Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Slow Learner

I am reading 'Slow Learner', the collection of short stories by Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon has become something of an obsession for me, one that Melody indulged by getting me this book for Christmas. My plan is to read all of his books in chronological order. This collection of stories were mostly written before he published 'V.' in 1963 so I am starting here. Once I finish this, it is on to 'V.' which I'll be reading alongside a study guide to make sure I understand it as fully as possible. Then I'll get the study guide for his next and so on until his latest, 'Inherent Vice'.

The idea of being a slow learner hits close to home. Today I feel like I'm in the back of the classroom, not paying attention at the critical moment, missing the crucial information being provided to me, lost in some daydream that is an impassable barrier between my inner life and what I want.

268. Dry - PJ Harvey from 'Rid Of Me'

There are so many entendres in this song I barely know where to begin. Suffice it to say that if PJ Harvey were breaking up with me, I wouldn't want her to be sneering at me and repeating over and over that I leave her dry. Because even though it implies that I'm leaving her, I can't help but suspect it is the other way around. I wish I'd left you wet, PJ.

269. Prove Yourself - Radiohead from 'Pablo Honey'

This album is like 'Omoo' or 'Typee' by Herman Melville. 'Moby Dick' is right around the corner so you don't really have to pay attention.

270. Arroz Con Pollo - Maxwell from 'Embrya'

I have gone through several different Maxwell phases. Right now I am all ears. His is that rare voice that is at once classic and idiosyncratic. Of course, this is an instrumental track, but the slinkiness and sexiness are there just the same. Hearing this today makes me want to go pick up the latest thing he put out. All I know is he cut his hair and was wearing a tux with the bowtie unclipped. This seems like a good career move.

271. When It Started - The Strokes from 'Is This It?'

I cannot extricate my feelings about this band from my feelings about New York City. Terribly painful memories that are beautiful to behold. So linked to a specific time and place that it is as if these songs are a time capsule. Not in a time capsule representative of an era, but a time capsule themselves, containing anything and everything from the era itself.

272. The Fight - Cornelius from 'The Powerpuff Girls: Heroes & Villains'

The Powerpuff Girls are awesome and this song rules.

273. Root Down - The Beastie Boys from 'Ill Communication'

Okay, I will.

274. The Man Who Sold The World - Nirvana from 'MTV: Unplugged In New York'

Right after this song ends, while the audience erupts, Kurt Cobain mutters, "That's a David Bowie song". It is a telling moment. He deliberately chose a more obscure Bowie number, one he must love. He doesn't want the audience thinking he WROTE that song. He thinks they are only clapping for him and that they think he wrote it. Which many of them probably did. But he also didn't say beforehand, "I love this David Bowie track. Maybe you never heard it but here is my take on it." There is something weirdly passive aggressive going on there, judgmental and angry. He has contempt for that crowd. And that, more than anything, is what makes him so fascinating. The simultaneous beckoning and rejecting of a massive wave of adulation that he asked for.

275. Penny (Previously Unreleased) - Terry Reid from 'Superlungs ('69)'

Oh Terry. If only you'd had a great band. Like, say, Led Zeppelin.

276. Complicated Shadows - Elvis Costello from 'All This Useless Beauty'

Odd that Elvis will forever be linked with Tony Soprano through this song. This album consists of songs meant to be sung by someone else. But no one else could have nailed this quite so perfectly.

277. Broken Home, Broken Heart - Husker Du from 'Zen Arcade'

It's hard being a punk rock hardcore gay guitar hero in the early 1980's in Minneapolis.

278. Czar - Frank Black from 'Frank Black'

The songs on this album seem like tiny bits of coal right on the verge of transforming into diamonds. The grit is giving way to flash and beauty but it's all happening at once.

279. Mr Ynioshi - Oranj Symphonette from 'Plays Mancini'

I want this band to play at my wedding.

280. The Finest Joke Is Upon Us - Guided By Voices from 'Mag Earwhig!'

Fitting that I began today's post talking about Pynchon because if there is anyone in music who has taken up that kind of mantle, it would be Robert Pollard. Those two need to get together and demolish some beers and old-fashioned ways of thinking.

281. Alberta - Leadbelly from 'Alabama Bound'

The first rock star.

282. Johnny Sunshine - Liz Phair from 'Exile In Guyville'

The liner notes of this album look like a Facebook page. Pictures that cut off right at the edge of her tits, fake blow-job face, slutty come-on that is sexy because it isn't for anyone else but herself. Slowly coming to believe that she towers over everyone else.

283. Bamboo (Interlude) - Big Boi from 'Speakerboxxx'

Big Boi teaches his son to rap. So cute.

284. Sometimes - My Bloody Valentine from 'Lost In Translation'

These guys are like the Holy Grail of rock, only they are easy to find.

285. Truth Or Dare (feat. Kelis & Pusha T) - N*E*R*D from 'In Search Of...'

I had such high hopes for N*E*R*D, which supposedly stands for 'No-one Ever Really Dies'. No-one who can afford serious bling and bitches anyway.

286. Superhero - Ani DiFranco from 'Dilate'

See the above post about Liz Phair. Ani has all the attributes that Liz does not. She can really play guitar. She takes herself seriously. She can make stuff sound pristine on her self-produced albums. In short, she's like the teacher's pet. Everything is in place but she ISN'T ANY GOD DAMN FUN.

I'll be seeing you in all the old familiar faces.

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