Monthly Archives: July 2011

Happy Sunday

Someday Robert Plant’s solo albums will get the reassessment they deserve; hell, maybe I’ll attempt it. To his immense credit, his peripatetic spirit welcomed spacious, wet keyboard arabesques like “Big Log” and “Ship of Fools.” When he felt like it he created post-Zep hoarse-rock like “Burning On One Side.” Sometimes he mixed the two (“Tall Cool One”). Very occasionally he studied those contemporary acts that he’d impressed reporters by mentioning (Visage! Big Black! Tom Verlaine!) and coughed up something so unexpected that to this day no one but Chuck Eddy takes seriously. I wish YouTube carried 1985’s “Too Loud,” a righteous, endlessly weird amalgam of Plant’s sneer, record scratching from the South Bronx, serious guitar riffage out of “Rock Box,” and a Near Eastern melody treated and warped by the latest in synth technology. “Little By Little,” also from Shaken ‘n’ Stirred isn’t as good, but it’s a strong hint.

Uneasy prophets: Jonah

The Book of J, Harold Bloom’s most rewarding book, posits an Old Testament god as petulant and erratic as any Olympian. Yahweh isn’t a god you worship: he’s a god you collude with or outsmart. Along those lines, I liked today’s NYT blog post about Jonah, his favorite book in the Bible. The great critic Randall Jarrell agreed: forty years ago he included Jonah in his anthology Book of Stories.

Singles 7/29

An odd week, punctuated by the death Martin Skidmore, one our longest serving and best writers. Such an odd week, actually, that Gililan Welch beat Beyoncé.

All scores based on a ten-point scale. Click on links for full reviews.

Gillian Welch – The Way It Is (7)
The Good Natured – Skeletons (6)
The Horrors – Still Life (6)
Beyoncé – Best Thing I Never Had (6)
Wild Flag – Romance (6)
Zack Brown Band ft. Jimmy Buffett – Knee Deep (5)
Selena Gomez and The Scene – Love You Like A Love Song (4)
Lady Antebellum – Just a Kiss (4)
David Guetta ft. Taio Cruz & Ludacris – Little Bad Girl (1)
Down With Webster – She’s Dope (0)

That naughty “fiscally responsible” centrism

The first paragraph of Elizabeth Drew’s article in the current The New York Review of Books clears the rubble:

Someday people will look back and wonder, What were they thinking? Why, in the midst of a stalled recovery, with the economy fragile and job creation slowing to a trickle, did the nation’s leaders decide that the thing to do—in order to raise the debt limit, normally a routine matter—was to spend less money, making job creation all the more difficult? Many experts on the economy believe that the President has it backward: that focusing on growth and jobs is more urgent in the near term than cutting the deficit, even if such expenditures require borrowing. But that would go against Obama’s new self-portrait as a fiscally responsible centrist.

I can’t wait to update this post in a couple of days!

Ground control to Major Jake: Source Code

Source Code is shorter, fleeter, and better acted than Inception, but still boasts an absurd time-warp plot that mixes Groundhog Day, Donnie Darko, and Philip K. Dick, which counts for creativity these days. Darko darkling Jake Gyllenhaal plays a soldier who, mortally injured in combat, is exploited by glowering government officials (embodied by Jeffrey Wright, in crutches and with a Dr. Strangelove-ian malice) who have almost mastered the art of teleporting or whatever an agent into situations in which terrorists kill civilians. Gyllenhaal is condemned to solve the same crime — somebody blows up a train en route to Chicago — ad infinitum. The gimmick also involves substitution, as Gyllenhaal realizes he’s stuck in the body of a history teacher named Sean stuck flirting awkwardly with his girlfriend (Michelle Monaghan). Duncan Jones, who directed the antiseptic Moon, has an eye for sardonic comedy and the kind of editing which gives each scene its appropriate weight. Gyllenhaal, eyes so comically large they’re like a special effect, does his best acting since Brokeback Mountain whenever he must emote against the blue screen on which Vera Farmiga, blue eyes a-twinkle, directs his activities. Jones compensates for not figuring out what the hell is going on by ending the movie just over the ninety-minute mark — and as unsatisfactorily as Minority Report‘s.