The Cinematic Orchestra Live -- great, but remind me why I care? The Cinematic Orchestra's show at the Bowery Ballroom was more than a little flat -- but I'll expound on that later. First, just a brief comment on opener DJ Karsh Kale, who wasn't any better. He spun a listless and seated set that evoked an idiot A & R's vision of Jackson Heights and Basement Bhangra laced with overpriced falafels and bad ecstasy. As Cinematic Orchestra took the stage, I noticed it was already draped with more electronics than NORAD in the 1970s. This couldn't be a good sign, as one of the things that make the Cinematic Orchestra's recordings so excellent is their reliance on rich orchestration. Thus the name the Cinematic Orchestra. Leaving behind the strings and other real instruments was a big mistake. Something was definitely lost, even though I'm sure that all the samples were taken from the masters. For the first part of the set, the Cinematic Orchestra's gangly white Brits were joined by Niara Scarlett, a voluptuous black female who provided a vocal center. Just like her colleagues, she hit all the right notes, and just as with her colleagues, I strained to care but couldn't. The line-up was a drummer, bassist, a saxophone player who wielded a tenor and a soprano, a keyboardist, a DJ, with mastermind J Swinscoe working a sampler and a second keyboard. All band members switch-hit on some sort of acidy bass synth. The best part of the band was the keyboardist. Great chops and wonderful tone, and his understated style, although jazz-heavy, had a welcome tastefulness. As the band played on, I was troubled. Here was a group that I really enjoyed listening to, but could care less about live. So I tried to work backwards from other music I loved. Were the lush grooves that occasionally snapped into focus analogous to Miles Davis and his group on Evil Live or Bitches Brew? No, this was too practiced. Despite the jazzy technique of the group that seemed suspiciously hired, that wasn't it. Maybe it was more like Jaco Pastorius' self-titled recording. No, that was just me trying to place the soprano saxophone. Holy shit! It suddenly dawned on me: this is my generation's Kenny G, our easy listening. Fuck. The only thing that might save the Cinematic Orchestra is they lack the all-too-familiar noodley quality of over-played jazz. Or maybe that just makes it worse. Could it be that my peers can't handle a real solo, that A.D.D. and the Ritalin to cure it has left them only able to appreciate a banging rhythm section? And when that rhythm section has a, god forbid, live drummer with heavy jazz chops, the group is mistakenly thought to be playing real music. That's it. All those chill-out comps marketed so heavily to our generation and left on repeat in loungers and Banana Republics everywhere are no better than lite jazz. But what the hell. I'm a sucker for the familiar, and appreciated songs I recognized. This held true with the exception of "Evolution", where PC, the DJ/turntablist, juggled a beat and the drummer played along. It really fell apart towards the end, but was saved from being a total train wreck by a well-placed backspin. But this was all just a warm-up for the grand finale. The Cinematic Orchestra closed their just-over-an-hour set with the title track off their new album, The Man with A Movie Camera. This sprawling piece was peppered with a DJ-scratched hook taken from Jimmy Castor's B-boy classic "It's Just Begun". The massive break from this monster jam was used to great effect, with the DJ and drummer repeating their juggled and doubled duet heard earlier in "Evolution". Here they nailed it. And with the drummer forced to double a tight funky beat, he was kept away from the previously over used cymbals of his drum kit, which only a second kick, roto-tom, and rotating cage away from a kit Tommy Lee might be seen behind. Unfortunately, his always expressive style became even more so. Hunching his shoulders and hamming it up, our little drummer boy made it seem like he hammering out a drum solo second to none, not even "Moby Dick". Not that every drummer needs to behave like Charlie Watt, but no drummer should look like Sting, grimacing in full Tantric glory. As a headliner is prone to do, the Cinematic Orchestra did an encore. I elected to beat the crush of grown-up ravers who now like so-called real music and their friends who love anything European. I'll still listen to the Cinematic Orchestra when I'm cleaning the house, need to mellow out, or want to impress some shallow girlfriend with my impeccable musical taste. But you won't find me at any of their shows. They are, unfortunately, another example of a great studio concept that should have stayed there.
Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.
"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979
Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.
That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.
"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.
The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.
In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.
To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First CenturyPublisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.
Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.
Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.