An Indefensible Top Ten
I will not pretend there is a through-line for this list.
(Life is chaos.)
#10 - Miami Vice by Michael Mann (film)
A friend of mine recently made a good case for this film: this is what digital cinema could look like in 2018. This could be the aesthetic template. This same friend posed a wild hypothetical: maybe cinema will return to Miami Vice as a beautiful, grainy path-yet-taken.
#9 - A Single Tear (Live At St Vitus) by Converge (clip)
A student of mine alerted me to this live version. Be sure to wait for the startling mid-section where singer Jacob Bannon lets it all hang out. That pained look on his face is the only instruction on fatherhood a person needs.
#8 - Scientists Gave Octopuses Ecstasy to Investigate Our Shared Past of Social Behaviour (ABC news item)
In a motel room somewhere in the American midlands, Thomas Pynchon reads this news piece (from a hardcopy newspaper) and thinks for the hundredth time: I predict the future with my fiction.
#7 - Rachael Kushner on Charles Willeford (interview)
After praising Jean-Luc Nancy, Celine and Dostoyevsky, Rachael Kushner finds The Pick-Up almost by accident and reads it much the same way: “I found this…in a library in Italy a couple of summers ago, and read it because I saw that it takes place in San Francisco, where I’m from.” Willeford is always out there, lurking.
#6 - Anti- Social: Justin Broadrick’s (Godflesh, Jesu) Parent’s punk band (article)
This insane rant by a UK record collector documenting the UK band Anti-Social is hard on the eyes (yellow text!) but gives a lot of context for Justin Broadrick’s life. The photo of Broadrick surrounded by his punk mum and step-dad is particularly wild.
#5 - Intermission (excuse)
Couldn’t really think of ten and #5 is where you hide a dud on Side A of an album. Unless you’re Sonic Youth, in which case you put the Lee Ranaldo song here and they’re all good songs. They’re ‘always hugging the label’ as Mike Watt once put it.
#4 - Rhiannon 76 by Fleetwood Mac (clip)
It’s spring here in Melbourne (Australia) and the only thing I want to know about in the coming months is John McVie’s ‘jorts’ in this video. This is my summer look.
#3 - Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels, and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day by Joel Selvin (book)
One of the best rock books I’ve read and I wrote my PhD on rock books so recommending them may be the only thing I’m truly qualified in. There’s a lot to recommend here — too much — but my favourite anecdote concern's Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart taking his horse-riding-on-LSD hobby to the next level by also dosing the horse with a ‘a proportionate amount of acid’ during these riding adventures. The horse loved it.
(I bet when you opened this email you didn’t expect there to be a horse on acid inside. But there is.)
#2 - Bottle It In by Kurt Vile (album)
I’ve noticed that, to the uninitiated, Vile’s work scans as croaky repetition and scattered nonsense. But dig in and you’ll find that Vile’s philosophy is one seldom proffered by rock bands: you can cope with the world by holding your cards loosely.
#1 - My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (novel)
A book about a total asshole who decides to sleep for a year. It’s so wry, well-observed and mean — and the topic is so ‘now’ for sad lefties — that Moshfegh could have easily coasted on concept alone. Instead, she reveals a measured human pulse and I felt things. Excellent.
PS: You can buy my books here.