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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
Margot & The Nuclear So & Sos
The Dust Of Retreat
Artemis

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


May 8, 2006
First, she applies the face paint; then comes the bulbous red rubber nose and the rainbow wig. Grabbing a pair of baggy polka-dot pajamas out of the closet, she turns to the confused, thoroughly emasculated man in front of her and says, "Put these on." Dropping down to one knee, she ties his oversized shoes. Getting up, she steps back, studies his comical new look and says, "Well, my work here is done." Emmett Kelly never looked sadder.

There's a whole kinky sub-culture devoted to clown fetishes, but I'm guessing that's not what the Margot & The Nuclear So & So's song "Dress Me Like A Clown" is about. Seeing as how the band is named after Gwyneth Paltrow's character in The Royal Tenenbaums, it seems more likely that Richard Edwards, the main songwriter for the Indiana chamber-pop ensemble, is exploring the cuckoldry of Raleigh St. Clair and the humiliation of being the only one trying to make a one-sided relationship work. Futile as it might be, Edwards offers an alternate ending that allows the wounded party to retain some shred of dignity. "If he's the man you want then you'll go," sings Edwards, but not before embarking on one last night of uninterrupted bliss where they'll make a pact to " leave all our lovers behind." And they'll " drink into an early grave," and then laugh about it before the next morning comes and they go their separate ways to " try and live a quiet life." In theory, that might work, but in reality, it reeks of desperation and would probably end in disaster. Edwards, ever the romantic, doesn't want to believe it. Then again, neither did Raleigh.

Just a piece of the endlessly melodic mosaic known as The Dust Of Retreat, "Dress Me Like A Clown," nevertheless, makes an ironclad case for song of the year. A swooning, heart-rending ballad firmly grounded in classic pop structure, despite the swirling instrumentation, "Dress Me Like A Clown" gets tossed about like paper litter on a windy day. The strings sigh along with breezy backing vocals. Flecks of golden electric guitar and silvery triangle make it seem more ornate than it really is, though the pure, simple charms it possesses never get lost in the billowing sound. It's a layered wedding cake that crumbles under the weight of expectation, serving as a metaphor for whatever doom awaits the tragic couple, and yet it doesn't smother itself in its own despondency. It's a perfect piece of pop pastry, and there's more on the dessert cart.

A poor man's Broken Social Scene wrapped in the velvet robe of Death Cab For Cutie's Transatlanticism, Margot & The Nuclear So & So's turn their collective Wes Anderson obsession into a collection of short stories that take place in Edwards' version of Camelot - namely, Greenwich Village of the 1960s. Like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Dust Of Retreat is a New York City fairy tale that's not completely out of touch with the real world. Wisps of misty bohemian folk like "Jen Is Bringin' The Drugs" and "On A Freezing Chicago Street" bridge the generation gap between latter-day Lemonheads and Simon And Garfunkal while hinting at a darker, more dangerous fantasy than Anderson ever dared dream up. "Quiet As A Mouse" is anything but quiet, with big, crunchy guitars and tight hooks enveloped in the gathering blackness of The Stills before the song switches gears suddenly and morphs into a Sgt. Pepper-esque epiphany of brassy horns. More pristine is "Skeleton Key," which would fit nicely on Nada Surf's 2003 brilliant comeback record, Let Go - or anything by Jason Falkner - while "Vampires In Blue Dresses" swings with a footloose, fancy-free quality that smacks of Rhett Miller's recent solo material.

Nostalgic for a place he's only visited and a time he was no part of, Edwards has proven himself to be more than a journeyman pop craftsman. And yet The Dust Of Retreat has an all-too-familiar ring to it. Some of the movements are predictable and some of the lyrics are infused with a melodrama that feels false and calculated. You've heard the stories before somewhere. Could be Edwards heard them at an Evan Dando story hour at Barnes and Noble. But let's not quibble here. The Dust Of Retreat is full of pleasing melodies and the Margot 8, as I call them, dress them up in tastefully arranged musical garb. A little banjo or lap steel here, some sawing cello there; blanket it in whirling melodica and try not to let it all overwhelm those pretty-as-a-picture melodies. Stick to the formula, son, and you just might hear one of your songs on the O.C.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad

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