Posts from 23rd January 2005

Jan 05

Down By The River Where The Dead Men Go by George P. Pelecanos

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I can’t remember who it was who recommended Pelecanos to me, but I had the impression he was well worth a try, that he might just be someone to join my other big favourite current crime writers. This is pretty good, but nothing has really made me desperate to read more by him.

It’s very Lawrence Block in style – we have an alcaholic occasional P.I., getting dragged into things more than commissioned. It has his sometime gritty realism, a convincing grasp of low-life people and their world (here set in D.C.), and some of his qualities. The lead character is a pretty substantial creation, and a few others are pretty good too, and the writing is a good notch above solid. The climactic sections are pretty lively, though standard enough fare. There’s nothing really wrong with this, but there wasn’t anything that seemed to match Block’s freshness and complexity and wit; nothing to match James Lee Burke’s atmospheric and beautiful descriptive prose; nothing to match Andrew Vachss’s compelling vision of a sub-underworld. I may read him again, but I can’t say I’ll be particularly looking for him.

Chemical Brothers –

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Chemical Brothers – Push The Button

The big UK dance acts of the ’90s are fading. Underworld’s last album was their weakest yet. Massive Attack’s last two (including Danny The Dog) are pretty poor. The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim are of almost zero interest now. Orbital have gone. I think it’ll be no bad thing if there are fewer Big Acts to grab the focus, to allow so many people to ignore everything not made by a Big Act. I guess this is why my expectations of and even hopes for the new Chemical Brothers album were extremely low.

There’s no obvious huge hit on this – no ‘Block Rocking Beats’, no megastar collaborations, though there are more than enough guests, some good (Q-Tip), some not (Tim Burgess), most pretty much unknown to me. This guests thing seems to make them lean towards songs, and I don’t think it’s their strong suit. Even then, taking the vocal out would improve more tracks than it would harm – this is true of tracks two to four, for instance.

They are still tremendous producers. They can still produce dynamite beats, big and funky and potent. They can still produce some lovely music as well – Hold Tight London is gorgeous, despite the unnecessary vocals. This album has its missteps – ‘Close Your Eyes’, with the Magic Numbers, is pretty bad – but most of it is good, and a few tracks are excellent (I particularly like the closer, ‘Surface To Air’). It’s not their finest moment, but it’s a great deal better than I had anticipated.