A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

PJ Harvey's Rid of Me

In May, we'll be publishing a PJ Harvey book in the series: Rid of Me by Kate Schatz. The subtitle at the moment is "Short Stories" but we might change that to "A Novella". In a weird way, it's a bit of both. As well as being a cover version of the whole album. But I hope you get my drift here - do not buy this book if you want a telling of how the album came to be. Perhaps I should late Kate explain it herself. This is the book's prologue:


There’s a thing that happens:

You love an album. You get into it—listening over and over, taking in every sound, beat, shift, and phrase. You sing along, memorize the silence between each song. You absorb it, you feel it.

And it gets into you.

A great album tells a story, whether explicit and linear or subtle and discrete. And when you love that album, when it’s gotten inside and you know the characters, landscapes, lyrics, and rhythms, there’s another thing that happens: it becomes yours. You own it, you have a relationship with it. You know each other. It’s your music, they’re your stories—you become free to put meaning here, add interpretation there, decide exactly what it’s all about, then change your mind with each listen. It’s mutual and consensual and very, very private.

And then sometimes you make it public. The album’s narrative begets new narratives and you want to share that somehow, let these expanded possibilities be known. A declaration of adoration, a kind of self-serving homage. Maybe it takes the form of a cover song, freely or closely interpreted. Or the written word: a critical essay, a trenchant article, a dissertation.
But you’re not a musician or a critic—you’re a fiction writer who loves music, who loves stories. The potential within each song, each lyric. And there’s one album that stands out, that you can’t shake, that you find as fascinating now as you did when it came out, in 1993, and you were a swoony day-dreamy teenager mesmerized by the music’s anger, its beauty, its dark and twisted humor. Raw guitars, crashing drums, love-wrecked lyrics telling stories of betrayal, revenge, isolation, sex. The seduction, the violence, those moans and howls. That voice. It was a whole other world.

You love what PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me did then, what it still does, what it can do. So you embark on an experiment. You reenter it, once again listening over and over, sometimes just one song on repeat for hours. You get into it and it gets right back into you. Characters, lyrics, and landscapes. Moods and tones and those feelings. You begin writing. With each song, to each song, from each song. Around and near and under and then, at some point, it takes a shape. Characters emerge. These two women. These woods. Chapters like songs, book like an album. It becomes a new story, years of listening spiraled out into new words and meanings.

This is the book. It’s not about Rid of Me—it’s because of it.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sunday Item #2

Michaelangelo Matos writes, to point out this charming, meaty mention of his Sign O the Times book by Daniel Handler, in the current issue of the Onion's AV Club:

Prince, "4 The Tears In Your Eyes"

DH: This is from the B-side disc of his greatest-hits collection. I'm an enormous fan of Prince. As is my butcher, Bobby. Recently, I gave Bobby a copy of this book about Sign 'O' The Times from that 33 1/3 series [written by A.V. Club contributor Michaelangelo Matos —ed.], and he was so happy to receive some Prince paraphernalia that he didn't already own that he came out from behind the butcher counter and gave me a big hug. But first he had to tear off this enormous piece of butcher paper and sort of hold it to his body with his chin so that when he hugged me, meat juice wouldn't get all over me.

The A.V. Club: You seem to have quite an intimate relationship with your butcher.

DH: [Laughs.] It's actually because my 2-year-old son has a deep love for African-American men, and runs up to them and talks to them whenever he sees them. One of his first words was "Bobby," because he likes Bobby so much. So Bobby and I became friends because I sort of chaperone my 2-year-old son on his brief dates with our butcher.

AVC: It's very Brady Bunch to have a butcher be such an important part of your life.

DH: [Laughs.] It's nice to talk to Bobby, particularly when a new Prince album comes out, because then the next time I see him, we exchange theories about it. I have a memory of this song being performed via videotape at Live Aid. I don't remember what it's a flip-side to, and it might not actually be a flip-side. It just might be previously unreleased. I think Bobby came to respect me as a fellow Prince fan when I told him that I'd been listening to this Prince song in the car right before I arrived at the store called "Cloreen Bacon Skin," which is this crazy 15-minute-long track that Prince and Morris Day played together, just playing bass and drums and performing this really strange, hilarious monologue for 15 minutes. He said, "Oh, I love that song. And, you know, they loop part of the drum part for another Prince song." And I said, "Yeah, 'Irresistible Bitch.'" And he was so impressed by that—that cemented our friendship.

Sunday Item #1

Marc Woodworth, author of our Bee Thousand book, writes with information of an event in Albany, NY on Friday March 2nd. In Marc's words:

I'll be presenting a multi-media (or at least bi-media) Bee Thousand "extravaganza" at Valentine's (http://www.valentinesalbany.com) 17 New Scotland Ave, Albany, NY at 6:oo PM on Friday, 2 March. There'll be a randomly chosen interview cassette half-minute, the collective making of a found poem from Bee Thousand lyric fragments using the Tzara Dada method of anti-lyric composition, a full-size anagram contest (prix d'honneur for the winner), and the playing of some Bee Thousand-related rarities. On hand will be some home-made and hand-decorated Lo-Fi indexes that are in keeping with the GbV DIY spirit (the initial batch of these instant collector's items were snapped up by the NYC cognoscenti when we last read there and sold for at least several cents more than the paper costs on a money-leeching internet commerce site which must, our lawyers tell us, remain nameless) which will be happily given to those who buy the book at Valentine's. Fans are encouraged to come with a paragraph about their experience of the album which I'll read to the masses assembled on Friday night.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Then We Came To The End

Long-time readers may recall that I mentioned this debut novel back in June of last year. It has - finally - just been published, and if you're looking for something non-musical to read, you genuinely cannot go wrong with Then We Came To The End.

Don't let any lazy comparisons to the TV show "The Office" put you off (as much as I enjoy that show). This novel is a different project, and a different experience, entirely. I read it 8 months ago, and the voice of it is still ringing around my brain - that's a pretty rare feat for a novel.

Here's an extract from very near the start of the book.


We thanked each other. It was customary after every exchange. Our thanks were never disingenuous or ironic.We said thanks for getting this done so quickly, thanks for putting in so much effort. We had a meeting and when a meeting was over, we said thank you to the meeting makers for having made the meeting. Very rarely did we say anything negative or derogatory about meetings. We all knew there was a good deal of pointlessness to nearly all the meetings and in fact one meeting out of every three or four was nearly perfectly without gain or purpose but many meetings revealed the one thing that was necessary and so we attended them and afterward we thanked each other.

Karen Woo always had something new to tell us and we hated her guts for it. She would start talking and our eyes would glaze over. Might it be true, as we sometimes feared on the commute home, that we were callous, unfeeling individuals, incapable of sympathy, and full of spite toward people for no reason other than their proximity and familiarity? We had these sudden revelations that employment, the daily nine-to-five, was driving us far from our better selves. Should we quit? Would that solve it? Or were those qualities innate, dooming us to nastiness and paucity of spirit? We hoped not.

Marcia Dwyer became famous for sending an e-mail to Genevieve Latko-Devine. Marcia often wrote to Genevieve after meetings. "It is really irritating to work with irritating people," she once wrote.There she ended it and waited for Genevieve's response. Usually when she got Genevieve's e-mail, instead of writing back, which would take too long - Marcia was an art director, not a writer-she would head down to Genevieve's office, close the door, and the two women would talk. The only thing bearable about the irritating event involving the irritating person was the thought of telling it all to Genevieve, who would understand better than anyone else. Marcia could have called her mother, her mother would have listened. She could have called one of her four brothers, any one of those South Side pipe-ends would have been more than happy to beat up the irritating person. But they would not have understood. They would have sympathized, but that was not the same thing. Genevieve would hardly need to nod for Marcia to know she was getting through. Did we not all understand the essential need for someone to understand? But the e-mail Marcia got back was not from Genevieve. It was from Jim Jackers. "Are you talking about me?" he wrote. Amber Ludwig wrote, "I'm not Genevieve." Benny Shassburger wrote, "I think you goofed." Tom Mota wrote, "Ha!" Marcia was mortified. She got sixty-five e-mails in two minutes. One from HR cautioned her against sending personal e-mails. Jim wrote a second time. "Can you please tell me - is it me, Marcia? Am I the irritating person you're talking about?"

Marcia wanted to eat Jim's heart because some mornings he shuffled up to the elevators and greeted us by saying, "What up, my niggas?" He meant it ironically in an effort to be funny, but he was just not the man to pull it off. It made us cringe, especially Marcia, especially if Hank was present.

In those days it wasn't rare for someone to push someone else down the hall really fast in a swivel chair. Games aside, we spent most of our time inside long silent pauses as we bent over our individual desks, working on some task at hand, lost to it - until Benny, bored, came and stood in the doorway. "What are you up to?" he'd ask.

It could have been any of us. "Working" was the usual reply. Then Benny would tap his topaz class ring on the doorway and drift away.

How we hated our coffee mugs! our mouse pads, our desk clocks, our daily calendars, the contents of our desk drawers. Even the photos of our loved ones taped to our computer monitors for uplift and support turned into cloying reminders of time served. But when we got a new office, a bigger office, and we brought everything with us into the new office, how we loved everything all over again, and thought hard about where to place things, and looked with satisfaction at the end of the day at how well our old things looked in this new, improved, important space. There was no doubt in our minds just then that we had made all the right decisions, whereas most days we were men and women of two minds. Everywhere you looked, in the hallways and bathrooms, the coffee bar and cafeteria, the lobbies and the print stations, there we were with our two minds.

There seemed to be only the one electric pencil sharpener in the whole damn place.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Maybe we'll do both of the Osmonds albums

Below is a complete list of all the proposals we've received. If you don't see your album on here, let me know as soon as you can - and if yours is one of the albums with multiple proposals, then you can be pretty confident we received it. (Or email me to check, if you really really need to!)

Quite how we're going to whittle this down, I have no idea. But we have a team of people here at Continuum HQ who will be dedicating their "holiday" weekend to reading each and every one of these, and then we'll all have a massive fight on Tuesday, to see if Galaxie 500 trumps Supertramp.

Thanks to all of you who sent in a proposal, and feel free to comment on this list below. We'll try to get back to everyone by the end of March.

Right, I'm off for a lie-down.


AC/DC – Back in Black
AC/DC – Back in Black
AC/DC – Back in Black
AC/DC – Back in Black
Bryan Adams – Waking Up the Neighbours
Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
Afghan Whigs – Black Love
Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
Herb Alpert – Whipped Cream and Other Delights
Allman Brothers – At Fillmore East
Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes
Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes
Tori Amos – Boys for Pele
Tori Amos – Boys for Pele
Tori Amos – Boys for Pele
Tori Amos – Boys for Pele
Aphex Twin – Richard D. James
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Vol 2
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works 85-92
Arcade Fire – Funeral
Avalanches – Since I Left You
B-52s – Cosmic Thing
B-52s – B-52s
Bad Brains – Rock for Light
Badfinger – Straight Up
Beck – Guero
Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen
Big Star – No. 1 Record
Big Star - #1 Record / Radio City
Big Star – Radio City
Big Star – Radio City
Bikini Kill – The CD Version of the First Two Records
Bjork – Homogenic
Bjork – Homogenic
Bjork – Vespertine
Black Flag – My War
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath – Master of Reality
Blondie – Plastic Letters
Blondie – Parallel Lines
Blue Nile - Hats
Blur – Modern Life is Rubbish
Blur - Blur
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I See a Darkness
Boston – Boston
Billy Bragg – Workers Playtime
Billy Bragg – Talking with the Taxman about Poetry
Bran Van 3000 – Discosis
Breeders – Pod
Bright Eyes - Lifted or the Story is in the Soil So Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Bright Eyes – Fevers and Mirrors
Jackson Browne – Running on Empty
Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around
Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield Again
Jimmy Buffett – Songs You Know By Heart
Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day
Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician
John Cale – Paris 1919
Camper Van Beethoven – Key Lime Pie
Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
Johnny Cash – American Recordings
Cat Power – Moon Pix
Cat Power – What Would the Community Think?
Celtic Frost – To Mega Therion
Manu Chao - Próxima Estación: Esperanza
Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick at Budokan
Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick at Budokan
Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick at Budokan
Cheap Trick – Dream Police
Leonard Cohen – Songs from a Room
Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen
Coil – Love’s Secret Domain
John Coltrane – Blue Train
Cornershop – When I Was Born for the 7th Time
Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us
Cream – Disraeli Gears
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum
Cult – Sonic Temple
Cult - Electric
Culture – Two Sevens Clash
Cure – Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
Cure – Pornography
Cursive – Domestica
D’Angelo – Voodoo
D’Angelo – Voodoo
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead
Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism
Decemberists – Her Majesty the Decemberists
Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts
Def Leppard - Hysteria
John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together
Depeche Mode – Violator
Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion
Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies
Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
Digable Planets – Blowout Comb
Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I
Divine Comedy – Promenade
Doors – The Doors
Dream Syndicate – Days of Wine and Roses
Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Dukes of Stratosphear – Chips from the Chocolate Fireball
Duran Duran – Rio
Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Fairport Convention - Unhalfbricking
Fairport Convention – Liege and Lief
Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
Firesign Theatre – Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
Flaming Lips – Zaireeka
Flaming Lips – Zaireeka
Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Flatlanders – One Road More
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
Flipper – Album
Flying Burrito Brothers – Gilded Palace of Sin
Flying Burrito Brothers – Gilded Palace of Sin
Kim Fowley - Outrageous
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You
Fugazi – Repeater
Fugazi – 13 Songs
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
Peter Gabriel – So
Peter Gabriel – Us
Galaxie 500 – On Fire
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear
Genesis – Foxtrot
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Geto Boys – The Geto Boys
Philip Glass – Songs from Liquid Days
Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
Grateful Dead – Europe 72
Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun
Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun
Grateful Dead – Reckoning
Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead
Al Green – Call Me
Guster – Ganging Up on the Sun
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
Donny Hathaway – Everything Is Everything
Isaac Hayes – Shaft
Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul
Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra – Nancy and Lee
Lee Hazlewood – Requiem for an (Almost) Lady
Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Blank Generation
Bill Hicks - Rant in E-Minor
Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
Hole – Live Through This
Hole – Live Through This
Hole – Live Through This
Hole – Celebrity Skin
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
Husker Du – Flip Your Wig
Husker Du – Zen Arcade
Husker Du – Zen Arcade
Ice Cube – Death Certificate
Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power
Janet Jackson – Control
Michael Jackson - Thriller
Jam – Setting Sons
Jane’s Addition – Nothing’s Shocking
Jean Michel Jarre - Oxygene
Keith Jarret – The Koln Concert
Jawbreaker – Bivouac
Jawbreaker – Dear You
Jawbreaker – 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
Jay-Z – The Blueprint
Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation
Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s
Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter’s
Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow
Waylon Jennings – Dreaming My Dreams
Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser – Wanted! The Outlaws
Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Joan Jett – I Love Rock’n’Roll
Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Facing Future
Carole King – Tapestry
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson - Discipline
KISS – Destroyer
KISS – Destroyer
Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express
Kraftwerk – Computer World
Kraftwerk – Computer World
Kraftwerk – Computer World
Kraftwerk – Computer World
Kraftwerk – Computer World
La’s – The La’s
Langley Schools Music Project – Innocence and Despair
Latin Playboys – Latin Playboys
Left Banke – Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
John Lennon and Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy
Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club
Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club
Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club
Libertines – Up the Bracket
Libertines – Up the Bracket
Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard
Living Colour – Vivid
Love and Rockets – Earth Sun Moon
Low – Trust
Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping
Madness – One Step Beyond
Madvillain – Madvillainy
Bob Marley and the Wailers – Catch a Fire
Martha and the Muffins – This is the Ice Age
Steve Martin – A Wild and Crazy Guy
John Martyn – Grace and Danger
Massive Attack – Blue Lines
Massive Attack – Blue Lines
John Mayer – Room for Squares
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell
Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell
Mekons – Rock’n’Roll
Mekons – Rock’n’Roll
Mekons – Fear and Whiskey
Mekons – So Good It Hurts
Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs
Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Charles Mingus – Presents Charles Mingus
Ministry – Psalm 69
Ministry – Psalm 69
Minor Threat – Complete Discography
Misfits – The Static Age
Moby Grape – Moby Grape
Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
Monkees – Headquarters
Monkees – Headquarters
Morphine – The Night
Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil
Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil
Mountain Goats – All Hail West Texas
Mountain Goats – Sweden
Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff
Music Machine – Turn on the Music Machine
Nas – Illmatic
Me’Shell N’Degeocello – Peace Beyond Passion
Negativland – Escape from Noise
Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger
New Order – Substance
New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies
New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies
Joanna Newsom – Ys
Randy Newman – Good Old Boys
Randy Newman – Good Old Boys
NOFX – Punk in Drublic
N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
N.W.A. – 100 Miles and Runnin’/EFIL4ZAGGIN
Phil Ochs – Gunfight at Carnegie Hall
Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - Crush
Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes
Osmonds – Crazy Horses
Osmonds – The Plan
Outkast – Stankonia
Outkast – Aquemini
Outkast – Aquemini
Outkast – Aquemini
Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle
Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle
Van Dyke Parks – Discover America
Parliament – Mothership Connection
Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel
Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
Pavement – Slanted and Enchanted
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
Pearl Jam – Vitalogy
Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam – Vs.
Pere Ubu – The Modern Dance
Pet Shop Boys – Behaviour
Pet Shop Boys – Very
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever
Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville
Phish – Junta
Phish – Hoist
Pogues – If I Should Fall from Grace with God
Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Pogues – Rum, Sodomy and the Lash
Police – Outlandos D’Amour
Police - Sychronicity
Polyphonic Spree – Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree
Iggy Pop – Lust for Life
Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen
Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis
Pretenders – Learning to Crawl
Pretenders – Learning to Crawl
Primal Scream – Screamadelica
Psychic TV – Dreams Less Sweet
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back
Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
Public Image Ltd. – Metal Box
Pulp – Different Class
Pulp – Different Class
Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers
Queen – A Night at the Opera
Queen – Flash Gordon
Raekwon the Chef – Only Built for Cuban Linx
Otis Redding – Live in Europe
Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music
Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music
Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music
Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come
Rap Reiplinger – Poi Dog
Todd Rundgren – Nearly Human
Rush – A Farewell to Kings
Rush – 2112
Rush – Moving Pictures
Arthur Russell – World of Echo
Santana - Abraxas
Saturday Night Fever (Original Soundtrack)
Scritti Politti – Cupid & Psyche 85
Pete Seeger – At the Village Gate
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
William Shatner – The Transformed Man
Shins – Oh, Inverted World
Silkworm – Firewater
Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends
Paul Simon – Graceland
Paul Simon – Graceland
Skinny Puppy – Too Dark Park
Slayer – Reign in Blood
Slayer – Reign in Blood
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Slint – Spiderland
Slint – Spiderland
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Elliott Smith – XO
Elliott Smith – XO
Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
Spacemen 3 – The Perfect Prescription
Sparks – Kimono My House
Specials – More Specials
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
Sting – The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus
Strokes – Is This It?
Donna Summer – Bad Girls
Sun Ra – Visits Planet Earth
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Sweet – Desolation Boulevard
311 – Music
T.Rex – Electric Warrior
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Talking Heads – Fear of Music
Talking Heads – Little Creatures
Talking Heads – Talking Heads 77
Talk Talk – Laughing Stock
Television Personalities – And Don’t the Kids Just Love It
Terrorizer – World Downfall
They Might Be Giants – Lincoln
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
Throwing Muses – Throwing Muses
Throwing Muses – Throwing Muses
Thunderclap Newman – Hollywood Dream
Thursday – War All the Time
Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional
Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional
Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
Van Halen – Van Halen I
Van Halen – 1984
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Various – The Country Blues
Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter
Townes Van Zandt – High, Low and In Between
Scott Walker – Scott 4
Wall of Voodoo - Call of the West
Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
Wedding Present – George Best
Wedding Present - Seamonsters
Weezer – Blue Album
Weezer – Blue Album
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Weezer – Pinkerton
Kanye West – The College Drop Out
White Stripes – White Blood Cells
Wilco – Being There
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wilco – Summerteeth
Wire – Pink Flag
Wire – Pink Flag
Bill Withers – Just As I Am
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom
X – Los Angeles
XTC – English Settlement
XTC – Skylarking
XTC – Skylarking
XTC – Skylarking
Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – Freak Out!
Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon
Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres


As of now (8.30am on Thursday morning in New York), no more proposals will be accepted. Something tells me that we have enough already.

I'll post a list later today of all the proposals received - artists and albums.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bee Thousand reviewed

Here's a review of Marc Woodworth's Bee Thousand book, in PopMatters. The review is by Jason B. Jones, who stretches the definition of the word "famous", but we'll take it!


Bee Thousand makes perfect sense for Continuum’s famous 33 1/3 series. The breakthrough album for Guided by Voices undoubtedly has an appropriate stature, as it exemplified a certain style of lo-fi, DIY aesthetic that’s still influential. Moreover, Robert Pollard’s elliptical lyrics and layered, yet quasi-improvisational melodies would seem to profit from a handy introduction. Everyone I know who listens to Guided by Voices was introduced to their music by some knowledgeable friend, a role which Marc Woodworth ably takes up in his short book. What’s more interesting about Bee Thousand, though, is the way it both embraces and complicates the nostalgia permeating the entire 33 1/3 series. Simultaneously a mythologizing and de-mythologizing book, Bee Thousand demonstrates yet again the power of Faulkner’s claim that “the past isn’t even past.”

The circumstances around the Bee Thousand album are familiar. Recorded after the Dayton, Ohio band had decided to break up, on a four-track in Tobin Sprout’s garage, it led to critical acclaim—with Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted, a defining lo-fi record—and the band’s continuation (indeed, now Pollard was able to quit teaching). Guided by Voices albums feature lots of short, imperfectly recorded songs, and Bee Thousand is no exception. Its 20 tracks take less than 37 minutes to play—the longest, “Tractor Rape Chain,” clocks in at an epic 3.04mins—and there are notorious recording glitches and accidental effects. All of the songs were recorded in a hurry.

The book Bee Thousand takes a kaleidoscopic approach to its topic. It features narratives by Robert Pollard, Don Thrasher, Kevin Fennell, Robert Griffin, Dan Toohey, Greg Demos, and Tobin Sprout, an interview with collagist filmmaker Lewis Klahr, and a series of “Listener Responses.” It also features a series of “word clusters,” associations found in the album, a sonnet composed of phrases from Bee Thousand, and excerpts that purport to be from a dissertation on Pollard’s lyrics. (The foreword by “Bart O. Roper, LLD” gives the game away.) Woodworth’s own contributions come as both short overtures on key topics—“Love & Purity,” “Desire & Its Limits”—and a five-part main thread, “Fiction, Man & Hardcore Facts.”

As Woodworth points out, the immediacy of the album’s sound is misleading. The fuzzy, dirty recordings sound urgent and fresh, as if they are bursting out onto the four-track, without much attention to craft. However, this isn’t quite right. Many songs are versions of earlier GBV songs, or are made out of snippets of such songs, and some even reprise melodies Pollard apparently wrote as a boy. The band’s narratives are especially interesting on this score, as they reconstruct the diverse origins of the songs. More generally, in Woodworth’s hands the band’s songs turn out to be palimpsests, in which British Invasion songs are overwritten by “Pollard’s past as a nearly life-long maker of songs, his immersion in the music of others, and a memory of childhood pleasure and creativity made melancholy because it is no longer present with the same force it once had”.

This emphasis on the past has interesting effects. One of the charming conceits of the 33 1/3 series is that the books are frequently intensely personal responses to an album, and so they are nostalgic, not just for an album but also for the critic’s own youth. Bee Thousand opens with a poetic excursus that seems to evoke all of these feelings: you’re left “with a pang of longing but also oddly pleased,” “you’ve got to build the playground in your head because you’ve got to build the playground in your head because you can’t play on the real playground anymore—rust has eaten through the elephant slide and the monkey bars’ thinning aluminum is too cold to grip, not to mention that you’re not allowed to go in there anymore, old man”.

But the nostalgia Woodworth evokes is not his own, but rather an imaginative response to GBV lyrics—that is, it’s presented as the songwriter’s nostalgia. Robert Pollard describes his method as “deconstructionist”, by which he means that he works from snippets of old songs, putting them together in new ways, and then breaking them apart or disrupting them in some way. A recurring distinction in the book is that between a “creamy” song, which is unappealingly smooth and polished, and ones that are adequately “fucked up,” where imperfection points up the humanity behind the art. Fucking up, for the band, is both accidental and deliberate, a chance occurrence and methodological imperative: One way to write a song is to take a “creamy” melody and interpolate it with new sounds, free-associative lyrics, and other artifacts of recording. The result, for GBV, is new music born from the shards of the past—or, as Woodworth puts it, it shows that “life can rise from art”.

What’s remarkable about Bee Thousand is Woodworth’s ability to reconstruct the ”event“ of the album despite only discovering it later. In fact, by the time he started listening to GBV the musicians had almost entirely changed, and he had to work backward to Bee Thousand. This means that his experience of the album—the way that it bits of it stuck with him until he began to connect more passionately to it—is uncannily like the experience of making the album: “I felt more akin to the band as a 30-something myself, a partially lapsed rocker, who like Pollard and Company, grew up listening to big rock in big arenas during the ‘70s”. While that might be the generation that finds GBV most naturally, Woodworth’s book should help listeners of any age find joy in such oddities as “Hardcore UFOs,” a “dairy creamer explicitly laid out as a fruitcake,” and the “kicker of elves.” More generally, anyone interested in DIY-type bands should find the band’s narratives relevant.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Fisherman's Blues

I'll shut up about the Waterboys now, but there's a great clip on YouTube here, of a Decemberists show in London last week, during the encore of which the band are joined on stage by Mike Scott himself, for what looks like a fabulous rendition of "Fisherman's Blues".

Thursday, February 08, 2007

T minus 6 days

We've now had exactly 100 proposals emailed to pitches33@yahoo.com so thanks for all of those. The deadline for getting them in is the end of Wednesday next week, the 14th. And if you missed the call for proposals, scroll down the page a little - all the guidelines are there.

Also (and perhaps this is just asking for trouble...), what would you like to see less of in the series? Which books do you think really missed the mark? Or are there certain genres of music that we've covered too much already? Constructive criticism in the comments section would be gratefully received - thanks.

Nelson gets Strangered

A review by Charles Mudede of Sean Nelson's book about Joni Mitchell, in The Stranger.


And what do we have here? A short book by Sean Nelson. And who is this Nelson? The man is a singer (most notably for Harvey Danger) and a writer (most notably for The Stranger). Until two years ago, he was an associate editor for the paper that's now in your hands (or on your screen), and since the mid-'90s, his career has vacillated between the poles of full-time singing and full-time writing. The new book is something of a synthesis: Nelson writes about music, or more precisely, the musician Joni Mitchell. The book is part of the 33 1/3 series published by Continuum. Each book in this series has a writer focusing on an album that arguably plays an important role in the development of pop music since the '60s. In this case, that album is Court and Spark, which Nelson argues is the peak of Joni Mitchell's peak period—1971 to 1975.
Court and Spark, the book, begins where it ends: the backseat of "a navy blue, late-'60s model VW with black and yellow California plates." The driver of the car is the author's mother, the boy in the backseat is the author, and all round them is the "sprawling, horrible, beautiful" city of Los Angeles. Here "between [19]74 and '79," in the backseat of the car, Nelson discovers Joni Mitchell. It is also the place he discovers his mother ("during her second marriage"), his state (California), and the tone of the decade of his birth (post-Watergate, post-sexual revolution, post-hippie). This is where the "pop consciousness" of the boy begins.

Because Nelson takes Mitchell seriously, Court and Spark must be read as a serious book. The substance and structure of the work has themes and patterns we rarely find outside of modernist novels. The main substance is the apprenticeship of an artist—the author himself. This theme (how one became an artist, or, better yet, the portrait of the artist) obsessed all high modernist writers—for sure, did they write about nothing else? The structure of Court and Spark is that of a grand modernist novel (it ends where it begins), and within this whole we find a number of mini modernist fixtures and patterns, the most apparent of which is the leitmotif, the leading motive, the process by which Thomas Mann made his heavy prose musical. One of Nelson's approaches is to establish a phrase, a figure/fixture of speech, and then, with a timing that can only be caught by the ear of a good musician (or comedian, or pastor), repeats that figure with an effect that's often at once echoic, humorous, and sad. One of the many excellent examples of this leitmotif involves Van Gogh's Starry Night.

But the most fascinating (and revealing) aspect of this book is not its substance (the apprenticeship of the author) or its structure (novelistic) but that it treats Mitchell's album (or the albums that make up her most creative period) not like music, nor even like poetry, but like a novel. Court and Spark and the other albums of this period tell us the story of a woman, her friends, her city, her society, the ideas of her time, and the failures of her time, her lovers, her life, her dreams. The attention Nelson pays to the stories communicated by Mitchell's lyrics is such that, while reading the book, you mostly hear her words and almost none of her music. Some critics of pop albums, like Kodwo Eshun or Ian Penman, make every effort to bring into their words the music they are writing about. Nelson does a little of this, but it's not where his mind is at. What draws him to Mitchell is, specifically, her language and, generally, her story subjects. What is she saying in this song, and how does this story or narrator or character study connect with the other stories and narrators and character studies in Court and Spark (and the other albums that define her peak)?

Describing the moment that Mitchell transitions from a rising artist to an actual one, between 1970 and 1971, Nelson writes: "Suddenly, the flaxen-haired Canadian prairie girl—who was typically reviewed as either exotic goddess or miraculous object—was singing about a world in which her disillusioned contemporaries had turned to 'acid, booze, and ass/needles, guns, and grass/lots of laughs, lots of laughs.' Not only were these lines frank, they were savage, even swaggering... Mitchell's transformation wasn't just from folkie to blunt confessionalist, it was from tunesmith to songwriter—emphasis on 'writer.'"

Two important points can be drawn from this passage: One, though Court and Spark succeeds in bringing together sophisticated, song-written studies of real life situations, relationships, and emotions with tunes that are commercially sensible, the fact is Nelson really admires Blue, the album that inaugurates Mitchell's peak period, and is certainly her most internal, darkest, and most literary work. The grim shadow of Blue ("frank... savage... swaggering") is always just behind the brighter, more friendly Court and Spark. The best writing in his book is that which turns back to "the soul-baring agony of Blue." It is here, more than anywhere else, you find the real reason why the writer of the book is also a writer of songs. Which brings us to the second point: "emphasis on 'writer.'"

Nelson writes: "I've attempted a critical appreciation of the record from the lyrics outward... Because that's how I enter music, and that's what I'm most taken by when I listen to music." The reason Nelson picked Joni Mitchell as the subject of his first book is because he wanted to write not just about songwriting but writing itself. What page after page of Court and Spark makes abundantly clear is that when Nelson is not writing he is not doing what he does best.

Sean Nelson reads from Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark at Sonic Boom (3416 Fremont Ave N, 633-2666) on Thurs Feb 8 at 7:30 pm, and it's free.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Matthew Stearns, author of the at-the-printers Daydream Nation book in the series, has set up a blog based around the book, which you can visit here.

For those of you who've noticed the gap between no.38 and no.40 in the series, this book will fill it.

McGonigal & Nelson at Sonic Boom

Tomorrow evening, Thurs 8th, head over to Sonic Boom Records (Fremont store) in Seattle at 7.30pm, to listen to Mike McGonigal reading from his Loveless book and Sean Nelson reading from his Court & Spark book.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Runnin' in the shadows

Last Saturday a friend of mine had a birthday party / battle of the bands that involved everyone meeting at a bar, getting divided into "bands" consisting of musicians and novices, and being sent off to an apartment or practice space to learn a song from Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours.” We reconvened 4 hours later and performed the album front to back. My band drew “Gold Dust Woman” out of the hat, which was tough because as the last song on the album there was a lot of time (and drinks) between our practice and performance. One of the birthday girl's best friends had to be out of town for the party, but did not fail to impress by mailing in this long distance version of “The Chain.” Not particularly 33 1/3-related, but the production values are very Nine Inch Nails.
-John Mark

Thursday, February 01, 2007

lovers, thieves, fools and pretenders

I'm on a major Waterboys kick at the moment. The albums A Pagan Place, This Is The Sea, and Fisherman's Blues in particular. The expanded CD reissues of those are all wonderful - so much extra stuff, and almost all of it priceless! I only saw the Waterboys once, in Oxford in 1989, with a pack of Italian teenagers who were (unfortunately for them) under my tutelage at the time. The Italians were, by the end of the show, flabbergasted: "Why are they not huge, like U2?" I had no answer to that.

Mike Scott's liner notes on these reissues are fun. Here's an extract from his comments on This Is The Sea:


The album was made from a bedrock of 35-40 songs. If you enjoy the previously unheard songs included in this edition you may wonder why some weren't included on the original album. The answer is that This Is The Sea had a will of its own - which I deciphered through my musical intuition - and it was clear that the nine songs on the finished record were the ones that were intended to be there. Those were my instructions and I obeyed them.

The outside musical influences that impacted on the making of This Is The Sea were the holy triumvirate of The Velvet Underground, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and the 'systems' music of the American composer Steve Reich.

From The Velvet Underground I learned:

* inspired content wins over technical proficiency
* the elemental power of the two-chord song
* the glory of sustaining a single dynamic intensity for an entire track
* that untrained but self-aware playing has power and grace

From Astral Weeks I learned:

* atmosphere
* the totemic song "Sweet Thing" and its tarra-ta-tarrat-ta-ta rhythm
* the delights of an expressively played double bass
* that string arrangements can be luminous and gossamer-light

From Steve Reich I learned:

* a new musical language not based on blues or celtic/american folk music
* intolerably beautiful 'brass hangings' - long sustaining chordals
* sudden short chord-bursts I call 'oysters'
* short melodic motifs repeated at strategic points, played seemingly without emotion, but with emotional value due to their placing and context
* teeming, organic strings playing disciplined phrases
* multiple tambourines playing disciplined rhythms


We have never had a proposal for a book about the Waterboys. I'm not sure that it would sell, but I'd love to read one.