Daily Postings
literature : word choice

Three Poems

by Melissa Barrett

Mother Is Only One Letter From

Homer, the father of culture. And yet he was never born.
And yet he gave birth to a hero who wanted to go home.
Home. Two letters. Let her journey, too. Culture, one letter from ulcer.
A moth laying eggs on your good suit. On the suitor’s leather.
The books on motherhood change every year, but they all say there will be blood.
Saddam Hussein popularized the expression “the mother of all —— ”
when he referred to the Gulf War. The first one. The second was his redheaded stepson.
All wars create gulfs, and all wars are motherly, since from death comes life.
Cf. forest fires. They’re part of a forest’s natural ecology.
From death comes heat. From heat comes tea. Find our way back to this scene,
carrying a knife, a camera, a book of myths.
That’s Adrienne Rich. My children cause me the most exquisite suffering.
Poor Penelope. It’s not easy being the first cock tease, the original single mom.
She suffered, too. Molly Bloom said yes I said yes I will Yes. What hyperbole.
And Penelope, No. Please. Smothered by the suitors, the rumors, fidelity,
a son. T is for Telemachus, two letters from machetes. 

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art : interview

Lukas Marxt

by Julian Ross

Landscape, video, and the Anthropocene.

In one static shot, Lukas Marxt’s Reign of Silence (2013) observes a motorboat swirl in circles on the Arctic sea as concentric circles of ripples spread outward. While it lasts only a moment, the central theme that occupies Marxt is made visible: dialogue between human and geological existence. As he journeys to the far corners of the earth, the Austrian artist lets so-called “deep time”—the unimaginably vast timescale that describes geological processes—intersect with what humans consider to be “real time.”

Amsterdam’s biannual Sonic Acts Festival—now in its sixteenth incarnation—is built around such encounters. After all, we are in the age of the Anthropocene, an epoch when human activities have a fundamental impact on the global ecosystem. For four days from February 26 to March 1, 2015, Sonic Acts addressed these concerns with an ambitious program of performances, audio-visual installations, an academic conference, and an outdoor sound installation. Invited by this festival, Lukas Marxt gave a presentation on High Tide (2013) and Captive Horizon (2014), two of his video works, from among many recent projects, and those upon which the following conversation focuses.

Based in Belgium, Lukas Marxt has works currently on view at two exhibitions—“Landscape in Motion: Cinematic Visions of an Uncertain Tomorrow” at Kunsthaus Graz and “Perception of Landscape Today” at KIT in Düsseldorf.

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music : interview

75 Dollar Bill

by Cal Lyall

Melody, improvisation, and a plywood box.

Stepping into 75 Dollar Bill's practice space in Greenpoint is a bit forbidding at first. The building has a hermetic, industrial flavor compounded by the taste of wet paint. The elevator ride lands you in a bald hallway that echoes your words as you step out. Their studio, like the other rooms in the building, is guarded by a thick and anonymous metal door.

The other side of this door serves up a marked contrast—a snug den of strewn percussion instruments, keyboards in various states of disrepair, a makeshift recording studio with some fine trimmings, an old Japanese guitar, and a large plywood box. This is where Che Chen and Rick Brown, the two halves of 75 Dollar Bill, shape their sound.

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art : interview

Dana Yahalomi/Public Movement

by Chen Tamir

The personal and the political, accompanied by a few drinks.

Public Movement is a research and action body spearheaded by Dana Yahalomi. The Israel-based group investigates the creation of national, social, and political identities through public choreographies and the way they are performed in public space. The group, usually in uniform, began by reenacting commemorative ceremonies, formal exercises from the youth scouts, or emergency procedures (life saving exercises, such as rescue from a pile of debris) in public space, in order to illustrate the choreography of collective civilian life and how it is ingrained in the cultural fabric. Not shying away from conflict, Public Movement tailors its works—or actions, as they call them—to specific social and geographic contexts, creating temporary zones of discomfort, arenas in which viewers are meant to feel ill at ease and react to a catalyst.

Public Movement came to international attention with their participation in the 2012 New Museum Triennial that showcased SALONS: Birthright Palestine?, a series of performative public debates staged as congressional sessions, summit meetings, visioning sessions, diplomatic consultations, secret gatherings, and demonstrations. The salons focused on Birthright Israel, the sponsored trips to Israel for Jewish youth, as a model through which to explore Israel’s relationship to the American Jewish diaspora and the right of return, and, by extension, to consider Palestinian diaspora and nationhood by asking what a Birthright Palestine could be. Similar tactics of choreographed public debates were deployed for Rebranding European Muslims at the 7th Berlin Biennial, and at the Steirischer Herbst festival, in Austria, for which marketing firms pitched campaigns to improve the public image of Muslims in Europe.

I met Yahalomi at a Tel Aviv bar and got her a little drunk while probing about her service in the Israeli army as a psychological profiler; her reorganization of Public Movement, after the co-founder of the group left; the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel; and her recent and upcoming projects.

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literature : word choice

The Cow

by Hernán Ronsino

I hear about it from my old man. He calls Buenos Aires early in the morning and tells me, in a weary voice, that Pajarito Lernú has died. He says that it happened last night. They found the body in a ditch, on the dirt track to the cemetery. Two policemen came in the middle of the night to give him the news and ask him to pick up the body—one of the cops was the boy from Cejas and he seemed drunk. Two idiots, my old man says, at that hour. I threw them out. But when he went back to his bedroom he was hit in the chest by a wave of unbearable anguish. So he stayed there, waiting for the light to filter in through the window so he could call me. Then he says that he needs me. The last thing he tells me is that a few hours before he died Pajarito Lernú gave me a cow. It’s a wounded animal, he says. He stole it from Negro Soto.

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film : interview

Elisabeth Subrin

by Gary M. Kramer

“All evidence is wrong. It’s distressed—just like memory.”

The Art of the Real series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in collaboration with the Video Data Bank, is presenting a program of shorts by filmmaker/artist Elisabeth Subrin on April 11, 2015. A panel featuring Subrin, Thomas Beard of Light Industry, and writer/musician Johanna Fateman will follow screenings of Lost Tribes and Promised Lands (2010), Sweet Ruin (2008), and Shulie (1997).

Subrin’s work is all about appropriation, reenactment, and recreation; in these three works, the director takes extant elements—images, a script, and a film—and transforms them, layering of texture and meaning while raising provocative questions about gender, identity, memory, and representation.

Lost Tribes and Promised Lands features a series of side-by-side comparisons of houses and stores displaying American flags in her Williamsburg neighborhood in 2001, just after 9/11, and then those same locations in 2008 to show how things have changed over time.

Sweet Ruin also involves side-by-side juxtaposition. Actress Gaby Hoffmann plays two roles, “T.” and “The Girl,” from the script of an unmade Antonioni film entitled Technically Sweet. Subrin films the characters—originally intended to be played by Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider—both in the jungle and in a domestic setting, addressing issues of gender and femininity.

Shulie is a recreation of a student documentary film about feminist activist and artist Shulamith Firestone, the author of The Dialetic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution.

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literature : interview

Georgi Gospodinov

by Jeffrey Zuckerman

Empathy in literature, public reminiscence, and the long half-life of socialism.

Here we have an author whose “immodest desire is to mold a novel of beginnings, a novel that keeps starting, promising something, reaching page seventeen and then starting again.” An author who incorporates flies, pseudonyms, minotaurs, and nested memories into his unclassifiable books, and who has hoped critics might say, “this novel’s good, because nothing’s ever certain in it.”

Georgi Gospodinov’s astonishing debut, Natural Novel, was published in 1995, just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and immediately went on to be translated into twelve languages. On the face of it, the novel described a marriage’s dissolution, with a backdrop of Bulgaria in the ’80s—but its pages contain more: a chapter about the language of toilets, a consideration of whether the alphabet’s letters have sexual characteristics, a bit about Linnaeus and whether man should be the measure of all things…

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film : interview

Tsai Ming-liang

by Gary M. Kramer

Creation, bathrooms, and Buddhism.

Tsai Ming-liang is one of the masters of contemporary world cinema. His films are distinguished by long takes, minimal dialogue, and the presence of actor Lee Kang-sheng—the director’s muse—in a key role. The filmmaker, who was born in Malaysia but works mostly in Taiwan (and occasionally France), emphasizes voyeurism, alienation, and isolation. He returns again and again to a handful of resonant metaphors and motifs; the dripping and pooling of rain and water is nearly a constant presence in his work, and it frequently represents love or despair, sometimes both at once. Like these images of flowing water, the characters in Tsai’s films throb with repressed sexual desire. They are seen cruising public toilets, or in his 1997 feature The River, a gay bathhouse, and both masturbation and isolated sexual encounters feature heavily in his work.

Though erotically charged and austere, Tsai’s films can also be very funny. In his second feature Vive L’Amour (1994) a woman’s effort to kill an insect in an apartment provides an amusing bit of silent comedy, and in his most audacious film, The Wayward Cloud (2005), Lee is dressed up (or more accurately, mostly undressed) as a dancing penis for one vivid musical number.

What is most palpable about the director’s work though is his ability to communicate tremendous emotion through meditative, static shots—either fixed on a character’s face, or on a landscape or room. Following a screening of Goodbye, Dragon Inn at the Toronto Film Festival, a viewer asked Tsai about the lengthy shot of an empty theater in the film. “Did you feel nothing?” he responded, receiving a round of applause. Not everyone will experience his singular cinematic magic, but those spellbound by his work are converts for life.

In addition to the recurring images of water, melons, and bathrooms, there is the near constant presence of the actor Lee Kang-sheng. Lee’s characters are almost always named Hsiao-kang, a name that seems to be a merging of the filmmaker's and actor’s in the fictional world of the cinema. Unlike Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel, it's not clear that Hsiao-kang is the same person across multiple films, though he does overlap in the features What Time Is It There? and in The Wayward Cloud, which are linked by the short film, The Skywalk Is Gone (2002). What is most consistent about Lee’s work in these films, apart from his character’s name, is the astonishing variety of his performances. In dual roles as a homeless man and a paralyzed man in I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006), Lee is remarkably expressive and inexpressive, respectively. In Stray Dogs (2013) his unnamed character stoically stands outside in downpour, conveying the incredible efforts of will required of him to protect his children.

Tsai’s first film Rebels of the Neon God, from 1992, will receive a belated theatrical release in New York at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Quad Cinema on April 10, 2015. The opportunity to see Rebels, an auspicious feature debut and one of Tsai’s most conventional films, on the big screen is well worth the wait. On the same day, the Museum of the Moving Image begins its comprehensive Tsai Ming-liang retrospective, another remarkable opportunity to survey the incredible breadth of the this unique artist.

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music : interview

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix

by Tobias Carroll

Guillaume de Machaut meets Bone Thugs-N-Harmony through black metal.

Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is fond of discussing his music on a theoretical level. Said music, most frequently heard in the band Liturgy, has, in the past, fallen within the realm of black metal, with harshly screamed vocals and shredding, unholy guitars. Liturgy’s 2011 album, Aesthethica, prompted heated debates in black metal circles, while attracting no small amount of critical acclaim.

Since then, Liturgy has contracted to a two-piece, then expanded back out to the same lineup that recorded Aesthethica. Their new album, The Ark Work, finds them shifting toward a host of new styles. For one, Hunt-Hendrix’s vocals have shifted toward more melodic territory. And, while the group’s sound remains magnificently heavy, that heaviness is less traditionally metal; Hunt-Hendrix has cited both hip-hop and centuries-old compositions as influences.

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film : interview

Olivier Assayas

by Alex Zafiris

Time, sharing pain, and theater versus cinema.

The Clouds of Sils Maria is French filmmaker Olivier Assayas’ fifteenth full-length feature. It stars the unlikely pairing of Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart—an immediate clue that the external realities of the film matter just as much as their fictional counterparts. Binoche is Maria Enders, a famous actress in her late forties, who is going through a divorce, and selling her apartment. Stewart is Valentine, a twenty-something, smart, and jaded personal assistant. Their co-dependency is revealed within the first five minutes. On their way to Switzerland by train to honor Wilhelm Melchior, the lauded playwright, and Maria’s mentor, Valentine learns that he has died. When she breaks the news, Maria looks at her with shock and fear, eyes searching for support.

Melchior’s death throws many things into perspective, not least the public’s perception of celebrity, time, and nostalgia. Maria is asked by an up-and-coming director, Klaus Diesterweg (Lars Eidinger), to perform in a revival of Melchior’s Maloja Snake––the play that made her famous at age eighteen––but in the role of the older woman. She accepts hesitantly, and begins to rehearse her lines with Valentine, whose understanding of the text has a hard reality that Maria finds frustrating and upsetting. Their friendship begins to mirror the tension and sexual ambiguity of the characters, and they start to fall out of sync. Before they meet the Hollywood starlet Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), who is to play the younger woman, Maria Googles her. Valentine doesn’t need to: she’s aware of the petulant public appearances, unstable relationships, and silly Tinseltown movies, but interprets Jo-Ann’s persona as complex and subversive. Maria is amusingly unconvinced, but her patronizing rejection of Valentine’s reverence masks pride, and an awareness that she is disconnected from the contemporary world.

Assayas’ own presence as writer-director filters through the fictional Melchior. He co-wrote 1985’s Rendez-Vous with filmmaker André Téchiné, which launched Binoche’s career. (The story followed a young woman pursuing her dream to become an actress in Paris.) They worked together again in his 2008 film Summer Hours, when she reportedly encouraged him to write a script based on their shared history. His response was to make a film based on the passing of time, self-perception, and acceptance. He chose Switzerland, he says, because there is “a unique sense of a landscape that is inhabited by ghosts. You feel the presence of the artists and writers who have spent time there at the end of the 19th century—Nietzsche, Anne Marie Schwarzenbach, Segantini, Rilke. It is so untouched, it is very preserved. You sense the presence of the past.”

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literature : word choice

Two Poems

by Graeme Bezanson


Music parts to reveal the famous antiquity, a fine lace
Of gasoline in the tapwater, an anomaly of pinkish light.

See now how the cheek of South America pulls away from
Our kisses. My wife, the compound-adjectived,

Dappled by a net of starlight, hands in a deathless
Watermelon: Everything you find in the trough of a U

Is rising: Peregrine insects, sap in the fir tree, imperative
Sentences containing just one or two words. Or you might have

No views on the rolling table, borrowing where it’s cheap to borrow,
Sleeping where the beds are huge. This is why we’re in your

Wheelhouse, looking for sapphires. Refracted by treetops.
I can’t tell if I’m the flotilla or another wayward curl.

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: literature

The BOMB Guide to AWP

There are approximately ten million AWP-related events in Minneapolis. To help winnow them down to a manageable dozen or so, here are our picks for the best readings, panels, and parties. (Note that we chose not to include private events.)

Stop by the BOMB table to say hello and grab a print version of our AWP Guide.

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art : interview

On the Paintings of David Lynch

by Coleen Fitzgibbon Will Simmons

Masculinity, melodrama, and the Black Lodge.

David Lynch: The Unified Field, curated by Robert Cozzolino and on view this past winter at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, showcased approximately ninety works, mostly paintings and drawings, ranging from the filmmaker's student days at PAFA to the present. As the first major museum exhibition of Lynch’s work, it gives us an incredible opportunity to consider the breadth of the artist’s contribution to a variety of art historical discourses.

Filmmaker and multimedia artist Coleen Fitzgibbon and critic William J. Simmons visited The Unified Field to discuss issues of medium specificity, historical influence, gender, violence, and artistic responsibility. The conversation left them with more questions than answers—a sign, to be sure, of a provocative exhibition.

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film : interview

Kornél Mundruczó

by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

Wild dogs, revolution, and humanism.

Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and played at this year’s New Directors/New Films festival, is a Hungarian fairy tale about a rag-tag gang of dogs who rise up and start a revolution. In the film, thirteen-year-old Lili (Zsofia Psotta) lives in a society that taxes owners of mixed breed dogs. Because of the extra hassle, she is forced by her father to abandon Hagen, her loyal mutt. Hagen, initially desperate to find Lili again, fights his way through the brutal city streets, in a journey of metamorphosis and self-discovery.

Hagen, and the hearty mutts with which he teams up, are hunted by dogcatchers. These canines represent the downtrodden, and any group who faces racial or class oppression. Both Lili and Hagen are wide-eyed innocents, while the authority figures surrounding them are one-dimensional and sadistic. Hagen’s story demonstrates how easily a gentle soul can be corrupted by repeated abuse, turning it violent and angry in protest.

Two dogs were chosen to play Hagen, and many more were trained, and used in the film’s epic pack scenes, during which hundreds of canines rip through the city, terrorizing pedestrians and reaping their revenge on their tormentors. Nothing comparable to these dog army scenes has ever been seen before on film. The production used only mixed breeds from Hungarian shelters, and no animals were harmed in the making of the movie. In fact, the production’s talented team of dog trainers obeyed guidelines required by animal welfare organizations. White God is certified by Hungary’s White Cross Animal Protection Society.

I spoke with Mundruczó about how he got Oscar-worthy performances from his mongrel cast, what he learned working with the animals, and the poignant political symbolism at the heart of his film.

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art : interview

Mira Friedlaender

by Sara Roffino

Unpacking relationships.

From September 2 through October 26, 2014, Mira Friedlaender was in residency at Recess in SoHo. Friedlaender’s mother, the artist Bilge Civelekoglu Friedlaender, was born in Turkey in 1934 and died there in 2000. She spent the majority of her life, however, working in Boston and Philadelphia. After her death, her daughter was left with a storage unit in Philadelphia, full of work, supplies, notebooks, and other ephemera from Civelekoglu Friedlaender’s thirty-year career. Friedlaender moved the contents of the storage unit to Brooklyn, where she lives, but did not open them until she transported the storage unit to Recess—filling almost the entirety of the storefront residency’s space with boxes—and undertook the excavation of her mother’s storage as her own conceptual piece, Half of What’s There, examining what it means to make, to inherit, and to own art.

A month after the boxes had been sorted, their contents documented, repacked, and returned to their ten-by-ten-foot home in Downtown Brooklyn, Friedlaender and I met inside the storage unit to discuss the public processing she had just performed.

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art : portfolio
music : interview

Jana Hunter

by Gary Canino

Synths, nostalgia, and anti-artist capitalist ideology.

On her band Lower Dens's new album, Escape from Evil, singer and songwriter Jana Hunter has carefully considered the history of the use—across a broad spectrum of popular culture—of synthesizers to elicit a dramatic emotional response in the listener. Escape from Evil is an album about the “big” themes: Human connection, suicide, romance, death, love, addiction, you name it. “I Am The Earth” features some of the same sounds as Vangelis’s famous Blade Runner soundtrack, and “Electric Current” buzzes with some of the same jilted defensiveness of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.”

Though the band’s work has always evoked a 1980s aesthetic, this new album is a distinct left-turn from previous, more shoe-gaze based efforts, Twin-Hand Movement and Nootropics. In the first single, “To Die in LA” (name-checking the William Friedkin film of the same name) Hunter proclaims, “I wish I could count on you to be mine.” It’s a song about falling for the exploding-yellow-roman-candle type. When the anxious deep freeze of the verse’s synth line melts into the highway race of the chorus, the tragedy has already passed the song’s muse by, much like William Petersen’s character in the Friedkin film. I spoke with Jana Hunter about this new direction, her updated opinions on Spotify, and the future.

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literature : word choice

from Where the Bird Sings Best

by Alejandro Jodorowsky

In those good old days, Salvador Arcavi, the first of a long series of Salvadors—traditionally all his descendants had the same name—though respectful of the Holy Book, decided he was not to going to be a prisoner to its letters. Following the prophecy Jacob made to his son (“Your hand will be on the neck of your enemy. Your father’s sons will bow down to you. Judah is a young lion.”), he became a lion tamer. His way to draw nearer to God was to study those beasts and to live an itinerant life, giving performances in which his union with his animals surpassed the limits of reality and reached the miraculous. The lions jumped through flaming hoops, balanced on the tight rope, danced on their hind legs, climbed up on one another to form a pyramid, spelled out the name of a spectator by choosing wooden letters, and, the greatest test, accepted within their jaws without hurting it the head of the tamer, then dragged him through the sawdust to draw a six-pointed star.

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film : interview

Oscar Ruiz Navia

by Gary M. Kramer

Graffiti, politics, and tracking shots.

Oscar Ruiz Navia is a cinephile who never attended a proper film school. Part of a new generation of Colombian filmmakers, he developed his interest in film on his own, and in 2006 founded Contravía (“Another Way,” in English), a production company to develop art house films in his country, where there is not a huge film industry. His first feature, Crab Trap (2010), won several awards, including the FIPRESCI prize at the Berlin Film Festival that year.

The director, who spends his time teaching and in movie clubs in Colombia, took four years to make Los Hongos, which will play at the New Directors/New Films series at MoMA/Lincoln Center on March 28 and 29.

The film is a scrappy comedy-drama about graffiti taggers in Santiago de Cali, Colombia. Ruiz Navia affectionately portrays the lives of its two leads, Ras (Jovan Alexis Marquinez), who lives with his religious mother, and Calvin (Calvin Buenaventura), who cares for his ailing grandmother. Mostly plotless, Los Hongos unfolds like a series of encounters for its characters and the audience. The film depicts the teens biking and skateboarding through the city, meeting up with a tagging crew to create a mural on a popular bridge, and becoming activists rebelling against authority and social injustice.

Inspired by Arab Spring videos, and the collective power of street art, Ras and Calvin soon realize the ramifications of their art and their actions as they have a series of run-ins with the police.

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art : oral history

Terry Adkins

by Calvin Reid

BOMB’s Oral History Project documents the life stories of New York City’s African American artists.

Download this Oral History as a PDF, EPUB, or MOBI file for your ereader.

Part 1

Calvin Reid Where did I first meet you? It seems like I knew you and then I didn’t know you and then I did know you. Were you at the Studio Museum in Harlem?

Terry Adkins I think we may have met at Howard University in printmaking somehow, or we vibed next to each other. I went to Fisk and I came to Howard to take a summer course with Winston Kennedy.

CR Yeah. That was my printmaking teacher.

TA So we had that in common. And when we both came to New York City around ’82—

CR I got here ’81. I remember the exact date. June 7, 1981.

TA That is how I knew you.

CR And you were originally from DC.

TA So we have that in common.

CR Well hey, you know, I have always liked your work. I wrote something when you had pieces at the Whitney’s Phillip Morris annex. That must have been in the ’90s sometime.

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music : interview

Frederick Michael St. Jude

by Gary Canino

Reflecting on a lost, post-apocalyptic, maximalist masterpiece of a concept album.

Frederick Michael St. Jude is a renaissance man. In addition to producing a handful of world-class rock albums, he’s appeared on Miami Vice, written a sci-fi horror novel called Dark and Insidious, and toured in a variety of road bands. He’s even written children’s books. Here Am I, an album of material from the late 1970s, was released on Drag City in 2013. A collection of eclectic songs running the gamut of late ’70s styles and a showcase for the Florida native’s idiosyncratic voice, the record features a vocal delivery worthy of Aladdin Sane, backed up by a disco-era Wrecking Crew.

But then the ’80s came along, and nothing could have prepared the world for St. Jude’s second album Gang War, an all-out FM radio assault. Indeed, the world was not prepared. The record was never released, and sank into oblivion. Two tracks nearly hit or eclipse the ten-minute mark, double guitar leads squeal in the spirit of Moore and Gorham, and Gary Redente’s powerhouse drumming propels the jams like a fan powering an airboat through the gator-infested Everglades. The sheer insanity of the sound makes it easy to over look the fact that Gang War is a concept album about rebuilding the world in a post-apocalyptic Brooklyn, with nothing but a Rolling Stones record to guide society. Luckily, Drag City has melted away the carbonite in which Gang War was so carefully encased, and sent St. Jude’s maximalist masterpiece back into a world that had become better prepared to grapple with it.

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literature : from the editor

BOMB's Biennial Fiction Contest

Our fiction contest returns. We are pleased to announce this year's judge is Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be? and Ticknor.

The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and publication in BOMB Magazine’s literary supplement, First Proof. All submissions will be read anonymously.

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