Sunday, November 14, 2004

Back Issue 2 (7.21.2004)

GIRISH PICKS- the man himself
by Girish Shambu

Nellie McKay’s a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who made her first album this year. As if to contrast with Norah Jones’s delicate debut CD Come Away With Me, Nellie’s debut is hilariously titled….Get Away From Me! And it’s a beaut.

Nellie is precocious, eccentric, and eclectic—she has been described (if you can imagine this) as a cross between Doris Day and Eminem. The sound on her album ranges from cabaret jazz and folk to hard-grooving rap.

Remember how I said she was eccentric? Well, to illustrate, here’s Nellie, transcribed from a recent interview, in all seriousness: “I'm doing a song on my next album about gay marriage, and, oh my God, I want the video to be full of every gay celebrity there is. I want to collaborate with Yoko Ono. I'd love to do a duet with Pink. There are so many people that do things better than I do: dancing, singing like a black girl, singing country. Or if, while they sing, they move their arms in and around their crotch; when I sing, I play the piano and look like a little choirgirl….” She goes on like that for a while, it’s quite funny.

But seriously, I like her CD--it's goofy and sweet and peppered with syncopated profanity. And do get the parental advisory version--it's funnier.

ISN’T IT INTERESTING?- wit and stuff
by Melissa Marsherall

Isn’t it interesting how we all joke about working at McDonalds for the rest of our lives after graduating college, then we graduate and get jobs that would make McDonalds look like paradise to a man in hell?

I blame it on Jan Van Eyck. For those of you not familiar with Jan, shame on you. He was a famous sitcom character who set the world on fire in the 1960’s with his humorous depiction of family life. Oh wait, excuse me. That was Dick Van Dyke. Jan Van Eyck was the most influential Flemish painter of the 1400’s. Jan is most famous for his use of disguised symbolism, which is when realistic objects in his paintings often have a deeper meaning (such as when he depicts a dog peeing on a tree he is not only trying to express the fact that the dog is peeing, but the fact that the dog is peeing ON the tree. Genius).

Anyway, I blame Jan for two reasons. One is that he has one of those names (like Pat) that is bi-gendered, meaning that when you are addressing a cover letter to Jan Van Eyck you never know if you should begin “Dear Mr. Van Eyck” or “Dear Ms. Van Eyck” so you give up all together and never send your resume to most companies at all.

The second reason I blame Jan is that he uses so much “symbolism” that we have entire college courses based on “symbolism” and pretty soon we’re studying so much “symbolism” that we never get to the good stuff, like common sense. It turns out that thanks to my liberal arts education I can turn anything into a metaphysical symbol for life, love, and religion, but I can’t count to twelve. It’s a mystery.

So I will dedicate the rest of my life to finding ways to be successful without having to do any major “counting” or even “working.” I am vaguely optimistic about this task, mostly because my friend and mentor Peter Burakowski is also a supporter of what my parents call “total bullshit” and “lack of a work ethic.” It’s not that we don’t have a work ethic people. We just want to conserve it for when it’s really necessary, such as when we’re on the beach in the Mediterranean and we need to awaken at a certain time in order to make the port call.

Pete and I have come up with a lot of nifty ideas for “self-starter” companies that will require little capital and yield large returns. Of course, I’m not going to share them with anyone, because then you would steal them and try to make what could be a very successful prostitution or baby factory monopolies into a competitive marketplace, and we wouldn’t want that, would we now?

So what can we do until our entrepreneurial spirits hit the big time? One of two things. We can wallow in misery and complain about how much we hate Corporate America until we get put on the FBI’s most wanted corporate terrorists list. Or we could spend our time doing something much more productive, such as trying to cram attendance at as many Shambu concerts this summer as is physically possible, then kicking back and enjoying a few adult beverages with our friends and family. We’ve earned it, right?

Stay tuned for the next installment of “Isn’t It Interesting: The Post-College Years” where I will expose the scandals surrounding the coffee creamer container of the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. Until then, stay warm and dry this winter, er, I mean, summer.

NEW & USED- albums that are fresh, regardless of their release date
by Peter Burakowski

New: The Avalanches, Since I Left You (Reissued)
I’m not a big fan of techno music. I like to get my groove on like every other Chuck or Stu, but I usually need a home base of lyrics to return to. And really, I don’t ask for that much when it comes to the words in dance tunes- the song could refer to ghetto bling that is painfully beyond my understanding and I’ll still pump my gangly arms and stork legs all over the place. But if the DJ sneaks in a techno tune, I’ll stand there stunned.

So, why is it that I love the recently reissued 2001 recording Since I Left You by The Avalanches? Well, the star of this Aussie outfit, DJ Dexter, understands that disco is king of the, um, disco. He bypasses the hyper, synthetic drumbeats of many of his peers and calls forth vintage dancefloor material that will have you slipping in the shower or nearly mowing down a runner with your car (ok, maybe I should have been paying better attention, but you try not to dance/drive during “Close to You,” when the band samples a group called Kid Creole and the Coconuts).

Even when not borrowing directly from existing material, The Avalanches embody the spirit of the 1970s, as evident in the delightful bounce of “Live at Dominoes” or the unashamed silkiness of “Summer Crane,” and there’s no question of the neo-authenticity within the ecstatic female hoot/screams of “Radio” or the P-Funk-worthy bass line of “Electricity.”

Since I left You’s most intriguing track is “Frontier Psychiatrist,” a delicious aural collage, constructed of bizarre and obscure sound bits. The brilliance of the song exists in its emotional complexity, as the band layers and arranges a hip-hop beat and fun, witty clips over the top of foreboding horns and a mournful choir. It’s kind of like being the last one to be caught in a game of outdoor nighttime hide-n-seek. You’re filled with the excitement that you haven’t been found, but then a feeling starts to creep in that you’ve been forgotten and left behind. The video for this tune is incredible (it won all sorts of awards in Europe and Australia) and you can find it in streaming format at:

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