Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tink Desk Unit

Past blasting. Tiny Desk Unit, a seminal DC new wave band, was recently featured in a Washington Post Magazine story about the old 9:30 Club. I do remember them playing at Columbia Station in 1980 and that I went with my oldest sister Maureen–I also remember being heartbroken over one thing or the other and spending much of the time that night in the car, sullenly smoking cigarettes. Courtesy of the TDU's keyboard players website, I’ve now listened for a good hour – and am struck by how good they are, unlike other bands of that era, like the Insect Surfers (I have a couple IS songs and don't care for them at all). But TDU has a sort of a talking heads funky thing going on (bassist and drummer were black) that I love – and the chick singer sounds like the Slits/Sleater-Kinney.

Fantastic quality video of them from 1981 is here --

Love and Desperation music by Sweet Apple

The shameless Roxy Music Sirens album cover ripoff was what first attracted me here -- but digging in, I discovered the songwriter/singer was the lead singer of the underrated Cleveland band Cobra Verde, and the drummer (and occasional lead-guitar soloist) was none other than J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. More 1970s-roots-mining here: the first song and single sound like an undisovered Kiss track with a better drummer and a messy electric guitar attack. Still listening, still like it a great deal. Three thumbs up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unincorporated Persons of the Late Honda Dynasty poems by Tony Hoagland

Trying to review this volume of poems for Tikkun, not crazy about it yet. Do like Hoagland's earlier volume, Donkey Logic. Another entry in the American surrealistic tradition I can't see to get enough of.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

Good example of a current-affairs novel that really works. Uses the first Gulf War as a back-story, and the mortage-securities-Wall Street meltdown as front-story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Bit of a slog, but I liked this. Read Johnson's Fiskadoro many years ago, when he was first getting published, and liked it alot. This is the first Vietnam novel that I've read in years and years. There's a certain Apocalypse Now build-up to it, one central character behind a mythical American advisor who may or may not have "crossed over" to the native side, out of an obscure faith in the power and imagery of the Viet Cong's nativism. The CIA ma, the "colonel's" nephew, waits patiently for his assignment, the running of a double agent.

Another narrative thread concerns two brothers, one in the military in Southeast Asia, and the younger brother who stays behind. Their roots are desperate lower-class, blue-collar, white-trash American Southwest, and Johnson weaves a series of phone calls and brief meetings over the years where the brothers finally get to know each other for the first time.

Another interesting character is a woman involved with a charity mission in Thailand and Vietnam, slowly going crazy from her isolation and exposure to the horrors of the plight of children in nations completely obliterated by wars being fought between superpowers that use their tiny backward nation as a battlefield.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Re-read this, first time since mid 1970s. Loved it. It seems more commonplace now, some of the literary conventions Vonnegut uses and reuses here -- the author-as-character, the coincidences, the sci-fi plot tie-ins -- but I think for the time, 1973, it was revolutionary.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Three to See The King by Magnus Mills

Odd odd book about a man who lives in some odd unnamed contemporary desert and cavern wilderness in a tin house. Seems to be a savior-fable, centering on a cult of drifters on a western pilgrimmage to build and live in their own tin houses, under the leadership of a charismatic messiah-like man. Weird, weird. Unsatisfying. But I read it anyway, because I like Mills' other two books so much.

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