Thursday, July 20, 2006

Julian copes

I was expecting great things from my first viewing of TV Party, having recently read about this short-lived phenomenon; it was the NYC cable access show from circa 1980/81 that featured le tout New York at one time or another, and which was fronted by downtown scenester Glenn O'Brien. Imagine Richard and Judy programmed by Vincent Gallo with Ed Wood doing the camerawork, and you still wouldn't be close. My first exposure to it, though, courtesy of YouTube, had me slightly underwhelmed. Though it's clearly an important social document, the clip above had me wondering: just how bad a presenter would you have to be to have Jean-Michel Basquiat on and not be able to string together one decent question, or elicit one interesting answer? Pretty bad, as it turns out. O'Brien radiates such ennui that I almost dozed off. I must be a glutton for punishment, though; I'm just about to order the TV Party documentary DVD.

Basquiat's legacy is possibly better served by O'Brien's movie Downtown 81, recently restored. Another director who had a crack at telling J-MB's life story was artist Julian Schnabel. The multi-faceted (if not multi-talented) Schnabel, deposed king of the New York art scene and scourge of Robert Hughes, is not known for his subtlety or humility. His paintings, enormous canvases covered in crockery, dwarf most others in a gallery. Not content with one career, he's also tried his hand at directing and music (the clothing line and perfume range are presumably only months away). Like I said, a man with a large ego.

So his one and only stab at chart stardom, an album entitled Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud, must be a sprawling, bombastic mess, right? Well, no, actually. Surprisingly, and despite the presence of stellar talent like Anton Fier, Bill Laswell, Henry Threadgill, Bernie Worrell and Bernard Fowler, the album is mostly introspective, reflective and plaintive. Whoulda thunk it? Schnabel can’t sing (he makes Mark Stewart sound like George Michael), but that only adds to the poignant quality of the songs, as he reflects on lost love, memories, divorce and, er, bullfighters. All this, and Gary Oldman on backing vocals too. A little sample appears below in the form of the title track. I love how it builds over its 6 minutes, the dynamics, and the string arrangements, courtesy of the aforementioned Mr. Threadgill.

Listen to Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud
(deleted Feb 2007--sorry!)

Buy Every Silver Lining...

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