Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Brian Wilson's Smile is so, so, SO not the album of the year it isn't funny, but it is really good--a lot better than it has any right to be, really, and that's even if you take away all the attendant hype. Oh, who am I kidding--this is the most impossible-to-hear-through-the-hype album ever made, because aside from loads of outtakes, hype is all it's really ever been. I've always liked Paul Williams' contention that the 31 minutes' of stuff on disc two of the Good Vibrations box set--he called it "Child of Smile"--worked just fine as an alternate version, and that's probably better than this, though I haven't (yet) A-B'ed them. But the fact is that this kind of thing has been done by loads of people subsequently--it's at the root of all sampladelic albums, and indeed the Avalanches' Since I Left You sounds like its culmination to me. In fact, I'd say the Avalanches made not just the modern equivalent of Smile, they made the album Smile was always meant to be, minus the Americana and vocal-chorale stuff, or at least their more overt aspects. Instead we get beats and pan-global partyism, which I'm at least as down for, probably more.

Nevertheless, I like this new version of Smile a lot, not least because Wilson's falsetto remains intact (his midrange is iffier, but even that's surprisingly together, and once the surprise recedes it can still stand up to the material and/or other voices in the ensemble), but because the sound of it fits--it's a bit beefier than it would have been in '67, which is fine--and because finally, FINALLY, there is a decently recorded version of "Surf's Up." The version on the 1971 album of that title is damn near unlistenable (as is the album as a whole) thanks to the find-your-way-out murk of the production, but here it's both dark and clear, and that first soprano (?) harmony on "Columnated ruins domino" ranks with the most heart-stopping things I've heard this year.

So, yay, it's done, and it's good. Now let's move on, shall we?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Some of you may recall a period earlier this year when I was undergoing a bunch of health problems. Well, happy days are here again, apparently. After a wonderful week in NYC (about which more later, I promise-slash-hope), I began experiencing trouble last Tuesday. That morning, I was staying with Geeta; see, eMusic.com, the website whose relaunch party I was in town to participate in, had given me two nights in a hotel--the Tribeca Grand, talk about your schwankety schwank. In the subway with G--she going to work, me going to check in--my lower back began hurting. Weird, I think--maybe I put too much pressure on my tailbone by slump-sitting. After awhile, I checked into the hotel, brought my stuff to my room, only to find that I can't sit down comfortably. I've had problems like this before but can't quite figure it out. Later that night, a bunch of NYC friends and I gathered in the TriGrand lounge area, having drinks. (eMusic had kindly sent a nice bottle of wine, which we devoured.) I went up to my room to use the bathroom and noticed that the problem wasn't my lower back--it was a largeish lump on the top part of my butt, which is the source of the pain. Suddenly I remember that my sister Brittany, around Christmas last year, had a cyst in the same location--and that it was infected and needed to be drained, then lanced. I began to think I had the same thing.

After two nights in the TriGrand that I have difficulty sleeping through, I flew home to Seattle. Luckily for me, I'm the only person seated in my airplane row, so I was actually able to catch some sleep, laying on my side--the seat-backs providing support so I didn't slump to one side or another. (Right: I couldn't sleep in a king-sized bed in one of the nicest hotels in NYC but was able to get some shut-eye on an airplane.) After getting back home, I went to work, started getting things done, and after two and a half hours couldn't take it anymore. I taxied to a hospital, and they diagnosed me pretty much immediately with a pilonidal cyst--the same thing my sister had. It's basically an abcess. I was prescribed Vicodin for the pain and Ciprofloxacin, an antibacterial medicine. Over the next 40 hours or so, I took many of the pills, particularly the Vicodin, which on Friday essentially rendered me a zombie. I fell asleep at my desk three times, and took two unplanned naps on couches at the office, during office hours. Almost astonishingly, I got my entire section edited and the art taken care of despite these setbacks. But I spent most of Friday asleep or in a waking dream, feeling like a cottonball, thanks to the Vicodin.

Yesterday--Saturday--I woke up at 9 a.m. and felt a lot clearer-headed and energetic; also less in pain. I went to the bathroom; it turns out that the cyst had opened up, and I called an ambulance and went to ER again. They opened it up with an X-acto knife and then opened some of the inner walls w/scissors. This all hurt about as much as you'd expect it to, but it was also a tremendous relief--a lot of the pain was due to the amount of pressure the infection had caused, and cutting it up and letting it out diminished this a tremendous amount. (There was a LOT of pus there. I'll spare you further detail aside from saying the infection is extremely disgusting.) Once they'd drained as much as they could, they filled the pocket with gauze and sent me home. After a stopoff at the Capitol Hill Internet Cafe, where I had some cereal, I went home and stayed there all day and night; my roommate kindly picked up some chicken teriyaki from a nearby takeout place and sat and gabbed with me for a few hours before going to bed, and I called a couple people. But I didn't feel like going out, despite this weekend being rammed with great shows--tons of No Vote Left Behind events, the Decibel Festival, the Ex playing at two locations last night. My body chooses to act up against my being at the least opportune times.

I went back to ER this morning, and in about ten minutes from check in to check out, they took the gauze out, refilled it with clean gauze, and sent me on my way. This process will repeat until it's healed up--according to my sister Brittany, about a week. I have to go in every morning for it. But I can sit, I can lay on my back, I can walk around comfortably, I can do normal shit, though I'm gonna chill at home as much as I can till it's all healed up. Only thing is: I have to wear a (no kidding) tampon, on my ass, until this thing is over. Ladies, you will never ever ever have anything less than 100% of my sympathy regarding this particular piece of cotton finery again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

This is one reason I haven't blogged much lately. I'm pretty happy w/it, though, so it's a tradeoff, right? (So's this and this, not to mention this, which costs $1.95 for you to read, unfortunately--though along w/the Fantagraphics and absinthe covers I'd say it's the best thing I've done this year. Up to you, then.)

Matt, we missed you!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Sasha and J. Shepherd go out and have the bestest time ever, damn near. Fuck, now I'm saying "bestest." Must avoid internet for awhile. Oh wait--I'm going to Portland this weekend to visit and see shows w/my man Mark Baumgarten--that's a good way to do it.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Competition to be proud of and worried about: Andy Kellman's running 2004 best-ofs.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

English press in barely listening, head-up-ass shockah.

Having never heard Rilo Kiley--the older stuff never made its way to me, and the new More Adventurous arrived in the handy-dandy copy-protected-not-to-play-on-my-computer format, meaning I'll never get to hear it, period, unless I acquire it a different way--I figured I'd be the first to make Keith's backlash dreams come true by description alone: woo-hoo, L.A. indie band that used to label with Conor fucking Oberst, subject of the most obtuse review pitch I've ever received from a writer with actual talent and a Christgau description that makes its lead cut sound like the worst piece of self-consciously laborious bullshit ever recorded. (The way he describes those "11-line verse[s] about . . . executions, and pardons that never come from the man 'upstairs'" makes it sound like Anticon at its k-lamest.) But that was before this weekend, specifically Sunday, when I took a break from Bumbershoot with my friends Jen, Martin, and Brian to eat and go record shopping at Easy Street. There, they played More Adventurous and the "I'm bad news" one pricked up my ears. Don't know the title offhand and I don't recall the rest as fondly (hey, Keith, you forgot "uneven"), but that one'll be on my year-end C700 for sure, which makes me not just glad but relieved. Can't get it off the copy they sent me, though. Hmmm--maybe I'll download it.