02 February 2007

Review: Music

My interest in Andy Gricevich’s work began with his comments on Silliman’s Blog and then extended to his poems, but I really hadn’t listened to the Prince Myshkins until last Thursday night. As I have lately acquired the taste for post-industrial towns in hilly valleys, I had been meaning to see the Lehigh Valley so I took Thursday off to day-trip there to see them play and hang with Andy and songwriter Rick Burkhardt.

The highlight of the visit was definitely the Myskins show, followed by a quick Sargent study painted for a friend of his at the Allentown Art Museum, early editions of Leaves of Grass at the Lehigh U gallery illustrating how its reception influenced successive cover design and Whitman’s self-image, and H.D.’s grave (like Jesus, she was born in Bethlehem). Gastronomically, the Valley is the Lyon of the Hot Dog, featuring the delicious natural casings of the Yocco's chain centered in Allentown and many unique establishments like Charlie’s Pool Room in Alpha, New Jersey, where two brothers make dogs with an inimitable sauce invented by their Hungarian grandmother in a building that was once the City Hall and whose hospitality and local history lectures enjoyably detained me for an hour and a half.

‘Tis not the time for me to explicate the reasons why I don’t listen to much political folk despite my civic passions, but I find a lot of it to be predictable, too dependent on the bogeymen du jour, and my favorite period of Dylan is right after he went electric, to make a few points briefly. However, the Myshkins two sets blew me away, both musically and lyrically. Rick’s accordian and Andy’s guitar were steeped in years of loving absorption in Kurt Weill’s rhythms, their use of physical comedy was meticulously crafted, and the lyrics were hilarious, insightful, and animated by the enigmas of citizenship and culture in our age of politics and media.

Lisa Jarnot’s evocation of the Fugs as a frame of comparison rings true to me in how they both utilize rapid fire melodies to give your mind plenty to think about and behold. Although they jokingly describe their work as intentionally temporary, each of their two albums is a stimulating capsule of a political era that, like the Fugs first two albums, holds up to extremely frequent listenings: Total Myshkin Awareness, which covers the W. years and Shiny Round Object, which harkens us back to the post-Seattle, post Contract for America era.

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