Jesse Jarnow

Archive for June, 2007

some entertainments.

I am not quite sure what to call the below episodes of Robot Chicken and Powerpuff Girls, in which fairly fuckin’ hilarious Star Wars and Beatles references, respectively, are framed in the shows’ usual styles. They are not mash-ups, except conceptually. They are too scattershot to be parodies, and too oblique to be tributes, though that perhaps comes closest. Anyway, it’s probably making too much of them, but both make comedy from the secret vocabulary of intimate fandom.

It’s not like other shows haven’t done the thematic-inside-joke-as-leitmotif before, but these two happen to do it with worlds that have been with me (and probably a lot of people) since early childhood. So, it’s absurd, but it somehow runs deeper than that — as when the Robot Chicken dudes tell the story of Ponda Baba, one of the many creatures from the Mos Eisley cantina that resonated with my adolescent self as grotesquely creepy, or when the whole Powerpuff episode builds towards a joke based almost exactly on  More Videos

“arrival in mas” – recorded by david baker

“Arrival in Mas” – recorded by David Baker (download) (buy)
from Pitamaha: Music From Bali (2000)
released by Amulet

(file expires July 4th)

There’s lots of gamelan music to be had besides Amulet’s Pitamaha: Music from Bali, and I’ve had some of it, but David Baker’s compilation of field recordings was my first exposure. “A thousand toy pianos twinkling madly,” is how I described it before I knew anything about the genre, about how each “instrument” is actually an individually tuned set of sub-instruments. And, to be honest, I still don’t know much about it, give or take a few shadow puppet traditions. It is not that the rhythms sound foreign to me. They sound as instantly natural as ever, as does the tone. They sound like another dimension, like the alternating consciousnesses of Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World, a place I’ve been all along.

some recent articles

Album reviews:
The Mix-Up – The Beastie Boys (Relix)
The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s – The Stanley Brothers (from Paste #16)
Indie-Weirdo Round-Up, featuring: Dandelion Gum by Black Moth Super Rainbow, While My Guitar Violently Bleeds by Sir Richard Bishop, Mirrors by Battles, Corona: Tokyo Realization by Jim O’Rourke, and Spider Smile by Tarwater (

Track reviews:
Melody Day” – Caribou (with interview) (
Wave Backwards to Massachusetts” – Hallelujah the Hills

Columns and misc.:
BRAIN TUBA: Friends & Other Hippie Pap (
“Summer Salt” demo
“Meet the Mets” cover

In print:
Paste #33 (Can Rock Save the World? cover): feature on Ghosts of Cité Soleil director Asger Leth, film review of Death at a Funeral
July Relix (Page McConnell cover): album reviews of the Beastie Boys, Praxis, Buffalo Tom; book review of Dub: Soundscapes & Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae)

‘sad and lonesome” – RANA

“Sad and Lonesome” – RANA (download) (buy) [live versions only on iTunes] from Here in the USA (2002)
released by Bonesaw

(file expires July 2nd)

Man, after five years (!), RANA’s “Sad and Lonesome” is still so perfectly languid. Though they sometimes played at being an indie band, the New Jersey quartet never quite mastered the hipster, er, edge. But when they played to their strengths — chemistry, mainly, and berserker lead guitar — they sounded fantastic. Though “Sad and Lonesome” references both blues (a pair of harmonica solos) and country (the title, and a twangy solo from guitarist Scott Metzger), the song is decidedly neither of those. But it’s definitely sad, and it’s definitely lonesome. A lot of the mood comes from songwriter Matt Durant’s Rhodes, a naturally sleepy instrument that simulates warm, nocturnal air. On paper, the lyrics are an ambiguous jumble — Durant claims, “It’s such a nice night to be married” before he declares that he’s gonna “find [him]self a bride” — but it’s no matter and (in practice) makes exactly enough sense as it needs to.

“meet the mets” – funny cry happy

“Meet the Mets” – Funny Cry Happy (download)
(Ruth Roberts and Bill Katz cover)

(file expires July 1st)

If anybody was wondering what a Funny Cry Happy arrangement of “Meet the Mets” would sound like, well, wait no longer. Conceived during the atrocious 4-14 stretch and recorded with a mite less mope following their three-game sweep of the A’s this weekend, it’s… um, I guess it’s something I made on a Sunday evening for the hell of it. Forgive the extra/dropped beats.


There are many ways to read Lolita: as dark & sexual pulp, as hilarious meta-narrative, as a disturbingly sincere love story. But Nabokov is also a peerless observer of the cultural landscape as it transforms from the old, weird America of folksong and rural roads to the new, weird America of endless asphalt and roadside lodging.

Nous connumes (this is royal fun) the would-be enticements of their repetitious names — all those Sunset Motels, U-Beam Cottages, Hillcrest Courts, Pine View Courts, Mountain View Courts, Skyline Courts, Park Plaza Courts, Green Acres, Mae’s Courts. There was sometimes a special line in the write-up, such as “Children welcome, pets allowed” (You are welcome, you are allowed). The baths were mostly tiled showers, with an endless variety of spouting mechanisms, but with one definitely non-Laodicean characteristic in common, a propensity, while in use, to turn insanely beastly hot or blindingly cold upon you, depending on whether your neighbor turned on his cold or his hot to deprive you of a necessary component in the shower you had so carefully blended. Some motels had instructions posted above the toilet (on whose tank the towels were unhygienically heaped) asking guests not to throw into its bowl garbage, beer cans, cartons, stillborn babies, others had special notices under glass, such as Things to Do…

“goodnight irene” – little richard

“Goodnight Irene” – Little Richard (download) (buy) (1951ish)

(file expires June 28th)

There is nothing ethereal about Little Richard’s Ray Charles-like take of “Goodnight Irene” — at least, not like the Leadbelly origination, or even the white bread version Pete Seeger & the Weavers rode to #1 in the summer of 1950. But it is remarkable nonetheless, mostly because of a drummer I can’t identify. In his hands, it doesn’t matter that the song is a murder ballad. The melody is there alright, but it is almost as if it only exists to give an arc to the utterly liquid groove. It sounds like there’s a conga player, too, but the meat of it is in the snare shuffle beneath Richard’s vocal, which dives in and out of the rhythm guitar. Like Glenn Kotche’s parts in Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” the drummer remains in freefall, as if he is always about to start the song’s real drum part. It never arrives, and the singer never quite says goodnight proper.

frow show, episode 22

Episode 22: Standard Bitter Love Songs…
…at the end of a bliss bender…

Listen here.

1. “The True Wheel” – Brian Eno (from Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy))
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Good Guys & Bad Guys” – Camper Van Beethoven (from Camper Van Beethoven)
4. “Melody Day” – Caribou (from Andorra)
5. “When the Sun Grows On Your Tongue” – Black Moth Super Rainbow (from Dandelion Gum)
6. “Pink Batman” – Dan Deacon (from Spiderman of the Rings)
7. “I Hear A New World” – Joe Meek (from I Hear A New World)
8. “Within You Without You” – Sonic Youth (from Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father compilation)
9. “I’m A Boinger” – Billy & the Boingers (from Billy & the Boingers Bootleg flexidisc)
10. “The Night Before” – The Beatles (from Help! OST)
11. “You Didn’t Try To Call Me” – Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention (form Freak Out)
12. “She’s A Rejector” – Of Montreal (frrm Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?)
13. “Stupid Girl” – The Rolling Stones (from Aftermath)
14. “Never Talking To You Again” – Husker Du (from Zen Arcade)
15. “Wait For You” – The Mountain Goats (from Babylon Springs EP)
16. “Goodnight Irene” – Little Richard (from Forever Gold)


I’d heard about Tideland, but my first notice of its release was when I looked down at the Daily News (I think) while eating a taco at two in the morning and seeing (I think) a half-star review of a new movie. Wondering what could possibly be so awful, I was informed of the existence of a new Terry Gilliam movie. I missed it during its New York run, and sat on the DVD for a month or so after it arrived. My suspicions were met head on when Gilliam himself arrived, in unflattering black and white, to introduce the film himself.

“Many of you are not going to like this film,” Gilliam says. “Fortunately, many of you are going to love it, and a great many of you are not going to know what to think, but hopefully you’ll be thinking.” The math is a little dubious. It is not optimistic, and — after Gilliam tells what, exactly, we should be thinking — it certainly contributes like a self-fulfilling prophesy to the ruin of the movie, which plays out like the most hideous recesses of the adrenochrome nightmare Gilliam hinted at in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (with Jeff Bridges as the anti-Dude doing his best impersonation of Bernie of Weekend at Bernie’s fame). Tideland‘s fundamental language is no different than the fantasy-infused grotesques of Brazil or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but — as Gilliam’s totally unnecessary and film-mauling introduction seems to emphasize — it plays the grotesques for almost pure shock as opposed to building blocks towards larger truths.

It’s nice to see Gilliam getting arty and strange again after a decade run at the mainstream. It’s a logical step for him, artistically. All the darkness, of course, lurked near the surface of his Flying Circus animations for Monty Python — which is exactly what gave them their power. I hope he keeps chasing this particular muse. Maybe he’ll get it next time. (Don Quixote, sadly, seems the perfect manifestation for it.) I am not going to repeat Gilliam’s instructions for viewing Tideland, because they give concrete shape to what could be an oblique and implacable experience. (Though you can watch the intro on YouTube.) (No, you can Google it yourself.)

“Don’t forget to laugh,” Gilliam reminds us, sounding like a total sourpuss. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he gravely intones at the end of his message. The image switches to color (?!) for a frame or three. Only then does Gilliam smile. The joke is definitely on somebody.

links of dubious usefulness, no. 13

o Peter Tork kvetches about how the Monkees have been kept from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I must respectfully disgaree with the otherwise heady folks at Hidden Track. In fact, not only would I argue that the Monkees deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for their roles as pioneering cultural archetypes, but that a canned institution like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was veritably invented for canned bands like the Monkees. I also think it’s a bit of a double-standard for them to honor those doing the canning (like, say, Phil Spector) but denying the messengers’ existence.

o Some great Mets-related profiles over the past few months: Jose Valentin (and how he is a player/owner in Puerto Rico), El Duque (and an older story about his arrival in the United States on a raft), Jose Reyes (and how he’s da bomb), Rick Peterson (and how he’s batshit, into crystals, and could conceivably turn an Oblique Strategies deck loose on the bullpen), and — on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week — Omar Minaya (and the Mets’ new new pan-racial funk; step over Sly Stone).

o An academic paper titled “Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies.” Haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but it looks promising.

o Wunderkammern pal and Sea of Sound host Michael Slaboch contributes (along with Tony Mendoza) to the Third Coast International Audio Festival. Their “New Pleasant Revolution” is the fourth audio documentary down.

o A preview of the forthcoming (and officially sanctioned) Robot Chicken Star Wars special, out this weekend.

the baseball diaspora

Watching the Mets melt over the weekend, there were numerous tasteless jokes I wanted to make about unsuspended steroid-free reliever Guillermo Mota. But there was nobody around. I thought about logging on to one of the entertaining comment threads on Entry into the Mets’ online fan community is something I’ve been hesitant about, though.

When fans of bands or authors or comic books or even politicians gather online, it is usually for the purpose of creating a virtual community, a collectively imagined place to give body to an idea. But baseball fans already have a physical home: the ballpark. That’s not to take anything away from Mets fans that post online, just to note that the meaning and tenor of their conversations is different. They are an old-fashioned mini-diaspora that doesn’t need the net to survive, just AM radio and somebody in a similarly colored hat. I was happy to save my rude comments until those conditions were met. Didn’t take long.

“i wish it would rain” – the cougars

“I Wish It Would Rain” – The Cougars (download) (buy)
from Jamaica to Toronto, 1966-1974 compilation
released by Light in the Attic

(file expires June 20th)

Apparently, this is a Temptations cover, though I only know the Cougars’ version from the Jamaica to Toronto, 1966-1974 soul/reggae compilation. The vibe amazes me every time, which simultaneously nails the heartache of the lyrics (“raindrops will hide my teardrops, and no one will ever know”) and the feeling of swampy, unbearable humidity. Part of that is in the particular crackle of the recording, but a good deal of it is the arrangement: the alternating notes between the guitar and the heartbeat kickdrum, the atmospheric organ. Of course, it has a hook, which reminds me of Hendrix’s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” (a song I haven’t heard in probably 13 years, when I learned a mongrelized version for a summer camp band, so maybe I’m totally misguided). But it is the conflation of weather and emotion that does it. Not that it’s gotten too humid yet this summer, but I’ve been feeling “I Wish It Would Rain” lately, wanting to watch sheets of flamboyant storms come crashing across the basketball court outside.

a neon palm tree found at an inexplicably fake beach on the banks of the east river, 6/07

summer salt demo

“Summer Salt” demo – Funny Cry Happy (download)

Wrote this song in October but had occasion(s) to record it this evening. I think there are some partying Puerto Ricans in the background on one of the tracks. It’s a very rough mix right now, though C.P. Farnsworth will soon tweak it up proper. It’s short & could probably use a bridge. Also uploaded to the Funny Cry Happy MySpace page

yahtzee, 6/07

Examples of my handwriting, 15 years apart. The right two columns are from 2007, the lefthand columns are from 1992. The 3s and 8s are loopier, and I was more inclined to write in cursive, but not many differences besides those. That said, the 2007 version doesn’t really look (to me) like my normal handwriting anyway. Ah, the durress of Yahtzee.

frow show, episode 21

Episode 21: Surf’s Up…

Listen here.

1. “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince & the Revolution (from Live in Syracuse)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Erotic City” – Dump (from That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice?)
4. “Hallelujah the Hills” – Hallelujah the Hills (from Collective Psychosis Begone)
5. “I Think That Echo Finally Fadeed Away” – A Big Yes & A Small No (via
6. “Return of the Tourist” – Jason Holstrom (from The Thieves of Kailua)
7. “2300 Hawaii” – Yoshinori Sunahara (from Sushi 4004 compilation)
8. “Sad & Lonesome” – RANA (from Here in the USA)
9. “A Life of Possibilities” – Dismemberment Plan (from Emergency & I)
10. “The Thanks I Get” – Wilco (from Sky Blue Sky b-sides)
11. “These Are the Eyes” – Bodies of Water (from Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink)
12. “Should A Cloud Replace A Compass?” – The Circulatory System (from The Circulatory System)
13. “The Dress Looks Nice On You” – Sufjan Stevens (from Seven Swans)
14. “Lazybones” – Soul Coughing (from Irresistable Bliss)
15. “I’ll Fly Away” – Johnny Cash (from My Mother’s Hymn Book)

bang on a tengo: yo la tengo at the bang on a can marathon, 6/2

Yo La Tengo at Winter Garden, World Financial Center
2 June 2007
Bang on a Can Marathon

Ira: keyboards/piano, James: electronics/drums, Georgia: keyboard/crutches (?!), with: Pat Gubler (PG Six, harp), Matt Heyner (No Neck Blues Band, upright bass), Elson Nascimento (Sun Ra Arkestra, percussion), and Britt Walford (Slint, drums)

Set was 20-30 minute improvisation, possibly including bits from one of The Sounds of the Sounds of Science songs (“The Sea Horse,” maybe?). Mostly free and abstract, save for a pulse in the middle when James switched to drums, at which point it became rhythmic and abstract. But also pretty free.

mnemonic pinball, 5/07

What a specific, weird window of time: when the internet and pinball machines co-existed, and fantasies of one could be channeled into the other. Specifically, 1996, with the release of Johnny Mnemonic movie.

(Also, Centipede finally broke.)