The Soft Bulletin
"Hey, Jason. Where you been?"
That's an awfully good question, kids. Never let it be said that I
would forsake the fine people of Pitchforkmedia.com, and by "people" I
mean esteemed editor Ryan "Come On!" Schreiber, our other fine writers,
and you, the reader. Let me fill you in on everything; trust me, this is
all going somewhere.
I recently moved out of The Box. The Box was where I lived in Seattle
for my first year and a half-- a small room in a terrible house. I had
an ogre of a next door neighbor named Richard who didn't like any
decibel level that went above a whisper. Another neighbor, a homely-
looking mama's boy of some sort, had weird nasal problems that forced
him to make this really loud noise that sounded like a collision between
an orgasm, a yawn, a primal howl, and the deafening roar of a tortured
The morning of my move, I checked my e-mail only to discover a rather
unfortunate note in my box. A particular woman whose only flaw was in her
geographic location (Jerusalem) told me not to come and visit her this
summer, and that it was time for her to "get on with her life." I'll
translate that: "bang other people without guilt." I saw it coming, but by
e-mail? A year and a half of tortured long- distance amore disolved
via Hotmail? By a certain point, you're worth more than e-mail. A
phone call. Shit, a letter would have done. No. Not only am I
being broken up with, I also have to look at a banner ad for TalkCity.com.
Can my life sink any lower?
Last night, I tried to figure out where my life was going. It seems to
be on the course where I'm just thinking about where my life is (or
isn't) going. Great. Wake me when it gets exciting.
Well, today, it got exciting. I was at work for about six hours when I
decided to call my old number and retrieve my messages. There was my
temp agency telling me not to go into work today. I guess the object
was for me to find out before I left for work (it was 7:30 when they
called), but instead, there I was working when and where I shouldn't
have been. I called the agency and they said they'd call me back. I
sat at my desk awkwardly. Should I be working? If so, why? If not,
what should I be doing? I tracked down my supervisor who gave me two
reasons for my termination. One was that the workload had dropped and
they didn't need that many people. The second reason, of course, was
that five people had commented to him that I didn't seem to love my job.
Well, duh. Sorry to go monosyballic, but... well, duh. I sit at a desk
all day. There's some asshole who insists on whistling all day, and man
cannot live by headphones alone. Even today, before I found out I was
already yesterday's employee, I commented to a co-worker, "Pretty soon,
I'm gonna stab that guy in the throat." Of course, I wouldn't do that.
But sometimes, I think that's my big misgiving in life-- no followthrough.
"I don't hate my job," I told my supervisor. This was true. Boring?
Yes. Hate? No. This was going to be the job that gave me enough money
to go on a vacation this fall.
"Well, I noticed it, too," he said. "If five people see it and I do
too, then doesn't that tell you something?"
"Did you ever think of asking me?" I asked.
Of course, there wasn't a good answer for that, so I immediately
shifted gears. "Hey, if five people came and told you that I was
practicing black magic, would you believe them?"
"That's completely different." When I asked him why it was different,
he changed the subject to me leaving.
And that was that. To top all of this shit off, I was supposed to
interview Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips tonight. It didn't happen
because my new roommate isn't a stickler for paying the long distance
bill. I can see Mr. Coyne sitting by that phone wondering when I'm
gonna call. That's a lie, by the way. Wayne has better things to do
and, if I had just recorded the Album of the Year, I wouldn't care what
anybody else thought.
That's right kids. Album of the Year. The Flaming Lips. Who knew?
Sure, they had some great albums like Transmissions from the
Satellite Heart and Hit to Death in the Future Head. They also
had Zaireeka, a piece of shit. (And stop with the hate mail,
already!) This time, no fat, no filler, no shit. This is one of those
albums people are going to obsess over for many years to come. One of the
only albums I can compare it to is Dark Side of the Moon-– a sonic
exploration into a bunch of morbid themes that sound extra good when you've
been kissing Ol' Lady Bong.
A big key to the success of The Soft Bulletin is producer Dave
Fridmann. Fridmann's an aural genius who did wonders with his band
Mercury Rev's last album Deserter's Songs. As great as that album
was, this is a bigger, bolder leap. Sure, the moment you hear the strings
on the second cut, "A Spoonful Weighs a Ton", you're thinking 'bout the
Rev. That's only half the battle, though. The song alternates between
pixie dust and angel dust-– first it flows, then it swaggers with a killer
moog- and- drum battle with the audience going Qui-Gon at the altar of the
Bulletin. The following cut, "The Spark That Bled," is even more
adventurous. Coyne's little boy vocals take on a philharmonic of
yearning, tackling it down with its ambiguous "I stood up and I said
'Hey'" chorus. 4AD used to be this dreamy-– now they're picking at
leftover Red House Painters demos and wondering when people are going to
like Kristin Hersh. (Never, by the way.) This is on Warner Brothers?!
Oh, but there's more. So much more. Drummer Steven Drozd gets mad
props for his thundering percussion which, for the most part, was
recorded on one microphone. Hard to believe during a dense number like
my personal favorite track, "The Gash." As much as I giggled over the
title, I was bowled over by the song. A gospel choir sings an
inspirational (!) song of perseverance over tweaked synth tracks and
louder- than- Christ funky drumming. I defy you to listen to it without
seeing just how loud your stereo can get. Drozd also makes quick work
of "Waitin' for a Superman," another inspirational piece-- one that was
inspired by the death of Coyne's father. The result is this band's "Losing
My Religion." Seriously. If Top 40 gets ahold of this song, we're going
to be very, very sick of it. Still, it's an amazing track, a shuffling
dirge with a few bells, and two amazingly well- placed trumpet blasts,
but mostly just some slightly hungover piano.
Speaking of death, it's a lingering theme on The Soft Bulletin.
"Suddenly Everything Has Changed" is a neat, twisty little ditty about
how thoughts of mortality can attack you when you least expect it.
"Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" is a more direct rumination on the
subject, a dreamy blast of vacuum cleaner guitar and reverb, reverb,
reverb! Again, hardly party music, but remember Dark Side of the
Moon? Pass the bong. This is some good shit.