A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Though, honestly, I'm barely going to tickle 150.

Augie De Blieck Jr. writes a farewell to his days as a comic book letter writer over at his Pipleline column, and namedrops yours truly as being around on that scene at the same time he was. One thing he doesn't mention about when they printed our addresses in the backs of books is how many letters from prisons we got. I never wrote back, even when I was young and dumb, because it always totally creeped me out. "Hey, I read your letter in Booster Gold in between lifting weights and getting shanked in the shower, and I think you have some good ideas." Uhhhh...

I need a haircut really bad. I'm starting to look like Hugh Jackman when he's Wolverine. And that ain't good.

Lara Michell's band, Dirty Martini has their first video...

Current Soundtrack: Singles of 2006 playlist (The Knife, Raconteurs, Embrace)

Current Mood: sweaty

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, November 24, 2006


Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.

06. MOBY - UNDERWATER (1995)
Personnel: Moby
Label: Mute

Ambient music is not something you expect to find by accident.

I remember the first time I had really heard anything about Brian Eno. I was at a girl's house and one of her friends--a balding chap with a ponytail--brought over some Eno CD he had been searching for and finally found. He showed us the diagram inside that explained how to listen to it for its full effect, you had to sit in the dead center of four speakers. He said that it was the sort of music that sounded like it was never changing but that actually was, you had to let it work with your subconscious.

I think I was 18 or 19. I couldn't understand why the hell anyone would want to listen to such a thing. After all, wasn't the description itself just boring?

It was four or five years later that Moby released Everything is Wrong, arguably still his best album, despite the brilliant shine job he gave to the music of Play (his last good album). The Sam Goody's in the mall had an import version that boasted, "Includes special Bonus CD 'Underwater' (43.11 mins)." I was all about the bonus CDs back then. It was worth paying double the price of a regular record if you could buy the import with a bonus--a concept that had not yet made it to US shores. Record companies couldn't see giving away anything for free until file sharing scared the bejeezus out of them.

Underwater wasn't available anywhere else as far as I know. Most of the time, if I mention it to someone I know likes Moby (a dwindling population), they haven't even heard of it. Yet, this album bundled on an obscure British edition of the artist's second proper disc completely changed how I looked at music.

Underwater is exactly what its name makes it sound like: a five-part ambient symphony that makes you feel like you are at the bottom of the ocean. It was a fitting companion to Everything is Wrong, which has cover images of Moby submerged in water, and the back half of the record has several songs that evoke dropping down into the deep: "Into the Blue," "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters," and my personal favorite, "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die," featuring vocals by Mimi Goese, singer of Hugo Largo.

Those tracks are proper songs, however. They have beats, melodies, choruses. Such is not the case of Underwater. Rather, that piece of music is all sensation, all restraint. Shallow movements to approximate deeper oceanic feelings. Rather than a bass line or any kind of rhythm track, Moby lays down a constant hum, the consistent movement of oceanic waters. Then, over the course of the forty-three minutes, he creates crests of sound, a swell of synthesized strings that just rises, rises, rises, and then fades, giving away to the next one. They are like currents, like waves. They come steadily, but they remain calm. Moby is not recording stormy waters, but the peaceful expanse of the quietest fathoms.

It's a beautiful mini-epic, something I surprised myself by being able to listen to regularly. I was unaware that music could be so effective in such a minimalist way. This was also around the time I first discovered Low, and so it was a perfect moment for me to learn the power of redaction. Underwater is significant because it would open the door for me to find other music of its kind, to explore the innovators that influenced Moby to take this approach. Yes, I would finally listen to Brian Eno. Who knew something called Music for Airports would not be cold and clinical, but would be something else entirely?

As it turns out, you can download Underwater for $1.67. In this internet age, nothing disappears.

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17 #16 #15 #14 #13 #12 #11 #10 #9 #8
#7 (The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

Current Soundtrack: Moby, Everything is Wrong/Underwater

Current Mood: content

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, November 23, 2006



If you don't own my book I Was Someone Dead, now may be a good time to pick it up. Oni Press is having a Scratch & Dent Sale, and you can get a somewhat cover-damaged copy for half price. There are lots of other great books there, and if you don't already have stuff by my pals Chynna Clugston, Andi Watson, or Ande Parks (among so many others), load up!


* Brothers of the Head, a bizarre and thoroughly involving rock 'n' roll mockumentary

* Cary Grant: Screen Legend Collection, five B-movies Grant made for Paramount in the 1930s

* The Double Life of Veronique (Criterion Collection), finally, at long last, Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece collaboration with Irène Jacob

* Holiday, another Cary Grant film, this time a bonafide classic with Katharine Hepburn and directed by George Cukor

* Looney Tunes - Golden Collection, vol. 4, the latest collection of hysterical Warner Bros. cartoons

Current Soundtrack: Lucas on AMC

Current Mood: don't care

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


P.S. You'll notice my syndicated feed is working again. For the time being, we're running it on the truncated entry version, as the transfer of powers on Blogger sort of clogged the pipes, and we're going to let some of those entries cycle through. Sorry once again for the massive hit of entries all at once. Blaim Blogger. (Best tpyo ever!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Joëlle Jones is profiled in today's edition of The Oregonian. Rather than link directly to it, I'm going to link to the link Tom Spurgeon made at The Comics Reporter. As usual, Tom is spot-on, and I'm glad he said it, because it saves me from having to. I'm very protective of Joëlle, as I am all the people I work with, and I realize that would color my response to anything like this article--which isn't mean-spirited, maybe just misguided.

One thing I think that makes this article seem a bit false in its stretch for an aura of the drastic, it fails to mention that 12 Reasons Why I Love Her is doing incredibly well (comics stores sold out, Diamond had to order more, Amazon seems unable or unwilling to keep up with demand, and there are possibly three foreign language editions in the works), Joëlle and I have a second graphic novel in the works, and she has been approached by multiple publishers to do other things. Whether your point of view is as an outsider or an insider, that looks like a track to success in my book. So, why so sad?

And it's Jamie S. Rich, dammit!

(Thanks also to the Newsarama Blog for continuing to spread the word. I do find it amusing that I live in Portland and didn't know it was out before someone in California e-mailed me.)


Love the Way You Love volume 3 is off to the printer. I know both Marc Ellerby and I are very, very excited to get this one in the hands of the people. In our opinion, both of our performances get better and better, and so with each new volume, our excitement is renewed. Personally, #3 has some of my favorite sequences, though its move to the actual published stage means I can now get all nervous and weird in anticipation of everyone seeing the ending to #4, which I think is beautiful.

This was also a good time self-esteem-wise for Love the Way You Love to be reviewed by Popmatters. Here's a sample you can click to read the rest:

"The first main strength of this story is that it is instantly understandable. That is not to say that it is unoriginal, just that people can relate to the story easily. Who hasn’t found themselves completely knocked off their feet at the sight of some amazing person? Who hasn’t had a moment of instantaneous connection that ended all too soon? Love The Way You Love asks the question of what would it mean if you ran into that person again. Surely it had to be destiny right?"

Nice, huh? I want the writer, Shawn O'Rourke, to start writing my back cover copy. His description of the book elsewhere in the review is one of the best summaries of it I've seen.

In celebration of all this, I'm going to leak a little Roman Holiday homage I mentioned a couple of weeks ago:

Look for Love the Way You Love vol. 3 in mid-December!

On blog matters, sorry I haven't posted very much recently. I had three deadlines this week, all of which I wanted to meet in order to allow myself to take a holiday weekend like everyone else (sometimes tough when you work at home). I had volumes of Because I'm the Goddess and Chocolat to script, and an article for Shojo Beat. (Speaking of, the December issue is out now and has my piece on Korean soap operas.) I'm happy to say that all is done and turned in, so I actually have the whole week off! Woooo!

The Confessions feed is still kerplunk, though, so maybe I'll be able to sort it out in this free time. I doubt it, though. What has two thumbs and is incredibly stupid? This guy!

And holy crap, I was about to post this when I saw that Robert Altman has died. I'm a real fan of his work. I once wrote a long "Can You Picture That?" (no longer online) about my appreciation of his incredible and adventurous creative spirit. His irascible refusal to compromise will be missed.

Current Soundtrack: Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape; Christina Aguilera, "Hurt" remixes

Current Mood: cranky

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Friday, November 17, 2006

Testing the site feed...if you see this on your Live Journal, we're back in business. Hopefully, you won't get nailed with 800 entries all at once.

EDIT:Then again, maybe not. It didn't work for me.


Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.

Personnel: Shaznay Lewis, Melanie Blatt, Nicole Appleton, Natalie Appleton
Producer: William Orbit, Karl (K-Gee) Gordon, Jonny Douglas, Stuart Zender / Label: London

I have no problem admitting I was a Spice Girls fan. I enjoyed their slick pop songs on equal measure with how much I enjoyed the marketing presentation. They were a great event, tailor made for the mid-90s pop scene and the high watermark for what the acts that followed would emulate, solo or otherwise. Part of their trick was the branding was so up front, so obvious, it no longer felt like branding. It was so fake it felt real again. Authenticity need not apply.

When All Saints emerged in 1997, the Spice Girls were at their pinnacle. That was the year of the second album, the movie, and total domination. Some dismissed All Saints as merely an attempt to capitalize on the success of Spice, but the quartet quickly did away with such charges. The proof was in the music, and in particular, their masterpiece, "Never Ever," an updated take on the classic Motown girl group sound, complete with spoken intro. There was a plaintive honesty in the delivery that the Spice Girls weren't capable of, and by all indications, the four girls were exactly as they presented themselves. They were just as conflicting in personality as the Spices, but Shaznay Lewis, Melanie Blatt, and the Appleton sisters, Nicole and Natalie, all looked like they were being who they were before joining the band without having to stick personality tags to their chest. And for as different as they looked to one another (Shaznay was pierced and black; the Appletons were blonde and posh; Melanie brunette, full lips, tattoos), they felt like more of a gang, like they all went out and partied together. Really, the debuts of both bands seemed backwards. All Saints came off as the real girls who got their musical chops in working class homes, hearkening back to the inner city girls who formed the Ronnettes and the Shangri-las; Spice Girls now looked more like a band the record company would form to try to capitalize on the success of the All Saints, a complete 180 on the original misperception.

To call the first All Saints album spotty would be fair. Despite the presence of the "Never Ever," there was the misguided Red Hot Chili Peppers cover, "Under the Bridge" (though, let's be honest, it's not nearly as execrable as the original), and the embarrassingly crass modern r&b "Booty Call" to keep All Saints from being perfect. The frankness of the latter surfaces again on Saints & Sinners. The song "All Hooked Up" leaves nothing to the imagination. The main line of the chorus is "I know you want a piece of my ass." It works, though, maybe because it comes from a much stronger r&b tradition--the dismissal of the disrespecting man--whereas "Booty Call" was too close to the R.Kelly school of bump 'n' grind. It was written by Shaznay and producer K-Gee, and they mix the old themes with a new feel, pushing the hiphop in comfortably with the four-girl harmonies.

Saints & Sinners is very much a producer's record. The choice of who to put behind the desk for each track goes a long way in the girls realizing their vision for the songs. Shaznay and K-Gee collaborate more than once, and "All Hooked Up" is only a small indication of what they can do together. "Distance" is a smooth ballad of romantic longing, while "Ready , Willing & Able" captures a then au-currant two-step beat for a steamy slow dance around desire.

The true star turn production-wise has to come from William Orbit, who around this time was riding high from his work with Madonna on Ray of Light and Blur on 13. He produced the first two singles, "Pure Shores" and "Black Coffee." In those songs, he and the Saints found a sound to rival even that of "Never Ever."

"Pure Shores" began life as part of the soundtrack to the film The Beach, and so it takes its water imagery from that. Yet, from these beginnings comes something truly inspiring, wholly original. Working with a soft electronic backdrop, Orbit invokes the sensation of water, of being adrift in the ocean and looking to the skies, seeing the stars. It's propulsive melody moves like a boat, the sound splitting the airwaves. The presence of "Pure Shores" on radio playlist must have felt like a rescue from an otherwise desolate shipwreck. The exultant sound is well met by the girls, who sing the romantic chorus in their trademark four-part harmony. "Pure Shores" is a song of total belief--in the self, in the heart, in the union that we are now rushing to, that waits for us on the distant beach.

The follow-up, "Black Coffee," is a perfect realization of the alternating personalities that made the All Saints so special. The verses have a minimal techno backdrop, Shaznay's more nasally vocals listing some of the minor details of the day, the things that remind us of a lover even when he is gone. These lines slip effortlessly into the chorus and, once again, the harmonizing, the lyrics morphing to a lovely apology for the moods that could have sent that lover packing and a reaffirmation that she wants the relationship to last. Orbit ups his ambient electronics, making the choruses timeless where the verses are immediate. Just as the technique created a sensation of swimming through the ocean at night on "Pure Shores," on "Black Coffee" it's the cosmic rush of emotion, of being embraced by true love. It's the wake up call for your heart, the caffeine shot of bliss.

Elsewhere, Orbit gives a smooth polish to "Dreams," a song about the necessity of moving on in the midst of heartbreak that stretches back to the girl group sound that defined "Never Ever." Again, there is a dichotomy at work here, a duality of emotion. Perhaps the album title is more descriptive than it might have gotten credit for: Saints & Sinners. In "Black Coffee," the verses are the wishes of the saintly, the choruses a confession of the sinful. In "Dreams," it's both sadness and defiance:

"Dreams are dreams,
Will alas come true
Skies are clear, leaving me bright and blue
I will raise my glass to my heart and say,
'Here's to tomorrow, not yesterday'

The words carry various meanings. "Dreams are dreams" can be interpreted as saying they are unreal and will so, or if line 1 is connected to line 2, then there is no cynicism at all. Dreams can be reached. Only, that word "alas," suggests resignation, that these dreams might not be what you wished for. Even that "blue" sky may not be a peaceful signifier, it could be a sign of depression lingering.

That kind of alternating mood is also present on the K-Gee produced title track. "Fast? Slow? / Stop? Go?" they ask, the music following their request, rising and falling with their singing. There is a grimy, thumping beat followed by more natural sounding guitars and scattered pauses and breakdowns, insuring the listener is never entirely sure what he or she is going to get next. And that's intentional: "I aint foolin' around/ Things come to test you,/ I'm about to let you/ Make you have a good time,/ Make you lose your mind." Is she letting me or is she forcing me? If I pass this test, will I know the answer to the query if I am a sinner or a saint?

The final song produced by William Orbit is "Surrender." Once again co-written by Shaznay, who had a hand in the composition of 3/4 of Saints & Sinners, it's the song Destiny's Child spent their last album failing to write. In the song, Shaznay gives herself over completely to a lover, but it never manages to feel like she is debasing herself or being any less than who she is. She trusts this man enough to let her guard down because, from the sound of things, he's willing to accept her on her own terms--unlike, say, the girl depowering of DC's humiliating "Cater 2 U." The line "Like a flower, you unfold" isn't subtle in its imagery, but it's the phrase "Surrender" turns on. The man isn't only taking, he's giving.

Between K-Gee's hiphop inflected tracks and Orbit's more dreamy, emotional tunes, Jonny Douglas works with All Saints to bring out their party side. Two of the raise-the-roof tracks were co-written by Douglas and Melanie Blatt, "Whoopin' Over You" and "Ha Ha." Both songs are about a girl getting hers, in the first luring the man across the dancefloor, in the second warning him to watch his step. Both have bounce to them, all attitude and strength. On the Shaznay penned "Love is Love," Douglas brings a big '80s sound to the chorus, while maintaining a heavy beat throughout. His are the ones you would bump over your car stereo.

It would be unfair to give those producers too much credit for the shape of the tracks, however. As I said, I think the real talent here is matching the songs to the right pair of hands, finding the collaborators who could bring out what they wanted. All Saints was never a band that was being tailored or orchestrated by anyone else. This is what made them all the more potent as a girl group. The listener always got the sense that the quartet was talking to them straight, they catered to no one.

Thus, it's a little sad that they split up so early. They should have been more important in the international pop landscape. They proved that you could be successful without bowing to the game and stretch your sound without being all over the map. Other pop artists working with four producers would have four different EPs slapped together as one LP. Not All Saints, they got a complete work from those sessions.

The girls all tried different solo careers, but none of them really got off the ground. Thankfully, rather than fade away, they have gotten back together this year and just released a new album, Studio 1. It picks up exactly where Saints & Sinners off, but with a very light brushing of a more current reggaeton influence. First single "Rock Steady" is awesome, but there is nothing on the record to rival a "Black Coffee" or "Pure Shores," so it's doubtful that they will finally achieve the success they deserve, but it's nice to have them emerge to show what made Lilly Allen what she is today and what Fergie and Nelly Furtado wish they could be.

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17 #16 #15 #14 #13 #12 #11 #10 #9 #8
(The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

Reminder: As always, this post is full of links to Amazon. Click on any one of them when shopping, and Amazon will shave a few pennies off their take to give to me. So, if my reviews make you all hot and bothered and you just have to own one of the things I'm talking about, use my link and contribute to buying me more stuff to review. (Those reading a Live Journal feed will likely have to click to the actual blog page first before heading over to Amazon, though.) Either way, thanks for reading.

Current Soundtrack: All Saints, Studio 1

Current Mood: determined

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Theatrical Reviews:

* For Your Consideration, Christopher Guest finally strikes out in this parody of Hollywood

* Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. in a fictional biopic of the famous photographer, directed by the guy who brought us Secretary

DVD Reviews:

* Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez, a new bundling of the HBO show to capitalize on the Borat film. If you've never seen it, it's a must!

* It's a Wonderful Life: 60th Anniversary Edition, a standard reissue of one of the best films ever made

* Scoop, Scarlett Johannsson and Hugh Jackman star in one of Woody Allen's better light comedies of recent memory

* So NoTORIous, the surprising television return of Tori Spelling

Current Soundtrack: Survivor: Cook Islands

Current Mood: groggy

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A couple of links:

Publisher's Weekly reviews 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and they only like it so-so:

"The art's bold lines always draw attention to the emotions, setting the characters sometimes in detailed New York scenery, sometimes against stark black and white backgrounds. Some chapters use softer, full-page drawings to stop time entirely and focus on Gwen as seen through Evan's eyes. The nonlinear structure is diverting, but it imposes a sentimental nostalgia onto a story without enough meat to support it.."

Fair enough, but what's with posting anonymously? Tsk. Cowards! Not that I condone sending hate mail to reviewers, but when a director is pissed at me, he can get a hold of me. (And trust me, at least one has. Beware of any letter that begins with, "You seem intelligent...") (And not that I'm pissed. Please! I've had worse. Check the current mood status below.)

I almost missed last week, Andi Watson talking about his career, including our Usagi collabo. Read it at CBR and see one of the pages.

And check this:

Current Soundtrack: Depeche Mode, "Personal Jesus (Boys Noize Classic)"

Current Mood: sarcastic

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Since Blogger moved me over to their new Beta system, my Live Journal feed appears to be broken. I don't understand how these things work. Is there anyone out there who can lend a hand? Similarly, I am absolutely ignorant of RSS feeds and other subscription services. If you've got skill in this area, drop an e-mail to the golightly at confessions123.com address and let's talk. If you can set me up, I'll trade you a copy of any of my books.


Sometimes when you're a comic book editor, certain projects come across your desk that, for one reason or another, you have to pass on, even when you really, really want to do it. I could rattle off some famous books that I turned down at both Dark Horse and Oni and that then went on to have great success, and for each one I can still say confidently that the success they had elsewhere is due to them being elsewhere. Sometimes you have to note what fits.

Though I don't believe I ever read a proposal for 12 Days, the new Tokyopop graphic novel, its author June Kim is definitely one of those cases. June proposed a couple of things to me, but the projects were never quite right. I really wanted to work with her, however, especially after she sent me her short story "B-612" in 2003 (part of it is available on her website, NoFish Entertainment). It remains one of the best short comic book pieces I have ever read. In a very few pages, June managed to evoke the breadth of a friendship on the eve of the pair parting. She illustrates the emotions unexpressed in the way they circle other subjects, the inability to find a mailbox a metaphor for communication avoided and prolonged to the point of it losing its potency. One of the girls doesn't like e-mail because it's too easy, doesn't like snail mail because it requires too much. Classic excuse making. As "B-612" ends, June traverses these doubts for her characters and manages a conclusion that is strikingly heartfelt and sentimental without being mawkish. It's extremely powerful. (The story was published in the second volume of an anthology called New Thing.)

Based on this story, I tried to find any kind of job for June at Oni, but even just trying to hire her as an artist for other people's stories never worked out. Of course, when I was looking for artists to collaborate with on my own projects, I approached her. Amusingly, she couldn't consider 12 Reasons Why I Love Her because she was doing 12 Days, her first full-length graphic novel. Once again, this worked out the best for both parties. 12 Reasons would not have been the same (nor would I) without Joëlle Jones, and the reading public would have been deprived of 12 Days.

Two things struck me about 12 Days right off the bat. One, June Kim has become an amazing draftsmen. Her ink line has strengthened while still remaining delicate, and she has a newfound attention to detail that makes her environments come across as strikingly real. Just look at that cover. It has an incredible depth and is full of gorgeous little pieces.

Two, this is a daring book for a writer/artist on her first time out. 12 Days is a one-off graphic novel about two people living in grief. Jackie first lost her lover, Noah, to the heterosexual world and marriage, and then to death, as Noah died in an accident coming home from her honeymoon. Now, with the help of Noah's brother, Nick, Jackie is going to cleanse the memory of the departed from her system. She will do so by consuming Noah's ashes. Over the course of twelve days, she works her way through the jar, reliving her time with Noah in her head and developing a camaraderie with Nick. Yet, something keeps the girlfriend and the brother from bonding completely. There is some contention in their new friendship, and he definitely has something of his own going on.

The storytelling in 12 Days is confidently structured. June moves in and out of past and present with subtle transitions, sometimes purposely disorienting the reader to cause the two timelines to blur together. She also uses parallel actions so that one event triggers the recollection of another. The mourning is heavy, willfully so on the part of the characters. They want out of it, for sure, but they are going to squeeze every ounce of sadness out of each day they have allotted themselves. When they aren't speaking, what they're feeling causes their faces to sag; when they are speaking, what they say displays their emotions the way opening a paper fan shows us the picture between the folds. Even when Nick and Jackie tease one another, the jokes are morbid, and they can never carry them so far as to completely leave their grief. The writing is brutally honest, and yet the reader never feels crushed by it. We are a quiet observer, watching with fascination as the characters move from page to page.

12 Days is a remarkable comic. I wish I had edited it. I wish my name was on it somewhere, just so I could have been a part of it. It deserves to be bought and read and praised by everyone everywhere. It's not the best comic this year with the number 12 in the title, but it's close. (Insert wink here.) I can offer no higher praise. Get it now, thank me later.

Current Soundtrack: The Ordinary Boys, How to Get Everything You Ever Wanted in Ten Easy Steps

Current Mood: impressed

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website * Live Journal Syndication * My Corporate-Owned Space * The Blog Roll * DVDTalk reviews * My Books On Amazon

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich
Images (c) 2006 June Kim and Tokyopop

Friday, November 10, 2006


Permanent Records is a year-long project. Each Friday (or thereabouts), I will post a new entry about one specific album, chosen due to its significance to myself as a fan. Though the list is numbered, a particular record's placement should not be considered a ranking. There will be 52 albums in all.

Personnel: Jarvis Cocker, vocals; Candida Doyle, keyboards; Mark Webber, guitars; Steve Mackey, bass; Nick Banks, drums; Anne Dudley, string arrangements & piano ("This Is Hardcore," "A Little Soul," "Glory Days"); Neneh Cherry, vocals ("Seductive Barry")
Producer: Chris Thomas / Label: Island

"Hey, I went to college once--but all they found were rats in my head." - fictional actor auditioning in "This is Hardcore" video

Rock 'n' roll is littered with success-breeds-insanity stories, of stars flaming out just as they achieve their wildest dreams. The onslaught of fame comes so fast, they lose control and rather than engage in "I am a Golden God!" events of debauchery the way the troubled band in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous does, they go mad, screw up, sometimes disappear. Kurt Cobain is the most extreme. He was so bugged out by his own fame, he exited this world completely. Less dramatic types just never end up doing anything substantial, they get stuck in a rut, or they become subjects of "Where are They Now?" features on VH-1.

Perhaps it was the fact that it took more than ten years for Pulp to break out that allowed Jarvis Cocker to spin his insanity into gold. It was released in 1983, and a series of albums followed, but it wasn't until 1994's His 'n' Hers that the band finally found its tipping point, spilling over into the mega phenomenon of 1995's Different Class, with its everyman anthem that went everywhere, "Common People." That's when life went a bit cuckoo for Cocker. It's when he found himself arrested for crashing the stage of the Brit Awards and waving his ass at Michael Jackson. That and other such antics made him a hero to guys like me, but it also thrust him so out into the public spotlight, he couldn't help but shrink from its glare.

Two years would pass before Pulp would release another single ("Help the Aged"), and three before This is Hardcore would finally hit record stores. The coldness of the cover, the subjugated woman as mannequin, was the first sign all was not right down in Sheffield. What's the old proverb? Better to have everyone think you've gone unhinged than open your mouth and remove all doubt? Well, pop This is Hardcore in your CD player and do just that.

Only, you'll discover that for Cocker, coming unhinged was not such a bad thing. This is Hardcore is an aural painting of madness. As the opening track, the monumental paean to anxiety "The Fear" proclaims, "This is the sound of someone losing the plot -- making out that they're okay when they're not." It's the mission statement of the album, the place where Jarvis is calling from. Knowing this is not the record everyone was expecting, he even lowers our expectations for us, declaring "You're going to like it, but not a lot."

Of course, he's wrong. I liked it heaps. It would be easy to say he was being cheeky with that line, winking ironically while covering his bases just in case. Based on Pulp's previous output, I don't think it would be entirely unfair. Yet, "The Fear" is such a pressure cooker of a song, its honesty is almost too bald. I don't hear it as false self-deprecation, but the true reaction of an artist who has stepped back from what he has done and has no idea what to think of it, let alone how it came out of him. It's proof positive that the anxiousness of the song isn't a put-on. If you still aren't sure, next time you are overburdened with the weight of your own brain, put on "The Fear" and see for yourself how accurately it portrays the strain of a mind gone haywire. (By its stated intention, the song is actually designed to let you in with the hope you'll find a familiar landscape.)

It's a pretty daring move for a band that just a few years prior was on top of the world. For all the Blur vs. Oasis bravado of Britpop, Pulp were the smart man's choice for the kings of rock 'n' roll. If it was the Beatles vs. the Stones all over again, Pulp were the Who, the guys who really knew what it was like to be down in the muck and who were going to sing honestly about it, even if it didn't make them look as cool. Yet, Pete Townshend was always more wicked than John Lennon and Roger Daltrey could easily take Mick Jagger in a fight, and so, too, was Jarvis Cocker's unveiling of suburban sordidness more skeevy than Damon Albarn's great escapes and his hipswung swagger cockier than both Gallaghers combined. As older songs like "Mis-Shapes" and "I Spy" attested, the members of Pulp had gotten their noses bloodied by being true outsiders. Their fame was putting their heels into the necks of all that had held them down, and those enemies ran the gamut from art school smirkers (Blur) to lagered-up loudmouths (Oasis).

Most likely, it's the same intelligence that made them stand out from the pack that assured Pulp's triumph would come with a heavy price. The song "Party Hard" is like a telegram from the heart of the rock 'n' roll storm. Finally the velvet rope has been lifted and Cocker was ushered inside, but it's never as pretty as it looked through the glass. "Entertainment can sometimes be hard when the thing that you love is the same thing that's holding you down," he sings. He's ready for a good time, but he's never going to be able to let himself go. "I was having a whale of a time," he explains, "until your Uncle Psychosis arrived. Why do we have to kill ourselves just to prove we're alive?" Of course, the grandest irony of this song is that it was one of the singles off This is Hardcore, and it sounds like the best party song you've ever heard. I'm sure it still blasts from the stereos of chuckleheaded keggers where people don't get that it's the antithesis of what they're chasing.

Of course, Jarvis Cocker is also the antithesis of what we would expect in a popstar. He's gangly and odd and wears thick spectacles. The second track on This is Hardcore is "Dishes," a confession that despite his elevated position, he's just a normal guy who has to wash his own utensils. You can try to make him special, a figure of worship, but he's frighteningly average--"I am not Jesus though I have the same initials." The Christ analogy is not one he comes to lightly, as Cocker happened to be the same age Jesus was when crucified. Again, it's Uncle Psychosis, the doubt from "The Fear," this could be the end for him. This is Hardcore could be the full stop.

Commercially, sure, the record didn't do as well as Different Class (despite reaching #1 in the UK), but who really would have expected it to? The way "Common People" was so ubiquitous, the boost of being part of the Trainspotting pop culture rush, those things could not be duplicated. Artistically, however, there were still new heights to scale. The title track, and the album's second single, is the most involving song about darkness and disaffection that's likely to ever be written. Built around an obscure sample from the Peter Thomas Sound Orchester's "Bolero on the Moon Rocks" (snag it off iTunes, it's worth it) and riddled with a pestering piano track courtesy of Oscar-winning film composer and Art of Noise-member Anne Dudley, "This is Hardcore" (especially as seen in its video) is a Busby Berkeley showstopper that's been slipped a roofie. Like the porn it references, it's a spectacle without feeling, and yet it somehow elicits a reaction. The lyrics are dirty innuendos--"You are hardcore, you make me hard...I like your get-up if you know what I mean...It's what men in stained raincoats pay for"--but all with a clinical, staged delivery. Like the cover model, it's not really living, it's choreographed. That's the threat of it, that it's all being faked, or even worse, so out of one's control as to just be happening by rote. "This is the end of the line I've seen the storyline played out so many times before. Oh that goes in there. Then that goes in there. Then that goes in there. Then that goes in there, & then it's over."* Fame is nothing new, nor is our human drama anyhing new. It's all been outlined. The punchline for Cocker is once more aimed at himself: "Oh, what a hell of a show but what I really want to know: what exactly do you do for an encore? 'Cos this is Hardcore." The last line is the restatement of what he is talking about, referring directly back to the album. The question is the ultimate worry of anyone who has achieved the accolades Pulp has: what next?

The answer and its opposite are both on the album. What makes This is Hardcore a spottier affair than Different Class, arguably the Pulp masterpiece, is where it feels like it's repeating. "TV Movie" is a cross of "Live Bed Show" and the romantic strumming of "Something Changed," while "Sylvia" sounds like "Disco 2001." The similarity of "Glory Days" to "Common People" is so pronounced, that they morphed together on stage. My Japanese edition of This is Hardcore has a bonus disc of Pulp performing at Glastonbury in 1998, and track 9 is "Glory People," an extended finale/medley of the two songs.

Those tracks speak to how hard it is for a band to avoid even slightly repeating itself, while other songs on This is Hardcore speak to where Jarvis could go next, the proverbial encore. "A Little Soul" and "I'm a Man" sit in the middle of the album, and for me, they suggested a new angle for Cocker to explore: an examination of masculinity. The first person narrative of "Soul" suggests that just like fame is inevitable, every man also runs the risk of becoming his father, of falling into the trap of playing the role of man as brute, regardless of how far you try to go to get away from it. "I'm a Man" parodies that masculinity, almost as a precursor to Cocker's misunderstood send-up of jockish industrial music, Relaxed Muscle, several years later. Like "Party Hard," he's duped his listener. Just as you shake your ass to the other song, so do you get into the fist-pumping and testosterone stomp of "I'm a Man." Even "Sylvia" has a little bit of this theme, with Jarvis realizing he was no better than the other boys when he was pursuing Sylvia and apologizing to her.

Interestingly, This is Hardcore finishes at the end of this long, dark tunnel, and Cocker doesn't chicken out when it comes to putting a light there. He actually builds to it with the more "up" songs "Sylvia" ("I know things are gonna get better") and "Glory Days" ("Oh come on make it up yourself - you don't need anyone else"). Even if there is a hint of sarcasm in the latter, as Cocker details how unglorious modern life really is, the song has a feeling of acceptance about it.

It's that acceptance that paves the way for what is next, a song so profound in its epiphany, Cocker even declares, "The Fear is over." The point where this CD began is not the point where it ends. The final song, "The Day After the Revolution," is the culmination of the simplicity of "Glory Days," the realization that life is not the grand drama of "This is Hardcore" or the wild flash of "Party Hard," but it's the tiny things. This revolution didn't happen through action, but through letting go. One night Jarvis went to bed, the next day he woke up free of what ailed him. "Why did it seem so difficult to realise a simple truth? The revolution begins & ends with you," he says, speaking as the man who has been expressing his fear, who has been trying to dry his dishes. "Now all the breakdowns and nightmares look small. Now we decided not to die after all. Because the meek shall inherit absolutely nothing at all. If you stopped being so feeble you could have so much more."

The revolution is a private one, to be sure, but so are all of our anxieties. Even in the face of public scrutiny, as a figure of pop culture, it really just boils down to the individual--even if that individual is five people as a band. So, what began as a brave revelation of mental disease ended as an even braver release. Most other bands would have been scared to ditch the darkness for something much perkier, or to do the real dirty work to sort it all out. "The Day After the Revolution" isn't tacked on or false, it's the actual article. It's by no coincidence, I'm sure, that Pulp's next album was called We Love Life, and the first single was "Sunrise." They really had found a brand new day.

* Song quotes are taken from the lyric book and in most cases, the printed punctuation is preserved.

NOTABLE B-SIDE: One of my favorite Pulp songs is "Razzamatazz," a track that is essentially one long insult written to a stupid girl. In fact, a ton of the quintessential Pulp songs have some of the greatest putdowns ever put in a pop music lyric. For the B-side to "Help the Aged," Jarvis came up with another one, this time attacking the gentleman caller of a roommate, or maybe a lover, it's not entirely clear. All I know is "Laughing Boy" is deliciously cruel (so much so, it inspired a chapter head in The Everlasting). Lines like "If you must kiss those guys, well, you could at least clean your teeth" and when the guy is calling his mother, "If he's so homesick, he could go home," have a white-hot sneer to them. Only someone with as deep of a mean streak as Jarvis Cocker could vocally capture the simultaneous disdain for the girl he is singing to and the boy he is singing about without having to call each one out specifically. In fact, one of the best parts is when he says, "I don't mean to put you down" because he so very much means to. The line that follows, though--"But you've taken everything that I own"--reveals that the song is much deeper than that. Whatever his relationship to the girl, he's emotionally spent, it hasn't gone the way he wanted it to, and he wants out. The instrumentation is limited, a tiny beat suggesting how desolate the reality has become, a slide guitar drawing out the heartbreak. If Cocker is being nasty, it's the sound of an animal striking out in pain.

#26 #25 #24 #23 #22 #21 #20 #19 #18 #17 #16 #15 #14 #13 #12 #11 #10 #9
(The first 26) (Permanent Records iMix 1)

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Current Soundtrack: Jarvis Cocker solo streaming on his MySpace page.

Current Mood: indifferent

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[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich