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February 9, 2012

Book Notes - Josh Bazell - "Wild Thing"

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

Josh Bazell's debut Beat the Reaper was one of my favorite novels of 2009, and its sequel Wild Thingis also impressive. Fast-paced, violent, odd, and clever, this book definitely lives up to its title.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Bazell expertly blends action, farce, and political satire, and his wide-ranging imagination bodes well for the future of the series."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In his own words, here is Josh Bazell's Book Notes music playlist for his novel, Wild Thing:


1. If you need to be revved up. Redd Kross, Phaseshifter / Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Far East Suite / Metric, Fantasies/ Dvorak, Slavonic Dances, with Alfred Scholz conducting the Slovic Philharmonic.

Phaseshifter is the musical version of every writer's third-worst nightmare: the masterpiece you can never repeat. Every writer's second-worst nightmare: no masterpiece in the first place. Every writer's worst nightmare: the day when the only people who can make money from books are piracy sites and amazon.com.

Far East Suite never gets old. I recently met Rudy Lawless, the drummer, on the subway (he was carrying a high-hat, so I asked him what the best exit was for the Brooklyn Academy of Music and we started talking -- I love New York) and he told me he knew Ellington and Strayhorn and that Far East Suite is almost all Strayhorn. So now I when I talk about it I say "by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn" instead of just "by Duke Ellington." I'm not quite ready to go full Strayhorn.

Metric has a fear of being boring that it seems to me all writers should cultivate. (Son Volt and Sleeper Agent are other bands that have it; Sleeper Agent's Celebrasion is particularly hyperactive and hook-laden in a good way.) Plus, just about everyone can benefit from a reminder that if you stumble you'll be eaten alive.

The liner notes to the Scholz Slavonic Dances, which is the best version of the symphony I've heard, quotes a contemporary review as saying it was like an injection of monkey glands into the drawing rooms of Europe. Subsequent research has shown that injecting monkey glands into drawing rooms affects only the smell of the drawing rooms, but I agree with the sentiment.


2. If you need be revved down. Cowboy Junkies, The Trinity Session / Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball / Ben Lee, Breathing Tornadoes.

How many times have I listened to The Trinity Sessions? On how many formats, yo. If you somehow don't have this album, you'd best fix that.

Althought Emmylou Harris is one of the worst people on Earth to get caught trying to sing like, this album is indispensible.

Ben Lee is just good.


3. If you need to feel like you're losing your mind. Jimi Hendrix, Winterland (Reissue).

You know how every ten years you decide that the record reviews in Rolling Stone magazine can't possibly be as bad as you remember, so you buy something on their recommendation? For me this time around it was Winterland (Reissue). Rolling Stone says "The four-CD box Winterland is culled from six Jimi Hendrix Experience shows at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom, recorded over three days in October 1968," and gives it five stars. Done: I love Hendrix.

What would have been nice, or at least professional, for the reviewer to have mentioned is that while the four discs do have significant differences, they're all variations of the same set list. That's right: in 36 tracks, "Hey Joe," "Foxy Lady," and "Lover Man" show up three times each, and "Purple Haze" and "Red House" show up four times each. (Not all of the tracks were recorded at Winterland, either, but I don't give a shit about that.) If you listen to all four discs on some kind of shuffle mode, songs you think you're familiar with will suddenly go in directions in you weren't expecting or else just end, making you feel insane. What's worse, Hendrix's playing on all four discs is so perfect, and the things he says between songs and in the accompanying interview so charming, that you won't be able to stop listening to the fucking thing.


4. If you need to be reminded of Europe. Various.

I recently moved back to the U.S. after a couple of years of living and working in Spain, so I find myself listening to lot of music I listened to there. Some of it is by bands I'd never heard of before, like Mesh (try Fragmente), or Sono ("All Those City Lights"), but a lot of it is bands that just don't get played as often or as deeply in the U.S., like the Cure (The Cure), Nick Cave (Let Love In), Jens Lekmann (Oh You're So Silent, Jens) or Pulp (Different Class).
Your results may vary.


5. If you need to listen to some Rolling Stones. Which sometimes you do.

My favorite 22 Rolling Stones songs, test marketed on various dogs and then presented chronologically:

From Out of Our Heads: "Play With Fire."
From Let it Bleed: "Gimme Shelter."
From Black and Blue: "Hot Stuff" and "Fool to Cry."
From Some Girls: "Miss You," "Just My Imagination," "Some Girls," "Before They Make Me Run," "Beast of Burden," "Shattered."
From Emotional Rescue: "Dance (Pt 1)," "Send it to Me," "Down in the Hole," "Indian Girl," "Emotional Rescue," "She's So Cold," and "All About You."
From Tattoo You: "Worried About You," "Tops," "Heaven," "No Use in Crying," "Waiting on a Friend."


6. If you need to seem deeper than you are. Alan Hovhaness, Music of Alan Hovhaness, conducted by Rudolph Werthen.

I only listen to this album when I'm trying to impress someone with how esoteric my taste in music is. But every time I do I remember how much I like it.


Josh Bazell and Wild Thing links:

the author's website
excerpt from the book

Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review
Rhapsody in Books review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Beat the Reaper
Lit Reactor interview with the author
Mulholland Books interview with the author
National Post guest posts by the author
The Nook Blog guest post by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

List of Online "Best Books of 2011" Lists
List of 2011 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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