...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Monday, July 26, 2010


The home budget is not for foreclosure:
If you’re making a budget, you’re making
A plan, indicating optimism, indicating
You’re planning on sticking with this person
You’re making the budget with, despite
Everything this person is or does that falls short
Of your perfect, flawed ideal. I love you, baby.
Let’s have a baby. We’ll name her Milly: Baby Milly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Not Sure

I'm not sure yet what I'll be doing w/ this blog, now that the poem-a-day project is over. I hope to keep at something here, but we'll see what'll happen. In the meantime, check out my friends Jeff Lytle and Dawn Trook as they work out poems in collaboration at the open poetry project.

The Replacements: Can't Hardly Wait

This is the last song on The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me—a meeting, in hindsight, that proved both disastrous and inevitable. Until this point, the Mats—and Paul Westerberg, the man—were content being a rock ‘n’ roll band in the most careening sense of the term. You sense that why they forgot to take out the trash in the first place is because they were loudly playing guitars or listening to records where Mick Ronson or Greg Ginn loudly played theirs. “God Damn Job” is, by virtue of being the name of a rock ‘n’ roll song, all the indication you need of the band’s professional allegiances. That they weren’t professional is why their fans loved them so. Just look at ‘em chase each other around the set of Saturday Night Live: They’ve got a major-label deal and a national audience and don’t know—or don’t care to learn—how to act. And though they hired outside producers (emphasis on that adjective) for their first two Sire releases, the producers were Westerberg heroes—Tommy Ramone and Jim Dickinson, respectively—who botched the job: Tim’s gotta contend for the most brilliant, bad-sounding record ever; and Pleased is afflicted by ’80s compression-sickness. But that, too, is part of the charm. Not getting it right—whether shambling drunk in front of an audience or locked in sheeny resonance on vinyl or cassette—gave credibility to Westerberg’s lyrics as offhand, unforced poetry. Since the music was raucous, and the words mumbled, we could believe that playing in a band beats “picking cotton and waiting to be forgotten,” or that, for us lonely souls out here looking to connect with somebody, anybody, “somebody’s gonna show up—never fear!”

In this album- and era-capping track, the Replacements are augmented by another hero (Alex Chilton) on guitar, along with horns and strings, all recorded in Memphis! The guitar tone is crisp as Sunday toast, the bass as straightforward and unpretentious as the unpretentious heartthrob playing it, and the drums sprightly and locked-in (to a click track, no doubt). It’s that rhythm section and Westerberg’s voice that connect the song to the rest of the Mats’ catalog, and despite all the sonic addenda, the thing works, strings soaring to accompany the unadorned image, “Lights that flash in the evening, through a hole in the drapes,” guitar and tom fills amens to the voice’s testimony. It’s a recording that flirts with a new way of making music: revised, well rehearsed.

Like early Springsteen, the Replacements wanted out—out of school, out of the house, out of work, out of whatever adolescent imprisonment they felt. “We’re coming out!” they’d sang/shouted, and it felt immediate, like it was happening right now. (In this song, the longing is articulated right there in the title.) The problem is where to go once you escape. In the case of the Mats, they would pass out in bed wanting to rock hard and wake up wanting, even if half-heartedly, to be stars. Their next producer, a real pro, recorded them in Los Angeles—and the words and music became mannered, slick, the kind of thing people expected from a press-proclaimed genius. They lost their edge because outsiders don’t sound authentic when they’re so clearly—to the ear, anyway—inside. The public, apparently, didn’t buy it. But longing is still a sweet sound, the only subject of rock ‘n roll from the beginning: “I’ll be home when I’m sleeping.” What he “can’t hardly wait” for is not love or being understood or fame but the sweet and self-preserving obliteration of desire.

[The demo version of the song, arguably much better, with Bob Stinson on lead guitar, is a truer Replacements song. It also tells a different, less complicated story.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dickinson: 315

He fumbles at your Soul
As Players at the Keys
Before they drop full Music on--
He stuns you by degrees--
Prepares your brittle Nature
For the Ethereal Blow
By fainter Hammers--further heard--
Then nearer--Then so slow
Your Breath has time to straigten--
Your Brain--to bubble Cool--
That scalps your naked Soul--

When Winds take Forests in their Paws--
The Universe--is still--