THE GOOD OL' "SO YOU THOUGHT I WAS DEAD" POST
Photo Proof of Existence 1: The beard and the famous jail.
Well, I'm not dead.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, despite any pernicious rumors that might have worked their way to you, I remain a living, breathing entity.
I have been in this weird sort of limbo for about four months now. The cause- Genetic alteration to a new type of creature: Homo Domesticus. The shift happened suddenly. I sprouted a few gray hairs, went to bed one night, and woke up thinking, "I can't live in a goddamn apartment anymore."
Thus began the Quest for the House. A house of my own. A place where I didn't have to listen to my neighbor singing Dionne Warwick at two in the morning (although she can carry a tune in her own weird way, sort of like a more coherent Wesley Willis in a sultry mood). A place where I didn't feel my cash was just going into a black hole. A place that wasn't painted piss-stain yellow where you feel the slightest vibration caused by the other tenants.
You get the idea.
Problem 1: I wanted to live in the Portland metro area. Not the burbs, or outlying Portland-y regions. In Portland. And that's expensive. And as I quickly discovered, mortgage lenders are not mightily impressed by the intermittent and basically speculative wages of a fiction writer.
These wages were fine for my pre-Domesticus era, good enough to allow for some Taco Bell dinners and a few concerts and a vaguely bohemian lifestyle in a wee apartment.
But the bankers weren't having it. They wanted a dependable job to balance out my debt-to-income ratio. So I buckled down, told myself everything was going to be okay, and got myself a day job.
Dress shirts/ID badges/cubicles/commute doldrums. Five days a week, eight hours a day.
So, I had locked down a nice enough job, which I'll spare you the details of, lest the miasma of boredom that floats in my skull may enter yours. Then came...
Problem 2: The job made me fat.
Photo Proof of Existence #2: Suddenly realizing that metabolism is _really_ slowing down.
Within a few months I managed to slap a nice doughy mid-section onto a frame that had previously been running marathons/10K's/5K's on a regular basis. The job is deeply sedentary, basically eight hours a day hunched over paperwork and a keyboard. And to keep up with my existing writing obligations I was coming home and typing all night, too. Not a lot of running going on. I started using the railing while going up my stairs and getting chest pains.
It was disconcerting.
In order to save myself from tubby bitchdom I had to find a way to jam some fitness activities back into my life. This meant less time at the keyboard after the first work shift of the day was done. This meant getting my mileage back up and nursing blood-blisters the size of fifty cent pieces after multi-hour sessions on the trails at Forest Park.
Luckily this venture has been fruitful. I've carved off about half of the "bonus material" around my waist, and have a decent resting heart rate again. But this new day job combined with the lifting and running is throwing a nasty wrench into my writing biz especially when coupled with...
Problem 3: The Quest for the House has gone quagmire.
Even with the job I'm not making that sweet cocaine or I.T. money (like many of the people my age that can afford the PDX city life). So I'm in a smaller house market, and that means looking at places built before the invention of, say, nails and levels. Old, decrepit bungalows and ranch-style shacks with dry rot/pest problems/silty or absent foundations/busted sewer lines (with complimentary rat holes)/shot roofs/jury rigged electricity/convicted rapists across the way/worked-over siding/collapsing chimneys/etc.
But the only way you can find out about those problems in real detail is to pay professionals to tell you how shitty the house is.
Imagine you fall in love with a nice older lady. You spend hours on the phone and filling out papers to court her. You visit her regularly. You get engaged. Then you pay a bunch of people to put her through series of tests and they tell you she's got psoriasis and eczema and cancer in her marrow. Plus carpenter ants. And then you have to leave her at the escrow altar.
Imagine this keeps happening to you again and again.
And imagine in the meantime that you've got something you really love. Let's call it writing for the sake of the loose and shambling illustrative story. You love writing, and you love talking to publishers and readers and other writers, but all that goes neglected while you work a soulless (but still pretty nice) job and try to fend off technical obesity and find a place to live that won't send you banko or collapse under you while you sleep.
Imagining these things might give you a loose idea of why I have seemed to be dead.
But the tide is changing. I have rediscovered a sort of bull-headed willpower that I had abandoned as exhausting in the past (and I'm buying a lot of Red Bull). I may have finally found a house worth purchasing. And I'm building some balance between my day job and my personal health.
What This Means:
The four-hundred or so pieces of correspondence I've received via MySpace and my website are about to get answered. I answer every bit of mail. If you sent me something it has not turned to vapor. You will hear from me in the coming weeks.
Work on Tuning Fork will shift from near-dead to moderate shuffle/top-level hustle (depending on how close my agent is to punting me into the sea).
JRJ.com should see a serious revamp. It's so goofy looking right now.
I'll be putting the thumb-screws to the two guys who are supposed to be finishing up new novels for Swallowdown Press this year. One of the guys is, I swear to God, launching what appears to be a very solid and respectable career in hip hop, so it's tough to get him to sit down and type when there's so much glory/money/groupies involved with the alternative. I understand, but man, this guy can write too so I hope he finds time to work over some prose too.
And this blog is going to be super-sized. I have a lot of catching up to do. Here goes:
NEW STORIES COMING OUT THIS YEAR-
Photo Proof of Existence 3: Celebrating DMX-mas with Totally Explode. Hair absent, beard barely present, but definitely not dead.
"Trigger Variation" is a brand new story about equine steroids and the anti-sentience movement. It's also a story about a bunch of straight-edgy guys called EndLiners causing a shit ton of trouble in a small town. I'm proud to say it's going to be included in The Vault of Punk Horror which I've just learned is also going to feature an introduction from Mr. Famous Guy of Famous Band fame (edited because publisher hasn't made official announcement yet). Doesn't seem like a traditional choice for a punk tome until you consider his decision to confront the PMRC and appear as a giant, angry transexual on his album covers. Then he seems punk in his own screaming, glammy way.
I keep telling the editor that once he receives Mr. Famous Guy's intro he's got to send back an email saying, "We're not gonna take it! No we're not gonna take it!"
But the odds of that actually happening (or coming across as funny) are pretty small. Still, as a guy for whom Famous Band was a gateway drug to metal, I'm stoked to have Famous Guy involved. Everyone I know that has ever interacted with him said he was a very nice guy, and he is a big supporter of the indie horror scene.
"Consumerism" is a sort of follow-up tale to "Priapism" from ADA. It involves a Hummer wreck, a Frito Snak-Pak, and a pinch of Greek tragedy, and it'll be appearing in the very anticipated Falling From The Sky anthology.
Head here to check out the diverse line-up on the soon-to-be-released mega-mix of literary radness.
"When Susurrus Stirs" is a truly hideous tale of parasite horror. It starts out weird and ends up way beyond weird, in some gooey realm that I feel a pinch guilty for having flushed from my brain. It'll be appearing in the next installment of the ever-excellent Bare Bone series (#10, I believe). I'm also very happy that the story will appear along with new work from two of my favorite writers on the planet, Cody Goodfellow and Tom Piccirrilli. Should be a very sharp line-up.
UPDATE: Looks like this one just hit the market. And check out the cover:
"Faded Into Impalpability" is really four stories from me, four stories from Nebula/Stoker/Pushcart/etc.-winner Bruce Holland Rogers, and a central collaboration. It's all wrapped up into this weird sort of fixed prose beast called a symmetrina.
It should see print in Cemetery Dance around the end of '07. We tried to change it up with each piece while sticking to the theme so it's got outright horror, bizarro, subtle suspense, "literary" stuff, etc. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll appear along with one of the new Stephen Graham Jones stories CD's got coming this year. His last CD appearance ("Raphael") was severely creepy.
I've mentioned this one before, but "Simple Equations" is another brand new story that should see print in the excellent A Dark and Deadly Valley anthology very soon.
So that's five (well 8.5 if you count each story in "Faded") new stories coming out in'07. And if I can manage to fill an editors request to chop about 3,000 words off of a story called "States of Glass" it may find a home at a very top-shelf literary mag. So if things really work out that's a minimum of 9.5 published servings of my weird shit while I work my way through writing the best new novel that I possibly can.
NEW NET SHENANIGANS-
Some very sharp reviews of Extinction Journals at The Zone (UK), The Pedestal, and 3AM.
Here are a few samples for people who don't like to click out of blogs (or to agitate those who could give a shit about reviews):
"Jeremy Robert Johnson's novella of the apocalypse is a supremely weird reading experience, sitting somewhere between Chuck Palahniuk and John Wyndham. Extinction Journals is a hybrid, a mutant child of 1950s' paranoia and contemporary dystopia. Bleak, funny, apocalyptic and affecting it stays with you long after you've finished it." From The Zone.
"Equally profound and hilarious, [Extinction Journals] contains not only some of the most thoughtful examinations of humanity’s need for companionship to come along in several years, but also some of the best descriptions of loneliness and thanatophobia, the pervasive human fear of death." From The Pedestal.
So those are nice.
And although it's not new to people who've already read my first collection, "Precedents" is now available for free on the net in the second issue of up-and-coming Bizarro mag The Swallow's Tail. Fans of the weird who have already read my story would do well to check it out- my tale is by far the most orthodox thing in a very strange magazine.
"Precedents" is a decent sample for readers who want to test the waters before checking out a full book of mine. "Literary" folks seem to dig the story, and it received an Honorable Mention in the most recent Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, so it seems to work for people outside of genre (which is always nice).
And although I've mentioned this before, there's some new content for bilingual readers up at the smart and stylish Proyecto Liquido. You may have already seen the elegant translation of Snowfall, but there's also a new interview up with some mook called Me. Also check out their interview with my Canadian brother (and literary pugilist) Craig Davidson.
SPEAKING OF THE CRAIG-
I've mentioned Davidson before and I hope anyone who has enjoyed my work has checked out his collection Rust and Bone. And I have to say that reading the intro to his newest book The Fighter is partially responsible for recharging my writing engine during this stressed-out stretch of my life. Craig is "the business" when it comes to storytelling, and if you believe otherwise it seems likely that he'll challenge you to a round of fisticuffs while promoting his new book.
I've noticed a series of weird coincidences between myself and Craig that really do make me think of doppelgangers and Lynchian dualities and how much time I waste thinking about dumb shit like this when I should be writing. Here goes a brief rundown:
We've both come from a horror-writing background. He hiding/writing as a pseudonymous hobo named Pat Lestewka and I writing as Jeremy Robert Johnson because I am proud of my horror heritage and I couldn't think of any good fake names (aside from Krystal Winthorn, which is the name I write my Woman's World romance stories under- they pay very well!).
(Craig is actually very proud to say he writes horror but I can rib him, "having a bit of the old joshery" as they say, because he is far away and cannot punch me.)
We both released early limited edition books with strongly established horror industry vets (him with Ed Lee, me with Alan M. Clark).
We both released well-received short fiction collections mixing brutal tales with more "literary" (ie. stories about people and their ill/handicapped love ones with less pulpy content). Both collections were blurbed by one of our heroes, Chuck Palahniuk.
I am handsome. Craig is Canadian.
Both of us are producing work that makes marketing teams squirm a bit. Which is not to peg us an uncompromising artistes, but which is to say that our cross-over odds in the "literary" market are somewhat dampened by the profound number of nasty things that happen in our fiction. If either of us were luck out and "hit it big," it would much more likely be Welsh/Palahniuk/Ellroy big, versus Cussler/Roberts/Grisham big. And that's perfectly okay.
What's my point? That I think about dumb shit. And that Craig is a cool guy (due, primarily, to his similarities to me).
THIS BLOG DON'T STOP-
Here's more blog. More sweet, semi precious morsels of blog.
On the topic of blurbs. In the last year I blurbed seven (count 'em) books, from small-press chapbooks to mass market paperbacks. Which means I definitely over-blurbed myself. I don't want to become that guy from 15 Second Film Reviews in Wichita that gets blurbed for calling Miss Congeniality 2 "A spellbinding comedy and stand-up feel good hit!"
This means no blurbs for '07. I've played myself out. Some of these blurbs are in rotation, some are for books that have yet to see publication. The seven from '06:
Licker by Michael Arnzen: “Licker is a truly intoxicating, hallucinogenic whirlwind of brainbreaking freakshow fun. Arnzen’s sure-footed, fast-paced storytelling, and his willingness to fly far beyond the bounds of good taste, make Licker the one bizarre carnival ride you must buy a ticket for.”
Exposed! By Michael Heffernan: “Exposed! shines a harsh light on the myriad horrors of modern society and reports back from the fearful frontlines with wicked wit and paranoid power. From the murky waters of New Orleans to the scarred psyches of our own image-obsessed existence, Exposed! is the last headline we get to read before reality comes tumbling down.”
A Drop of Scarlet by Jemiah Jefferson: “A dead sexy and darkly beautiful page-turner, Jefferson's A Drop of Scarlet is a narcotic blood-soaked nightmare from which you'll never want to escape. This potent mix of all-too-human passion and undead horror proves Jefferson is at the head of her class when it comes to breaking hearts- and, of course, bleeding them dry.”
Counting Earps by D. Harlan Wilson: “D. Harlan Wilson's un-filtered madness is laugh-out-loud funny and crazy contagious. His Counting Earps & Other Rejekts is a room full of floating planets with nitrous oxide atmospheres, each world more brilliantly tweaked and ingeniously irreal than the last.”
The Gutter Limits by Booger Murphy: “Booger Murphy's stories squall and bleat and blast in a cacophony of lo-fi punk fiction. These grimy tales play loose with convention and smear snot on your better sensibilities. Satire, horror, politics-all of it delivered with a knowing sneer and genuine energy.”
The Troublesome Amputee by John Edward Lawson: “With this blistering salvo of poetic gutshots Lawson has proven himself Bizarro’s true bard, its mad laureate. Switching from dark whimsy to retina-blast shock to political outrage without missing a beat, The Troublesome Amputee is a powerful collection of pitch-black verse.”
New Vincent Sakowski Collection: I swear I blurbed this one but can’t find any record of it. It was pretty hypey as far as the hype goes. Vince, if you read this, please email me your blurb so I can edit it in to the blog.
INDIE PRESS BEER-
Sounds like a good idea, right? Here's the fancy label that CM3 ran up for a stern batch of homebrew that we used as part of our promo phalanx in San Francisco last year:
I wish I had some right now....
ONE THING THAT MIGHT HELP ME STAY SANE-
Is submitting photos like this one to the weekly digital newsletter put out by the corporate communications group at my work:
Yes, this did run, which is great. And what's weird is that everybody sees it but nobody mentions it. No one ever says, "Hey, Jeremy, why do you keep submitting poorly modified photos of small dogs to the corporate newsletter?" It's just accepted like the papercuts and free coffee.
FALL OF AUTUMN CONTEST-
Witness a blog entry so timely that I'm announcing judging a writing contest after it's already over. I was honored to be one of three judges that indie stalwarts Fall of Autumn asked to have a go at their 2nd Annual Short Story Contest. I read every single entry from stem to stern and the following were my personal selections for the top 3:
First: "A History of Disappearances" by Wendy Spacek- There's something beautiful and sad about this prose that I can't quite pin down, but it stays with me (and for some reason reminds me of Mailer).
Second: "The Cold Insect" by Cameron Pierce- Obviously I'm a sucker for dark absurdism, and stuff that shifts between comedy and tragedy, but it was the dialogue and the closing that un-nerved me.
Third: "The Greatest Astronaut" by Simon Pole- The simple and touching sci fi of Astronaut just works.
From the look of the results it seems the other two judges agreed with me on the top pick but ventured toward capable (though less experimental) fare for the other selections.
I appreciated the opportunity to check out the wide variety of styles and voices the contest rounded together, and offer my congratulations to all the winners. Cameron and Simon, email me if you want some free shit/awards outside of the auspices of the original contest- I really liked your stories.
POWELL'S ON HAWTHORNE-
The Hawthorne Powell's was already carrying Angel Dust Apocalypse, but now they've also got copies of Extinction Journals and Siren Promised on hand. And as if that's not enough, DIY Press Advocate and Overall Badass John Barrios crafted an excellent display for Small Press month that featured two of my books. Check it out:
So, muchas of the gracias to John and Powell's for actively supporting literature in all its guises.
A PIECE OF "THE ADVICE"-
Sometimes people send me things to read, and sometimes I miraculously find space in my schedule to read them. And every once in a while I even get cocky enough to try and offer some advice. This was a recent response that I thought some people might dig (despite the general hackery of the example):
Seldom, if ever, have one character tell another character what they both already know about themselves for the purpose of illustrating the back-story or general aspects of the characters.
Don't have a guy say, "You and me, Pedro, we forged our way through life in a hail of gunfire and regret." or whatever. Effectively that reads like the author saying, "Look, this is who these guys are and I can't be pained to reveal it in a less jarring way." Instead have the characters make reference to events in their past like old friends sharing memories, and don't force-feed the info to the reader. It doesn't have to be overt either— something like:
Pedro winced and grabbed his shoulder.
Harry hadn't seen that in a while. "Shrapnel still in motion?"
"Till the day it fucking pops out, man. My body's slow to reject it. I don't know- maybe it's 'cause it's the last thing I have to remember her by."
"Maybe it's because you deserved it. She's still messing you up, man... I never believed her when she said she'd been working explosives with the IRA."
"Yeah, well I believe her right now." Pedro grimaced and knocked back another tumbler of mescal. His face went calm for a moment excepting the areas held tight by scars. "What I can't believe is that I still miss that bitch."
The men laughed.
There you go. It's barely passable but you've got your tough guys, your booze, your broads with weapons, and a hint of relationship back story and character development. It takes a little more work but it's worth it. If you go through your book and decompress those expository pieces of dialogue it'll really enrich it. And don't worry about getting it all in at the start if you're working at novel-length— you've got the space to develop it. Trust your reader to put things together. Write to your smartest reader— they'll get it.
Nothing groundbreaking, just some solid advice that someone gave me once.
THE COLLABO ISSUE-
Collaborations seem to be a tough sell. Siren Promised, my gonzo art-saturated collaboration with Alan M. Clark, does well enough for an indie press release, but still hasn't gained the readership or momentum that ADA or EJ have. This despite nothing but favorable reviews/blurbs/award nominations. And I think I understand why...
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Murs and Slug
Mike Patton and Dillinger Escape Plan
Mr. Lif and Akrobatik
I enjoy all of the above artists, some quite enthusiastically. But when they decided to pair up and create something together I was reticent to check out the product. In some cases it took me months to cop the books/CD's when I would normally buy something from these folks the day it dropped.
I guess the fear was that the meeting of these respectable forces would somehow force each other to dilute what made their individual works so enjoyable. And I'm proprietary about the artists I love in a very nerdy way, and don't want some milquetoast mash-up of blended sensibilities (like that Best of Both Worlds disc with R. "You Going to Pee on My Little Girl Mr." Kelly and Hova).
But once I ventured out and gave the collaborations a whirl I found that I totally enjoyed what these artists had made together. And in some cases it felt like the collaborators forced each other to step their game up or try out new things.
So for any of my readers that might find themselves hesitant to pick up Siren Promised because its a collaborative effort, know this- working with Alan M. Clark took my storytelling to some of the strangest and some of the best places its ever been.
Another bonus point- The art is fucking KNOCKOUT. My right forearm sleeve based on one of the paintings is finally done (42 hours later). I tried to get a good shot of it but it came out like this:
Hopefully Pedro at ONA will have some very pro shots of the piece soon. It turned out great.
INFLAMMATORY QUOTE OF THE MONTH-
"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue -- and -- thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never solves anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler would referee. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor; and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms." - Robert A. Heinlein
Good God, I just don't know how to feel about that.
The whore in me has this basic request: If you've read one of my books, and you feel on some empirical ranking level that they warrant four stars or better, and if you might have a few nice words to say about the words I wrote, you would be an affirmed benefactor of at least one creator of weird shit if you popped off an Amazon Review (or even better, one of those Lists).
Honestly, as a micro-press author without big box exposure or a Magical Cure-All Public Oprah Book Handjob on his table, your continued support for my books on Amazon and across the net makes all the difference. Your support has already repaired my cleft palate and replaced disc C5 in my spinal column, and with your continued support I might just be able to grow a substantial beard (right now I lack the proper vitamins for any sort of real beard-luster).
Seriously, thanks to those who've already repped my work and Bizarro on the net, and advance thanks to those who will do so in the future.
Whore transmission over.
The new issue is out now, and I'm pretty sure it's the only place to find some of Fante's short fiction wedged in between Ninja Turtles and Kool Keith. For the first time in a while I did not contribute a piece to the mag, but as people who've checked out prior issues can attest, Verbicide's got a lot more going on outside of my jibber-jabber.
Speaking of Verbicide, here, at long last are the...
MARS VOLTA INTERVIEW BONUS MATERIALS-
Here, and strictly for the Volta completist, are bits of my recent interview with Cedric of the Mars Volta that were cut by the editor due to flow/page restraints. Any material in italics is Verbicide/Me (except for the very limited intro discography at the end).
Extra intro asides-
Anyone inspired to attend a Volta concert as a result of this interview would be remiss not to devote some time to watching keyboardist Isaiah Ikey Owens work over the ivories. Because the guy is like Hendrix- he is feeling the music- and his keyboard playing is the most physically manifested stuff I’ve seen since Tori Amos started humping her piano bench.
Actually, please apply that “Hendrix” comment to the whole band. This is a group of musicians that destroy the stage like they can hear bombs whistling overhead. The Mars Volta is a group of people for whom no other life would be acceptable- they are musicians on a cellular level.
Cedric on ADA-
It's called Angel Dust Apocalypse.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I have… I’ve been reading that. It’s really good. I like the one with the guy who has the brain on the outside of his body. And there’s the other one, too, where there’s some sort of worm going through the body of a patient that they’re keeping.
The parasite one.
Yeah, that was a great one, too. And the guy realizes he got contaminated.
And he chops off his leg with a hatchet.
Yeah. That was awesome stuff, man. Thanks for dedicating that to us.
A big chunk of that book was written while listening to De-Loused in the Comatorium and EL-P’s Fantastic Damage instrumentals, so that’s definitely part of why it turned out so jacked-up.
More on Dune-
I mean, I don’t mind David Lynch’s version, I love that one. But I think Jodorowsky’s version would have been a whole lot darker.
It would have been a whole different world.
I feel like only the Harkonen’s are the darkest in [Lynch’s] movie, and I feel like everyone, even the good guys, have really dark secrets that should have been in the film.
More on Meeting Roni Size-
Some people were cool it’s just that he’s the one person that we went out of our way to say, “Hey, you really have a big influence in what we do.” And he was just a big asshole. So it kind of turned me off from all electronic music. I was like, “God, are they really that full of themselves?” I can appreciate the difference between the styles of live music. But then I just felt very defensive like, “Fuck you, man, you just press buttons.” At the same time I realized that he had a live drummer but I just felt like, “God, man, you should realize that your music is hitting people that you wouldn’t expect it to hit.”
On Language and Lyrics-
Do you prefer Spanish or English for singing/songwriting?
Sometimes Spanish has a little more depth. I couldn’t sing certain songs in English in order to get a certain sentiment across. It would have to be in Spanish. I’ll view it like this- if I’m in a foreign country and I hear something, just some sort of song on the radio, and it’s not from my era, and the lyrics might be about walking the dog or something, but to me it just sounds so… it doesn’t sound like that. It might sound like an ode to a dead lover or something. Being Chicano I tend to gravitate towards the Spanglish a lot more and Spanglish has a lot more English in it and I want to get away from that sometimes because I think the sentiment is best… its intentions are better felt through Spanish.
So, with that being said, and thanks and well-wishes for the remainder of the tour being expressed, the interview was done. And much like a listener at the end of a Mars Volta album, I was left with a number of intriguing but unanswered questions- How’s the 16mm Volta movie coming along? How was it working with EL-P and are there any other hip hop artists you’re really enthusiastic about right now? Have you ever seen anyone get as amped as Ikey on the keys?- and the general, exhilarating sense that these guys are creating, and will continue to create, some of the most exciting soundscapes in modern music.
Limited Discography Sidebar-
Apparatuses Unearthed: A Micro-Guide To The Mars Volta Auditory Film-Fest
Tremulant EP- The first sonic blast. Three strange, exciting songs from a batch of musicians radically redefining their path post-ATDI. Produced by Alex Newport & The Mars Volta
De-Loused in the Comatorium- Omar later referred to this album as “restrained.” Which is like calling meth-heads “easy-going.” Viewed by many fans as their defining album, it has a pop sheen offsetting the aggressive mania of tracks like “this apparatus must be unearthed” and the beautiful but mournful tones of “televators” and “take the veil cerpin taxt.” The fact that De-Loused is a concept album celebrating the life- and chronicling the death- of Omar and Cedric’s artist/mentor Julio Venegas lends the songs extra pathos and gravity. Co-produced by Rick Rubin and Omar.
Frances the Mute- Five songs broken down into fifteen sections, this is a rough one to select mix-tape tracks from. Which is fine and likely intentional because the Volta again entered concept album territory, this time via an abstract tale about Cygnus, a fictional surrogate for late band-mate Jeremy Ward. An album filled with both transcendent and lonely moments, and some of the harshest lyrics Cedric ever penned (phrases like “lakes of blood”, “feed us the womb”, and “heaven’s just a scab away” abound). Source of the breakthrough single “The Widow” as well the brilliant “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore.” Produced solely by Omar.
Scab Dates- The closest thing to a live Volta performance, featuring some incredibly propulsive moments and a Reich/Cage-type breakdown featuring filtered backstage chatter and sax squawks that may be a serious flashback-inducer for anyone who’s ever ingested a hallucinogen (I’m not kidding you, I’m warning you). Some vital moments here, including “b. and ghosted pouts” and a forceful “Concertina.” Produced by Omar.
Amputechture- This time the Volta drop the concepts and let each song work its own singular course. Cedric’s comparison of the songs to episodes of Lynch’s Twin Peaks holds water- there are an overwhelming multitude of whacked-out things happening in these songs, and the more you listen, the more you are simultaneously enlightened and disturbed. And, like in Peaks, sometimes the audio is running backwards. Although this is an album with very accessible moments- the simple structure of “vermicide,” the throttling groove of “viscera eyes,” or the smoky, filtered noir drums of “meccamputechture”- the biggest rewards come from repeat listens to epic tracks like “tetragrammaton” and “day of the baphomets.” Produced by Omar.
It's dreamy, huh? New deck courtesy of the ever-righteous and highly recommended Merde Skateboards.
FINALLY, A COMFORT FOOD BUFFET OF OPINIONAL FUNLETS-
Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor- Okay, yeah, he raps about hugs and robots and skateboarding, but it has a great balance of the lighter material and on point commentary (including the super-dope gangster zombie critique "The Cool"). Probably my second favorite hip hop album of '07 next to...
El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead- Effortlessly badass with well-placed collabos, ridiculous production, and lyrics for days. So good I find myself afraid to listen to it, like it's challenging me to push as far as El's gone. This is a week in to listening to it, I'm sure my opinion will drain of hyperbole after time. But right now this is the best thing running.
Outkast's Idlewild- Finally copped it. Under-rated, very solid, and "Morris Brown" stays fresh on sunny days. I'm all for artistic expansion, but when Andre raps, I do find myself wishing he'd do more of that.
Nas's Hip Hop is Dead- I wish Kevin Federline would have had the balls to name his album the same thing. Nas gets a bit of Grumpy Old Man syndrome here, but there's more meat here than fat, and the opening track is among his best.
Peeping Tom- Patton=Magical, although the disc is uneven. The tracks with Amon Tobin and Massive Attack make me wish he'd work with more "electronic" artists.
Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury- It's so goddamn cold, man. If I listen to it too early in the morning it gives me The Fear. "Flow reptilian" indeed.
Game's The Doctor's Advocate- Weird goddamn album, with the chronic Dre jocking, but the production and Game's compelling flow and psychodrama keep it moving.
Muse's Black Holes and Something or the Other- Queen meets U2 meets the Volta meets politicized space opera meets Radiohead. Yeah, it feels derivative, but it's a lot of fun.
Led Zeppelin, The Eurythmics, and The Doors- All in rotation a lot recently.
M.O.P.- Where's their next album? And I'm talking a real Warriorz follow-up, not that metal thing they did as Mash Out.
D.J. Premier- I respect him more everyday.
Little Children- Jennifer Connelly gets hotter everyday, the script stays smart, and the performances are all fine tuned.
The Host- Goofy. Great monster design. I hyped it too much in my head before I went.
The Descent- Not goofy, and I keep thinking about it.
Grindhouse and Chucky P's Rant- My early impression is that both of these are going to make '07 a very entertaining year for me and a whole slew of nerds worldwide.
This blog- Bloated as fuck, but it's nice to finally see you again.