For Our Connecticut Readers: Home for the Post-Holidays

Days after Christmas can be culturally lacking. So can Mondays. We’re probably hitting the Peabody Museum, which does appear to be open. Then maybe to Judies Bakery for lunch, in hopes that the seasonal Stollen bread is still available. The New Haven Historical Society is closed, as is the Istitute Library. Most galleries and museums are closed Mondays.
At Café Nine tonight, Beatnik 2000 is holding its six-hundredth-and-third weekly revue, with featured performers Age of Reason, George Morgio, Michael Volpicella, poets Alon and CMR and an open mic after midnight.
Mostly we’ve got a visiting mother to entertain, and new books to read. We’ll get by.

Rock Gods #242: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The bluesman sang a blues, and after every line, a pickled heckler piped up with this rejoinder: “Like a lightbulb.”
Woke up this mornin’…
“Like a lightbulb!”
Dragged a comb across my head…
“Like a lightbulb!”
This was funny. The bluesman is bald.
And a good sport. He improvised:
“Got lit up…”
“Got turned on…”
“Used up all my energy…”
A daring maneuver, but not at this time of year. All was calm, all was nice. The heckler shut off eventually. There was a warm glow in the room.
Like a light bulb.

The Wee Freakings and Whence Law? at the Bullfinch. Early show…. The Watcher Flocks and No Room at Hamilton’s. Early show… Harrod at D’ollaire’s, no-show…

Listening to… Cloud Control

Cloud Control, Bliss Release
Folky and rustic yet also coolly Eels-ish. There’s an eerie emptiness, even a scariness, to how the sweet backing voices drift in and around the rough lead vocals. Then the guitars come in and everything goes hauntingly haywire. Some of the rhythms are African, in a controlled Paul Simon Graceland manner, which some will enjoy (“Gold Canary” earns a commercially minded two-minute remix on the album’s bonus EP), but personally I’m more taken by tracks like “The Rolling Stones,” which seems to roll all musics of the 1960s—from Velvet Underground to Nilsson to Mamas and Papas and yes, the Stones—into four knock-out minutes of all-natural mind expansion.

Literary Up: Clowes Call

The Death-Ray
By Daniel Clowes 2 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2011)
Aka Eightball #23, Spring 2004.

You could question the value of reprinting a single issue of a comic book in hardcover form and charging $20 for the privilege. But when it’s a work by Dan Clowes, you shouldn’t. Like the earlier Drawn & Quarterly release Ice Haven, Death-Ray isn’t a collection of stories with the same characters of several installments scattered through several issues of Clowes’ irregularly published Eightball comic. It’s an entire multi-part, multi-styled issue of Eightball (#23, from Spring 2004), every part of which pertains to the same central narrative. That theme is one that Clowes has been successfully exploring since his early Lloyd Llewellyn comics in the 1990s—how average young people would behave if granted superpowers overnight, and how the responsibility might simply make them wish to return to normalcy. The power here is not just a death-ray but super-strength, gifts bestowed on an awkward, withdrawn, horny teenager. The depiction of sullen youth is not clichéd, while the fantasy of using mysterious superpowers to right wrongs and revenge yourself on bullies is. It makes for a great balance, and a smart use of the comic book form. Which more than justifies this elegant oversized reprint. The hardcover version made me reappreciate a comic I loved the first time around but haven’t thought to revisit. Now I’m digging all my older Eightballs out before Drawn & Quarterly has to do it for me.

For Our Connecticut Readers

Very proud of Mabel. Nine years old and activist, she has become very interested in the Occupy New Haven tent community on New Haven Green. We’ve visited it a number of times, donated food and had conversations about the movement, though we have yet to attend a meeting or get more directly involved.
Tonight Mabel finished a project she’s been talking about for weeks. She took it upon herself to dress up 50 candy canes with eyes and pipe-cleaner antlers, then carried them to the Green and selflessly, shyly, presented them to the chilled tenants of Occupy. Kathleen, Sally and I came along with homemade cookies and apple cake. Then our whole family trooped off to the Christmas Eve service just a few feet away at United Church on the Green. That church has been deeply supportive of Occupy New Haven; Rev. John Gage has even slept in a tent in solidarity, and allowed the Occupy members to hold meetings in the church.
Occupy New Haven is one of the few remaining encampments of its kind. Its members, who have maintained excellent relations with local police and government, have stated that to last through the winter on the Green would make a grand statement, and there they remain, while the rest of us sleep tight in our beds, visions of sugarplums etc.

On the 38th track of Christmas…

This was the Christmas mix I prepared this year, spread across two CDs. The “A” side is (slightly) smoother, the B disk jumpier and rowdier, especially towards the end. If you don’t know Ed Harcourt’s version of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” it gives you a totally different sense of his other work; you might think he’s like Five for Fighting, but he’s really like Randy Newman or Eels. Likewise, Alison Krauss’ silly and sensual “Shimmy Down the Chimney” is a far cry from her Americana croonings.


1. Dianne Reeves: Christmas Time Is Here

2. Charles Brown: Merry Christmas, Baby

3. The Irish Tenors: Joy To The World

4. James Brown: Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year Parts 1 & 2

5. Eddie Cantor: The Only Thing I Want For Christmas (Is Just To Keep The Things That I’ve Got)

6. Bing Crosby & David Bowie: Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy

7. KT Tunstall: 2000 Miles

8. Evan Dando: Silent Night

9. Ella Fitzgerald: O Holy Night

10. Al Green: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

11. Brook Benton: Soul Santa

12. Mary Chapin Carpenter: Christmas Time in the City

13. Santa Claws & the Naughty But Nice Orchestra: Hell’s Bells (Tribute to AC/DC)

14. The Three Tenors: Winter Wonderland

15. Victoria Williams: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

16. Ella Fitzgerald: O Come All Ye Faithful

17. Faith & The Muse: A Winter Wassail

18. The Fleshtones: Canadian Christmas


1. Sammy Davis Jr.: Christmas Time All Over The World

2. Marvin Gaye: Purple Snowflakes

3. Big Dee Irwin: I Wish You A Merry Christmas

4. Twistin’ Kings: Xmas Twist

5. Rufus Wainwright: Spotlight On Christmas

6. The Chipmunks: Hang up Your Stocking

7. Eddie Dunstedter: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!/Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

8. Alison Krauss: Shimmy Down The Chimney

9. The Fleshtones: You’re All I Want For Christmas

10. John Cale: Child’s Christmas in Wales

11. The Temptations: Christmas Everyday

12. Piney Gir: A Cheery Christmas

13. The Winter Sounds: McAdenville (Christmastown)

14. Eddie Rabbitt: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

15. Suzy Bogguss: Two-Step ‘Round The Christmas Tree

16. Yo Yo Yo Kids: North Pole Homies

17. Bad Religion: Silent Night

18. Ed Harcourt: In The Bleak Midwinter

19. The Butties: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

20. KT Tunstall: Mele Kalikimaka (Christmas In Hawaii)

Rock Gods #241: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

The Poor Boys II aren’t particularly gifted. But they were told to come and play for us, so they did. And did their best, until they got fed up at a crowd they weren’t used to—a civilized one, not the backyard sleepover throng they’re used to in the teen underground scene—and tried to shake things up with a ten minute drum solo.
Not a precision-machine prog-rock drum solo, mind you. Just ceaseless banging by all three band members, on whatever was within reach. They hit and slapped drums, guitar cases, keyboard casings, each other, the bald head of a man too close to the stage…
It ended when someone offered to buy them a drink. After which the rest of PB2’s set sounded positively melodic and upbeat.

Defeat and Death of Ahab at the Bullfinch… Invasion from the East at Hamilton’s, invading twice, at 9 & 11 p.m…. Various Activities (that’s a band) at D’ollaire’s…

Listening to… Last-Minute Indie Christmas CDs

Received a blizzardy blur of Christmas pop this past week, nearly none of it ironic or snotty. Lots of clever arrangements and efforts to update or honor classic tunes of the season, but nothing pat or snide, as could well be expected from those who wear black and never leave their bedroom recording studios.
AM & Shawn Lee have an EP, Holiday Happiness & Cheer that unwinds like a High Llamas album, with respectful rebuildings of lounge-pop sounds, repeating themes and lush instrumentals of songs you’ve already heard with vocals. Only two tunes to contend with here—two sweet and sweetened versions of the Charlie Brown Christmas opening number Christmas Time is Here, then three versions of the original “I’m Home for the Holidays, stripped down and then stripped down further.

The bands Kisses and Keep Shelly in Athens conspired to create the “Narrow Elevator Christmas Muzak Mix” of eerily squeaky and serene dance music. It’s a full 50 minutes of music—er, muzak—which I’ve blissed out to while typing. More furtive than festive, but sounds like a cold swirly still night in the winter.

I’ve also spent time this week trying to figure out if “Jasper Christmas” by the harmony-vocal quirk ensemble Pearl and the Beard is a Christmas song, or just about a guy with Christmas as a surname. “I don’t wanna stay,” it yowls.