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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Lost At Sea Reviews - Dan Kois - 33 1/3: Facing Future 33 1/3: Facing Future
By Dan Kois
Continuum

Rating 6/10 ?


A friend in college introduced me to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole a/k/a Iz as he's most well-known, around the time digital sales propelled his album Facing Future into Amazon's second most downloaded album ever. Eager to flesh out the little I knew of his background--legendary status in the context of Hawaiian music--I jumped at the chance to read Dan Kois' in Continuum's latest addition to their 33 1/3 series. Facing Future delves into the life behind Hawaii's suppa'man whose famous ukulele-rendition medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" made him an overnight sensation on the mainland. But while Kois renders an exotic backdrop to Kamakawiwo'ole's extraordinary life and enlightens readers on the album's surprising current controversies, the writing becomes a nuisance halfway through.

Initially, Kois arrestingly recounts Kamamkawiwo'ole's fascinating beginnings via tales from loving friends and family; in his youth Iz had a reputation for being a rambunctious rabble-rouser (his uncle: "He was a brat"), though that same uncle, Sons of Hawaii musician Moe Keale, ignited Iz's passion for music by introducing him and his older brother to Steamboats and night clubs. The biographical detail makes Iz's personal history deeply engaging, which Kois delivers well until midway through the book where the interesting (real) content drowns beneath some tiresome gimmicks, like fictional conversations to fill dry spots (construing what Kamakawiwo'ole might have said to his cousin on the phone).

Worse, Kois' prose turns inexplicably condescending as the book goes on. Towards book's end he appears to be chiding the reader for enjoying "Somewhere Over the Rainbow": "you viewed it as your duty to make sure your friends know all about this gigantic fat dead guy and his unbelievable song." For someone who didn't exactly spam the internet with mass e-mails concerning the song, the assumption that everyone took it (and its creator) for novelty is insulting. Kois exchanges more blows upon the reader: "And as you hear the song in more and more places [...] it's easy to feel upset that your song has become something of a cliché." Maybe it's the Mountain Apple Company's advertising department (who released the tune's rights to e-commerce markets) he should be attacking rather than the fans? Like any popular song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" unifies people basking in its artistry first and people annoyed by commercialized jingles second. Its not the public's fault for oversaturating themselves with a cover they've grown attached to. And I'm not the only mainlander who knows there's more to Iz than his enormity.

That said, Kois' biography is the most up-to-date version on the planet, and aside from his crowded storytelling and somewhat needlessly blistering commentary, Kois produces an appealing account of Kamakawiwo'ole's musical career that clearly traces him from local hero status to legendary cultural voice. And whether or not he's too protectively on the defensive, Kois believes Iz will continue to transform the lives of new listeners and he's put together a decent explanation of why.

Reviewed by Bridget Doyle

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