News and Notes
Who better to serve up a high-powered Halloween soundtrack than Rob Zombie himself? Here, everyone's favorite hellbilly offers up 19 tracks from a veritable Who's Who of modern garage rock. The styles run from psychobilly (Reverend Horton Heat) to surf (Satan's Pilgrims) to trash (Southern Culture on the Skids). Boo.
Before there was Pynchon, or Vollmann, or Foster Wallace, or any of those other "difficult" American writers, there was William Gaddis. The Recognitions, his first novel, is almost fractal in the way it continually rewards the reader. As you dive into the story, then sections, then paragraphs, then sentences, and finally into obscure references, your admiration builds and builds. Tackling authenticity, modernity, originality, and piety, Gaddis's work stands towering as a modern classic.
A close-knit family is a good thing, right? In The Daytrippers, Long Island housewife Eliza finds a mysterious love letter in her husband's pocket. After sharing her fears with her parents, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend, the entire crew piles into the station wagon and heads for Manhattan to get to the bottom of things. Throughout this low-key odyssey, writer/director Mottola focuses on smaller battles, played wonderfully by his ensemble cast (Hope Davis, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber) and resulting in an unexpected conclusion.
The New Complete Joy of Home Brewing
Good beer is a good thing, and, as it turns out, making it yourself isn't exactly rocket science. With the help of this homebrewer's bible and the expertise of your local brewstore, you too can cook up anything from Bohemian pilsener to Toad Spit Stout. Just remember Mr. Papazian's credo: "Relax. Don't worry. Have a homebrew."
The Number of the Beast
Take this album, add a black denim jacket, a case of Meister Brau, and some long hair and you've got yourself a first-rate high-school heavy metal starter kit. A devilish conglomeration of Norse war epic, Patrick McGoohan tribute, and Revelation 13:18 read by Vincent Price, The Number of the Beast should be the keystone of every headbanger's collection. Please listen with index fingers and pinkies extended.
Babylon Revisited and Other Stories
"Everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness," Fitzgerald writes in The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. Yet, in this collection's title story, youthful dreams have given way to relentless loneliness and loss. Whether they're dissipated expatriates, hard-drinking New Yorkers, moonstruck Southerners, or ambitious children of the Plains, Fitzgerald's characters are unmistakably American, and his compassion suffuses even their despair with a golden glow.
While both of the young Australian's previous albums were charming, Ben Lee's Breathing Tornados ups the ante in suprising fashion. Together with producer Ed Buller, Lee creates a sound dense with keyboards and samples. Of course, sophisticated production touches contribute little if the songs aren't up to snuff. Happily, Lee delivers a warm, vital set that, at its best, is breathtaking.
Boggs: A Comedy of Values
Here Lawrence Weschler, a staff writer for The New Yorker, details the personality and prosecution of J.S.G. Boggs, a man who draws realistic versions of world currency. But he's not a counterfeiter, he's an artist -- Weschler is clear on that. Unfortunately not everyone is similarly enlightened, namely the Bank of England and the U.S. Secret Service. Like Boggs' currency, Weschler's ruminations on the ultimate value of ink-stained paper are both thought-provoking and entertaining.
Lulu on the Bridge
Author Paul Auster, in his directorial debut, offers an offbeat, urban fable starring Harvey Keitel as an embittered jazzman and Mira Sorvino as a waitress/actress looking for her lucky break. It's a story of enchantment, obsession, and change. It's also an homage to silent screen icon Louise "Pandora" Brooks and the legend of Lulu as told by German playwright Frank Wedekind. Auster works with an ensemble of skillful actors, including Willem Dafoe, Mandy Patinkin, and Vanessa Redgrave, who seem to relish their roles in this moody, mysterious fairy tale.
1999 marks the centennial of the birth of Edward Kennedy Ellington. From his ragtime recordings in the 1920s to the ambitious suites of his later career, Duke Ellington never stood still. Along the way he and collaborator Billy Strayhorn produced standards like "Mood Indigo," "Caravan," and "Take the `A' Train." And while his role as pianist was vital, Duke's main instrument was his band. Ellington used soloists intuitively, as a painter uses brushes. He blended musical elements without surrendering each's distinct personality. His legacy is music that transcends jazz, and beauty that transcends music.
Shakes the Clown
Here's a timeless classic, in the hallowed tradition of Emmett Kelly and Red Skelton. It was Maurice Chevalier who once said, "A clown is a drunken foul-mouthed pig who makes me sick." Except Chevalier is French, so when he said "sick," it probably sounded like "seeek." Now that's funny.
Jane Horrocks delivers a terrific performance as LV, the reclusive daughter of a loud-mouth, drunken widow in an English sea-side town. LV (and Horrocks, for whom the role was created) has the uncanny ability to channel the voices of crooners like Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey. The girl's talent attracts the interest of her mother's sleazy boyfriend, Ray Say, marvelously overplayed by Michael Caine. Sparks fly, literally, when LV resists Ray's showbiz machinations. The excellent cast includes Brenda Blethyn, Ewan McGregor, and Jim Broadbent.