Homeboy Sandman: Chimera EP (Stones Throw)
The beats on these six songs tend low and thrummy, less than catchy but they stick with you. The philosophical lyrics are braggier than usual, and in a touch I like, every damn one is reproduced on the cover of the vinyl version. First side, "I Do Whatever I Want" and especially "Cops Get Scared of Me" prove somewhat less than compelling. But the second begins with a a geopolitical analysis so much shrewder than the unpromising title "Illuminati" that the two excellent if lesser tracks that follow are, well, illuminated. B PLUS
Homeboy Sandman: First of a Living Breed (Stones Throw)
Between speed of delivery and brevity of line, Sandman's nonstop tunefulness here tends jingly no matter how gritty his flow. So listen up, Goya Foods‑-he's a Dominican vegan with an old rhyme called "Canned Goods," and if you're real nice maybe he'll let you attach it to a garbanzo commercial. As a sucker for babies, let me praise the sample that runs through the "Wear Clean Draws" variant "For the Kids"; as an elder, let me remind those who've forgotten (as I had) that the treated verbalese of "Cedar & Sedgwick" namechecks the birthplace of hip-hop. Sandman's rhymes are so unfailing I wish he'd tell stories as well as pile on rhetoric, because rhetoric is harder to sustain at the level of interest he deserves. I also wish his best album didn't recycle one standout each from his two 2012 EPs. But there aren't many rappers who can top a strong collection with a progress report on their careers which credibly reports that the nicest thing about earning money is having more to give away and transforms a diffidently childish "not really" into a dynamite hook. I mean, what a boast: "Not really." A MINUS
makes pygmies of the po-mo boys. I'd always thought it was a Women's Studies handbook. And that Lessing was a'bad' writer (like Dreiser). Turns out to be a rock falling on your head. It is a Great Book, mind-boggling in that you wonder how did one person hold this in her brain. That she wrote it in a couple of years and followed it up with story collections, more novels, series of novels etc etc is also remarkable. (Most of these I haven't read - which is as exciting as knowing you haven't been to Brazil yet.) Also, unlike a number of those blokes, there's no sense of 'I have been working on this mighty edifice for decades and now behold'. Lessing just gets on with it.
Comics? OK, now I have something to contribute. More recent noteworthy comic runs:
Keiron Gillen just finished a long story (about 30 issues) on Loki in Journey into Mystery that was outstanding.
Mike Carey and Peter Gross's The Unwritten is the finest ongoing imo (not superhero; about the way the worlds of fact and fiction grow into each other)
Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente had a nice run on Incredible Hercules
Mike Mignola's Hellboy universe rarely disappoints
Ditto on All-Star Superman.
Warren Ellis did a six-issue run on the otherwise forgettable Secret Avengers that shows why comics can be wonderful.
Not quite sure if Jonathan Hickman's Manhattan Projects (what those wacky scientists really did in New Mexico) will live up to its promising premise, but it's off to a good start.
Steve Engelhart's Avengers
Hammett Maltese Falcon (det)
Sterling Holy Fire (sf)
Mosley A Little Yellow Dog (det)
Vassi Mind Blower (porn)
Le Carre Tinker, Tailor (spy)
Gibson Neuromancer (sf)
Chandler Long Goodbye (det)
Brunner Stand on Zanzibar (sf)
Thompson The Getaway (crime? horror?)
Stephenson The Diamond Age (sf)
Leonard Maximum Bob (det)
Ade Fables in Slang (humor)
White The Once and Future King (fantasy)
Delany Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (sf)
Clarke Childhood's End (sf)
Of course, just as I included Mumbo Jumbo and Naked Lunch because I think the novelistic tradition includes Candide as well as Lost Illusions, I include all these because Poe deserves to be mentioned along with Hawthorne (although in fact I much prefer Hawthorne). In my life, Mind Blower and A Little Yellow Dog have meant more than The Great Gatsby and Invisible Man (both of which I also like and admire, and both of which I've read more than once, as I have Mind Blower and A Little Yellow Dog). This isn't a greatness argument--I'm not experienced enough as a literary critic to go that far, don't have my concepts straight. But it might turn into one if I'm given two lifetimes.
For Carola at this point, Le Carre's best novels seem to be moving up there with her special favorite Lessing.
One more thing: Among the many novels I've never read is Delany's Dhalgren (sp?), which Carola swears by and many others known to me also love.
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.