Reviews, July 2014

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_29_Image_0002

Books

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_29_Image_0002DAVE EGGERS
YOUR FATHERS, WHERE ARE THEY? AND  THE PROPHETS, DO THEY LIVE FOREVER?
(KNOPF/MCSWEENY’S)
Eggers’ latest effort is a series of conversations. Each chapter features a different character that our protagonist, Thomas, has drugged and dragged to an abandoned military base off the coast of California. At first, he intends only to question the astronaut, but his questions give rise to more questions, and he is inspired to bring more perspectives to the picture, like pieces of a puzzle. It is thrilling to watch and see who his next victim will be. It quickly becomes obvious that Thomas  is interrogating each of his captives merely to affirm his theory of modern societal failure, but the political element of his revenge fantasy turns personal as his queries reveal more about his own flawed thinking than they do about the nature of society. Eggers’ novel reads like a play in the tradition of Samuel Beckett, set in the existential void of the 21st century. Although the dialogue is at times didactic and heavy-handed, the questions he poses remain relevant in a world where the violence of troubled, directionless young men like Thomas is increasingly problematic. —Alex Taylor

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_29_Image_0003LISA ROBINSON
THERE GOES GRAVITY: A LIFE IN ROCK AND  ROLL
(RIVERHEAD BOOKS)
Reading There Goes Gravity for earth- shakingly new insights and dirt on past and present rock and pop icons is to miss the point of it; reading it for tips on making up and conducting rock journalism (though there are a few here and there) or as strictly a feminist document are also misguided  notions. Once those expectations of Lisa Robinson’s account of her life and times as a scenester, rock writer, promoter, advisor, and editor are tossed  aside, what emerges from reading her memoirs is a straightforward, rather grounded portrait of a woman at large in a world that is still making itself up as it goes along. Robinson embarks on what proves to be a “lucky accident” of a career, writing and editing reports of Led Zeppelin’s and The Rolling Stones’ tours from within and witnessing the nascent New York scene of the 1970s that spawned the New York Dolls, Television, Patti Smith, and the Ramones. Robinson’s continued interest in the humanity of her subjects  keeps a reader’s interest as well. She relates tales from her perspective of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, U2, Eminem, and a portrait of Lady Gaga to rival British  humorist Caitlin Moran’s, revealing  Gaga’s many facets and highlighting the strange binds successful women in rock encounter in their personal lives. Though the subjects in Gravity are highlighted due to personal preferences (in a rare display of pique, Madonna is blasted for being “humorless” and giving Robinson “nothing ”), once Robinson decides to tell the tale, it turns out, story-wise, to be a rather fortunate thing that such a perceptive eye is on the scene. —Leigh Checkman

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_29_Image_0004JOHN  WIRT
HUEY “PIANO” SMITH AND  THE ROCKING  PNEUMONIA BLUES
(LSU PRESS)
It’s a terrible tale that has been told far too often in recent years: musician comes up from the streets to create  some major contributions to what we now know as rock’n’roll, his music lives on and on, yet any monetary benefits he could be reaping are out of his reach due to horrible business decisions  partly imposed on him, followed by a series of courtroom battles that end very badly for the musician. The thing about this particular story, though, is it happened to a good man and a supportive artist in Huey “Piano” Smith and his merry, mixed group of Clowns—a group made up of a revolving cast of entertainers and musicians like Bobby Marchan, James Booker, and Jesse Thomas, who developed strong  solo careers themselves during and after their time with Smith. What starts out as a compelling and occasionally  comical portrait of New Orleans music- making in the late 1950s turns sour when Smith loses rights to now-classic  songs like “Rocking Pneumonia,” and “Don’t You Just Know It;” his “Sea Cruise” is handed over to a young Frankie Ford by Ace Records’ president and distributor Johnny Vincent to get more records sold in a whiter  market; and the British Invasion finally grinds Smith’s performing and recording career to a halt. The court  battles over Smith’s rights to his songs and his royalties add extra insult to these injuries, as he does everything possible—at one point, doing it all on his own due to lack of funds—to get relief, only to be denied at every turn.  Huey “Piano” Smith And The Rocking Pneumonia Blues stands as a call for justice for all musicians of that era who were, essentially, robbed. It’s a sobering  yet fiercely necessary read. —Leigh Checkman

 

Film

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_29_Image_0005ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
JIM JARMUSCH
(RECORDED PICTURE COMPANY / PANDORA FILM)
The vampire genre has lapsed into a steady decline since the on-screen portrayal of Anne Rice’s cynical Lestat. As soon as they started glittering in the sun, it seemed like the reign of the vampire was finally over. Leave it to Jarmusch to give the genre a new beginning with his undying, blood- addicted aesthetes, Adam and Eve, two lovers separated by distance if not by affection. Eve resides in Tangier, keeping company with an ancient vampire friend and poet named Marlowe. On the other side of the world, Adam is facing an existential crisis in a dark and decaying Detroit. Eve endures the dangers of nocturnal travel to revive her ennui-stricken darling, but their blissful reunion is interrupted by Eve’s banshee of a sister, Ava, who forces the two lovers out of the comfort of the past to confront the realities of the modern world. Set against the backdrop of two fallen empires, saturated with cultural references, underlined with a groovy score, the film is unapologetically pretentious and undeniably cool. Fans of Jarmusch will not be disappointed with this uncharacteristically polished addition to his oeuvre. —Alex Taylor

  

Music

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_28_Image_0002DUB THOMPSON
9 SONGS
(DEAD OCEANS)
Dub Thompson (it’s a band, not a guy) is built around two 19 year-olds from Agoura Hills, California: guitarist/ vocalist Matt Pulos and drummer Evan Laffer. Although they recorded their  debut 9 Songs while sharing a house with Jonathan Rado, there’s nary a whiff of Foxygen influence to be found here. Sounds like they spent most of their time out back in the garage, bending angular riffs into twisted shapes and bolting them onto thumping nu-wave giddy-ups.The opener,  “Hayward!” jumpstarts the party with danceable industrial throb and waves of dissonant chords drenched in reverb. On “Mono,” Laffer’s drums bounce you along playfully until Pulos jumps out of the shadows with a snarling guitar  line. “Pterodactyls” is driven by an insistent cadence, with spacey vocals punctuated by machine gun riffage and acid-washed strumming. The album has an endearingly dirty feel to it. No, listener, your speakers aren’t blown; they just recorded everything with the levels peaked for maximum saturation. Quirky splotches of noise wander in and out of the mix. Even the more refined offerings, like “Dograces,” with its grandiose keyboard flourishes, and the darkly poetic “Epicondyles”  come covered in a thick layer of sonic grit and grime that keeps things from ever getting too precious. Okay, maybe the album title is a bit of a dork move, considering there are only eight songs here. But it’s eight good songs, so the kids are alright. —Lou Thevenot

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_28_Image_0003EYEHATEGOD
S/T
(HOUSECORE)
It’s been 14 years since Eyehategod’s last “proper” release (Confederacy of Ruined Lives) but a lot has happened since then: Outlaw Order, Arson Anthem, Classhole, Corrections House, etc. And don’t forget 10 years of Abuse (And Still Broke), a collection of live recordings released in 2001, Preaching the End-Time Message, a collection of songs from split 7”s, compilations, live and demo recordings released in 2005; and New Orleans Is The New Vietnam 7”, released in 2012. But this is their first actual new full length since 2000, thus making it the first album with Gary Mader on bass. You can tell by listening to it that a major  amount of time was spent on each song––every part sounds meticulous. Mike Williams’ vocals are actually decipherable, which opens new doors for the listener into his songwriting skills. I really like the pattern of song placement; they start out fast as hell with “Agitation Propaganda!” and seamlessly keep the flow going through “Parish Motel Sickness,” “Nobody Told Me,” and “Robitussin and Rejection.” The only complaint I have is their decision to end the album with a remake, “The Age of Bootcamp” (originally released on a split 7” with Soilent Green in 2002). Inclusion of “The Liar’s Psalm” (from the recent Decibel flexi) would have been more fitting and then they could end the record with the incredible drumming from “Flags and Cities Bound” (R.I.P. Joey). I had heard they were going to try and self-release this LP, but I think Housecore has done a great job and I’m glad they found a label who is also a fan of the music (I predict this to be their biggest seller). Different colored vinyl is limited to 1,600 copies (probably  already sold out). —Carl Elvers

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_28_Image_0004KATEY RED
KATEY’S HITS
(PLANARIAN RECORDS)
In today’s bounce-happy culture, where the likes of Big Freedia storm late night network television, Nicky Da B hawks Doritos and yes, certain lily-white pop stars put the word “twerk” in the mouths of the silent majority, it’s easy to forget that this was once a fiercely underground and New Orleans-centric genre of party music. For over a decade, Katey Red has been one of the pioneers of bounce and especially its genderfucked offshoot, sissy bounce. This greatest hits is an essential collection to that history. Lead off track “Punk Under Pressure”— which is probably Katey’s best known  song—celebrates everything from exceptional oral skills (sexually and verbally) to simply calling out “Somebody smell like shit.” “Stupid (Featuring Big Freedia)” harkens back to the ballad era of bounce, while “So Much Drama (I Ain’t With It)” showcases Katey’s war cries and the rapid-fire delivery bounce has come to adopt over the years—and of course, Katey’s love for that “good good” weed. Remixes and radio edits make this quite the efficient compilation and also a good stand-alone party mix. In keeping with the best traditions of bounce, this compilation is a limited release, due to the Gordian knot of legality involved. In addition to samples that range from Destiny’s Child to Lady Gaga, there is no formal endorsement by Take Fo’ Records, which released a few Katey Red CDs in 1999 and 2000 (though Lefty Parker, who heads up Planarian Records and collaborates with Katey, makes it clear that she has no contract with Take Fo’ and never has). For anyone who’s invested in this most unique brand of NOLA hip-hop, Katey’s Hits should be an added highlight to your library. Good luck finding it. —Dan Fox

 

THE DONKEYS
RIDE THE BLACK WAVE
(EASY SOUND  RECORDING CO.)
Back in 2006, the Donkeys wrote a song called “Blood Hill” that chilled me. It was about an immortal witch-child with a homicidal gaze, and it burned so slowly that it took a full minute and a half to build up to the main riff. Eight years later, I’m surprised they’re still around, but not so surprised they haven’t been able to keep up the momentum. The first preconception the Donkeys’ band bio wishes to dispel is that, although they are from San Diego, they are not a California  band. That much is true; they sound  like they’d rather be anywhere else. “Should I stay in California? Should I move to France?” muses the narrator by way of existential reflection. Three  songs later, he’s changed his mind: “Gonna stay in California, not going anywhere nohow,” he sings in a song that’s actually called “I Heart Alabama.” Halfway through the album, the band decides they’d really prefer India and break out the sitar. It would be a neat  trick if it were a new one, but they did the same thing on their last release, and even then, ragas on rock albums lived in the shadow of George Harrison. You see, most of all, the Donkeys want to be in the 1970s. They want to escape the “California” label the same way Creedence Clearwater Revival did; they want to achieve the kinds of vocal harmonies Simon & Garfunkel could. But the main contribution they have to offer a staid alt-country sound is mellow, mid-tempo atmosphere, right down to recorded seagull sounds. In terms of energy level, they’re more on par with the Doobie Brothers. It’s too bad Father’s Day is over, because your dad could be into this. —Anna Gaca

 

antigravity_vol11_issue9_Page_28_Image_0006THE ORWELLS
DISGRACELAND
(CANVASBACK/ATLANTIC)
The Orwells used to launch into riffs and not care when the needle hit the red. They also used to record in a basement, rather than with Chris Coady and the best indie production that major label money can buy. Just don’t expect them to grow up yet. Since you last checked, the band dropped out of high school and played Letterman twice. 19 year-old guitar player Matt O’Keefe told Rolling Stone he wishes rock’n’roll were still dangerous. He can keep wishing, because his band is not endangering the status quo. Disgraceland is chock full of cheeky sentiments like, “Life is better with a hand full of ass, badass shades and a bag full of grass.” Some of the new songs were actually written for their  first album, Remember When, so that  novel sensation you’re experiencing is the desire for better headphones to listen to garage rock. “Who Needs You” isn’t your first crunchy summer joint  and it won’t be your last. But when the Orwells aren’t complaining about  getting horny and living in hotels, their  attitude toward violence is disturbing. “My daddy’s got a twelve gauge, I hope I don’t find it,” howls Mario Cuomo in “Gotta Get Down.” “Norman” describes  a prom night massacre, then tries to play it off as a horror flick. The narrator of “Blood Bubbles” hangs himself and leaves his suicidal girlfriend to find the body. When a song about a school shooting slipped into the first album, it seemed like fantasy. Now it sounds  like an obsession. Maybe imaginary violence is how suburban kids get their  kicks. But the Orwells’ initial success was based on energy, not shock value, and definitely not on asking TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek to produce their lead single. Something is rotten in Disgraceland and all the mixing clarity in the world can’t illuminate that. —Anna Gaca

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