Monthly Archives: January 2009

Gang Gang Dance – “Princes”

Like, Gang Gang Dance is totally one of the most awesome bands around…so here is a way killer video for their bitchin’ song “Princes”.  Plus, I think it’s pretty kewl that they are playing Coachella this year.  Right?  I have no idea why I’m talking this way.  I apologize.

“Princes” (From Tim and Barry TV):

Gang Gang Dance’s latest release, Saint Dymphna, received our seal of approval last year.  If you still haven’t gobbled their goop, then what’s stopping you?  It’s out on Social Registry

[Gang Gang Dance’s official MySpace page]



New Music: The Phantom Band – “Folk Song Oblivion”

The audio on this rip is pretty mangled, but it should give you a pretty good idea of what this enormously inventive group of Scots is up to:

Their debut album, Checkmate Savage, is out now on Chemikal Underground. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this one. 

[The Phantom Band’s official MySpace page]


Word Porn: “The Tortilla Curtain” (1995)

Did you know that the U.S. accepted more immigrants last year than all the other countries of the world combined — and that half of them settled in California? And that’s legal immigrants, people with skills, money, education. The ones coming in through the Tortilla Curtain down there, those are the ones that are killing us . . .

The term “social novel” tends to send most American critics running for the hills. It has come to imply a certain triteness, I think — some sort of vague abstraction that many see as having ironically died with the A-bomb, and ultimately distracting from the serious business of fiction writing. After all, shouldn’t all novels serve some sort of social function? It’s a question which brings us to the age-old debate between critics of the formalist and cultural poetic schools of literary criticism: what purpose does fiction serve? Are its motives didactic, instructional, and irrevocably indebted to the zeitgeist which birthed it? Or, does our understanding and appreciation of the text begin and end with the front and back cover?

T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain is a thoroughly convincing, and often very painful, account of race relations in America. Examining the sometimes jarring discrepancies between thought and action, between ideas and their execution, Boyle effortlessly reminds us that politics are inescapable: they latch to our every move, are reflected in every minute decision we make, and — sometimes in very violent, cruel ways — collide with the sober realities of our increasingly fractured, paradoxically global society.

Delaney, one of the novel’s central figures, is a white male of priveledge. He’s a Sierra Club Liberal who prides himself in his ultimate breadth of empathy and understanding, in his connectedness with our precious and quickly-fleeting biosphere, in the progressive ideals which shape his view of America as a beacon for peace, love and understanding. After hitting  an undocumented immigrant with his car — Candido, the anti-hero of the novel’s intercalary chapters — Delaney, after paying off the Spanish-speaking homeless man and leaving him to what seems to be certain death, is forced to address what is essentially an American dilemma: how do we reconcile the ideological pillars on which our country was founded (Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. . .) with the social realities of our treatment of minorities, “documented” or not?

Why did [Delaney] keep thinking of shadowy black-and-white movies, men in creased hats leaning forward to light cigarettes . . . Because he was covering himself, that’s why. Because he’d just left that poor son of a bitch there alongside the road . . . and because he’d been glad of it, relieved to buy him off with his twenty dollars’ blood money. And how did that square with his liberal-humanist ideals?

The Tortilla Curtain, often bordering on a pastiche of American “dust bowl fiction,” gets most of its mileage from playing off of Steinbeck’s form in The Grapes of Wrath. Like Steinbeck’s mammoth opus, Boyle’s novel makes no bones about its perceived job of providing social commentary. It’s unmistakably clear, through the heavy-handedness of the novel’s symbolic and pairing devices (a page straight from Steinbeck’s often criticized literary playbook) that Boyle wants us to use The Tortilla Curtain as an implement by which to consider the world around us. We should struggle, along with Delaney, to ask ourselves what it means to live in a free and democratic society — and what, after all, is less democratic than an impervious wall surrounding the American border?

Of course, the novel is more than the sum of its parts. Don’t expect a 300-page lecture on immigration legislation, or a constantly winking re-write of Candide, for that matter. Expect instead a deeply rewarding, compulsively readable, and uncompromisingly human and heart-wrenching affair which — while it may do little to answer that age-old question of purpose in fiction writing — renders in clean, muscular prose the very questions which will essentially define us and our relationship with the rest of the world.


Favorites: Souvlaki

*Note: Sorry that I have been absent the past few days.  I took a breather.  Thank you to Jezy for picking up the slack.




I don’t need to draw a line in the sand between My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, delineating one as superior to the other.  My admiration for the two has comingled peacefully for years.  The reason I say this is that there seem to be distinct subsets of shoegazer fans: those convicted to follow the Ride religion, Crane cohorts, Catherine Wheel spinners, etc.  Even with all of this gerrymandering, to ignore “Loveless” is to blaspheme against the State, but where does that put “Souvlaki”? 


Slowdive is certainly no forgotten act, but their stature never rose to MBV levels of cosmic ebullition.  Perhaps a certain amount of this can be explained by the fact that Slowdive didn’t evaporate into quite the same cloud of “what ifs” as Kevin Shield’s project.  The band followed their masterpiece (“Souvlaki”) with another astounding, if less-often heard, effort (“Pygmalion”).  They broke up and leader Neil Halstead formed the equally dreamy, if earthier, Mojave 3.  And he just released a new solo album.  So, yeah, I guess there is less blurry mystique behind Slowdive, but that doesn’t decrease the bliss of “Souvlaki”, which is easily one of my ten favorite albums of the ‘90s. 


“When the Sun Hits”





John Updike: 1932 – 2009, January 27, 2009 ·

John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday of lung cancer. He was 76.

Updike once claimed that he was 15 before he read his first novel, but thereafter, the author wasted little time in mastering the art of fiction. He published his first short story, “Friends from Philadelphia,” in The New Yorker when he was 22, and his first novel, The Poorhouse Fair, five years later.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike vowed early in his career to write a book each year. Working at this clip, he published more than than 25 novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poems, criticism, a memoir and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams.

Updike created his best-known character, a former high school basketball star named Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, in the 1960 novel Rabbit, Run and later returned to the character in three more novels and a novella. . . (continue reading)

Interview with Updike (1995):

Part 1

Part 2


Jenny Jones: cooler than previously suspected?

Probably not. But check this shit out:

Gotta love the totally spontaneous, completely unprompted, impeccably in-time dance eruption at the beginning.

Be sure to tune in to ABC next Wednesday at 4:00 P.M., when Black Dice will be appearing on Tyra!


The Clash – Magnificent Seven (Tom Snyder Show)

Notice the double entendre of “Still to Come The Outer Fringe of Sex” flashed during the climax of this rather righteous performance.   Oh how I wonder what that was all about.

From the All Music Guide:

By the time they recorded Sandinista!, the members of the Clash were spending a lot of time in New York City and found themselves exposed to the burgeoning hip-hop scene. As a result, the streetwise lyrics and funky rhythms of this genre found their way into the Clash’s ever-evolving sound. A great example of the Clash’s experiments in this area is “The Magnificent Seven,” a fun excursion into rap that was inspired by the work of the Sugarhill Gang. The witty lyrics comment on the daily drudgery that working men suffer through to finance their dream of a better life (“working for a rise, better my station/Take my baby to sophistication”). They also playfully add some historical figures into the equation near the song’s end via lines like “Socrates and Milhous Nixon/Both went out the same way -through the kitchen.” It’s a very wordy set of lyrics but the music cruises through them at a steady clip thank to a fast paced melody that intersperses to staccato, sing-song verse melodies with a ‘football chant’-styled chorus. The Clash’s recording of “The Magnificent Seven” enhances the drive of the music by building its arrangement on relentlessly-grooving funk bass loop and adding dub-styled echoed percussion, funky rhythm guitar riffs and jazzy piano licks to give it plenty of R&B-flavored atmosphere. Joe Strummer tops it off with a vocal that delivers the twisty lyrics with plenty of energy and good cheer. The result was a Clash song that sounded just as good in a disco as it would at a rock club – the Clash took note of this and prepared a special instrumental 12-inch version for club play that was entitled “The Magnificent Dance.”

From “The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder” (1981)