Archive for September, 2009

the family monster: a panel from the vaults

Going through The Family Monster Archive, I discovered that this panel could pretty much stand on its own.

I don’t think of myself as a single-panel cartoonist. This is as close as it gets.

Friday Robots

This guy controls the power of the wind. Don’t cross him. Wind is the cause of 98.4% of the world’s heartache.

birds are birds IN COLOR

Thanks to my favorite cousin, the drawing in this post now has COLOR.

Those birds have never looked better.

Wilco (the album): a belated review

wilco-the-album-frontWhat is Wilco? Wilco is Jeff Tweedy, the bass player, John Stirratt, and a revolving door of other musicians. Since each album has a slightly different lineup of players, Jeff and John’s job is to keep a consistency going. They’ve managed to do this partly because Jeff is a great songwriter. It is his lyrics that are the through line for Wilco. I venture to say Jeff Tweedy is the greatest living songwriter who is not Bob Dylan.

Wilco can be sonically adventurous. At their best, they take the same path that the Beatles took four decades ago: their love of playing and experimenting shows through on each track, making the albums as much fun to hear the fiftieth time as they were the first.

Which is why I was excited to hear the band’s seventh album, Wilco (the album).

Now that I’ve completely sabotaged any credibility by comparing Wilco to the Beatles, I’m going to make another comparison. Wilco (the album) is a late-period self-titled album in the same way that The White Album (The Beatles) was for the Beatles. Unlike The White Album, The Album is a more focused, joyful affair. The White Album did indeed have its happy songs, but overall the tone was much more somber. The white cover stood for emptiness rather than light, and while the Beatles were not nihilistic, they took that sprawling double album to question the meaning of just about every musical genre and in the process, life itself.

The Album, in contrast, has a camel on the cover. On the back, the band throws that camel a birthday party.wilco-the-album-back

If I graphed the album, it would look something like this:wilco-the-album-graph

Like Sky Blue Sky before it, The Album doesn’t mess around with sound effects or eerie interludes. It just sounds like a band playing together. The layered sound of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born is not evident here. This is music meant to be played live.

The Album is also not a return to anybody’s roots. This is not Uncle Tupelo. If anything, Jeff Tweedy the folk singer asserts himself, while Wilco the studio band takes a backseat.
Wilco (the song) kicks things off, justifying the earnest silliness of the birthday camel on the cover.
Deeper Down is one of Jeff’s signature songs about music and the music business. One of his recurring themes in songwriting is the strange dichotomy of making art and selling art. Of course he’s for making a living; he doesn’t see the point in making something nobody wants to hear. But he also wants to say something, to be meaningful. Why those two things rarely overlap is a question for another post, but if you want Jeff’s answer you should listen to this, and to The Late Greats from A Ghost is Born, and to What Light from Sky Blue Sky.

You and I is a straightforward love song, a duet sung with Feist. It’s got some neat lyrics. I like it because it’s cute and I’m a sucker for that stuff.

You Never Know is, right now, my favorite song on the album. Upbeat and full of Tweedy witticisms. It doesn’t get better than this in a four minute song.

Solitaire sounds like it belongs in the quiet middle section of A Ghost is Born – right between the song about bees and the other song about trucks, or whatever. Yeah, Jeff is definitely clean now.

I could go on about The Album, but this is probably enough. It’s always great to have another Wilco album in the world, and even better when that album is a good one. The Album is one of the good ones. Go listen.

10 years of Sambora

This month our household celebrates a very special anniversary. 10 years ago this month, A. adopted our cat, Sambora.
Sambora (seen here in a file photo) has lived with my wife longer than I have, making me the interloper. Yet somehow I have been welcomed into the household, mostly by the cat but also, to a slightly lesser extent, by my wife.

There have been a number of milestones in Sambora’s life with A. A few of them, for your reading pleasure:

When A. first adopted Sambora, the cat came down with a little cold. This required A. to give Sambora medicine. Have you ever given a cat medicine? You have to sit on the cat, wrench its mouth open, jam a dropper into the cat’s mouth and dispense a few drops of liquid. This, according to the vet, will make the cat feel better. For better or worse, A. has said this was the time in which she first bonded with the cat.

Sambora used to live in an apartment with a balcony. There was a little cat door so she could sit outside on the balcony. This balcony twice became the scene to grisly bird murders. We’re not saying who the murderer was, but once A. came home to find part of a bird carcass inserted into the VHS player (presumably for safekeeping). Is it possible for a murderer to return to the scene of the crime if she never really left it?

The Ballad of Amazing Larry. This occurred when I was living with A. and Sambora.

Most recently, of course, was the journey Sambora (along with the two of us) made from the high desert of Colorado to the low wetlands of Oregon. Sambora, to her credit, did most of the driving, all hopped up on organic espresso and amphetamine sulphate. She was our Neal Cassady.

These days Sambora can usually be found in the big window overlooking the neighborhood street or curled up asleep on the bed. Don’t be fooled by this bucolic setting, however; Sambora lives life hard and fast. As another Neil once said: “Hey hey my my, rock and roll can never die.” He was singing about Sambora the cat.

Happy 10th, Sammy.