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Continuum's Cover Lit: The 33 1/3 Series

Continuum pays homage to some the most significant albums in pop and rock history with its 33 1/3 series, a thoughtfully curated collection of books about these albums. PopMatters responds to the 33 1/3 series with a set of reviews, essays, and interviews that considers the proper role of music criticism, the vitality of the album, and books written about some smoking good music.

Edited by Anne K. Yoder


Continuum pays homage to some the most significant albums in pop and rock history with its 33 1/3 series, a thoughtfully curated collection of books about these albums. Treated as part museum piece, part sacred altar, the albums are venerated in the form of rock star histories, musical analyses, and personal accounts. PopMatters responds to the 33 1/3 series with a set of reviews, essays, and interviews that considers the proper role of music criticism, the vitality of the album, and books written about some smoking good music. Our writers perused some of their favorite titles covered in the collection, and respond here with how the books measure up: Bill Gibron discusses Pet Sounds, Anne Yoder looks at In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Dante Ciampaglia looks at Sign ‘O’ the Times and Born in the U.S.A., and Steven Horowitz reviews Kick out the Jams. Series authors Kim Cooper and Jim Fusilli, of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Pet Sounds, respectively, speak in separate interviews about the difficulties of writing about music and the minds behind these two remarkable albums. In his essay, Rob Horning critiques the series, wondering to what extent the books are self-serving pieces of music criticism and if a critic’s intercession can enhance the listener’s experience, while Anne K. Yoder gives an overview of the series and speaks to series editor David Barker about how it all came to be.

Monday, April 3 2006

Introduction and Interview with Series Editor David Barker

'We've definitely caught people at a moment in time where there's a certain nostalgia for the album format -- although I don't think it's as doomed as many make it out.' Anne K. Yoder talks to 33 1/3 series editor, David Barker, about his 'great little books'.


The New #1

Granted, Pet Sounds is a great album, one that requires very little support for its importance as art and as musical innovation. Yet Fusilli finds inventive ways of making these givens new and engaging.


I Know There’s an Answer: An Interview with Jim Fusilli

'Well, when I was younger, it was the album that pulled back the curtain and showed me, at the same time, a new world and the truth of myself. But now I'm astonished by the wisdom of it, the depth, the quality.' Bill Gibron talks to Jim Fusilli about his excellent examination of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.


Tuesday, April 4 2006

Kick Out the Jams

Up against the wall, pseudo-revolutionaries: a report on radical rock of the '60s shows the perils of mixing art and politics in the marketplace.


Wednesday, April 5 2006

Canon Fodder

'In effect, the series de-pop-ifies the records, taking them out of the realm of spontaneous appreciation by fans, and organizes the discipline of album criticism as the specific practice of experts.' Can the widely revered pop albums chronicled in Continuum's 33 1/3 series survive the ardor of their most intelligent and impassioned critics? Rob Horning investigates.


Thursday, April 6 2006

Sign ‘O’ the Times

Matos is a committed Prince fan who revels in the what he perceives as the artist's successes, like Sign, while admonishing those albums that he thinks fell short, like Diamonds and Pearls.


Friday, April 7 2006

Riding a Comet’s Flame: An Interview with Kim Cooper

'In him not being interviewed he becomes the center of the book, but he would be anyway.' Kim Cooper speaks to PopMatters about the musical friendships that gave rise to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Jeff Mangum's reluctance to publicly speak about the band, and the difficulties of portraying people and music with words.


Born in the U.S.A.

You don't need to be a Springsteen fan to have heard the song or seen the video and know what's happening in it, making Himes's unsubstantial analysis of the song a waste of a page and a half. Himes's bio states he won a 2002 ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for Music Feature Writing -- you'd never guess it by such academic, overstated passages.


In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Given Neutral Milk Hotel's shifting lineup and frequent moves in the years before and during Aeroplane, Cooper commendably maps out their story within a spare hundred some pages.


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