Review: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

The Arctic Monkeys came into my life around ’05-06, as a burned copy of the UK version of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, that a friend pressed into my hands with the urgency that defined all of our musical exchanges back then, and which I’ve found absent from life as an adult. Alex Turner, then younger than I am now, sang about Sheffield lechers and cuddles in kitchens and fake record executives and running from suburban British cops – nothing I could claim to understand. But it’s undeniable even today: that first album articulated something about hitting the peak of puberty in a post-“Mission Accomplished” world of continual, ever-visible, but mostly ignored war; of ringtones; of . It made our former interests in Lil Wayne seem merely dilettantism and our enthusiasm for Linkin Park look embarrassingly adolescent. And Alex Turner’s croon has continued to undress desire, vapidity, hypocrisy, ennui, ego, loneliness, and obsession on every album since.

AM (2013) was a grime-glam parade of hits, the album that was just as meaty, fast, and infectious as their debut, but with the benefit of maturity, confidence, an L.A.-noir aesthetic, and dark 90s hip-hop vibes. The songs will continue to pop into my mind for the rest of my life. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino follows a tough act well, but not triumphantly. It proves the band is still culturally relevant and ready to dare – and Alex might even be at the height of his lyrical abilities – but it’s too much of Alex’s subconscious, not enough pop magic. I reviewed the album for The Skinnyread it here.

It will be interesting to see how these songs, mostly absent pop hooks but dense with the atmospheric noise of collaborators, will hold up live (apparently on a set Alex designed himself, while working on the cardboard model on the album’s cover). I caught the Monkeys in Toronto in 2013 and Lewiston in 2014 (and saw Alex with The Last Shadow Puppets in Manhattan in 2016). I’ll be seeing them again this summer in Canandaigua. You can count on reading about it here.

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UB Spectrum Profiles Alums in Publishing, Foundlings’ Max Crinnin and S. James Coffed

The Spectrum today ran a nice featurea nice feature on UB alums S. James Coffed and Max Crinnin, editor-at-large and editor-in-chief of Foundlings Press, respectively. I also talked with the Spectrum‘s Benjamin Blanchet about working with these two impressive individuals to launch a magazine that became a press.

On the name:

“We were going to look for funny quotes in it and there was this one passage, Canon Law #1115: ‘Foundlings are presumed to be legitimate until the contrary is proved.’ We liked that word, ‘foundlings.’ It spoke to finding poetry where it’s hiding in plain sight, writing some poems, too, and tying it all together.” – Max Crinnin

On publishing in print:

“[Ryan] and I have a nostalgia for reading as children, reading books specifically. We spent years as undergrads reading literature, reading physical books. For me, it’s always more impressive to combine the creative design work that someone like [Canham] is able to do with words on a page and be able to flip through it, having it all together. For me, I don’t get the same effect when I’m scrolling down a browser.” – Max Crinnin

On ‘winging it’:

“There’s no roadmaps to this, and we’re sort of winging it. … I’m happy we’re not coming from the New York City publishing world. I don’t want to subscribe to anyone’s stamp of influence. We’re making it up as we go along …” – Aidan Ryan

On the Foundlings West Coast-Buffalo connection:

“I’d like to see more West Coast talent, especially from a more diverse group of writers. We’re always looking for people from new backgrounds. Buffalo has proven to be a petri-dish for poetry and literature, but it’s still a small, tight-knit community that can benefit from a few new bastards on its doorstep.” – S. James Coffed

On the next Foundlings projects:

“Stanford’s work is amazing and in his own timeline it got some recognition for being amazing but because he died so young, I don’t think he ever took off and became famous. Our work, our idea, is to publish a collection of people who have been influenced by Frank Stanford and people, if we pull everything off, who knew Stanford.” – Max Crinnin

Read the article.

In Conversation With Noah Falck for Rain Taxi

I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with Noah Falck on a lot: My Next Heart, a Foundlings book release, programming at Just Buffalo, and much more to come. Last January, we sat down over a few pints in the Statler City bar, just off Buffalo’s Niagara Square, and turned our attention for a few hours to a subject Noah rarely brings up: his own work.

We covered a lot of ground: the reissue of Noah’s 2012 full-length debut, Snowmen Losing Weight from BatCat Press, the forthcoming release of his book Exclusions from Tupelo Press, the early influence of music on his work, the genesis of his Silo City Reading Series, his experience of parenting, and his feelings about calling Buffalo home. You can read that recorded conversation in the Spring 2018 online edition of Rain Taxi.

My Next Heart: In Conversation with Buffalo Spree

In late February, Buffalo Spree invited Justin Karcher, Noah Falck, and me to discuss our yearlong process of producing My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry ( Blazevox, 2017), an anthology that captures many of the most prominent and exciting young voices making noise in the city’s poetry scene today — what Spree called a “younger generation of poets writing about how Buffalo has left its stamp on them — and vice versa.”

Noah encapsulated the project, and our experience working together, beautifully during the interview:

Because we’ve got such different poetics, and Justin also has a theater background, there are so many different microcommunities that we were able to bring under this one project. This project is an opportunity to build bridges within the Buffalo literary community. It’s also a wonderful way to highlight a great number of energetic and creative young people writing in this city. I think this project acts as a conduit to future conversations about the work happening here.

Read the full interview online:

http://www.buffalospree.com/Blogs/Be-There/April-2018/An-anthology-of-Buffalo-poets/

Buy My Next Heart:

http://www.blazevox.org/index.php/Shop/new-releases/my-next-heart-new-buffalo-poetry-eds-noah-falck-and-justin-karcher-505/

Foundlings Launches Publishing Collab With The Public, and New Collection of Essays From Bruce Fisher

On 6 April Foundlings Press unveiled a new website and announced a publishing collaboration with The Public: The Public Books. This historic joint venture — which brings together Buffalo’s hottest new publisher with the region’s premier weekly source of news, arts, and commentary — is both an imprint of Foundlings Press and the publishing arm of The Public, producing full-length books on culture, economic policy, local history, and the arts.

The Public Books launch coincided with the release of the imprint’s first title, Bruce Fisher’s Where The Streets Are Paved With Rust: Essays From America’s Broken Heartland, Vol. 1. The release party featured poetry from Justin Karcher, music from DJs Shane and Tone, and remarks from Bruce Fisher — and also offered guests an advance look at the new Community Beer Works Brewery at 520 Seventh St. in the city’s Lower West Side.

Copies of the book are available for purchase at Buffalo’s Talking Leaves and directly from FoundlingsPress.com.