[UPDATED WITH PHOTOS, MP3s, and VIDEO OF 77BOADRUM]
For the first night of concert-going, Doorknobs and I went to see Japanese noise mavens The Boredoms at Terminal 5--thanks to Roy for not only comping us on the XLR8R list, but also for providing us with 3rd level VIP passes so we could get a premium sightline of the insanity.
For those unfamiliar with the Boredoms, they are a twenty year old band with roots in hardcore and extremist artcore. Early Boredoms stuff is pretty thrashy and of less interest to me, but by '93s Pop Tatari (bizarrely released on Reprise as a major label debut) they had hit on a fascinating and unique sound that fused melody with the noise and thrash. At this point though, even describing them as a "noise" band seems inaccurate because the music of the Boredoms isn't even really that dissonant.
I am really tired and will finish this post tomorrow but for now here's some excellent photos of the show (not taken by me) and a photo and incredibly incredibly unwatchable video I shot with the apparently atrocious video camera on my Palm Treo. The video is of the encore of the show's performance and I dare anyone to try and "watch" the entire 14 minutes--as crappy as the video quality is, the sound is just as awful, as the thunderous drumming and squalls of noise make it sound like I recorded tractor trailers speeding through the Lincoln Tunnel.
Boredoms at Terminal 5, March 30 2008: Encore from Jeffrey Beaumont on Vimeo.
And here are some Boredoms mp3s to give you a sense of what they're like:
Boredoms - "Born to Anal" (from Anal to Anal EP, 1986; rereleased on Onanie Bomb Vs Sex Pistols, 1994)
Boredoms - Super Are (from Super AE, 1998)
Boredoms - Seadrum ( from Seadrum/House of Sun, 1995)
Finally, this last bit is a video of 77 Boadrum, an event organized in New York last year by the Boredoms, where on July 7, they took over Brooklyn Bridge park and led a cast of seventy-seven drummers on a rhythmic odyssey through time and space. It kills me that I had to miss this event, but it was my Dad's wedding and all--sometimes you just can't have everything. Anywhere, here's video documenting the event:
Forecast for the Future
Monday, March 31, 2008
[UPDATED WITH PHOTOS, MP3s, and VIDEO OF 77BOADRUM]
Following last week's involved music-making is some involved music listening. As I've stated over and over, music is a tremendously important component of my life--though I am attempting to challenge myself through Hyperliving to make sure that I not only listen to music, but also that I experience it by playing it, going to see it, and of course, writing about it.
The danger of listening to music at home so frequently is that you can lose respect for the great process involved in putting it all together. Last week I really got a sense of what it means to try and get together and face down the void; that is, to come an empty table with some raw product and try to make a meal out of what you have (in my case, meager scraps). I know that for some musicians, this is never something they really worry or even think about. I imagine a guy like Bob Pollard (Guided by Voices) who puts out three or four releases every year doesn't have to do much to come up with new material, but for a lot of artists, even great great ones, coming up with new ideas is a constant struggle, with each new success not building a bridge but instead only setting them up for another possibility of failure. But if they really want to be musicians and dedicate themselves to their music, they just have to keep putting their heads together and dreaming and working hard.
A part of this process for many musicians is "playing it out". As a teenager growing up, I was really into both the Grateful Dead and Phish, and one thing everyone always said about them was that each was a "live band who couldn't be captured properly on a studio record." It wasn't just a saying either--there was a marked difference in what these bands did on a stage than the canned and often lifeless performances that filled their albums.
But obviously, live playing isn't just important for jam bands; pretty much any band can benefit from getting on stage and airing out their music. This week I am investigating this idea by seeing a different band each night--some of whom I know and some who I don't. This is my schedule for the week
Sunday - The Boredoms @ Terminal 5
Monday - The Dodos @ Sound Fix
Tuesday - TBD (recording vocals for The Heart Beats. first)
Wednesday - Beach House @ The Bowery
Thursday - Ratdog @ The Beacon Theatre
Friday - The Blue Album Group @ Glasslands Gallery
Saturday - Chubby Behemoth @ Death By Audio or Tall Firs @ Midway
A nice mix of known and unknown music, both to me and the general public. Show reviews with photos and videos will follow. Let me know if you know anything exciting going on Tuesday night later on, as I hope to fill something in tomorrow after recording (though it will also be ok if i don't). I'm looking forward to what should be another great week of music exploration.
Three months down. March was a challenge with some great success mixed with some challenging failures (which I do theoretically hope to eventually make up). I'm feeling pretty firmly back in the saddle though, and so here's the next four weeks into April:
Week 13, March 30-April 5: Daily Concerts and Reviews
Week 14, Aprl 6-12: No non-doctor prescribed drugs
Week 15, April 13-19: Eat Vegan
Week 16, April 20-26: Attend a different "meeting" each night
Some notes on equipment and errata:
All of the recording for The Heart Beats. rock and roll week was done in Garageband, piped in through Imanant's Tascam Portastudio 424 mk III mixer into an Edirol USB audio capture device. We used instruments from a variety of sources, including Imanant's sea green Fender Jag-stang, Jay's "red guitar", and various drum kit pieces from members of Doorknobs' and Imanant's respective bands. And perhaps most excitingly of all, we also used my shitty twelve year old entry-level Squire Stratocaster, which my mom gave to me as a birthday present when I was in eight grade. Picture is below:
What is particularly exciting about the fact that we used my guitar is that right now it is fully-operational for the first time in about five to seven years.
Beyond my own non-playing (it's not really a chicken-or-egg deal), the guitar has been out of use for so many years due to the fact that the sound output didn't seem to work well when plugged into an amp. In order to make any sound, I would constantly have to fiddle with the cable positioning, always leading to a point where I would ultimately quit in exasperation. When I pulled it out of the metaphorical closet last week though for rock band week, I decided I would try it out, but once again the sound failed.
I decided to autopsy up the guitar to see if I could find some answers. After opening the plug input, I noticed that the black wire in the photo above was frayed and almost entirely separated from the plug. Exasperated, I at first put the guitar down assuming it was done, but on Thursday at work I was overcome with the idea that it would probably be a pretty easy thing to have fixed and, being that i'm trying to be a go-getter these days, I promised myself I'd get it resolved after work.
Sure enough, I took the guitar down to Main Drag Music in my neighborhood and their incredibly helpful guitar tech was able to fix the problem in about 45 seconds--all he had to do was re-solder the black wire and WD-40 the pick-ups connections and VOILA! a working guitar again. I also decided it was high time to get some new strings to replace the old (which surely hadn't been replaced since 1999 or 2000) and so an hour later I had a working guitar with shiny new strings that didn't go out of tune in only five minutes of light playing.
It was like getting a new Christmas present and I am positively jubilant about it. All of the lead guitar recorded Saturday was played on my guitar and I look forward to playing more on it in the near future.
Wrap-up will come but here's a video of a rehearsal run-through of the last song (still, as you can see, in need of a little work). We didn't get a chance to record this one beyond the video here as of dual problems with my computer's Garageband having repeated and inexplicable errors as well as time running out (more on all of this to come). I was hoping to have the final mixes for everything done in the next few days, but this one is gonna have to wait until next week when we get another chance to record. Videos for the other two songs, "Umm Don't Mean 'I Love You'" and "Red Robins" were posted here yesterday.
A full write-up on Saturday's events is still to follow (coming!).
The Heart Beats. rehearse Jay's song (yet untitled) from Jeffrey Beaumont on Vimeo.
As I haven't provided this information to y'all directly already, here's a brief write-up on the cast of players from the past week's rock band activities:
Hot Doorknobs, aka The Rock of Gibraltar
BASS, DRUMS. Roommate, best friend, music lover, and most impressively, bassist of actual semi-known rock band (here, here, here) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. He is the "fuck it, let's do it" gear in my Hyperliving machinery, and good to have around for the swift kicks in the ass I often need to get going when I hit walls or life gets me down.
Imanant Sell-off, aka The Sound and The Fury
GUITAR, DRUMS, SONGWRITING. Life-experiencer extraordinaire and celebrator of New Jersey Appreciation, Imanant also plays and records music both under his name and with his posse, the Blue Album Group, who are playing a show Friday, April 4 at Glasslands.
Jay Greene (real enough to get by with his own name)
GUITAR, SONGWRITING. Renaissance man Jay Greene is a writer, musician, and longtime friend living in Brooklyn. A former editor of Symphony Magazine, Jay has also written for Stylus webmag (RIP!) and the Village Voice. A violinist and part-time member of Elephant 6ers The Instruments and Brooklyn's Oratai Ensemble, Jay helped bring the rock.
Sistar Beaumont, aka Mo Tucker
DRUMS, PHOTOGRAPHY, SASS DELIVERY. Sibling, best friend, and CQ (coolness quotient) University valedictorian, she keeps me and everyone else on our toes with her firm commitment to a complete and total "I'm not taking your bullshit today, Beaumont" mindset. She is possibly the hippest person I know and prior to Saturday had never drummed. Also, I named her.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Heart Beats. are alive.
We recorded today and it was a total rad blast. Sistar Beaumont was in town and she joined in the fun too, doing some videotaping, photography and even sitting behind the drum kit on one track. I'll get a full breakdown up tomorrow, but for now here's some videos of rehearsal performances laying down the trax for our recordings.
'Umm' Don't Mean 'I Love You'
The Heart Beats. do "Umm Don't Mean " Love you" from Jeffrey Beaumont on Vimeo.
A nearly complete version of this song, minus half the bass playing due to the fact that I'm incapable of playing and singing at the same time without careening into the land of non-rhythm. Imanant gets credit for the musical ideas, with some rearrangement and, of course, lyrics by me. I'm pretty excited about how the finished version of this one is going to turn out "on record". I've also never played bass in my life so the fact I even once was able to play this part in a not entirely retarded fashion seems like a solid victory to me. Sadly, I started losing my voice on Friday afternoon (of course) and so my already shitty vocals sound worse even than my limited bar--not to mention that I was basically screaming to make sure I was heard on video--but I think they'll turn out ok enough on the final product.
Red Robin from Jeffrey Beaumont on Vimeo.
This one is nearly complete as well, though minus the more crucial element of vocals--while singing and playing a few notes of bass is a challenge for me, singing and playing the meager but real guitar parts on this song simultaneously would have just been laughably impossible. I pretty much wrote all of this one myself too, which for a musical retardicon myself, is what qualifies as a "pretty big victory." Sistar Beaumont sat in on drums and considering that it was the first time she'd ever played drums in her life, I'd say she was pretty fucking great.
More write-ups on Saturday to come, including videos of "song 3" as well as detailed descriptions of the goings-on and, ultimately, the recordings themselves.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
We got together as a trio yesterday sans Jay Greene, who was off making waves with Paul Haas, to keep working on pulling together tracks for Saturday--including writing our third song.
Note not one but two broken guitar strings, including the D string (how do you break a D string?)
We began by spending some time refining our first song a little more and then Imanant taught me the guitar parts to the second song so we could play a bit without Jayson. I am at best a shitty guitar player (which is really about being a non-musician), and watching him explain to me the simple chord changes as they translated into "parts" was interesting as I thought about the different ways in which we all are able to learn (and the ways in which we can't).
Ok, watch me stretch out a bit from here:
I think what is unique and curious in the history of Western music is the way that rock music stands apart from other forms and genres of music as one of considerable primitivism. In nearly every other form of Western-style music, musicians learn about music simultaneously--or even before--learning how to play it. Generally this translates for players to skills such as sight reading and an understanding of musical theory, but even in the cases of the weakest, least talented and/or least interested, say, violin players, there is still a basic understanding of music composition, including a knowledge of the musical notes and where they fall on a staff; tempo and rhythm; and scales, including at least major and minor. This is not to suggest that every classical musician or, more specifically, general person who tries to learn violin or trumpet, is a great student who cares as much about understanding music's composition as they do learning how to play; however, the difficulty in learning most instruments requires an instructor for basic guidance, and these instructors always spend at least a little time attempting to lay down a framework of knowledge underneath the physical performance.
Rock and roll, on the other hand, is the domain of the guitar, and the guitar is a magically democratic instrument that, like the piano, is capable of producing beautiful sounds by anyone possessing even the most limited musical knowledge or ability. 5 minutes of instruction plus a few finger calluses is all you need to be able to play "Not Fade Away", "I'm Waiting for the Man" or "About a Girl." As far as I'm aware, this kind of immediate gratification isn't really true for any other instrument except, again, the piano. [Extension: is it not unreasonable, then, to think of the piano as the "gateway drug" to the deliciously addictive musical primitivism of rock and roll?]
It seems like a reasonable extension then to imagine that the great difference in "entry requirements" for playing guitar--hence rock n' roll--compared to anything else allows for some significantly different philosophical approaches to both learning and writing music. Even the idea of "reading music" for guitar by tablature (string/fret finger notation) rather than note staffs presents an exploration into this theory, as far as presenting the guitar not as a musical instrument but as a simple object capable of producing coordinated sound.
This brings me back to where I started: I am a crappy guitarist with a sketchy understanding of musical scales and a limited "feel" for the instrument; I do, however, know major and minor scales and the placement of notes on the fretboard, and I can generally form specifically named chord shapes on command. Which really isn't much, but even this limited knowledge distinguishes me from a great number of guitarists with far more technical ability and musical feel, who learned to play by memorizing a few basic chord formations and then using tablature and their ear to either play other people's songs or write their own. The notes on a guitar are so mathematically laid out that, as I've said already, it's really easy for just about anyone to bust out a tune. And couple that with someone who has a little real "inner feel" for music and rhythm and suddenly you've got wonderful creations by people who "know nothing about music."
That was it: me, with my laughably small parcels of musical understanding, asking to learn guitar parts from someone who sees and hears the notes as hand placements rather than notes: "Do this, this, that and that. You know?" speaking as his hands move up and down the neck of the guitar. I stare dumbly: "Umm. Yeah. So, uh, what chords exactly are those again?" In Imanant's case, it's not that he doesn't know the musical details, because he does (now), certainly more than me, but I think he still comes at playing the guitar--especially when fucking with simple garage-y ditties like ours--with that primitivist non-musico mindset that's more about hands and ears than keys and scales.
And so we are "writing songs". As I said, we came up with another new song on Wednesday, which I'm especially excited about because it was basically all mine--though anyone who'd witnessed our session would see how essential it for me to have these guys to work with: "Ok, so I wrote these words that go 'dah-dah-dah-duh-dah'--I want some kind of guitar part that's kind of like 'duh-duh duh-duh duh-duh'. You know?" I started to get a little stressed but luckily Doorknobs, my rock of Gibraltar, cooled me off.
I'm really looking forward to Saturday when we can move all the equipment out of my kitchen and begin laying some finished work.
For any non-musician interested in learning more about the foundations of music, I highly recommend checking out Daniel Levitin's Your Brain On Music. His descriptions are clear and concise and he uses language that is inclusive rather than exclusive (in the way that discussions about music often can be). I got Your Brain on Music as a gift this past Christmas from someone who knows me well and I really feel like it speaks to me in a powerful way--it's basically the perfect book for a person who loves music but maybe doesn't "understand" the details of what they're hearing and why they love (or hate) it so much. For an obsessive like myself who relies on music to paint the walls of every room I'm in it's become almost a Bible in the way I feel it's opened my brain up to new ideas and ways of seeing and hearing.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I'll update with some more text as I get time.
We did some demo recordings last night though I don't want to give too much away on recordings that are lo-fi even for our modest aims, but here's a little video of some fucking around in the kitchen:
The Heart Beats. first rehearsal from Jeffrey Beaumont on Vimeo.
We banged out one original song in complete and got to work on fleshing out another, plus discussing a few covers we'll throw in. Doorknobs and Imanant and I will convene again tonight, followed by Imanant, Jay and I on Thursday, with an ultimate goal of laying down the prime time recordings on Saturday at Doorknob's practice space.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I'm reading The Book of Laughter and Forgetting right now. Published in 1978, this book has some interesting insights into the road down which Western human society travels--not to mention plenty of observations which seem to all too clearly resonate with my own personal life. As I sit here each day, attempting to flog words out of the daily doings of my life actions and wondering where I'm going and why, this passage stuck out to me as particularly germane to both my current standing in life as well as to the greater world at large:
The irresistible proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, childbearers, lovers, muderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors, and patients shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down into the streets and shout: "We are all writers!"
For everyone is pained by the thought of disappearing, unheard and unseen, into an indifferent universe, and because of that everyone wants, while there is still time, to turn himself into a universe of words.
One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.
Litost is an untranslatable Czech word. Its first syllable, which is long and stressed, sounds like the wail of an abandoned dog. As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.
Take an instance from the student’s childhood. His parents made him take violin lessons. He was not very gifted and his teacher would interrupt him to criticize his mistakes in an old, unbearable voice. He felt humiliated, and he wanted to cry. But instead of trying to play in tune and not make mistakes, he would deliberately play wrong notes, the teacher’s voice would become still more unbearable and harsh, and he himself would sink deeper and deeper into his litost.
Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.
This is the kind of shit I regularly lull myself into believing that I must be fated to submit to. But really, it's just more of the sturm und drang that we all go through, all the time--and I do a magnificent job sometimes of allowing me to put my hands around my throat and drown myself under the great emotional torrents of fear and miseries.
It is worthwhile to understand a little better exactly what is going inside my head when it happens, because it's not a pretty sight to see a man (or woman) sabotage whole parts of their lives upon learning of a failing or inadequacy; this form of sado-masochistic "litost-ownership of suffering" is cruel to experience and perhaps crueler still to witness, and any knowledge that can be acquired to help prevent against it happening should be sought. But--danger always lurks in peering too deeply into the deep, dark pools of human despair and anguish, and if you aren't strong enough you can get sucked in and enveloped by the terrible blackness, swallowed and consumed until you no longer see light... at which point self-fulfilling prophecies can take hold and enslave beleaguered souls in the strength-crippling darkness. I have been here, there, and everywhere with litost, and as my chief tormentor I fear it more than just about anything--but I know firmly and surely that it is not my master and at all times I possess within my not just the capability but also the strength to overcome it and regain steady control over a life that is mostly great and not bad at all.
Whew. This is either a moment where I am simply re-affirming a conviction outloud that I feel truly empowered, or else one where I'm merely trying to convince myself that the creeping darkness around me is not as bleak as it seems and that I can in fact escape it. Either way, I have to just keep saying it, because I can make it and I know deep down that I just have to hold steady. And yes, this is about as rock and roll as life gets.
Rock and roll week begins. The Heart Beats. team has begun writing songs in a tastelessly dischordant style and things look to get nice and messy this week. By Saturday we shall have at least three songs recorded and available for listening.
I began rock week in an interesting fashion, by going race kart driving at the Grand Prix center in Mt. Kisco. It was both ridiculous and awesome, and also a comped experience as a friend was writing an article on them for the New York Observer. I will write a bit more on this later, but suffice to say that It was a frenetic way to start a week--nothing like racing cars to make one feel like he's a totally insane asshole who could sink his teeth into a plate of metal.
Driving while sitting inches above the ground is certainly a way to feel like you're "with the road".
We are a team of bouffant French astronauts. I was hired for my moustache.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
So I did NOT follow through with a seventh night of early-to-bed. Fun times presented themselves, including a Titus Andronicus show in a loft apartment somewhere in the heart of Bushwick. But, perhaps as a sign that my week of sleep has helped, I was at least able to stay asleep for seven hours--over the past few months, I've been getting up at 10 even when going to bed at 6.
The official Night 7 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: approx. 4:30 am (hazy--sometime before 5 though when Doorknobs arrived home)
--Sleep music: David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
--Fell asleep: see above
--First wakeup: 8:28 am
--Subsequent wakeups: 8:53 am, 11:23
--Wide-awake: 11:31 am
--Out of bed: 12:19 pm
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 7 hrs, 1 min
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The official Night 6 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 12:31 pm
--Sleep music: Leonard Cohen, Songs from A Room
--Fell asleep: approx. 1:03 am
--First wakeup: 2:08 am
--Subsequent wakeups: 5:16 am, a few more non-identified times
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 9:21 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 8 hrs, 18 min
Planned to go to sleep at midnight but stayed up a little later than that. Went out earlier for a birthday party but came home in time to turn into a pumpkin.
I was surprised how tired I felt all day considering how much rest I've gotten this week, and the few beers I had in the evening turned me into a slow-moving slime creature. Of course, I've been going to bed between 3-6 am on weekends for the past few months, so going to bed at 12:30 (asleep by 1) meant I had a full 8 hours of sleep even waking up at 9:20. Which I guess is good so i can "seize the day" today, though it honestly feels a little ridiculous too... but then, part of the reason I've done this project at all is that I wasn't even sleeping on weekends before (still waking up at 9 or 10 am even if going to bed at 6).
One more night of subjugated sleep (if I don't take tonight off) and then I get to see how well my "lessons learned" this week work out in the days and weeks going forward.
Friday, March 21, 2008
The official Night 5 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 10:31 pm
--Sleep music: Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night
--Fell asleep: approx. 10:46 pm
--First wakeup: 10:54 pm (phone call)
--Second wakeup (naturally): 2:37 am --- awake for 12 minutes, checking email (on phone)
--Subsequent wakeups: 5:10 am,
--Alarm attempts: 6:00 am, 6:08 am, 6:16 am, 6:24 am
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 6:26 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 6 hrs, 28 min
Thursday night's sleep was less restful than Wednesday's. I got home from having dinner and walking my old little friend and it was 9:08 and the thought of going to sleep in 52 minutes when it felt like I'd done so little all day made me feel depressed. Though, as my THERAPIST told me yesterday, "Ben, hello! That's what real life is! Normal people go to bed and don't stay up all night." I resolved to wake up early the next morning and set my alarm for 6--I would get up and watch an episode or two of Lost that I'd been missing and get some writing done.
Unfortunately, about ten minutes after I fell asleep, my phone rang and woke me up and then I had trouble falling back to sleep as my brain began to get locked on various trains of thought. I eventually tried to start repeating numbers to myself and seem to have fallen asleep soon after that, but again awoke in the middle of the night at 2:37. It's strange to me how I come to at these times, feeling like i'm ready to get up completely. I noticed I had a text message from a friend, which I read and then decided to check my email (on my phone), which then led to me checking and sending work emails (those Korean and Indian work days don't correspond well with ours). Around 2:50 I decided I was crazy and went back to sleep.
Somewhat hilariously though it took me nearly a half hour to get up once my alarm started going off at 6. This has happened more or less each of the mornings this week--despite waking up early and repeatedly throughout the course of the night, when it comes time to actually "wake up / get up" my body slags. Anyway though, up and and at 'em and ready to face another day.
Unofficial Post-Sleep Day 4 (Thursday) Daytime Report
Same basic shit: wide awake, all day. This "experiment" has proven to have considerably more concrete outcomes than originally expected: clearly, if I sleep, I can make it through a workday no matter how bored or uninterested I am in whatever it is I need to do. Wow, rocket science. I have two brains, one intense and mechanical and relatively high-functioning, and the other made out of peas and struggles to process even simple human concepts, even when carefully explained by example. Slowly, I am merging them into one fairly mediocre but consistent brain that will empower me to a life of normalcy.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The official Night 4 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 10:41 pm
--Sleep music: Julee Cruise, Floating Into the Night
--Fell asleep: approx. 11:14 pm
--First wakeup: 5:11 am
--Subsequent wakeups: 6:08 am, 6:30 am, 6:38 am, 6:46 am (last three with alarm clock)
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 6:48 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 7 hrs, 34 min
My first "regular" night of sleep, basically. Only two pre-alarm wakeups and, thank god, the first one didn't come until 5:11 am. Granted, I still felt wide awake when I came to, but it was nice to roll over and check the clock and not see that it was 2:30 am. And then, after falling back asleep, only one more pre-alarm wakeup--and strangely enough, I needed the alarm three times before I was able to rouse myself out of bed. Maybe tonight I'll sleep all the way through the point I'm ready to get up tomorrow morning. Thinking about trying to get up at 5 just to see what that's like.
I might carry this chart over into next week or beyond just to see how quickly everything gets fucked again, perhaps a preventive measure of self-conscious acknowledgement as to the way in which I allow myself to backslide toward unhealthiness.
Unofficial Post-Sleep Day 3 (Wednesday) Daytime Report
Another workday "bursting with energy." Experiencing more fully the good and bad realization of just how much of a difference it makes me for me to be able to go to work and be rested, as far as productivity goes, making the day go by faster, and feeling more generally connected to whatever's going on (which, by the way, is somehow no less depressing).
I will say that for sure I can now identify "Important Hyperliving Lesson #2", after CONQUERING FEAR, which is TIME MANAGEMENT. As nice as it is to make it through a work-day without getting tired, the 10pm bedtime window has made me acutely aware of how poorly I manage my time, in nearly all of my activities. How do people do it? Focus and sustained concentration are such struggles for me, and I think if I had to go to bed at 10 every night I would feel literally crushed by my inability to get all the things done I'd like (or need) to accomplish in the limited hours of each day. Obviously I would learn to do things better than I have, but nonetheless I can't imagine how I could possibly do it all. Blah--another lesson of ways to improve myself wrapped into hope, fear, and worry.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I feel a little tired this morning.
The official Night 3 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 10:26 pm
--Sleep music: Lali Puna, Scary World Theory
--Fell asleep: approx. 11:05 pm
--First woke up: 2:31 am
--Subsequent wakeups: 3:33 am, 3:58 am, 4:15 am, 4:34 am, 4:59 am, 5:11 am, 5:28 am, 5:47 am, 6:08 am, 6:26 am, 6:44 am, 6:59 am, 7:07 am, 7:15 am (last three with alarm clock)
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 7:16 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 8 hrs, 11 min
Now I'm beginning to get the feeling that I really just don't know how to sleep well, or that maybe I can't. Last night seemed like the most restless night I've had yet, haunted by ridiculous "wide-awake" REM dreams with real people in very real situations. I fell asleep a bit later than intended because I'd met up for drinks with a friend who, after I recapped to her what's been going on this week, said, "Jeffrey... so basically you're sleeping like a pregnant woman," explaining how her friend who recently birthed a child has spent the past few months prior to and after her pregnancy sleeping for only 10-20 minutes at a time, unable to link the bits of rest together into something more cumulatively beneficial.
And that's the weird thing: it's like I get one first block of 2-3 hrs of sleep, but then upon waking up that first time (at which point each of the three times I've felt wide awake), I am unable to sleep for more than 30 minute chunks before jerking awake, certain it's now 7:45 am. Que terible. Perhaps it's more about being used to having to wake up when i'm still exhausted, and also about constantly sleeping until the point when I really "have to" get up, but it's sort of alarming/depressing. It's been recommended to me by non-medical professionals that I attempt to procure some kind of sleeping aid(s) for the duration of the week, but I'm really not generally into taking medication, especially not of that variety and especially not when some of the options have crazy/dangerous side effects like wakeless activity-engaging sleepwalking. I'll just try to keep sticking it out as I've been doing, hoping that the coming nights will be more restful than the last few.
Unofficial Post-Sleep Day 2 (Tuesday) Daytime Report
Even if the nights haven't seemed quite restful enough, Tuesday was my second straight day of making it through all of work feeling like I had maintained a solid and unwavering sense of alertness (can't say focus exactly, given my general disinterest in my job) all day long. Again, this should NOT be a big a deal and is only testament to how long I've let myself run on empty. It's been pretty nice, because I feel like I've gotten a lot of work done and have still had time to be myself, which is to say pretty unfocused and distracted and unable to work on any one project/task for more than 4 minutes at a time.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
After this morning's early wake up, I was thankfully able to fall back to sleep (though not right away) and stayed asleep for a little bit longer this morning. The thought of going to bed at 10 pm again last night seemed a bit distressing, but Doorknobs played Fascist Hardass by barking and glaring at me until I was sheparded into my room to sleep, noting that I'd cheated last night anyway by going to bed at 10:40 (and, admittedly, not actually attempting to fall asleep until 10 minutes later when he tore my guitar from my hands).
The official Night 2 (Monday Night) Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 10:14 pm
--Sleep music: Crying mix, 2003
--Fell asleep: approx. 10:43 pm
--First wake-up: 2:09 am
--Subsequent wake-ups: 4:12 am, 4:49 am, 5:51 am, 6:38 am, 6:44 am (alarm)
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 6:46 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 8 hrs, 3 min
The positives of last night's sleep were that I stayed asleep longer before waking up for the first time, and, most importantly, I only woke up four more times after that before getting out of bed (as compared to Sunday night's horrifying eleven pre-GetUp wake-ups). Which means that my sleep was less interrupted and therefore more solid and, hopefully, regenerative.
On the other hand, upon waking up that first time at 2:09, my bed was covered in sweat and I got up to go the bathroom and when I came out a minute later, the realization hit me that I was completely awake and could have started a proverbial day. Which is kind of like, Umm, what the fuck?!?! What is wrong with me that my body's like, "Oh cool, gotcha, 3.5 hrs of sleep, so it's time to get up now, yes?" I guess I could respect the fact that I've turned my body into a fine-tuned machine able to operate on the sleep equivalent of banana peels and vegetable oil, but after twenty-five years of ill-rest, I think I'm less satisfied with this "triumph" than I have been in the past. My goal now is to find out if life has something else to offer a calmer, more rested version of me.
Unofficial Post-Sleep Day 1 (Monday) Daytime Report
If I had to offer a quick day-after analysis, I would suggest that Sunday night's sleep showed immediate outcomes in terms of my general wakefulness yesterday. For the first time in a non-busy workday while, at no point during the day yesterday did I suddenly feel overcome with exhaustion verging on sleep-collapse. This was both nice and depressing, as I feel guilty nearly falling asleep at work; though on the other hand, being alert only made me more acutely aware of my boredom and general disinterest in my job. I suppose, though, were I to have a different job, this might only be a positive, so I will hold onto that one. I'm curious to see how things will feel by Friday morning.
It's 2:10 am. I have been asleep since approximately 10:43 pm after going to bed at 10:14, which is 3.5 hrs, and I've just woken up for the first time about 4 minutes ago. Wide awake. seriously. back to sleep i go for round two. If i can get three more uninterrupted hours, I'm taking them
Monday, March 17, 2008
Today is my first day of being officially "rested". [The official "sleep report" of last night is at the end of this entry.]
I went to bed last night at about 10:40. I know I said I'd do 10 pm, but honestly, in the relative scale of Jeffrey Beaumont sleep activity this was a significant bedtime for me. I can, without exaggeration, count with both hands the number of times I've gone to bed before 11 pm over the past eight years.
I am a person with sleep habits that would be described by most (non-monk category) people as "terrible", "dangerous" or "inexplicable." I have pretty much always been this way, dating back to being a two year old who freaked his parents out at night by climbing out of his crib at night to come downstairs and watch TV with them. This was followed by years of reading-by-flashlight past my curfew (which my grandmother, bless her heart, used to say was the cause of my burgeoning myopia). Finally around age 14 or so there was no longer a sleep curfew--just my dad waking up to go to the bathroom at 1am yelling upstairs, "Get off the
computer and go to bed!" Then I went to college a few years later and bad sleep habits were cemented by four years of sleep patterns best described as "retarded."
Basically, I've just never really cared for sleep. Or at least, not getting any more of it than I feel I need. Mostly, I hate "going to bed"--I am a person who is rarely or never bored and so it always seems like there's something I could be doing at night rather than going to bed. Which is, of course, a hilarious thought given that I'm a terrible ADHD procrastinator with a horrible sense of time management and so despite the many things I could be doing at night, I'm often just senselessly awake for the sake of not sleeping.
And these bad sleep habits have seemed to hit a peak of preposterousness lately. Specifically I do not believe that I have gone to bed before 12:30 even once since a few days before Thanksgiving, and the vast majority of the days I've gone to bed after 2:30. This began with going through one of my first bouts of true insomnia, starting around Thanksgiving and continuing until Christmas, followed by the beginning of Hyperliving as 2008 rolled around. Just as I finally became able to sleep at night, I took on a schedule of hypermotive activity like nothing else I'd experienced and bad sleep habits became crazy sleep habits. For once, I had become so active that, between "living, hyperliving, and documenting my hyperliving", I began to feel like I truly didn't have time to sleep.
I would estimate that for 5 or 6 days of each week in 2008 I have been sleeping only between 3-5 hours a night, and the other nights--even including weekends--I have gotten 6 or maybe 7 hours of sleep only. For a while I was fine on this crazy schedule, but at some point a few weeks ago I felt an overwhelming sense of major exhaustion creeping in and I knew that something had to change. Part of the problem, as I suggested earlier, is that I am not very efficient with my time. I need to budget more time than most people to complete each individual task because my mind is constantly distracted and wandering from what I'm supposed to be doing. Writing, blogging, cleaning, even getting dressed or getting ready for work... all of these activities take forever because I can't go for more than a few minutes without stopping to pick up a banana, check out a sports score, poke through my iTunes library, pick up a basketball, pick up my guitar, und so weite. Essentially anything laying around my house that could serve as a focus deterrent becomes one, and so it becomes a shitty struggle for me get through anything in a reasonable amount of time, let alone quickly.
A part of me is obviously comfortable with these distractions, and my liberal sense of timing coupled with my lack of concern over not sleeping enables these behaviors more further... but let me be clear that I wish it were different. I don't like the fact that I stay later at work than everyone else, because I get there later and then need more time to get basic shit done. And even for things that are fun, like writing, it still takes me forever to finish my thoughts, even when I have something specific I want to write about--and often by end I feel like i've left out some crucial points that I lost focus on and forgot about. The constant wanderings my mind aren't just frustrating; they sort of kill me.
But wrapped up in part of this week's task is an acknowledgment that at least part of my struggles may very likely come as a result of never operating at 100% brainpower, because, honestly, there's just no way anyone runs at 100% on only 3-5 hours of sleep a night. I have little doubt that I am less predisposed than most toward holding "normal" patterns of attention, but I truly have no way of knowing for sure how real my "problems" are and to what degree they come from never being rested enough, since (I'd guess) I have spent most of my entire life underrested.
So we'll see how this week goes. 10 pm is really early, more early honestly than I need, but if I want this to truly be an experiment, I needed to raise the sleep meter high enough so as to be certain that I'm getting a statistically significant increase in sleep/rest.
The official Night 1 Sleep Report
--Went to bed: 10:40 pm
--Sleep music: Yo La Tengo, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
--Fell asleep: approx. 11:05 pm
--First woke up: 1:22 am
--Subsequent wakeups: 3:30 am, 4:15 am, 4:40am, 5:05 am, 5:29 am, 5:51 am, 6:14 am, 6:32 am, 6:51 am, 7:06 am, 7:13 am (all without alarm clock)
--Out of bed/wide-awake: 7:22 am
--Total sleep period (counting brief wake-ups): 8 hrs, 17 min
As you can see, my body wasn't entirely prepared for all of this sleep, as I first woke up at 1:22 am (!!!!). It depresses the shit out of me a little that my body is like, "Oh two hours, cool, ready to go (sort of) if that's what you need." Worse though is the fact starting at 3:30 (4.5 hrs of sleep down) I began to wake-up approximately every thirty minutes for the duration of my "sleep" until I got up for good at 7:22--without the aid of my alarm, which had been set for 7:30. Worth noting is that each of these times I awoke, I wasn't so rested or alert that I actually wanted to get out of bed, but I was awake enough so that I couldn't just fall back to sleep and stay asleep.
We'll see how the rest of the week goes (hopefully better than last night), but I'm excited that maybe I'll learn something new or at least for a few days see a different side of Jeffrey Beaumont.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
So I thought it over and decided I had better things to do than sit around feeling shitty about the rough turns life can have for you. Life isn't always sunshine but even rainy stormclouds go away after a while if you can just try to be patient and hold on. My friend B put it best when she wrote me last night and said:
"The thing about depression is that you can't block it out. You have to live with it/in it and deal with it in your own way, second by second until it quiets/retreats/dulls."
It was hot enough that I didn't even really need the jacket.
So a new day it is and onward I go. I'll be ok if I can weather the storm.
It's also just dawned on me that I have to go bed in seven and a half hours. Hmm.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I am struggling right now--March hasn't been so good to me. First i failed to complete an entire week's task on Beck and now this week's thank yous... one finished letter and two nearly finished letters is not enough. Let alone the three long overdue and very nearly finished (but "not yet perfect") mixes sit on my proverbial dashboard... and I haven't run in five days. If i had to label a "loser week" so far this year, this is surely it.
Unfortunately right now I'm struggling to get through the most significant depression I've felt in a while. I float through work like a zombie, struggling to do enough just to be ok, and then i get home and sit motionless on the couch or at the kitchen table or on my bed, held captive by my runaway brain waves. Self-esteem is low and sense of self lower. The last few days especially have been rough, and it hasn't helped that the apartment has been empty most of the week due to SXSW and other roommate life requirements. All day long and especially at home I am bombarded by destructive thoughts of sadness and loss and emptiness and despair and they take complete and total control of me, shutting everything down.
How do you block this kind of shit out? This is what I am trying to learn, and what, thus far, I have failed mightily at discovering. When I've got things going right (which admittedly in my life hasn't seemed often enough), everything clicks. But when things get out of hand, or go downhill, my spirit bends and sways and then ultimately collapses, knocked over by the powerful and seizing winds of depression.
Something has happened to my brain also, musically speaking, where I am listening to a handful of fucking songs OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. It's bizarre--never in my life have I wanted to put songs on repeat, but over the past two and a half months there are five specific songs that I've listened to over and over again. These songs, even though two of them are half-joyful, all speak to what's been going on in my life these past few months and I guess they just clicked with me representing different phases of feeling I've had (umm maybe Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief?). Three of them are on the "Anglophilia" mix that will come someday soon, another on a mix I made a few months back. Beck week has inspired my most recent of these obsessions, as evidenced via my Last.FM recent play count of 15 listens (so far) over today and yesterday.
Anyway, as He says, I think/hope that "the cruelest days are almost over now," so hopefully i'll be back on track soon, maybe starting today. Next week though is "just" going to bed early, so outside of the fact that I'm unconvinced that my body knows how to fall asleep before 1 a.m., I think i'll be able to get through it and feel good about myself again (Doorknobs and Shrimp Cracker have promised to remove all electrical devices, including my phone, laptop, and even lamp from my bedroom, save my alarm clock, which honestly I probably won't need if I fall asleep before midnight since my body seems to wake up on its own after five or six hours of sleep.
if you've got any thoughts for me on getting over this kinda shit, hit me up here or at yearofhyperliving AT gmail.com. I'm always interested in the different ways that people deal with things; sometimes hearing another perspective reminds you to how to look at yourself anew and see new answers to old problems.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I am getting behind. Worn down by life and commitments. But here's the week's first thank you letter, finished last night and mailed today.
First I want to say thanks to Kristen C (or is it B now?), for giving me the idea for this week's project. It was a great idea and I'm glad she shared it with me.
I wrote this letter to both of my grandparents, who are two of the most important people in my life.
My grandfather is the sweetest, kindest, most gentle man who would give up anything he had without thinking to help the ones he loves. He took me to my first baseball game, he played catch me, he's driven me all over the place, he gave me a car when my first car died (I killed it, accidentally), he's even watched the dog of former my girlfriend. And none of this aid was provided out of duty or requirement, but love, always and always love, which is as clear in his eyes as is the disgust on his face at the mention of Dan Duquette, runner of the beloved Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens out of town.
And my grandmother, well, she is something else: there are not many people out there in the world like Dot Koeppel. A tough and powerful woman, she is a figure who almost towers over the lives of everyone who crosses paths with her; she is honestly a force to be reckoned with. Most importantly, I think she has taught me to value strength in women and to seek out for friends and lovers strong females who don't think twice about forming their own opinions and speaking their minds. More and more these kind of attitudes are common of women of my generation, which is makes me swell with joy, but they certainly weren't common in my grandmother's or even my mom's time.
My letter to them both just told them all of this and more. I haven't been the best at keeping in touch with them over these past few years since my parents separated and I graduated college, and I feel pretty shameful about it. But I hope to change my behavior so that they begin seeing and hearing more of me, and I thought this note of love and appreciation to them might be a good start.
Also nearly finished one to Isaac Brock, but does anyone have his mailing address? Can send to Sony obviously but any thoughts anyone has would be greatly appreciated.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Today I am using the folly of Eliot Spitzer to distract you from my own failings.
I like this quote from NYT:
Dr. Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University, said that many politicians are what he calls 'Type T personalities,' with T standing for thrill-seeking. ...[But] it is sometimes speculated that certain politicians, at least subconsciously, want to be caught and have their careers upended. But do they?Spitzer shall be receiving a thank you letter from me tonight. Up until today, I had exactly two "personal effects" adorning my officespace.
"I’ve never seen it," said Dr. Farley. "I don’t believe it’s a factor with these
people. It’s just in their nature to push things. I don’t think they have a
death wish. I think they have a life wish. They just love all aspects of life —
some of it too much."
One was this Dilbert cartoon, representing my daily feelings:
And the other was this photo of Eliot Spitzer, with the bubble "Bye, Jeffrey" coming from his mouth--a parting gift from another floor as I graduated from floor cubicle to personal (though shared) office:
The creases and wrinkles in the photo admittedly weren't there until today, when I tore the photo down and crumpled it up to throw out, before deciding to re-affix it and photograph for lasting documentation. I will include the photo in my letter to Spitzer thanking him for his year of service but respectfully requesting that he get the fuck out of town and join a private equity firm somewhere where he can just make millions of creepy dollars and live in his own world of fucktastic indulgence.
I have a life wish too, dudes: for the love of "God", can just one single honest politician stand-up for the people? One single person who isn't a worthless hypocrite raging against gays or prostitution or gambling whilst indulging in such "vices" on their own (though, seriously, gambling really IS a terrible vice); dipping their hand in industrial or pharma or cosa nostra $$$ and effecting crooked-minded policy; failing to acknowledge the reality of their experiences growing up American in America (smoking pot, lying occasionally, making mistakes).
I championed this asshole once, even knowing he was probably a huge jerk, because I thought that just maybe his drive for success would be enough to lead him to accomplish some good for the world. Now I see that any good was strictly incidental in the pursuit of Eliot's ever-widening-head. Thanks, Eliot, for reminding me that all heavy-weight politicos are greedy, self-indulgent, untrustworthy scumbag HYPOCRITES, and that it is foolish for me to put any hope in any of them being any different from the rest.
So Eliot, yeah, you lose today, but unfortunately, I've no doubt that you'll eventually win again. Sadly, the rest of us aren't so lucky: in the relative (meaning inherently fucked-up) scale of America, we lose, always.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Beck isn't done. Still working. Re-writing, listening, re-writing. Coming along sooon.
Thank you letter week begins this week. Started but didn't finish my letter last night. Will finish that one and another tonight. Will post more. Will continue Beck. Will attempt to manufacture time for sleep prior to enforced sleeping week next week.
experiencing difficulty combining life development and hyperliving. david zach is laughing/smiling/doing what adults do when they "know better than the kids."
rah rah rah.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
I am working furiously on my Beck b-sides evaluation (yeah, still not done). But for you, reader, before attempting to digest a lengthy compendium on the most obscure bits of an already left-of-center artist, it will help to have some context of his central output.
Here, very briefly, is a simple discography of his albums:
1993, ?: Golden Feelings (tape only), Sonic Enemy Records
1994, ?: A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight (10" only), Fingerpaint Records
1994, February 22: Stereopathetic Soulmanure, Flipside Records
1994, March 1: Mellow Gold, DGC
1994, June 27: One Foot In the Grave, K Records
1996, June 18: Odelay, DGC
1998, November 3: Mutations, DGC
1999, November 23: Midnite Vultures, DGC
2002, September 24: Sea Change, DGC
2005, March 29: Guero, Interscope
2006, October 3: The Information, Interscope
And the art...
1993 Golden Feelings (tape only)
1994 A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight (10")
1994 Stereopathetic Soulmanure
1994 Mellow Gold
1994 One Foot In the Grave
1999 Midnite Vultures
2002 Sea Change
2006 The Information
Many of these releases will probably be familiar to the average music listener, but some of them probably much less so. Throughout his 15ish year career, Beck has released a lot of music and to varying fanfare, so the point when you first checked in with Beck and the degree to which you've ever cared about him probably informs which of these releases you may be familiar with.
For starters, Beck's first big single, "Loser," appeared on Mellow Gold in '94 and for most people, this is where it all begins. Mellow Gold is commonly thought of as Beck's debut, but obviously this isn't the case. The first two releases, Western Harvest and Golden Feelings, are certainly the least familiar here, as each came out in very limited runs on tiny--and now defunct--labels, and in formats that were obscure for even '94 (cassette only and 10"??? how many people own a single 10" record???). Western Harvest had a number of subsequent re-releases throughout the 90s and I know a number of folks who own a copy, but I have never before seen a copy of Golden Feelings or know anyone who possesses one. At the end of the day, neither of these two discs are that important in the grand scheme of Beck appreciation, as the music on each largely consists of slight lo-fi acoustic tracks and trying noise experiments; however, there are a few nuggets to be mined (namely "Totally Confused") and they are worth seeking out if you want to learn more about Beck's roots and early influences.
His next three releases though usher in the era of "mature" Beck, and are a great place to start if you want to get to know some great but less familiar Beck. You might have noticed that these three, Stereopathetic Soulmanure, Mellow Gold, and One Foot in the Grave were all released within a few months of each other in the first half of '94. All three were released in the period following the debut of his first buzzbin single "Loser," which after huge radioplay in LA led to a signing with Geffen's DGC. Operating with a near-Pollardesque rate of prolificness at the time, Beck wanted to ensure that he'd be free from the one-album-a-year major label expectations and signed an open-ended contract with Geffen allowing him to release music concurrently on other labels. Not all of this music was created during this time period (some of Stereopathetic comes from his recording archives going back to '88), but this period for Beck was an exciting time where he was literally puking out songs each time he opened his mouth.
Mellow Gold, the DGC release, is probably well-known to most or at least many, especially the singles "Loser," "Pay No Mind," and "Beercan." The other two, however, have flown much further under the radar (though in the Internet seeker era, One Foot In the Grave, with it's Calvin Johnson/K Records associations, has become something of a minor indie 90s canon entry among music nerds). Largely alternating between country ditties and punk/noise experiments, Stereopathetic Soulmanure features some of the great early Beck songs, including "Rowboat" (later covered by Johnny Cash on American II: Unchained, click to listen here) and "Satan Gave Me a Taco." Some of the noise tracks are sophomoric and less exciting, but the hi-to-lo array of tones on the album is probably wider than any other release in his discography.
One Foot in the Grave, on the other hand, is the most sonically uniform album in Beck's discography. A lo-fi folk album (with two lo-fi thrasher exceptions) cut with Calvin Johnson (of 80s indies Beat Happening and owner of K), and Chris Ballew (of Presidents of USA aka "Lump" fame) while living in Olympia, WA, these spare tunes function as the distillation of "Beck, indie folkster" and have given him his largest cache of his non-mainstream indie cred. I love this record, but in my honest opinion, it's kind of overrated by the small few "in the know." A sweet and pleasant album, but it ain't no Times Are A-Changin' or nothing.
You've probably read a lot more about the releases that folllow so I will only hit them briefly:
- Odelay: The album that elevated Beck from one-hit buzzbin novelty wonder to Serious (For the Kids) Artist. Odelay took the explorative funk and hiphop elements found in his earlier music and, using powerful rock, soul, and country samples as a backbone, melded them into a definitive 90s post-hiphop (Paul's Boutique in particular) concoction to blow away the masses. This album blew my mind in 1996 and still does wonders for me now, hundreds of listens later. Like nearly all of Beck's releases, Odelay lays out rules for a sonic form and sticks to them, but unlike everything else, the Odelay blueprint runs a wide enough gamut so as to allow for the widest variety in tone and timbre--translating into a feeling that this is "the mostest Beckest" you can get (that's scientific terminology for you). Other releases may have some greater moments, but Odelay still ranks as the best and most concise presentation of Beck's importance in the strata of modern popular music. So umm, yeah... if you don't own it already you might wanna look into
stealing getting it.
- Mutations: Cut in two weeks at one song per day (literally--14 songs from these sessions, 12 of which were used on the album), this album was intended as a tossed-off stopgap to whet appetites until a "proper" Odelay followup to come a year later. However, the results, a Nigel Godrich-helmed study of 60s baroque pop, became what stands today as the second best album of his career. For my money, I still stick with the widescreen inscrutable absurdisms of Odelay, but many folks would cite Mutations as their favorite Beck and--though I didn't always feel this way--I can certainly understand why.
- Midnite Vultures: crudely, Beck's voyage to Minneapolis to shake hands and kiss the ring of , the funky one. Of all his albums, this one stands out--now as it then--as the most obvious "genre exercise" of his many forays into curated musical exploration. On its own, it has its pluses and minuses. Mainly, it literally bursts with excitement; when I listen, I can practically see Beck dancing around the room and shouting, "Smokey, GUITAR, now! Guitar, NOW!" It's also the apex of his eccentricalia maximalism, e.g. "Dance floors and talk shows, hot dogs, No-Doz / Hot sex in back rows" (little did I know in '99 that this would turn out to be the case). Tracks like "Sexx Laws," "Nicotine & Gravy," "Mixed Bizness" and, of course, "Debra" crackle with excitement and each are revelatory in their celebration of Beck As Kooky AloofDanceSexGodMaster. ...But. I like Midnite Vultures, honestly, but it's definitely one of those records that I sort of "have to be in the mood for" (a damning statement, obviously). It's almost "too much" at times, and freaks me out a little. Also, again as I said first, it's a "genre exercise" and encompasses the sort of limitations that you might expect from such a venture. In '99 I said, "Well, neat, let's see what comes next"; had I known what was to come I might have listened differently.
- Sea Change: Argh. Schlock. Shittiness. Disappointment. Hype taglines: "Beck's return to 'songwriting craft'", "Mutations II", "his breakup album", "his confessional explorations of singer/songwriterism". My tagline applied September 24, 2002, hours after my first listen: "Lost creativity, confused direction, bloated head... frown and, especially, zzzzZZZZZZZ."
In his review of Sea Change for Rolling Stone, David Fricke said,
"Sea Change is the real thing -- a perfect treasure of soft, spangled woe sung with a heavy open heart. ...As a young folk singer at the turn of the Nineties, Beck set out to be his own Dylan. With Sea Change, he has made it the hard way, creating an impeccable album of truth and light from the end of love. This is his Blood on the Tracks."Ah, one more reason why music criticism and the influence it wields kills me sometimes. Fricke's review is touching and beautifully written (check it out, really), and is about the greatest piece of PR Beck's management could hope for. Honestly, there's no way I wouldn't want to go buy the album after reading it. But as far as applying his insights to what's actually there... well, let's put it this way: there is more excitement (as well as truth, light, and love) in the last 30 seconds of "Debra" than in the entirety of Sea Change added together and multiplied by four. I think I can safely say that never in my life have I been more let down by a piece of music than the first time I heard tracks from Sea Change (debut day was spoiled slightly when Shrimp Cracker brought home a four track album sampler from the radio station which clued me in to the impending doom). After the crazy excessive "I'm Beck, motherfuckers!" of Midnite Vultures, the sound alone of Sea Change was completely shocking, even after having heard the pre-album buzz that it would be song-based album in the vein of Mutations. I thought nearly every song sounded flat and lifeless. The lyrics, which up til then in his career contributed integrally to the total package of Beck As Someone Outside the Circle, were limp, cliched and, worst of all, mundane. Of all 12 tracks, only trick non-album closer "Sunday Sun"(ah, "No Surprises" Nigel!) spoke to me in any kind of an interesting way. The rest? Opener, "Golden Years," umm... ok, I guess sorta. What else? "Paper Tiger" is at least a little different than the others, a little. And the strings on "Lonesome Tears" (arranged by Beck's Grammy-winning musician/Scientologist father David Campbell), while completely over-the-top, are sort of enjoyable in a slurpy schlockalicious sort of way. Worst worst of all though is the fact that it all sounded not even "bad" but just so goddamned BORING, to the point that it convinced me that the man might have lost it completely (like Rod Stewart releasing Smiler as followup to four great albums, the last two among Rock's greatest, spelling the completely and total end of the true rock n' roller we'd come to know and love). This crushing and depressing disappointment of Sea Change, coupled with seeing him perform a terrible show a month later in Syracuse where he acted like a prima donna and took FOREVER between set breaks, ruined this disc pretty badly for me. To be fair, I will say that over the years, my reflexive HATE-HATE-HATE-sadness-HATE for this album has subsided somewhat, but it's still just blah and depresses me that it seems to have meant more about the future than the present.
- Guero. More written about this one in the b-sides piece to come. The verdict? Not good: his worst album, probably. Would have also been a huge disappointment (pre-buzz PRspeak: "Beck's return to Odelay roots and form!") had Sea Change not already prepared me to imagine a world in which Beck no longer had anything to say. "Girl" is best track, by a landslide, though it says it all that the bonus disc includes a remix by complete unknowns who best Beck at his best; another remix ("Broken Drum") by J Beaumont-faves Boards of Canada bests everything Beck has done in the entire third millennium.
- The Information. Honestly, I just listened to this album for the first time ever this week. Perhaps you can tell, but I felt so badly burned by my hero after two straight limp and toothless shitbox albums that I assumed I would never have a reason to hear new Beck again. Hyperliving, however, is all about reconsiderations and seeking new paths of understanding, and so in the interest of not being a total fuck, I downloaded and gave it a spin. And you know, really, it's not bad. I've only listened straight through twice so far, but "Nausea" has been on repeat since I first heard it. I don't think I'll ever move "The Information" into the category of revelatory, but I'm just a little overjoyed to have "enjoyable" from this man.
And that's it, his albums from beginning to now. One thing you might have noticed is that he had FIVE albums come out between '93-94. Unfortunately, the sad and killer thing about the great abundance of Beck during this time, coupled with an awareness of the open-door contract, is the fact that, album-wise, his prodigous output dropped off precipitously after One Foot In the Grave. From there, Odelay came two years later, followed by Mutations two and a half years later, Midnite Vultures one year later (speedy), Sea Change three years year and then Guero two and a half years after that. Meaning, after five releases in '93-'94, Beck released only five more albums over the next eleven years. Part of this is because beginning with Odelay, Beck stopped making kitchen sink funk and folk ditties and began crafting ambitious and complex pop albums. Part of it was personal shit in his life, leading to misstarts and pressure and the consequences of burgeoning stardom. But another part of it is that Beck never actually stopped making music; he kept churning out tunes, great ones even, but left them in the studio or the cutting room floor, where they were only to see the light of day in release as random singles, b-sides, and/or compilation and soundtrack filler.
Ah yes, and why we're here: Beck's vast trove of non-album material. From 1993-2005, Beck made tons and tons of great music that, in my mind, truly supplements his legacy as a great artist. But so much of it never appeared on albums and is therefore basically unknown to the general public. And so, now I will bring it to you. Tomorrow.
For shits and giggs, here's some bonus bonus goodies for you. Made available for your downloading pleasure now are four releases below from the very beginning of Beck's career: Of most musical value are his first two proper albums (as mentioned above), Golden Feelings and A Western Harvest Field by Moonlight, but also included are two of a great number of self-released lofi cassettes of acoustic/noise ramblings dating prior to Golden Feelings. Of these, Don't Get Bent Out of Shape includes many songs which later appeared re-recorded in fleshed out technicolor, and A Banjo Story, from 1988, featuring a young and tiny EIGHTEEN year old Beck--his very first tape ever. Also, these are all neat since none are available on CD or mp3 as of now. So, enjoy.
Tapes n' tapes:
A Banjo Story tape (1988)
Don't Get Bent Out of Shape tape (1992)
A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight
So Doorknobs just walked over to me and handed me a note that he has been holding onto, which I received four years ago in April 2004 from some female friends who thought it would be fun to bust my balls on a night we were having a party at the house, by planting thongs (yes, thongs) and raunchy love letters throughout my apartment. It would have been a funny prank at the time too, were I not a) a little too serious & sensitive for my own good, b) a little too absentminded for my own good, and c) had my estranged, hot-and-bothered (angry, not horny) ex-girlfriend not just shown up at the apartment a few minutes before one of the thongs was pulled from between the couch cushions and announced to the party. Oh yeah, and I was a little too inebriated for my own good. So yeah. That was a good time.
Anyway, here's the "letter" in all it's glory. I'm glad it's legible cause i'd rather not have to retype it and then start showing up in a Google search when someone enters the words "Jeffrey Beaumont" "wet" and "horny". Oh. Oops.
Believe it or not, those stains are from Doorknobs tossing the note onto a plate of bacon today. Not anything else.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
This was the alternate cover to Bonnie Prince Billy's Master and Everyone
Still running. No dog today, but for the first time I truly felt great out there and felt like I was, for at least a bit, beginning to approach "fast" again. Though I did think to myself at one point, "Dude, you have gone a LONG way away from being someone who could say 'I'm an ex-crosscountry runner and have it mean something.'" Anyway I continue forward in hopes that one day I might be able to fit into that precious marigold Betsy Johnson gown.
This is my life in bare reduction right now: cigarettes, crazy pills, computer cord.
Where have I been all week? Like, what the fuck dude? This blog is beginning to look like Jeffrey Beaumont's Slang Editorial ghost-town #2. I don't quite have an excuse for the straight-up online absence, but I've been spending my time working on a writing project that I started in March 2005, in hopes that one week of hard work will finally make me finish something that's been sitting on face for 3 years now.
The project, a treatise on the non-album music of Beck, began in earnest in celebration of the imminent release of Beck's "new" album Guero, his first in years. Most importantly though, it was hailed in PRspeak as the "return to form," the "return to his Odelay roots", the "honestly, he hasn't lost it" album, meant to reign triumphantly after the disastrously vacant Sea Change in 2002.
At one point, Beck had been the towering cultural figure of my life. He spoke to me and my generation in ways no others--including Cobain--seemed to be able (more on this later), and I had hopes, however cynically tempered, that just maybe Guero was where he'd get back on the wagon and show me once again the paths of the future. Or at least some new dreamy wonderlands.
But he didn't, it didn't, and that's that. And my writing project, fully underweigh and with lofty sights set, has lived in sleep on my Blogger Dashboard in "Draft" status for three years.
I once thought of myself as a burgeoning music writer, and the status of this little piece is perhaps the best representation of "where I'm at with that." Ambitious, stalled, bloated, and ultimately incomplete. I try again now to at least finish it so I can see if I ever had anything good, or at least move on to find something else to get stuck in my exhaust pipe. Theoretically this process should be "fun," and it sort of has, but I'm not really sure how it will end.
Lofty promises for the week that I aim to deliver by Sunday afternoon:
- The Full and Weighty Story of Beck Hansen and, Specifically, His Non-album Music
- The Complete Beck Hansen Non-album Music playlist (individual mp3 and zip)
- Bonus: the Jeffrey Beaumont curated "Best of Beck" playlist (mp3 zip)
- Extra non-Beck related bonuses (one admittedly promised last week): Special Rod Stewart/Faces playlist and "Anglophilia mix" (mp3 zips)
So let's see if I deliver or fall on my face. Here's an mp3 teaser for the week (that, admittedly, is almost over):
Beck - Debra (live in Holland) --- After hearing this version, I no longer can listen to the Midnite Vultures album vers and get excited.
"Beck, in topform"
Monday, March 3, 2008
Two months down. Moving along. Blog posts slowly devolving into languageless Twitterfests.
The next four weeks of Hyperliving are going to be:
Week 9, March 2-8: Finish a long unfinished writing project (essay on Beck)
Week 10, March 9-15: Write a thank you letter every night
Week 11, March 16-22: Go bed at 10pm every night (midnight on Fri/Sat)
Week 12, March 23-29: Write and record three garage/punk songs
I will also continue running for each day of week 9 (and then hopefully all the weeks after that).
I think I may have found the recipe for running success: a new partner.
I've been looking for a running partner ever since I quit cross-country in high school and stopped running with Tim Oakley and Mike Hiscox. I know that more than many people I thrive off the inspiration/motivation generated by running with others--basically I need the shame of potential failure to keep me moving--and one of the big reasons I've struggled so much in my feeble attempts at "starting to run again".
A post-run beer (this is the difficulty presented in living with men and running after work)
Unfortunately, none of the partners I have attempted to work with over the past few years have quite worked out. Maybe I don't know how to look, but it hasn't seemed easy finding someone who wants to run the same general speed, amount of distance, and times of day--let alone also living nearby where it works conveniently and reasonably (outside of certain organized sports, I'm not generally interested in the idea of traveling across town just to exercise--though, admittedly, i'm not really interested in the idea of general exercise either).
But really, I know that exercise won't start becoming better until I get myself someone to run with. I mentioned my dilemma to my friend Sooooooz today and she had a brilliant idea: "You should run with E-bad's dog,"
This is the one time I've ever seen him not running in circles
Admittedly, E-bad herself had suggested this to me already, but before I'd started running, and at the time I had thought that a) I could run on my own and b) I wasn't sure I could handle running with a dog. But sure enough, I went out there today with Weegee, Captain of Dog Pirates, and it was really great. It got a little dicey when we got too near McCarren Park and he decided that we needed to stop running and go to the dogpark, but after i'd dragged him enough blocks away we got back on pace and things went well from there. We'll see how it goes tomorrow but I think i might have found the right match.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
After yesterday's shittiness, I got back out there and ran again today.
I always look very serious after a run, perhaps because I am hating myself.
I really HATE running. I keep thinking it's eventually going to become fun, and it even seems like it might be "good" and "invigorating" right before I get out there, but by about three minutes in I realize it's only going to be torture and I will pray and beg myself for the moment that it is all over.
Above all, the pain I endure while running is uncomfortable to me because it seems to epitomize most strongly the peculiar basis of most every "let-down failure" of my life: something I should (eg "have the skills to") be good at, brought down by not quite enough intrinsic motivation, terrible self-discipline to will success, and flaky stamina/focus (the lack of self-discipline contributing to this weakness of course). Every time I get out there I think about the day I quit running cross-country and the strange journey I've taken ever since. I hope that someday things will not be the same.
I've decided to extend this week's Hyperliving into next week, because I really need to keep making myself do this and I'm not ready to stop.