Friday, November 20, 2009


Listened to Pandora on the way to work today; specifically my "Devo Radio" station. I'm posting the bands it played, in order, because I found it somehow amusing:
Coheed & Cambria
The Cure
Billy Idol
Nada Surf
Van Halen

On the way home it regaled me with Beck, REM, and some group I can't remember the name of that sounded somewhat Ting-Tings-ish (although I might just be thinking that because I've been listening to the Ting-Tings a lot). I think the word "butter" was in the name somehow.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Don't I Want To Do This? South of Broad Review

Yesterday morning, I finally finished reading South of Broad, the new novel by Pat Conroy. I got three pages from the end the night before and was royally pissed off that I couldn't stay awake for those last three pages. But between house buying and working again, I was pretty wiped out. I'm proud that I made it through around 40 pages that night.
When you love a book, you're supposed to NOT want it to end, right? When a writer you've loved since you were at least 15 years old puts out his first novel in years, you want to savor it. Or at least you want to tear through it once and read it again, so you can savor it on the re-read.
What the hell happened between me and Pat Conroy? I feel like I missed something.
The Great Santini may be the only book that absolutely every member of my immediate family read, and all around the same time. I'm sure my mom and my brother would argue over who recommended it to whom, but the bottom line is we all loved it. My kid brother and I can still crack each other up with Mary Ann Meecham's blasphemous jokes that got Ben in trouble during CCD class. There are whole sections of it that will always stick with me. And although the film is one of my favorite screen adaptations ever, it still bugs me that there's no Sammy Wertzberger and not enough Mary Ann in it.
I was in college when The Prince of Tides came out, and it was only after I read that at least once that it occurred to me to read The Lords of Discipline and The Water is Wide. Man did I fall in love with Tides, although it's hard to remember being in the throes of that mania. In my senior year I took a wonderfully brutal writing course that required an exhaustive "style report" on an author, in which I had to count and classify words and sentences to describe the effects of the prose. It's pretty obvious which author I chose, or else why would I bring it up here? Duh. Anyway, I just dug out that style report to refresh my memory, and according to me Conroy's style changed a lot after Santini. Apparently that one was far more straightforward and less ornate in its vocabulary than Discipline and Tides. And I guess it was around that time I heard the rumor that Conroy's editor actually kinda sorta writes his books for him, but with those kinds of rumors you tend to choose whether or not to believe them. Even if it's true, and his editor doesn't mind, why should I?
Early in 1990, my cousin presented me with an inscribed hardcover of The Prince of Tides. The inscription reads: "To Stevie D'Arbanville, for the love of books and words, Pat Conroy, Dec. 8, 1989, Champing Hall." How awesome is that? A few years later, when Beach Music came out, he did a signing in NYC and I actually got to meet him. But it was a cattle call and it's not like we got to have any kind of conversation; all I remember is when I asked him to sign my dust-jacket-less The Water is Wide, he pointed to the picture of himself in the 60s and said, "I remember being this young." He didn't inscribe my books, only signed them, and as Beach Music was a first edition and an incredible disappointment to me I'm tempted to sell it now. I actually kind of hated Beach Music. I couldn't buy into the characters or the plot, and that caused me to reconsider all the improbable events in his earlier novels. I also felt that some of the stuff he tried to do was really obvious, and I realize as I'm writing this that it doesn't make sense and I need an example to illustrate. But I don't feel like it. Nyah.
I didn't read his book about basketball. Maybe I should. In the books I liked, I always enjoyed the way he wrote about sports. He made the games exciting to read for someone who hates sports, especially in Santini where they're crucial to the plot. But I guess Beach Music kind of soured me on him in general. Would I have read South of Broad if my folks hadn't bought it for me?
Maybe not. So here's the deal, but I'll warn ya, it's complicated.
I enjoyed reading it. I just have no idea why. The main character is not believable at all. For all of his sardonic jokes, he is an over-the-top goody-goody; always knocking himself out to help other people and never able to please his starchy, ex-nun mother. (Maybe what really annoyed me about the book is its portrayal of Joyce scholars as crusty, humorless old gits. Come on! Ulysses is the funniest book ever written!) The only character I really liked, I guess, was Toad's father. Coach Jefferson was also cool, but none of the characters get enough page time to be fully fleshed out. As in Beach Music, there are insanely over-the-top plot points that don't have the impact they're meant to have. And I'm not sure if it's because there are so many characters, but they seem more like caricatures; every character is there to represent a type, and despite their differences our hero unites them all in mutual respect and love. Are you puking yet? Well then, throw in a bunch of self-righteous battles with segregationists, homophobes, and old Southern nobility, not to mention a hurricane. I think it's just too much for one book. I'll put the rest of my rant below for anyone who hasn't read it yet (do you love how I'm pretending anyone will read THIS?)

******************** HERE BE SPOILERS !!!*************************

- Monsignor Max. It was so freaking obvious from Page One. And would he really be stupid enough to film it? Of course not, but how else could our hero get irrefutable proof?

- I suppose we're meant to guess that Trevor went back to San Francisco because his sister was killed, and if she hadn't been, he would have stayed in Charleston? Even though she lived in Hollywood? And do we even know where he went? I think we're just told that Toad took him to the airport. What, was his AIDS cured?

- I know people can freeze when they're really scared, but when Toad is 17 he's a football player. Up until the end of the attack on him, I can buy that he's too scared to do anything. But when the guy starts painting on his forehead with nail polish, "taking his time with it," why doesn't Toad just punch him in the nuts? There's no way to apply nail polish without using both hands. It's stupid.

- I also didn't buy the conversation when Toad finds out his mom was a nun. There are little things that could have been done there to make it sound more realistic. It also seems crazy that they told his one-year-older brother but not him. It makes no sense.

- Chad was too much of a douche for anyone to bother with. Period.

Again the real mystery remains: What exactly did I like about it?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wedding Playlist?

I have no idea if I'm going to be able to figure out how to post this. I didn't think I'd get the chance because my 5-year-old "classic" iPod seemed to have bitten the dust, but yesterday I accidentally turned it on and it worked! Which means I have my playlists back: the punk rock St. Patty's Day mix, both Xmas lists (clean and NSFW), and the wedding list, which may be most important because it would be the hardest to recreate from memory since I didn't have as much time with it.
So I made a spreadsheet of the titles and artists. The question is how to post it here. Let's give it a whirl, shall we?

Song Artist
It Must Be Love Madness
Headstart for Happiness Style Council
Let My Love Open the Door Pete Townshend
"Ironside (Excerpt)" Quincy Jones
Take Five The Specials
Near Wild Heaven REM
Incredible Dramarama
Bus Stop The Hollies
I'm Telling You Now Freddie & the Dreamers
Love My Way The Psychedelic Furs
Baby It's You Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe
Whenever You're On My Mind Marshall Crenshaw
Big Me Foo Fighters
Into Your Arms The Lemonheads
The Greatest Thing Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Here, There, and Everywhere The Beatles
Then She Appeared XTC
These Are Days 10,000 Maniacs
Human Hands Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Getting Married Sam Phillips cue from Gilmore Girls
ALL Descendents
Fool All
Red Sweater The Aquabats
All Mine Dance Hall Crashers
House of Fun Madness
Here In Your Bedroom Goldfinger
Free Yourself The Untouchables
He Was Really Sayin' Something Bananarama
Birdhouse in Your Soul They Might Be Giants
Good Good Things Descendents
Everything is Alright Motion City Soundtrack
Happy Together The Jam
(Nothing But) Flowers Talking Heads
Absolute Beginners The Jam
Right All
They Don't Know Kirsty MacColl
You Really Got Me The Kinks
Take Me I'm Yours Squeeze
Just Can't Get Enough Depeche Mode
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor Arctic Monkeys
Too Nice To Talk To The (English) Beat
You Spin Me Round (Like a Record) Dead or Alive
Girl U Want DEVO
Can't Get Enough of You Baby Goldfinger
Non-Stop Dancing The Jam
Concrete & Clay Unit 4 + 2
Beat Surrender The Jam
One Line PJ Harvey
Blue Jean David Bowie
Baby Now That I've Found You The Foundations
Don't Stop Me Now Queen
Everywhere At Once The Plimsouls
He Could Be the One Josie Cotton
Pure and Easy Pete Townshend
Everlong Foo Fighters
Hounds of Love The Futureheads
Eaten by the Monster of Love Sparks
My Ever Changing Moods Style Council
Everyday I Write the Book Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Vida Blue All
Wings of a Dove Madness
The Safety Dance Men Without Hats
Dreaming Blondie
Race of Doom DEVO
Nobody But Me The Dickies
Rocket from a Bottle XTC
Diggin' Your Scene Goldfinger
I Am Suggs
What I Like About You The Romantics
Love You More The Buzzcocks
The Love Cats The Cure
Message of Love The Pretenders
Mayor of Simpleton XTC
Have Love Will Travel The Sonics
Electric Avenue Eddy Grant
Ever Blazin' Sean Paul
Just Like Heaven Goldfinger
Kiss on my List Hall & Oates
Lovestruck Madness
Clear Spot Pernice Brothers
Waterloo Sunset The Kinks
True Believer Superdrag
Next to You The Police
Turn to You The Go-Gos
I'm Gonna Love You Too Blondie
Never Stop (Discotheque) Echo & the Bunnymen
Wuthering Heights White Flag
Twilight Time The Platters
You Make My Dreams Hall & Oates
Silly Girl Descendents
Hold Me Fleetwood Mac
Round & Round Paul Weller
Into the Mystic Van Morrison
I Scare Myself Thomas Dolby
B-A-B-Y Rachel Sweet
We're the Replacements They Might Be Giants
Lucky Number Lene Lovich
Girls Like Me Bonnie Hayes
Rio Duran Duran
You Make Me Weird Al Yankovic
Could it be I'm Falling in Love The Spinners
True Cary Brothers
It's Tricky Run DMC
Hungry Like the Wolf Reel Big Fish

Did it work?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Irish Times review of "Norton Folgate"

This is my reaction to a review of the new Madness album. Raise your hand if you've stopped reading this already.
First, here's the review.
Yes, they love it. And I really really like it. So what's the problem? I don't think they really understand the band.
One quote that annoyed me was this:
"With their trademark ska sound and quirky humour replaced by a theatrical music-hall feel and lyrics that require a reference book in order to decipher them"
Yes, they've always exhibited "quirky humour," but that "theatrical music-hall feel" was there almost from the beginning, prevalent in 1980's Absolutely, their second album, and it seems to me as much a part of their "trademark sound" as two-tone ska.
The other irksome thing is the "top five Madness moments." Choosing "Sugar and Spice" over such landmarks as Madstock '92 and albums like "Seven" is taking living in the moment too far. I hope it gets people to support the new single, but come on people! Srsly?
I think the problem is actually that Madness were too popular in the UK in the 80s. It makes them seem cheesy over there. Instead of going "Who?" when they hear Madness invoked, Brits tend to go, "Ugh. We're too cool for that shit now. We have to listen to whiny weasels who sound like chalk on a blackboard." At least that's my perception. So all the reviews of this album are just pleas to take the band seriously. But to my mind they were always to be taken seriously. Maybe it's because their darker sensibilities were sort of snuck in under the peppy music. Now I'm not the first to say this, but ska/reggae has always done that anyway; listen to the lyrics of any of those songs and any humor you find is as dark as it gets. Just because Madness weren't as obviously "political" or "subversive" as the Specials doesn't mean they were just a bunch of silly gits.
This is one rambling mess. Anyone who's read this far has certainly gotten my point by now. I'll shut up.

Here's my first post

I had pretty much stopped using my old WordPress blog because tweeting and facebooking were taking up all my time. But when I found myself wanting to rant a little about a review of the new Madness album, I realized no one over on Facebook gives a shit. I guess no one will anyway, but now I have a blog for people to ignore. Yay!!