Ranking Elvis Costello’s ‘Girls Girls Girls’

A compilation spanning a remarkable ten years that mixes the leering and the luminous, Girls Girls Girls has the same relationship to its artist as Neil Young’s Decade: an omnibus, to borrow a literary term, in which castoffs mingle with album tracks and singles to give a rounder portrait of the artist than a conventionalContinue reading “Ranking Elvis Costello’s ‘Girls Girls Girls’”

‘Extraction’ is the worst example of COVID-19 entertainment

Extraction has a scene in which a henchman of a Bengali drug lord hurls a child off a roof. I had to mention this fact early in the review to give readers an idea of what to expect from this Netflix-distributed film, available for streaming as of last week. Grim, plodding, and without a dropContinue reading “‘Extraction’ is the worst example of COVID-19 entertainment”

Ranking Funkadelic’s ‘Music for Your Mother’

To glance at these singles is to mourn the sponginess of the top forty for most of the 1970s. “One Nation Under a Groove,” Funkadelic’s first crossover, peaked at #28 for heaven’s sake. No room for the croak called “I’ll Bet You.” No room for the tightness of “Cosmic Slop” (its biggest exposure? A SeasonContinue reading “Ranking Funkadelic’s ‘Music for Your Mother’”

Making do: Coronoavirus update #18

Papers graded. Grades filed. With the semester over, I face about a dozen days of semi-leisure, finessing the Canvas shells of the two courses I’ll teach during what my university calls Summer A (i.e. May to mid June). That these courses were already online-intended before the pandemic eases my stress. So does finishing my secondContinue reading “Making do: Coronoavirus update #18”

Ranking the Smiths’ ‘Louder Than Bombs’

Insistent on his right to belong, Morrissey brought the fight to the bullies, homophobes, and squares who hadn’t read Oscar Wilde, exposing himself as a bully and a square. This is the trajectory of his career from Smiths frontman to solo artist; in the band he and Johnny Marr led, he contented himself with hearingContinue reading “Ranking the Smiths’ ‘Louder Than Bombs’”

Ranking Muriel Spark’s novels

The star of the Anglo-Irish miniatures who dominated English fiction, Muriel Spark populated her novels and stories with petty tyrants, garrulous frauds, scheming pettifoggers, and duped followers. In the years after WWII, this made sense. I discovered her in 2008 and haven’t looked back. She’s an acerbic delight. Although my records show I’ve read TheContinue reading “Ranking Muriel Spark’s novels”

Fifteen high school albums I still enjoy

The following albums remain special because they were whim purchases, the result of discovering SPIN’s review section. In some cases it led to curiosity about their work (Robyn Hitchcock); most remain terrific one-offs which still provide pleasure (Peter Murphy, Blue Aeroplanes). I have no idea what inspired me to buy Circle of One — lingeringContinue reading “Fifteen high school albums I still enjoy”

Ranking Madonna’s album closers

The only reason “Love Makes the World Go Round” isn’t in The Hague has something to do with Madonna’s conviction that love does, as her beats and innately rhythmic melodic lines attest. The rest of her last songs range from supernal confidence in one’s ability to hold attention to the end (“Take a Bow”) andContinue reading “Ranking Madonna’s album closers”

The cold hard floor of facts: Coronavirus update #17

Grateful for South Florida’s first rainstorm of 2020 yesterday afternoon, I put the kettle on and watched the movie of our times again. No question but that Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975) functions as a mirror. The late Chantal Akerman’s 200-minute film follows the eponymous character (played by Delphine Seyrig) as sheContinue reading “The cold hard floor of facts: Coronavirus update #17”

Ranking Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’

Released in July 1997, Radiohead’s third album coincided with the rise of fan boys equipped to use AOL chat rooms to marshal support for a suite of grunting, in places intentionally misshapen songs that delineated a dystopia few were seeing, pre-millennium tension notwithstanding. I lived in London that summer, and I’d hear “Paranoid Android” inContinue reading “Ranking Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’”

This abiding now: COVID-19 Playlist

Chromosomally incapable of kicking it with a stack of US Magazines, I picked up The Magic Mountain again after two decades. Thomas Mann’s cinder block of a novel traces the deterioration of a thoroughly average engineer when he visits a consumptive half cousin at a Swiss sanitarium. He intends to stay three weeks; he diesContinue reading “This abiding now: COVID-19 Playlist”

Ranking Lou Reed’s album openers

Apart from the blaring version of “I Can’t Stand It” on his solo debut, the opening tracks on Lou Reed’s albums function as orchestral fanfare before The Big Show; whether it’s Street Hassle‘s “Gimme Some Good Times” or Sally Can’t Dance‘s “Ride Sally Ride,” these tracks explain things without going into much detail.