May 24, 2006

Recent consumption

If I'm going to maintain my flimsily constructed self-image as a global tastemaker, I suppose it behooves me to hold forth on some entertainment products I've been enjoying.

My expectations were simultaneously high and low for the new Paul Simon CD, Surprise, a collaboration with Brian Eno. Many of my all-time favorite albums are Eno projects (Talking Heads' Remain in Light; David Bowie's Low, Heroes, and Lodger; My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with David Byrne; Wrong Way Up with John Cale), but both Eno's and Simon's most recent albums were pretty crappy, so this could have gone either way. Fortunately, Surprise came out pretty well -- the sound is great, and more importantly, it's not half-assed. The album isn't perfect -- there are some lazy rhymes, and a little too much talking about god for my taste; the melody of one bridge section reappears five songs later; and after four excellent tracks to start with, the album does get a little soft in the middle now. (But then, I do have a short little span of attention.) But overall, a success. Favorite lyric: "I remember once in August 1993, I was wrong, and I could be wrong again."

Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens died recently, in case you didn't know. It took a while for the Go-Betweens to click for me, but once they did, it didn't take me long to buy up pretty much their entire discography (although I'm still behind on the solo albums from the years before the band reunited). Anyway, while I was reading various remembrances of Grant and his work, I ran across several mentions of a side project I'd managed to miss completely -- Jack Frost, a collaboration with Steve Kilbey (of the Church) -- which had released two albums. The CDs are out of print, but not hard to find used in one place or another, and they're excellent; it turns out McLennan's songwriting adapts very well to a rockier, more psychedelic sound. I've been listening to at least one of them pretty much every day since they arrived in the mail.

As for non-audio entertainment, I've been solving The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games, one of the best puzzle books I've seen in ages. An acrostic in which every answer is a word from a New Yorker cartoon caption, always integral to the punchline, and possible to deduce? If you've never constructed a puzzle, you might not realize how daunting a task this is, but let me assure you that you should be impressed by it. The word puzzles are all elegantly constructed (as one can always expect from Puzzability), and even the inevitable match-the-caption-to-the-cartoon puzzles are cleverly done. Highly recommended.

Posted by Francis at 07:33 PM

Oooh, nice way to work the lyrics in. :-)

Posted by: Erin at May 25, 2006 08:17 AM

Thanks so much for the book recommendation. It's been years since I found a decent book of clever, hard puzzles more interesting than plain old crosswords. Even cryptics bore me now if they aren't funny. I wish there'd been a second volume of "Games Magazine Variety Crossword Puzzles, Volume 1."

Posted by: kostia at May 25, 2006 03:38 PM
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