A great songwriter
Rilo Kiley: RKives (Little Record Company)
Seven of these 16 outtakes etc. were recorded along with Rilo Kiley's reflexively underrated 2007 swan song Under the Blacklight‑-the one where Jenny Lewis & Co. consorted with chart-proven beatmaker-producer Mike Elizondo. Another three accompanied their underachieving 2004 succès d'estime More Adventurous‑-the one where they were so vulgar as to risk Warner Bros. distribution. And near as I can hear, all that marks these terrific songs as outtakes etc. is that they're slightly less produced and dramatic. Lewis's melodic facility, vocal ductility, psychological acuity, and verbal dexterity never peak as high as on UTB or MA while maintaining an altitude that few song bands ever reach. May I recommend "Let Me Back In," about wanderlust; "A Town Called Luckey," about 30 as middle age; "Bury, Bury, Bury Another," about work, love, and death. May I recommend the greasy Too Short cameo on the "Dejalo" remix. May I recommend the handclapped closer "The Frug": "And I can do the frug/I can do the robocop/I can do the Freddy/I cannot do the smurf/And I can hate your girl/I can tell you she's real pretty/I can take my clothes off/I cannot fall in love." A
Rilo Kiley: The Execution of All Things (Saddle Creek '02)
Beloved of her cult, in part simply because it's early but also because it's mild, this is where Jenny Lewis begins her run as one of the '00s' hardest-hitting songwriters. Really, mild she's not. Her great subject is triumph over depression, exemplified by the magnificent "A Better Son/Daughter," where she's on the march long before she's made forthright her m.o. Even "My Slumbering Heart," which describes dreams any man worth sleeping with would be proud to lie there and listen to, hints at the nightmares of everyday life. Insofar as that man is partner Blake Sennett, however, he is admittedly kind of mild. A
But what the geek in me was most excited about was -- WOW! -- actual comic books from Robert and Charles Crumb's kiddie collection! Super Duck! The Barks titles he actually studied and learned from! WOW!
"Where does naiveté turn into ignorance, and then into racism?"
Maybe not the question he thought the song would generate, but we are who we are and it is what it is. And if you substitute the word "stereotype" for the word "racism", doesn't it go both ways?
Douglas Wolk is worth reading on comics much of the time (more for current than historical).
And for an understanding of comics as a medium and how it works, an absolute must-read is Scott McCloud's *Understanding Comics*
McCloud's followup, *Reinventing Comics* has many fine points but stumbles with way too much faith in the future of comics online. After *Understanding* I would skip to
Volume 3, *Making Comics* -- in his early comicbooking days, McCloud was an extraordinary storyteller, and there's tons of fascinating scoop, both practical and theoretical, in this volume.
[EDIT] I think the first 10 issues (the ones in color) of McCloud's comicbook *Zot!* are absolute flawless. I was as excited reading new issues as I had felt as a little kid. I thought the series got a lot more slow and ponderous after it was revived in black and white after a hiatus. This is, however, a minority opinion.
Uncle L's work may be "distinguished by its lack of concern" with racism, per Coates, but that hasn't stopped "What the hell are you looking for, can't a young man make money anymore?" from being lodged in my head for 20 years.
And an additional slow clap for Chris Martins and Spin for this short Cosmo re-write from yesterday about Laura Jane Grace. Especially since it includes a video of Against Me! and Joan Jett doing a "Yes, we mean you" live version of "Androgynous".
I got back into reading comics about five years ago after 20 years off. Honestly, it was for the worst of reasons: nostalgia. (I think that was my mid-life crisis.) But nostalgia only takes you so far, and the superhero stuff I loved as a kid is pretty stale for the most part. But I did really enjoy the visual experience of reading comics. "Watchmen" is a classic, a touchstone of modern comics--and I'm about the only person I know who doesn't like it. But it you are interested in comics, you need to read it. The Sandman series is another classic that I'm pretty sure I will like when I get around to it.
I read Bill Willingham's "Fables" in trade format. It peaked several years ago, but is still really good. My favorite ongoing comic is one called "The Unwritten" by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. It's been wandering a bit for the past year, but the first 35 or so issues are outstanding, and I still think they'll pull the story back together soon enough. If you have any interest in fiction, hermeneutics, etc., it's the kind of book that might interest you.
I'm also fond of a guy named Jonathan Hickman, although he doesn't always manage to rein his big ideas into compelling stories. The science-themed "Transhuman", with JM Ringuet, and "Manhattan Projects", with Nick Pitarra, which presents a kind of alternative history sci-fi about Einstein, Oppenheimer, etc, are both good fun. I like another science-y one called "Nowhere Men" by Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde, although it's only four issues in, so it could easily crash and burn.
If you want superhero stories, two I could recommend are a recent Warren Ellis run on Secret Avengers (available in a single, six-issue trade) and a recent Keiron Gillen run on Journey Into Mystery about Loki (about 30 issues total) that was a wild ride with some genuine emotion. Gillen also wrote a series with Jaimie McKelvie which I've yet to read called Phonogram, which is urban fantasy with a pop music angle. Very highly acclaimed.
Edit: A few years ago Marvel released a bunch of their main titles on DVD with every issue from the beginning to about 2004, so I got digital runs of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, the Avengers and the X-Men. I've read chunks of the early stuff, include all the ASMs through 1973. As you can imagine, a lot of it is not terribly good, but some of it is fantastic. Stan Lee made great teams with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Some of that early Spider-Man and Fantastic Four stuff is terrifc and holds up well.
I have thought about this a bit more, however, so one last post of recommendations.
I would start by checking out this guy, if only because he was first.
Ron Goulart's *Over 50 Years of American Comic Books* is the most well-done survey I have on my shelves. There are others that people recommend. I still think this is tops of what I've seen.
And I think that international deserves more mention.
This book --
is definitive on Manga.
As for the rest, the best I know of is *The Essential Guide to World Comics* by Tim Pilcher and Brad Brooks.
See you in the funny papers.
My cousin Fred, who was 5 years older than me, was a major comics fan. He ended up opening a comic book store, and then a second store, also in Delaware. He was very knowledgable and used his know-how to earn a living off comics. He would purchase rare comics on eBay and then sell them for 2 or 3 times what he paid. I'm talking first appearance of Batman (and Superman!) for thousands of dollars each. Like that. He was my superhero growing up because he had found a way to make a living as an adult and still enjoy his childhood passions. He loved comics and movies mostly, and wasn't so big on music - compared to us here anyway. His house was amazing. He had classic comics on every bit of wall space - most signed by the artist. A lot of really great rare stuff. Tragically, he passed away from a heart attack at age 50 - almost 5 years ago to this day.
Due to Fred being older than me, I typically spent time with his younger brother growing up rather than Fred. But in my early 20s, Fred and I began to spend a lot of time together and became very close. Fred got me into comic books in the late 80s, and I was a big fan/collector for about 5 years. I've read that that period of time was a very special time for comics as independent comics really got busy then. Fred enjoyed good stories but was really more into the art and the artists. Dave Stevens, who drew the original Rocketeer, was a big favorite of his. His drawings of women are superb, and his art was fun to collect because he did a lot of cover for random titles (not just Rocketeer). In my heydey, I collected entire runs of the following, all of which I'd recommend:
Neil Gaiman's Sandman (DC)
Concrete (Dark Horse)
Omaha the Cat Dancer
Love & Rockets
Detective Comics/Batman (DC)
Carl Barks' Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge
E.C. Comics - Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror
The Complete Crumb Comics
Alan Moore's Swamp Thing
Garth Ennis' Preacher
I know there were others but that's all I can recall. I sold almost everything I owned back in the early 90s, retaining only my Crumb and EC Comics collections, as well as my complete runs of American Splendor and Sandman, and some valuable early Detective Comics (Batman).
I remember making the conscious decision to give up comics since I just didn't have time to devote to two hobbies. I stuck with the music. Another must-own: Watchman graphic novel.
I miss you Cuz.
Feel like chipping in here despite having never heard "Accidental Racist'-
which I'll get around to. But I will say that LL Cool J is about as "acceptable" an
African American artist as there is-given his very successful prime time
television show. And that being said this sounds like a nice match-given the "acceptability factor"
of both Paisley and he. Hope it's less soppy than "Ebony and Ivory" though.
BTW -the brief discussion about the "mix" of cultures in Berkeley schools -interesting-
but jeez it's been going on in parts of NYC (see Queens for one) for like ever. Which brings me back to the America
I know-and prefer- and the America that's actually out there- a real head scratcher if there ever was one.
Obama is a gift from heaven-this country will figure it out well after my lifetime.
Any other gifts out there?--see Rilo Kiley.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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