Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Eleventh Dream Day and the Lowbrow Reader.
Listed: Eleventh Dream Day + The Lowbrow Reader
Eleventh Dream Day
Pre-dating all trends and icons come and gone through Chicago's storied musical history, Eleventh Dream Day have been both a rock upon which one can always count on, and a hub from which much of the 'scene' radiates. Known, unfortunately, as Chicago's favorite almost-weres, Dream Day may have slowed down, but they've never stopped performing, and to the surprise of even Chicagoans, never stopped recording. Their last studio release was 2000's Stalled Parade, followed by an exciting all-out rerelease of seminal recording Prairie School Freakout, Eleveth Dream Day (still comprised of Rick Rizzo, Doug McCombs, and Janet Bean) is back with a brand new record, Zeroes and Ones on their trusty old label - Thrill Jockey. Rocker Rizzo shared his thoughts for this week's Listed.
1. Neko Case - "Hold On Hold On" and The New Pornographers - "The Bleeding Heart Show"
The former is what comes to mind when I think of the word "timeless". The production and overall sound of this amazing song make it familiar to any decade since the fifties. On the New P's song, Neko makes you wish the end had no end.
2. John Fante - Ask the Dust
I first read this in 1989; I know because there was a contract for a gig that we played in Champaign stuck in the back. I pulled it out again because of the new film and remembered why I went out and bought everything he ever wrote.
3. John Langford - "All Roads Lead Back to Me"
This song from a concept album about plunderers and explorers has conquered my mind.
4. Howe Gelb - "Get to Leave"
Howe could play any room on Earth, from Montana to Mongolia, and captivate the audience with a guitar or piano. No one makes more intimate sounds than the man with the velvet pipes.
5. Juana Molina - "Uh!"
I got into this late, but saw her live this year; she put on the most spectacular display of sound layering I've seen or heard. She's a multi-tasker.
6. Deerhoof - "Running Thoughts or Time Capsule"
That bass sound is like something off Yessongs.
7. Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore
The author was recommended by a friend, so I started with the most recent and I'm working my way backwards. You can't beat the Colonel Sanders pimp character and talking cats. Murakami pops up occasionally in the New Yorker with short stories that can only be described as perfect.
8. Taqueria la Oaxaquena on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago is just a little storefront, but it has one of the best, most lethal sandwiches I've ever had. It's a torta with marinated steak (I'm vegetarian 6 days a week), chorizo, avacado, and melted cheese on top. My heart skips a beat (from love and cholesterol) just to write this.
9. The Greenhornes - "Shelter of Your Arms"
I really like the song used on the Broken Flowers soundtrack where they backed Holly Golightly so I sought out more.
10. Steve Wynn - "Wild Mercury"
The proverbial mercury rises on this one - Paris Hilton would say it was "hot".
The Lowbrow Reader
The Lowbrow Reader is an irregularly published zine about comedy. It’s edited by Jay Ruttenberg (a staff music writer at Time Out New York and former editor at Puncture) and designed by Matthew Berube. Contributors have included Neil Hagerty, Lee Hazlewood, Margeaux Watson, Michaelangelo Matos and a bunch of other fine writers and illustrators. They’ve just published their 5th issue, which includes writings and drawings on Don Knotts, Chevy Chase and the fabulous Joan Rivers, plus an excerpt of a (non-fiction!) comic book about spending a day with the White Stripes. Unlike its editor, the Lowbrow Reader is not mean-spirited; it is also, undoubtedly, the funniest thing you will ever read in your entire life. (Available from lowbrowreader.com). Jay Ruttenberg participated in this week's Listed.
Humor in pop music is extremely difficult to pull off and, in consequence, quite rare. Here are some works that strike the right balance.
Shel Silverstein - The Best of Shel Silverstein
This recent best-of amasses recordings of Silverstein reading his poetry, Silverstein singing his songs and various country artists singing Silverstein’s songs. Most people remember Silverstein for his writings and drawings for children. Yet the bald renaissance man was a heavyweight Nashville songwriter and a master of the novelty song. His magnum opus, of course, is the Johnny Cash–hit “A Boy Named Sue.” (If a more perfect record has been recorded, please do let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org.) But this set also features songs like “The Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “Daddy What If?” and “A Front Row Seat to Hear Ole Johnny Sing.” Those were respectively performed by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Bobby Bare and a five-year-old Bobby Bare Jr., and Silverstein himself (with a funny Johnny Cash cameo). But the personality driving all the songs is indisputably that of the songwriter.
There aren’t really genre-spanning figures like Silverstein anymore. Steve Martin? David and Amy Sedaris? Melvin Van Peebles?
Lou Reed - Take No Prisoners
In the late ’70s, Lou Reed played a multiple-night stand at the Bottom Line, the Greenwich Village cabaret space that was recently swallowed up by big, bad NYU. (The school put a classroom in its place, presumably to teach students about what once went on there.) Take No Prisoners, an unjustly ignored live album—it wasn’t even released on CD until 2002!—captures these twisted shows.
This is not the Lou Reed you know and hate. He’s talkative, mean, freely parodying himself and others. Songs begin mainly so they can unravel into funny, rambling monologues—for once, we get Reed doing Jonathan Richman.
Neil Hagerty contributed a fine essay about this album in the third Lowbrow Reader. “Take No Prisoners consummates music and comedy as a powerful and accessible conflict of energy and experience against worship and expectation,” he writes. “The word replaces the voice as an instrument inside the music; Reed expands the narrow allowances of comedy in rock & roll without resorting to the traduced standards of irony, pose or parody.”
Jonathan Richman - “When Harpo Played His Harp”
Mr. Richman was nice enough to let us print the lyrics to this song in Lowbrow Reader #2. Richman was basically a hero to me when I was in college. But once you’re older than 25, it’s creepy—or at least very uncool—to have heroes who are still alive, and in recent years, my hero has been Harpo Marx. Perhaps I like this song so much because it brings these two worlds together, but I suspect deeper forces are at work. Richman is an expert at soliciting laughs one minute and tears the next, and this number is sentimental without being maudlin. For some reason, he never plays it in concert anymore. Has he become partial to Gummo?
The Marx Brothers - Very Best of: Hooray for Captain Spaulding
One of the most peculiar, enlightening aspects of the Marx Brothers’s films is how the characters will suddenly break into song—not so much with the silliness of a typical musical, but rather with characteristic randomness. Invariably, Harpo and Chico will run away from an authority figure and—whaddya know!—find themselves behind a harp and a piano. Both were accomplished players: as children, they earned money playing piano in whore houses, among other venues. The Marx Brothers were also longtime pals with the Gershwin Brothers, and hired Irving Berlin to write songs for Cocoanuts. I suppose the modern day equivalent would be Stephen Sondheim—or perhaps Eminem?—writing songs for a Judd Apatow comedy.
I’ve always wanted to arrange a Lowbrow Reader CD in which contemporary artists cover songs from the Marx Brothers movies. Unfortunately, I am lazy.
Randy Newman - “Rednecks”
This is not my favorite Randy Newman song (that’s 1999’s “The World Isn’t Fair”) nor his most popular (isn’t that the Theme from Monk?). But it’s probably the one that makes me laugh the most. In part, this is because it’s such a cheap shot from such a master satirist—pop’s most savage limousine liberal making fun of white trash. Once, I got to see Newman tape a television special in which he played and discussed his songs. He told the host that he always found the funniest part of this song to be the narrator’s mistaken assertion that Dick Cavett is a Jew (or, specifically, is a “smart-ass New York Jew”). Now, whenever I hear that opening line, I laugh about that fact and feel sophisticated for having such inside information.
The Beastie Boys - Various performances on The Late Show with David Letterman
I’ve always thought there was something embarrassing about listening to the Beastie Boys—it’s like eating a cupcake in front of people. This got me thinking. If it’s embarrassing to listen to the Beastie Boys, it must be even more embarrassing to be a Beastie Boy. Three grown men in New York City; read Paul Krugman in the morning and then jump around like damn fools at night—it’s crazy!
The beauty of this media-savvy band—who pull off a Letterman appearance like no other group—is their singular status as a two-decade running, multi-platinum joke band. The punch line is neither placed on their listeners nor themselves, but rather the situation both camps find themselves in.
Supposedly, there have been two separate occasions in the band’s history where they were seriously considering making a film, then opted to record an album, instead. The first seems an ill-advised mid-’80s goof; the second was to be a comedy directed by Spike Jonze, when the group was surfing the ’90s zeitgeist. That’s one script I’d love to read.
By Dusted Magazine