Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Silversun Pickups

it's everything that is connected and beautiful
and now i know just where i stand

I discovered this band on my own, meaning some hipster friend did not recommend them, so I have an odd sort of loyalty to them, bourne of some fidelity I have to serendipity. I love finding things, and sometimes the thrill of finding the thing transcends the quality of the thing.

But that's not the case with this band. What's surprising about Silversun Pickups and my general adoration of them is that they are not typically what I like at all. My musical taste is wide when it comes to pop, narrow when it comes to rock, and only deep when it comes to folk, jazz, or musical theater. So in the narrow rock category, I dislike most anything with a lot of guitars, anything loud and dissonant.

But Silversun Pickups are just that: loud, lots of guitars, dissonant, but underneath it all, there's a sweet emo core. Almost every song descends into chaos at some point, but if you listen you can hear a sweet bass melody and persistent rhythm, just waiting for the vocalist and lead guitar and god knows what else to calm the fuck down. And even when the vocals are a crazy quilt, you can make out the lyrics, which are good and poetic.

This diving-deep-then-surfacing quality is psychologically, even spiritually satisfying. I can't get enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Californication: ". . .a little turgidity. . . "

David Duchovny (Hank) is so hot on this show. His character proves that bad boys are just that: bad. Women fall over him, because when it comes right down to it, everyone likes the taste of scotch and cigarettes on a man's breath. And he likes to fight, too. All to bury his pain of being alone and separated from his ex-girlfriend (the lovely Natascha McElhone) and daughter (the scene-stealing, adorable Madeleine Martin).

This show is about dialogue, but it's Hank's show. Everyone else is given stupid lines: "Once upon a time, I used to love you," his ex-girlfriend (the lovely Natascha McElhone) says. Gawd.

The production values aren't nearly as good as Mad Men; it feels a little like it was done on the cheap, except for the gorgeous house where his ex-girlfriend lives with her fiance. But other details seem very Pier One to me. And yeah, I get the point of the burnt out Porsche he drives, or was that all they could afford? But to its credit, there's not the same level of shameless product placement we see on Entourage. Yet.

The show does one thing very well: banter; it's not so good at plot. Or maybe it's too soon to tell. There are arcs and story lines for each of the characters, but as they inch along, they feel a bit forced and bit stolen: Hank's agent's secretary likes to be disciplined. Where have we seen that before: oh yeah, Secretary.

There's a voiceover stream of consciousness technique where Hank comments on his life, kind of like a more literary Carrie from Sex and the City. Is that his conscious, his autobiography, his blog, or some poetry hidden a drawer?

But when it shines, it shines, because it's brave. Hank is not any sort of latent homo, but there's a sweet moment when he's lying on his agent's couch, just kind of rambling, as though he were an analysand, and he's reflecting about a massage he got from a guy where, he admits, he got a little "tingling", and he wonders what it means, ". . .a little turgidity. . ." That's a nice turn of phrase and a nice metaphor for this show--it's sort of confused, excited, halfway to some sort of libidinous epiphany. I like it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Golden Age of Television

I know I'm not the first to say it, but we are in a golden age of television. I just finished watching the Mad Men episode called Babylon, and I can't remember when I last saw a more layered and subtle episode of anything on television. The program of course has crossover talent from the Soprano's. That's been covered widely in the press. But it bears repeating again and again that this is the best thing on TV right now. I am fascinated by the loves of Don Draper, and by his demons. When have we seen such a more morally and existentially ambiguous character? He is like a cowboy in that way, or like a character James Dean or Brando might have played. His soul is all over the map. Tonight he goes from a flashback (which cleverly adds to the subplot of the mysterious brother) of falling down the stairs when he was a kid, to reading Exodus in bed, to having an epiphany or inspiration--isn't the same for him as he has the suits of an advertising executive, but the soul of a poet--in a West Village bistro, circa 1960. Meanwhile, the directors and writers swoop and dive into equally unnamable, but somehow parallel yearnings of the other characters--his wife, his secretary, his boss, his boss's girlfriend (who is his secretary's boss--this is a hierarchical universe, bordering on a meritocracy as we see his secretary potentially tapping a current of embyonic talent).

And if that weren't enough, we have the gorgeous productions values. The New York times is creaming all over the look--the atmospheric perfection of a thousand details of sight and sound: filmic light, the perfect cigarette holders, lighters, ashtrays, the sound of each of these so carefully wrought that the props themselves are characters and objects of desire, which adds of course another layer to the wanting of the main characters. They are raw balls of need, each of them, and it's all just so very close and really very out of reach. . . but we pray for these wounded souls. This is transcendent television.