I guess it’s impossible to write about God Help the Girl, the new musical film written and directed by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, without weighing in on the larger aesthetic it embodies, what some have even called a movement: Twee. But I’m going to try, as we’ve tread that ground a number of times already. Suffice it to say, if ice cream cones (with pirouette cookies), Left Banke singles, and coonskin caps turn your stomach, you probably won’t be able to get beyond the window-dressing on this one. As the opening line of The Vulture review put it,…
The sage’s brilliantly titled new record, Popular Problems, comes out on Tuesday, but NPR is streaming the whole thing this week. Of particular note, thus far, is the Exodus-leaning “Born in Chains”, to say nothing of lead “single” “Almost Like the Blues”, the words of which were printed in verse form in The New Yorker a few weeks ago. The final verse stopped me in my tracks:
There is no G-d in heaven
And there is no Hell below
So says the great professor
Of all there is to know
But I’ve had the invitation
That a sinner can’t refuse
And it’s almost like salvation
It’s almost like the blues
That didn’t take long! This review comes to us from Nathan Hart:
The biggest surprise of the launch of U2’s new album isn’t the way it was released—it’s how good the songs are.
It has been five long years since No Line On The Horizon, an album with some great moments but one which also revealed a band in artistic decline. In those five years, they knew they were one more misstep away from irrelevance. The reports weren’t hopeful: a new producer here, a scrapped album concept there. They seemed “stuck in a moment that they can’t get out of”, finally crushed…
In honor of the surprise release of the new (free!) U2 record, Songs of Innocence, we bring you a reflection on the band from Andrew Barber:
Weird Al Yankovic made me a U2 fan. I’m not proud of it. But it is true.
Every now and then our local library would sell some of their less popular stuff for cheap. On a whim, my dad picked up a cassette for one dollar. You know, one of those small square things you sometimes had to wind with your finger. A single track of the orchestral score from the 1995 movie Batman Forever was…
Episode 175: Does the Name Grimsby Do Anything to You?
Ever since 2007 I related to Eliot’s succinct line, “Old men ought to be explorers”. Not that I was exactly an old man, but the line gave me hope. Notwithstanding the end of something, there was something hopeful I could still do. I could try to understand.
Could I become the first man on the moon, like ‘Major Franklin Grimsby’ in Rod Serling’s short story? If I were, would anyone care? (“Does Anyone Know What Time It Is?” – Chicago) Well, at least I’ve tried to try. Lo, a polyptoton.
In this cast,…
Another Week Ends: Biblical Counseling, Jennifer Lawrence, God Help the Girl, Volunteer Pallbearers, Sly Stone and The Nobodies
1. Over at The Pacific Standard, Kathryn Joyce provides a remarkably thorough look at “The Rise of Biblical Counseling”. It’s a crash course in both the history of conflicted Christian attitudes toward psychotherapy, and, unintentionally perhaps, how those attitudes are perceived by secular elites (i.e. with disdain and/or condescension). She surveys a field which runs the gamut from hardliners who would chalk nearly all mental illness up to sinful behavior (and do untold damage in the process) and more moderate, medication-endorsing voices who have the gall to insist that there may be a spiritual and–gasp!–moral component to certain afflictions, or at least, that we ignore such…
This wonderful reflection on desire and Bruce Springsteen comes to us from Ben Self:
“It’s… that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that’s what you live for.”
– Bruce Springsteen, Time Magazine, 1975
I’ve always loved the use of the term “spirits” as a synonym for hard liquors. It speaks to what is most alluring in booze and any number of other mind-altering substances and pleasures—that feeling of being transported to another higher, perhaps lighter, warmer, state of consciousness by forces within us that are beyond our control. It’s a kind of ravishing and unhinging of the mind and…
- Cruel to Be Kind – Nick Lowe
- One Way Love – Agnetha Faltskog
- Goodbye Eddie Goodbye – The Juicy Fruits
- A Day Without Jesus – Bobby Whitlock
- Bayou Country – Gritz
- What Becomes of the Brokenhearted – Joan Osborne and the Funk Brothers
- Suicide – The Raveonettes
- Racine – Duvall
- Another School Day – Hello
- Head Over Heels – ABBA
- So Now What – The Shins
- Truly Julie’s Blues – Bob Lind
- Like a Rocket Man – David Bowie
- No Show – Bishop Allen
- The New You – Jenny Lewis
- God and Suicide – Blizten Trapper
- Have Mercy – The Gaslight Anthem
- The Healing Day – Bill Fay
BONUS TRACK: ABBA does Romans 7…
In the trend of recent conversation pieces, Blake (B.I.C.) and I bring you a discussion of The Gaslight Anthem’s newest album Get Hurt.
Carl: First off, how do you feel about “break-up” albums? Intense emotional pain and torment have produced classic albums like Blood on the Tracks, but more often than not I find “break-up” records to be less interesting than others. Get Hurt is certainly a “break-up” record, and while that adds an emotional rawness missing from Gaslight Anthem’s earlier work, I felt as if Fallon’s lyrics lost some of the universality they have on Handwritten and The ’59 Sound.
Blake: As far as…
As a music fan, every once and a while you have one of those “there-is-a-god moments” that makes all the digging worthwhile. You find something, usually by accident, that seems tailormade for YOU, a piece of the puzzle that fits perfectly, that you didn’t know you were missing. It sounds far-fetched, but the sensation is a spiritual one. In an instant, the impersonal universe evaporates and the existence of God seems like a foregone conclusion. And not just any God but a God that cares about, well, you. It happened when I stumbled across Elvis Presley’s “Let Us Pray”. Same thing when I heard the story behind The Monkees’ “St. Matthew”. But this one may take the cake: the lead off track on Agnetha Faltskog’s second solo album (you know, the girl who put the ‘A’ in ABBA). Written by none other than ELO maestro Jeff Lynne–especially for her!–and produced by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, I’m sure you’ll agree that the circle is now complete:
To quote Elaine Benes, I have no speech. I mean, a Wilbury-written OWL, sung by ‘the girl with the golden hair’, the one who was by all accounts the most damaged by her former group’s astronomical success?! It’s too much. You’ll forgive me if I take the opportunity to repost Paul Zahl’s classic formulation (which Fall Conference speaker Tullian Tchividjian has run with so convincingly and enthusiastically). While PZ clearly takes the phrase in a different direction than Agnetha, by no means does his usage rule out the ‘unrequited’ aspect–it just switches the roles, i.e. Agnetha sings from the God’s-eye point of view, ‘natch:
Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. It is being loved when you are the opposite of lovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing. It sounds a little 1970s (as in “Have a Nice Day!”). Yet the words are apt.
Let’s go a little further, though. Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver, the one who loves, in relation to the receiver, the one who is loved, that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…. Grace is one-way love.”
Episode 172: Phony Wars
This purports to be an attack of reality in the midst of “phony wars”.
I am always struck by the truth of pop songs. Not all of them, but some of them. Such as “Waterloo” by ABBA. (Mary and I were there, as it were, when ABBA hit, stuck at a “Saturday Dance” (Geoff Goddard) during the spring of 1974 in the parish hall of Holy Trinity, Hounslow. As soon as we heard the song, and watched the girls line-dancing to ABBA, we knew we weren’t stuck any more. We got up ourselves, tho’ I’m no Diamond.)
Another Week Ends: Little League Love, Excellent Sheep, Normal Thoughts, Memoir Distance, Lees of Memory, Leftovers and TMNT
1. First off, grab the kleenbox box because here’s a beautiful instance of grace in practice. It comes to us from little league coach Dave Belisle, whose Cumberland American team (Rhode Island) lost the Little League World Series championship game to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West this past week. In their moment of defeat, Coach Belisle gave the following speech:
2. Looking through our archive this past month, clearly two subjects have been occupying the (hive-)mind: education and suicide. The Atlantic ran an interview this week with lead Ivy League critic William Deresiewicz about his new book Excellent Sheep, and if he’s…
Last week the highly-publicized civil war between The Civil Wars came to a not-so-shocking conclusion: They have broken up, for good.
The folk duo went on hiatus in November 2012, cancelling their tour and kicking up a storm of speculation about alleged “internal discord.” The conflict, which remains ambiguous, didn’t prevent the duo from releasing a second and final album last summer. After a year of silence, they once again make headlines only to quash whatever hope remained that they might reconcile and get back on the road. In memoriam: Snafu aside, The Civil Wars made fantastic music.
Although never romantically “together,”…
“Treat Her Better”, and “Go Easy”: the voice of pleading fights down that of advice in Demarco’s latest release.
Mac Demarco’s Salad Days has been, strangely enough, a joy to listen to. If I were a music critic, I’d try and fail to describe the playful self-awareness, the almost-total coincidence between irony and sincerity, etc. I can’t describe musical form too precisely, but suffice it to say, it’s tailored extremely well to the album’s content. And the content is stunning – or would be, if it didn’t have so many layers of irony and alienation covering it over.
In this case, that’s…
There’s a long back-and-forth within the history of Christian endeavor as to the relative merit of engaging a fallen world in the hope of transforming it; or opting out of it in order to watch, wait and pray. Many dedicated saints have taken the first road. Many others have taken the second. There is obviously room for both.
This podcast examines the second road, and offers another element, too. You could entitle the talk “Feel to Heal”. I believe it, in any event.
Something happened to me on the 26th of July in London, Ontario. I knew it was happening when it was happening. It was even captured “on tape”. You can hear it at the end of this cast, about five minutes into the concluding music. “Good God,” I said to my friend — over the shouting — “he’s really doing it!” Speechless we were. Hope you will be, too, in a good way.