Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Buchner. When I discussed non-musical theatrical literature between, roughly, Moliere and Ibsen in a post a week and a half ago, I forgot Georg Buchner, the great German playwright of the 1830s. He wrote three plays that companies occasionally revive, “Danton’s Death,” “Leonce and Lena,” and, more often, “Woyzeck,” which became the basis of a 20th century opera.

But Buchner’s plays were so out of the fashion the time -- and so close to 20th century style -- that they almost prove the point I was trying to make about the datedness of 18th and 19th century theater. Buchner died in 1837 at the age of 24, and it would be almost 60 years before the first of his plays was performed before a German audience--and almost 100 years before his plays were translated into English.

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I’m feeling icky about saying some not-nice things about “The Sunset Tree.” It’s complicated. I don’t know how I’d feel about it if I’d paid for it, because I don’t like a number of the songs. But the ones I do like really hit me.

Critical consensus calls Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” one of the all time classic albums, but some critics say, eh, it’s uneven. I agree with both views. Only three songs really send me spinning. But those three songs send me SO spinning, and their soundworld is so unmapped, that I can’t dispute the classic status.

It’s early in my listening curve with it, so I can't say how I'll end up feeling about “The Sunset Tree.” I don’t know whether “The Sunset Tree” will be a “classic.” Despite positive coverage in the “New Yorker” and (someone tells me) on NPR, I’d be shocked if its sales reach Marvin levels. Unlikely to show up on Oldies radio in 20 years. But likely to be a “classic” for its fans, maybe like Elvis Costello’s early stuff is now.

If it weren’t for the album-ness of albums, and the custom of talking about them as units, and the custom of purchasing music through these units, I would not have even mentioned that I don’t like some of the songs on “The Sunset Tree.” I’m not sure I should have mentioned it anyway. But I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression in the extremely unlikely eventuality that someone might make a purchasing decision based on something I say on this blog.
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