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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
John Darnielle
33 1/3: Master of Reality
Continuum

Rating: 8/10 ?


August 19, 2008
John Darnielle made me enjoy reading about music again. He is astute, witty, and highly informed in his wonderfully written musical observations. Not only is Darnielle an intelligent and humorous read, there is also an underlying sense of joy that is inherent in his various musical topics. Far from the detached, clinical, and, frankly, boring writing of his peers, his enthusiasm for the subject at hand is oftentimes barely constrained in his sentences.

The 33-1/3 series by Continuum Books gives journalists, headphone nerds, and prominent musical figures the chance to discuss one album at extensive length. Not just yet another take on the classics, the 33-1/3 series allows a diverse group of writers to follow their muse and expound upon fantastic albums that might not have garnered the same amount of critical coverage as something like Sergeant Pepper's. Sure, Highway 61 Revisited gets its due, but you can also pick up books about albums by Guided By Voices and A Tribe Called Quest.

Darnielle, an avowed metalhead who has mulled the genre extensively in his own publication, Last Plane To Jakarta, has chosen to write about Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality. Eschewing the normal format of music criticism, each song on the seminal 1971 album is discussed and dissected through the fictitious journal entries of Roger Painter, a young adult who, at the beginning of the book, has recently been admitted to a juvenile psychiatric center against his wishes. Throughout the book's early going Roger's situation becomes more and more dire. Then, about half way through the story, Darnielle jumps ahead ten years, the diary entries switch to a reflection on Roger's internment and it's repercussions.

Darnielle has couched his essay in a difficult, and sometimes heartbreaking, narrative. It is not easy to read the journal entries of the protagonist as he loses, and comes to realize that he is losing, control over his life. Certainly not many people will be able to relate to the specific experiences of Roger, but almost everyone can relate to the solace he finds in his favorite album. That the object of his musical infatuation is an album largely considered the touchstone for the doom metal genre is icing on the cake. Roger's repeated entreaties that the swirling chaos will all be fine if he can just listen to Master Of Reality is sure to strike a chord with everyone who has felt the wonderful escapist qualities of music.

Far from the standard, textbook discussion that great albums usually receive, this episode of 33-1/3 will appeal to fans of Darnielle, Black Sabbath, and music and literature in general. John Darnielle has composed a powerful tribute to an album he loves and a moving celebration of the power that music plays in peoples' lives.

Reviewed by Kevin Alfoldy
An aspiring global adventurer who cut his teeth on the sandy beaches and dirty bitches of Southern California, Kevin Alfoldy now spends his non-vacation days in Brooklyn, New York, where he occasionally finds the time to rub the crust out of his eyes long enough to contribute reviews and feature articles for LAS. A longtime staff member, Kevin also captains the tattered, often half-sunk raft of EPmd, our irregular column of EP reviews.

See other reviews by Kevin Alfoldy

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