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.

Foundlings Enters ‘Next Phase’ with Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing

Buffalo News Art Critic Colin Dabkowski Traces the Transformation of a Magazine into a Press

“Foundlings Press Enters New Phase”

From the outside, the past few days might have seemed like a startling explosion of growth for Foundlings Press. Last Wednesday we announced our formal publishing partnership with The Public, Western New York’s alternative weekly newspaper, and teased the cover of our first title under the “Public Books” imprint, Bruce Fisher’s Where The Streets Are Paved With Rust: Essays From America’s Broken Heartland, Vol. 1, to be officially released Friday 6 April at Community Beer Works’ new Jersey Street location. This Friday, 16 March, at Hotel Henry, we’re releasing our first poetry collection, Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing, winner of the 2017 Foundlings Artist Residency and Chapbook Contest, designed by guest book artist Stephen Fitzmaurice. Meanwhile, we’re nearing the end of our open submission period for an upcoming release celebrating the life and work of the poet Frank Stanford.

These projects may all have come to fruition within the same short time frame, but, as Buffalo News Art Critic Colin Dabkowski explains in today’s paper, all are the products of a long period of gestation, as Foundlings gradually transformed from a biannual print publication with a modest circulation into what it is today: an independent literary publishing house with a national audience and roster of writers.

“With this book launch, a planned second residency, and another book on the way,” Dabkowski writes, “the fledgling Foundlings is off to a good start.”

More About My Radar

Book Launch Reading and Reception

Hotel Henry

444 Forest Ave, Buffalo, NY 14213

100 Acres Restaurant and LBAC Gallery

6pm: Cocktails

7pm: Poetry (Noah Falck, Janet McNally, and Lytton Smith)

8pm: Book sales and signing (plus more cocktails)

 

Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing, winner of the 2017 Foundlings Press Artist Residency and Chapbook Contest, is a deeply sensitive, wide-ranging, and lyrical exploration of human connection, technology, proximity, the past in the present, and the natural environment.

“With each poem that begins with his namesake’s classic line, Lytton Smith’s chapbook tests the limits of language just as it tests the limits of human relationships,” the poet Anthony Caleshu writes.” Words hold us together even when we’re questioning their validity. Our linguistic (and so our human) scale has just gotten bigger and bolder.”

The book features illustrations and conceptual design from Philadelphia-based artist Stephen Fitzmaurice.

Lytton Smith is the author of two books of poetry from Nightboat Books and the translator of several books from the Icelandic. The novel Öræfi—the Wastelands, from the Icelandic of Ófeigur Sigurðsson, will be published by Deep Vellum in spring 2018. He is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo.

November Shows: Glengarry Glen Ross and The Crucible

Theatre season in Buffalo has been off to a strong start. During Curtain Up week in September I was able to catch two excellent comedies: the charming adaptation Killer Rack at Alleyway and Noel Coward’s coruscant Design For Living at Irish Classical. Drama, however, is the flavor for November. Theatregoers have two fine choices in Glengarry Glen Ross at Road Less Traveled and The Crucible at Kavinoky.

Glengarry Glen Ross

In the age of Zillow, the basics of the play – an all-male real estate office fixated on index-card leads – seem a little dated. But RLTP has proven that the play is timeless – and ferociously relevant right now.

… Like these salesman we are all poor players, we are all walking shadows, strutting and fretting our hour upon the stage; we are full of sound and fury and we aren’t sure if anyone is listening: if there is someone out there, above us or behind the eyes we meet on the subway, at a Chinese restaurant, in the office, in bed, all we care is that they “sign on the line which is dotted.” All we want is to close; but as Glengarry Glen Ross demonstrates so powerfully, there is no final “closure,” and winning the Cadillac El Dorado “signifies nothing”: There is only the next sucker, the next sale, the next word in a neverending monologue. When Levene gloats to Williamson, “A man’s his job and you’re f*cked at yours,” he could, really, be speaking to any of us.

The Crucible

Proctor is talking about the witch trials. Because Arthur Miller is the author, Proctor is also talking about 1950s American anti-communist hysteria, another “crucible” in our history, which would sweep up and imperil Miller and some of his closest friends around the time of the play’s composition (1953). And because we are the audience and our year is 2017, John Proctor is also talking about the American Kangaroo Court culture and its Tweeter in Chief, where to prosecute is to hold power, to accuse is to claim privilege, and there is only safety in the transference of blame.

… Though occasionally slow and imbalanced overall, at its emotional crescendos (which are not, usually, the play’s loudest parts), masterful performances will carry away all the audience’s doubts, quibbles, and objections about this admirable production.