Tonight: Goofing Off in Harvard Square
October 23, 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Books, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , ,

A quick event plug, should you be looking for something to do in Harvard Square this evening. Hermenaut founder, former Boston Globe “Ideas” section columnist, writer, intellectual flaneur, Jamaica Plain native and general all-around bon homme Joshua Glenn is celebrating the release of the new book he’s co-authored with Mark Kingwell, The Idler’s Glossary. It’s a handy compendium that began life as a piece for the UK publication that is the Bible of the life supine, The Idler. It had a spectral afterlife in the depths of the Hermenaut website for a number of years, and is now full-on, stand-alone book.

When I first read the Idler piece in a copy that I borrowed from the Hermenaut offices, it was a fantastic and much-needed vindication of my itinerant and indecisive life in the early 2000s. Personally, it should be required reading as a counter-balance to a world yammering to normalize the capitalist work ethic as a desireable way of life.

The Idler’s Glossary has received some well-deserved attention from the likes of the New York Times Book Review blog, The Washington Post, Boing Boing, and of course, Brainiac. More coverage here, here, and here. So what am I saying? Go if you have a chance, I’ll see you there. You’ll find me restfully seated in the chair near the window of the second floor lounge. Details below.

WHAT: Release party to celebrate “The Idler’s Glossary”

WHO: Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based author, editor, and former Globe columnist and blogger. Introduction by the philosopher Mark Kingwell; design and illustrations by the cartoonist Seth.

WHEN: Thursday, October 23. 5 pm to 8 pm. FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

WHERE: The offices of The Harvard Advocate, 21 South Street (off JFK), in Harvard Square.

WHY: Wine and beer. No, I mean, because this gorgeous little book is an excellent holiday gift for that quitter, dawdler, or dreamer in your life.

Hope to see you there!


The Rain Parade
May 25, 2008, 6:43 pm
Filed under: L.A., Latinos, Music, Rock | Tags: , , , ,

Sorry for the recent absence from blogging. I spent late April working on completing a class and early May preparing for an important event at work. Then there’s the bout of writer’s block that I’m in the process of shaking off.

This May is loaded with memories. Among the most fleeting yet memorable is that of seeing Ben Knight (of Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde) pull Rain Parade records out of his bag to spin on Mirrored Audio Parkways, a show he co-hosted with Brandt Larson from 1995(?) to 1999 at 7:00 p.m. on Fridays at KXLU in Los Angeles. What stood out were the covers: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip showed colored balloons set against a purple-and grey tinged scene from late-19th or early-20th century; Beyond the Sunset had three neon-colored parakeets perched against a brilliant orange and blue background. Beyond seeing those covers and remembering the band’s name, the Rain Parade didn’t get much of a fair chance with me. It took me years to pick up anything by the band. But lack of means, scarcity, and memory slowly combined to make me want to find out more about those incomplete traces I had come across earlier. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready to listen until a few years ago, when I came upon a live recording of the Rain Parade from 1984, Perfume River, and was promptly taken in by what they were doing.

Their live recordings match up (and sometimes surpass) what you would hear on the original albums. That’s the case with “This Can’t Be Today”, which is why it’s worthwhile to pick up one of their live albums. A video follows, replete with carnival rides (with that amazing rocket/bobsled ride at the beginning), photography, L.A., childhood, dreamscapes, and the band dressed up with fuzzy animal heads (a la Animal Collective, avant la letre).

Alan McGee also seems to have made a visit to the past in his blog at the Guardian, where he wrote of the manner in which The Rain Parade’s approach helped verify his instinct that punk could extend itself into broader musical territory. For McGee, that meant slicing psychedelic rock with a punk rock blade, the impetus for his founding Creation Records. What resulted with the Rain Parade and their Paisley Underground cohorts was a way of introducing psych rock sensibilities of ease and melody into tight, disciplined punk song structures.

If there was any strand of punk rock that The Rain Parade seemed to have had any affinity for, it was the one cast out by Television. It’s a debt the L.A.-based group acknowledges on Perfume River, when they cover “Ain’t That Nothin'” in the middle of their set. They treat Television by softening the abrasive surfaces of Verlaine and Lloyd’s arrangements and allowing the song to take on an ease that the original version lacks. In the end, the cover brings Television a little closer to their own stated influences (Buffalo Springfield, Love) with this cover than in the original version, while respecting the spare economy that Television gives its song. But while the Rain Parade was a major part of a post-punk movement taking root in Los Angeles in the early 80s, their songs hold up well twenty-five years later.

A side-note: A node in the Rain Parade’s extended family is one Hope Sandoval, a Mexican-American from the outskirts of L.A.’s east side who in 1986 made the acquaintance of David Roback (who founded Rain Parade with his brother Steven and guitarist Matt Piucci) through his bandmate Kendra Smith. At that point, Roback had been estranged from the Rain Parade for two years. He had been working on Opal, a project with Smith, who had previously played bass with Dream Syndicate. Roback produced an unreleased record for Sandoval’s band, Going Home. Shortly after, Going Home dissolved and Sandoval joined Opal in a backup role. Kendra Smith’s sudden departure from the band after the release of Happy Nightmare Baby launched Hope Sandoval to a more visible role as lead singer. Opal’s collapse in 1989 resulted in Roback and Sandoval becoming Mazzy Star, a band whose run met with an unforeseen success that McGee succinctly summarizes in his post. No history of Chicanas and Latinos in rock is complete without Hope Sandoval. Jimmy Mendiola, please take note.

Here’s footage of Hope Sandoval fronting Opal in 1988, where the music sounds like a cross between the Rain Parade’s more straightforward material, with hints of the ethereal and reverb-bathed guitar work that would become Mazzy Star’s trademark a few years later.