Page 1

New MUSIC Liars Yeasayer Beach House Fanfarlo Bear in Heaven JÓnsi of Sigur RÓs


HOWARD ZINN Interview by

Josh Brolin

Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Kicks Ass 2010’s

New Class Nick Kroll Abby ElliotT Dave Franco & Kid Cudi | $4.99 US |4.99 CAN MAR/APR 2010


New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Newport Beach










CONTENTS ISSUE 23 2010 19 | THE LATEST They finally made a MacGruber movie. 20 | Happenings Record Store Day Returns 22 | Books The Case Against Translations 24 | Digitalism Recession Theater 28 | Politick Max Blumenthal and the Right’s Rise


31 | MUSIC Jónsi Bobby Birdman White Denim Cold Cave Bear in Heaven Fool’s Gold Fanfarlo We Were Promised Jetpacks Noah & the Whale El Perro Del Mar Yeasayer Beach House Charlotte Gainsbourg Atlas Sound Liars

M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 H E L L O

82 | Christopher Mintz-Plasse McLovin no more! The star of Kick-Ass bounces around L.A. with cast mate and fellow funny man Clark Duke, waxing philosophical on fame, youth, and his special brand of comedic allure. 106 | Superheroes Anonymous Chances are you wouldn’t don a mask and cape then walk the streets of New York City on a vigilante mission to thwart crime. But some people do. This is their story.

92 | Howard Zinn One of our country’s greatest historians in one of his last interviews. Interviewed by the inimitable Josh Brolin.

New MUsiC Liars YeasaYer Beach house FanFarLo Bear in heaven JÓnsi oF sigur rÓs

reMeMBeriNG iNterview By

Josh BroliN l.A. CoNFiDeNtiAl




KicKs ass 2010’s

118 | Fresh Faces There’s a new crop of comic actors popping up looking to steal the mantle from the Rudds and the Rogens. Starring Nick Kroll, Abby Elliot, Dave Franco, and Kid Cudi.

(who KiCKs Ass As well)

the CAse AGAiNst BooK trANslAtioNs

howArD ZiNN

new class

112 | Noah Baumbach Baumbach’s got the quickest wit in cinema bar none. It’s on full display in his latest indie masterpiece, Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller.

Also stArriNG

claRK DUKe

on greenBerg anD LiFe aFter neW York

a DaY in tHe liFe OF a Real-liFe sUPeRHeRO (FOR Real) >> PG. 106

nick kroLL aBBY eLLiott Dave Franco & kiD cuDi | $4.99 US |4.99 caN maR/aPR 2010

O n t h e C o v er : C h risto p h er M int z - Plasse and C lark D u ke p h oto g ra p h ed e x cl u si v ely for D eat h + Ta x es by R ay L e g o in L os A n g eles , C A .

reviews FrighteneD raBBit teD Leo Magnetic FieLDs surFer BLooD anD More



B o l d. ©2009 CASIO AMERICA, INC.


Editor Stephen Blackwell

Editor Alexander Moore

Managing Editor Creative Director Director of Photography Fashion Director New Media Director Publishing Consultant Account Manager

Isaac Lekach Joe Parlett Ray Lego Carmel Lobello Thomas De Napoli Doug Perkul Nicholas Clar

Contributing Writers

Josh Brolin, Ethan Fixell, Max Goldblatt, Gray Hurlburt, Amelia Kreminski, Zac Nadile, DJ Pangburn, Carmel Lobello, Max Willens, John Z.

Staff Writers

Zach Custer, Shannon Hassett, Adam Kearny, Matt Kiebus, Amy Laviero, Colm McAuliffe, Johnny Sanford, Amy Rose Spiegel

Contributing Photographers

B. Appio, Chris Buck, Lane Coder, Julia Galdo, Paul Quitoriano, GUZMAN, Agan Harahap, Paul Jasmin, JUCO, Noah Kalina, Clay Patrick Mcbride, Bryan Sheffield, Blake Sinclair, Ramon Singley, Eva Vermandel, Kevin Zacher


Siobhan O’Brien

Copy Editor

Amelia Kreminski


Alex Moore P. 212.274.8403 E.

Chief Financial Officer Accounting Manager Death+Taxes Magazine 72 Spring Street, Ste. 304 New York, NY 10012 Ph: 212.274.8403 Fax: 212.925.3853

Michael Labinksi Jeff Maurer Very Awesome Media Group 20855 NE 16th Ave, Ste. C16 Miami, FL 33179 Ph: 305.770.4488 Fax: 305.770.4489

All content Copyright 2010 Death+Taxes Magazine 2010 Very Awesome Media Group ISSN: 1930-3424 No part of Death+Taxes may be reproduced in any form by any means without written consent from Very Awesome Media Group


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 H E L L O


Last Man Standing So, how are you liking 2010? 2009 was supposed to be the nasty one—what Kristin Wiig in MacGruber might refer to as “a doozy” (see page 19). Unfortunately, it looks like we got another doozy on our hands.


ith American industry struggling to pick itself up off the ropes, the Obama promise of hope devolving into a

kind of rope-a-dope of fret

and despair, and the global

There will always be a Senate, just

Atlas Sound—Bradford Cox’s relentless

like there will always be an economy.

productivity should inspire us all. And of

Bubbles may burst, excesses may

course there’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse

diminish, and redundancies may be

and Clark Duke, who are not only staying

eradicated, but there will always be a last

in the game this spring, but kicking ass

man standing. If Evan Bayh and Chris

while they’re at it.

Dodd (and Massachusetts) don’t like the

And speaking of inspiration, we’re

malaise that hung like a pluvial black

“narrow ideology” on the Senate floor

especially honored to have an interview

fog over the end of 2009 continuing to

now, just wait until the whole place is run

by Josh Brolin with legendary historian

seem impregnable, it’s no wonder that

by the unilateral Tea Party authority that

Howard Zinn, who passed away in

so many are simply giving up.

is eager to snap up the vacated seats

January at age eighty-seven having

they’ve left up for grabs. We understand

just completed The People Speak with

relinquishment of his Senate seat in

their desire to jump—everyone wants

Brolin—an apt celebration of his life’s

February, said, “There is too much

to jump from a train when he realizes

work. Zinn implored us to never stop

partisanship and narrow ideology in

it’s derailing. The problem is, the train

fighting, to live by our principles and

Washington. Even at a time of enormous

is going to keep going, no matter what.

to champion individual human dignity

national challenge, the people’s

For the rest of us, this just creates the

above all else. He led by example until

business is not getting done.” He’s not

opportunity to steer it.

the very end, and his legacy will inspire

Evan Bayh, while announcing the

wrong. Chris Dodd agrees. As does

In this issue, we celebrate those who

Massachusetts, apparently. But if there’s

are staying in the game. There’s Noah

one thing we can be sure of, it’s this:

Baumbach, whose new film Greenberg

power will end up in the hands of the

represents a whole new vision for the

last man standing.

filmmaker. There are great comeback records from Liars and Yeasayer and


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 H E L L O

generations. Now that’s called staying in the game.

- The Editors



Djuna & Sandy

Guzman is based in New York, but frequently works in France. They have photographed advertising campaigns and filmed commercials for many clients, including Puma, Lancôme, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Pepsi, Adidas, Perrier, L’Oreal and Evian. Visit

On top of styling and grooming Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Clark Duke together for Death + Taxes, Djuna Bel and Sandy Ganzer also have a shared love of potentially poisonous foods and Italian gothic residential architecture. Bel formerly worked as a model and co-owned the NY-based vintage store Fox & Fawn. Her styling work has also been featured in L’uomo Vogue. Ganzer’s efforts have previously been seen in the pages of Elle, V, Spin, and Rolling Stone, to name a few.

Chris Buck

Lane Coder

Toronto-born photographer Chris Buck makes portraits and other pictures of curiosity from his bases in New York and Los Angeles. His clients include Yahoo!, Microsoft, GQ, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. In 2007 he was the first recipient of the Arnold Newman Portrait Prize. He is currently wrapping up a project in which he is photographing other people who have his full name. He has had the unfortunate surprise to find that all but two are more interesting than him.

Lane resides in Brooklyn, New York where he has enjoyed working as a professional photographer for the past 7 years. Over the past 5 years, Lane’s work has been included in Art + Commerce’s “Festival of Emerging Photographers” competition and gallery show (2003), W magazine’s “Behind the Lens” Competition and gallery show (2004), PDN magazine’s “30 to Watch” competition and publication (2007), The International Photography Awards competition and book (2006), Surface magazine’s “Avant Guardian” competition and publication (2007) and most recently his work in Playground, an art and fashion book, was accepted into the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s permanent collection.

Josh Brolin Josh Brolin is an Academy Awardnominated actor. Making his big-screen breakthrough in 1985’s The Goonies, he has appeared in American Gangster, The Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men, and Gus van Sant’s Milk, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for his depiction of Dan White, the city supervisor who assassinated Harvey Milk. Brolin also starred in Oliver Stone’s George Bush biopic, W., and will appear in the forthcoming Wall Street 2. Brolin was also a producer and key collaborator on The People Speak, the recent History Channel special celebrating the work of Howard Zinn. As a longtime fan, Brolin interviewed Zinn for this issue in December, just a month before Zinn’s passing. Brolin conducted an exceptionally well-researched and thoughtful interview. It’s a special editorial that celebrates Zinn’s life and work, and we’re grateful to Brolin for providing insight into Zinn’s genius.


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 H E L L O

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Events L.A. APPROVED: IT’S ALL GOOD The East side of L.A. has become a pretty well known melting pot for some of the most inspired and creative artists. We can thank this corner of the world for unique moments like the Obama “Hope” poster and a band like Silversun Pickups being nominated for a Grammy. But underneath all of the art gone pop is a vibrant colorful world with some of the greatest music, art, retail shops, festivals and local media. No Age Recently, a monthly free event going by the name of L.A. Approved has sprung up at random locations, bringing several of these creative individuals and organizations under one roof. Past L.A. Approved events include performances from Abe Vigoda, Jail Weddings, Polyamourous Affair, Voices Voices, and Restavrant, to name a few. The show we visited in January was an art show with works from Martin DePedro and Sho Noro at a nook called Synchronicity Space with performances from Moab, Woah Hunx, and Neil Hamburger. We don’t know all of the people involved, where the next one will be, or how long it will last, but every flyer includes the text “Event made possible with help from Hello My Name Is Records, FYF, Ovrcast Collective, Yab Yum, Hang the DJs, L.A. Record, Vacation Vinyl, Origami Vinyl, and now we can add Death+Taxes to that list.


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 H E L L O A l l p h o t o s e x c e p t o p l e f t b y P e t e r Va n D y k e

©2009 VTech Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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L ATEST WE GOT A DOOZY ON OUR HANDS SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE WUNDERKIND JORMA TACCONE ORIGINALLY PITCHED MACGRUBER as a character for one of the show’s hosts to play. The staff wasn’t huge on it. “I think the next pitch I had after that was a commercial parody for a new kind of chunky mayonnaise. Oh god, I just got two huge groans,” he admits. “So to have it go from that moment of pitching it to making a movie and completing it is mind-boggling.” Fortunately, Taccone stuck to his guns and convinced SNL veteran Will Forte to don the wig and play the titular character. From there the mockery of the eighties television series MacGyver snowballed into a beloved recurring skit, spawned a series of Super Bowl commercials sponsored by Pepsi, and has now been adapted into a major motion picture. Rounding out the cast in the comedy Taccone calls his “own Lethal Weapon” is SNL’s Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillipe, and Val Kilmer who stars as the antagonist Dieter Von Cunth (the “h” is silent).



Hap p e n i n g s

The Latest

Store Day exclusive releases. Over eight hundred stores are participating this year, with tens of thousands attending. Michael Bloomberg even declared Record Store Day an officially recognized day in New York City’s annual calendar. So just what is the deal with Record Store Day? Founder Michael Kurtz gives us the lowdown: For those not yet in the know, can you explain what Record Store Day is? In two

years Record Store Day has morphed from an excuse to throw a party for all of the artists that record stores love to an international event. Hundreds of artists as diverse as Leonard Cohen to The Breeders to Metallica to Tom Waits to Wilco to Björk have all either made appearances at the stores or created special vinyl, CD and DVD releases. It is now like a huge music festival that is celebrated simultaneously at record stores in cities from New York to London to Tokyo to Toronto to Rome to Los Angeles.

little record stores,” and move into the role of having Record Store Day viewed as not only a great celebration of music and art but also a celebration of viable locally owned businesses that generate significant income for artists. By our second year, we had close to one hundred unique Record Store Day commercial releases. The Flaming Lips, Tom Waits, Iron & Wine, and Bob Dylan were some of the most sought after. I don’t really fear for record stores so much as I fear for the artists and labels who have lost much of their ability to make a living off their recorded music in the digital age. Of course, if they fail, then there are no record stores. I don’t see that happening, but it is a concern. As far as helping consumers stay vitally connected, we’ve got set up so the community can read artists and fans’ thoughts on record stores, watch videos, read about our latest Record Store Day-related promotions and releases. This is important, as many of these Record Store Day releases are essentially pieces of art with limited pressings. They can often be found on eBay being sold by fans and collectors for big money. This helps reinforce the value of music and art, so I think that’s a good thing. When we opened our Record Store Day retail site at Coachella last year, we were stunned at the amount of artists that came to meet their fans and at the amount of stuff people bought. Over a third of it was vinyl. Our world is different and Record Store Day celebrates that difference.

two years Record “ InStore Day has morphed from an excuse to throw a party for all of the artists that record stores love to an international event.

Michael Kurtz

And the Record Store Revolution BY ALEX MOORE


irst came record stores. Then Napster. Then Limewire. Then BitTorrent. Then… record stores. Yep, you read right. In 2007, defying the deafening din surrounding the decline of the record industry, Michael Kurtz founded Record Store Day—a day to celebrate record stores and communities of actual people gathering to listen to and buy music. If you’re a cynic, the response will amaze you— some of the biggest bands in the world, from Flaming Lips to Metallica, rushed to participate with special in-store performances and limited edition Record


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 T H E L A T E S T

How did you get all these different bands and stores to participate in a singular vision under one umbrella?

It started out with Metallica—the band said they loved record stores and that they wanted to help us kick it off. Paul McCartney wrote us a really nice email talking about how much he loved record stores and how he supported Record Store Day. The Stephen Malkmus 10” was a really huge deal on the first year too. From there it just took off. Do you fear for the future of record stores? Is RSD one of the things record stores can bring to consumers to stay connected to music in a unique way? One

of the things we wanted to quickly do with Record Store Day was to move out the position of being viewed as “poor

Record Store Day “If you look at a chart of national sales for 2009, one of the big spikes in sales occurs the week of Record Store Day. We moved the planet a little that day. This is good for the artists and all of the people who work in our business.” – Michael Kurtz


Book s

The Latest

One Hundred Cheers for Linguistic Solitude

of bitter resentment. Which is why I am calling for a ban on literary translations. That’s my new policy, and I’m sticking to it: If you don’t speak the language, don’t read the book. B y E t h a n F i x ell • I M A G E B y J O E Y P A R L E TT Let’s be clear: I’m no xenophobe arguing this point out of fear that efore reading the final line, swarthy foreigners, with their romantic tongues and larger however, he had already penises, will steal our jobs and women. Whether you’re understood that he would American, Ukranian, or Botswanan, if you can read One never leave that room, for it Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish, by all means, read it! But was foreseen that the city of just as any cinephile will admit that the American-dubbed mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out version of Australia’s Mad Max sounds like it was looped by by the wind and exiled from the memory of mentally retarded anime actors, books should be enjoyed in men at the precise moment when Aureliano their native dialect. Babilonia would finish deciphering the I admit that an interpretation can also be a fantastic parchments, and that everything written improvement—take Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s on them was unrepeatable since time “Hallelujah,” for instance. But at least in music the interpreter immemorial and forever more, because is given equal billing as the original artist. Can you name me races condemned to one hundred years of your favorite translator of Russian literature? Seriously, name solitude did not have a second opportunity me even one—I’m begging you. on earth.” Sure, I’ve enjoyed a few translated books such as Kafka’s And just like Aureliano Babilonia The Metamorphosis or Camus’s The Stranger. But even these studying the writings of Melquíades the have been sources of major debate. The word “ungeziefer” gypsy, I too, upon reading One Hundred in the opening line of the The Metamorphosis has been Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, translated to everything from “bug,” to “insect,” to “vermin,” had a revelatory moment that would change to “unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice”—all of which my perspective of foreign literature forever: convey different versions of disgust. Meanwhile, the very title I chucked that goddamn book against the of Camus’s L’Etranger has been officially translated to The living room wall as hard as I could. Outsider and The Foreigner in addition to its common title. Somewhere around the four-hundredth Ironically, one of the themes in One Hundred Years page of translated prose, I had begun is that the interpretations of readings can have weighty daydreaming about beating Márquez with consequences. But if I can’t unlock the full potential of a book, Fernanda del Carpio’s golden chamber pot. I’m not interested. I’ll wait until I save enough money for the The language was boring me to the point Rosetta Stone variety pack.

Lost In Translation



M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 T H E L AT E ST

Author Zachary Mason just rewrote bits and pieces of The Odyssey. It’s crazy. We asked him why we’re always rewriting Greek myths. One advantage of the Greek myths is their dense interconnection which creates a sense of depth. In addition to being endlessly rich, the narratives are hopelessly confused; there are multiple versions of almost every story; Helen, for instance, can be shown to have been well past forty, if not fifty, when her kidnapping sparked the Trojan War. I have often wondered why Greek mythology is so much more compelling than, say, superhero comics, when the raw material is fairly similar. One answer is that it isn’t, always (The Iliad’s catalog of ships is famously boring, and The Dark Knight was good). In classical Greece, mythology was perhaps the only subject for high-culture writing, but it is only recently, and sporadically, that comic books have been construed as art. What finally attracts one to the Greek matter is the sense that it is comprised of essential stories, stories that would be reinvented if they were ever forgotten.

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Digi t a l i s m

The Latest

iPad’s Killer apps It’s easy to be a little wary of Apple’s iPad. Is

Home Theater, Recession Style

That’s right—a big-screen projector in your pocket. We got ripped off with no flying cars in 2010, but this helps make-up for it. No joke—it’s a home theater system that fits in the palm of your hand. For less than three hundred dollars, you can experience B y Z a c N a d i le • I M A G E B y J O E Y P A R L E TT any form of video from a DVD Player, computer (pending specs) or iPod/iPhone on t’s 2010, and the recession is still a projection equivalent to an eighty-four-inch screen. preventing my girlfriend and me Originally intended for board-room presentations, this from regularly visiting our favorite little battery-operated black box (about the size of an iPhone) Italian restaurant across the can be set up with or without its charger (compatible with street. It’s been over twelve months USB and standard outlets). Sure, the image may not be the of keeping dollars close to the vest and even brightest, and to achieve a proper viewing experience you’ll trips to Best Buy, where I used to dream of need to use it in dusk lighting at minimum. Put the plug in watching Netflix movies on a sixty-twoyour external video device with standard RCA inputs and inch LCD TV, don’t excite me anymore. Am voilà—you’re livin’ like MC Hammer pre-bankruptcy. I finally realizing the false value in material You can settle for the crummy mono speaker included possessions? No way. within the projector, but I strongly advise grabbing As much as most people would probably some computer speakers (preferably with a sub-woofer) still love to own a Ferrari, they’ve accepted and plugging them into the audio output of your source reality and looked for a similar driving device. You’ll feel like George Lucas when your bedroom experience with a little imagination and rumbles with special effects on a seven-foot screen. far less capital. And as much as I would Not enough for you? It comes standard with an iPod/ love a home theater in my basement with iPhone kit with a dock connector. If you like to travel, forget twelve-channel audio and possibly even about hotel TVs or worrying about what movie is playing at a concession area with someone selling thirty thousand feet. Plug it in, and project any movies or popcorn, I should probably look for other TV shows you have downloaded to the seat in front of you or options. the hotel ceiling. It comes with two battery packs, so for long But is there some way to creatively movies plan a pee break and battery change. harness the big-picture movie theater What about the bulb? This is an LED Projector. It has experience at home without breaking the twenty thousand hours of lamplight. Hey, we’re still in a bank? Yes way. recession—we’re still going out to eat a lot less. But with a fraction of our unemployment checks, we can all watch Let me introduce a movie watching game changer: The Optima Pico Pocket Projector. movies and TV shows like Daddy Warbucks.

Big Screen, Little Wallet



M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 T H E L AT E ST

there anything the little guy can’t kill? You’ve got your obvious front runners—the Kindle, the entirety of print media and any tablet competitor—but then there’s Mac’s own notebooks to consider, and let’s just throw in the hopes and dreams of all would-be Times journalists for good measure. Of course, my bias stems from being an avid reader and knowing there’s nothing quite like the feel of a good paperback. The real task, then, is looking beyond physicality at what the iPad could mean for literature. Access to work that’s been out of print for ages, hundreds saved on textbooks, a revolution in communication between author and reader; the iPad presents even the most bookish of souls with undeniable advantages. It may not be pocket-proof, but perhaps that its beauty: a brain and not a spine. - S.H.

Colu m n s

The Latest

Birth of a Foodie Nation b y M a x Gol d b l at t

Confessions of an Aging Indie Rock Fan

is purchased and more is stolen. The industry is in a tailspin. With such a great case study available in what not to do, it is mind-boggling that the publishing industry seems to be following the same path. Like the recording industry, I assume that there are lots of bright people working within the book-publishing business. If this is true, then how in the hell can you explain their current electronic strategy? Not sure if you heard or not, but the price of electronic books just went up. Most electronic book downloads used to be $9.99 (or cheaper), but now the publishing industry, panicked over print’s collapse, have increased their prices across the board. As if this was not bad enough, they are also delaying the digital release of some eBooks by as much as two months, in an attempt to be careful not to cannibalize hardcover print sales. I can understand their desire to control their own pricing structure so that Apple does not take over another industry (the record industry still blames Apple for their declines in profit), but this is shortsighted. In consumers’ eyes, the industry saves a ton of money by not printing books. They cut shipping and binding costs and can forget about inventory concerns. With these savings, why are consumers being asked to pay so much for an electronic book? Currently, it seems the publishing industry is okay. The number of digital readers is slowly increasing, but with the addition of the iPad, that number will skyrocket. It is only a matter of time before encryption is cracked and books are swapped online at no cost and thereby no profit for book publishers. Electronic book files, which are lower bandwidth than music files, could be the new mp3s, and book publishers will only have themselves to blame.

Everybody Loves a Good Book Burning By DOUG PE RKU L


ne would think that major corporations would be chock-full of very bright people. When I think of some of the big players like IBM, McDonalds, and Barnes & Noble, I tend to think of strategy meetings, spreadsheets, whiteboards, and brainstorming sessions where words like synergy and optimization are thrown around with reckless abandon. Wouldn’t they be required to know the direction of where their product or service is heading and be nimble and creative to deliver on consumer needs and wants? When corporations lose touch with their customers and the markets they serve, they find themselves facing a collective mutiny. Check out your local record store. Don’t have a local record store anymore? Oh, that’s right, that industry collectively collapsed after consumers decided charging $20 for a single CD was a bit excessive. I don’t remember any CD burning rallies across the country, but music fans did unite against the labels via illegal online music downloads. The industry had it coming. The activist theory: want to hurt the labels? Don’t buy their music. The rest is history. The recording industry has tried everything in its power to curtail piracy, but as each year passes, less and less music


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 T H E L AT E ST

How did I get here? Why does food stoke me so? Is it because I was a fat kid? When you’re little, your favorite foods aren’t good for you: pizza and nachos and soda and junky stuff. Kids derive their energy from this goopy, fatty, sugary goodness. It fuels runarounds and leads to naps. Then we get older. We learn to watch what we eat. We learn about legumes and the dangers of trans fats. Food becomes exponentially less fun when it isn’t covered in cheese. But for some of us, that youthful exuberance never goes away. In a way, I view my food obsession as a childhood regression. In the same way that I would have gotten excited about SpagettiO’s as a youngin’, I now lose my shit over beautiful heirloom tomatoes or delicate handmade pasta. The specifics have changed, but that same underlying emotional connection with the stuff you’re going to put in your body is still there. I’m not a religious man, but I would guess it’s something like the Eucharist. That’s it! Foodieism is my religion. This is the way it must be. This is the will of the ancient food gods (Demeter, the barley mother and Artemis, ruler of the hunt). I’m gonna pull an L. Ron here and cook up a new faith. My trinity: the Fennel, the Sunchoke and the holey Swiss Cheese. Our book? Recipes passed down from our forefathers. Our places of worship? The restaurants and kitchens of the world!  Eat on, foodies. In our religion, there shall never be a last supper!

Poli t i c s

The Latest

There was no attempt made to stop Palin’s nomination as McCain’s running mate—it was purely for electoral gain? It was

a political selection. She had no expertise or much experience in anything. Her selection was motivated by the mistaken belief that the Republican establishment could capitalize on the resentment of independent women over the defeat of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s refusal to name her vice president.

Republicanism is on the Rise

In Republican Gomorrah, you write about R. J. Rushdoony and Frances Schaeffer, two influential leaders of what would become the Christian Right. Tell us a bit about these two figures. R. J. Rushdoony called

Republican Gomorrah author Max Blumenthal says: Be afraid B y D . J . P a n g b ur n


ax Blumenthal has the air of an academic, but underneath that unassuming exterior lieth the new thorn in the side of the Republican Party. I interviewed him after his book Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party was published. We spoke about the Evangelical movement and its role within the Republican party.

In your book, you detail the phone call from Colin Powell to John McCain, in which Powell broke the news to McCain that he could not support his candidacy with Sarah Palin on the ticket. Did any others in the Republican leadership seek to oppose Palin before the convention? I

think it was people from the moderate Republican establishment who were appalled by the selection of Palin because she represented the evangelical movement that had taken over the party and either refused to support them as moderates or actively opposed them. 29

M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 T H E L AT E ST

for the replacement of the United States’ constitutional government in order to put us under the control of Biblical law. Whereas Shaeffer essentially created the evangelical wing of the antiabortion movement. 

Talk about how the Evangelical Right is involved in the healthcare debate. They’re extremely fervent about the

healthcare debate. Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, which was founded by Focus as a lobbying arm in Washington, are raising millions and mobilizing resentment against Obama’s healthcare plan. Gary Bauer, who is a former lobbyist for the Family Research Council, made an interesting point: that Obama’s invocations of Jesus—and Obama has invoked Jesus more than George W. Bush, as a figure who cares for the poor and sick—in the context of advocating for his healthcare plan have alienated and angered the Evangelical Right. They consider his invocations of Jesus for a secular plan to be un-Biblical since they view the Church as the only legitimate vehicle for providing care for the needy. As you said, after the election it was as if the progressives signed off and lost their steam. But is the Evangelical Right, which dominates the Republican Party now, ever without steam?  Well, they have a leader higher than their political

leaders, which is the “macho Jesus” archetype. Very few Democratic leaders are able to incite the same passion because Obama hasn’t fulfilled any of the promises he made. So, basically, it was as if Jesus had come back and had been unable to turn rock into manna.

Comeback Kids It didn’t start with Scott Brown’s election—that’s just when shit hit the fan. A revival, a resurgence; call it what you will, but the beginning of a Republican comeback has arrived. The backdrop for Brown’s campaign read “The People’s Seat,” and that’s exactly who put him in power. Not just Republican people, but longtime democrats disappointed with their party. Healthcare, removing troops from Afghanistan (or not), an economy still in disrepair— Obama has created a multiple choice test for abandonment, and no one’s sticking around for the results. These are all issues that require equal parts patience and faith, but just as Obama’s campaign relied so heavily on a positive press and empowered youth support, those can just as easily turn against him. The victories of Brown and Christie, the failure of Palin to disappear— these are signs not of takeover, but the small snares effective at halting change. And maybe it’s time Obama heed his own slogan, because the public certainly has. - Shannon Hassett









By Isaac Lek ach • Photo by Clay Patrick Mcbride

t might come as a surprise that prior to founding Cold Cave, Wesley Eisold fronted several

hardcore bands. His latest venture bares little musical semblance to American Nightmare, Give Up The Ghost or Some Girls—but is perhaps just as dark and brooding in content. As a result, Cold Cave’s debut for Matador Records, Love Comes Close, both synth heavy and melodic, is finding admirers among the hardcore fanatics and indie intelligentsia

alike. Gone is the ferocious growl of Eisold’s youth, and in its place, a bed of pulsating electronic soundscapes channeling Ian Curtis’s baritone drone. “Love comes close, but chooses to spare me,” he sings on single “Love Comes Close,” easily bringing Curtis to mind. But hey— Album P L AY somebody has to fill the Love Comes Close void Joy Division left. We Recommended Track “Life Magazine” nominate Eisold and Co.



Bobby Birdman FLY AWAY HOME



With a kibosh on drum machines and sequencers (or a single Casio synth—don’t get it wrong, reviewers), Bobby Birdman’s third full-length, New Moods, relies on his vocal finesse and organic, live instrumentation to output electronicsounding pop sympathetic to his beatific left-coast aesthetic. Though frequently profiled as the archetype surfer, Rob Kieswetter, the man behind the Birdman, wasn’t shy to advocate his favorite hobby: “Everyone who knows me knows [surfing is] a big part of my life and something that I really love to do.” Our interview revealed he isn’t shy to advocate a fart gag, either. It’s been three years since your last release. What have you been doing? Some

sound design and composing for friends, an art installation, some remixing, 33

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surfing… just toying with New Moods. You have pop sensibility, yet are labeled “experimental.” Is that a misnomer? No,

I like that label. There are definitely pop songs and traditional pop song structures. I guess experimentation comes in with the choices I make in terms of sounds and arrangements that are not quite as traditional. In 2002 you released some songs that were recorded on a bicycle around Portland. Where’d that idea come from? I like that

sort of stuff—process-oriented artwork, the Fluxus movement. On paper, it’s kind of a pretentious idea to make an album riding around on your bike…

didn’t expect it to have any legs, and I’m always surprised that people bring it up. Ultimately, it was kind of a joke, but also I think there’s some merit to it. Have you retained any of that spirit? I hope

so. I always try to keep a degree of humor and concept in whatever I’m doing. I’m not sure if that always comes across, and a lot of the jokes may be inside jokes. I don’t necessarily want to spell them out or have it be super opaque. What’s funny on New Moods? [Laughs]

What’s funny on New Moods… well, there’s a song called “Silent But Violent,” which is a reference to a fart joke.

Why did it need to be heard? I didn’t think

Really? I thought that initially but figured I was just being immature… [Laughs] I don’t

it needed to be heard, to be honest. I

know if it’s funny, but it’s funny to me.


On June 11, 2009, Chris Knox suffered a lifealtering stroke at his home in Grey Lynn, New Zealand. Stroke is a celebration of Chris and his music—it’s a bunch of his friends and fans playing his songs.

STROKE Songs for Chris Knox

A tribute to the music of New Zealand legend Chris Knox! Featuring covers by Jeff Mangum, Stephin Merritt, Yo La Tengo, Jay Reatard, and more! All proceeds to benefit Knox’s recovery from his recent STROKE.



The Sigur RÓs Front Man Goes Solo


By Amy Rose Spiegel • Photo By Brian Appio

At first, Jónsi seems like the living counterpoint to his music. Where his new album Go is lush and energetic, he seems achingly gentle, almost to the point of frailty. As we began our day, he communicated mostly in halfsmiles, but transformed when discussing topics close to his heart. The things that had me noticing the passion that characterizes Go were, interestingly, NYC raw food restaurants (which


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the self-proclaimed “hardcore” vegan admiringly calls “gourmet shit”), his longtime boyfriend, and stringed instruments of all kinds. “I think I’m a quite positive guy,” claims Jónsi, which is reflected in the album’s celebratory tone. Go is a gorgeously intricate construction, rich with Jónsi’s vocals, improvised instrumentation (like stomping feet on “every song”) and, of course, tons of strings. Composer Nico

Mulahy helped with the arrangements. “He brought a lot of life to the album,” said Jónsi. “He made it more playful, more colorful, more crazy.” That’s the big difference between Jónsi’s solo work and the sound of Sigur Rós. His new venture is far from Sigur Rós’s dreamlike creations, and may surprise longtime fans at first, but its intricacy and depth will keep you coming back for more.

SHOUT OUT LOUDS WORK Produced by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, The Shins), Work strips away all of the bells and whistles of previous efforts to showcase the band doing what they do best, writing and playing pop music that is “nostalgic and angst-ridden, but ultimately life-affirming.” —

LET’S WRESTLE IN THE COURT OF THE WRESTLING LET’S “It’s all such impossibly oft-kilter infectious, high-energy personality with laughably loveable lyrics, it’s like the maddest teenage crush.” — The Big Takeover

RADAR BROTHERS THE ILLUSTRATED GARDEN The Illustrated Garden is the punchiest, most lyrically direct set of songs the band has released to date. The songs are unmistakably Radar Brothers, but the new rhythm section (Be Hussey and Stevie Treichel) often pushes them in unexpected directions.

SPOON TRANSFERENCE “Transference is the most exciting album Spoon has ever made” — Nylon Guys

SHE & HIM VOLUME TWO She & Him is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Volume Two is bolstered by rich harmonies, sweet-as-sugar melodies and Brill Building choruses.


WHITE DENIM Chicken Shit Bingo


By Amelia Kreminski • Photo by NOAH KALINA

Texas is home to many wonderful things: pick-up trucks, the Texas two-

step, yellow roses, and all things large. According to country music singer Jerry Jeff Walker, “the friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen” are also located there. And, of course, it would be remiss not to mention the illustrious capital city of Austin, known to everyone as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Josh Block, drummer for Austin-based White Denim, likes many of these things about Texas. “I like the stars at night,” he said via phone one morning in early winter. “Because they’re big and they’re bright.” On Tuesdays he occasionally pays a visit to the dive bar Ginny’s Little Longhorn for a game of Chicken Shit Bingo. “There’s this table they spread across the bingo table with numbers on it,” Block explained. “And they let this


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chicken loose, and wherever it shits, that’s the number that you draw off your card.” Indeed, Josh Block is a real Texas man—and White Denim follows suit. Not in the stereotypical, big-hair, Tim McGraw sense of the word—but in the real sense; the weirdness and DIY spirit that defines Texas, specifically Austin. Their music falls into the realm of psychedelia, somewhere between blues and rock, and almost all six of their LPs and EPs have been self-released. Their latest album, Fits, came out in the U.S. last October. If the album were the soundtrack to a movie, Block explained, “[The movie] would just be about the simple idea of somebody existing that you never actually see, but for some reason their existence frightens you.” White Denim often plays with fellow Austin alt-rockers Harlem, but with one

of the most musically diverse cities in the world as their home base, they also have some of the most varied influences. “Any junior-high wind ensemble pretty much impresses me. I would say that’s probably who I’m watching right now,” Block said. “There’s something about a hundred kids playing just a little bit off from each other—something that sounds so amazing about that. If they’re playing coda, which repeats some more of the beginning of the tune, it can sound completely different [than what they played earlier]! I mean, that’s kind of amazing.” It takes a refined ear to hear the beauty in a junior high school wind ensemble—but if nothing else, Texas, with its unsanitary livestock games and fuel-inefficient vehicles, is the home of refinement. Well, maybe not—but like White Denim, it knows how to have fun.

These Cats Don’t Hibernate By Gray Hurlburt • Photo by Brian Appio


ust what is a bear in heaven? Could

it be the ghost of a long dead beast, enjoying a fat salmon way up in the clouds? Or perhaps it’s some furry guy who happens to wear only a leather cap and is in passionate pitches and throes with Anderson Cooper? Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that in this case, the bear is a band—a group of four hailing from Georgia and Alabama— with an expansive, racing sound that evades being catalogued by a simple tag. Bear in Heaven unveiled their new album, BRFM, midway through October at Union Pool in Brooklyn. Inside, a row of chrome balloons spelled out their moniker in the background. When the crowd merged forward, drummer Joe Stickney, guitarists Adam Wills and Sadek Bazaraa, and singer Jon Philpot veered into their crepuscular single “Lovesick Teenagers,” an angst-driven saga of outcast lovers escaping to nowhere down the freeway. Philpot’s airy voice and the cloud-breaking synthtextures pulled the audience through the album with an enthralling, cinematic kind of velocity, until the climax


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of the last track, “Casual Goodbye.” The night following their release party, the members of Bear in Heaven joined me for burgers and beer at a bar on the corner of McCarren Park in Brooklyn. Once settled, we delved into the subject of their history and the craftwork of their music. You have worked together as Bear in Heaven for six years now, is that about right? Adam Wills: Together, yeah, pretty much. Jon Philpot: I started

writing songs for the first EP, Tunes Nextdoor to Songs, in, like, ‘98. Those songs came out in 2003. Then you, the four of you, came together and created two fulllength records. There was Red Bloom of the Boom in 2007, and now you have Beast Rest Forth Mouth. This latest is a significantly different animal from the last. Is this a fair judgment? AW: It is. I think it’s

the first wholly collaborative album. The last one freaked us out, because it was half John, half us. What wound up being the critics’ favorite points of it, of which we were really afraid of, was that it wouldn’t be cohesive at all. But a lot of people thought it was supercohesive. Sadek Bazaraa: The last one [Red Bloom of the

Boom]. AW: Which was really weird. I mean the review that comes to mind is Pitchfork. There was a line in the Pitchfork review, which was like, “A really cohesive album in an age when album-as-art form is slowly dying.” Which is so weird, because it was seriously the most haphazard record, because there are songs on there that are two years old, there are songs on there that were recorded in a bedroom, or were recorded in a studio—well, it was just all over the place. It’s a snap shot of a time, a long time. But when I think of “cohesive,” I think about what I want to do with the next album, which is just to set aside two months and all we do is write and record. Because, what we’ve always done, all the songs that are on the new album have existed for a couple of years, and have just been rewritten, rewritten and then played out live. What I picked up on in Beast Rest Forth Mouth is that these songs are quite modular. The chorus from “Lovesick Teenagers” reappears towards the end of the last song “Casual Goodbye.” Joe Stickney: It

started off in the last song. That was one of the first songs of the record, right? That

was the one song we started writing when we finished up the last record. And that one changed over and over again. JP: And that last part, when it came to fruition, it was kind of just me and Joe. We were just talking about, and not as a joke, but just doing something where we rehash something and…kind of make a theme of it, is that right? JS: Yeah. JP: And now “Lovesick Teenagers” seems like the beginning, but it’s not. We also did another thing that was similar with “Fake Out” and “Wholehearted Mess.” The drums, those are rather soft, and that’s another thing. It’s kind of like taking these pieces and building a bridge in between them all. All of the ten songs never dip below three minutes in length. Why create longer songs, rather than songs with a quick two-minute punch? AW: I

don’t think that there’s ever been any discussion around that. I think that’s just what happens. I like losing myself in music. If you can do it in a three-minute song, then great. But if it takes seven minutes to do it, that’s fine.


Just Like (Milk and) Honey


I’m standing outside The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard where prostitutes, junkies and Axel Rose once roamed— no longer, though. Granted, parts of Sunset Boulevard are still seedy, but overall, the notorious stretch of concrete has become more of a tourist attraction than a haunt for derelicts. I passed a clothing store occupying the space formerly inhabited by Tower Records on my walk over. It’s been three years since Tower closed its doors and even longer since Johnny Depp opened the Viper Room down the street. Even the famed Roxy Theater has seen its own form of metamorphosis. Neil Young played the opening gig in 1973. And now, the venue will more likely host a battle of the bands than a performance by Young, or Springsteen, or the aforementioned Rose—all of whom performed there regularly. Occasionally, however, the venue will feature praiseworthy bands— like tonight, for instance, which marks the beginning of Fool’s Gold’s first nationwide tour. The Los Angelesbased, Afro-influenced band, which features members of Foreign Born and typically performs with at least seven people on stage, has gathered to celebrate their recently released debut album. Guitarist Lewis Pesacov, along with bassist and singer, Luke Top, find me outside the venue’s entrance. We exchange pleasantries and look for a remote place to chat. Bystanders and passing


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By Isaac Lekach • Photo by Bryan Sheffield

cars make where we’re standing unsuitable, and inside is worse. It’s hard to determine what’s louder: the DJ’s club-thumping music or the awaiting crowd. We settle on The Hustler Store because of its proximity to the venue— not the other stuff. “There’s a café inside,” I assure them. “That’s cool. It’s probably as quiet as a library in there,” supposes Pesacov. Along the way, we find drummer Orpheo McCord sitting on a stoop, looking a bit mischievous—like a nod to the good ol’ days—and invite him to join. The four of us gather in the café, sipping tea like gentlemen, among porno magazines and cupcakes adorned with genitalia-shaped frosting, to discuss the band’s roots and trajectory. How did this band come together? Lewis Pesacov: The

three of us were at a wedding in Northern California. We were staying at this weird hippy—what do you call it?

So you guys decided to start the band at the wedding? LP:

On the way up we stopped by to visit my old friend and she just kept talking about fool’s gold. She’d gone to some lake and kept talking about how she was obsessing over collecting it out of the lake and then that same weekend Luke and I bonded over Mahmoud Ahmed, this Ethiopian singer. We bonded over that and “Genius Of Love” by the Tom Tom Club. And just said, “We should start a band! Let’s call it Fool’s Gold.” How do you feel about being lumped in with the jam band genre? LT: As far as I’m

concerned, I want our music to reach as many people as possible, and I could care less how people want to color it. All that matters is playing in front of people that like to have fun. You mentioned wanting to reach a broad array of people— LT: Which is ironic because we

sing in Hebrew. Right! LT: I think our music

A commune? LP: No, it’s like a hotel, but it has springs. Luke Top: There are cabins around a mineral spring. Orpheo McCord: It’s right outside Mount Shasta. LP: We spent

the whole weekend going into the hot sauna and into the cold spring. I think I met Orpheo at that wedding. Luke and I know each other from high school, but we also went to college together.

and our live show can connect to anybody. It’s emotional music. We have a lot of intention behind our music. What are your thoughts on being compared to Vampire Weekend? LT: That’s inevitable. LP: I think

Vampire Weekend paved the road for bands like us. LT: I’d tour with Vampire Weekend. I don’t think they’d listen to us and say, Oh, these guys are totally following in our footsteps.

Do you remember where you where when you wrote the riff to “Surprise Hotel”? LP: The

funny thing is a lot of the songs for this record and the Foreign Born record were written around the same time. And that riff was the end of a Foreign Born song. The song ended and then faded up with the “Surprise Hotel” riff. It’s actually the same chord progression as this Foreign Born song, but we didn’t use it. So I played it for Luke and he just vibed over it. I love the video for it too. Was it inspired by nineties rap videos? LP: That’s exactly what it was!

That’s cool you caught that. Do you remember the “Rump Shaker” video by Wreckx-NEffect? Totally. You sub the booty shaking for old dudes and dogs, and there you have it. LP: I was surprised that he

[the director] had all these nineties bathing suits. LT: One of the dudes in his crew collects them. He’s just been waiting to show them off. LP: What’s funny is that the lady who played the sax solo in the video told me she tried to keep the bathing suit, but he went up to her and was like, Hey, hey, uh, can I please get that bathing suit back? [All laugh] Lastly, who is Nadine and has she heard the song named after her? LP: There are a whole

bunch of magazines about Nadine back there. LT: She’s every woman.



he day was warm, the sky clear, and the park we walked into looked sickeningly cheerful in the early afternoon sun. Small children were basking in the joys of the Indian summer, emitting high-pitched squeals as they ran around statues of gargantuan turtles and various woodland creatures. Simon Balthazar, Justin Finch and I huddled around a checkerboard-top picnic table in the far right corner of the park. The members of Fanfarlo and I were conversing intently before their lead singer and bassist had to return to the Bowery Ballroom for their evening show. The topic

And Finch clarified: “I have no…balls.” This is Fanfarlo: An off beat, lovable British beast of a band ready to take on the modern music world with their unintentionally quirky instrumentation (glockenspiels, saws, clarinets), penchant for bizarre song characters, and all around top-notch sense of humor. Started by Balthazar in 2006, the group now stands five strong with fellow members Amos Mermon, Cathy Lucas, Leon Beckenham, and Justin Finch. They combine to play a vast collection of musical equipment, including mandolin, trumpet, and melodica—the number of which occasionally fluctuates

boulders. Their debut album Reservoir, which was released in 2008, showcases a cast of motley characters ranging from time travelers to madmen and ghosts. “Our songs are mainly based around odd characters that we read about. A lot of our songs—look at ‘Harold T. Wilkins’ or ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’—they’re about really interesting, bizarre characters. Like [the man] from ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’. He was a religious monk, back a long time ago, and he was also a scientist, and he once claimed he invented a time machine. Like a portal that he could look into the past and he thought he witnessed the crucifixion

everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve come as a monkey!’ And then you realize that for the next fucking three hours while you’re trying to chat up some girl you’re dressed as a fucking monkey and you feel like a complete douche bag,” Finch explained. Fanfarlo’s affinity for the fantastical is not a cheery fairytale naïveté. In fact, they’re “fucking really jaded,” according to Finch. But listening to Reservoir, I couldn’t help but notice the brighter side—the rollicking chorus of “Harold T. Wilkins,” the dreamy, slow crescendo in “If It Is Growing.” The album was much like the blustering day around us. On the surface it was happy, full of sunshine and major chords,

Bizarre Creations of conversation was vices, and whether or not they had any. “Well, I do smoke a hell of a lot,” Finch admitted. Between us lay a well-worn pack of Drum tobacco, stamped on one side with the brazen insignia “SMOKING KILLS.” “Basically, I like the comfort of a woman,” he continued matter-of-factly. “That’s a very sincere way of putting it. I tend to attempt to enjoy the comfort of a woman—which is kind of annoying because it can never go anywhere.” “Because you’re always traveling?” I inquired. “Because of… complications.” “Impotence is a serious problem,” Balthazar interjected with a suppressed laugh.


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By Amelia Kreminski • Photo by EVA VERMANDEL

on tour as e-mails pour in from volunteer musicians hoping to help the band on the road. Everyone from fans in Boston to Jon Natchez of Beirut has joined Fanfarlo on stage. “None of us went to music school, but people think, because we play a lot of instruments on stage, we’re showing off and we’re clearly music school students, which is not true. We didn’t even go to school. We were like feral kids. He grew up in a forest in Sweden,” Finch said, indicating Balthazar. “I did, actually,” Balthazar confirmed. “This is my family here.” He looked down and pointed to his sweatshirt, where three wolves stood out against a magnificent backdrop of pines and snowy

of Christ and stuff,” Finch said. “There are a lot of people through history that seem to have mixed up their reality and fiction. Like Harold T. Wilkins. He’s a guy who wrote these ridiculous books about flying saucers in the fifties, which are kind of kitsch now. But clearly, the guy’s mental.” “I think we’re really interested in that blurred line between fiction and reality, madness and delusion,” Balthazar agreed. On stage, the band keeps the bizarre alive, dressing up for shows and getting into character. Off stage, some members fail to see the fun in such pastimes. “I just don’t like dressing up because it’s, like, you’re [at a party] for twenty minutes,

but upon closer inspection, one discovers a small group of derelicts in the corner. Roughly thirty minutes after being kicked out of a photo shoot inside a Chinese laundromat, Balthazar and Finch sat amongst frolicking children, chain-smoking, while talking about madmen and sex (which in Finch’s words is “like ten seconds, semi-violent, depressing…”). Yes, perhaps it is a little dark around the edges—but that blemish really makes Fanfarlo’s music all the more beautiful. Deep down, they’re only a bunch of innocent kids…right? “Do you guys have anything else you want to tell me before we end?” I asked. Finch didn’t miss a beat. “I have an erection.”


Absence By Tobias Carroll • Photo by BLAKE SINCLAIR


hen I think about the Scottish quartet We Were Promised Jetpacks, I can’t help thinking about cathedrals. Not underground bars, or cute indie venues, or even amphitheaters with stadium seating—no, it’s definitely cathedrals. Structurally speaking, there isn’t anything else that can capture the band’s enormous sound. In winter of 2003, I remember walking through an art installation in a near-empty cathedral in Manhattan. Isolation permeated the architecture, hanging on the towering pillars that reached above us, the air that hovered over our heads looming almost as large as the star-filled winter sky that waited outside. This memory provided some thematic context as I explored the band’s debut album, These Four Walls. The themes of home and vacancy occur again and again throughout the album, mirrored by the image on the album’s cover: a muted photograph of a twostory house, windows and doorframe vacant—emptiness


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in a building that should be filled with life. And out of all this, it’s worth suggesting that when We Were Promised Jetpacks get loud—which they do, and frequently—it’s with this emptiness in mind. More specifically they’re looking to fill it, with everything they have. “You’re born in one spot,” says Adam Thomson, the band’s singer and guitarist. “It depends on what your parents are like and where you’re from and all these other factors that contribute to what your mind’s going to be. And I was thinking a lot on that.” He speaks through his tour manager’s cell phone, clouds of reception bringing both his voice and mine in and out of focus. “As you get older, these are things you think a lot about. And you’re growing up, maybe you shouldn’t worry about it too much, but as you get older, you start to worry about these things. Once the album was done, listening back to the music, the house seemed, definitely, to be what the album was about.” These Four Walls opens with the song “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning,” which peaks with Thomson keening, “And there’s thunder and there’s lightning, coming

home/ And there’s thunder and there’s lightning, coming back.” Elsewhere on the album, the concept of shelter is delineated from that of home: “Keeping Warm” finds Thomson declaring, “And you are taking this too far, now take me home/ There’s nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep in these four walls.” The sense of alienation from home reaches its apex in the slow-building “This Is My House, This Is My Home.” “Something’s happening in the attic,” Thomson sings softly as the song opens, then more and more agitatedly as it concludes. The tune shifts from childhood fears to a more mature sense of alienation through Thomson’s delivery and subtle lyrical shifts—“you know” becomes “we both know” before the clatter of guitars overtakes all. The group’s members met in their hometown of Edinburgh before relocating to Glasgow. When asked about the band’s name, Thomson is candid. “We needed a name around four years ago,” he explains, “and we just had to choose something. We just sort of went with it; it’s never been a big thing. It’s just a name that we chose. I do think that not getting what you wanted makes sense, in terms of our music. It’s not that big a deal to us; I actually don’t like it. I’d much rather tell someone our name was...

nothing. It’s weird, because it definitely gets attention. I think we got a lot of attention from folks focusing on this kind of wacky name. ‘Let’s go see them.’ Band names are a strange thing.” In discussing the evolution of their sound, Thomson is equally open. “When we started off six years ago, [our songs] were three-minute, three-and-a-half-minute, poppy, spiky guitar songs. And as time went on, we got more into bands like Sigur Rós—a bit bigger, a bit more mature,” recalls Thomson. “We had that beginning of... Futureheads kind of stuff, and we got mature a bit, and got a bigger sound. I think it’s kind of a mix of those two styles.” And while the songs heard on These Four Walls might initially lean more towards the rock side of that equation, there are definitely places where their sound transcends that. “Conductor” ends with a layered chorus of voices that sounds like nothing else on These Four Walls; elsewhere, several of the songs on the album end chaotically, an expected post-rock crescendo splintering into noise. It’s this balance in their attitude and sound that promises great things in the future for We Were Promised Jetpacks. After all, we were promised four walls in their debut album—and we got cathedrals.


Noah & The Whale hail from more upbeat, while First Days the English shores, but they of Spring is tinged with a fair were recently in the states bit of melancholy. Also, it has a for a tour and the premiere of lot of strings and horns, which their film and album project brings a cinematic atmosphere First Days of Spring. I catch to the songs. Can you talk a up with the band at a hotel in little bit about the development West Hollywood, where that of the new album? CF: There’s redheaded alien girl from definitely a very different sound La Roux was talking about between the two records, but something being “totally rock I think there are the seeds of and roll” (sounding very much the second record in the first like Mark Wahlberg affecting record. You can hear it sort of a British accent in the movie coming together there. I guess Rock Star) while holding the new album was written very a variety of suitcases and differently. It’s more structured. waiting for an elevator. I rush It was written as forty-five from the bathroom in a mild minutes. I think it’s often when state of unpreparedness, and people skim over the first album up another elevator with Urby that it seems more upbeat. But, Whale and their tour manager. then again, there is some pretty Whale had just returned from melancholy shit on that album. a trip down the block to the 100% chemical-free Urth Café, Who arranged the strings on By D.J. Pangburn • Photos by Julia Galdo which he thought was a really the album? CF: Tom did all the great place. Don’t know, never strings. And we had a choir been there. When the doors of the elevator part, I find myself come in, and we had two horn players and a flautist. And we got on the top floor, where I came upon the rest of the band lazing a pedal steel [player], B. J. Cole. He did the pedal steel on ‘Tiny about in the pool. Dancer’ by Elton John. UW: He’s a legend. I briefly wonder if this was where the interview would take place: The band in the pool, and me either astride an inter-tube Did you study composition? TH: Yeah, I learned classically. floating about with a digital tape recorder, or sitting with my pants rolled up as they enjoyed the California sun. Both seemed What sort of sounds were you thinking about when you were absurd. Senses prevail on the part of the band, however, and we composing the strings and horns? TH: There’s this English film take to the shade and enjoy some carbonated lemonade drink, by this guy named Terrance Davies called Of Time and the City. while some man in glasses eavesdrops on the question and There’s some more romantic stuff on there, which I kind of took answer session. as inspiration for some of the tracks. CF: There Will Be Blood as well, wasn’t it? TH: Yeah.

Cinema Paradiso

I noticed that there were three narratives in the film First Days of Spring. Does the album mirror these three narratives? Charlie Fink:

No, I very much intended the film narrative and album narrative to be separate. I didn’t want it to be like the songs were sort of directly narrating the images. Like my voice would be the narrator—that’s not how I wanted it at all. It was more that there was a film and it was paired and complimented by its soundtrack. Now, Tom, were you a character in the film? Tom Hobden: In a brief cameo, yeah. CF: Urby as well. Urby Whale: I was, thankfully,

heavily edited. How was the film shot? CF: 16mm. Some of the scenes were shot in

Super 8. Initially, I wanted to shoot every different character in a different format. So you have the youngest character in Super 8, then Super 16, and then 35. But, obviously, we didn’t have the budget for that. Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down as an album is considerably


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In the future, would you be interested in scoring films? CF: If it was

a new project. What I don’t like is when bands re-score films… I don’t want to hear that. We’ve actually got this one English film coming out, being premiered at London Film Festival this week, it’s called The Scouting Book for Boys and we’ve got six songs in it. They weren’t written for it, though. But, it would be cool to properly score something, yeah. Other magazine and online pieces have detailed the directorial influences on First Days of Spring, but I’d rather not name them because sometimes writers are pretty careless in their comparisons. So, I was wondering if you guys might talk about some of the cinematic influences that influenced the film’s imagery and perhaps the music? CF: Well, definitely on this film I watched a lot of

Lynch before filming. And that central passage was initially intended to be more, kind of, Lynchian. A film that I always reference in my head, and you’ll probably be surprised, was this film I really loved called Into the Wild. I absolutely loved that


film. One of my favorite films in a long time, and I reference that a lot. Shane Meadows I reference on a bunch of stuff. He’s an English director who did This is England, which is his most famous film. Who else? Herzog, I like a lot.

is such a horrible place like you describe in Grizzly Man—that the center of the world is chaos, hostility and murder, how come things like your films exist?” And he leans forward and goes, “I stem the tide.” And that’s it. That’s all he said!

Herzog’s a madman. I met him at a reading and signing of his book Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo. I delight in impersonating him, in fact. Actually, I plan on reading a bunch of literature as Herzog. I’ve been practicing The Jabberwocky, for instance. [Laughs] CF: Can you do the one in Grizzly Man where he’s like At the center of the universe, there’s chaos…? TH: “It was

not a significant bullet.”

As much as I’d like to continue this roundtable on Herzog, I’d like to switch gears for a moment to the qualities of the band’s sound. When I first heard you guys and the timbre of the vocals—and I hope this does not offend—I thought you sounded rather more like an American band than a British band. That said, I couldn’t think of any musical influences where you could be situated conveniently. CF: That’s cool. An album I really liked was Nick Cave’s The

I regale the band for a moment with my Herzog impersonation, one in which Herzog speaks of the jungle as “lewd” and “obscene” and “full of fornication.” But I risk spinning this interview off into the stratosphere of absurdity if I continue with this digression, so I try to pull it back.

Boatman’s Call. I mean, I don’t know how much of an influence it was on the record, but as an album I listened to it a lot. I listened to a lot of Wilco, Jim O’Rourke, that Richard Thompson stuff, Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. I don’t know how much of that shows up on the record, though. I’ve never heard of them, but people keep talking about Tindersticks to me.

It’s interesting that you should mention Herzog as an influence. How do you think that he seeps into the band’s work? CF: I don’t know.

Were there any writers that inspired the making of the film and album? CF: There’s a poem by T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, that I’ve

I just love those movies, Encounters at the End of the World and Grizzly Man. I like his other films, like his Kinski films. There’s just a certain feel to [the documentaries]. UW: He’s got such a single-minded vision. He does exactly what he wants to do and is totally uncompromising. I mean, you couldn’t get him to do anything that he didn’t want to do. And the obsession and the passion when he’s talking about it is just brilliant! You want that in an artist. CF: Have you seen the documentary of him working with Kinski?

sort of borrowed ideas and themes from. There was a moment where I was thinking of having a quote from it to start the film, but I decided against it.

Yes. CF: Where he’s directing with a gun behind the camera. Yeah, where he’s playing a recording of Kinski ranting and raving in the jungle? CF: Yeah. The soundtrack from Grizzly Man, the

Richard Thompson stuff, was actually an influence on the record. I thought Richard Thompson’s guitar sound on that was stunning. Also, that was the first time I’d seen prepared piano being done. There’s a bit on the DVD extras where there’s a making of the soundtrack documentary, and Jim O’Rourke is playing prepared piano. And there’s a bunch of prepared piano on the record. You have to watch the making of the soundtrack, because Herzog is in the studio when they’re recording it. Richard Thompson is playing guitar and Herzog sat there like this [mimes Herzog thinking deeply], and he’s like, You’re playing too melodious… you’re too melodious. UW: He says the most bizarre things. But that’s kind of cool as well because he’s clearly coming at it from no musical knowledge. He doesn’t call for any musical direction. He’ll just say words and people respond to it really effectively. CF: Richard Thompson’s reaction is just like, Okay… sure. And he just plays the exact same thing but like a little quieter. Herzog always speaks about the “ecstatic truth,” which is a very interesting concept or way of describing something inexplicable. And you can apply that to the scene in your film where “My Broken Heart” plays. When I heard it, I responded with a simple Ahhh… And you don’t need to analyze it at all beyond the initial reaction. I think that’s how Herzog responds to things. CF: He’s amazing. There’s

this film critic I really like in England called Mark Kermode, and Werner Herzog was doing a Q&A for Encounters or Grizzly Man, I can’t remember, and I think someone asked him, “If the world


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You premiered the film at the Latitude Festival this past July. Was it nerve-wracking premiering your film and album simultaneously? CF: I didn’t really think about that… the fact that you’re literally

debuting your album and your film at the same time. It is, I guess, a tall task to ask of people. But, that’s the thing… if you don’t approach it like you’re sort of judging two separate things—that you’re just there for one experience—I think that’s probably more rewarding. I think, almost exclusively, people were coming to watch this as fans of the band. I don’t think I had many fans of me as a director previous to making this film. [Laughs] You’ve gotta remember that people are primarily coming for the music, I guess. I’ve no idea about people’s reactions, but it was a bit nervewracking maybe. But… not that nerve-wracking. [Laughs] Following the interview, the band’s marketing team asks me to introduce Noah & The Whale’s film at Space 15 Twenty and then conduct a Q & A directly following. Naturally, I hesitate, but after a relentless two minutes of doe-eyed pleading by one of the marketing ladies, I agree on one condition: I would need at least three whiskey and Cokes before I would have the requisite nerve to introduce and talk film with Noah & The Whale. They consent on this condition, and off I went four hours later to see if I would give the event an air of journalistic respectability or derail Charlie Fink’s directorial career before it had even really begun. The Gods smiled on us all, and everything went off without a hitch. Until, of course, I ran out of questions and responded to one of Charlie’s unexpectedly brief responses with a rather louche “Great,” which sounded like a cross between the ladies of SNL’s Delicious Dish and Bob Barker embalmed in several liters of whiskey. Here’s to the good fortune of Charlie and Noah & The Whale as they move back and forth between the worlds of pop music and cinema.


By Amelia Kreminski • Photos by ELIZABETH WEINBERG


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Sarah Assbring will break your heart. It will happen like all heartbreaks happen—when

you least expect it, and in the middle of something magnificent. At first she will seduce you slowly with her gentle synthesizer. It will be exciting and unpredictable, and her shimmering guitar strumming will only make you fall harder. You will be hers completely at the first resounding bounce of her melancholic voice: sweet and springy and entirely unattainable. “I’ve got something to tell you,” she will hum, and you will be too smitten to see the beginning of the end. Two minutes later, she’ll be telling you, “We both know it’s better to part than to live in a lie,” and in a matter of seconds she’ll be gone. It will be devastating. She will be sympathetic, but she will have no mercy. She will not come back to you. You will listen to her voice over and over and wonder where it all went wrong. But Sarah Assbring will not cave to your love. She knows love. And love is not pop. ssbring, the Swedish pop artist better known by her Spanish pseudonym El Perro Del Mar, released her fourth fulllength album Love Is Not Pop in October of 2009. Her opening track “Gotta Get Smart”, a bittersweet ode to a break-up, did indeed break my heart. Written in the sweats and fevers of a New York City summer and mentored by the blackened heart of Lou Reed, Love Is Not Pop is not a collection of love songs for the weak at heart. During our bicontinental phone call, it became apparent that Assbring’s endearing and pleasant demeanor could not be mistaken for naiveté or blind idealism. Though her pop songs are catchy and often light, her musical work reflects years of studying literature and philosophy, subjects she finds artistically inspiring. She has an affinity for German novelist Hermann Hesse, empty spaces, and all things French. She is a traveled songstress, familiar with the trials and tribulations of love. She understands the delicate mechanics of falling in love, and the calamities of its disrepair. And she is sorry for breaking your heart—but love is not pop. Love is real. Your next U.S. tour begins on Valentine’s Day, but you were also here in fall of 2009 with Peter, Bjorn and John and you did some pretty extensive traveling across the country. What was your favorite area to pass through? I’ve always had this very strong

fascination for desert or desert landscapes. I’ve never really had a chance to go to a real desert and just being able to pass through something similar to a desert was very interesting. It’s an impossible place for a human being. It’s so beautiful. In that sense it almost becomes existential because you ask yourself so many questions passing through it. [You get] the feeling of being very happy about it, like euphoric about it, but at the same time being close to being a little bit frightened in some ways. There’s always been some kind of attraction in me to places that are vast and lonely—that are deserted in one way or another.


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That seem a little bit complex, you know, because I feel that there is something there that can really give ideas, and a place where you can find space and enough silence to have ideas, but at the same time there is some kind of sadness about them too, because they’re too deserted. They’re impossible to live in. You’ve said that Lou Reed strongly influenced Love Is Not Pop. Which time period of his work were you inspired by? How did he form the album? A lot of the eighties stuff—the quality of those

albums are very diverse, to say the least. And I like that about him. He’s like this friend who kind of disappoints you, and then makes you happy again, and then he disappoints you again, and then you’re constantly having to update your idea about him but you’re never going to lose hope about him coming back and doing something really good again. And when it comes to his lyrics, what I was drawn to there was the way that he is always very blunt and almost social realistic and he’s still able to capture a very romantic idea or a very tender idea of love. But he’s always there, in the real world, with the facts and the consequences of the real world. I think that’s what I thought was an interesting thing to do when it came to writing love songs. Because it didn’t seem like there was a real point to writing something that is not real, or didn’t seem real to me—something that I didn’t believe in. You’ve done a lot of collaborations with Lykke Li. What’s it like to work with her? To work with her is like going back to be with like

a childhood friend. It’s like being a child again. She’s extremely intuitive and creative. She bursts with ideas and to work with her is kind of like being in a vortex of ideas, and very fun and very liberating. We have this mutual love for the very rootsy soul music that is all vocal, so we can sit and just do vocal stuff together, like a capella stuff. That’s what you seek when you’re writing, to find that tool to really express the absolute inner soul of something but still try to be catchy, still finding that perfect melody—that is true pop.





In leather police boots and checkered red flannel, Ira Wolf Tuton strolled through the dim Manhattan hotel lobby with an espresso in the palm of his hand. This occurred on an evening soon after Thanksgiving and the parallel between his clothes and the urbane decor of the room was disjointed, perhaps even cinematic. After sipping from his cup, Ira introduced me to the other members of the band, whiskered Chris Keating and bespectacled Anand Wilder. Together, they looked like the apropos ambassadors of eclectic Brooklyn, where they now live in separate apartments. n a suite on the ninth floor, the trio took up furniture around a coffee table and began to chew over Odd Blood, their second full-length album under the moniker Yeasayer. Odd Blood consists of ten songs that play out as a progressive sequel to their ebullient psych rock premier, All Hour Cymbals, which debuted two years ago. It utilizes a scope of disparate musical genres, from Swiss polka to Bollywood pop, while abandoning some seeded properties of their last album. Discarded is the earthiness of “Sunrise,” and nonexistent are the tribal chants from “2080.” Instead, the band’s eyes and ears veered towards the metropolis


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this time around. As Wilder put it, “That was the goal from the outset: to make it as expansive as possible, and to touch on many, many different genres so that we— on the second record—could go in any direction, and not be thought of as being completely consistent with what we set out to do in the beginning.”

what that question even means. Anand Wilder: Well, I’ll tell you. We were touring on All Hour Cymbals, and we decided we wanted to make another record. And so we stopped touring, and then we said, “We’re not going to do any more shows for another six months or so,” and we hunkered down up in upstate New York and made a new record. Why did you get the hell out of Brooklyn, so to speak? CK: Oh, dude, because I

wanted to get out of there. It’s wet and gross, and it has black mold on the wall. Ira Wolf Tuton: You stay there for about four hours and you get a sinus infection. AW: It was a teeny little room. CK: Yeah, it was about this big [motions to the suite]. And that’s also why I don’t live there anymore—I live upstairs. [Laughs] But, yeah, we just knew we didn’t want to go into a studio. We knew we wanted to record it ourselves again, and get a house. We wanted to be close to New York, so going upstate a couple hours made sense. The small-town environment played to your advantage? CK: Yeah, because we weren’t

distracted. It’s perfect. We didn’t go out. We went to the market during the day, cooked food, and other than that we’d just work. It’s just the luxury of being secluded. The house we were in was owned by this musician—this drummer, he had all this gear that we could use, all these synths and microphones and tons of different amplifiers and effects units, and that kind of influenced the way we made the record. Ira, you said that once you were done with Cymbals that there was a bunch of songs left over that didn’t fit into the album. Did any of those find a new home in Odd Blood? IWT: I’m not exactly sure what I was

talking about at the time. But any songs that came out of that period we managed to exercise different ways. One song we were playing live, before that album even came out, was put on a compilation. I feel


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that all the new material for this album kind of came out of a similar headspace. Although the demos came from different points individually, collectively the entire album came from that same environment. That was important. Maybe so that we weren’t stuck on any old ideas, and we could really set a stamp in the earth and move forward. Your last record forecasted a poorer future for mankind. With Odd Blood, it seems to me now that you found yourself in that place, towards the end of this century. CK: Bingo! DT: Are these the sounds we’ll hear in a metropolis of tomorrow? CK: Like

that one, right? [Chris points to a picture in the last issue of Death+Taxes: a dark city with fireballs in the sky.] IWT: We had to be in a city to make our woods album; we had to be in the woods to make our city album. DT: That’s a scene from Blade Runner. CK: [Hums a warbling sound] Vangelis, right? Exactly. Sorry, did I cut you off? Well, did you see yourself scoring a scene to a movie, or a vignette even, of how you envisioned people living in AD 2080? CK:

Um, I think yes. Well, I think we were consciously trying to conjure up sounds that we feel sound at least contemporary, if not futuristic. Especially with this record, we were trying to push it to make it sound more electronic and sound less human in the way the instrumentation is done. So yeah, this is what it sounds like to live in an off-world colony as a Nexus-6 robot. I hope this doesn’t seem naïve to you, but what popped up in my head was the Star Wars cantina band—especially during “O.N.E.”, for its hybrid electronicCaribbean pop beat. Does this music have a prognostic quality similar to that song of theirs? AW: We thought about that a lot. [Ira sings the tune] CK: I like that

question. I don’t think it sounds naïve at all, because when you try to make unique-sounding music, and hence trying

to make futuristic-sounding music and electronic stuff, we always start thinking about movies; if there’s a band from the future and what it might sound like. It always sounds kind of not futuristic—it sounds like early nineties rave with opera, or, you know, disco-future-polka. In some ways it’s never quite right, so I think we were like, “What does the band in Blade Runner that’s playing in the club with snake-lady sound like?” Well, that takes place in the past, the Star Wars scene, but you know what I mean—it was a long time ago, far, far away. But we said, “This kind of sounds like that band from the scene in the bar.” Or like, that stupid scene from The Fifth Element, where that chick is singing—it’s like an early use of auto-tune. Although, I think I already said that that’s a bad example. It’s industrial drums with opera. I don’t think that’s ever going to be the music of the future. I’m glad that you didn’t do that. CK: Well, I don’t think we reference anything in particular, or were trying to get sounds that sounded like that, but it does come up when you think about trying to get those scenes and those ideas. We’re not Kraftwerk, but we’re kind of interested in some of those textures, trying to be slightly futuristic. Beyond the theme of the album, did you have any objectives going into making Odd Blood? CK: Yeah, I think we wanted to

have it be more physical, which means dancier at times and more poppy, which kind of just means a little more sparse arrangements and shorter songs. And probably eliminating some of the choral feel of the vocals that we had before, because it felt like we didn’t want to harp on some of the same themes we had on the first record.


The re-emergence of shoegaze in recent times is a rather baffling turn of events. The term was coined (derogatorily by Food Records label boss Andy Ross) in the late 1980s to describe pale, wan indie kids who spent more time observing their switch from guitar pedal to pedal instead of connecting with their audience or even connecting with each other. Female vocalists were advisable, if not obligatory, and band members regularly hid behind their carefully cut fringes during interviews and performances, offering mumbling and vague apolitical takes on the world. Soon shoegaze was absolutely despised as a fad that disappeared in a vacuum of its own reverb. Manic Street Preachers announced that they “hated [shoegaze stalwarts] Slowdive more than Hitler,” while the music press focused their attentions on the nascent grunge scene. The only band to really escape unscathed was My Bloody Valentine, perhaps solely due to their perfectionist work ethic (which has also been labeled as disguised laziness). Times have changed. The return of this genre from the gutter was pre-empted by Sofia Coppola’s decision to employ My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields as chief musical curator for her 2003 film Lost In Translation. Within a number of years, the likes of Maps, Blonde Redhead, Mahogany and Ulrich Schnauss were creating woozy soundscapes reminiscent of the genre’s heyday, and once-derided acts such as the aforementioned Slowdive and Ride have become names to drop in conversation. Fringes are being lengthened. Dreampop, blissing out and musical reverie are all being embraced again. Escapism is back in fashion. Baltimore-based duo Beach House tick many of the above shoegaze boxes. They have a female vocalist, but their fringes are somewhat more developed and they were considerably more articulate than their forbearers when I met them on a cold


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January day in Brooklyn on the eve of the release of their third album. The band is comprised of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand (the Paris-born niece of French composer Michel Legrand) and the album, wonderfully titled Teen Dream, is their most complete statement to date—a veritable sonic cathedral replete with slide guitars and vintage organs, breathy vocals and a huge, technicolor sound. In a live setting, the band augment their aural aesthetic with a drummer and judging by the ecstatic responses to the new album thus far, all signs suggest that Beach House may be about to bring nu-gaze to a much wider audience. Your third album Teen Dream is about to be released. How do you feel about the album having had some distance between the recording and the release? Alex: I think I loved the album right

when we finished making it, but now I have come to this stage where I can see its flaws but I can also see its strengths, which is really a great feeling. Seeing as we are about to go on the road and play it, by the end of this tour, I will know exactly how I feel about the whole experience. I was in love with it, now I am ready to perform it, and then I will be done with it. Victoria: It feels like we are on the precipice of something else. We really have a need to perform it, because otherwise we would have been forced to eat ourselves. The production on the album (handled by Chris Coady, who previously helmed the likes of TV On The Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) is magnificent, and to my ears, sounds rich and grandiose, like a sonic temple. And of course the album itself was recorded in a church. How did this recording setup influence the sounds? Victoria: The studio itself was just a beautiful room – the church

itself had little interest to us in terms of a religious aspect to the



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recordings. The whole thing just sounded really nice. Alex: If there is a religious feeling to the record, then it may have come from other places, although I can understand how someone might find a religious fervour in it as it has that raw, intensity of emotion which often heads in that direction. Victoria: Whereas one person may feel religious, someone else may feel it almost sexual. The album sounds reverb-heavy, giving it an almost somnambulistic feel. Was this deliberate? Alex: There actually isn’t a huge amount

of reverb on the album. I think what people are hearing is, in fact, a wide, full palette which may have the same effect as reverb. I think one of the things people like about that big echo-y sound is the way it fills up a giant space. And we went for that by recording everything in a really tall, saturated way. If you listen closely, what you hear is simply all of the space being used. How does the studio technique transfer to the live performances? Is it difficult to recreate? Victoria: The sound is definitely recreated,

but the songs are great fun to play live. They all have an incredible raw energy which we felt in our music on the previous records, but it didn’t fully emerge, whereas now with this new set of songs, it comes through a lot more. Alex: We have also taken to playing a lot louder, which really helps get the songs across – it’s kinda like how you would imagine My Bloody Valentine would have come to that same conclusion. I mean, you can listen to Loveless quietly but if you don’t pump it up loud, you may not get the same feeling. Victoria: You end up with the more emotional part—the real earth-shaking intensity.


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The majority of reviewers (myself included) have a tendency to categorize the band as dreampop, shoegaze, etc. How do you feel about being pigeonholed in such a fashion? Victoria: It comes with

the territory. They are just descriptions that people need to find their way. Alex: I don’t believe the notion of “genre” exists. It hasn’t existed for a while. When music was forming and splitting around the 1950’s and 1960’s, genre was an easy to create and promote radio stations but has continually made less and less sense as people’s influences have come from so many different sources and what’s come out has less and less rules. It’s something people will always do, but I don’t think it really matters. Speaking of the 1950s and 1960s, there seems to be a strong Motown influence on the band’s sound. Is this correct? Victoria: At

the time of our first album, we were definitely listening to a lot of 1960s Motown music but then we have expanded our tastes since—the spectrum has broadened. Alex: I think if you took Beyonce’s “Halo” and Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” and smashed them into each other mid-space, then this would be our sound. Victoria: Or at least this is our goal! Do you get the sense with Teen Dream that you are on the cusp of major success? Victoria: We are one part of a huge network of

great bands, but I do feel like this is the beginning of something. It was a very inspired time for us; we almost felt like we were writing the first record in that we were inspired very naturally. Things are flowing in and out constantly. Alex: This could never be pop music; this can never be sold to a mass audience. I’m really excited to play these tours and really excited to see what comes from them—I can actually already sense where this is going.

Do you see yourselves as potentially becoming a mainstream project? Victoria: Who knows where we’ll go. Even if it’s something being

Nothing is ever really definitive with us, this tour, this cycle the music industry develops is just part of the job. Unfortunately, you have to make money to survive, but I wanna make as many albums as I can within the next ten years – as long as I have the inspiration and the resources. Is it easier to just churn out albums like that these days? Would that not influence quality control? Alex: It is certainly easier to make

albums but it still takes a huge amount of time, planning, energy and thought to make a really good record. It doesn’t matter if you can record it cheaper, it still takes such an effort of coordination and inspiration. Victoria: So many people are making music and putting out stuff constantly, but it is a lot harder to create quality, which is something that is skimmed over. Alex: Yeah, there is an enormous amount of talent in music right now which I am hearing constantly, but I am a little turned off by the whole “lo-fi” stuff, it just bores me. I want to pursue a higher, more sophisticated sound.

reinvented from the past or invented from scratch, it always becomes a gimmick. It’s like fashion – something is initially cool but soon everyone wears it. It’s an inevitable process and the fact that humans do it is a form of flattery. Alex: I love powerful songs. Some songs have so much that they can captivate many people. There is something beautiful about shared experiences with people who may not be like me at all. But I am not into gimmicks or selling out—if we ever achieve mainstream success, I believe it will be because we created something truly amazing. Victoria: You don’t sell out if you don’t compromise your art—someone else may say you sold out, but that’s just a matter of opinion. Alex: We would never become “big” by copying someone’s sound and doing something cheesy, so we probably won’t ever make it in that sense, but if we do, it’s purely because we found our own way to do this. Victoria: I don’t want to talk about any other bands copying someone’s sound to become big – saying that could be bad karma… Alex: Well one example in reverse is [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless. This record has grown so much despite having only the most minor of pop sensibilities yet it means so much to so many people. Victoria: Without ever having sold out.




ust before following Lars Von Trier into the darker recesses of gothic terror in Antichrist, Charlotte Gainsbourg began a musical collaboration with Beck. Out of these sessions emerged the new album IRM. Born in the aftermath of a brain aneurysm, the recording sessions took Gainsbourg from the familiar world of her native France and dropped her like Alice into Beck’s world: a world full of Americana, abstract English lyrics and playful musical experimentation. The result is by turns delightful, strange and at times dark, but always fitting in the interplay between Charlotte’s vocals and Beck’s music. As good as Gainsbourg’s collaboration was with Air on 5:55, it seemed to suffer under the weight of Air’s reverence for Gainsbourg’s father. Beck, also a Serge Gainsbourg fan, has managed to free Charlotte from this musical loadstone, making her sound at home in a sonic wonderland of campfire rhythms, folk guitar, and visions of nostalgic American landscapes. It is undoubtedly Gainsbourg’s best album, and she is quick to credit Beck, who delivers his strongest work in years. I spoke with Gainsbourg over the phone about working with Beck, the influences of Guillaume Apollinaire and Lewis Carroll on IRM, and how being in a foreign land with very little references can enhance one’s creativity.


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Can you talk a little bit about the ideas that informed the album and how the songs were conceived? Well, everything

started once we met, really, because I hadn’t thought about anything apart from that IRM sound. But, that was quite vague before I met Beck. It wasn’t like a precise idea I had. I met with him, and we had five days as a first session where we started working together, and that’s where everything took place. Then I went and did a film with Lars Von Trier and that took me away for three months. And then it was only after that Beck sent me the tapes for me to listen to—the three first tracks that we had. And we didn’t really know we’d do a whole album together. But, when I heard those songs I just asked him if he could do a whole album and if we could continue working together. So, we didn’t stop for a year and a half, and never really thought about a general idea for the album. How did you find working with him—was it quite relaxed and easy? Coming back from

the Lars Von Triers film was not difficult because I had really enjoyed the shooting of the film, but it had been really intense coming back from that. I felt maybe a




little bit empty. So it was always different moods. Beck was in different moods, too. It was just letting things happen together. It was never difficult. He made it sound as if everything was easy. Writing a song was easy. You just had to concentrate the first minute you had a great idea. If you had to pick, which song on the new album really encapsulates what you were trying to achieve? That is, what do you think is the centerpiece of the album? For

me, I think I had a very strong connection to the song “La Collectionneuse,” because I was in a special mood for that. When I hear it I can listen to the state I was in at the time. And it mixes a lot of different ideas that can be close to me, even though Beck had the words together. And then the pieces of poetry I put in from my connections, really. So, maybe that’s a really personal one. But also “IRM,” because of the subject. And then there’s a song called “Trick Pony” which is very dear to me because my son plays the drums on that. And he’s only twelve, so it was very lovely. He didn’t know that he was going to be a part of anything, he just had fun on the drums for the first time and we recorded it without him noticing. And we did the same with my daughter while she was talking. It was a lot of little accidents that we pinched. “Me & Jane Doe” has a rather campfire quality. You seem very at home in that style. Yes, it was quite a magical one to do.

You know when it happens and the sound is great. Just recording the vocals— something happened, and then we wanted to do little bits and pieces that we found were not perfect. And we couldn’t get the same sound. Something had happened at that time. It’s quite magical when you get that sort of… spirit. And it was so fun to sing. There’s something so jolly about it. Yeah… like a campfire, exactly. But, it’s funny because that song was very, very far away from me and all my references. It’s only about American references or things that are really close


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to Beck but not at all to me. But… some of the songs like “Dandelion,” again, it’s like going into American culture, which for me was great because it’s so far away. Is it perhaps more magical because you and Beck were writing and singing in English? Do you find that English creates more of an abstraction in your mind? Yeah…

there’s something refreshing about the fact that it’s not too close to me—that it’s not my first language, because I have a lot of references with the French toward my father. I feel much freer in English because it doesn’t seem like my own country. I like that impression of being very personal with some of the songs, and very, very distant with others or pieces of others, because there is something with music that is very, very personal about singing. So, if you can put a little distance, I find it quite good. So you prefer to write in English?

I can’t write in English or in French. [Laughs] I try to come up with words and, you know, bits and pieces that Beck liked or took as titles. But, it was never more than that. I was always trying. I tried for the year and a half that we were together. I think it made me get into the songs and just think about subjects, but then for the real poetry… I couldn’t do it. I was very interested in “Dandelion” when I first heard the album because it’s built on a blues riff. When you begin to sing it reminded me of T. Rex. I know, but I think Beck doesn’t like that. [Laughs] He loves T. Rex, I think. I love T. Rex. But, for him, I think it was really a blues reference and not T. Rex. It was fun because it was like playing a different character. I can’t picture myself in a blues song, really. So, it was just fun to take that part. At the end of the song he kept the laugh, but I just felt stupid pretending that I knew how to sing a blues song. It was just fun. You noted that for the recording

sessions, you had just come from the Von Trier film. In general, the state of minds you conjure for a given role, do they have an effect on the music you create? I think it did effect it, but not in a very precise way. I never thought about the subject of the film when I was with Beck. I did one other film that I think I started when I was nearly finished with Beck. But, anyway, I don’t think the subject came into the story with Beck. I think there was still a spirit, especially with Antichrist, of letting go of that intensity I was in, and not knowing what I had done, really. When I came back from Germany from the shoot, I had no idea, no trace or images of what we had done. So, it was more mysterious than that. And also having been isolated in Germany, I was isolated in Los Angeles, because I went without my family. It was very different, of course. But, I think it was just being lost a little bit. Other times my family was able to come with me and the whole spirit for me was lifted. But, I like that, I like being able to not sense yourself and just, you know, not to try and be in a good mood always and just to deal with the good and the bad. Did Los Angeles have some other effect on the music that you can think of? I think it did, because the previous album I did with Air, I was in France, I was in Paris. It was a surrounding I knew so well. Having also done an album with my father, it just reminded me a lot of old memories. Being in Los Angeles this time, I had no references at all. It was just like a blank page. In that way it was great. Also, we recorded everything in Beck’s house, so it didn’t really look like a studio. His children were running around. There was something very family-oriented that I loved, that made me feel very comfortable. It’s like doing a film and not being at home. There’s something special about the isolation and just concentrating on the work you’re doing. So, for that, I think it helps.






he first time I spoke to Bradford Cox, it was the winter of 2007 and the times were very different indeed. We were in an eon pre-

Obama, pre-housing meltdown, pre-Lady Gaga. But this was also the time of Cryptograms, Deerhunter’s breakthrough album, which sounded simultaneously searing, jagged, ethereal and all-around amazing. Here was a band that had somehow managed to combine the hazy, free-floating atmospherics of Brian Eno with the raw crunch of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine. And my oh my, how they were loud. Not just in terms of volume, but also in terms of public persona. Singer/ songwriter/player-of-any-instrument-you-want-to-throw-at-him Bradford Cox was the ringleader, posting endless blog reports on everything from his personal life to “poop journals” to his “top five fantasy boyfriends.” And to converse with him as I did three years ago, via phone interview for an article that ultimately went unpublished, was to invite a tropical storm of information which would—with any normal human being—be far too personal or embarrassing to discuss with strangers. But Bradford Cox isn’t your “normal” human being. I remember the first thing he told me was that he was wearing a dress and about to go priesticize a friend’s wedding (as in, like, make the marriage official and giving authentic priest blessings and the like). The second thing he told me was that he was so nervous that he’d have to pop an Ativan before he went out. “I just can’t deal with myself socially,” he explained. It was a fascinating conversation. Immediately, I liked the guy. He was unusually candid and smart and awkward and he would talk a mile a minute. It’s as though he lacked the basic filters used to block potentially embarrassing info from getting out. Fast forward to November 2009 and here’s a new Bradford Cox entirely. All smiles and cheer wrapped in a modest dress coat. This time the two of us meet in person, both of us hunched in a grimy, cigarette-soaked nook carved into the sidewalk, just outside


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the Troubadour in West Hollywood, thirty minutes before he’s due to begin his set as Atlas Sound, the alias he uses for his solo output. We’ve chosen this spot as our interview location as per Bradford’s suggestion, and though it manages to block much of the noise coming from traffic and antsy concertgoers, I’m fairly certain homeless people have defecated here. Cox’s change in disposition is reflected in Logos, his newest addition to the Atlas Sound catalogue. This is an album of pop songs—as in real pop, like that stuff you’d hear in the sixties but with a few samplers and noisy experimentation thrown on top. This cheerier tone is not tainted by the fact that Cox nearly abandoned Logos altogether after it accidentally leaked last year, an incident that left the songwriter devastated and jaded with his fame. Following the leak, Bradford quickly scurried from the public eye. Gone were his overly personal, therapeutic online rants, replaced instead by silence. Sure, he’d still post photos and the occasional downloadable playlist, but as far as the voyeurs were concerned, Bradford Cox’s private life was now private. Which made our second conversation all the more intriguing. What exactly had Cox been up to in the past year now that we can’t follow his every whim? How has he grown and what has he learned? The answer to all of the above: Quite a bit. How does the released version of Logos differ from the version that was leaked last year? The ones on the new release haven’t

really changed all that much. I kind of have mixed feelings about that, because I figure there are probably a lot of people who were disappointed or were expecting to hear something totally new and totally different. The fact is, I did different versions of them and I always ended up coming back to the demos. Because when I’m writing, magical things will happen, say with my voice, or with mispronouncing certain words, or my guitar is slightly out of tune or something. And these are things that can’t be duplicated.




Every time I’d try to rerecord the songs they’d sound too polite or too conventional. When Logos leaked, your response was very loud and very public, and obviously you didn’t take to it well. Subsequently, your blog posts became less frequent, interviews dwindled and you seemed to almost disappear. I pretty much tried to quit my public persona. Were you angry with your fans? Was there a sense of feeling betrayed? No. I’m tired of that. I’m really tired of defending myself

against allegations that I don’t respect my audience or that I’m angry at them. I feel like people took my defensiveness out of context and misconstrued that it was being targeted at my entire audience. That’s just bullshit. And I apologize, because I didn’t want my audience to feel like I was attacking them. But the fact is, I never will apologize to certain types of people, and those are the types of people who don’t really care about my music, yet want to interfere with my creative process.

their input more than anything. Do you feel that you need Atlas Sound as a way to go full Bradford, to get everything out of you that you need to get out? It’s really just

that I have some ideas that I want to get done on my own, or I have some ideas that I want to collaborate on. With Deerhunter I just want it to be more of a full family functioning thing. You’ve had problems in the past with your health, with addictions, panic attacks... it seems like things have really improved for you. Do you feel like the Bradford Cox of today is more whole than the Bradford Cox of yesterday? That old guy was pretty screwed up. I

was in some bad ways. I was just a very unhappy person. But now I’m just much more content. What changed for you? I don’t know what it was. Having lots of

type personalities who exist just to tear down what someone else is doing either out of jealousy or pure hatred. After the leak, I took the advice of several friends and just stopped validating these people’s bullshit. I turned off the computer and walked away.

blessings, I suppose. Having lots of opportunities to make music and being able to support myself that way. According to my therapist, I’m crazy independent. I’m like the most independent person he’s every dealt with. I think that in the past that was really kind of a curse, my independent urge, you know? I always felt like a loner in a group. Even with Deerhunter. Whereas like now I feel that I’m really a part of something but still have that freedom to do my own thing.

I feel like one of the problems is the media. They will over-exaggerate

Here’s a quote that I read from You’re

Who will exploit it. Right. There’s this special breed of internet-

“A C C O R D I N G T O M Y T H E R A P I S T, I ’ M C R A Z Y I N D E P E N D E N T.” one little thing and make it this huge deal. A politician makes one small public gaffe and all of a sudden he’s a racist, or a sexist. And I think musicians are susceptible to the same tactics. People want

their TMZ of indie rock, their gossip pages. They have an appetite for it. I don’t blame the people reporting it because honestly, as much as I’ve been a victim—well, I don’t want to say victim, because I certainly haven’t been a victim, for Christ’s sake—as much as I’ve been dicked by it, it’s still supply-and-demand. They’re just giving the audience what they want. People want to read about that. And I think the reason for that is because there’s such a lack of personality in indie rock and modern music in general. So people are just desperate for gossip because it gives them some insight into what the person’s like. “Oh, they threw a fit,” or “Oh, they had a meltdown onstage”—these things start to make you feel like you know the person more. Without these things to read about, these people are just songs.

When last I’d talked to you, you’d expressed frustration in presenting songs that you’d written to your band mates in Deerhunter and having them changed. I was curious, now that several years have gone by—are you more accepting of the process of having your songs evolve? I couldn’t imagine ever thinking that way. I guess

I just realized—especially now that I have Atlas Sound, and I’ve done so many other projects with other people—that it’s like... [long pause] I mean, that sounds really selfish for me to have said that, you know? Because Deerhunter’s a full band. Everybody’s role is equal. The only thing that makes Deerhunter what it is is that every single person is involved. I mean, I’m not the head of Deerhunter, you know what I mean? Now I depend on them and


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quoted as saying, “I have not formed a post-adolescent identity. If anything, I feel my youth has lasted way too long and I’m stuck in it...I still feel like I’m 16 years old.” Do you mean that in terms of angst? Well I think that was more of a quote from the old me.

You know, honestly, I think everyone—when they get to around age twenty-seven—they’ve got to hit a wall. That’s when it’s time to say, “Okay, I’ve got to grow up now,” you know? I mean, when I started doing this, I was a teenager. And when Cryptograms came out, I was still really young. I think I was twenty-three or twentyfour. When I wrote all that stuff I was a teenager, and I suppose I was still living in that teenaged mindset. I was really just scraping past. I don’t know… Okay, here’s something I could say that might be inspiring to younger people: You get older and things get better. I always thought adulthood was like a small death. I was afraid of responsibility. But honestly, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to feel abrasive. My last question—and this is kind of the penultimate question— Beatles or Rolling Stones? Oh man...see, this is just who I am. Both.

[short pause] Actually, no. Ask me again.

Beatles or Rolling Stones? Bob Dylan. They both just aspired to Bob

Dylan [Laughs]. Wait. Ask me that question again.

Beatles or Rolling Stones? Neil Young. There you go. Even better than Bob Dylan. Nooo. Noo. They’re all great. They’re all just as great as each other. That’s music, you know? It’s all great!



t the first promotional event for their new album, the veteran art-rock trio Liars sticks out like a sore thumb. Their label, Mute Records, has organized a listening party at a pop-up store in the meatpacking district, the current epicenter of Manhattan’s models-and-bottles nightlife. In addition to the listening party itself, the band is scheduled to perform “an exclusive DJ set.”


down to a science: find a chi-chi location and a liquor sponsor, send out e-mail blasts targeted at fashionable people, have the artist spin a bunch of electro remixes and eightiees dance hits and try to squeeze their upcoming release in as unobtrusively as possible. The idea at these events is to associate the new release with good times; more emphasis is given to the “party” aspect than to “listening,” and it’s served bands like Phoenix and Passion Pit well. But Liars is not exactly a party band. When the actual listening party for their new album, Sisterworld, begins, and its


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opening track—a song about murdering a woman who has just failed to commit suicide— moans and then smashes out of the speakers, the audience reaction is mixed. Some reel over to a massage station positioned (wisely) behind one of the speakers. Others cram the complimentary energy drinks into their expensive overcoats while talking on their Blackberrys. But there are some who break off from the crowds of people double-fisting the free Beck’s beer and actually listen, looking slightly perturbed at what they hear. When I meet up with the band the next day, I am expecting a tirade about what happened the night before: Who were all those people? What the fuck were they doing at our listening party? What ever happened to paying attention to art? No tirade. At the moment we meet, in fact, they are discussing the pop-up store. Owned by the tech-culture

“IT’S THE REINVENTION OF CONSUMPTION,” SAYS gross. “That’s what everyBody’s trying to do right now.” magazine Wired and open for just a few weeks, the place looked like a cracked-out, picked-over version of The Sharper Image: $50 synthesizers, custom-made Corvettes, $7,000 speakers that look like nineteenthcentury diving equipment, old video games for sale on eBay, sneakers made of recycled junk, tents, and camp gear all littering a six-thousand-square-foot space with no apparent rhyme or reason. They find the place fascinating, but it’s just part of a larger conversation that’s moving quickly: other topics include the zinc content of energysaving light bulbs, Green Label Sound, a record label owned by Mountain Dew, and websites that will pay bands for the rights to premiere the band’s music videos. “It’s the reinvention of consumption,” Julian Gross, the band’s drummer, explains. “That’s what everybody’s trying to do now.” That idea—the reinvention of consumption —is a hot topic these days, especially for musicians. Everybody, from artists to labels to publicists, is trying to figure out how to survive. There is a lot of emphasis on fluidity and adaptability, and people outside the music business assume that older bands like Liars are not going to make it. They aren’t flexible enough, the thinking goes. They’re used to the old way. But one of the defining elements of Liars’ career has been adaptability. Time and again, they have changed their creative process and their lives to respond to challenges. As entertaining a subject as the Wired store is, I’m here to discuss Sisterworld, their outsized, violent, cinematic fifth album. According to press releases and the like, Sisterworld is about the disturbed, psychic underbelly of Los Angeles. In teaser videos released online, the band looks like urban professionals who have somehow gotten


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stuck in the woods, the pleats rumpled and sweated out of their dress slacks, dirt and grime streaked across their faces and once-white collars, branches-cumwalking sticks completing the look. To people who know the band only by reputation, it probably looks like another one of their weird, high-concept blurts. There is a strange disconnect between press clippings written about them and the band’s own bio, in which the former casts Liars as abstract, arty recluses while the latter describes a band doing its best to react to life’s strains. Sisterworld’s sound has been determined by concrete, practical, normal things, just like every other album Liars has made with its current lineup of singer/ guitarist Angus Andrew, bass/synth player Aaron Hemphill, and drummer Julian Gross. For example, their second album, They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, is frequently described as an unlistenable drone haunted by obscure references to pagan rituals. But while the band was recording They Were Wrong at a house in the woods of New Jersey back in 2003, lead singer Angus Andrew was simply struggling with Iraq mania—just like everybody else. “I was just a little too into it,” Andrew explains. “It was when we were attacking Iraq, finding Saddam, and I was just glued to the TV. I was just feeling really overwhelmed by how ensconced I was in all that.” A lot was made of They Were Wrong’s concept (the album is, by the band’s own admission, about the nature of fear in society) and arcane references to Walpurgisnacht, a pagan ritual that survives, in assorted forms, across northern Europe. Those references, along with They Were Wrong’s corroded, synth-based sound, were mostly viewed by critics as the result of overreaching ambition—an arty band overdosing on its own pretensions. But back in 2003, when post-9/11 malaise seemed to poison and distort new aspects of American culture every month, with the chatter about weapons of mass destruction never-ending and the hunts for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein all-consuming, the band preferred to use a closed system of symbols and signifiers as a proxy for the war’s nightmarish effects. To those same critics, They Were Wrong’s follow-up, Drum’s Not Dead, seemed even more obtuse: a concept album that pitted the two sides of the creative process against each other. Under the circumstances, it was also the only album the band could have made. After Andrew managed to unglue himself from CNN’s everevolving, never-informative coverage, he and his band fled to Berlin, and they drank in the isolation. “I would try to pretend I wasn’t American when I was there,” Gross says. For the most part, it worked. “People usually thought I was Turkish.” But because nobody in the band spoke German, and nobody in their recording studio (which was only accessible by boat) spoke English, the language barrier began to loom large. Each artistic decision, simply because of the struggles it would set in motion, had to be agonized over, both individually and collectively. But rather than falter, the band embraced the challenges Berlin presented.

“Being alone is a very alienating feeling, [and] I think that’s something that was really good to work from,” Andrew says. The isolation pushed them to examine their art’s every facet, and it resulted in some of the most nuanced (“A Visit From Drum”) and beautiful (“The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack”) songs the band has ever made. It also birthed the bizarre, Public-Access-TV-at-3:30AM-on-a-Wednesdaystyle Drum’s Not Bread, The Helix Aspersa and By Your Side, films made up of shorts set to each of the album’s songs created by Gross, Andrew, and independent filmmaker Markus Wambsganss. Eventually, though, Berlin began to take its toll. Gross and Aaron Hemphill moved back to America, and Liars’ fourth, eponymous album was basically cobbled together via e-mail. “We were attacking the problem of making a record in a roundabout and difficult way,” Andrew admits, “and I think after two records like that, we were just sort of thinking, ‘Let’s go home.’” Psychic underbellies are tough things to find. But when Liars began working on Sisterworld in 2008, the band knew where to look. Though they are still mostly associated with the earlyaughts New York indie rock scene that gave birth to the Strokes, Interpol, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the current Liars lineup first began playing music together in Los Angeles in 1999. Hemphill, who went to the same high school as Dean Spunt from No Age, met Gross and Andrew while Andrew was studying at Cal Arts. So when Andrew came back to L.A. after a five-year stint in Berlin, intent on “experiencing the parts of L.A. that most people don’t see,” he found the perfect place—above a medical marijuana dispensary, next door to a porn producer—and he found it quickly. That might sound too shady to be real, but to the band, it’s part of the L.A. landscape. “It’s down on La Brea,” Andrew shrugs at my arched eyebrows. “If you want to see where Angus was living,” Hemphill adds, “watch Lost Highway. That scene where Balthazar Getty fixes Mister Eddie’s Mercedes, the Firestone station, it’s sort of next to that. You know, that really good scene where he sees Patricia Arquette, and that Lou Reed cover comes on.” Coincidence or not, Hemphill’s Lynch reference is apt. There is something both real and imagined about Sisterworld, and the sense of place that runs throughout the album is unique in the band’s discography. And as places go, it’s not one you want to visit. Its inhabitants are ugly, vain and violent. It is under constant surveillance. And it pulses with a mysterious, toxic, malevolent energy—a mix of swelling, ominous strings and the fluorescent hum of feedback. These features are fleshed out by details both big and small, and they hang over the record like smog. On “Here Comes Everybody,” its orchestral passages evoke the monstrous evil of film noir; the shuddering, screaming psychobilly guitar on songs like “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” and “The Overachievers” echo the Cramps’ nightmarish vision of the ‘50s; tiny, unseen cameras whir in and out of focus, surveying the scene of “Goodnight Everybody.” The feedback on “Drip” adds a seediness normally reserved for motels where one pays by the hour. But, unlike previous Liars records, there are no obscure non-musical references to give the music odd associations. Or if there are, the band’s not saying. “We’re realizing that the inspiration or the concept that’s behind the song, and the steps

we took to get to the finished product, should be kept secret,” Hemphill tells me. “It relays into a limitation: that’s what we did to get this song to sound like this.” To Andrew, though, the inspirations are just simpler this time. “I would put my finger more on watching Judge Judy,” he reveals. “When I came back here, I was just bathed in media. I was locked away, and when you get a TV again, it’s really discovering what people are like.” Daytime television aside, Sisterworld signals that the band has begun to tackle more than their internal struggles. “I think we’re trying to deal with [frustration] on this record, this frustration of not fitting in with the way the world should be, or the way you should be in the world,” Andrew explains. “There seems to be this mass thing where you don’t feel good, but you want to fake it,” Gross reflects. “So you put on some iPod song.” A quick look at pop music’s landscape bears Gross out—artists doing their best to dance or float away from their problems, and record labels desperately rolling out one quick, sweet fix after another. But Liars’ willingness to tackle those frustrations will see them through these times. It might even make them something nobody views them as: models for what a band ought to be. “I was thinking about press time,” Hemphill says. “There’s always this question that comes up: ‘Do you react against your back catalog?’ And it’s not that. It’s just that we always dive so deep into what we’re focusing on that we sort of exhaust the possibilities of it. I hate to even touch on therapy in an interview and share that with someone else, but that [making music together] could potentially be the biggest form of therapy for us as a group. Maybe one day it will make our art happier.” T h a t will probably take a long time. But as long as Liars stay willing to reinvent themselves, they can take all the time they need.



Duke IS






Freddie Floyd, Jr.

“...Rights? What Rights? ” Christopher Mintz-Plasse Clark Duke Written by Isaac Lekach Director of Photography Ray Lego Styled by Djuna Bell Grooming by Sandy Ganzer Design by Joey Parlett Title by Alex Greenwald Produced by Dan Weiner Isaac Lekach Alex Moore Stephen Blackwell COMING SOON



Christopher Mintz-Plasse is famous. Super-duper famous, and made so by a stint at the end of a poorly laminated Hawaiian rainbow and the utterance of one iconic epithet: “I am McLovin.”


is hyphenated surname is not as recognizable as his face: wrinkle-free and cherubic but nebbishy

like a spry Woody Allen or a white man’s Urkel. But the point is—you know his face. Ever since his scene-stealing cinematic debut in Superbad, you’ve probably even quoted him. Or at the very least, found yourself choking on your own saliva from a furious fit of laughter brought on by his nervous and jittery delivery. Yes, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is famous. And he’s famous because he’s very, very funny. The only other actor in recent memory who has experienced such a fortuitous and monumental overnight surge of success is Jason Schwartzman for his performance as the petulant but loveable Max Fischer in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. But even Schwartzman’s prosperous trajectory, though deserved, was more or less bashert: He is Hollywood royalty, after all, (Schwartzman is Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew and actress Talia “Adriaaaaan” Shire is his mom). Mintz-Plasse, however, went from complete unknown, with zero ties to Tinseltown, to quintessential beloved underdog. On a whim, he auditioned for the part of law-breaking, adolescent horn dog “Fogell” in Superbad and nailed it. Since his breakout role, he’s governed his career wisely appearing in a select few films. He popped up briefly in Harold Ramis’s biblical romp Year One and co-starred in David Wain’s sleeper hit Role Models. Now he’s wearing a neoprene suit and doling out an ass kicking in Matthew Vaughn’s comic-based Kick-Ass. Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Clark Duke, his partner in nerd-dom in Kick-Ass, are card-carrying members in the elite network of talent to come up through the gold-spinning web of Judd Apatow. The two met on the set of Superbad when Duke, also a close friend of Michael Cera and co-creator of their web series Clark & Michael, told Mintz-Plasse he’d auditioned and been passed over for the role of Fogell. They’ve been fast friends ever since. But like the virile seed shot forth from so many dick jokes in the Apatow mechanism, Duke and Mintz-Plasse have reached fertile new ground in their burgeoning careers. Duke has gone to star in the teen television series Greek, the raunchy film The

Sex Drive, and the forthcoming Hot Tub Time Machine with John Cusack. You’ve probably noticed Duke and Mintz-Plasse took our photo shoot to another level, immersing themselves in character with method-actor fervor while running amok in West Hollywood. At one point, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, in fullblown cop attire, tried to pull over passing cars with a wave of his hand and a flash of his prop badge. It seemed some poor sucker finally gave in—and believe me Mintz-Plasse was psyched—until he figured out he was just blocking the guy’s driveway. It’s a rare thing to be where these two are in life. Gone is the notion of anonymity. Surprisingly, the two are well adjusted and grounded. They seem to appreciate the boundlessness of their newly uncorked universe, as if anything might happen— and if the last two years are any indication, anything probably will. Perhaps because of that, they appear uniquely jovial (not to mention juvenile), are more than willing to trade below-thebelt jabs, and are therefore a whole lot of fun to be around—like sailors on leave. The following is a candid conversation that took place between the two after the photo shoot. And, yes, they talk about each other’s moms and make uncomfortable sex jokes. What else would you expect? So how’d you guys meet? Clark Duke: We met during Superbad. I was friends with Mike Cera and— Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I remember one of the first things you said to me was, “Hey, it’s good to meet you. I auditioned for ‘Fogell.’” CD: I did. I didn’t book it. I think Superbad was right after Clark & Michael. CMP: I had no part in that. CD: No, but Jonah [Hill] was in it. So I feel like we must have known each other. It was around the same time. After Superbad, we just stayed in contact. How did Kick-Ass come together? CD: Sometimes when they have scripts they’ll do a table read, like, before the script’s even finished and they’ve casted anything. I just went in randomly and read for the part of Kick-Ass’s friend and after that Matthew [Vaughn, Director] was just like [in a British accent], Well, that’s it you’re Marty. And from that point on that’s who I played in the movie. He wouldn’t let me audition for anybody else. But I

Photo equipment provided by: Pix




was a huge fan of the comic. I really just went to the table reading because I wanted to meet [comic book creator] Mark Millar. That, to this day, seems to make Matthew laugh and pissed off at me. That’s how I got involved with it. CMP: I went in to read for Kick-Ass. The lead. And he was like, [in a British accent], No, you’ve too much charm, too much charisma. He just said that he saw me more as Chris D’Amico/Red Mist. So that was it. I had some fight scenes. That was fun. Clark, you chilled in the comic book store. CD: Yeah, all my scenes are in the comic book store. I didn’t get any fighting. But Millar and Vaughn both said that if they’re doing a sequel, I’m getting a costume. CMP: I’ve heard some ideas. CD: I mentioned a cowboy theme for my character. I was thinking that his power—because in the comic—in the last issue of the comic, Millar has the little girl doing cocaine to make her super-humanly strong. And I was like, That’s my character: The Cocaine Cowboy. His super power is that he does cocaine and has super-human strength. CMP: Millar would love that. CD: I emailed it to him. Let’s see what he says. CMP: Genius. CD: I’d just wear all white. A white cowboy hat. The comic is way more out there than the movie. He had a ten-year-old girl doing cocaine. CMP: They don’t have that in the movie. CD: No, but the movie is crazy violent. CMP: It’s all “Hit Girl.” CD: It’s all mainly the little girl with the violence. So... Nicolas Cage? CMP: Nic Cage is so good in this movie. CD: This is a bat-shit crazy Nic Cage. He’s doing an Adam West/ Batman impression in the movie. I’m not joking. CMP: When he’s not doing the super hero he’s kind of like a Mr. Rogers wearing a cardigan—always saying, “Oh, child. Oh, child. It’s all good, child.” CD: I don’t remember that, but he says “child” all the time. It’s so bizarre. “Oh child.” I didn’t meet him on this. And he produced the movie I shot before, but I never met the guy. Didn’t he come up to you? CMP: I was walking to my trailer and this shady car rolls up next to me with tinted windows and vrrrrrnnnnnn the window goes down and it’s Nic Cage and he says, “Hey. Did you read for A Thousand Words?” And I was like, Oh no, that was my buddy Clark. And he goes, Oh. Ok. Vrrrrrnnnnnn. The window goes back up and he just drives off. That was our first encounter. How’s life after overnight success? CD: Umm, Chris could probably answer that question better than I could. CMP: It’s pretty wild. I can’t go anywhere without getting noticed. Seriously, everywhere. I’ve had frat guys that feel like they can come up to me and put me in a headlock and be like, Yeah man! We’d be great friends! But I’m like, I’d never hang out with you. Ever in my life. And then I had one girl come up to me and say—I was at a party and people were molesting me—and one girl, seriously, comes up to me and says, “I will suck your dick right now.” She said that and blew my mind. She didn’t tell me her name. We didn’t talk. That’s the first thing she says to me. I’m like, I’m sorry I can’t. I’ve got to go. I just left. And then she sent me Facebook message afterwards like, I feel like I said something really inappropriate to you and I’m really sorry. You still have an account? You guys must get bombarded on Facebook. CMP: After Superbad, like the first weekend after

Superbad, I got five hundred adds a day and I’d ignore them, but


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they’d try to re-add me and be like, What’s up dude!? Why are you so rude? CD: I don’t really like any of that. After Clark & Michael I had to get rid of my Facebook and MySpace. When the show was on I used it all to promote the show, but after that I was like, Fuck this. Andy, my manager to this day, yells, “Internet” at me occasionally. I was at Comic-Con and someone yelled that at me. I guess after seeing Clark & Michael they couldn’t remember which one of the two names I was so they just rolled down the window and yelled, “Internet,” then drove off. CMP: “WEBSERIES!” CD: “INTERNET!” Nobody has ever rolled up and yelled, “T.V.” CMP: “MOVIES!” CD: I wonder if I write a book, if someone would drive up and yell, “BOOK!” Tell me about the characters you created for the photo shoot. CMP:

I’m Freddie Floyd Jr. The rookie who thinks everything bad could be turned good once again. High hopes. CD: My guy is Chester Tedrow. Tedrow is an homage to a character in the James Ellroy books. One of the characters is named Wayne Tedrow Jr. who is kind of this idealistic cop that ends up becoming monstrous over the course of these two or three books. This is going to be really interesting to anybody reading the interview. I’m a big reader. Hey ladies. Mine is kind of a grizzled, corrupt cop. Seen it all. His partner got killed and it was probably his fault. So now he’s got this new partner. Freddie. CMP: And you kind of hate me. CD: I hate your guts. CMP: But in the end we bond. A little bit. CD: We’ll see. We didn’t at the shoot. The characters in the shoot did not bond. CMP: I don’t know how people wear mustaches, because that is itchy as hell. CD: I’m kind of relieved that we can’t grow beards. So what would your character say about you? CMP: I think my character would like my innocence. I think he would appreciate that I am underage and that I don’t do drugs. I think he’d want me by his side. CD: Why is he telling all these lies about you? CMP: What’s Freddie said to you? CD: Freddie hasn’t said shit. I just happen to know you. CMP: Chester and Clark would be best friends. CD: Chester would walk up to Clark and call him a pussy and walk away. That would be the end of it. CMP: Flick a cigarette in his face. CD: He doesn’t say much. He’s a man of few words. He’s tortured by his past. Just tortured by his past. By all the things he’s seen. CMP: He doesn’t want a partner. CD: He doesn’t want anyone close because he’s afraid they’ll die. Y’know? He’s tragic. Let’s talk a little bit about improv. Do you guys consider yourselves pros? CD: I don’t have any improv training. I went to film school

and Clark & Michael was sort of improv. CMP: I did a lot of improv in high school. But that was very Whose

Line Is It Anyway? kind of games. CD: “Always say yes!” CMP: “Never deny!” CD: I’d say the movie work has a lot of improv. CMP: Depends on who you’re working with. If you’re working with Apatow there is definitely improv. CD: I like to work that way. CMP: I did two Apatow movies and then I did a [David] Wain


On Christopher On Front Cover: Shirt and Tie: Band of Outsiders Jeans: Levi’s Pictured here: Shirt: Band of Outsiders Pants: Steven Alan Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Shoes: Vans

On Clark On Front Cover: Shirt: Steven Alan Pictured here: Vintage shirt: Fox & Fawn NY Tie: band of outsiders Pants: Gucci


movie, but a bunch of Apatow people were in there. So with the first three movies I thought, Are they just giving me work because they feel bad for me? But then I auditioned for Kick-Ass… CD: I didn’t have any stunt work in this so it wasn’t that different for me. CMP: Just wait for Cocaine Cowboy. CD: I’ll get that Lycra suit. I’ve already hired a trainer. Chloe [Hit Girl] is going to train me. She could lift me over her head. CMP: She did more push-ups than me on set. I had a push-up competition with an eleven-year-old girl, and I’m sad to say that she beat me. CD: I remember at Comic-Con a couple of years ago there was this guy in a Captain America suit and somehow I was like, How many push-ups can you do? And he said, “I can do twice as many as you could. That’s for sure.” I said, “Oh really?” I got down and did like forty-five and could see the guy slowly starting to panic. So I knock out about forty-five and then he couldn’t do twenty. CMP: That’s impressive. He probably thought you could do ten. CD: I think he thought I could do five. CMP: You put Captain America in his place. CD: Oh, totally. He had a girl with him and I took her. She left him out of respect. CMP: This is a great interview. CD: What do you think about Kick-Ass? You finally saw it. CMP: I saw it for the first time at Buttnumbathon. It was incredible. CD: I agree. CMP: There’s some action stuff you’ve never seen in a movie before. CD: I don’t feel that people will be able to make superhero movies the same after this. I know that sounds like an outrageous thing to say. CMP: I’m with you. CD: Tonally, I don’t see how anybody could make something as broad as Spider-Man 3 after this. CMP: The crowd was so into it that during one of Hit-Girl’s fight scenes everybody in the crowd started simultaneously clapping to the beat of the song. CD: It’s like the first postmodern superhero movie. You’ve both been able to work with some real icons. What’s that been like? CD: The wildest one for me has been Chevy Chase.

Chevy Chase is in Hot Tub and Chevy’s hotel room was next to mine and all our scenes were together. So every morning for a week we would ride to work together, shoot all day, and then go home and have dinner and get drunk together. It was the greatest week of my live. Chevy is my hero. Comedy wise. He’s the alltime greatest for me. That was the highlight professionally for me. Just hanging out with him and listening to him tell these insane stories about Belushi and Steve Martin. Just unbelievable stuff. Do you guys plan on branching out past comedy? CD: That can be a huge mistake. That’s the trap most comedians fall into. They think, Oh the work I do isn’t important for some reason. I should do some serious drama and nine times out of ten it’s a fucking piece of shit. CMP: Maybe they just want to challenge themselves. Like, I’ve done this I want to see if I can do this. CD: I guess they want to challenge how much money they can make. I don’t get it. CMP: But if you got a chance to work with Martin Scorsese— CD: Obviously! But I mean, I don’t think The Number 23 is an example of a smart choice. CMP: You’re right.

CD: I don’t know why we’re ripping on Jim Carrey. CMP: Anybody see A Christmas Carol? Fzzzzzzzzzzz. CD: Generally I think laughing feels great. CMP: You come out of a movie feeling great instead of seeing a

very depressing movie and you come out feeling depressed but saying, That’s a great movie. CD: It’s the same reason I don’t listen to y’know, Death Cab For Cutie anymore. I just don’t want to be bummed out. CMP: Or what’s that—um, Damien Rice. Too depressing for me. [Singing] “Can’t take my eyes off of you!” CD: That’s why we strictly listen to gangster rap. It talks about things we can relate to: Money, cars, women, murder. CMP: Smokin weed, drinking chronic. CD: Drinking chronic? CMP: Isn’t that what it is? I told Freddie, I don’t do drugs. What is chronic? I don’t know. You guys have done some pretty raunchy stuff on screen. What’s it like shooting a sex scene? CMP: I was still in high school when I

got the role in Superbad. I was in a summer school class reading the script and a very large Mexican kid in front of me goes, Oh, are you gonna hook up with a girl in it? And I was like, Yeah man! I have a sex scene. He goes, Oh, that’s the fucking coolest! You’re going to be on top of a girl! CD: I hope we can get the accent that you’re doing in this interview. CMP: But filming a sex scene is one of the most awkward things you could do. It’s full penetration. That’s the thing. You are actually having sex. People don’t know. CD: Industry secret. CMP: [Laughs] No, you have the whole camera crew and a bunch of people around you. [On Superbad] the blanket was up to my hips. I had sweat pants on. She did too. She was wearing a bra. I was seventeen so I had to have my mom there with me. CD: Your mom was on set?! CMP: The thing was I didn’t tell her about it. We didn’t realize the legal age thing—that she had to be on set. And we were about to shoot and everyone was like, Where is Chris’s mom? We had to wait forty-five minutes for her to get there. They called her and were like, Your son is about to do a sex scene. You have to come down here. She drove down and she had to watch me have sex on camera. CD: She had to be on set?! That’s rough dude. CMP: I feel like your mom would have been giving you tips. She’s so cool. CD: [Laughs] We don’t talk about intercourse. CMP: [Pretending to be Duke’s mom] Clark! You’re doin’ it wrong! CD: Shut up. That is awful. She is going to read this and call you. CMP: Clark! Use your fingers! Clark! CD: Damn it. That’s heinous. Every now and then you do hear a story. Like those urban legends about who in what film was actually having sex. I heard, oh man what was it… I want to say it was an Alec Baldwin movie from a long time ago. Anybody ever heard this? CMP: No. CD: Man, now I probably just defamed Alec Baldwin for no reason. What’s the most kick-ass thing you guys have ever done? CMP: I bought my dad a huge plasma-screen TV and surround

sound for his house because he doesn’t leave our house. He sits and watches TV and movies all day. CD: Your dad told me to watch The Big Bang Theory. I started to watch it, and I actually really like it. CMP: I don’t like sitcoms but that’s a funny show. I’ll tell him that. That’s the most kick-ass thing you’ve ever said. 92

A People’s

History of Howard

Zinn Interview by Josh Brolin 93

The revolution was, as it turns out, televised. And in case you missed it, Was released on DVD on Febraury 22nd.


he People Speak is the final offering from the legendary Howard Zinn—arguably the most influential historian of all time

and author of the book that altered American ideology forever: A People’s History Of The United States. The People Speak aired on The History Channel in December, just a month before Zinn’s passing in January at age eightyseven. In late December Zinn generously agreed to a joint interview with The People Speak collaborator Josh Brolin exclusively for Death+Taxes. What follows is one of the last interviews with one of the great American thinkers of all time. Over the course of his adult life, which began with a tour of duty in World War II, Zinn keenly observed the United States slide deftly into its role as the lone global superpower. It’s said that history is written by the winners—and the story of America is nothing if not the story of big wins. Zinn’s unique insight was to tell the story of underdogs, from the time of cowboys and Indians to the Vietnam War—to expose the injuries and complexities glossed over in classroom histories. Perhaps no single thinker did so much to challenge the political and cultural assumptions we hold about ourselves—to implore us to a higher level of conscience and accountability. It’s an influence that has reverberated across generations. But Zinn’s special talent was always uniquely humanist—his was not the career of the loner academic indulging his erudition. Immediately following World War II, Zinn sprang to life as an activist at the heart of every major conflict—the Southern Civil Rights movement in the sixties, the Vietnam War protests in the seventies, the Nicaragua and Iran Contra protests in the eighties. His was a career of action—of protests, arrests, and inspiring public leadership—as much as a career of words. Zinn’s work has been adapted into documentaries, implemented in classroom cirriculum, and referenced in movies. Remember Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, schooling Robin Williams on history—“If you want to read a real history book read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass.” A People’s History reminded us of our common human bond and our responsibilities to each other in a successful society. Zinn was akways about bringing

people together—it’s a fitting final chapter in a career defined by inclusion that The People Speak is a collaboration with those like Brolin who were shaped so fundamentally by his work. D+T: Josh, Howard, do we have you both on the line? JB: I have to talk to Howard? HZ: I have to talk to Josh?

[Laughter] HZ: Where are you? JB: I’m in the Village right now. In New York City. I’m here

doing Wall Street 2 with Oliver [Stone]. HZ: Oh, Wall Street 2, that’s a good idea. So are you a good guy or a bad guy? JB: What do you think? HZ: I know you as a bad guy. JB: [Laughs] So I’m playing a good guy. Always the opposite of what you think. HZ: I’m glad he’s doing Wall Street 2. And now is the perfect time to do it. JB: I agree with you completely. The recession is a massive consequence of what was going on then, in 1987: “greed is good.” It’s funny, there’s a quote in the introduction of Voices of A People’s History [about] Wall Street taking over. I don’t know if you remember who said it, but it had to do with Wall Street. You know what I’m talking about? HZ: Mary Ellen Lease, a populist leader. She makes a speech at a populist convention in the 1880s and she says “This is a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, for Wall Street.” JB: Right. I can’t believe you just remembered that off the top of your head. This book is six-hundred pages long! I should probably spend the whole interview just picking a page—225, halfway down, what does it say? I have a feeling you could pull it off, too. [Laughs] Well, first of all, thank you for doing this. You know, for a little ranch kid who grew up around fifty horses— some kid who thought he was never going to get out of there—to now be interviewing one of the great humanists of our time…. HZ: You grew up around fifty horses?



Zinn with fellow bombadiers during World War II


Zinn with students at Spelman college. He was fired two years later for his proactive role in the Civil Rights movement

JB: Fifty horses, in the middle of California. HZ: Well I’m just a kid who grew up in houses with fifty rats.

[Laughs] JB: First and foremost, will you explain what we’re doing with The People Speak and how it started? HZ: Well, Matt Damon I’ve known since he was five years old, and that’s because his mother Nancy was bringing up her two boys and they were next-door neighbors of ours in Newton. We became very good friends. And I was writing my People’s History when Matt was ten years old, and Nancy, his mother, gave him a copy of A People’s History. JB: Wow. Quite dense for a ten-year-old kid. HZ: For a ten-year-old kid! He was a precocious kid. And in high school his teacher gave all his students a copy of A People’s History of the United States. Ben Affleck was in the same class— two of them had the same teacher in Cambridge who gave them my book. So they were familiar with the book. I suppose I’ll jump to ten years ago when Fox Television decided they wanted to do a series of feature films based on A People’s History. By that time I had a Hollywood agent, something I never thought I’d have in my life, and he got us all together. He got Ben Affleck, and Matt, and Chris Moore, who had been producer of Good Will Hunting, and the three of them and I became, again, something I’d never been—an executive producer. Fox fiddled with it for two years and then dropped it and then the four of us visited a bunch of studios and networks—HBO, TNT—and they all wanted to do it. Ben Affleck made the pitch. [Laughs] He’s the fastest talker. And they all wanted it, and we picked HBO. We went a couple years with HBO. They let us pick three writers to write screenplays, and HBO turned them down. JB: They turned them all down? Why do you think they turned them down? HZ: It’s interesting—I don’t know. Maybe, Josh, you’ve had this experience—very often, people just end something and they don’t tell you anything. They don’t explain. So they didn’t really say anything. When I called John Sayles and said they turned it down, he said, “Oh I know why they turned it down. There wasn’t enough sex and violence in it.” JB: Right. It’s probably true, right? HZ: Yeah, it’s probably true. [Laughs] Then we got Anthony Arnove on board and the three of us then became the executive producers. And you joined us at some point. Chris organized four performances in Boston almost two years ago, and you came and Viggo Mortensen came… I remember my wife telling me that she sat with you in the Green Room and had a very soulful


M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 F E AT U R E S


Zinn speaks in the Boston Commons at an anti-war rally during Vietnam

conversation with you—she was very impressed. JB: Like you have never been of me. [Laughter] HZ: I didn’t want her to be too impressed with you… JB: You’re going to flirt with my wife, I’m going to flirt with your wife. HZ: It’s a free world, you know. That’s what Emma Goldman believed in—free love. JB: So let me ask you a few questions: Are there any speeches in [A People’s History] that you’ve aspired to emulate or identify with? Where you go, God, this is inspiring me to further this book? I know that Roz [Zinn’s wife] had a huge part in continuing to motivate you as you were writing the initial book, A People’s History of the United States, and when you would get depressed she would egg you on. Are there speeches, though, that inspired you also? HZ: Sure. Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War— you and Viggo both do readings that are connected to the Revolutionary War. And what they show is the underside of the war—the way ordinary soldiers would treat it as opposed to the way the splendid officers were treating it and the way the veterans of that war were treated when they came home and found they couldn’t pay their taxes and their land was being taken away. Those were very heartfelt speeches. But there’s one speech

“I became socially conscious by reading books and by going to my first demonstration and being hit by a policeman and realizing that the government is not neutral, and that we as a people are going to have to fight, ourselves, for our own freedom to assemble and to speak.”



Zinn with wife Roslyn, more than a decade after publishing A People’s History Of The United States.

Zinn at a peace rally in Boston in the seventies

Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, and the government covered it up. The general responsible for that was General McChrystal—he’d just been appointed by Obama to supervise military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. When the family found out they were that I’m thinking of furious. Some families go to the White House after somebody’s right now that was been killed and they take flowers from the President—this family pretty important to didn’t do that. This family was angry, and then Pat Tillman’s me—jumping from the brother Kevin then made this really angry statement, which Revolutionary War to Sean Penn reads. World War II. Admiral LaRocque served in World War II and he then made a statement JB: It brings me to my next question. This is for the people— when he was interviewed by Studs Turkel. It’s very important to it’s called The People Speak. But when you see a movie like this, me because I was in World War II. I was a bombadier in the Air and you see Springsteen and you see Matt, you see Viggo, you Force. I volunteered—I was enthusiastic. But shortly after the see you, you see me, Bob Dylan, those perceived as being on the end of the war I turned against the idea of any good war—of war far left—what is inclusive of everybody? Because to me, it has having any possibility of being good. And Admiral LaRocque put nothing to do with whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican— my feelings into very powerful words. He went around to high when you’re the people you’re the people. And as you say in the schools and told these kids, “Don’t believe all that stuff about introduction to Voices of The People’s History, when the people war being fought for freedom and democracy and so on. War spoke up is the only time change was implemented. It’s not is just a miserable, dirty business. Old men send young men to governmental change that did anything for us—it’s quite the war—they’re not fighting for glory.” opposite. It was when the people spoke up. So what is inclusive So my life is still tied up with World War II. Anybody who of everybody, and how do we say—not just to sell our little film, served in the military and anybody’s who’s been to war—it’s with but in reality—that it’s not about partisanship and all that? them all their lives, in some way or another. Today is Veteran’s HZ: I think this is one of the reasons that all these actors and Day, and World War II is still with me. I don’t like the way World so many people have gotten on board because this isn’t narrow War II has been glorified and idealized in its ideology. It speaks to something with “The Greatest Generation,” and that I think every human being feels. heroic things—Iwo Jima and so on. It It’s not a matter of isms and it’s not “My twenties started off just encourages young kids to want to a matter of dogmas—it’s a matter of with bombing places in Europe become military heroes, and I want saying simple things that I think almost young kids to become anti-military everybody believes in: We don’t want in World War II and ended with heroes! war and we don’t want some people to my coming out of the war and suffer. We don’t want some people to be JB: Absolutely. Do you know the very rich and other people to not have story of Pat Tillman? getting married and having healthcare. We don’t want anybody to HZ: I do know the story of Pat kids and deciding that we be discriminated against on account Tillman. of race or because they’re gay. These JB: Remember when Sean [Penn] cannot accept war anymore are human things. Josh, you know, reads Kevin Tillman, in the letter to as a solution for whatever’s sometimes I’m asked, “What keeps his brother? you going?”—as if I’m going, of course. HZ: That was a wonderful reading. wrong in the world.”


[Laughs] They look around and they say, “Terrible things are going on—wars are still going on, and people still suffering here and there. What keeps you going and feeling okay?” And I say, “What keeps me going is I believe that all people basically are decent. All people want the same things.” We can be propagandized and our actions can be twisted and distorted, but ultimately I believe our good instincts come out. So the question you asked, Josh, is about the universality of what we’re doing. We’re speaking to universal values that people feel that have nothing to do with ideologies and these narrow arguments that people have about political parties. They’re just human values that speak to everybody. And that’s what we’re hoping the film will do—touch people in the most fundamental ways. JB: How many times have you been to jail? HZ: Ten. JB: Have you really? HZ: Yeah. I didn’t serve long sentences, but— JB: No, I know. But that’s how many times you’ve been taken in. HZ: I’ve been in jail ten times, yeah. When I was teaching in the South, in the days of the Southern movements; in the North, protesting against the Vietnam War. The charges sometimes were very funny. I was arrested once for “sauntering and loitering.” [Laughter] I’ve always wondered how you can saunter and loiter at the same time. JB: You just have that air—every time I see you I think about how I can make a citizen’s arrest. You’re just so arrestable. [Laughter] Which one are you most proud of? HZ: I think in the 1980s, after the Vietnam War, when Reagan decided that Nicaragua was an enemy and was threatening us and declared an embargo on Nicaragua to try to starve them into submission. There were about five hundred of us who gathered and went in to the federal building in Boston and sat down and refused to leave, even after hours. So they arrested five hundred of us. I was proud of it because it was so many people who decided they were willing to get arrested in order to protest something they thought was wrong. I was proud of us all, and I liked the charge. They dropped the charges, but they sent us a little slip that told us what we had been charged with, and the charge was, “Failure to quit.” JB: “Failure to quit?” [Laughter] HZ: “Failure to quit.” It came from an old trespassing statute— failure to quit the premises. JB: I think if we didn’t have the title The People Speak, that’s what it should have been called: Failure to Quit. HZ: Yeah, not a bad title. JB: All right, I’ve got a couple more questions. First: your personal definition of dissent. HZ: My personal definition of dissent… Speaking up without thinking of consequences if you see something as wrong, even if everybody around you doesn’t see it as wrong and they believe that it’s right. You may be a minority—you may be a minority of one. But you see something’s wrong and you speak up and you decide you want to do something about it. Just concentrating

“the Internet has been a tremendous source of information and a way to give people information that the major media will not give.”


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on what is right and not concentrating on how many people will support you or who will agree with you or what will happen to you. That’s my definition. JB: Okay, I’m going to go down a few things, and I’d love for you to give me one sentence on everything that I say. Ready? Okay, your teens. HZ: I became socially conscious by reading books and by going to my first demonstration and being hit by a policeman and realizing that the government is not neutral, and that we as a people are going to have to fight, ourselves, for our own freedom to assemble and to speak. JB: God, that was just retardedly well-spoken. Okay, your twenties. HZ: My twenties started off with bombing places in Europe in World War II and ended with my coming out of the war and getting married and having kids and deciding that we cannot accept war anymore as a solution for whatever’s wrong in the world. JB: Now I’m going to mix it up a little bit. Your children. HZ: I’m very proud of my children because without my wife Roz and I pushing them in any way—they came out as wonderful human beings, compassionate and caring. Much closer to what you’re doing than what I’m doing, Josh. But yeah, I’m very proud of our two kids. JB: Okay, let me go through the rest of these ages. The thirties. Your thirties. HZ: [Laughs] If you’re going to go through all these decades, that’s a lot! JB: I know, it’s going to be another hour on the phone, you being a hundred and sixty-eight and all. HZ: That’s right. By the time this interview ends, I will be a hundred and sixty-eight! JB: Okay, a few more. The Internet. HZ: I came to it late, being, you know, technologically retarded, but the Internet has been a tremendous source of information and a way to give people information that the major media will not give. The major television stations and major newspapers leave out so many important things and distort things and become vehicles for government propaganda, but the Internet is a way of people connecting and spreading good ideas so I really am admiring of its existence. JB: You love community, don’t you? You love anything that has to do with bringing people together. HZ: Yeah. When I wrote my first play and it was produced— it was a play about Emma Goldman—and I got into the theater world, and it was very different from the academic world, which is not exactly a community. In the theater world, it was so warm and people were so intimately working on something and people hugged one another, and, you know, in the academic world, the chairman of the department doesn’t hug you. JB: Right. People might get ideas. [Laughter] HZ: So the thing about theater is that—even if only for weeks or months—it creates a community of people that gives you a good feeling. Just like being in a social movement, it creates a community. It gives you a kind of whisper of what the world might be like if it was all a community. JB: Right. Do you think that’s why you’ve been so involved in The People Speak? HZ: Yeah, I love it. I love being among all you people working on it and I love the fact that we have become a community in the course of these couple of years that we’ve been working on this, and I want that community to last.




What will it look like when the big one comes? With the age of sparring superpowers behind us, photographer Agan Harahap reimagines some historic moments from the last century with sparring superhero powers in the mix. Will the next big one bring aliens? Superheroes? Hey, you never know, stranger things have happened—we do have a black man in the White House, after all.

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Superheroes Anonymous Hollywood abounds with stories about real-life superheroes these days. But somewhere out there just beyond the shadows, from New York City to Mexico City to New Bedford, Massachusetts, lurks a bona fide, honest-to-god network of real reallife superheroes.. They are not Watchmen. They are not even Kick-Ass or Red Mist. No bullet-proof vests, no Chinese stars. These are normal people—students, bankers, what have you. They just happen to patrol over society in costume, fighting crime and doing good deeds under aliases like Life and The Dark Guardian. They are Superheroes Anonymous. For real.

B Y BR E NN A E hr l ic h • P HO TO S B Y P aul Q ui tor iano


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hat’s going on here?” Life asks, ambling up to a pair of cops as they peer through the dusty glass doors of a seemingly abandoned building. The cops turn around, take in the young man’s young face; he looks like one of the Culkin brothers—like that kid from Igby Goes Down. The kid’s fedora is set at a jaunty angle, his black cargo pants are tucked into black jungle boots, his backpack

weighs down his shoulders, even though they’re thrown back confidently. He looks like a Brooklyn-dweller. A college student. A kid. Perhaps a nosy kid, the kind that watched too many cops shows as a kid. They probably don’t notice the black mask hanging from his belt loop, nor the tzitzis poking out the bottom of his black winter coat. One of the cops, a jowly man with buzzed hair and a gently swelling belly, gives Life a slight smile. “We got a call. Some woman can’t get ahold of her

husband who’s a security guard. She says he works here, but the place seems abandoned,” he answers with surprising candor and a perfectly stereotypical New York accent. “Yeah,” says the other cop, running his hand over his slicked-back gray hair, which still has comb tracks in it from earlier grooming. “I mean, there’s tape on the windows. That means it’s abandoned, right?” The cops continue to peer through the darkened windows as Life jumps down


for any and all authority figures—and now the poor old man is being held hostage in some fortress in the dark recesses of Governor’s Island. And because the bumbling cops neglected to adequately hunt for clues our hero is tasked with his safe return. But this is not a movie. This is no adaptation—just plain old reality. Plain old New York. In the realm of the real, Life watches the cruiser disappear into the night, sighs a puff of cold-etched air, and jaywalks across the street. As he hops from the sidewalk, his boots clearing the curb, he indulges a brief exclamation: “Zing!”


to inspect a basement-level door. The radios on their belts buzz and crackle: “The missing child is approximately four feet tall, wearing a striped sweater. The suspect—” Life joins the cops on the steps in mutual consideration of the darkened building, a gray stone apartment building near the Columbia University campus— close enough to Riverside Park that the assemblage can feel the cold air off the water buffeting their backs and faces. The jowly cop’s cheeks are red. The men in blue bang on the door a few times and then turn to Life with equally stern brows. “Stand back,” says the grayhaired cop and positions his shoulder as if to break the door down. Life hops back a little and the cops laugh. “Just kidding,” Comb Tracks says. “So are you a student?” Jowls inquires, apparently in no real hurry to solve the mystery of the missing security guard. “No, actually I’m a Real-Life Superhero,” Life says with a slight smile,


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fingering the mask that hangs from his side. The cops look at each other with raised eyebrows and more than a hint of amusement. “Oh yeah? Well, can you tell us where Columbia security is?” Jowls says with a brief smile. “Maybe they can help us figure out where this guard is.” Life gives them directions and follows them to their car, “I can get in and go with you guys if you’d like...” he says, lingering near the cruiser. “Ha, ha, nah,” says Jowls. “Thanks.” The cops drive off into the night, leaving Life and his backpack in front of the darkened building. With the squad car disappears the glimmer of danger, the opportunity to race off into the night, the blue and red flashing. In a movie or a comic book, this would be the point where our hero’s story really heats up: He discovers that the missing guard has been captured by an evil avenger with a rampant disdain

Life, a.k.a. Chaim Lazaros, is a reallife superhero—a designation that would likely cause many a reader to snort in derision or laugh in abject mockery. Visions of plump, sad comic book fans in spandex leap to mind— images of computer geeks wandering around darkened streets, desperately seeking some nefarious B-level crime to debunk. That’s not Life. Life is a do-gooder. He doesn’t fight crime per se—he takes to the streets to provide aid to the poor souls who many of us outright ignore: the homeless. In a sense, this is his superpower. Where comic superheroes might manifest their powers through a supernatural affinity for controlling the weather or assuming arachnid capabilities, Life’s chosen specialty is the homeless— although he’s the first to admit that he doesn’t actually have any special abilities. “I hate when people ask where my cape is,” Life says. “Capes are stupid and ineffective. No one flies... I don’t have any super powers,” he adds. “I’m just a person. A poor, young person in New York City— and I help a lot of people. I’m not special.” Nevertheless, as his name suggests, Life provides sustenance and, well, life, to the downtrodden, specializing in a particular realm of aid—and to do so he taps into his two natural abilities: kindness and an aptitude for spin. Life is a natural PR man, an organizer who uses the aesthetic

“As Life hops from the sidewalk, his boots clearing the curb, he indulges a brief exclamation: ‘Zing!’” of the super hero, the sheer flashiness of the concept, to attract others to his cause. Life is one of the heads of Superheroes Anonymous, a collective of citizens who have made it their mission to do good by the world. Some do it in much the same way as Coalition for the Homeless or Habitat for Humanity, and some do it with the more dangerous, risky flair of vigalantes— but they all do it in costume. Each year it holds a sizable conference during which heroes from all over the world assemble. So far there have been three conferences: one in Times Square, New York City, one in New Orleans, and the most recent in New Bedford, Massachusetts, also known as The Secret City due to its large volume of unsolved homicides.  Anonymous, which Superheroes coalesced into its current state in 2007, hardly marks the first incarnation of reallife superhero-dom, although it is probably the most organized superhero affiliation. According to a history written by Hardwire, a hero from Greensboro, North Carolina, the first real-life superhero dates back to the seventeenth century—his name was William Lamport, or Zorro. The modern ideal of real-life heroes started to solidify in the seventies with Captain Sticky, a man by the name of Richard Pesta who would patrol San Diego in a bubbletopped Lincoln clad in blue tights and a cape, working to launch investigations into elder care. And then there was Rick Rojatt, a daredevil known as The Human Fly, whose entire family was killed in a car crash that left him temporarily crippled. The nineties heralded the arrival of Marco Rascón Córdova, a Mexico City resident who became Superbarrio and championed the poor and working class, and Terrifica, a New Yorker who took it upon herself to protect drunken women from unwanted advances. And then there’s Civitron, a father and former counselor for children in transition who patrols New Bedford, Massachusetts with his son, The Mad Owl, a superhero-in-the-making with a love for woodland creatures. In short, this underground community was flourishing, the network reaching across the world. But it was a fractured connection; these do-gooders mostly communicated via Internet forums and Myspace pages, connected only through the currents of the digital age—until Life

came along. Like all superheros, Life has his own creation myth, which more closely mirrors that of the famed comic book authors of yore than the apocryphal tales of Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne. Like the majority of old-school creators— immigrants and children of immigrants who invented heroes to battle the myriad woes of their eras—Lazaros is a Jew, the son of an Orthodox rabbi who has seven children in all. The second-oldest child, Lazaros is kind of the black sheep. “He’s a very idealistic kid and he has a lot of pity on people that are downtrodden and homeless. He’s a do-gooder and he wants to do good,” his father says, recalling how, as a child, Life took on his entire bunk at sleepaway camp when they were picking on a smaller boy. Still, he hasn’t quite taken the path that his father would like him to. “I thought it was more like a hobby,” his father says of Life’s superheroing. “But it became a very major part of his life. And obviously as a parent I think there are more important priorities. He’s just turned twenty-five. I’d like to see him get married. I’d like to see him have some kind of a vocation that earns a living. This is a nice thing to do on the side, you know, if you have another career. You have a family and you want to do something like this in your free time, that’s okay. But I don’t think it should be taking up the main part of your time.” Before he became Life, Chaim was on a path that any proud Orthodox papa would approve of. He attended Yeshiva University—a college that focuses on Jewish scholarship—in New York for one year before deciding that he was too smart for the religious school. He also wanted to study film. He applied to NYU and got in (twice), but his family didn’t have the money to send him. So he left college and worked at one of the country’s top

ad agencies, J Walter Thompson, where he executed the mindless task of paying invoices before realizing that he wasn’t going anywhere. He had been attending Brooklyn College at night and living in Crown Heights when his girlfriend suggested he apply to Columbia. He got in, they provided him with ample scholarships, and he was able to follow his chosen path: film studies. Little did he know that becoming a superhero would also be part of his course of study. Three years ago, Chaim’s friend Ben Goldman, a senior at New York’s New School, saw a sign reading “Real Life Superheroes” outside a comic book store. He was intrigued, so he Googled the term. The sign turned out to be an advertisement for a drawing class, but Goldman’s Internet search revealed the rich history of the movement. Both film students, Lazaros and Goldman decided that the subject was ripe for a documentation. “This whole project started off as a documentary,” Ben says. “It’s like a case of Gonzo journalism where the documentarian becomes the subject, especially with Chaim, since he became a superhero through the project.” “They’re very isolated in all these different communities and only communicate through MySpace and stuff like that,” Chaim says. “There had been like a few very small meet-ups,

“I hate when people ask where my cape is,” Life says. “Capes are stupid and ineffective. No one flies. I don’t have any super powers.” 110

but it was really this Internet culture. Basically we realized that if we made the first all-encompassing gathering of all the superheroes, then we would be able to shoot a documentary in a day.” And so it began—the first meeting of Superheroes Anonymous. For Chaim, the convention became an all-consuming task. He barely slept. He lost fifteen pounds. He dedicated every moment to orchestrating a massive gathering to take place in New York’s Time Square. And then the duo hit a snag. “There was a lot of this bullshit started by this one particular superhero that founded the biggest forum on the Internet for the superheroes. He’s named Tothian,” Chaim says, “At the time he was respected just because he was the moderator of this forum he started.” Tothian is a mysterious figure who resides in New Jersey and likes to keep his persona under wraps. On Facebook, his name is simply  Tothian A mphibiousK night—he refuses to reveal his real name—and his blurred picture shows a man with close-cropped hair, wearing what appears to be armor or a bulletproof vest. “I’ve been patrolling since I was about five years old,” Tothian says. “I knew from as early on in life as I can remember that I would be doing this, not as a game,” he adds. “When I was sixteen I graduated from a military high school. At seventeen I joined the Marine Reserves as an Infantryman. I’ve trained in various styles of martial arts for many years. I study criminology, private investigating and foreign languages.” Now Tothian, an ardent fan of Sherlock Holmes, patrols his local streets, striving to mitigate crime in hotspots like Newark, New Jersey. “I make it a point to never set patterns in times nor patrol routes,” Tothian says. “I have to keep it randomized for two reasons: One, I don’t want people to work around my pattern. Two, I don’t want people to track me down.” Tothian, naturally, takes the concept of being a superhero extremely seriously and was wary of the conference. His wariness, in turn, led  a number of


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attendees to cancel their trips, including the emcee of the event, one of the oldest heroes around, dubbed, simply, Superhero. “We didn’t really know them too well yet, nor what to expect,” Tothian explains. “But after we all got to know [Ben and Chaim] we saw that they’re great guys with sincere intentions and actually want to do something good for the world.” Regardless, back in 2007 Chaim was in a bind—he didn’t want to have a meeting without an official superhero emcee. But

I put on the mask for the first time and claimed myself ‘Life.’” Ben, in turn, became “The Camera Man.”  “My role in Superheroes Anonymous has always been documenting what the superheroes do,” he says. He doesn’t wear a costume, and he sees this whole project as wholly short-term. He doesn’t go on patrols like Life does, but he does accompany heroes like The Dark Guardian, a swarthy New Yorker who dresses in head-totoe leather, when they set out on missions to Washington Square Park to take on drug dealers. Although he denies being a hero, guys like The Dark Guardian would be seriously screwed without Ben around— the fact that he wields a camera helps keep criminals in check, proving that you don’t need freeze rays or super strength to fight evil.


Chaim had done his research—he knew about the different types of superheroes, the “community crusader” in particular. “A community crusader is somebody who is not necessarily in a costume, but works from within the community to move forward the cause of real-life superheroism” Chaim explains. After the debacle with Tothian, Chaim went to Columbia Chabad to think. “I hadn’t slept at all the night before,” he says.   “It was a totally crazy week and I was like, praying and wondering, ‘Who is gonna run this thing?’ Then I realized that all the sacrifices I had been making, the thousands of dollars of my own money, all of my time and life spent toward making this happen made me a community crusader, and therefore a superhero. And therefore I could be the one to lead this meeting.  So on Sunday when we had the meet up in Times Square, that was when

ife’s own arsenal is rather limited as well. He carries a cell phone, a pocket knife and a backpack filled with water bottles, military-issue meals ready to eat, granola bars, socks and whatever else he can scrape together for the homeless he tends to. After parting ways with Jowls and Comb Tracks at the abandoned building, Life takes off down the sidewalk, passing houses wreathed in blinking colored lights to stock up at the local Rite Aid. He picks up a coupon book and surveys the deals under the glare of the florescent lights. “This is where my cheap Jewness comes in,” he says with a laugh, trying to decide between Rice Krispie Treats (cheaper, but less nutritious) and granola bars. But Chaim isn’t being cheap, per se. He’s a recent college grad who makes a small wage working for the Ripple Project, a documentary film company that focuses on social issues. But being the child of a rabbi, Life was taught to give ten percent of his earnings to charity. At the register, he checks over the receipt with the same precision as a fussy mother, but then grabs a handful of chocolate to add to the

final tally. “I love giving people chocolate because they appreciate it. No one else gives them chocolates,” he says. Outside in the cold again, Life passes a gaggle of college kids on winter break, decked out in hats and puffy jackets, “I was so fucking wasted last weekend,” a girl squeals as she disappears down the concrete while Life heads to St. John the Divine to pass out supplies to the homeless who huddle on the steps. This is one of his usual haunts, and he tries to get there before the Coalition for the Homeless arrives with boxed meals—usually the homeless scatter after the trucks roll away. But when he arrives he sees he’s too late. The Coalition for the Homeless have come and gone and the poor have likely been shooed away. All that greets him when he arrives are granite steps blanketed in snow and ropes stretching across the stairs. “Those assholes,” he mutters, noting that the ropes were likely put in place to discourage the homeless from hanging out on the steps.  Back in the summertime the church was like a regular homeless clubhouse, but right now it’s too cold for anyone to linger outside for long. The homeless are all in shelters or are hiding out somewhere in the darkness. Back in August Chaim had tramped down to St. John’s every week— since graduating, he’s been sorting his life out, moving to Harlem and setting up Superheroes Anonymous Headquarters (a.k.a. his apartment). Last summer he had leapt up the stairs distributing vitamins and shampoo to a man named John, who wore a giraffe T-shirt and leaned heavily on a cane. Tonight John isn’t here. “I thought at least the Mexicans would be here,” Life says with a sigh. The Mexicans usually assemble in the front doorway, huddled together under the granite saints that stare out into the darkness like blank-eyed sentinels. The men are likely here illegally and, as they told Chaim, they have “No worky. No casa. Lots of Mexicans. It’s bad.” This summer they had taught Chaim how to say razor (navaja) and toothbrush (cepillo dental) in Spanish. Chaim had asked where their friend Edguardo was and a man wearing a shirt emblazoned with mountain ranges— the kind of souvenir sweatshirt that you buy on vacation—had pointed up at the saints and uttered, “Jesus.” “Jesus loves me?” Chaim asked, seeming to misunderstand the sentiment. It’s impossible to tell how many streets have unwittingly become graves. Tonight, however, the streets seem free of the homeless. Life wanders past another

church covered in blue twinkle lights. He sing-songs into the night jokingly, like the Pied Piper, “Heeere, homeless people. Oh, hooooomeless people...” “I have homeless vision,” he says. Just then he sees John, leaning on his cane across from the church. Chaim approaches the old man, shivering on the sidewalk, while college students stream by taking care to make a wide arc around him. Life presents John with handwarmers, a bottle of water and cigarettes. “Is there anything else you need?” Chaim asks. John whispers in a voice barely audible above the cutting wind, “Long underwear.” “People always ask me how I know what to bring,” Chaim says, taking off once more across the nighttime streets. “I didn’t offer John a grain bar because he has bad teeth. But people tell you what they need. How would I know he needed long underwear if he didn’t tell me?” And that’s one of Chaim’s greatest powers: He listens. He talks to people whom everyone avoids. The true Mr. and Mrs. Cellophanes. Chaim stops to talk to them all. In the grand scheme of things, his actions are small—he won’t be clearing New York’s streets of the poor anytime soon, nor will he eradicate poverty and hunger. But he has no illusions in that regard. Life wants to start a movement—

to inspire others to do as he does. And that’s the true purpose of Superheroes Anonymous. Chaim has taken a disparate group of misfits and rebels and given them a singular vision—shaping them into a symbol for doing good. The night is wearing on toward midnight when Life hears a thin whine rising from a huddled mass in front of a corner bank. “I’m so cold!” squeals a man, supported by a walker and little else. His pant leg is rolled up far above the knee and he’s shaking violently. “My leg is broken! I haven’t eaten in three days!” the man cries as people walk briskly by him, staring steadfastly ahead. Life strides right up to him. “Here, take these,” Life says, pressing a pack of handwarmers into the man’s shaking palms. Quickly, he hands the man water, cigarettes and the coveted chocolate. The man’s shaking continues, his voice rising in agony, “My hands are so cold.” A woman pauses on the sidewalk, wrapped in a warm-looking black peacoat with a tailored collar. She notices Life and the man on the sidewalk—the water bottles and the chocolate. She steps forward and stuffs a handful of dollar bills into the man’s shaking cup.


NOAH BAUMBACH The celebrated director of The Squid And The Whale on life in Los Angeles and his new film, Greenberg



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here’s a line in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is decrying the evils of Los Angeles to Diane Keaton—he says, “I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.” There have always been true New Yorkers—an inherited birthright that views everything north of Westchester County as the Wild Blue Yonder—but when it comes to New York movies Allen set the cast. He is New York the way Goddard is French or Fellini is Italian, and he shares about as much cultural overlap with Los Angeles as he does with either of them. In 2005 Noah Baumbach stepped in line for coronation as the new New York filmmaker—with the neurotic, hyperprecocious Jesse Eisenberg and a keen aesthetic, Baumbach managed to make one of the most quintessentially New York movies of the aughts with The Squid And The Whale. And no wonder—Baumbach was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a critic for the Village Voice, and he bears that hallmark reserved for only the purest of New York souls—he’s managed to go his entire adult life without acquiring a driver’s license. So it’s with no little surprise when the proscenium fades in on his new film, Greenberg, to reveal early morning in Laurel Canyon. The light is perfectly orange, the sound of cicadas captured with that unmistakable California essence. Since marrying longtime girlfriend Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2005, Baumbach has been spending more time in Los Angeles, and with Greenberg he adroitly exhibits his talent for distilling the essence of a place. After spending a just few years here he’s managed to make one of the most distinctly L.A. movies since Swingers—and wouldn’t you know, he almost has his driver’s license. Almost. I know you’ve collaborated a lot in your career—you’ve written with Wes Anderson. You collaborated with Jennifer Jason Leigh on this, right? It says “story by” both of you in the credits. Well, it was more informal than that. It wasn’t like we had this idea together and then I went off and wrote the movie. She was very involved throughout the process—even in post-production. She’s very good at finding the scene. We wanted to acknowledge that in some way, and they only give you so many slots to express these things in the credits.


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“With New York, the rhythm of it is just so familiar to me. I still don’t feel like I totally understand Los Angeles. There are real positives to both, and there are also real negatives to both.” It must be nice to have someone who’s that close in your life that you can collaborate with in that way. It is. I tend to be the kind of person where, when I get working on something I can’t shut up about it, even at dinner or whatever. So it’s good to be with someone who shares that same enthusiasm, rather than someone who’s just sitting there listening politely. I was thinking about L.A. when I was watching Greenberg. I was there a couple weeks ago. I was there that week it was absolutely terrible. The rain…it was relentless. Just nonstop. Greenberg is your first real L.A., movie—it feels like L.A. How long have you been living there? Well, I live both places, but I still consider myself a New Yorker. I ended up spending fairly large chunks of time out here for various reasons— we have a place out here now. Being with Jennifer out here and it being

her hometown, I started to see the city differently. I started to feel less like a tourist or someone in the industry coming in and leaving. I felt more at home here, and that coincided with the writing of Greenberg and also became one of the real reasons for making it, because I wanted to do something in LA. Did your changing feelings about the city inspire the story? Yeah, I think so. I wanted to do a movie that took place in L.A. as I was starting to see it—as a real city, as a place where people lived, not as an industry town, or a generic city, or a lot of different ways L.A. is used. I started to have real personal associations with it, so I wanted to bring them into the movie. I think most people who spend time in New York and L.A. always compare the two of them because of the cultural overlap, but they feel so different. There’s a quiet moment I love in the movie, where Ben [Stiller] is in the pool and you can hear the crickets. There’s such a California feel to this—where he makes his way through the water and then the helicopter goes by and breaks the quiet. It’s a very L.A. thing to happen, but immediately afterwards he’s on the phone complaining about New York— there’s an association with the shattering of stillness to New York. Is that something you find yourself doing—comparing New York and L.A. as counterparts? I wouldn’t say that I do it as consciously as that, but I will have moments—particularly when I get lulled into a real narcotic feeling of seduction with Los Angeles—I will occasionally wake up and say to Jennifer, irritably, “This wouldn’t have happened in New York,” or meet people  we come across and make some sort of broad, probably inaccurate generalization about how “You don’t meet people like that in New York.” Of course, when I’m back in New York, I’ll start to come up with positives about Los Angeles.  But with New York, the rhythm of it is just so familiar to me and I feel very connected to it and at home.  It all has a logic for me. Not that it can’t get overwhelming, but it makes sense to me in a lot of ways. I still don’t quite feel like I totally understand Los Angeles. There are real positives to both, and there are also real negatives to both. Right. Have you embraced driving yet? Well, one thing I was investigating in Greenberg is the fact that I didn’t drive. I don’t drive. I don’t have a driver’s license. That comes from you? Wait, you still don’t have a driver’s license? Well I’ve actually been taking driving lessons. I don’t know if I want to reveal that. [Laughs] But, yeah I’ve been driving lately, but it’s the first time I’ve been driving since I’ve been out here. So, like, how do you travel? Do you just use a passport? Yeah. I guess that’s the mark of a true New Yorker. I guess so. It was something that probably up until about ten years ago was charming. I would say it to people with a certain false modesty when I was actually proud of it. But then somewhere in my thirties I started to become embarrassed about it, and then it just seemed like some glaring problem by the time I got to forty. So I figured maybe I would try to rectify it. I don’t have any real argument for why I didn’t do it except maybe because since I

“I’m well too aware of what can go wrong.” didn’t learn when I was young it was easy—coming out here, I would find ways to not drive. When I was used to come out here, if I saw friends, they knew that they would have to pick me up and take me home. That was part of the evening—you had to build it into part of the evening. That’s doesn’t seem like a bad system. That way you can have a couple of drinks, too, and not have to either stay sober or pick up a DUI here and there like everyone else in L.A. Right. Is it freaky learning to drive later on? I’ve often thought that driving cars—which are inherently such dangerous, potentially violent weapons—that if you didn’t learn when you were a teenager you’d overthink it. Does that come up for you? It definitely comes up. The more you’re aware of your own mortality, the more difficult it is to feel comfortable learning, or starting from scratch. When you’re a teenager learning to drive, I’m sure you feel like you can just bomb around and things will take care of themselves. I’ve outgrown that feeling. I’m well too aware of what can go wrong. But it’s been pettier in that it’s something that’s so routine and so common and such a rite of passage for so many people and it’s something I never did, so to be doing it this late brings up a lot of stuff. It’s a good thing for therapy. You can feel that coming though in the movie. There’s an emotionalism involved in not being able to transport yourself. It makes a lot of sense for Greenberg because he tries to control everything around him, but he also puts himself in situations where he has no control. To go to Los Angeles when you don’t drive and then try to live life as you’re accustomed to—it becomes difficult. It’s a major example of how he makes things more difficult for himself. But it does have bigger psychological reverberations about independence and mobility. So has it been cathartic for you to take driving lessons and figure it out? Yeah, definitely. I don’t even probably realize all of the effects it’s had. I think that will take some time. But in a way I’m also surprised at how comfortable I am in doing it. I thought I would’ve been a worse driver than I am. Well, it’s comforting to know that both you and Los Angeles are safe without another crazy driver careening around. Yeah, I’m not making it any worse for people out there.


S E I M O H Y M H T I W ’ N I L K ROL vi n Zach er • Photos by Ke o ll be Lo el By Ca rm


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“You know who likes fried chicken? Black people. You know who else likes fried chicken? Everybody.”

Nick Kroll has been doing the fried chicken joke for a while, and wherever he is, whether he’s on Live at Gotham, performing on Jimmy Kimmel or on his home turf at Upright Citizen’s Brigade in Los Angeles, everyone in the room laughs. He has a sharp yet friendly way of delivering it—like he’s doing a bit with you rather than telling a one-sided joke. “I love doing stand up,” he says. “I love that you can grab a microphone and go anywhere in the country and talk to a group of people and make them laugh. And you don’t need props, you don’t need wigs, you don’t need anyone explaining anything. Everyone understands it. Sometimes they’re not gonna like you—but you know, I like that.” Upright Citizen’s Brigade is a home base for Kroll, a foundation to keep the emerging talent anchored as he spins his career through enough media channels to make your head spin. First there was the Internet—his shorts like “The Ed Hardy Boyz” and his audition tape as Bobby Bottle Service for The Jersey Shore were some of the most-watched pieces of comedy online this year. Then there’s television, with HBO’s Life and Times of Tim and FX’s The League. Most recently he’s clawed his way onto the big screen with roles in four movies releasing this year. If Nick Kroll were an outfit, he’d be described as “high-low.” If your shirt is from Target and it looks good enough to wear with your Chanel bag, then not only is it a damn good shirt, it’s also available to everyone. Being high-low is having range. “I came up at UCB and this place called Rafifi in New York and Largo, and it’s a very specific audience that goes to those shows,” he explains. “It’s college educated, upper-middle class white people in their twenties and thirties.” The difference between Nick and most of the comics who come up in that scene, even the really good ones, is that most of them stay there. Being part of this hyper-intellectual community is both exciting and essential for Nick, but he has his eye on a much broader fan base. “The people who I respect a lot like Louis CK, Chris Rock or Seinfeld—those guys can go and make anyone laugh. It doesn’t matter if it’s super blue collar or super rich, or whatever. They’re just funny. There are certain universal truths that everyone can understand, and I think that’s what I aspire to.” On the other hand, he’s careful to qualify, “If I only can make certain people laugh then so be it—I don’t want to tell jokes that I don’t think are funny to get a broader audience.” At the high end of Nick’s “high-low” continuum are the characters he invents for his bits at UCB. “The UCB audience has a very specific point of view on the world,” Nick admits. “It’s very ironic.” Fabrice Fabrice, who was his first character to catch on with live audiences, is the vicious, gay craft service guy on the set of That’s So Raven. He struts on to the stage at the start of every show in a pink polo belly-shirt, pink flip-down Uggs, and two pairs of sunglasses. Another UCB favorite is Gil Faizon, an Upper West side divorcee with an affected accent, an affinity for Allan Alda, and possibly a coke problem. In a skit at UCB in New York, Nick and John Mulaney gave a walking tour of the city in ribbed turtlenecks, blazers, and gray wigs. In front of a picture of Central Park Nick points to an imaginary passer-by and says, “Oh look at that, it’s a brown woman walking around with her white babies,” to which John responds, “Oh that is a genetic mystery.” “We applaud it,” says Nick. They then take the audience to “The hot cultural center, Times Squaaaaare”, where John comments, “You know the problem with an anonymous jerk-off booth, is that you still know who you are.” The audience


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laughs at every joke. They’re New Yorkers, so they get it. Falling somewhere in the middle ground between the Chanel bag and the Target shirt is Nick’s TV work. There’s his role on FX’s The League, which has lately been getting him recognized on the streets by meatheads and bespectacled comedy nerds alike. Then there’s his role as Stu on the animated HBO series, The Life and Times of Tim. Nick describes Stu as “the kind of guy who eats garbage burritos and is totally in love with Tim’s girlfriend and talks about it openly in front of everyone.” The show is mostly improvised, and it was Nick’s first big job—one he got after a casting director saw him perform live. “My first audition literally on a skype internet phone from my friend’s place in Chinatown. We’ve done two seasons and it’s so fucking fun. The guests this year—Will Forte came in and Jennifer Coolidge came in and Super Dave Ozborne came in. I got to improvise a scene with Elliot Gould. Bob Odenkirk and Bonnie Hunt came in. All these people who have been making their living in comedy for forty years—they just come in and I get to fuck around with them on a completely even playing field.” On the mordantly delicious low end of his lowbrow side, Kroll has ensnared a huge audience obsessed with his newer personalities who live on the Internet. Bobby Bottle Service has been getting a lot of play lately—an Italian-American, Vaselinelipped entrepreneur (record producing and pool cleaning) with a giant photo-realistic tattoo of his mother’s face on his back. Bobby Bottle Service has an audition tape for The Jersey Shore in which he promises to “Respect the shit out of those girls, like Snooki, who looks like she’s been smooshed down to the size of a bowling ball with a tan and fake nails, which is very attractive to me.” And the audition tape is a side project for Bobby B, who’s best known for solving crime in “The Ed Hardy Boyz,” an Internet series Kroll writes and produces with with Jon Daly. The first episode is called “The Case of the Missing Sick Belt Buckle.” Kroll’s Internet characters aren’t just for people who work in the entertainment industry or live in a big city and are friends with the guy in the ticket booth at UCB. If you get MTV, you get these characters and you laugh. And then there’s the Target shirt, that golden icon of lowbrow success: The Big Screen. Kroll has landed parts in four movies coming out this year—Get Him to the Greek with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand, Dinner for Schmucks with Steve Carrell and Paul Rudd, Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell, and Little Fockers, in which he gets to do a scene with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Robert De Niro. “It’s amazing to be in a room with De Niro, but to be able to fuck around with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson and come up with a bit with Owen Wilson. I got to be like, What if we do this and what about that and do you like that? And they were like, Funny, we’ll do it.” If you take Nick’s joke about fried chicken and replace “fried chicken” with “Nick Kroll” and “black” with “nerdy,” you have a picture of where he stands on the map. “I get to do so many different things simultaneously. I get to live and breathe comedy and make living doing it, and get recognized occasionally. There’s so many ways to create things and so many ways to let people know what you’re creating. That’s what’s exciting for me.” It’s like he’s on SNL, but with limitless creative freedom. On trusting his instincts, Kroll says, “What it comes down to is that I’m much more scared of regret than I am of rejection. And that makes me do embarrassing things. But I’d rather do embarrassing things than regret not having done them. And ninety-five per cent of the time I feel right. Everything is a risk at various levels, and sometimes I’ll jokingly say—not even jokingly—that it’s easy to risk failure if you can’t conceive of not being recognized for what you do.”



or thirty-five years, Saturday Night Live has been an American institution.

Sure, the variety show has fluctuated in popularity and prominence through the course of its many seasons, ebbing and flowing with the collective talent of its stars, from the golden days of John Belushi or Eddie Murphy to the eminently forgettable comedic stylings of Joe Piscopo or Cheri Oteri. Still, through it all, a few things have remained constant over the last three decades of Saturday nights. Viewers tuning in to NBC could count on a steady diet of risqué jokes, presidential parodies, and absurd character sketches. Many of these more memorable skits were handled by comedians who boomed and bellowed and aimed for the hearty belly laugh—comedians like Chris Farley and Will Ferrell. Lately, however, a new face has emerged amidst the aforementioned skits of repute. That face, framed by curly red tresses and animated by a wry, demure grin, belongs to third-

Dunst, have quirks which require a bit more digging and attention to fully capture. During rehearsals for her second season, Elliott took a break from work to discuss her ascent into the spotlight and the genesis of her spot-on mimicries. Elliott treats her budding career with all the reverent humility of a person still very much excited to be performing Saturday nights—live from New York. Tell me about the first time you solicited a laugh. I was a little bit of

a diva child—always singing and running around and dressing up. My dad would film my sister and I doing bits outside, but I guess there was one time, I think I was in fifth grade, where I recorded a bunch of parodies of Calvin Klein commercials and I also did this talk show where I played Cameron Diaz. I think it was right around when my dad was doing There’s Something About Mary so Cameron Diaz was the only celeb woman that we knew.

I know you did some improv work, but when did you decide to

Dear Abby Abby Elliott // Saturday Night Live’s new darling By Isa ac Lek ach • Photos by Guzm an

generation comedian Abby Elliott. At the age of twenty-one, Elliott became the youngest female cast member to appear on the show, edging out Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the title by three months. Now, at twenty-two, Elliott is also a confident veteran of that SNL staple: the impersonation. Yet the mimicry crafted by this young redhead is clearly in a league of its own. Not for her are the farcical slapstick approaches used by Chevy Chase as President Ford, nor the obvious gags spotted from a mile away, like Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin. Rather, Elliott has exhibited a nuanced approach that picks up on the subtle shadings of character and tone of her marks, avoiding the slavish, exaggerated apings beloved by so many of the comedians that came before her. To date, she has impersonated more actresses than I can count on my fingers. And, while some, like Drew Barrymore, whose discerning idiosyncrasy, her lisp, makes for an easy copy—others, like the perpetually blasé Kirsten


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pursue comedy professionally? I think it was when I was seventeen or eighteen that I started going into the city from Connecticut. I would take the train into the city and go see comedy shows and I just started getting into it. I was scared, and still am, of stand up, but I loved watching it and went the improv route and started doing improv and sketch. I guess I’ve been doing impressions for a long time. Throughout my childhood my mom would be like, Do that face! Do the Angelina Jolie face! So I’d do that at family things and I’d hate her for it, but now I’m thankful. Your Meryl Streep is my favorite. It’s so dead on. Oh thank you! Did you do an impersonation for your audition for Saturday Night Live? Yeah, I did Drew Barrymore breaking up with the

cameraman, and I did a couple of characters, like a girl that worked

in the book department at Urban Outfitters who takes all of those books very seriously. And then I did Angelina Jolie, Anna Faris, Katie Holmes—who else did I do? Joan Cusack—my wild card. I think they were like, Oh, she could do someone older!

feeling out how the scene is going. Maybe you’ll need to throw in a couple, uh-huhs or okays—there’s room for that type of stuff. Jason Sudeikis is the master at doing that. He is unbelievable. Everything he does when he’s improvising makes me laugh so hard.

A lot of those have unique cadences to their voice, but how do you go about doing someone like Katie Holmes? Something about it is

Do you find it hard to keep a straight face? I remember when Jimmy Fallon was on he’d crack up in every skit, which by the way was my favorite part. Totally! I think it’s so endearing when people laugh.

just me being a fan of theirs, watching them so much and sort of just listening to their voices. For the most part, I just really like them, and I want to watch them over and over again. On top of being fairly new on the show, I know you are the youngest too. What are some of the hoops you’ve had to jump through in order to get your airtime? I think it’s just about getting comfortable

at the table reads. That’s the main thing. Getting that room to laugh at what you do. Then once they’re accepting of you, they will put you on air more. As a featured player it’s hard, because nobody really knows your voice or what you can do, and it’s also hard because you are still getting to know everyone and trying to get

There’s a Debbie Downer sketch, which might have been one of the first ones that Rachel Dratch had done— with her and Lindsay Lohan, and they all started laughing and that made me happy [Laughs].

This current cast is accredited with revitalizing the show. I know it sounds a bit egotistical to acknowledge, but is being a part of a beloved SNL cast something you think about? I’m just trying to

get what I think is funny out there. I think the Lonely Island guys made their mark and made changes to the show and format and what people want to see. But it changes from decade to decade. You

“I just want to leave people with a good taste in their mouths.” these amazingly funny people to laugh. So that’s what I’m trying to do now: Make my peers and these awesome people laugh.

watch shows in the nineties and wonder if one of the sketches they were doing would be relevant now.

Tell me more about the table read. We go in on Tuesday afternoon

It’s interesting to think of SNL in those terms. I remember when Obama was beginning his presidency Jon Stewart was asked if he was worried about not having any material to satirize. But it’s true, your show is also topical. Yeah, and in the nineties there wasn’t Funny

and we write a couple sketches each. All night we’ll work with writers to come up with ideas together and put that up at the table read, which includes the writers, Lorne [Michaels, Executive Producer], Marci [Klein, Producer], Steve [Higgins, Producer] and the director.

I didn’t realize it was that collaborative. Yeah. We’re there all night until five a.m. It’s kind of like the old schedule of the seventies or eighties where they stayed up all night writing. It’s got to be grueling. You get used to the schedule. [Laughs]. What’s been the highlight so far? The best thing is just working with these amazing people and having the opportunity to be here. Everybody’s time here is different. I’m just sort of trying to go with the flow, and I’m really enjoying myself. Is having to memorize lines ever an issue? Have you ever had to improvise your way through a sketch? We have cue cards that are

there for us, but it’s a tricky thing in itself, because you have to figure out how to read the cue cards while acting and also have it look like you’re looking at the person and not the cue card. So that was a struggle at first. It felt unnatural to do, but you get used to it. I think with regards to the improvising—it helps when you’re

Or Die or YouTube, and now people can create their own comedy. So I think the show has been really great in changing and evolving with that.

Speaking of new technology, I’ve been following your tweets. Please explain your obsession with the Kardashians. [Laughs] I love ‘em. I

love those girls! They’re so entertaining. My sister and I just sit and watch marathons. I’ve never met them. I’d be star struck if I did.

Have you ever been star stuck with a host? I was really star struck

when Drew Barrymore hosted. I am such a big fan of hers and I did her for my audition. So when she came she was just like, [Elliott breaks into Barrymore’s voice, complete with the lisp] I hear you do an impression of me. And I was like, Oh yeah—and she sort of waited a beat and I wasn’t sure if she wanted me to do it then or not. So I did a half-assed imitation and she was like, Meh. But then I ended up doing it at the table read, and she liked it.

What would you like your legacy to be at SNL? I think I just want to

leave people with a good taste in their mouths.


T he K id S tays I n T he P icture

By John Z .

P h o t o s b y R ay L e g o

id Cudi has already proven himself on record, but this spring he will have the

opportunity to light up the screen in the HBO vehicle How to Make It In America. The show, which was created and written by Ian Edelman and produced by Mark Wahlberg, follows two young enterprising Brooklyn residents as they hustle in the competitive New York fashion scene. Cudi, who plays the main character’s well-connected friend, Domingo, could relate to the struggles presented in the script. His musical rise to fame is a classic New York success story. Born in Cleveland and raised in Shaker Heights, Cudi dreamed of pursuing music as a teenager. Since his locale was far from a hot bed of musical activity, the Kid, also known as Scott Mescudi, decided to pack his bags a few years later and head to New York City. With a little more than $500 and his demo, Cudi arrived in New York. He stayed with an uncle and worked retail while keeping his eyes on the prize—making music. While working at New York’s


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street wear giant Bape, Cudi released a 2008 mixtape called, A Kid Called Cudi, a collaboration with the clothing company 10 Deep. It was on that mixtape that Cudi dropped “Day ‘n’ Night,” a song he had written two years earlier. It was on that track the “lonely stoner” caught the attention of Kanye West, who reached out and enlisted his talents for his own 808s & Heartbreak record. In addition to working with Kanye and Jay-Z, Cudi focused on his own record, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day, released this past September. The record, which is split into five acts and 15 scenes, tackles some of Cudi’s darker days, including the passing of his father and uncle. With contributions from Common, MGMT and Ratatat, Cudi’s full length is both experimental and exciting. Fans have also been receptive to his efforts—Man on the Moon sold more than 100,000 copies in its first week. Despite his fame, Cudi dropped out of the Monster Ball tour opening for Lady Gaga a few days after punching a fan at the Commodore Ballroom on December twelfth. According to Cudi’s Website,, an official statement read, “Kid Cudi has decided to take an early leave of


absence from Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour in order to balance his schedule surrounding the recording of his next album and acting commitments.” Death+Taxes recently caught up with Cudi to discuss Mr. Solo Dolo’s thoughts on everything from acting to Kanye to the importance of dropping his first record. You grew up in Shaker Heights—not exactly a hot bed of hip-hop. Did you experience a lot of hip-hop at a young age? What were 129

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some of the first hip-hop shows you saw?

The first concert I ever went to was The Fugees and my mom took me, which is crazy. I was, like, in the sixth grade. She took me and my brothers and my sister. I remember her just plugging her ears and being like, Oh my God, what the fuck did I get myself into? Just looking so pissed off. Because she just liked Lauryn Hill and she had no idea it was going to be a bunch of real dope hip-hop shit—Nas came out, Busta Rhymes came out. I mean, as

a young’un I didn’t really appreciate—I didn’t really understand in the sixth grade. I mean, I thought it was dope as fuck but to know that Nas, Busta, Lauryn Hill, and The Fugees were performing right there in front of me when I was in the fucking sixth grade is a monumental thing. At a young age, you wanted to be a cartoonist, and you used to make your own cartoons. Did you make comic books or just do doodles? My mom has a bunch of my

artwork, yeah. I used to draw and try to come up with characters all the time. But I gave that up in ninth grade. But that was the first thing I ever wanted to be.

Leonardo’s sword and being stabbed in the throat by fucking ninja stars—shit like that. That’s the kind of Ninja Turtle shit I was into. [Laughs]

My dude was a DJ, and he was making beats on the side. We just recorded it on a karaoke machine. And then we just had the vinyl looping.

What kind of comic books were you influenced by back then? Ninja Turtles is my

And you just discovered music at a young age, too, right? The first rhyme you did was over a Wu-Tang beat? Yeah, over “It’s

I know it took a while for you to get to where you are now, but your album blew up pretty strong. Are you humbled by what’s going on around you? Yeah, man. I’m just happy

shit, man. I was really into their artwork. And the comic book series was so much grittier and grimier than the cartoon. That’s what I liked about it. Motherfuckers were getting their hands cut off by

Yourz.” That’s still one of my favorite beats. I might want to revisit it and just kick a new rap to it. But that was my first thing I ever rapped on—I was thirteen, maybe fourteen.

that people are accepting it for what it is, and they’re not being judgmental. That’s what I was worried about, but then the



album came out, people embraced it, and it’s going to be something that people are going to keep discovering every day. I didn’t make this album for sales. I made this album for people, to give people hope and shit and just help people in the day-to-day grind. I want motherfuckers to wake up and know they got to go to work and hate going to work but put on my album and be like, All right, I got to get through this. You know, feel motivated. So I don’t care about all that shit. Back in the nineties, selling a hundred thousand was nothing to sneeze at—now that’s a tremendous first week number. You’ve got to feel like that’s a tremendous accomplishment. I feel great about

definitely like the big brother who’s looked out for me, for real, looked out for me a lot in a very small period of time. I love the dude for that—he has a really good spirit. When people talk down, I’m like, This dude changed my life, not on any other motive than to help me because he believed in me. He already had money. He already had fame. There’s nothing I could have possibly done for him. He just wanted to help me out, and I’ll never forget that. You lost your father at an early age. How did you get over that and deal with it at that time? When I was younger, I just started diving

more into my imagination. That was my first healer. I almost tried to forget it happened at first. But I think this album was good for me because I could say a lot of shit that I’ve always wanted to say. My mom said she learned a lot, because I just never spoke to anybody about anything. My fans found out shit about me that my family didn’t even know.

it. That’s what I’m saying—we’ve already accomplished the goal. We made a point. People weren’t even expecting me to do half of that, so on top of that, it was like, Uh, in yo’ face! [Laughs] And then it’s like, Okay, I’m cool now. We did that, and that’s all right. I was just happy as fuck I had an album coming out. If I sold less than half that—I don’t care. I was able to release an album on September 15, 2009 that was mine. It was my ideas and exactly how I wanted it to be, and that was my goal. So I’m not going to make another album until I’m inspired to make another album. I don’t want to have to do another album because it’s another year and I have to drop another album. I have to be inspired, and I got a lot more livin’ to do, you know?

To put all those real, raw emotions out on the table—that’s a big risk. Was it a little strange for people to know your intimate details?

You took a big risk by becoming a New Yorker and coming out of your comfort zone. What was the final straw that thrust you into the big city with nobody? It was really intense, man. I had to do it.

So, you’re doing a little bit of acting in the new HBO show, How to Make It In America. When you read that script, what jumped out at you—what did you like about it? Well I found myself in the

I had to leave. It was that time. I wanted to start a new life. I wanted to see something different for a fucking change. Looking to transition would have normally been hard for someone from the Midwest, to come to a big city like this, who’s from a suburban type residential area. But I was so, like, Where the Wild Things Are about it. So intrigued by the city and ready to embrace. I was so interested in what was going on and I embraced the grind. I knew it was going to suck but I was like, Yo, I want to do this shit so bad that I’m excited about the grind. I’m excited about struggling. You’ve got some pretty heavy hitters on your album. What was it like to think about the cross reference of people that you’ve been able to work with? Well, it was really dope man, to finally have people on

board, like, genuinely interested. It was never like any marketing scheme by trying to get anybody on the album—it was just people I admired. It was really monumental, I think, and people aren’t going to recognize it now, but recognize it later—but just to have MGMT and Ratatat on the same song. To have Common narrate the album—things like that were big deals. I definitely tried to push the envelope on all that, and I think we did that. I think we executed it well, man. What about Kanye? What about him as far as advice and working with him? He’ll drop gems on you, but it’s not necessarily advice. He’ll

just say something really profound and make you think about it. But not profound in the Shakespearean manner. He just does it in the most Kanye way possible—very honest and blunt. He’s

No, man, I was just like, I’m going to deliver this shit in such a fresh way. It was never like, Oh, feel bad for me because I lost my dad. I went through some grindin’ shit. I was unstable in my mind and I was dealing with a lot of bullshit and I still made it through. It’s more like a bad-ass story rather than a sad-ass story.

character. I definitely can relate to the struggle of being in New York City and just wanting to be successful, just wanting to do something. The shit that fueled me I saw in this character. I was like, Oh man, this is the best, because it’s in New York and I’ve actually lived this tale, in some way, shape or form. That’s what made me really get into it. How important was it for you to step away from your comfort zone, not to play a musician? Well, it wasn’t really a risk. That’s what

I wanted because I wanted to build my resume up. Like, Man, everybody’s looking at me acting in this show as me. Like, to other producers and directors are going to be like, Well, just because he’s on this HBO show, playing himself doesn’t mean he’s a good actor. We need to see something where he’s not playing himself. That’s the real challenge. And, when they were developing my character, that’s one thing I told them. I was like, I really don’t want him to be in the music world at all. I don’t want any reference to music. I really want to have a shot and try something completely different than who I am.

You’ve had a pretty awesome year. What do you think your dad or uncle would say if they could talk to you about your success right now? I think it’d be the illest thing. I’d probably be smoking weed

with my pop somewhere. [Laughs] Smokin’ the doobie. I think just me accomplishing my dreams—my dad was definitely happy about that, and my uncle was definitely happy about that—like all my loved ones are. I feel like that’s the most important thing in life, is just following your heart—and I did that.



Isaac Lekach JUCO Photos by

t hardly ever rains in Los Angeles. When it does it reminds me of Miami, which is where I grew up. During the middle of what would turn out to be an atypically long streak of rainy days, I found myself driving with my windshield wipers on, squinting to see the road as I headed past the Arclight (best movie theater in Los Angeles, nay—the world) towards Magnolia, a favorite restaurant of mine. The décor is minimal and provides a pleasant, if not a bit austere, ambiance— stained hardwood floors, Eames-inspired chairs and booth sectionals (the backs to the ones by the entrance span the length of the wall. It’s a nice touch). I’m here to meet actor Dave Franco for lunch. Franco is primarily known for the Internet videos he made for Will Ferrell’s Funny Or Die website with his older brother called Acting With James Franco. The clips find him serving as the straight man to James’s farcical parody of himself to uproarious effect. Aside from the web shorts, he has had parts in television shows (Greek, Do Not Disturb) and films (remember the kid on the soccer field Jonah Hill ridicules in Superbad for having pissed his pants: “People don’t forget!”—that’s him). But broader recognition is forthcoming, as he is currently starring in ABC’s much-beloved Scrubs. Zach Braff will make his exit this season, and while he’s


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leaving big shoes to fill, someone needs to fill them. Franco plays a wealthy medical student (his parents donated a new wing to the hospital) named Cole, who is arrogant, and thus, understandably, a great source of irritation to John C. McGinley’s character, the sardonic Dr. Cox. I arrive early and order a beer—Chimay Bleue. Not long after, Franco pops his head through the door. He is dressed casually in jeans and a grey V-neck with a red hooded sweatshirt draped over his left shoulder. Like me, he is of average height and has brown hair and brown eyes—except he is far more handsome. Everyone would agree—everyone but my mother. On top of his joining the cast of Scrubs, Franco will also appear in a slew of films including Igby Goes Down director Burr Steers’s latest, The Death & Life of Charlie St. Cloud, and auteur Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, which stars Ben Stiller. A friend of mine, who also worked on Greenberg, invited me to pose as an extra in a pivotal party scene. Baumbach, insisting on an authentic atmosphere, encouraged the cast to fill the background with their friends. I didn’t meet Franco during the days I spent on set, but did stand nearby for hours on end. I wondered if he’d recognize me. The hostess left to seat another party and was not available to attend to Franco when he walked in. I spotted him, put my book down (I was reading Farewell, My Lovely as I waited) and waved him over. He offered a friendly nod of the head (it didn’t seem as though he recognized me, though when I mentioned it later he exclaimed, “I knew you fucking looked familiar!”) and came to the table. At the same time, a waitress with strawberry blonde hair and full lips (not unlike those of Scarlett Johansson), who recognized me from my prior visits, smiled indulgently.



Franco sat in front of me and the first thing I said, signaling with a furtive glance, before I even shook his hand, was, “I think I’m in love with her.” He didn’t turn around to see her strawberry blonde hair, or her full lips. Admittedly, it was not the most professional manner to handle myself, but it just came out. Maybe I was nervous. Maybe that’s why I was having a beer. Maybe he didn’t hear me. I don’t know. Either way, a different waitress—one I didn’t know—came by to take his drink order. Franco asked me what I was having. “Try some,” I offered. “It’s bottled by monks,” I stated with conviction, not being entirely certain. (I’ve since looked it up. It is, as it turns out, bottled by Belgian Monks in a Trappist Monestary.) “Yeah,” Franco said after a modest sip. “I’ll have the same.” I stored the Raymond Chandler novel and my longing away in my bag and retrieved my digital recorder. Franco’s Chimay arrived and we placed our food orders—a hamburger with avocado for him and a fennel salad for myself. I also ordered another beer. By the time the interview was over I’d be legitimately drunk. Fortunately, I didn’t utter any more embarrassing remarks. We chatted slightly off-topic while we ate and switched gears to the matter at hand afterwards over full stomachs. Dave Franco never intended to be an actor. He moved to Los Angeles to attend college. He was studying psychology with a minor in film at USC when a friend urged him to audit an acting class, which he reluctantly agreed to. “I remember sitting there and the first people up started crying and screaming and hitting each other [laughs] and I was just like, Fuuuck this. But I stuck it out and started liking it.” Though I would have never guessed, given his gift of gab, Franco described himself as “a little bit of a shy kid,” and as one, never painted himself a performer. The acting classes led to a desire to pursue a career. And for a period of time he balanced his responsibilities at school while heading out on auditions. Eventually, Franco booked a job that took him to Canada and had to drop out. He’s been three classes away from graduating ever since, something he intends to do. “I just need to figure out when.” In fact, Franco is a bit of an academic. In high school, he exhibited an aptitude for writing and took an independent study class writing poetry. “Once a week I would meet up with the coolest teacher and we’d go over my work. All my friends were like, Soooo… once a week at lunch you meet up with Mr. Schulenberg to talk about poetry…” He trails off with a telling smile. “They all thought I was having sex with my teacher. But I really just loved to write and it was a nice outlet.”

“They all thought I was having sex with my teacher.”

Since then he’s applied his proclivity for writing to trying his hand at screenplays. Franco has written three, which he speaks of humbly, “Nothing’s happened with any of them yet.” A fourth is in the developmental stages, which would mark his first collaboration with his brother since the Funny Or Die videos. “I guess the ideal plan is to do it next year. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’d be a dream come true—to have something come out that I’ve written.” When referring to his brother, Franco speaks glowingly. His brother’s success doesn’t hang over his head. There’s an unmistakable sense of admiration and respect. “He’s been great. He’s definitely let me find my own path. He doesn’t tell me what to do or what not to do.” And when speaking of his peers, of cast members and directors, Franco gets giddy. He is genuinely thrilled to be among them. Of his experience on Greenberg, he says, “It’s a small part, but just to be able to work with Baumbach and Stiller is great.” Of Steers: “I didn’t know what to except. Honestly, he’s fucking awesome. He’s really intelligent. He loves films. We would do a take and once he felt like he got what he needed he’d come up to us and ask us to find something new, which is amazing being a big studio movie.” When recalling his time spent thus far working on Scrubs, Franco can’t contain himself. He reveals an infectious laugh freely in between sentences and ultimately calms himself to reflect: “I hope we go for a while. I’m having the time of my life.” Dave Franco’s basic objective is, like himself, earnest. Ideally, he strives to implement what he calls “the Apatow mentality— working with people that are closest to you,” which is what he’s actively working towards. We shook hands. Franco thanked me for the meal and I thanked him for his time. He headed off to New York to enjoy a hard-earned vacation, and I to bed to sleep off the booze.



GLORY P hotos by J U C O



dozen years ago Justin Kell moved from Baltimore to L.A. chasing

a dream of freedom on two wheels and plenty of sunshine. He found it. As the owner of apparel store Glory Sales, motorcycle garage Glory Motorworks and his own fashion line Glory Utility, Kell and his cohorts drive the center of motorcycle culture in LA. These days it’s fine to wear a Barbour jacket even if you don’t ride. But listening to Kell describe the motorcycle lifestyle is mighty convincing. Tread carefully— you might get hooked.

On Justin (Left): Jacket: J Barbour and Sons Helmet: Ruby Jeans: Glory Utility Boots: Redwing Goggles: Aviator Gloves: Barbour ON Gary (Right): Jacket: Vintage Glory Gloves: Barbour

Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Helmet: Fulmer Jacket: Vintage Glory


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On Justin (Right): Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Jacket: Barbour Jeans: Penguin On Gary (Left): Hat: Bailey Leather Jacket: Vintage Glory Green jacket: Alternative Apparel Jeans: Levi’s


“One time, my girlfriend and I were on the East Coast hitting the antique shops. We joked that we should quit our jobs and open our own shop. A year later, I had a shop called Glory, and that girlfriend was my wife. The first day that Glory was open, we had a few 1950’s sofas, some neon signs, a 1970 Norton Commando and a 1968 HD Sprint. We kept selling, and kept buying. I made some t-shirts for the shop that I styled after the motorcycle shop shirts from the 1960’s. We sold loads. Glory as a brand is built around the Southern California lifestyle that I lead. It’s about old bikes, the ocean and being able to do anything that you dream up. It really is a lifestyle that I’ve never seen anywhere else. When some shithead plasterer from Baltimore can show up in L.A. and turn his dreams into reality, there’s something there. As much as I like to bitch about Los Angeles, there really is no place else like this.” Jacket: Barbour Denim Jacket: Vintage Lee from Glory Jeans: Levi’s Sweater: Glory Utility


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Hat: Bailey Shirt: Penguin


(Right)Jacket: Barbour Hat: Brixton Jacket: Vintage Glory Jeans: Levi’s “I believe with all of my heart that the country is sick of complication. I know personally, I just want my life to be simple. I think that a lot of people have had to drastically change the way that they live over the past few years, and realized that the simple things in life are more satisfying that n the extravagant ones. I’m not saying that we need to live like the Amish—it’s just that if we all stop following the rules on how to live and how to spend, the country will not only become stronger economically, it will become much more interesting. Motorcycles are very important part of the simple pleasures if you ask me.” Bike: Harley-Davidson Cross Bones Starting at $16,999


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“This is motorcycle paradise. I live in Malibu (42 miles from Glory), so I ride a lot. The bulk of my riding is done at 60 miles an hour in between cars on the 10 Freeway, but man—the Malibu canyons… I have some of the best roads in Southern California in my back yard. The peace of mind that can be reached when you’re with the speed and wind is like nothing else. I love that sound and that solitude. Even on my most shit day, I can plow through traffic at unsafe speeds and get a smile on my face. When I ride home up PCH and can taste the salt air on my lips, that’s when the problems of the day disappear for a few minutes. I think that everyone needs that.” Jacket: Barbour Helmet: Ruby Jeans: Glory Utility Boots: Wesco Goggles: Aviator Gloves: Barbour Bike: Harley-Davidson Nightster, starting at $9,999


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LiVIN’ ON THE EDGE: Most of us who love riding motorcycles have had to learn the hard way—by crashing a lot. Want to learn to ride without all the growing pains? Harley-Davidson has developed a course called Rider’s Edge just for you. It’s taught by experienced racing pros who will get you up and running from scratch— they’ll even teach you about different types of motorcycles if you’re just getting your fee wet—and completing the course certifies you for your motorcycle license. D+T fashion director Carmel Lobello completed the course in February. She’d never touched a motorcycle before, and over the course of five days (two full weekend days) she learned to ride like a champ. And without any crashes—a serious testament to the Rider’s Edge instructors, given her international reputation as a notorious klutz. She loved it so much she’s already talking about learning to race. Fortunately Harley doesn’t offer a racing course—at least they don’t offer one yet. For more on Rider’s Edge, visit



Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit’s newest album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, continues where their last release, Midnight Organ Fight, left off. At the The Winter of gravitational center of the record Mixed Drinks lies the second track, “Swim Until FatCat You Can’t See Land,” which captures ++++ singer Scott Hutchison’s philosophy on distancing yourself from the past, and past mistakes, in order to reset life and achieve a new beginning. The musical stylings are also similar, with Mark’s distinct, pleading brogue swelling over relentlessly beating guitar chords and drums. This album is more polished, however, with the addition of new member Gordon Skene, who was brought on board to add texture to the live performances. Tracks like “Skip the Youth” pick you up and carry you on sonic voyages at sea, where exuberance and freedom offer you no alternative but to chant along. It is rock music that might actually compel you to rock back and forth, maybe with a cigarette-lighter flame held nobly in the air. Frightened Rabbit continue to offer a

melancholic appraisal of life, but with a strong sense of hope and the reluctant acceptance of the ineffable beauty of existence. Though he claims he’s not miserable on “Not Miserable,” it doesn’t sound like he’s very happy. Maybe it’s because this sounds like his earlier songs, but with extra string orchestration and electronic synthesizers. If there was a very slow track on this album, it might prove too depressing, but the racy delivery and high speed rhythmic oscillations keep the brain and body activated and interested. Where Midnight Organ Fight dealt with personal emotions stemming from the recent breakup of lead singer Scott Hutchison’s relationship, The Winter of Mixed Drinks offers stories more general in character. It’s the second to last track, “Living in Colour,” that brings to the floor FR’s new sonic aim and energy. It’s a stomping shanty including all the new instruments: the effervescence of strings the energy of ringing bells. In Frightened Rabbit’s latest record, one can almost feel the cold weather and drunken nights in which it was created. Written in isolation in a quiet, seaside town on the Scottish coast, The Winter of Mixed Drinks drips with fog and the sweat of life-affirming exercise. - Adam Kearney

Key: Worst + Best +++++



Eels End Times Vagrant


“Crazy guy with a matted beard, standing on the corner...she is gone now, seems like end times are here”. E for Everett, Eels and now, End Times, Mark Everett’s “divorce” album where he merges the personal and the political, equating his personal loss with the world losing its integrity. 1998’s Electro-Shock Blues managed to capture the deaths of E’s family members quite captivatingly, so can he repeat the trick for the death of a relationship? Yes, he can. E is undoubtedly well-versed in the art of crafting a morose pop tune or two but End Times sees the ‘crazy guy with a matted beard’ drastically stripping down his sound as the album was self-recorded on a four-track, mainly in his own basement. This results in a markedly more mature release, both musically and lyrically, as E admits “in my younger days, this wouldn’t have been so hard, I would’ve just shrugged it off, but now it’s tough.” The album artwork depicts a maudlin, scruffy, lonesome figure, guitar in tow which sets the scene for the album and E’s hopelessly heartbroken accounts veer from sepia-toned nostalgia (”Apple Trees”) to vitriol (”Paradise Blues”) as he imagines his former lover as a suicide bomber, recklessly on her way to a “better place.” This may sound like a relentlessly downbeat, repetitive account of something we have all been through but E’s knack for succinct lyrical gems pulls him through to the end where some form of emotional redemption may not be far off – the album’s closing line is “I just gotta get back on my feet.” End Times, like its creator, is sorrowful but

Lindstrom & Christabelle lookin cozy in their European Snuggies™

Beach House Teen Dream | Drag City ++++


altimore-based duo Beach House have crafted what could very well be the first breakthrough album of the decade. Recorded in a converted church called Dreamworld in New York, Teen Dreams is a hazy, somnambulistic take on blissout musical reverie.Openers Zebra and Silver Soul are sun kissed dream pop delights, gently yet seductively guiding the listener into the album, which is reminiscent of Mazzy Star, Mojave 3 and Galaxie 500. Track three Norway is undoubtedly the standout cut, woozy slide guitar fills interweaving with breathy backing vocals. The sheer consistency of the album is astounding and while it may not sound like the band veer far from their initial sound, this is purely due to the band being entirely at home, exhibiting full confidence in their own sound. Building upon the recording location, Teen Dreams is a veritable sonic cathedral, each instrument and vocal give more than ample space to breathe amidst the lush production textures courtesy of Chris Coady. - C. M.

eloquent in it’s depiction of his sadness and that of the wider world. While certainly not an easy listen, we can only, as E states in “Gone Man,” “take small comfort in a dying world… I’m not the only one who’s feeling this pain.” Colm McAuliffe

Lindstrom & Christabelle Real Life is No Cool Feedelity

+++ 149

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Lindstrom & Christabelle are Hans-Peter Lindstrom, an established electronic producer, and Christabelle Sandoo (a.k.a. Solale), the damsel vocalist. They combine to create the newest pop-disco album out of Norway. Lindstrom’s structured electronic compositions find new life with Christabelle’s largely improvised vocals, and a contrast is created between the order of the music and the chaos of the lyrics. The first track “Looking For What”

“I know that for some musicians, writing songs is like therapy and the way they get their emotions out,” says Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and multiinstrumentalist Robert Francis. “But for me it’s more than an outlet — it’s a way to keep me from completely losing my mind.”


uch an intense statement may sound like the drama of being 22, which Francis is, but listen to his recently released Atlantic debut Before Nightfall, and it becomes clear that it’s absolutely true. “Honesty is what makes a good song,” Francis says. “I don’t think there’s a reason to write unless you’re writing about something that’s deeply important to you. If I write anything, it has to be 100 percent heartfelt. There’s not a shred of anything within my songs that isn’t 100 percent genuine.” Francis’ work pulses with an undercurrent of forceful candor that cannot be faked. The songs on Before Nightfall are so personal that Francis has trouble explaining the specifics of what they’re about - only offering that they’re written from the perspective of looking back on a failed, emotionally exhausting relationship through the healing prism of time. Musically, the tracks glow with an earthy, homespun quality that draws on everything from country, to folk, to blues, to roots rock. Highlights include “Junebug” and its driving rhythm, the introspective album opener “Darkness,” and “Climb a Mountain,”

which features slide guitar from one of Francis’ early mentors and longtime family friend, Ry Cooder. Fittingly, NPR has compared him to the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle while the Huffington Post cites a young Bruce Springsteen or a “21st century run on The Band.” The intimate sound is deliberate, Francis says. “On the records I love, the vocals are right there. It sounds like you’re in the room with the person and all the other instruments support the story. The greatest records were made like that. In no way was I trying to make a ’60s or ’70s throwback record, but the songs called for that intimate vibe. I wanted to get the band in a room, do it live, and make it sound as immediate as possible.” It was the way Francis imagines his favorite artists, like Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, and Greenwich Village folkies Karen Dalton and Dino Valenti made records. “There was a time when a few amazing artists moved up to Bearsville to get away from the city and really just make beautiful music,” he says. “They weren’t concerned about what was going on outside their bubble. They created their own universe. And that’s what I wanted to do – to forget about everything and just concentrate on four guys in a room making music the way we wanted to make it.” •


begins with warped, looped fragments of Christabelle’s words, which would be strange enough if they weren’t Norwegian. It eventually melts down into a synth dance beat, with some funk guitar and piano overlaid. “Lovesick” is a groovy booty shaker with heavy beats and Christabelle’s sultry vocals.  “Let It Happen” has a world disco sound that feels appropriate for any time period from now to the early seventies.  “Keep It Up” has that uplifting, pleading sentiment common to Michael Jackson’s later works, but the production is slightly edgier. “Music In My Mind” has a wavy bass and slow drum claps that sink into a feathery organ.  “Baby Can’t Stop” features computer voicing and boxy beats, along with horns and backup singers. Another stand-out track is “Never Say Never,” particularly because it’s so weird.  Featuring distorted electric guitar samples, harps, and Christabelle’s warped vocals, the song soon degenerates into a mess of sound, effects, and record warbles. Fans of vintage soul, disco, and house should all enjoy this first full-length release from the Norwegian duo. - Adam Kearney

The Album Leaf A Chorus of Storytellers | Sub Pop


T The Soft Pack The Soft Pack Kemado


Maybe it’s because I’m from the east, but I can’t help thinking The Soft Pack is what I’d put on en route to a day of surfing on that other, sunnier, friendlier coast. The self-titled new release from the San Diego band is full of the kind of songs that can only be described as, well, happy. Kicking off with “C’mon,” the album’s catchy from the get-go, singer Matty McLoughlin’s Julian Casablancas-at-the-beach voice paired pleasantly with Matt Lamkin’s poppy guitar. The first three tracks had me sold, and the lineup hits its only major snag on 151

M A R /A P R 2 0 1 0 R E V I E W S

he Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, formerly a member of San Diego prog-rock group, Tristeza. Over the last 12 years, he recorded four albums in which he played every instrument. On his fifth, A Chorus Of Storytellers a band was brought in for the studio recording, which creates a richer experience while retaining the essence of his sound. The album was recorded outside of Seattle and then mixed in Reykjavík, Iceland (with Sigur Rós producer Brigir Jón Birgisson), and this is reflected in the tundral tracks. A chiming guitar arpeggio begins “There Is A Wind,” just before drums hit and LaValle’s somber, melodic rhymes take command.  “Running so far ahead/just to get back to the end,” he repeats throughout the track, musing on the fruitlessness of overexerting yourself in a cyclical existence. “Falling From The Sun” is a complete pop song with the feel-good warmth of the later Flaming Lips, but without the glitter and giant bunnies. “Stand Still” is instrumental, ambient, and profoundly endearing as violins and keys build to a ringing finish. “Summer Fog” is somber pipes and pounding minor chords on the piano, and it’s a definite possibility for the soundtrack to the next prime time television docudrama. You can hear the Birgisson influence on “Until The Last,” which sounds like a diluted “Staralfur” (Sigur Rós’s contribution to The Life Aquatic soundtrack).  “We Are” is more straightforward rock with a thumping bass drum and guitar setting the stage for keys and LaValle’s vocals. With half of the tracks pure instrumentals wrapped up in moody melodies and gloomy yet hopeful ambience, “A Chorus of Storytellers” is an album for quiet contemplation.  Jimmy LaValle takes you across vast, dark expanses before showing you the light. - Adam Kearney

“Move Along.” Bringing in some strange synth and ending with a purposeful (and therefore confusing) barrage of this effect, it makes clear what the band is skilled at. It’s a relief, then, when “Pull Out” brings the simple stuff right back. The rest of the tunes continue to please, and the band definitely benefits from their awareness of their own capabilities: a bunch of dudes from California who wanted to make songs that sound like they were written in the summer (and they were!). “Mexico” is a treat and could have served better as the closing track, its lazy feel and cutesy lyrics (”Don’t tell me if you’re leaving ’cause I don’t want to know”) provide easily the Soft Pack’s catchiest number. - Shannon Hassett

The Magnetic Fields Realism Nonesuch


Stephen Merritt has crafted a musical career with The Magnetic Fields moniker almost entirely bound by strictures—every song on 2004’s I begun with the letter “i,” while 2008’s stellar Distortion contained 13 pop cuts, which were fittingly drenched in distortion. While this often makes for conceptually brilliant listening, the ease with which Merritt flits from idea to idea can often leave the listener cold, as he only ever appears to engage with sounds on a purely superficial level. Realism is seen as the sister album to the preceding Distortion; the touchstones for the latter were Psychocandy-era Jesus & Mary Chain, his latest release is a homage to sixties and seventies folk. The liner notes defiantly state “no synths,” as banjos, flugelhorns, accordions and something called a cuatro provide the musical backing to Merritt’s tales of winsome woe. The group vocals on “We Are Having A Hootenanny” recall Steeleye Span, as the band doesn’t strays far from the folk template, but never truly attains the pastoral heights of their influences. While the band’s previous releases shrouded their tweeness in feedback or synths, the stripped-down nature of Realism ensures the fey lyrics have more than enough room to breathe, which is not always a good thing—“Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree”­ results in a rather frustrating listen. Merritt undoubtedly has the genius to craft the perfect pop song, but this is a misstep which ultimately sounds forced­—the poor relation of its more capable siblings. - Colm McAuliffe


THE CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED DEBUT ALBUM FEATURING “HAROLD T. WILKINS” “A sleeper candidate for indie album of the year.”

– Paste

– Rolling Stone

“Their sprawling chamber-pop oeuvre offers an intoxicating combination of melancholy and wonder.” – The New Yorker


OK GO Of the Blue Colour of the Sky Capitol


Of The Blue Color Of The Sky is an album of lighthearted electro-rock songs about confusion and dance-floor desire. With a

© 2009 Fanfarlo under License to Atlantic Recording Company



steady stream of high-speed beats, the new songs should appeal to fans of the band’s earlier high-energy stomps. “WTF?,” the first track, begins with some quirky glitch noises, then breaks into gritty drum and bass grooves covered in falsetto vocals. It sounds like Prince being backed by the Dust Brothers. Damian Kulash is lovestruck and doesn’t know what to say, but he’s feeling good about it. This track was first released as a single and includes a music video, the first of the videos for each of the 13 tracks. OK GO are notorious for releasing YouTube videos such as the one for “A Million Ways” in 2005, which featured the band’s choreographed dancing in Kulash’s backyard. They have enlisted the help of NASA and JPL scientists in the creation of the upcoming videos. Bouncy and electronic, “White Knuckles” is a sure dance-floor stomper. With a fuzzy, distorted synthesizer and a hand-clapping beat, the track implores you to release your fist, let your hair down, and get loose. The album begins to lull into slower, more emotional songs towards the end, revealing OK GO’s sound in full spectrum. - Adam Kearney

Screaming Females Singles Don Giovanni

+++ Surfer Blood Astro Coast Kanine


Spraying the world with the fine ocean breezes of their first album Astro Coast, Surfer Blood stands poised to deliver the sounds of the reef to the ears of an indie generation thirsting for good vibrations. Astro Coast begins with swaggering guitar chords and drums on “Floating Vibes,” anticipating the throwback to some warm, nostalgic era. Those expecting straight-up surfer rock will be surprised by the modern, shoegaze-y sound tsunamis interspersed with the usual melodic pop hooks. ‘Swim” is an anthemic power-pop blast that is equal parts Weezer and the Ramones.  It begins with a righteous roar and then glides into some jangly riffs, which seem like little islands of shelter amidst vast splashes of reverb. “Take It Easy” includes handclaps and galloping percussion with Afrobeat rhythms. “Neighbor Riffs” is a rolling instrumental track following the ripcurl down the beach like a vintage Ventures. Though they capture the sound of beach tubes and bikinis, don’t mistake JP, TJ, Thomas, Brian, and Marcos for surfers.  In fact, those were the people the West Palm Beach quintet disliked most eminently in high school. They plan on working hard and staying true to the indie scene, and they’ll definitely be around for a long time with such a perfect indie pop album.  - Adam Kearney 153

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Imagine my shock when, this past July, a little piece on the Rolling Stone site popped up announcing the “breakout” of Screaming Females and their third album, Power Move. I’m not big on the whole “they were mine first” mentality, but let’s go there. There are three reasons I love this band (before we get to the music, that is): they remain committed to playing self-booked shows and do so constantly, they have not joined the wave of New Brunswick bands claiming they’re from Brooklyn, and they are humble as fuck. State pride’s a big deal when you’re from Jersey, and Screaming Females make no apologies for their roots. Constantly in the lineup at shows in and around New Brunswick, they are also incredibly supportive of fellow local bands, touting them live and all over their blog. It’s hard to remember a time when the band was not on Don Giovanni, the NJ-based label big on the basement-scene stuff us Jersey kids love to love. And with the success of Power Move still easily palpable, the band has even been kind enough to grant us a new release. Singles is exactly what it promises to be: a compilation of tracks taken from various splits, vinyl releases with hand-painted covers and live show favorites that will finally get some deserved time in your iTunes. “Arm Over Arm” and “Zoo of Death” kick things off in true Screaming Females fashion, with singer Marissa Paternoster letting that commanding








voice carry some equally bold guitar work. Often cited as filling the tremendous void left by one Sleater-Kinney, Marissa deserves more credit. She is all of Corin Tucker’s deep, raw sound but with the sort of fun energy achievable when unburdened by the task of carrying a movement. The band’s name may scream riot grrrl, and it’s not that the comparison would be unfounded; it’s just that their originality is so much a part of their product that it would be cruel to attempt to label them. That originality is exactly what leads to Singles’s third track, “Cortez the Killer,” with an asterisk next to the song in the liner notes paying homage to its writer. The song is off a split with fellow labelmates Hunchback (they perform “Heart of Gold”), recorded when big things were beginning to happen for the band. It was during that session they played a NYC show with Vivian Girls (one of those New Brunswick bands now mysteriously from Brooklyn), and Screaming Females was able to establish their sound and really secure a place for them apart from the pack. Adding some unstoppably catchy drums to a song that needs no improvement, the band managed to do just that. “Pretty Ok” is about as close to my personal music biography as a song is ever going to get, but maybe that’s not such a coincidence. Somehow fluidly combining pop punk, presuckage Hole and two breakdowns that make one remember why they own a whole bunch of early Against Me! 7”s, it’s hard to admit you’re nearing the end. But there it is: Track six, “I Do,” finds Screaming Females playing it smart and making an old song new again. Unreleased but often part of their live set, it’s a short number that closes it out just as it should: full of heavy guitar work and downright charming. It’s a reminder that to see the band in action is just as gratifying as a listen to any of the albums, and Singles will quickly join that roster. Love or leave New Jersey, but lucky for you, Screaming Females is sticking around. Shannon Hassett

Adam Green Minor Love Rough Trade


As zen den of choice for both the Fresh Prince and The O.C.’s Ryan, it’s fitting that this similar street-savvy rabble-rouser used a producer friend’s pool house as the origin point for Minor Love. “Boss Inside” and “You Blacken My Stay” dress Green’s baritone up in outlaw country, which is strikingly suitable, and though not as “tender” as his self-authored press release advertises his sixth solo record to be, lyrical themes are more intrinsic—yet still at arm’s length. No need to fake it, Adam; you’re bad, and it’s good. - Amber L. Herzog 155

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Yeasayer Odd Blood | Something in Construction +++


dd Blood finds Yeasayer broadcasting expansive, mind-altering rhythms into the ionosphere once again. Their original fusion of electronica, rock, and Middle Eastern music earned singer Chris Keating, guitarist Anand Wilder, and bassist Ira Wolf Tuton high praise for their first album All Hour Cymbals.  Their second album follows suit with the same worldly, new-age sonics, though now with more lavish production and psychedelic sound effects. The first track “The Children,” opens the album with thunderous stomping and reversed, glitched-out vocals. Synthetic pianos and futuristic chords power the sound, resembling the landing jets of some Earth-bound U.F.O. The instrumentals on “Ambling Alp” are a mix of doppler shifted echoes and fizzes, with Keating’s clear singing voice constructing a discernible melody above the writhing ruckus of effects.  The percussion is fast and precise, like the beating of some mechanical insect’s wings.  “Stick up for yourself, son/Nevermind what anybody else does,” Keating croons, revealing a touch of Brooklyn attitude from the borough Yeasayer now calls home. An emotionally resonating pseudo-yodel opens “A Madder Red.” With swelling chords from unidentifiable instruments and alternating a capella verses, this track, which was originally released as a single, rides the momentum of All Hour Cymbals to farther, uncharted territories. The broad, global pallet Yeasayer draws from makes it the perfect soundtrack to exotica, whether lost among the dunes of the Arabian Peninsula, or riding the F train through midtown.  The majesty of Manhattan skyscrapers, the horizon at sunset - these captivating images are given voice. Perhaps Yeasayer have intentionally constructed these lysergic hymns for the most profound of human experiences, the moments when we gain a sense of our microscopic consequence in an infinite, beautiful universe. - Adam Kearney


Hot Chip One Life Stand Astralwerks


Inducting an unlikely member to the hall of fame of muses, Hot Chip credits Talent-ed Brit Susan Boyle for the Les Miz sound on “I Feel Better.” Strangely, they don’t cite the felinefancying spinster for the disc’s doughy middle of dopey serenades like “Slush,” “Brothers” and even one titled “Alley Cats.” Conscious of Boyle trickle-down or not, closer “Take It In” taps into the psychomachia between spotlight and stability, a struggle with which all “it girls” need be familiar. Somewhere, Edie Sedgwick is smiling. Thanks to the necessary supply of snippety IDM and calypso drums that “Hand Me Down Your Love” and “We Have Love” provide, she’s also dancing. - Amber L. Herzog

Robert Francis Before Nightfall Atlantic


Though his lyrics thinly “out” his chronological age (“Mescaline”) and municipality (“Where You Came From”), worry not. Francis was born to a ranchera-loving mother and trained by a Red Hot Chili Pepper, so being 22 and from Los Angeles doesn’t ware his authentic air of sixties blues-rock desperado. Like Joe Cocker double-dipped with a coat of Springsteen, Francis is an expressive and assured vocal powerhouse. Elsewhere, recklessly visceral and live-by-the sword, “I Like the Air” and “Playground” provide a weary genteel: Townes van Zandt or bust. - Amber L. Herzog

Spoon Transference Merge


“We’re getting you raw/and it feels real good,” sings Britt Daniel on Transference’s first single, “Written In Reverse.” You heard the man: Let go a little. Under command of the Austin band’s savoir-faire, “Out Go the Lights,” “Got Nuffin” and “Who Makes Your Money” muscle in the goth, glam and gurgle, respectively. 157

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Ted Leo The Brutalist Bricks | Matador ++


he Brutalist Bricks tries to be what it says it is: brutal. But the punches are soft, the fighters are lightweight. It is punk without the snarl, without the anger.  It is indie, but without the lo-fi feel or the DIY spirit.  The tracks are expertly constructed, and the sound is precise and smooth.  The songs glide by, making heads bounce along to the rhythm, but without raising any eyebrows. Ted Leo’s sixth album delivers more technically perfect, high energy, feel good rock that’s fun for the whole family- if that’s what you’re into. “Even Heroes Have To Die” is the stand-out track. This radio-friendly single features tight arrangements and thematic lyrics, with vocal styling similar to Robert Schneider of The Apples In Stereo, and guitar chopping reminiscent of Elvis Costello. But I prefer the track that follows, “The Stick,” a high-speed romp powered by shivering chords and snappy punk verses. Warped electric guitar noodling and a driving bass line keep you spinning for the chorus. This track is bad, like Michael Jackson bad, and I like it. “Woke Up Near Chelsea” captures an ‘80s-rock vibe, with thrashing guitars, drums, and lines like “We are born of despair / We’re gonna do it together.” Mellow guitar riffs get stomped on by howling blasts of distortion. “Tuberculoids Arrive In Hop” is a cool, acoustic track with a folky, Simon & Garfunkel feel. It’s just two guitars, no drums, and Ted’s now eerie voice over the background hum of crickets and maybe a car driving in the distance. At first listen, The Brutalist Bricks sounds a little diluted and formulaic, but with some time and open ears, it impresses with its musical range and ability and a few heavy hitters. - Adam Kearney

Down to brass tacks instrumentally—think convictional kick drum, knotty guitar riffs, funk bass lines and domineering piano—their seventh LP is a transitory punchcard of all that makes Spoon supremely likeable. - Amber L. Herzog

Vampire Weekend Contra Merge


Are Vampire Weekend the most loathed band in recent history? Since the success of their 2008 eponymous debut, the band has been derided for the archness of their lyrics, their comfortable upbringings, and for being seemingly entirely responsible for all the world’s current ills. However, Contra, their sophomore effort, is a glorious, rapturous response to their critics, positing the band as indeed contra, or against, the critics’ relentless sneering and indignation as they return with an even slicker, more danceable, downright more quotable record. Frontman Ezra Koenig’s sympathetic delivery and the album’s baroque pop leanings are reminiscent of Prefab Sprout at their finest while the keyboard flutterings are far more prominent than on the debut, moving the band even further away from a white-boy indie sound to a Euro-Afrobeat hybrid. Clocking in at under forty minutes, Contra is not so much the sound of a band in transition. Instead, it is the sound of a band with full confidence in their musical and lyrical abilities, sweeping from Clash-influenced ska (while sampling M.I.A.) on “Diplomat’s Son” to the brooding and almost-bruised sounding closer “I Think Ur A Contra”. Vampire Weekend have created a perfectly now record, capturing our archival culture, eco-politics and even the politics of escapism from a recession-fueled world. - Colm McAuliffe

The Silent League But You’ve Always Been the Caretaker Something in Construction


A literal, not sexual, latitude of “where the magic happens,” the Brooklyn chamber League’s triennial release sounds like America and Sufjan Stevens assembling inside Charlie Bucket’s great glass elevator. Ear-to-wall “Sleeper” plays like a preface to the secret underground “Final Chapter Meeting,” the disc’s synoptic, mighty rock track. An unmodernized rendition of “Yours Truly, 2095” attempts an orbital launch early on but seems extraneous in the end—should’ve saved the ELO cover for your laser light show, gentlemen. - Amber L. Herzog


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Dante’s Inferno EA PS3 | Xbox 360


BioShock 2

Déjà Vu, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

PS3 | Xbox 360 2K Games +++


think everyone’s a bit skeptical when it comes to sequels nowadays. We’ve all been fooled so many times by promises and fancy-pants marketing schemes that we are reluctant to believe Part II can be any good. This factored into how I envisioned BioShock 2’s development. You want more BioShock? Great! Let’s cram in an alternative antagonist, add a Modern Warfare-esque multiplayer system,  and replace Big Daddies with Big Sisters. Why 2K Marin thought the name Big Sister sounded as ambiguously imposing as Big Daddy did in 2008 is beyond me. For that matter,  how BioShock 2 turned out to be pretty darn good also escapes me. BioShock 2 puts you in the helmet of a Big Daddy, the gigantic drill-armed terrorizers of Rapture. The once feared and seemingly indestructible mystery is now at your fingertips. That sounds good, except I found it hard to discern what difference, if any, the new Daddy status afforded me over my previous romp through the city as a human. By the end of the game, I realized it offers very little. Being a Daddy changes your relationship to the Little Sisters, who you are still out to rescue, but balance against foes feels the same. You can now dual wield, sure, but it does very little to change the combat. Instead of Andrew Ryan testing your mettle, this time you’re challenged by Sophia Lamb and her cult. Rapture’s message of individual reward has been

warped after the Ryan era to a far scarier social disease. Visually, the city is still something to behold. BioShock 2 stands up to its predecessor in every bit of presentation. It’s just the innate sense of déjà vu that will take a while to get over. Rapture seems more nuanced this time.  However, I still wanted something strikingly new, and BioShock 2 looks and feels much the same as its predecessor. The underwater sequences teased at what might have been an exciting new way to experience Bioshock, but never fully shook things up. There is a new hack mechanic now, and for each Little Sister you adopt there is a BioShock version of Search & Destroy, which is fun and different, but not bold enough to push the BioShock series beyond what it initially received. When it comes down to it, BioShock 2 is fun, well-constructed, and worth playing. It succeeds at being true to the previous installment, but fails at being new and innovative. Nobody really needs a multiplayer BioShock, but it’s certainly not something to complain about. And BioShock 2 still has smarts in many senses.  Its identity may be lost in its sunken city, but the Rapture is no place to forget. Without that intense presence, the Bioshock series runs the risk of becoming as vapid and stale as the air left in Rapture, and its fans, not unlike its inhabitants, trapped within. Starved of any true nourishment, they hang on to what they once thought was a good idea. -Daniel Cassarela

A few folks have accused EA of co-opting Dante’s epic poem, The Inferno, for the publicity while producing a second-rate God of War. Whatever the case may be, the strategy begs two questions. The encouraging first: “What can become a game?” and the pejorative second: “What can’t be a game?” When a literary masterpiece becomes fodder for hormonally-charged men to act out their basest impulses in a virtual world, how far have we fallen? I really don’t think that far. At least, not to the depths of hell. If you like God of War, which I do, and don’t care about another company ripping off its mechanics and cinematic aspirations, which I don’t, then Dante’s Inferno provides plenty of monotonous hours of hack-and-slash gaming in a stimulating, if not overwrought, depiction of hell. Plus, the PS3 version comes with a digital version of the actual poem. A piece of literature inside a video game—did you ever think you’d see the day? - S.B. 160

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Behind The Scenes J贸nsi Goes Solo

The inimitable, language-inventing front man of Sigur R贸s has finally gone solo. His debut record, Go, offers his signature soundscapes suffused with newfound vivacity and warmth. We photographed him in New York City on a bitterly cold day, but, being an Icelander, he took the shoot in stride. Check out the video at

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