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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: Zaireeka by Mark Richardson (33 1/3)

by Mark Richardson
33 1/3 vol. 68
Continuum Press

   Love the 33 1/3 series!  Every book is a little guide to a classic lp.  They are great to sell at the counter at record stores, though I never see them being sold with the actual lp, which seems kind of obvious.  The 33 1/3 series is obviously making a claim for each and every record in the series but the point of view is limited to that of the author for each specific book.  There is no editorial control in the series except, I suppose, for the choice of album for each subsequent volume.

  The only other one in the series I've read to this point is no. 44, Trout Mask Replica by Kevin Courrier.  I picked that one to start because I literally spent 6 months struggling to give Trout Mask Replica a "fair shot" at convincing me of it's merit, basically by listening to it five time through in a variety of different settings.  After that, I thought reading the 33 1/3 might help me articular what exactly I didn't like about Trout Mask Replica, and it did that.

  So I thought that by reading Mark Richardson's 33 1/3 volume on the Flaming Lips 4 cd Zaireeka record, I might gain insight on Richardson himself, the band the Flaming Lips, who I have despised for over a decade and maybe a little insight on Pitchfork and their perspective.

  After finishing Zaireeka, I can say it is def. worth the effort: Even if you haven't heard the record, reading this book will make you want to do it once at least once.  Zaireeka certainly accomplishes what I imagine to be the goal of the Continuum series, bringing context to works of art.  In that sense, perhaps it is this exact series of books which provides the rebuttal to the argument "Writing about music, why bother?"  I also believe that the techniques that writers have developed writing these volumes really ought to be deeply influencing music writing itself.

  Richardson, in the course of writing about an artist I literally can't stand, helps me understand why he is so into them, and why Zaireeka is worth experiencing.  He makes his case in convincing fashion, although I still hate the Flaming Lips, I'm willing to purchase this record and set up the ridiculous listening process.  I was easily able to disregard my disdain for the sprawling psychedelica of the Flaming Lips and adopt Richardson's thoughtful superlatives about Wayne Coyne and the 13 years he worked at Long John Silver's in between tours.  It's hard not admire the persistence and patience of the Flaming Lips in the same way I suppose you could rhapsodize about Green Day.  But Green Day doesn't have an entry in the 33 1/3 series, and Flaming Lips does.

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