Posted by: willenvelope | February 10, 2009

Slush Epilogue

Slush City was created for a specific time and place: the office where I was working last summer, where there were free CDs everywhere. But then fall came, and money started getting tight all around. Record labels were sending less stuff, the editors who previously gave the CDs away were keeping them so they could sell them on amazon, and then eventually they got laid off and my stint there ended and that was kind of that.

At the same time, even if the golden goose hadn’t wandered off and died, I think it’s pretty plain that I was starting to feel ambivalent about writing record reviews, or at least negative ones. Listening to Lou Reed go off on Robert Christgau and John Rockwell was probably the beginning of it; that led me to start the Rubbish Reviews feature, possibly because I felt guilty for the various thumbs-downs I’d given here. (Yeah, I didn’t like Rock Plaza Central, but people hated Pere Ubu once too. Not only that, they filed them under U.) In my defense, a lot of that slush really wasn’t very good: It was slush! But in my offense, what did I know? At best I was either wrong or stating the obvious, at worst I was just spreading around bad vibes.

Slush City isn’t quite dead. I may still use it as a platform for talking about the good finds, like Dolorean, the Jim White song “Jailbird,” or the outstanding debut by Johnny Flynn (or bong coasters). Maybe I’ll use it for something else. Mainly I just have a feeling that for now The Poet might be right. I’m aiming for less slush, more pearls.

Posted by: willenvelope | November 28, 2008

Rubbish reviews, part 3

It doesn’t only apply to pet punk albums:


This is from the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide. By 1983 the tune had changed somewhat: The older Bon Scott albums (the best ones) still hung in the one-star or, worse, bullet-box universe, but 1980’s Back in Black was awarded three stars, while its lame 1981 follow-up, For Those About to Rock, was named AC/DC’s first four-star record. I’ll have to check the ’92 edition to track the ongoing reassessment, but I think it’s safe to say that Back in Black is now considered the band’s pinnacle, a no-brainer five-star record for every hack music writer who waddles this earth. Just to illustrate how very different I am, though, I’ve always preferred the stuff that couldn’t buy a single star in 1979.

Posted by: willenvelope | November 24, 2008

Rubbish reviews, part 2


[From The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1st ed., 1979), edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson. Review by Dave “The Hater” Marsh. Four years later, in the next edition, the “seminal” album receives five stars.]

Posted by: willenvelope | November 23, 2008

Rubbish reviews

To be an ongoing series.


[From The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983), edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson. Review by Dave Marsh. Marquee Moon will receive the top rating of five stars in the next edition, from 1992.]

Posted by: willenvelope | November 16, 2008

Slush in a nutshell


Posted by: redsquirrel | November 10, 2008

Guest post: pigs and sheep


Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain
by John Barlow ( FSG, $25.00 )

Beautiful Sheep: Portraits of Champion Breeds
by Kathryn Dun, photos by Paul Farnham
( Thomas Dunne Books, $19.95 )

Unslushed because: Will knows I love books about food and books that contain pictures of cute animals. He’s probably also hoping I’ll be inspired to produce some slow-cooked pork treats this winter (I am).

Factors not initially considered: How veddy British a pairing this is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

On further review: Let’s start with Barlow. His book follows the popular conceit of vowing to do some certain complete thing over the course of a year (eating every edible part of a pig) and then write about his experiences. This concept has yielded countless terrible, pointless blogs and books. This project, however, had several saving graces. First, Barlow has lived in Spain’s northern province of Galicia for, it seems, well over a decade, and is married to a native of the region. So he knows his topic pretty well. Second, despite the incessant self-deprecation in the book (that does wear a little thin), he’s quite an accomplished scholar and writer, and so brings a depth of historical and cultural perspective to the book that balances out the “eew, I just spent an afternoon gnawing pigs’ tails” factor. So I really did end up learning both culinary and general European cultural and political history, which made me feel a little more virtuous about devoting a week to reading a book that’s primarily about eating huge amounts of fatty pork.

Drawbacks? The book would have benefited from a tighter edit. Aside from some truly egregious typos (fancy some jugged hair, anyone?), there was quite a lot of unnecessary repetition, such as at least five explanations of what empanadas are. Also, the aforementioned “oh ha ha, I’m such a charmingly bumbling Englishman” did get old in spots. But overall, it’s an excellent read for anyone interested in food lore.

512nkynmlpl_sl500_aa240_On to the sheep! This slim coffeetable book is what it is: a series of pictures of champion sheep, mostly ancient and rare breeds, mostly English (with a few Frenchies thrown in there). The left-hand page offers a little history and stats such as height, average weights for rams and ewes, and helpful details such as whether the sheep is polled or not, whether the ewes make good mothers, whether the breed is prized for wool or meat, and so on. The facing page is given over to a startlingly beautiful and expressive portrait of the sheep under discussion. I’d imagine this book has a pretty limited audience, but it’s already given us a couple of evenings of fun discussion.

Posted by: willenvelope | November 7, 2008



( Reprise, 2008 )

Unslushed because: Well, it certainly wasn’t for the horrific artwork or the group’s name, both of which evoke the second-string covers band at last year’s Sigma Alpha spring fling. No, unslushing in this case was precipitated by a sticker that listed band members Tom Petty, Mike Campbell, and Benmont Tench. A note inside—”Recorded live, vocals, harmony, everything; Arrangements done on studio floor; Made in 10 days, no headphones”—led me to wonder if this wouldn’t turn out to be one hell of a garage stomp.

Factors not initially considered: Rather than a new band, this is a reunion of Petty’s Gainesville, Florida, pre-Heartbreakers lineup, also featuring drummer Randall Marsh and guitarist Tom Leadon. The band formed in 1970, got signed to Leon Russell’s Shelter Records, and broke up in 1975 before issuing an album.

On further review: You hate to be a hater when it comes to heartwarming stories like this, yet clearly there was a reason that these guys never quite put it together. This mild country-rock collection of covers and half-baked Petty originals might have been necessary for personal closure, or to honor some clause in Petty’s contract with Warner Bros. (apparently a live EP is on the way, too), but otherwise it’s quite the opposite of necessary: Dull and self-indulgent, it’s a waste of time for every last person involved except, maybe, the two dudes who didn’t get to be in the Heartbreakers—which, to take the depressing affair one step further, would make this a pity album. Although the playing is competent, and Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy’s “Lover of the Bayou” gets a decent enough treatment, we were all better off when Mudcrutch was merely a legend. If only Leon Russell failed to release this one, too.

Official Mudcrutch Web site

Posted by: willenvelope | November 6, 2008

Unspoken Thoughts of a Man™


Unspoken Thoughts of a Man™:
An Intimate Journey Through Expressions of Love

by Kennedy F. Jones ( IdentiFacts, $24.95 )

Ladies, has your man been letting you down lately, failing to communicate his love and gratitude and leaving your hearts in depair? Maybe someday he’ll manage to cough up his deepest feelings in a manner that is satisfactory, but in the meantime, Kennedy F. Jones will gladly serve as his surrogate. “Take a journey through my emotional thoughts,” Mr. Jones says on the back cover, “as I express myself with love letters, essays, and poetry…. my thoughts are a guide to help you discover the real qualities of measuring a man’s love.”

In an all-stops-out indie hardcover edition (“First Printing: 5,523 copies”) that’s categorized—likely as not by Jones himself—as “Relationship/Poetry,” Jones presents a cross-disciplinary manifesto intended, most of all, to restore women’s faith that there are indeed many Men of Love™ waiting for them. Interspersed among dozens of loving ruminations (among them “Defining the Man of Love™,” “Romancing Thoughts of Appreciation,” “Guide Me Into Your Ecstasy”) are poems (“The Softness of My Love”) and corresponding worksheets (“Describe different ways in which I can be soft with you”), pickup art featuring solitary red roses in a variety of settings, and chapter-ending questions titled “Inside Your Heart”:

• I want to dance with you throughout the night. Will you dance with me? If so, what song would you select as “our song”?

• If I place the world in your hands and ask you to pick a place where we can celebrate our love, what place would you select?

Hot damn, maybe the guy’s on to something. I have NEVER asked a lady where we might go to celebrate our love. But the problem here, really, is that the book is intended for women, not for men. If men were the target audience, we’d have thousands of spontaneous cases of dudes saying, “Baby, where should we celebrate our love tonight?” There would be love everywhere, getting celebrated. Crime and alcoholism would drop. Angels would sing. The world would be better. Instead, the entire thing boils down to one long mack attack, and all we’ll get will be a spike in conversations like this:

HER: How come you never ask me to celebrate our love? Time, place, manner, et cetera.
HIM: You mean like the Peabo Bryson/Roberta Flack jam?
HER: I mean like making me feel like a woman! Like KENNEDY F. JONES would make me feel like!
HIM: I’m goin’ out.

Just don’t stay out too late. And watch your back: Jones (“This book is dedicated to my future wife”) remains a free agent.

Kennedy F. Jones’s official Web site (not yet active)

Posted by: willenvelope | October 30, 2008

Confessions of a [record] reviewer

From “Confessions of a Book Reviewer,” in the new collection All Art Is Propaganda: Critical Essays, by George Orwell ( Harcourt, $25 ) :

Until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not discover how bad the majority of them are. In much more than nine cases out of ten the only objectively truthful criticism would be, “This book is worthless,” while the truth about the reviewer’s own reaction would probably be: “This book does not interest me in any way, and I would not write about it unless I were paid to.”

Posted by: willenvelope | October 28, 2008

I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man

Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974–2001)
by Don Felder ( Wiley, $25.95 )

Part one: blah blah blah, Felder (second from left, above, between Frey and Henley) is from the South, worked at IBM, knew how to use a Selectric, joined the Eagles in time for their third album, On the Border (1974). Claims he was the guy who made “Already Gone” sweet.

Part two:

Many of us still smoked a lot of pot and drank longneck Buds, but we’d rarely refuse some blow. We were generally well coked up before we even appeared on stage, but our roadies had instructions to leave lines of blow on our amps so that between songs we could go back and bend over as if we were adjusting the knobs, when actually we were snorting in front of an entire live audience. The drugs must have affected our performance, but at the time, I thought we sounded just great.

Part three: His kid is born, he realizes there’s more to life than druggin’ it up, and meanwhile Glenn Frey (whose nickname is Roach “because of his fondness for pot”) and Don Henley (probably a dick) and Bernie Leadon (on a health kick) are fighting a lot. They’re going to wind up in court. I’m not sure why. In a just world, they’d be getting sued for sucking, but I’m sure it’s actually about who gets to keep all those damn gold records.

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