Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, February 17, 2012



Buachaille Etive Mòr Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle Of Lochalsh, Scotland (4)



by Robert Louis Stevenson
originally published 1886
this edition Penguin Classics 2005
Introduction and Notes by Donald McFarlan

    I didn't realize until finishing Kidnapped, that it was written not a year after H. Rider Haggard's classic early adventure novel, King Solomon's Mines.  I think when you start reading the late 19th century adventure novels, of which King Solomon's Mines and the entire Robert Louis Stevenson catalog,  you are getting into subjects that still pull an audience today.  There is a relationship between the late 19th century adventure novel and many, many, many top selling books today- see THE AIRPORT for examples.

    Notable about the creation of the modern adventure novel are a couple of main themes to keep in mind.  First, is the issue of advances in style that occurred between the 18th century, when many of the "first" novels had "adventure" themes.  Second, is the change in Audience size and composition that began to happen in the late 19th century.  Specifically, the growth of mass market periodicals (Kidnapped was first published in serial form, as were many classic 19th century Novels), second the growth of children and young adult readers as an audience for those periodicals and resulting books.

  King Solomon's Mines and Kidnapped are a good illustration of different market segments-   King Solomon was published initially as a book, as an adult book- with publicity etc.  Kidnapped was published serially in a magazine called "YOUNG FOLKS" and was self-consciously a "boy's novel."

  An interesting aspect of Kidnapped that certainly does not fit within the historic designation of "boy's novel" is it's relationship in time to the setting depicted.  Specifically, this book written for children in 1886 is set in the Scottish highlands of the mid 18th century.  This is a time and a place riven by rebellion against the King of England and it has the same kind of romantic quality embodied in more familiar places like the post-Civil War South or the late 19th century Western United States, i.e. it's a wild place, with restless natives and danger/intrigue abound.

  Mind you, Stevenson was actually writing during a period when both those other examples- the Wild West, and Post Reconstruction South, were closer to the present then the time/place depicted.  It is just another example of the tenacious hold on the imagination of the English/British exercised by the Scottish Highlands of the 18th/19th century.  Truly, were one to look up a definition of "Romanticism" in the early 19th century you'd probably see a charcoal outline of a Scottish highlands scene.

  The plot of Kidnapped involves David Balfour, a "young laird" who comes into the Scottish village of Cramond to see about his inheritance, only to be hustled off onto a ship bound for the United States by his a-hole uncle-  where he is to be sold into slavery (!)  Once afloat he teams up with a Jacobite Scottish nobleman trying to smuggle himself into Scotland to collect taxes for his laird, exiled and penniless in France as a result of the recently unsuccessful Jacboite rebellion.

  The ship wrecks and David Balfour has to walk across the Scottish highlands, pursued by English soldiers and wanted for a murder his Jacobite buddy is suspected of committing.   The pacing and observational style are closer to what we think of as modern prose then antecedents like Robinson Crusoe.  Also, many of the rough edges of the 18th century novel- most assuredly written for adults- have been smoothed out by a half century of Victorianism and what's left is a truly classic work that stands up to the present day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Show Review: DUNES & Neverever @ The Ace Hotel, Palm Springs

Show Review
@ The Ace Hotel: "THE AMIGO ROOM" Palm Springs CA.
February 11th, 2012

  I FINALLY made it to a show at the Ace Hotel's live music venue "THE AMIGO ROOM" eight months after buying a house two blocks away.  It's funny, because proximity to the Ace is one of the attributes I tout to my friends, but I couldn't actually be bothered to go check it out for a show for the better part of a year.

  What got me out to this particular show was a combination of having friends in town and a Facebook recommendation by Sam Time of Family Time Records.  He works in the Palm Springs area.  He tagged me in a Facebook post about the event, and then I told my friends who were in town, and they were like, "Cool."

  THE AMIGO ROOM is an odd little venue with pluses and minuses.  Major pluses are the fact that shows are always free, that the crowd watching is always superior and that you can go outside and hang out on the smoking patio- if you are bored/don't like the band.  Outside, you can barely hear the band.  Minuses are- the great crowd watching makes for an indifferent to shitty crowd for the band playing, the lay out of the Amigo Room means that people are always walking through while the band is playing, and drinks are pretty expensive.

  Originally, I thought  the line up was Neverever, Dunes and Abe Vigoda, but now I realize that Abe Vigoda is playing the second night of a two night package for Dunes- or something- I can't really figure it out.

   I got there at 10 PM, Neverever(FACEBOOK) (TUMBLR)took the stage at 11.  I realize now that I saw them open for Dirty Beaches on April 28th, 2011 at the Echo, but did not mention them in my show review.  Having now seen them live for a second time, I feel safe in observing that my personal enthusiasm for them is limited by the fact that their song writing is too 60s influenced, and when I say 60s influenced, I'm talking about it in the context of the narrow continuum between 60s influenced songwriting vs. c86/shoegaze influenced songwriting that seems to encompass A LOT of bands that I either write about or don't write about and keep up on in my own time.  If actual members or die-hard fans of Neverever are reading this, that is not an insult, simply a personal expression of my own particular taste.

  I'm more inclined to like a clearly shoegazey sounding band then a clearly 60s influenced with a few shoegazy touches, if that makes sense.  I don't think my personal opinion is particularly important for a band with an LP out on Slumberland.  I don't mind their take it slow approach to touring, but not touring becomes an issue at a certain point, and I think the lack of shows outside LA/NYC/SF is probably hurting their over-all  Audience size.

  Headliner DUNES took the stage to a less then appreciative audience- the negative mentioned above in the discussion of the audience really bugged me during this very powerful set.  The story with Dunes is Stephanie Chan:


  Dunes is another LA area band with a take it slow approach to touring that reflects the fact that the band members are college students.  That's not a problem, just a limitation to their audience size.  My personal observation is that with an album coming out in March on PPM, Dunes is a band that is ready for the spot light.  Stephanie Chan was a mesmerizing front woman, the opinion not just of myself, but of my out-of-town guest, who is not someone who looks at Pitchfork every day for his music taste.

  The song writing was different from many recent break-out lady-fronted LA rock bands in that the primary touch stones seem to be DC/Chicago style math rock- the kind of music I personally associate with Dischord Records in the 1990s.  Chan's singing ability and presence mitigate the potential "broishness" of that sound, but I would think from a marketing perspective it would endear her to potential audience members in the mid west and north east.

  The band was well rehearsed, and despite the limited sound system, all the songs were communicated effectively.   I'd like to see Dunes make a touring release around the release of the full-length in March, but I suspect any touring will have to wait until summer vacation in may/june.

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