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Lindgren, reviews

Lindgren, reviews

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Published by Mike Lindgren
A selection of reviews, 2004–2007. Includes pieces on Klosterman, Freudenberger, Pavement, Thurston Moore, Greil Marcus, the downtown scene, etc.
A selection of reviews, 2004–2007. Includes pieces on Klosterman, Freudenberger, Pavement, Thurston Moore, Greil Marcus, the downtown scene, etc.

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Published by: Mike Lindgren on Mar 30, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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Michael Lindgren Selected Reviews www.mikelindgren.com 212 481 6488
ON GRAM PARSONS:It took Gram Parsons just over six years to change the face of Americanmusic. Parsons brought fresh force to country tradition with the InternationalSubmarine Band, remade the Byrds in his own image on the classic
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
, founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, and recordedtwo solo albums of aching beauty, all before his death in 1973.Along the way, he taught the Rolling Stones about country music, discoveredEmmylou Harris singing in a nightclub in Washington D. C., wrote a handful of songs — “Sin City”, “Hickory Wind”, “Brass Buttons” — that stand as classicsof down-home American soul, and, by all accounts, ingested more alcohol,cocaine, and heroin than seems possible. It would be hard to overstate hisinfluence on country, alt-country, Americana, roots music, and all theirpermutations.Despite his towering legacy, the most complete biography Parsons hasreceived until now is Ben Fong-Torres’s well-intentioned but slapdash
Hickory Wind 
(1991). Fong-Torres has a keen sense of Parsons’s music, but hescrambles to keep track of the myriad musicians and scenesters who movedin Parsons’s orbit, and his narrative feels choppy and rushed. With Twenty Thousand Roads, Parsons has finally received a book equal to his musicalaccomplishments and outsized personality. David N. Meyer’s biography is anexceptional piece of research and writing, lucid and penetrating about themusic, fair-minded yet tough about Parsons’s shortcomings and wastedpotential. Meyer has tracked down and interviewed hundreds of Parsons’sassociates, some of whom have never spoken on the record before, and hissynthesis of these sources is fluid and absorbing.Meyer has gone farther than anyone else in understanding the roots of Parsons’s self-destructive tendencies, tracing them to his upbringing in a richSouthern family haunted by suicide and alcoholism. He also debunks many of the myths that have grown up around Parsons, and provides as objective an
© by Michael Lindgren. All rights reserved. 210 E 29 St 2A | NYC 10016
account of Parsons’s doomed last night at the Joshua Tree Inn and itsnotorious aftermath as we will ever have.For the most part, Meyer’s analysis of Parsons’s music is articulate andperceptive, with the exception of his dismissal of the Fallen Angels, thepickup band that toured with Parsons in 1973 (Meyer faults drummer N. D.Smart for his inability “to play anything other than a 4/4 shuffle,eventhough Smart’s drumming on the waltz-time “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man”is sprightly and swinging).Meyer’s book is otherwise especially illuminating about the technical aspectsof the music Gram made his own, whether explaining the difference betweenNashville and Bakersfield country or discussing the intricacies of pedal-steelguitar playing. As a bonus, the book includes a comprehensive and often droll(Keith Richards is identified as “the only man who can play a Chuck Berrysong worse than Chuck Berry”) encyclopedia of Parsons’ contemporaries. The true strength of 
Twenty Thousand Roads
, however, is its insight into howParsons’s demons and excesses were inextricably linked to the greatness of his music. Meyer is clear-eyed and occasionally brutal about Parsons’ druguse, wobbly work ethic, and callow self-absorption, but he refuses toromanticize his subject’s excesses or exploit them for prurient effect. In theend, Meyer’s book betrays a deep sense of sadness over what could havebeen. That sadness is part of what made Gram Parsons’s music so moving. Itis also part of what killed him.-- NO DEPRESSION #72, November 2007ON NELL FREUDENBERGER:Nell Freudenberger’s career to date reads like a novel in itself, with herHarvard education, slinky good looks,
New Yorker 
publication, famousliterary agent, and mentions in
It is a letdown, of sorts, tofind that her debut novel is such a banal affair.
The Dissident 
tells the storyof Yuan Zhao, an exiled Chinese artist who comes to live with the Traverses,
© by Michael Lindgren. All rights reserved. 210 E 29 St 2A | NYC 10016
a Southern Californian family that is a Woody Allen-style parody of shallowBeverly Hills life. The
dramatis personae
include an absent-minded writerfather, a sexually unsatisfied homemaker mother, two surly teens, and aChinese-American student who— surprise!—is authentically talented. Hijinksensue, secrets are revealed, lessons are learned, etc. This is, to put it mildly, well-trodden territory. To be fair, Freudenberger is acrisp stylist, and she effortlessly captures the tics and mannerisms of thesefeckless Californians, as observed by the bemused Yuan in his role ascultural ambassador. Freudenberger’s observational powers and way with aphrase only go so far, however, and as pleasant and absorbing as it is,
imparts no impact: it practically evaporates upon completion.-- THE BROOKLYN RAIL, November 2007ON WARREN ELLIS and Crooked Little Vein: This scabrous detective yarn is the straight-fiction debut of Warren Ellis,better known as the creator of the
series of graphicnovels. The whacked-out sensibility that characterized
survives the transition to prose, but minus the supercharged imagery, thenarrative comes across as slapdash and juvenile.
Crooked Little Vein
relates the cross-country adventures of down-and-out private eye MikeMcGill and his feisty sidekick Trix, with the plot functioning almostexclusively as a device for introducing a staggering procession of perverts and fetishists. Ellis may be after dark, shocking affects, but theaction is so peppy and cheerfully paper-thin that any sting is neutered.
Crooked Little Vein
has some fun playing with the timeworn conventionsof the gumshoe novel, and floats a half-baked sub-theory about thecultural mainstreaming of the deviant, but on the whole remains single-mindedly shallow. After a while, you get tired of waiting for the nextgross-out, although the relationship between Mike and Trix eventuallybetrays a hint of sweetness and mutual need. An amusing ride, but hardly
© by Michael Lindgren. All rights reserved. 210 E 29 St 2A | NYC 10016

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