Prince in my apartment: A scene

[Prince] attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall, and, like his fellow-[Jehovah’s] Witnesses, he leaves his gated community from time to time to knock on doors and proselytize. “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it,” he said.

The New Yorker, Nov. 24, 2008

Prince in my apartment

A scene

10 in the morning on a cold November Saturday in Wisconsin. The interior of a sparsely decorated but clean apartment is seen. Mount Eerie’s “Lost Wisdom” plays softly in the background. Jerry (bespeckled and semi-clean) enters stage left with coffee and a sugar bun. He is a thirty-year-old male slightly balding, but with great pecs and glutes. He sits down on a big seemingly comfortable chair and carefully arranges his sugar bun and coffee on the table next to the chair. He picks up a severely dog-eared copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing and settles in for a good late morning read.

A loud definitive knock at the door is heard.  Jerry ignores the knock, ensconced in comfort as he is. A single knock is heard again. Jerry looks up. Silence. He returns to his book.  A slow persistent knocking begins. Jerry jumps up clearly annoyed and goes to the door. He looks through the peephole. He steps back, clearly confused. The knocking continues.

JERRY Wha? [Jerry opens the door. Prince enters, pads into the kitchen. Prince is a small fifty-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha. ]

PRINCE [Prince’s voice is surprisingly deep, like that of a much larger man.] Would you like something to eat?

JERRY Aren’t you Prince?

PRINCE [Opens refrigerator, pulls out a bag of carrots and begins to chop.] Who eye really am only time will tell/ 2 the almighty life 4ce that grows stronger with every chorus/ Yes give praise, lest ye b among the guilty ones

JERRY Hi, Prince. Why are you in my apartment?

PRINCE [Puts a pot of water on the stove.] I wanted to be around people, connected to people, for work.

JERRY Gr8.

PRINCE You know, it’s all about religion. That’s what unites people here. They all have the same religion, so I wanted to sit down with them, to understand the way they see things, how they read Scripture.

JERRY I don’t really read Scripture. Mainly just Cormac McCarthy books these days. I think I read them better than that munch at Paste. Are you converting people?

PRINCE  [Returns to the kitchen preparations.] I don’t see it really as a conversion. More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’

JERRY Okay. So you’re Morpheus?

PRINCE [Pauses. Blankly stares through Jerry.]

JERRY I don’t have food processor anymore, if that’s what you’re looking for. 

PRINCE [Limping slightly, Prince sets off on a walk around the apartment. Sound of platform flip flops are heard. ]

JERRY Hey, did you see that Sarah Palin turkey interview?

PRINCE  So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this. [Prince points to a Bible he pulls out from under his bulky sweater.] But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.

JERRY I don’t think that describe them very good.

PRINCE God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’

JERRY Kinda like what I was halfway through watching Graffiti Bridge

PRINCE [Tilts his head as if to hear better, geisha-like.]

JERRY That’s the new Mount Eerie album you’re hearing.

PRINCE People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching.

JERRY I don’t think Phil Elverum is doing that well. Hey, is that story Eddie Murphy’s brother told on the Dave Chapelle Show true?

PRINCE [Pauses. Blankly stares through Jerry. Licks finger. Speaks. ] I throw a lot of parties.

Later, in the dining room, Prince is eating a bowl of carrot soup in the big seemingly comfortable chair. Jerry is sitting on the couch opposite. While Prince speaks, Jerry slowly removes his glasses and closes his eyes as if in pain.  Jerry slowly massages the bridge of his nose between in thumb and forefinger while shaking his head.

PRINCE There was this woman. She used to come to Paisley Park and just sit outside on the swings.

JERRY You had swings?

PRINCE [Prince continues.] So I went out there one day and I was, like, ‘Hey, all my friends in there say you’re a stalker. And that I should call the police. But I don’t want to do that, so why don’t you tell me what you want to happen. Why are you here? How do you want this to end?’ And she didn’t really have an answer for that. In the end, all she wanted was to be seen, for me to look at her. And she left and didn’t come back.

JERRY I was really hoping to get some reading done this morning.

PRINCE [Sets his empty soup bowl on top of the Cormac McCarthy book.] I’m really proud of this. [Prince gets up, limps slightly while he pads around and exits through the apartment door that is still open. Jerry remains on the couch, still rubbing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. Sound of platform flip flops slowly fades.]

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Paste has become a terrible magazine

Over my 3 year subscription to Paste Magazine, this year I’ve watched it fall from its status of an enlightened Entertainment Weekly  to becoming as vapid as Entertainment Weekly, but without the topicality or access. They also now take about 8 minutes to read cover-to-cover.

First, there was the layout change. If used to be staid, at least it made sense. Now it looks like the half-assed product of a coked-up student-run high school newspaper that hasn’t yet learned exactly to use its new layout program.

Second, there’s what they said about Cormac McCarthy.

Nihilism is now so universally confused with profundity that even the serious literary establishment can’t see that Cormac McCarthy is really just Stephen King without the entertainment value.

What!?! This is more wrongheaded than calling Marcel Proust just a scribomanic shut-in or Moby Dick just an unfocused travelogue.

And now, its annual top 25 list. Strike 3, I’m done.

My Mourning Jacket’s Evil Urges at 16? Of Montreal’s Skeletal Lamping at 12! Hold Steady’s Stay Positive at 11!?! Okkervil River’s The Stand Ins at 5???

These are all great bands and decent albums, but these are not their best efforts. And compared to best efforts that don’t even rank (Frightened Rabbit! The Kills! Thao! King Kahn! Wolf Parade! The Ruby Suns! Vivian Girls! Lambchop! Black Mountain! The Dodos! Mount Eerie!) makes it all the more apparent the Paste staff got lazy and gave out some easy passes to these typical end-of-the-year listmakers.

And Girl Talk at 7!!! Is some kind of statement? Do these people even like music?

Even though I hate it, I’m expecting high rankings for the Jar Jar Binks of Indie Rock. So no surprise they show up at 3. Whatever.

Then, She and Him…the album of the year?!!? Sure, it’s easily likeable, so maybe it was easy to build consensus. But they’re the Alan Thicke of Indie Rock: blandly handsome. Try not getting bored after 4 spins. Compare with Bon Iver (#4) or Deerhunter (#10) and it’s not even in the same league. And shouldn’t Zooey Deschanel pay for the The Happening?

Plus, the Reigning Sound may still put out an album this year. No accounting for that possibility whatsoever.

I throw up my hands, Paste. If I can still name my price for a subscription, I want all my exclamation points back.

Best Overdue Medical Payment Evasion Tactics: Part 1

I’m getting hit with some weird medical bills that should have been covered by my insurance. I’ll be looking for creative ways to dodge these bills.

Here’s the first tactic that I think I’ll test drive.

Jerry Grit’s Year in Albums #11: October

“Rocktober”? More like “You-bought-too-many-damn-albums-again-Eric-Jerry-tober.”

Here we go, in no particular order…

  • Lambchop – OH (ohio)I’m sure there are states less deserving of a Lambchop album associated with them, but you could probably count them on your fingers. I can’t imagine this unsurprisingly excellent collection of mellow and interesting orchestrations supporting wry and wise observational lyrics will get much play in Canton or Lorain. But then again, this band—one of the best and underrated in existence—also did an album called Nixon, who is perhaps the Ohio of U.S. Presidents. You embrace your inspirations from wherever they spring. And as mundane and ridiculous and depressing as this state, this album is just as worthwhile.
  • Lambchop – What Another Man Spills OH (ohio) reminded me how much I love Lambchop. I have their last 5. Why not their 6? And again, it’s awesome. They potentially have the most solid back catalogue eva, although apparently I have 5 more to go in order to make this claim true. Same mellow “countrypolitan” or whatever you call the sound they invented. Some funk experimentation here, which I’ll allow but I’m happy they they no longer indulge.
  • Blitzen Trapper – Furr [Before the show…] I don’t think I like these guys. They seem to combine bad parts of the Beatles and Wilco, which really aren’t that bad, on the great scale of badness. But then there’s this touch of Tom Petty and that Skynard-southern-rock-thing, which tips the scales. And I think there’s a line about a “midget waiting for a midnight train” and “playing air guitar.” “Black River Killer” is further proof to my longheld thesis that indie bands should steer clear of murder ballads. I like the opener, though, and “Furr.” I like parts of half the songs here. Girl Talk could turn this into a wicked 3-song EP. [After the show…] Okay, fine. This is pretty awesome. The album is synergistic to their live performance, which isn’t as normal as it should be. That midget song still stinks, though.
  • Bound Stems – The Family Afloat Competent indie pop from Chicago. I think one of the guys went to my school, so any clear-eyed assessment is mired by a mix of alumni jingoism and envy. But I think some of the lyrics get a little too earnest.
  • Brightblack Morning Light – Motion To Rejoin Bluesy, slow, gospel-y. Kinda hippy-dippy, but to be expected from these tent-dwellers. Won’t set the world on fire, but sets a nice mood.
  • Clem Snide – End Of Love Last (?) album from Eef Barzelay’s great band. It’s good, but not as good as previous albums and the solo stuff he’s put out since. Seems like a good decision he made to move on.
  • Colleen – Les Ondes Silencieuses A few albums I buy a month are devoted to the purely functional purpose of drowning out my college-era neighbors with interesting but unintrusive sounds…I now understand why old people sit on their porches with shotguns. These cello-centered modernist (?) compositions do a nice job. Don’t know too much about this field to have a real opinion, though. Sounds good to me…on my rocking chair…with my shotgun. Damn kids. 
  • Damien Jurado – Caught In The Trees Lyrically, it doesn’t stray too far from Damien’s usual cheery themes of murder, failure, betrayal, shooting betrayers, etc. However, the sound is much more upbeat. With the drums, female vocal help, and some other instruments, he has created my favorite Damien Jurado album, all while doing songs that convey a deep suspicion or about doing songs. A lot of standouts here.  Canon-bound.
  • Department of Eagles – In Ear Park The Grizzly Bear guy does it again. Not as complex as Grizzly Bear, and I think it’s to the album’s benefit.
  • Flight of the Conchords – Flight of the Conchords I don’t think this stands so well without reference to the show. That said, if you know the show, it’s pretty great to have “Bowie” or “Inner City Pressure” come up in one’s shuffle as a way to recall the dead-on spoof videos from the show.
  • High Places – High Places More sing-songy fragments. Her drowned-out vocals are nicely complemented by his sharp rhythms. No conventional songs, exactly, to ever really get excited/pumped/moved by. Can’t imagine how you would experience this live. Your hands probably spend most of the time in your pockets. There’s no crowd-surfing at the High Places stage. 
  • Horse Feathers – House With No Home More subtle acoustic thoughtful cello-laden fun. Better than their great first album. For the sensitive Nick Drake-loving types. Who you should all be.
  • Juana Molina – Un Dia Don’t know what she’s doing, where she’s coming from, but I like it. Is this Brazilian? I need to expand my horizons a little more, it seems. Or just move to Brazil. All I know about Brazil is from City of God, so I imagine I’ll end up getting shot by a 5-year-old.
  • Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson This song “Buriefied” I had off a sampler kept catching me. I also don’t know anything about this guy either (it was a month of rolling the dice!), but it sounds like he’s coming out of his skin. It’s unhinged acoustic folksy rock, but some interesting production gives it a strangeness that differentiates it from the million others of its ilk.
  • Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron, Fred Squire – Lost Wisdom  Really great. Julie Dorion’s vocals make this a pretty special album. And there’s a brilliant use of a Bjork refrain, which comes out of nowhere on this otherwise folky gothic acoustic album. This Microphones/Mount Eerie guy’s kinda hit-or-miss, and he really hits one here. It’s a short and moving album. This one’s heading to the canon.
  • Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping Holy mole, what the hell is this? I’m not ready to throw it under the bus. But it’s no surprise to say it’s no Hissing Fauna. Pardon the glib psychoanalysis, but I imagine it must have been a little traumatic to have been so autobiographical about a break-up with your wife that you reunite with a year or so later. Trying to make amends with the same person you’re singing that you want to pay some other girl to hit must have led to complications. No wonder Mr. Barnes would retreat behind a swinging mystical transsexual persona. However exhaustively bizarre, still a standout for inventiveness. A mix of Prince and Fiery Furnaces.
  • Ponytail – Ice Cream Spiritual Again, what the hell is this? Unhinged lady just scream-skatting hyped dueling guitar rock. I have no idea when I’m supposed to play this. It’s too obnoxious to be appropriate for anything that I do while listening to music. Maybe if I got into coke-binges or knife-fighting, this might be the go-to soundtrack.
  • Portastatic – Bright Ideas Another album from Mac McCaughan’s post-Superchunk band. It’s from 2005. I’m still trying to catch up on all these albums I missed because I though Mac was too busy running Merge to do any more music. But, no. This guy runs a great record label and still puts out the good stuff on his own. This one makes me nostalgic for the Superchunk and some of the songs (“I Wanna Know Girls” especially) ranks with his former band’s best stuff.
  • Ratatat – LP3 Functional guitar/electronica instrumental background music. Part of the “soundtrack” genre. Which again, I know nothing about.
  • Stereolab – Chemical Chords If you’re from Southern Ohio or Central Pennsylvania, or any other part of Real America, then Stereolab is probably way above your Lynard Skynard-loving head. Stalwarts of post-rock from the Continent, they create chill odd lounge-y tunes for Chardonnay swilling at East Coast art openings or for planning terrorist attacks. It’s not much a departure from the last album, but still worthwhile if you’re into this sort of thing.
  • the castanets – City of Refuge Not for everyone, but I’m down with this guy. I would like to write more about this but I am so burnt out from this post. I, too, want to run to a city of refuge. What the heck…you should buy this, though.
  • Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls I listen to this album very early in the morning and it’s been one of my more favorite things this month. They take me back to the early days of Kim and Kelly Deal. By 10am though, my jaded sensibilities take over and I’m bored.

In full disclosure, these were not all the albums I bought this month. I have the new TV on the Radio and Deerhunter just waiting for me to play. But I am so done writing this post. It’s my little birthday gift to myself: a little slack on my self-imposed year-long project. Still feel a little guilty. If only I were so driven about recording albums and starting record labels, I could be like Mac. But no. I blog irregularly. A major reassessment of priorities will take place for 2009.