Saturday, September 24, 9707
(We must also call attention to curiouser and curiouser: the cure, cerebrally speaking, my Cure-blog, which is no longer active, but is up for posterity and eternity, because I still love ALL things Cure, and always will.)
So anyway. Symmetry of Birds is the gathering place of all my online published work. My online published work encompasses poetry, reviews, and political polemics (also known as rants). I rarely write fiction these days, though once upon a time I was a prolific short story scribe. Maybe one day I will get back into fiction, but for now, I reserve my creative zeal for verse and invectives (the two birds whose polar styles serve to balance each other - hence the title of this blog).
So anyway. What I do in this blog is provide links to a given published piece, and also paste the actual piece. There are several instances here where the website link no longer works, due to the site shutting down. However, I have simply left the links up for now.
Please be aware that this is a perennial work in progress.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Cupcake Chronicles Inside Cover Blurb
The Perpetual Decline of Western Civilization and the Ascendency of Punk-Dystopia at Five2One
The Carefully Constructed Chaos of Wrack Lariat at Five 2 One
Ross Heller Levinson Book Review Links at Black Widow Press
Review of Myriad Circles at Five 2 One
The Ultimate How-NOT-To Guide: Ally Malinenko's Verse-Letter to America at Five 2 One
Five 2 One Masthead
Review of Nathaniel Rounds' Megamouth Shark Eats Dongpo Pork With a Spoon at Fowlpox Press
Nathaniel Rounds' Book Blurb At Fowlpox Press
Jessica Lawrence's Terrible Little Stars Book Blurb at Amazon
The Glorious Madness of New Wave at Five 2 One Magazine
It was a Texas Dashcam Vid: Corrupt Cops and Black Heroines at Fear of Monkeys
Definitions of Obscurity Book Blurb at Unlikely Stories
Babes in Toyland: Riotous, But Not Grrrls at Literary Orphans
Adventures in Television at MungBeing
An Ultimate Massaging of the Senses at MungBeing
Magic Math: Felino A. Soriano's Mathematics at Nostrovia Writing
American Revolution, Part Deux at MungBeing
The Sordid Secrets of a Foolish Heart at MungBeing
Anarchism or Anachronism at MungBeing
Crazy Lynch Time at MungBeing
Hinge Trio Review at Of the poetry this jazz portends
Felino Soriano Book Blurb at Of the poetry this jazz portends
Kathryn Wins Big, but Hollywood Still Hurts for Female Directors at Bad Subjects
Occupy or Die! at Fringe Magazine Blog
Middle Class Aspirations in an Ominous Economy at Fear of Monkeys
Abolish Work: The Art of Zen-Surrealism at Fear of Monkeys
Author Insides: Alison Ross at Vagabondage Press
An Interview with Clockwise Cat Editor Alison Ross at Black Heart Magazine
Of Collocated Rhythms by Felino Soriano Book Review at Black Heart Magazine
Poetic Gravity at Anya Achtenberg
Five Rants at When Falls the Coliseum
Five Diatribes at Muse Apprentice Guild
Twelve Rants and Satirical Pieces at Democracy Means You
Politically Erect at Exquisite Corpse
Ode to Corporate America at Exquisite Corpse
Xenophobes and Homophobes at Democratic Underground
Black Lips CD Review at Laura Hird
Letter to the Editor at Creative Loafing
Monday, October 5, 2020
Published September 2020
Bright Eyes Down in the Weeds a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope
by Alison Ross
In 2004, as I hobbled toward my frumpy 40s, I became enamored of a band that, at the time, appealed primarily to angsty teens: Bright Eyes. With his emo coiffure and "screamo" vocals, lead singer Conor Oberst was quickly becoming the pin-up for a generation of hormonal floppy-hairs.
But here's the thing: Bright Eyes were never truly emo. Sure, Conor's tremulous whisper could devolve into unsettling screams, but the music had a quirky, artful air, and sure, his lyrics could read like sophomoric confessionals, but they were often collaged upon surrealist and symbolist verse. In short, Bright Eyes may have unwittingly acquired elements of the emo genre, but in the end, they were far too worldly to be pigeonholed as musical poetasters.
Fast forward to 2020. After a nine-year hiatus (2011's The People's Key was purported to be their final offering), Bright Eyes have returned with a new album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, and Conor Oberst has turned 40. I'm in my 50s and still enamored. And yet, despite the emotional luggage that Oberst has been hauling around in the last decade (divorce, death of a sibling), and despite his staggering number of side-tangents (solo projects, collaborations, super-bands), Bright Eyes' signature post-punk Americana has remained mostly intact. That's thanks to the astute aptitudes of perpetual collaborators Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, of course, to Oberst himself, and his timeless talent.
Far from being a sonic digression, the new album Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, is an invigorating tour through all of Bright Eyes' eras. There are new wave rockers ala The People's Key; sweeping easy listening songs in the vein of Cassadaga; minimalist alt-country evoking I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning; electronica in the spirit of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn; and fragile ballads and goth-folk such as those that can be found on Lifted, Or the Story is in the Soil Keep Your Ear to the Ground and Fevers and Mirrors. The new album is a pleasing amalgam of all that makes Bright Eyes so compelling and fresh, replete with a chatty, cryptic intro, quivering vocals, heady histrionics, bold orchestral statements, idiosyncratic arrangements and instrumentation, lush female backing vocals, and nods to just about every musical style, even ragtime.
Now, to be sure, some critical detractors resent the "bombast" and self-indulgent production of Bright Eyes albums, neglecting to grasp that the crux of the Bright Eyes appeal is their willful projection of grandiose flourishes onto sophisticated musicality. Too, Conor's quavering voice can be polarizing among critics, vacillating as his vocals do between tuneful croons and warbles that jitter on a fault line, occasionally erupting into tiny emotional earthquakes. Conor Oberst sings like a Midwestern Robert Smith, flattening the latter's English rain-drenched moan into a dry wail birthed in the plains of Omaha.
What doesn't seem to be in as much dispute among critics is Conor Oberst's status as a solid songwriter. Once hailed as the second coming of Bob Dylan (around the same time that he was being touted as the emo poster boy), Obsert has a knack for constructing strong compositions embellished with potent poetry that can be anguishing, cosmic, nihilistic, ebullient, mystical -- sometimes all at once. Conor bears the dichotomous distinction of being an extreme introvert who expresses himself urgently, candidly. Still, his words often read like versified diary entries and can feel claustrophobic, like inhabiting a cave inside his brain.
However, it bears noting that on Down in the Weeds, Oberst embraces existential ambivalence more confidently in his lyrics, even as they still trend toward dark ruminations. For example, in one of Bright Eyes' best early tunes, "Attempt to Tip the Scales", Oberst pens words of dread with only a twinge of hope. "In the dark, we're just air / So the house might dissolve / Once we're gone, who's gonna care / If we were ever here at all? / So close to dying that I finally can start living."
On the other hand, one of the best songs from Down in the Weeds, "Tilt-A-Whirl", Oberst touches on the same topic, but with more depth and maturity. "My phantom brother came to me / His backlit face was hard to see / I couldn't move, I couldn't scream / You can't un-hear Beethoven's Fifth / This human heart's an aggregate / Competing feelings so disparate." On "Dance and Sing", Oberst sounds resigned, but in a zenfully attuned kind of way. "I'll grieve what I have lost / Forgive the firing squad / How imperfect life can be / Now all I can do is just dance on through… and sing."
The entire album is a, dare we say, middle-aged meditation on love and loss -- and how more love can heal the continual loss. Oberst has never sounded so world-weary and yet so full of heart. On "Just Once in the World", he sings, "Let's stroll to the edge of the cliff / Stop here and give me a kiss / Now we're walking on air / There's no hell beneath our feet."
On "To Death's Heart (In Three Parts)", he laments, "Limbs, they hang like chandeliers from alcohol and age / Down in the weeds again, tough to explain / Mattress soaked in gasoline makes iridescent flames; I lay down." And on album centerpiece, "Marianna Trench", Oberst emotes, "Look long at that Stonehenge / Look quick is it something you missed / Look into the that smoldering building's bombed-out fog / Until it finally lifts."
Bright Eyes inhabit a perfect musical paradox, exhibiting an approach that's raw and sloppy, elegant, and elegiac. Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.