Inhuman Swill : Music

Spoon: a baptism by immersion

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Temporary Fandoms Spoon Immersion: Day 1
Temporary Fandoms is a group for plunging into complete discographies, and for days, weeks, or on rare occasions, even months, listening exclusively to the work and evolution of a single artist.

Starting Monday, I will be guest-curating a two-week immersion in the discography of Spoon. Every weekday from now until April 21 we will listen to and discuss one Spoon album (with a side excursion into Divine Fits on Day 8). There will be bonus listening with B-sides, live tracks, and more, and more than a spoonful of spirited debate.

Please join us.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tempfans/

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Watching Tyler Glenn's video for his new solo single, "Trash," the anger is palpable and inescapable. But it also brims with pain and grief.

"Trash" exploded across the online Mormon world last week, causing the faithful to recoil and apostates to jump up and down in a fever. Glenn is the lead singer of Provo's Neon Trees. A lifelong member of the LDS Church, he made headlines two years ago by coming out as gay in the pages of Rolling Stone. He still believed, though—until six months ago, that is, when the church issued draconian new guidelines for the ecclesiastical treatment of children of same-sex couples.

Now comes "Trash," a video in which Tyler Glenn drinks liquor from the bottle, spits on a defaced portrait of Joseph Smith, enacts all four of the secret handshakes from the temple endowment ceremony, draws a red X on his face, and ultimately crumples amidst a blizzard of printed pages possibly meant to represent Mormon scripture.

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Ella's album covers: Signals

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David Bowie
This morning we wake up to a world without David Bowie.

It seems impossible that he's gone. If anyone on Earth seemed otherworldly enough to transform himself into something eternal and transcendent, it was Bowie. But even he tried to remind us in 1997 that he was not really an alien but an Earthling.

His death hit me harder this morning than I would have expected (as is no doubt true for all of us). I haven't felt this devastated at a musician's death, in fact, since 1990, when Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash. (And is it coincidence that Bowie had helped raised Vaughan's profile, as he did with so many other musicians?)

I came to Bowie "late," as I didn't really start paying attention to his music until 1983, when I was 16. Let's Dance ruled the charts, but it was generally held that his important work was all behind him and he was now selling out. None of that mattered to me, though. I knew some of his earlier music because he was one of the few '70s artists who was played on my favorite Utah new wave station. But Let's Dance was a perfect album for my generation—consummate pop you could move to on the dancefloor while still feeling smart. And Bowie himself seemed the epitome of suavity and cool.

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I lived it almost thirty years ago. I started writing it almost seventeen years ago. Today, at long last, The Accidental Terrorist is here. (Quick, lock your doors!)

What more can I say to you about it? I hope you'll order a copy, if you haven't already. Here are some review excerpts. Here is a reading I did last week. And while you're waiting for the book to arrive, you can listen to this Spotify soundtrack in less than a mere two a half hours.

Oh, yes, and don't forget to stop back in about an hour for a very important announcement...

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William Shunn at HiFi Bar, October 11, 2015
You probably missed my spoken-word performance this past Sunday night at HiFi Bar, the first of a handful of events celebrating the forthcoming release of my memoir, The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. The set combined excerpts from the book with original poetry, and featured musical backing by the very capable Daniel Geoghegan on drums and Jon Pope on bass.

We had a terrific time doing it. Happily, my friend Jeff Lang shot video, so you can hear what we sounded like. Here, for example, is our rendition of an old poem of mine called "Coney Island Lifeguard Blues":

And if you want to hear more, Jeff has also posted video of the full 42-minute set. Check it out.

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The Sundays Sessions with William Shunn feat. Daniel Geoghegan and Jon Pope
New Yorkers! Come see me at HiFi Bar this Sunday night, as I perform memoir excerpts and original poetry with drum-and-bass backing. I probably won't be going on until after 9:00 pm, but please show up for the whole evening to support The Sunday Sessions at HiFi.

We'll have books for sale, too, pre-release.

The Sunday Sessions feat. William Shunn
with musical backing by Daniel Geoghegan & Jon Pope

Sunday, October 11, 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.

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The Falcon and the Snowman: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack In 1985, I was a far bigger fan of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny than just about any other musician. The album that infected me was 1982's Offramp, which sounded unlike anything else I'd ever heard. I became a hardcore consumer of any and all vinyl featuring either Metheny or his compositional partner in the Pat Metheny Group, pianist Lyle Mays. (My friends and I could and did spend hours debating the meaning of the 20-minute title track from As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. Yes, we were not normal.)

Thus it was inevitable, thirty years ago, that I would buy the new album from the Pat Metheny Group as soon as it appeared, even if it was the soundtrack to a movie I had not seen. I had a vague understanding of the true-life espionage case behind The Falcon and the Snowman (based on the book by Robert Lindsey), which told the story of Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee, two young men from southern California who were arrested in 1977 for selling intelligence secrets to the Soviet Union. (Boyce was a falconry enthusiast and Lee a cocaine dealer, which is where their sobriquets came from.) I always meant to see the film, but never did.

But that didn't affect my enjoyment of the soundtrack. In fact, it might have enhanced it, as I could listen and try to imagine what was happening on screen during each passage. It wasn't my favorite Metheny album by any means, but parts of it I liked quite a lot. I even grudgingly came to enjoy the collaboration with David Bowie that kicked off side 2 of the record, "This Is Not America"—though I disliked the way the credits on the single made it seem like the Pat Metheny Group was just Bowie's backing band.

Anyway, it was late in 1985, when I was 18, after I'd been living with the album for eight or nine months, that a close friend of mine, whom I call "Andy Kilmer" in The Accidental Terrorist, came to me with a request. This passage is from the book:

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I've always believed that I have a pretty good memory—in particular, that I can recall formative events and conversations from years or even decades ago in reasonably good detail. When I started work on my memoir The Accidental Terrorist, I made a list of incidents, events, and bits of lore from my mission that I wanted to include. The more of these that I wrote down, the more others I started to remember. My notes ran pages and pages and pages.

I'm now working my way through a revision of the book with notes from my editor, Juliet Ulman. The occasional query scrawled in the margin questions details I seem to recall clearly. I've started wondering how much I can trust those old memories, especially the smaller moments I could easily have misremembered or invented. I've started looking for bits I can actually confirm.

Last night I came to the passage below, which seemed like it should be eminently verifiable. The scene is southern Alberta, October 1986:

On Friday of that week, we were talking heavy metal when I mentioned that the only band I liked of that sort was Rush.

"Ah, so you're one of those," said Fowler. "Same as every other missionary in Canada. You know last winter they had a concert scheduled up in Edmonton?"

"That was the Power Windows tour. What a great show. I saw it in Salt Lake."

"Well, I was serving in Edmonton at the time. I swear half the elders in town must've had tickets."

I gaped. In my civilian life, I had the right to choose to see a rock concert if I wanted, whether or not the Church or my father approved. But for a missionary, ordained and set apart as a representative of Jesus Christ, the rules were different. No music, especially not rock music, and especially not live rock music. That was just handing Satan the keys to your soul's front door.

"Including you?" I asked.

"Naw, Rush ain't my thing. But anyways, the day of the show this massive blizzard hits. No joke. Shuts everything down. No planes in or out. Concert canceled."

"Whoa."

"You're telling me. You think God wanted all those missionaries rocking out in clouds of dope smoke? No way. It would have killed the Spirit dead in Edmonton for a month."
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Lament

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And I remember
standing on the wall.

As they kissed,
we shot over their heads.

Just for one day,
can't we be heroes?

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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