Last week my friend Matt let me tag along with him to KDS Studios where his band Grave Return is working on their full-length debut. As mentioned previously, KDS is the organization that now occupies Lou Pearlman’s old recording facility in Orlando, the lavish audio bunker Pearlman built under the assumption his Boy Band Reich would last a thousand years. After seeing the place allow me to say: “Big Poppa” may be the Madoff of pop music but the guy knows how to construct a studio. It’s the kind of spacious yet cozy wood-paneled fantasy you see in movies.
KDS employees have decorated the walls with various awards trumpeting their own accomplishments (platinum sales markers presented for work on such entries as Ministry’s Psalm 69 and Björk’s Post), but there remain a few reminders of the former regime. In fact, the first thing you see when you waltz through the front door is a collection of framed Backstreet Boys albums on the opposite wall. The albums were hanging crooked the night I showed up, as if to say, “Yeah, Nick Carter once haunted these halls, but that was a few presidents ago.”
Stranger than Nick Carter’s ghost: the KDS Studio vending machine has an option for Coke with “CLASSIC” written in such a large font you’d assume it was installed in 1985. Maybe it was. Maybe this is Lou Pearlman’s favorite vending machine, the one he was buying a Shasta from when he first heard a young Chris Kirkpatrick harmonizing outside a Stuckey’s in Memphis (or however that part of the N’Sync story shook out). This guy was running a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme; he could probably afford to track down a Mid-South vending machine if such was his wont.
Obviously there’s a lot of Lou Pearlman/Trans Continental lore we won’t be privy to until long after all those boy banders are dead. I’m sure personal Coke dispensers are just the tip of the sweaty, diamond-encrusted iceberg.
June 29, 2013: Slovenly writer James Greene, Jr. visits EPCOT Center to make sure Captain EO is still in his words “goofy as yams.” Along the way Greene stops at Club Cool’s international soda fountain (above) where the Italian offering proves less than a taste sensation. Says Greene, “Ack!”
[SCENE: INT, MY PARENTS' HOUSE]
As I am walking from the kitchen to the guest room with my early afternoon pear, the house phone rings. Hesitation strikes me.
I don’t really live here anymore, do I have authority to answer this?
The phone rings again. I go for broke and pick up the receiver.
“Hey, Jim. [CALLER REALIZES AS THEY ARE SAYING THIS THAT I AM NOT MY DAD] Uh, Jim? Is Jim there?”
“[CHILDHOOD PAVLOVIAN PHONE ETIQUETTE KICKS IN] He’s not available right now, may I take a message?”
“Is your mother there?”
Cue misplaced rage.
Oh, I see how it is. You can tell my dad and you can tell my mom but you can’t tell me. You know, I’m thirty-four. I’ve been to Boise. I have a general idea about what’s going on in the world. But fine, have it your way. Keep your secrets. I’ll just stick to my script.
“She’s not available either, may I take a message?”
“Yeah, tell ‘em [REDACTED] called. [RECITES PHONE NUMBER AT INCOMPREHENSIBLE SPEED]“
The line clicks dead the second a pencil reaches my fingertips. I feel a sense of failure until I realize it’s 2013 and my parents have Caller ID.
“This parental acquaintance has been bested,” I whisper to my pear.
- re: her (most recent) apology: I don’t want to hear anything about “growth” and “learning” from a sixty year old who only confronted her casual racism because someone handed her a court order
- originally PD tried to pull the “I was born in a different era” nonsense but I guess she quickly realized there’s no documentation to prove she was in a coma for the entire Civil Rights Movement
- I recently watched Hitler’s Children on Netflix and wouldn’t you know it none of the subjects (who are all directly related to Nazis) express a desire to round up Jews with the defense “that’s the era we were born into”…in fact, they all seem to loathe their unfortunate lineage, ostensibly because these individuals have functioning adult minds they use to read and understand history
- PD’s racism is overshadowing the fact she’s also being sued for fostering an environment of sexual harassment/discrimination in her Savannah, GA oyster hut; you know, typical stuff like male managers watching porn in the restaurant office and making stupid remarks but also Paula herself calling a female server a “piece of pussy” and vocalizing her belief that running a restaurant is a man’s job
- this whole imbroglio drives home for me the basic fact that there are good people on this planet and there are bad people and everything else is just a load of nonsense
- ending on a note from Shirley Temple herself: “Sunnybrook Farm is now a parking lot [and] the petticoats are in the garbage can, where they belong in the modern world…”
Essentially the extended club sequence missing from Tron: Legacy, Yeezus combines the window-rattling throb of that film with the brazen, breathless, and ultimately unapologetic approach of pop music’s touchiest paladin. The results are, as you might expect, gripping and cinematic. At forty minutes the album also retains a focus absent from Kanye’s last meandering effort, 2010′s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That fairy tale was longer by half an hour, but let’s be frank—it felt like days.
As with many Kanye West projects, the degree of reality within Yeezus is unclear. Is this authentic upper class braggadocio we’re witnessing in “I Am A God” or the deftest of parodies? The line of demarcation is barely visible through the electro-dissonance West has sublet from producers Daft Punk. The rapper’s jaunty/bratty attitude doesn’t help, but when the dust settles ultimately I find myself not caring. When you create music as present and engaging as “Black Skinhead” or “On Sight” I afford you the right to have an asthma attack over tardy croissants (a picture Kanye paints in “God” that joke or not will now surely follow him to the grave).
Even when Yeezus slips into autopilot for a few tracks it’s startlingly good. “I’m In It” and “Hold My Liquor” both hit far harder than your average late night bangers about getting laid and having addiction issues (respectively). The latter is particularly affecting, moving from a jarring structure of West’s chanting between air horn blasts to a back end laden with slippery almost reversed-sounding guitar work. I assume this is one of Bon Iver founder Justin Vernon’s contributions, but I’m not ruling out a ghost appearance from Kanye’s purple pop predecessor (and equal fussbudget) Prince.
Yeezus eventually lowers the stakes on its final track, “Bound 2,” in which Kanye once again contemplates his lousy romantic skills, this time over a reboot of the 1971 Massey/Dukes soul classic “Bound.” The song strolls along with a breeze and comfort, exhaling a sigh of relief for an otherwise tense album. The change is as pleasant and touching as it is unexpectedly cathartic and provides no better comedown for what history will probably peg as one of Kanye’s top three ventures. Is it too soon to ask when his next one is coming out?
FINAL SCORE: Four Tron: Legacy light cycles (out of four).
- the rules of squash
- the rules of racquetball
- when or where exactly Daniel Webster lived
- anything about the Gross National Product
- how to operate a yacht
- how to operate a bow tie
- anything about lacrosse
- how to make eggs benedict
- where to buy a salt lick
- reasonable prices for ascots
- the names of any famous Yale athletes
Let’s all get wasted and throw up next to the taco truck, WOOO HOO.
Names (when used) have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and the eternally downtrodden.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Whose Parents Didn’t Let Him Play Video Games: We all had that one friend growing up whose parents tried to set him/her “on the right path” by banning from their household Atari, Nintendo, and the like; this particular friend of mine was also only permitted to watch PBS. Based on my observation, the plan worked in the sense that this kid was skipped a couple grades ahead of us in math and could name all the presidents in order before he hit double digits. On the other hand, homeboy also tore his thumb open on a chain link fence during his first week of college whilst attempting to steal a case of soda (something else he was never really allowed to have at home) from the cafeteria. So nature, nurture, whatever.
Anywho, the lack of cable tv and Super Mario forced us fifth graders to play board games and have conversations at this party, which turned out to be plenty of fun (especially when we all started talking about the concept of “God” and what he/she/it might actually be; to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had a more adult conversation). There’s a pretty epic photo of me from the morning after this all night Shoots n’ Ladders rager—I’m asleep in a sitting position, clutching a tiny stuffed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and this enormous maroon hoodie that I’m sure was B.U.M. Equipment brand is practically swallowing me. I’m also wearing my glorious Air Jordan rip-off sneakers, the Sir Jams.
Most kids probably would have felt self-conscious about such bootleg kicks, but I never really gave a flying fuck about basketball or shoe culture. I just wanted my feet to be comfortable.
Sleepover At Shouty P’s House: Shouty P was this shrimpy kid we all knew and adored who, as his name implied, had only one volume to his voice. That was okay, though, because ninety percent of the time he was hilarious and as far as I know he never tried to wrong me or any of my friends in that way middle schoolers like to wrong each other sometimes. He runs a golf course now, in case you were wondering. Ironic, as I think shouting at golf courses is generally frowned upon.
My overriding memory from this particular get-together is the fight that broke out very early in the evening on Shouty P’s front lawn between The Kid Whose Growth Spurt Put Him Three Heads Above Everybody Else and The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman. I don’t remember what the fight was about but it was maybe the only time in my life I’ve seen an altercation that played out like a Popeye cartoon, by which I mean these two individuals turned into a ball of dust, fists, and fake curse words as soon as it was “on.”
Eventually peace was brokered and we settled in for the evening, all taking turns playing T&C Surf Designs on regular Nintendo. I’d never seen that game before and it instantly became a dangerous obsession. Hold the phone, we got a skateboarding gorilla in Jam shorts? Nintendo, have you been renting space in my head?
The Sleepover Where I Saw A Dirty Movie For The First Time: The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman invited me over one Friday night in seventh or eight grade for some midnight Mortal Kombat action. On the walk to his house after school he was like, “Check this out…” Batman Kid turned his bookbag around and pulled out a VHS labeled Naughty Girls Need Love Too.
I really wish I could tell you what my exact emotions were in response to this revelation, that my friend had somehow acquired a porno and we would be viewing it that evening, but all I remember for sure is watching it at one in the morning and cracking up at the theme song (in which some “groovy dude” repeatedly sang the title of the movie) and being really grossed out that one scene was two people doing it on a pile of tires. On the ladder of erotic experiences of my life Naughty Girls ranks pretty low (it’s several rungs below Courtney Thorne-Smith in Revenge of the Nerds II, which is really ground zero for eroticism as far as I’m concerned).
I’m sure my first porno viewing was somehow skewed by the fact I watched it with a kid who was simultaneously working on his homemade Batman costume. This may have also been the night I discovered The Kid Who Was So Obsessed With Batman Sometimes He Literally Thought He Was Batman was also obsessed with the theme song from Wayne’s World, so much so that he had dubbed it as many times as he could on a ninety minute blank cassette. A full ninety minute cassette with nothing on it but the Wayne’s World theme twenty or thirty times. Yeah, that’s no cause for alarm.
Sleepover At The House Of The Kid Who Owned Every Nintendo Game Ever: Barry was a young fella I only knew because our dads were pals from way back; in fact, I only hung out with the kid three times tops because he lived sorta far away and went to completely different schools. However, Barry and I always had a blast together—he was a super nice kid who didn’t seem to have any hang-ups and could have a grand ol’ time even when we weren’t glued to the Nintendo (has this post made it clear yet that home video game systems were the center of the universe in the early ’90s, a cultural force more vital to our stupid existence than the Bill & Ted movies and Bo Jackson combined?).
Of course, it was hard not to be glued to the Nintendo at Barry’s house because somehow he had gained possession of every regular NES game ever. I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone in my life with a comparable NES collection. I guess his parents were rich, or maybe another twelve year old he knew died and willed him all his games. All I know is any game I could think of Barry had, which explains why the first time we ever hung out at my house he took me to school on all twelve or thirteen games I owned.
Barry and his family were nice enough to let me sleepover one weekend; yeah, we cycled through all those Nintendo shits, but we also watched Silver Streak (recommended by Barry’s dad; we weren’t really into it) and ceremoniously cut open Barry’s brother’s Stretch Armstrong to see what was inside. I’ll never forget standing in that bathroom watching Barry trying to tear Stretch open with a pair of scissors when a sudden noxious cloud of something that looked like baby powder shot out of the doll’s incision. We both laughed hysterically.
The Plastic Pillow Pillow Fight Sleepover: In the sixth grade or so my pals and I all spent the night at Louis’s house, where for once in our dumb lives we got to have a massive uninterrupted pillow fight in the basement rec room. Unfortunately, this kid Louis had a plastic pillow. That is to say, he had a regular pillow inside a plastic pillow case. I’m not sure why—if he was a bed wetter, he would have needed plastic sheets, not a plastic pillow, unless he slept backwards on his bed? I don’t know and honestly did not care about Louis whizzing in his bed. I don’t think any of us did.
What we did care about was this kid whomping us in the face with his plastic pillow. It stung like a fucking bastard (especially if one of the corners caught you). Louis whacked our buddy Thom one too many times; Thom shot me this look that said, “Mah’fucker’s goin’ down.” Then he tackled Louis, snatched the plastic pillow, and went apeshit on Louis. It was like Raging Bull. Louis absolutely started crying, but none of us cared because we all had red marks from that stupid fucking pillow. Eventually a parent came down to admonish us all. Boo.
Louis later joined the Air Force and got totally jacked. Sometimes I worry he’s gonna show up on my doorstep with another pillow. Louis, please, I’m sorry. Let’s do lunch. Unrelated: Louis had an “ALF For President” poster up in this rec room, an item I definitely coveted for many years.
My Thirteenth Birthday Sleepover Party: The final sleepover before being a teenager made everything kinda weird. My friend John brought me a jar of gefilte fish as a joke; my mom put it in the refrigerator and over the course of the next year or two we watched it turn all sorts of neat colors.
This sleepover is probably best remembered for a racially insensitive remark one of my friends shouted out during a heated game of Super Dosgeball on the NES; the teams in the game were U.S.A. and Nigeria, and an angry comment was made about the latter team immediately returning to its continent of origin, which my father overheard, which naturally made him go ballistic. The offending friend—who shall remain anonymous even from silly nickname since this was twenty some-odd years ago and he was twelve or whatever—was almost bounced from the party until some profuse apologizing surfaced (I also think since it was January in rural Connecticut my dad didn’t really fancy carting this kid home on allegedly icy roads).
Many hours later, while we were all watching L.A. Story and eating severely cold pizza, I felt a sense of contentment and happiness, like, These guys, they’ll be my friends forever. I’ll always be able to count on them. I was basically correct in that assumption. Only one of them really went off the deep end later in terms of friendship duties; surprisingly, it was not the kid who made that remark about Africa.