Days were two of the best products of the first decade of this century, for my money, and with that in mind it’s hard not to call Plastic Beach something of a disappointment. It just doesn’t work the way its predecessors did, for reasons that are hard to pin down.
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The Infinite Jest Deathmarch, Stage 19

Posted in The Infinite Jest Deathmarch on February 12th, 2011 by bill

'He's remembering that he used to pretend to himself that the unviolent and sarcastic accountant Nom (sic) on 'Cheers!' (sic) was Gately's own organic father, straining to hold young Bimmy on his lap...'

Begin: Page 845 (“After Rémy Marathe and Ossowiecke, and Balbalis also, they all reported back negatively for all signs of this veiled performer…”)
End: Page 896 (…without jostling the catheter or I.V.s, or the thick taped tube that went down his mouth to God know where.”)

Start Date: 2/12/11
Finish Date: 2/18/11

Note Profile: 18 notes (344–361), all short

Let me quickly address Matt’s comment on the previous thread: I would be very careful about expecting too much in the way of closure in this book. Based on my experience of two long novels by Thomas Pynchon – DFW’s role model, I think – I already feel way ahead of the game in terms of narrative coherence and leery of anticipating anything in particular from the last 140 pages.

Also, his Hamlet reference is apropos, because I feel like we are witnessing a slow-motion tragedy where Hal is concerned. I think we are meant to believe that Hal could have been “saved” had he been sent to a real AA/NA meeting rather than the festival of patheticness he ended up at; instead he is headed directly for where we found him at the beginning of the book. One can only hope things go well for Gately and Joelle; but isn’t that what I just cautioned against? Damn and blast!