Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Five: 5 Best Things Molly Gaudry has read recently

If you spend some time on the literary interwebs, two words that begin to appear repeatedly are "Molly Gaudry." Yes, from what I can figure out she is a real person and has a real (novella) book from Mudluscious called WE TAKE ME APART. Most recently, I've been enjoying her work over at Big Other where she convinces writers to submit embarrassing childhood photos. Quite impressive really.

For the five best things she's read recently, Molly chose five introductory paragraphs, at random, from an anthology she's editing for Flatmancrooked tentatively titled Tell: An Anthology of Expository Narratives (due out fall 2010) and will feature over 50 writers. Plus, here's a bonus cookie recipe she said was good.

1) Aimee Bender's "Appleless," from The Fairy Tale Review

I once knew a girl who wouldn't eat apples. She wove her walking around groves and orchards. She didn't even like to look at them. They're all mealy, she said. Or else too cheeky, too bloomed. No, she stated again, in case we had not heard her, our laps brimming with Granny Smiths and Red Deliciouses. With Galas and Spartans and yellow Golden Globes. But we had heard her, from the very first; we just couldn't help offering again. Please, we pleaded, eat. Cracking our bites loudly, exposing the dripping wet white inside.

2) Blake Butler's "The Gown from Mother's Stomach," from Ninth Letter and Scorch Atlas (Featherproof Books)

The mother ate thread and lace for four weeks so that her daughter would have a gown. She was tired of not being able to provide her daughter with the things many other girls took for granted. Their family was poor and the mother's fingers ached with arthritis so she couldn't bring herself to sew. Instead she chewed the bed sheets until they were soft enough to swallow. She bit the curtains and gnawed the pillow. With one wet finger she swiped the floor for dust. God will knit it in my womb like he did you, she murmured. When you wear it you will blind the world.

3) Gary Lutz's "The Preventer of Sorrows," from Stories in the Worst Way (Calamari Press)

At some point I played up to myself long enough to be living in a room that was scarcely part of the house it was tacked onto. Mornings, the open space between the bottom of the door and the carpet admitted a scalene wedge of light from more substantial regions of the house. Things besides light could have got in. It was my fault for not having insisted on a door that locked.

4) Michael Martone's "Rumination"

I think of him thinking about his cows. I never even knew he was a dairyman. At the Starbucks in the Student Union where I worked he’d ask me about the steamed milk—real milk, right?—in the latte. I think of that now. He’d nurse the drink all day, staring off into space, the space so thick I could almost see that electromagnetic soup of digital bleats bawling from the laptops, the cell phones, the other students all around him were nudging and pawing, grazing through their email, their texts. I drifted over to him, started talking. He bought me a macchiato stained with milk and never let on he left a dairy farm to come to school. Though once early on, now that I think about it, he told me one could major in ice cream if one wanted to. I majored in numbers. Made ends meet. Thinking about it now, there were infinite silences between us like the silences between the bits of the binary alphabets herding around us in the ether. He didn’t say much at all, but that is the nature of farm boys, I guessed, or at least the ones I met back then, weaned in the vacuums of all those empty acres out there.

5) Stuart Dybek's "Fiction," from Tin House

Through a rift in the mist, a moon the shade of water-stained silk. A night to begin, to begin again. Someone whistling a tune impossible to find on a piano, an elusive melody that resides, perhaps, in the spaces between the keys where there once seemed to be only silence. He wants to tell her a story without telling a story. One in which the silence between words is necessary in order to make audible the faint whistle of her breath as he enters her.

More after the jump...

mp3s: Dirty Little Heaters, Pianos Become The Teeth, We Are Wolves & more

Dirty Little Heaters: "City Square"

Durham, NC's Dirty Little Heaters is punk rock to the max. Their new album
Champions of Imperfection will come out via Churchkey Records (home to Hammer No More The Fingers) on February 22nd.

Their new track is called "City Square." Rock it and their cd release party is Feb. 20th with Red Collar, Pink Flag, and Magician Michael Casey at Local 506 in Chapel Hill.

Pianos Become The Teeth: "Filial"
(review of this coming soon, for sure! good post-hardcore stuff...)

Princeton: "Shout it Out (Fol Chen Remix)"

Black Tambourine: "For Ex-Lovers Only"

We Are Wolves: "Blue"

Mighty Tiger: "33 1/3"

Rykarda Parasol: "A Drinking Song"

The Tallest Man on Earth: "King of Spain"

More after the jump...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

missed it the first time: Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine by Ben Tanzer

Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine
By Ben Tanzer

Orange Alert, 2008
Review by Josh S.

I approach most of the reviews on Deckfight divided. My mind is rarely made up before I sit down. I write and somehow make up my mind. Like most writers (I think), the writing process is a process of decision making. It is through this act I make up my mind, not before I write.

So it goes with Ben Tanzer’s
Most Likely. A book I was sure I was going to love, only to find that I admired its craft far more than its actual story; that’s the most backhanded compliment I’ve ever given, (perhaps I hit it out of bounds?). This is a story of one couple (two maybe), Jen and Geoff. Jen and Geoff are overly anxious about one another, somewhat repelled by each other, but enthralled enough to start breaking the manufactured dating rules, enthralled enough to wonder if after only a couple dates if this relationship is THE relationship, enthralled that this relationship in being THE relationship may be the relationship that breaks all the rules that their single friends and acquaintances still follow.

Think Annie Hall, or more recently 500 Days of Summer with a lot of dialogue and self-analysis and that’s Most Likely. The story is set in the early months of this decade, a key fact for understanding their position in life and their use of landline phones. In some ways, this is also the trusty buddy comedy, the most interesting lines and advice and scenes come from the repeated office-advice scenarios, something familiar for anyone with a girlfriend/boyfriend that the office knows about. No advice is solicited, but relationships are the one topic where everyone has advice.

Ben Tanzer!

Repetition is important here, so important that I didn’t realize that it was central to Ben’s writing strategy, which initially made me loathe it a bit. At first, I didn’t get the threads like “Geoff finds Paul and asks him if he wants to spark one in the alley behind the office. They spark one.” Ben was being kind of glib and stupid in an effort to be too ironic and too flat, but the humor came to me and by the end of the book, I got the trope and looked forward to it, especially advice from Descartes the management guru.

And then I got it or think I got it. The office scenes were routine and everyday in light of a possible, life-altering, non-routine relationship. What was thought initially to be routine eventually became something beyond the routine, but it all started in the routine. And that routine expanded beyond just simple office scenarios, but also into how Geoff and Jen date, their old routines influenced by habit and family and friends. Everyone has dirty laundry and it must be sorted through. Speaking of rules and dirty laundry, I’ll be honest, I was surprised at the frankness of sex in this book. I thought there would be more conversations about condoms and diseases and other contraceptives, especially since so much is exchanged not with friends but complete strangers--maybe there’s a stereotype, maybe it’s real-life, maybe it’s too real to make a point, or at least that worked with the rebound girl Claudia, so I think I talked myself around to understanding it---so it makes sense then with Geoff and Jen because it didn’t make sense for Geoff and Claudia. I got it now, I guess.

Written in short bursts (84 chapters in about 175 pages) and mostly in dialogue, Most Likely flies and every word that the characters speak is casual, but important. The use of dialogue was a highlight for me, I too am really intrigued by fiction just told in conversations between characters with little narration--I think the technique is under-appreciated, under-taught and under-utilized. And Ben has such an ear for it, a great mimicker of natural rhythms and conversations that each character is easily defined by their conversations, a task that as people we do all the time, though in writing is so much harder to nail down. So way to go Ben! (that was a forehanded compliment).

Buy Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine at Orange Alert.
Visit Ben's blog
here. Read Ben's Friday Five.
More after the jump...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lit Randomness: Stories that involve a grocery store, Kobe Bryant and paper swans

Ten Notes on Photographing Sean by Sean Lovelace:
This is all about photos, but I like this line:
"The tone and mood of the entire grocery store was one of commerce, cynical and oppressive. Roll after roll of wasted film. Posing with the meats, the mounds of fruits and vegetables, the garish rows of soda."

Fan Fiction in the voice of Kobe Bryant by Karl Taro Greenfield:
At Hobart. Not sure why NBA fiction is on the rise, but it is, oh it is.

By the Gleam of Her Teeth, She Will Light the Path Before Her by Tina May Hall
: At The Collagist.

More basketball fiction. Sherman Alexie's poetic face-off about the All-Star Game: At FreeDarko.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

review: Slowmotions Quick Potions

Quick Potions
YK Records, 2009

Download for free at Bandcamp/Buy CD at YK Records

<a href="">Birthing a Stone by Slowmotions</a>

Nashville's Slowmotions delivers an album that is not the destruction of anything, but maybe the wake of something. It's an album that surveys the contemporary electronic-pop-hybrid scene and delivers bursts and slices of what that looks like today amidst the downfall of music's genre and production restrictions.

QuickPotions is a quick downtempo album, if that makes any sense, the songs are bursts in 1:30 or 2:00 minute sections, as if Slowmotions-maker Andrew Brassell is giving up on the songs before they wander off too far and by the end, they rise again. But then they wander to the right places, like "Cheese Whiz" and "Birthing a Stone" and the irresistible "Magnus Ogan."

<a href="">Magnus Ogan by Slowmotions</a>

That means soulful snips like "Time" gets cut too early, though the groove is just staring to take means "Orchestra" lays out a tantalizing somber scene only to means the bass, high-hat and Jimi Hendrix solo just stops in "Cool Band Nightmare" means the folky-marathon of "Celebration" peters if Quick Potions is an album of flash fictions or discarded jingles for products and commercials that will never exist...

This is equally annoying and brilliant. The album seems to be on iTunes Store preview the whole time, but it also challenges the concept of song--why, like in the old radio days, does the song need to constantly repeat a chorus, when we can just hit the 'repeat' button over and over? Or just click back in milliseconds to hear it again---

Some songs like "Old v New" and "Fingers Flicker" are quote-fully formed-unquote and in those instances, I think of two other bands near Slowmotions on the iPod: Statistics and Spoon. There is a beat-up / soul sound here, with bells and whistles and pop-commentary like in Statistics (maybe he's still around Nashville?)

The album changes course, maybe not too much, but perceptibly so from the beginning and the songs are so short, I'm wondering how Brassell really feels about these songs--or if the he perceives them all as castoffs. Maybe that's the problem with a snippet album: no one knows for sure if you're serious or not.

But Slowmotions has serious talent, a good ear for the appropriate changes while obviously interested in multiple states of the audio experience--corralling that in a more cohesive way--evening out the folk ends to make them blend with the electronic fringe--more songs like the standout "Birthing A Stone" that's what I'm trying to say.

Do I need a conclusion to this review? Here's one: download Slowmotions for free at Bandcamp.
More after the jump...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Year of Reading Faulkner: The Sound and The Fury Update 2

The Sound and The Fury: Update 2
(Read Update 1)

So I cheated...
I read the Wikipedia page on this book after reading the Quentin section. It gave me comfort to know I am not alone. Quentin and this section are screw-ups. Figure myself to pretty savvy with the post-mod stuff, since I'm toting around a copy of A Thousand Plateaus most days, but putting the pieces of that together was difficult. To say Faulkner throws the reader into the action is a misnomer, instead he throws you in the aftermath of the action, to put together a body just from bullet holes.

A note--possibly a suicide note, someone point me to where that is in the section however. Concern/lack of concern about time---it doesn't matter to someone about to kill themselves. The immigrant girl---an obvious Caddy reference and Shreve's comment about how "it happens all the time" about how children follow him around, yes, Quentin is distraught over a lost childhood.

I understood they sold Benjy's "pasture" for Quentin's Harvard education, okay but why is that Benjy's pasture? Where is Quentin's pasture? Why doesn't he have a pasture? Do the other children have pastures?

Dalton Ames. The unspeakable name. Beat up everyone as if they are Dalton Ames. Wikipedia told me Caddy was marrying Herbert to cover up the pregnancy with Dalton Ames, but I didn't catch that was the problem. All I realized was that Caddy was marrying Herbert, but Quentin was obsessed with Dalton Ames. Maybe I should read more than 7 or 8 pages at a time...

The southern vs. northern element in this section is fascinating--how white Southerners get along better with Southern blacks, as if both sides agree on repression. Odd, really. Chivalrous Southern Gentlemen, but not chivalrous to blacks.
And these are the inconsistencies of the Southern mindset...

After trudging through this, understanding, but not understanding, confused and in awe of sentences like these:

"Sometimes I could put myself to sleep saying that over and over until after the honeysuckle got all mixed up in it the whole thing came to symbolise night and unrest I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray halflight where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the signficance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who."
What does everyone else think so far?
More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: James Patterson, Book pirates, Dennis Cooper, Kavalier & Klay, Philip Dick

This James Patterson piece is not what you think:
At NY Times Magazine.
Really this is fascinating. Writers CAN make money! A lot of money!

Philip K. Dick & the last years in Los Angeles: At LA Times (h/t Jacket Copy)

How Kavalier & Klay ruins comics for a comics guy:
At The Comics Journal (h/t Bookslut)

That epic Dennis Cooper/Blake Butler piece you probably already read:
At HTML Giant.
Well, read it again. It's that good.

A book pirate named The Real Caterpillar:
At The Millions.

More after the jump...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Five: Albums to Survive the Winter

Full of harsh air and hurrying and itchy sweaters and elastic sweatshirts and missing gloves and the walls buckle in the frigid cold and all that's left is a small shack where your tongue sticks to the tin wall and you must share a mattress with mice (see #2).

Winter sucks. Here's five (I mean, six) albums that get us through it...

Bjork Vespertine

There’s just something about walking down the street at night when snow is falling that makes this CD make sense. The hypnotic beats and Bjork’s voice make you feel like you’re in the middle of a Tim Burton movie (one of the happier ones).

---Josh Rank

Modest Mouse The Lonesome Crowded West

This might not be an obvious choice for people looking to cheer themselves up on these all too short winter days--I mean the title alone tells you what you're getting into--but it really does the trick for me. That's because a few years ago, right after I discovered this album, I was living with some college buddies in a house that featured, among other things, rats and no heat.

The winter we spent in that drafty abode was cold and, at times miserable, but we listened to this record a lot while sitting close to the space heater, passing around a bottle of whiskey. I remember those evenings with great fondness, think of all the good talks and doubled over laughter, and I remember Lonesome as the soundtrack to those freezing good times.

Postal Service Give Up

Going home to a cheap apartment in a town that I know, but am experiencing for the first time.

"I've got a cupboard with cans of food, filtered water/And pictures of you and I'm not coming out/Until this is all over."

Cold breath, broken heater and my low blood flow hands holding the steering wheel.

"I wanted to walk through the empty streets/And feel something constant under my feet/ But all the news reports recommended that I stay indoors."

This was the only thing that kept everything in rhythm

Radiohead Kid A

The clicks and beeps used throughout the album contribute to a dream-like feeling that helps you float down the sidewalk as you freeze your nuts off.
---Josh Rank

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start And Nothing is #1

This album has a sly way keeping you interested. Nothing is overly complicated but the songs are layered in complex rhythms. Computery music seems to fit the winter for me but this is an exception. This is a rock album but in a more laid back manner. A perfect album to zone out to while you wait for the weather to warm up.
---Josh Rank

The Walkmen You & Me

"Donde Esta La Playa," the opening track of this record, starts with a cymbal crashing atop a deep bass line. The two together sound like a wave breaking just off the shore, which seems appropriate given that the song is a lamentation on summer having faded to winter, of being stuck at a Christmas party and having to see an old girlfriend with someone else. The memory of the beach and of summer love are obviously heavy, as Hamilton Leithauser sings,"There is still sand in my suitcase/There is still salt in my teeth." But buried in the song is a sense that he's going to try and make the best of the party and of winter because he knows that both will pass. "In the New Year" continues in the same vein as "Donde Esta La Playa," with hopefulness replacing despair. There is certain catharsis in these songs that helps on the cold, short days.
More after the jump...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

mp3s: Fang Island, LANTERNS, Hooray For Earth & more

Fang Island: "Daisy"
Fang Island: "Life Coach"

Fang Island--like an echo chamber in a high-tech tinfoil cage. Their EP "Daisy" is out. It includes some Yeasayer mess too.

The Beets: "What Did I Do?"

Hooray For Earth: "Surrounded By Your Friends"

Brother Gruesome "Naked Girls"
(This is not metal sounding like the name indicates)

A Classic Education: "What My Life Could Have Been"

Summer Dregs: "A"

LANTERNS.: "Midnight Psalms (Alright!)

More after the jump...

review: I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett

I Am Not Sidney Poitier
by Percival Everett

Graywolf Press, 2009

I feel kind of stupid for not knowing who Percival Everett was before this book. Not that I KNOW him now, but now I’m a bit more familiar, and I want to explore his back catalog, maybe take on Glyph or Suder or that beastly-sounding Strom Thurmond one. But here we are with I Am Not Sidney Poitier, an ironic statement if any, especially since the kid’s name is Not Sidney Poitier. Of course having a name as “Not...” anything would be a nice set up for a lot of cheap laughs and “Who’s on First?” montages, but of course Everett chooses the name of the most powerful African-American actor, so all of those sequences are not only more confusing, but more meaningful.

Not Sidney’s birth is a great mystery, there is no reason to believe that he was conceived by Sidney Poitier, though he might have been or his mother may have conceived him by her own thoughts, her own special form of “Fesmerizing,” a hypnosis tool that gets Not Sidney out of some sticky situations in his youth. Not Sidney’s mother dies early on, but she’s smart enough to invest heavily in a broadcasting company started by Ted Turner and leaves Not Sidney tons of cash and names Ted Turner his pseudo-guardian. Not Sidney lives with Ted Turner, but pays him rent and Turner serves him as a father offering non-sensical advice, only trumped later by one of Not Sidney’s professors at Morehouse College, Percival Everett, who teaches the philosophy of nonsense.

If all of this sounds funny it is, but the extra layer are the situations that Not Sidney finds him in, all vaguely familiar of the real Sidney Poitier’s acting career (a weird double entendre of not Sidney, because really, that’s not Sidney in those movies, it’s Sidney as an actor....and I digress), so Not Sidney is arrested for being black, is handcuffed to a white prisoner, goes home for Thanksgiving with a lighter black classmate who only wants to use him to prove him a point to her family, then ends up in Smuteye, Alabama and must solve a murder and build a church for nuns.

In the midst of this, Not Sidney is hit on by older women who believe he may be the real Sidney Poitier, because as fate would have it, Not Sidney looks eerily similar to Sidney, and all this involves a lady obsessed with bells and the words “Mr. Tibbs.”

In equal parts Forrest Gump and O Brother Where Art Thou, Everett’s book is funny on the surface level just for the comments by Ted Turner, but the linguistic wrangling of the allusions (and he never mentions a movie!) and situations provokes deeper questions about fame, race and identity in the South, without beating anything “stereotypically” Southern over us--I Am Not Sidney Poitier is a fresh way to approach the old issues, old issues that not only look absurd and nonsensical, but actually are.

More after the jump...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lit Randomness: Stories by xTx, John Grey, Bruce Pratt, HV Whitehead

Read an article over at The Big Other (new fav. site, yeah!) and it confirmed an idea I've wanted to pursue for awhile, i.e. the need to link to more actual stories & poems, not just lit news. So Wednesdays will be for actually reading fiction & poems & interesting stories, not just talking about them.

Let me know if you've got a hot story to read (wait...I'm not starting a journal here, send me links to a fictional story/poem published somewhere else...).

"The Strain of Collusion" by xTx:
At Smokelong Weekly.
MRSA is so sick!

"The Couch in Ben's Bachelor Pad" by John Grey:
At This Zine Will Change Your Life.

"A Porcupine in Vermont" by Bruce Pratt:
At Staccato Fiction.
Yes, porcupines!

"Three Days" by HV Whitehead:
At Word Riot.
Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"? For realz?
More after the jump...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

review: Marionette Facing You

Facing You
Self-Released, 2009
Marionette: "Facing You"

Review by Brian Tucker

There’s nothing temperamental or self-effacing about the first full-length from Richmond's Marionette. Facing You plays out beautifully, like a thorny night of sleep interrupted by threads of a person’s bemused and amusing life. This emotional ride is supported by the album’s atypical construction where songs are built on ideas, not hooks. It’s about tempo, melody and mood. It’s is an emotional album, one that induces feeling because it’s simply drowning in music that is tangible, sonic and well-paced. Singer and drummer Kevin Cornell compliments the band, and vice-versa. There is a connection between his vocal sound and what the band is creating that is quite fitting, even as it teeters at times on pleasurable melancholy and brazen frustration – mostly as interjections and not elongated themes.

In conception and delivery Facing You is absolutely striking, heavy on driving rhythm from Marshall O’Leary’s keys to Cornell’s up-tempo drumming. It’s a world of sound, built on ambiance from varying genres. There are strong ideas built from multiple layers and textures - a gentle bell, a sound bite or a crunching guitar riff injected at just the right moment. It’s also the juxtaposing of Cornell singing and Kerri Helsley’s ethereal vocals.

"Four Voices" is an example of the band using straightforward melodies and uncomplicated playing - fusing them together to make one mountain of a song. It strides along and then showered with Adam Rose’s guitar and O’Leary’s lilting keys. Similar could be said of ‘Facing You’ which makes great use of horns. ‘Disappearing Act’ is tedious and creeping, graced with Helsley’s cooing vocals. ‘Orchid’ is a haunting carriage ride where Cornell sings like whispers in a hallway and Helsley gives it an icy, albeit dangerous, vocal quality. "All You Need" and "Wavering" give Facing You the explosion it needs – the former a driving, hectic track and the latter serving as a chant that explodes magnificently by song’s end. The album closer, "Over the Radio" is epic, a fitting finale to a moving album of material. Facing You feels seamless, one that could be viewed or mistaken for one long song about the ebb and flow of emotions and sights in the mind’s eye.

Marionette plays elegantly moody and emotional music with a variety of sounds and instrumentation. The material is dreamy, textured, haunted and methodical. With Facing You the band delivers a complex album comprised of ethereal song construction and unexpected mood enhancement. Marionette bring much to the table, and seemingly never too much too handle.

More after the jump...

Monday, January 18, 2010

first-person: American Aquarium/Annuals/Lonnie Walker

American Aquarium/Annuals/Lonnie Walker/Mac Leapheart
January 14, 2009
The Soapbox
Wilmington, NC

We carried our coffee mugs close to our chests, and the money collector/hand-stamper said nothing. We got balloon stamps. Week prior at the Soapbox, it was cold, cold, cold, hence the coffee. Up the stairs and Mac Leapheart is playing, something like Skynyrd-lite South songs that I didn’t really care for, something about a “Confederate Rose,” nice guy though, he said he had some “Creedence” cd’s mixed in with his band’s cds, though maybe he said Creed. Not sure.

We stood next to a couple of guitar cases that said “LW” in bright green tape, and we knew what that meant. Once the skinny guys in the funny beanie hats started reaching for those, the crowd knew what that meant too, as they all came in close, or came in from smoking downstairs or were just drawn to the aura, I’m not sure, all of those things probably. And in preparation for the Lonnie Walker heat that was to come, we shed our jackets.

(Lonnie Walker!)

Reached in my pocket for the Food Lion receipt from earlier that day, where I bought yellow bananas for $1.50 and something called “Auto Dish Gel” for $3.99 and a sales associate named France rang me up.

Totally forgot the first song by Lonnie Walker, maybe it was “Crochet”--I think it was that slow, but I could be mistaken because the songs by Lonnie Walker morphed from friendly alt-country-indie rock into an unfathomable force. All the boho kids in buffalo plaid were paying attention now, a curly-haired kid snapped lots and lots of pictures. Two short people moved up to the front.

The next song was “Summertime,” when lead vocalist Brian Corrum turns on the ahem, charm, I guess with subtle shoulder bops and squeamish mouth movements to match the curious straight-ahead rhythm, if Johnny Cash had only found distortion earlier--this is what it would be.

The 80s clothes reference, the sunblock reference this killer line--
“...have a second chance at life,I do the exact same things, because I like to do things twice”--the grooming, the wild full-band chant--this is now my favorite Lonnie Walker song.

My wife thought Brian looked weird up there with his “tongue fasciculations”---LOOK IT UP, SHE’S A SPEECH THERAPIST, SO DON’T FRONT. The ending hoe-down parts and the bouncy bare percussion at the end, with Corrum’s creaky voice, it coalesced well.

Next “Grapejuice” then “Back Home Inside of You.” With its folky-humility into the shoegaze-surf-power riff, this is where they made jump for me--where I realized that Lonnie Walker could do anything they pleased, I doubt any form of rock is hard for them, from indie rock, to folk ballads, to classic country.

The crowd was getting a bit jumpy now, so a goateed boho dreamster (complete with fingerless gloves and neck kerchief as if it was 2007) decided to jump around a little bit, making sure his Hot Topic gloves didn’t come off. A bounce here, another bounce there and the Goatee got 5 people going, which seems to be all Corrum wanted.

Grabbed the coffee mugs and took them out to the car and there was the American Aquarium van. SNAP!

(The Annuals!)

An inspired performance from Annuals, especially bassist Mike Robinson (never seen a bass player that into it) but their blend of U2/Santana doesn’t really interest me. After reading this story, sympathy yes. They know their instruments, they try crazy hard, they’ve had moderate success, but they saved their two best songs until the end--one of them was “Hot Night Hounds”--it popped with some dark lights and some nice percussion, their percussion is great. Give me some more songs like “Talking,” a light punk groove to throw the weight behind. It’s as if they’re trying too hard. Maybe the new EP will sing, sing, sing--hopefully it does.

(American Aquarium!)

Now it’s getting late on a work night and B.J. Barham and American Aquarium emerged from the Annuals’ dense soundscape with just straight-ahead heartbreak rock, raw, raw, like screws in a garbage disposal, you know Lucero, but I’d like Barham to sing Rites of Springs covers because he’s nail them. We’re old, so we had to head soon, but I’m glad I heard “Katherine Belle” and “Ain’t Going to the Bar Tonight,” those are strong.

We left and tried to rub the balloon stamp off of our hands but we couldn't do it.

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Joshua Ferris, Stephen Elliott, Rudy Wurlitzer, Rules for Writing, Charles Plymell & more

The Joshua Ferris...triple! Oh my!

At Powells, with Reagan Arthur.
At B&N.

Or maybe you prefer Jersey Shore?
Lit Kicks does. (from Vol.1 Brooklyn).
The only question remaining: Is Ferris the Eggers or Safran Foer of 2010?

Caleb Ross' fav. upcoming small press books: At Caleb J Ross (sounds like a clothing store.)

A Rudy Wurlitzer Double!
At PopMatters.
At Bookworm (from Maud Newton).
The only question remaining: Is Wurlitzer the William Vollman or Thomas Pynchon of 2010?

But Vol. 1 Brooklyn breaks it down

An interview with Charles Plymell, who knew all the Beats, apparently: At Outside Writers Collective.

DIY Book Tour by Stephen Elliott: At the NY Times.
He's in the NY Times?!? (assist by Vol 1.)

More after the jump...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Five: 5 Best Things Mel Bosworth Has Read Recently

Some of you may know Mel Bosworth for being awesome. Others of you may know him for writing this cool lil' chapbook called When The Cats Razzed The Chickens. Some of you may know him for both reasons.

Some of you may also know him for popping up on the Outside Writer's Collective and on his own blog, Eddie Socko.

Some of you may not know him at all, but at least you'll know the 5 best things that he's read recently:

1) I Am Richard Simmons by Ben Tanzer. I carried this MLP chapbook in my pocket for a while to whip out whenever I ran into anyone. I may have scared a person or two, rummaging around in my front pocket, saying things like, “You’ve gotta see this!” but overall things went well. No face slaps. I keep the artifact in my “reading room” now because I enjoy reading fast, fun things in my “reading room,” and I am Richard Simmons is exactly that: fast and fun. It’s like a little ampersand-fueled train of good times.

2) "'Driving While Mexican' by Chuck Shepherd" was the header for the recent “News of the Weird” section in the local A & E publication, The Valley Advocate. The story went something like this: Mexican drivers in Dallas were being ticketed for being “non-English speaking drivers.” The phrase was part of a check-list that appeared on the officers’ in-car computers. Sadly, the officers’ issuing the tickets misinterpreted the phrase as being an “offense” instead of a mere indicator that the drivers didn’t speak English. Um, wow.

3) Museum of F***ed by David Peak is a tight, vivid little collection of shorts about urban decay put out by Warm Milk Printing Press. The writing style is clear and crisp. I like clear and crisp. Makes me feel clear and crisp.

4) Charactered Pieces by Caleb J. Ross. Man, oh man. This dark and beautiful chapbook released by OW Press is a “wow,” but in a much better sense than the “wow” from #2. It’s a collection of short stories about twisted characters doing twisted things, and it’s sticky. It sticks to your brain like peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth. I think I walked around clicking for a while after I read this.

5) Play on the Beach and Stay on the Beach. This is from a postcard I received from a friend. I keep it tacked to my bulletin board, right in front of me. I read it daily. It makes me grin. These days it helps me remember that there are places out there that are warm, sunny, and not buried with snow. Someday I will indeed play on the beach and stay on the beach. We all will, and it will be grand.

Ed. note: Some of you may notice that the above video ran in yesterday's Bosworth feature, was removed and now appears here. I'll tell you one thing--if you think we actually have an editor to make this note, you're more gullible than anyone has ever told you.
More after the jump...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Swing South: American Aquarium

American Aquarium: "City Lights"

Just really getting into Raleigh's American Aquarium. Got some Lucero stuff going on, for sure, but American Aquarium is a bit breezier, a tad poppier without sucking at it. Don't mind the organ either, really. Also, BJ Barham might be the coolest name in the history of cool alt-country names.

They seem to be on tour all the time and this time looks just as intense. Going to the Show in Wilmington with Annuals and Lonnie Walker. What a blast.

Dances For The Lonely is their album. Try and get it. Tour dates through Feb. after the jump...

Jan 14 2010 9:00P
The Soapbox Laundro-Lounge w/ The Annuals Wilmington, North Carolina

Jan 15 2010 11:00P
Home Team BBQ (West Ashley) Charleston, South Carolina

Jan 16 2010 11:00P
The Jinx Savannah, Georgia

Jan 17 2010 9:00P
Jack Rabbits Jacksonville, Florida

Jan 18 2010 9:00P
Will’s Pub Orlando, Florida

Jan 19 2010 9:00P
New World Brewery Tampa, Florida

Jan 20 2010 9:00P
Backstage Lounge Gainesville, Florida

Jan 21 2010 9:00P
DaVinci’s Deland, Florida

Jan 22 2010 9:00P
The Hummingbird Macon, Georgia

Jan 23 2010 10:00P
Mellow Mushroom Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Jan 24 2010 9:00P
Smith’s Olde Bar Atlanta, Georgia

Jan 25 2010 10:00P
Barley’s Taproom Knoxville, Tennessee

Jan 26 2010 10:00P
The Basement Nashville, Tennessee

Jan 27 2010 10:00P
Tremont Tavern Chattanooga, Tennessee

Jan 28 2010 8:00P
Crossroads w/ Drive By Truckers Huntsville, Alabama

Jan 29 2010 9:00P
The Pour House Raleigh, North Carolina

Jan 30 2010 9:00P
Evening Muse Charlotte, North Carolina

Jan 31 2010 9:00P
New Brookland Tavern Columbia, South Carolina

Feb 1 2010 10:00P
Speakeasy Birmingham, Alabama

Feb 2 2010 9:00P
Woody’s Tupelo, Mississippi

Feb 3 2010 9:00P
Hi Tone Memphis, Tennessee

Feb 4 2010 9:00P
Ole Tavern on George Street Jackson, Mississippi

Feb 5 2010 10:00P
Mugshots Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Feb 6 2010 9:00P
Old Town Tavern Sheffield, Alabama

Feb 11 2010 9:00P
The Garage Winston Salem, North Carolina

Feb 12 2010 9:00P
Pantana Bob’s w/ Corey Smith Greenville, North Carolina

Feb 13 2010 9:00P
The National w/ Corey Smith Richmond, Virginia

Feb 17 2010 9:00P
Local 506 Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Feb 18 2010 7:00P
Pisgah Brewery Black Mountain, North Carolina

Feb 19 2010 8:00P
Martin’s Roanoke, Virginia

Feb 20 2010 10:00P
The Green Lantern Lexington, Kentucky

Feb 22 2010 10:00P
The Rumba Cafe Columbus, Ohio

Feb 24 2010 9:00P
Mojo’s Columbia, Missouri

Feb 25 2010 9:30P
The Riot Room Kansas City, Missouri

Feb 26 2010 9:00P
White Water Tavern Little Rock, Arkansas

Feb 27 2010 9:00P
George’s Majestic Fayetteville, Arkansas

Feb 28 2010 9:00P
Club Next Texarkana, Arkansas

More after the jump...

review: When The Cats Razzed The Chickens & Other Stories by Mel Bosworth

Check back tomorrow for the 5 best things Mel has read recently...

When The Cats Razzed The Chickens & other stories
by Mel Bosworth
Folded Word, 2009
(Nice handmade & e-versions available!)

I've never met Mel Bosworth, only exchanged some emails, but if I were to see him, I think I would stalk him for awhile, watch from afar, as he shovels snow or goes to the bar or the coffeeshop or shops at Costco. I would watch him, maybe not like a hawk, but very closely still, just to find out how absurd he really is, before I actually introduced myself.

Because here's the question for Mel--does he believe these stories? Does he tell friends these stories in all seriousness, with no smiles or grins? How sarcastic is Mel Bosworth really, if he's sarcastic at all? I really don't know. Sometimes I felt Mel was telling jokes, sometimes I thought he was revealing spiritual places, other times---both.

See, take this story: "Leave Me as I Lessen." The first line is--"I"m stuck to the beach, melting." Okay, funny haha. But the story really is about someone melting, fading away, not sinking, on the beach and a family takes pictures around the person as an attraction, then as a horror show, and by the end the father kneels in wonder. In between there are lines like--"Dad instructs the children not to bother me. He can see I'm tired." That's damn funny. Maybe not funny here, but it's funny in the story, I swear. The guy is melting, and that's all the Dad can say?

On the funny side is "The Humble Origins of the Milky Way (Boys)," about two guys performing outrageous stunts outside a Chinese restaurant. This is good stuff right here: "I could feel the pressure building in the behemoth beneath me, a churning machine of flab, muscle and cheap wine, and when he loosed me to the stars, the silence cracked my mind like a whip, and I spun, and twirled, and somersaulted." Good stuff. The kicker, the closer, the whatever-that-MFA-word-is, comes like a sly surprise, not fully unexpected, yet surprising all the same--like when you look in a bag of M&Ms and you think they're all gone, but there's still one left. Mel works like that. Mel is able to do most of his shenanigans in 200 word bursts or something, sometimes shorter, giving full legitimacy to the term 'flash fiction' if any one is concerned about those things.

Mel has this thing with fantastical fables, somewhat mythical, and maybe they just don't work for me--but I really didn't "get" them I guess. There's Hambone Sizzlewitt pushing a boulder up a hill, there's Glitterbug and Hucklebuck in a hayfield, that funny beard story (okay, I liked that one). I'm most interested in when Mel Bosworth illuminates something so odd, but probably, maybe, partially, true--because he bridges the absurd and reality so well. Personal preference, I guess.

See, this visceral response from me at the words of Mel Bosworth is completely illuminating--really only to myself, because I've learned more about myself by reading Mel Bosworth--these stories make me think of things I've never thought of before.

When the Cats is just a chapbook, so I hope he unleashes something longer and fiercer one day, but for now, I'm totally pleased with rereading this.

More after the jump...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

review: CFCF Continent

Paper Bag Records, 2009
Review by Brian Tucker

CFCF: "Raining Patterns"

Michael Silver, the Montreal DJ known as CFCF, has stylishly crafted an album that serves the dual purpose of dance music or something to relax to. Throughout it unfurls with energy, vibrancy - all on its own terms. Continent sounds like an artist trying to please themselves and we’re lucky to be along for the experience. The result is partly bipolar in fine glorious fashion - sultry and emotional yet patient early on about not having to give everything up for one style. It is hardly a chill album, but still lends itself to intimate encounters.

CFCF - You Hear Colours from tommy boy on Vimeo.

Silver draws on the eighties, from dance music to electronic game sound bites - done far from obvious, begging thoughts of where have I heard that? But references are sparse, texturing them from the eighties as much as the nineties, combing those periods to craft something relevant for the next decade. But it’s more than catchy memories. Silver is adept at dreaming up atmosphere, think of sound layering Peter Gabriel used to make music.

Silver finds tribal heart in “You Hear Colours” and scratchy echoes on “Monolith”. “Raining Patterns” conjures up visuals of water drops falling all around. CFCF’s working of Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 hit “Big Love” sounds familiar to the original, feeling right at home here and reminding that the original felt more akin to the future than its late eighties birthplace. “Come Closer” is seductive, ripe for an MC and “Snake Charmer” sounds like a brilliant mid-eighties one-hit-wonder sans lyrics.

Whereas an artist like DJ Shadow delves into beats and copious amounts of samples the result is less about forming a music environment. CFCF succeeds at that, at building worlds and massive atmosphere with his music. At times it feels like noir-ish pop or recalls art film scores. Continent broods and jumps, moving with grace and electricity. It’s as if Vangelis detoured into synth pop territory and made scattered usage of squash beats. The whole seems an interlude between the current and the future, a world where Blade Runner may come to pass but with a lot more color.

Brian Tucker is the founder of Bootleg Magazine. He can be reached at and

More after the jump...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Year of Reading Faulkner Update: The Sound and The Fury

In 2010, Deckfight decided to take on Faulkner. This is a chronicle of our journey.

Hey remember this? I'll admit, it's been a bit of struggle the first two weeks. I'm going pretty slow, I'm reading some other stuff simultaneously, really just to keep my interest. Yes, this is hard. And no, I'm not totally into The Sound and The Fury yet, but I have started.

Just so we're clear, I've read no outside criticism. No Wikipedia of the book, no Cliffsnotes, and I never read this before in high school or college. I just read the back of the book and learned of Benjy the "man-child."

In my Faulkner Reader edition, I'm on page 60, 61, just after the "June 2, 1910" section. Which by the way, is this the first (and only) chapter designation? More chapters would be helpful, but I guess that would disturb the rhythm that Faulkner establishes with the time flips and italics. It's hard to read, but I settled into the rhythm of it by about the 25th or 30th page, though I felt mroe confused than the flashing-piercing-time shocks of the Lost castaways.

Benjy is what one of our Sound and Fury editions calls a "man-child," obviously mentally-incapacitated, yet observant enough to craft a nice first-person narrative. There's some weird fascination with sister Caddy, with a simmering sexual tension there--incest insinuations make me sick.

With that I'm confused on the rest of the characters and their relationships...Dilsey is obviously a caretaker/servant for the family, but I have no idea where Luster, Jason or Varsh come in, except that they sleep in a barn sometimes. And why, exactly, did they change Benjy's name from Maury? Was it because it was more biblical?

Conclusion so far: Almost threw this book down within the first 10 pages, then settled into it. Wasn't sure if the whole thing was going to be Benjy/Maury's disjointed observations, but now that I've barely started the Quentin section, I'm intrigued to see what is revealed.

Anybody else reading this? What do you think so far?

More after the jump...

Lit Randomness: Thrice Double, Dave Eggers, Matt Baker, Oxford (MS), Electric Lit's indie vision

Some of this is a little old, but it's all relevant.

A Thrice Double: On CS Lewis' Space Trilogy & Paul Shirley's Can I Keep My Jersey?
This is why Thrice is one of my favorite bands. At Magnet.

Dave Eggers and newspapers. Remember that time when Dave Eggers put out a newspaper? Doesn't he know that print is so last decade: At AV Club. (via Vol1Brooklyn).

Awesome playlist from Matt Baker, author Drag The Darkness Down: At Largehearted Boy. I want to read this book now.

Electric Literature's Indie vision. Best of '09: At Publishing Perspectives.

Square Books at Oxford, MS: At Poets and Writers.

More after the jump...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Five: 5 Best Things Caleb Ross has read recently

(There's a blowtorch!)

Caleb Ross has been on a wild blog tour for the past month or so and he graciously stops by Deckfight to share the 5 best things he has read recently.

Caleb is the author of the recently released story collection, Charactered Pieces (from OW Press). For the past month he's been doing an online tour called The Blog Orgy Tour, where he offers guest posts at various blogs, revealing along the way things he'd rather have kept to himself. See his tour page for all the stops, both past and forthcoming.

Yesterday he was at Lit Drift and next week he's at 3AM Magazine all week long.

1. Yes, that’s a speed limit sign that reads 9. This sign hangs in a parking garage in Clayton, Missouri (a St. Louis suburb). I understand the need for low speed when exiting a parking garage, but the refusal to round this number to 10 forces me to fathom the circumstances that lead to such a specific number. Crying parent: “Is she going to live, doctor?” Doctor: “If the car was going just one mile-per-hour less, yes, but…”

2. This one is a bit selfish, but truly, it’s one of the best things I’ve read recently. From a review at Present Magazine of my fiction chapbook, Charactered Pieces:

    He crafts stories that are powerful, accessible, and unsettling enough to draw the reader in with curiosity about how these lives will play out, prompting the imagination to extend the implications long after the final word has been read.

To affect someone long after the book is closed; that’s my dream as a writer.

3. This sign angered me. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to exit a gas station parking lot in a Boeing 747? Quite difficult.

4. I’ve been on a Jose Saramago trip for the last month or so. I’m upset that it took me so long to discover this wonderful author. From his novel, The Double, I read this passage today, which, me being a language-geek, struck a particular chord:

    There was a time when there were so few words that we did not even have enough to express something as simple as This is my mouth, or That is your mouth, still less ask, Why are our mouths touching. It doesn’t occur to people nowadays that a lot of work was involved in creating those words, it was necessary, in the first place, to realize that there was a need for them, which may, who knows, have been the most difficult thing of all, then to reach a consensus on the significance, of their immediate effects, and finally, a task that will never fully be completed, to imagine the consequences that might ensue, in the medium and long term, for these effects and from these words.

5. This quote from Jay Schaefer, an editor-at-large at Workman Publishers in New York City: “Publishers desperately seeking insanely great debut novelists.”

He says this like it’s news, like he’s announcing this amazing new business model that will save publishing. Answer me this: has there ever been a time when publishers weren’t looking for “insanely great debut novelists”? Try harder, Big Time Publishing. Try harder.

More after the jump...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

review: The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons

The Book of Basketball
By Bill Simmons
ESPN, 2009

Like Gilbert Arenas' gunhandling and sharpshooting ways, ESPN writer Bill Simmons’ new Book of Basketball is a polarizing force. Sports types love him and hate him, all the while turning that interest into fat checks that other sportswriters can only imagine as heaven.

There's no stretch to suggest that Bill Simmons is perhaps the most successful Internet writer ever, his words appearing on screen long before they ever inhabited a place in a magazine. He started on some AOL sports site, gained a loyal following for essentially being one of the few relevant sports columnists to young males, daring to talk about Swingers and Vince Vaughn alongside the Boston Red Sox while others could only discuss moral turpitude and the modern athlete.

Everything Simmons did seems like no big deal now, but I guess it was and somehow he has become the most successful sportswriter in America, even though he stays at his house most of the time, never sits in a press box and has season tickets to the historically worst professional sports team.

It would be annoying for Simmons to beat his uniqueness over our heads, and he doesn’t do that in this book, but his manner seems quite irreverent for a hardcover book and basketball. All his sexual jokes are unusual in this form, where on the Internet it doesn’t seem bad at all, maybe just tame. But to talk frankly about strippers in relationship to Jason Kidd is not really funny, just kind of odd, as I can’t believe this guy is married sometimes, his frankness embarrasses me as if I'm a 7th grader reading Madame Bovary.

There exists a running count of
Boogie Nights jokes, and the number dials high, and so a fictional movie about a porn star is his grand allusion, his literary cred running high. But no one came to Simmons for his literary cred, but precisely because he dared to make those comparisons in the first place. So though Boogie Nights is beat like a dead horse, that becomes the point--to beat a dead horse as many times as possible.

But concentrating on those things is not the point of the book, in fact this discussion at NY Mag, made me think the whole book was about sex. When in fact, it’s about basketball. But not an encyclopedia of basketball, or a chronology of basketball, but more of an interesting paradigm to discuss basketball. Much of the book’s structure derives from actual conversations, claims Simmons, in the vein of one of his favorite buddy-Vegas movies apparently. So there’s a pyramid of the greatest 90 some odd players to have played the game of basketball, a riveting chapter on the debate of Chamberlain vs. Russell and a ranking of the most dominant teams best in the spirit of Keyser Soze (watch The Usual Suspects).

It is no surprise that the Boston Celtics have a significant role in this book, much because Simmons is a Boston native, raised on the Celtics and Larry Bird and the legend of Bill Russell. But even though Simmons cares deeply about the Celtics, his arguments in favor of them are well-reasoned and factually based, the only subjective part is how high to rank Rober Parrish over James Worthy or the proper place of Dennis Johnson in the pantheon of minor all-stars. This pyramid ranking of the greats is the meatiest of the book, though his meeting with Isaiah Thomas to discuss “the secret” is the crux of Simmons’ argument, boiling down to the fact that basketball is not about basketball, meaning that the me-first Chamberlain fails to the team-first Russell, that Jordan understood “the secret” after two years off playing baseball, that Kobe may not have grasped “the secret” until Shaq/Jackson troubles and rape accusations.

I actually liked the ending interview with Bill Walton better, where Walton frames it as players making "a choice" to be unselfish, rather than "the secret." But Simmons met Isaiah Thomas at a topless bar and he only met Walton in his house, so "the secret" it is.

But I generally support Simmons’ outlook on basketball. I enjoy Magic Johnson. I understand the greatness of Hakeen Olajuwon and how underrated Tim Duncan is. I don’t think John Stockton or Patrick Ewing were as bad as Simmons says. Now he is rightfully Kevin Durant’s greatest cheerleader.

Back over at NY Mag, they try to dissect “micro” vs. “macro” Simmons, meaning can you put up with Simmons’ style to understand his points? Many times, I can’t. As a frequent reader of his columns, I bypass all of his football columns, because I don’t enjoy whining about fantasy teams and Simmons has singlehandedly made me want to avoid ever watching Swingers or the aforementioned Boogie Nights—I get enough of those two cinematic masterpieces from the scraps and fragments I pull together from all of Simmons’ columns and books. His boyhood fantasies and trips to Vegas have proven proper canon fodder for quite awhile, he’s going to have to take a few more local trips through Hollywood or twist his writing into sassy parenting metaphors a la Neal Pollack to stick around much longer. In other words, even Vince Vaughan has grown up.

This edition of the Book of Basketball may be Simmons’ last stand with his most familiar metaphors. With the rise of Deadspin and more focus on differing approaches to basketball in general (read, Simmons is dangerously close to becoming the new old guard. But this book is a powerful defense.
More after the jump...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Swing South: Paper Operator

Paper The Operator: "The Pendulum"

Oh man. Sometimes I get random stuff. Sometimes I open it, sometimes I don't. But oh man, I'm glad I opened Paper The Operator.

Stream their new album,
Goodbye God, here.

Paper The Operator has all the vox up front, with a little spacey-melody backing up the singer/songwriter anxieties (listen to "Left Lucy") and then hopeful grunge turned quick shoegaze (listen to "Rock Dreams). Very simple, but excellent. I want to say the Paper The Operator is like The Rocket Summer for some reason, but I have no compunction to make fun of Paper The Operator.

Again, stream the new one here. Definitely will have to work a review.

Still a few GA/Carolina dates left, after the jump...

Jan 5, 2010 8:00P Wonderroot Atlanta, GA
Jan 6, 2010 9:00P Oasis Charleston, SC
Jan 7, 2010 8:00P New Brookland Tavern Columbia, SC
Jan 8, 2010 9:30P Tipsy Teapot Greenville, NC

More after the jump...

review: Capgun Coup - Maudlin

Capgun Coup


Team Love, 2009

Review by Andrew Jones

Capgun Coup: "Sitting on the Sidewalk"
Capgun Coup: "Bad Bands"

I vividly remember the fall day in 2005 when I purchased Tournament of Hearts, the third LP from the Constantines. I'd just graduated from college, was living back at home, and working a horrible job that sometimes required that I go 13 or so days without a day off. It was, in short, a bad time, but I remember reading about the Constantines one night around this time. The reviewer said they sounded kind of like Fugazi, which convinced me to buy the record. This description wasn't exactly fitting, but I digress. Anyway, I was out running errands on one of my rare days off of work, and I stopped at the record store first thing to pick up Tournament. I paid the guy for the album, went out to my car and started it up before unwrapping the CD and putting it in the player. The first measures of the opening track, “Draw Us Lines,” started up and I felt like this would be the song I would write if I could write songs. I didn't even put the car in gear while the song played on, just sat in the driver's seat and listened. When the song ended, I pushed the button to skip back to the beginning of the track, and merged into traffic feeling pretty good about things.

I relate this story of finding opening track bliss because it's similar to my recent experience with Capgun Coup's new record, Maudlin. I've often thought that it would be cool to make a mixed CD of the best opening tracks on albums, and if I ever do that, “Computer Screens and TVs” will certainly be on the playlist.

The song blows up from the start with lo-fi, fuzzed out vocals that sound like a teenager yelling at his parents before he storms off and slams the door to his room. The whole song is frantic, filled with angst for our technology saturated, televisual culture, and is as brief as a Tweet, clocking in at just over two minutes. His tongue is obviously planted firmly in cheek when singer/guitarist Sam ends the tune singing, “What a beautiful time to be born in.” I only put this album on my computer the other day, but the iTunes play count on this opening number has already gotten out of control.

It would be wrong to say that Capgun Coup is breaking totally new musical ground. The influence of 60s psychedelia is writ large on these songs, as are folk and punk. After listening to the album a few times through, I was struck by how appropriate the band's name is, as a coup with cap guns sounds to me like an overthrow of the established order that fails to foster a full blown change to the status quo.

In other words, the songs on Maudlin
don't always sound new or unfamiliar, but there are vocal lines and guitar riffs scattered throughout that demonstrate the freshness of the band's sound.

The hard rocking instrumentation and rough yell-sing vocals of songs like “Bad Bands” and “Only the Times Are Changing”—two personal favorites—are nicely counterpointed by some of the album's acoustic tracks. “Now That I'm Home” is a wistful take on the pros and cons of being home versus those that come with life out on the road. It's a mostly upbeat track with brushes slapping out a beat on a snare as bells jingle along. Though the final line of the song—“I want to leave”—suggests which way the song's narrator is leaning, Sam's aloof delivery of these words weighs them down with doubt. It sounds like he might go, but that he doesn't care much either way.

As much as I like loud and aggressive rock music—and Capgun's take on how to make such music—I think my favorite track is the final one, “It Breaks No Heart of Mine,” a really beautiful banjo ballad. The vocals on the song are not as distorted as on other tracks, which makes them sound especially fragile and awkward, a sound that is well-matched to the brutally honest and wounded lyrics. It's a typical unrequited love ditty, but the vulnerability in the vocals suggest that the narrator is less Lloyd Dobbler in the yard with the boom box blasting “In Your Eyes,” but more the best guy friend of the girl with the boyfriend who has repeatedly rehearsed but never delivered his love speech.

I like that
Maudlin starts on such an upbeat and manic note with “Computer Screens and TVs,” then ends so calmly with “It Breaks No Heart of Mine.” It's as though the band has taken listeners from thinking about the artificiality of modern life, to putting on a clinic on how to buck these current trends and wear your heart on your sleeve. With this in mind, much of what makes this album enjoyable is the depth of feeling in each of these songs. This band has strong feelings on things and they're not holding them back. Ultimately, Maudlin is proof that Capgun Coup has keen ears for the hooks of yore, while also possessing some unique ideas of their own, ones that will hopefully have the chance to be explored and developed by the band for some years to come.

More after the jump...
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