OK Computer

Is Radiohead’s OK Computer the best album from the 90’s? It has some competition from Nirvana’s Nevermind of course, but also from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which were both also released in the same decade. Not to mention My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. I realize that many people consider this album to be overhyped – but I don’t care. Don’t get me wrong. All of these are great albums. Maybe even some of the best through the history of popular music.

But OK Computer is different. It effectively captures a sense of history, and anxiety of the future, of that point in time, and it’s proven to be more prescient than the others. Nevermind can be argued that it started a movement, but it’s not the same as a description of the change in society and how it views itself in the world. The separation of the self from society itself, and the impersonal interactions with others, mainly enabled through technology. From the description of ambition and greed in “Paranoid Android” that we can see daily in dozens of reality TV shows where the stars are worshiped to the disappointment and disillusion of society in “Let Down”.
The impersonal brings about societal norms falling and the resultant social ills that we see today.

Even the structures are the prescient, from the linear progression of “Paranoid Android” instead of the standard chorus-verse, to the electronic production, much of modern popular music sounds like the album – the merging of electronic and rock music.

[What we’re into right now]: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire - The SuburbsIt’s been a while since we’ve written anything in these series of posts, but we’ll try to keep them going.

I had resisted the Arcade Fire for a very long time now. If fact, I began to do it stubbornly so simply maintaining that I did not care for them and leaving it at that. However the album The Suburbs had come into my house and I had spent some time hearing it as it was played here and there. Eventually, I had sat down to listen to it in it’s entirety and it has since grown on me. In fact, this may have been one of the best albums to come out last year.

Arcade Fire has surrounded this album with suburbs of it’s own giving it a monumental scale. This album is meant to be a statement. From the website to a short film directed by Spike Jonze that premiered at SXSW this year. There is even HTML5 interactive web site where you can type in your childhood address and it creates a film using Google Earth to the song “We Used To Wait”. Of course, any album called The Suburbs is going to ignite emotions from almost anyone. Suburbia in America has become a barometer of sorts for so many social/economic/political views. The most prominent of which is the urbanite looking down on the manicured lawns as a sign of emptyness and soul-crushing sameness, so often something akin to the militant ex-smoker.

The album opens with the song “The Suburbs” where the levity of the music and tempo mask the lyrics over it, and the songs that are still to come. It builds slowly until becomes momentous arena-rock. So much of this album is infused with the feeling of disillusionment and the nostalgia for the escapement and innocence of your childhood. Of course, as a child the boredom seemed insufferable in the suburbs, and you would daydream of the time for you to escape to someplace more exciting. Now looking back, by the time that it’s your time to have children, you realize that perhaps you haven’t changed that much from your parents. Personally, much of the feeling of the album is wrapped up in the lyric “But do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debt? I have my doubts about it.” from “City With No Children”. Perhaps you yourself are caught in the same trap as your parents where you worry about the circumstances of your life, but see that you cannot necessarily change it without giving up everything.

David Sedaris

I went to see David Sedaris tonight. He read from his latest book and some new essays that he’d been working on. I’d only read one book that he had written, Me Talk Pretty One Day. David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One DayI had been given it by my now wife not long after I had met her. It was the first gift that she had gotten me. I was taking a French class and she wanted me to read the stories of him learning French in Paris.

I loved his wry humor and scathing insight. It was always good for a laugh even when it at inopportune times. I hadn’t gotten around to any of the other memoirs, but heard many of the other excerpts on This American Life. Many years later, when we bought our house together we had put together our books and separated out the dupes to sell. I saw that we had two copies of Me Talk Pretty One Day, but I put it back on the shelf next to the other one. I just couldn’t bring myself to sell it.

Musée d’Orsay at the De Young Museum

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet

There is a new exhibition open at the De Young Museum in San Francisco called Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay open till September 6th. I would love to be able to see this if we were still in the city. It’s got some notable peices such as The Fife Player by Manet, Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Festival of June 30, 1878 by Monet, and The Floor Scrapers by Caillebotte. This is quite a coup for the city to be the only location of this exhibit.

There is also a seperate exhibit open in the sister museum, The Legion of Honor, called Impressionist Paris: City of Light which also looks impressive.

A few years ago we were in Paris and got a chance to go the Orsay. It is quite an amazing collection of work that has been assembled, and the venue, which is an old remodeled train station, is equally fantastic. The main drawback is all the people that view it through the viewfinder of their camcorder. At that point, since you’re not really looking at it, you may as well just buy the catalogue from the museum store.