Book Review: Phases & Stages

100%

Phases & Stages

Swordfishtrombones

by David Smay
Continuum Books, 129 pp., $10.95

Pink Moon

by Amanda Petrusich
Continuum Books, 120 pp., $10.95

Rid of Me: A Story

by Kate Schatz
Continuum Books, 112 pp., $10.95

Continuum Books' 331/3 series, writers deconstructing particular albums in just over 100 pages, spins for short attention spans. Take San Francisco music writer David Smay's dissection of Tom Waits' 1983 turning point, Swordfishtrombones. A total 180 for the Bay Area bard, Smay doesn't break it down. Instead, he takes the material and extracts random details so we get a clearer picture of Waits, a man more in love with myth than fact. Meeting wife and collaborator Kathleen Brennan in the early 1980s sparked Waits' creative impulse, reviving his floundering career. Smay's whimsical thought process winds as serpentine as the album, pondering Waits' wordplay, themes, and state of mind. Pitchfork critic Amanda Petrusich's look at Nick Drake's 1972 swan song, Pink Moon, takes a more straight-ahead business-model approach, ruminating on the 2000 Volkswagen commercial that brought the late British singer-songwriter to the ears of a new generation, as well as interspersing snippets from Drake fans. As musician James Jackson Toth, aka Wooden Wand, explains of Pink Moon: "It was always hard for me to think of any good reason to dislike it. How can you? You got ice water in your veins?" Myth clearing isn't Petrusich's bag; we never get closer to Drake's troubled persona than his lyrics. Fictionist Kate Schatz takes a different route in examining P.J. Harvey's watershed Rid of Me (1993), approaching it as a story with highly sexualized tension. Sounds good in theory, but, unfortunately, most of it comes off as bad erotic lit. That's the rub here: It's all open for interpretation.

Got opinions about bands, clubs, performers, and everything else good in Austin? Let your voice be heard in our annual Best of Austin ballot. Voting is open now!

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Music Reviews
You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Wasn't That a Time: the Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America
Once, folk singers faced jail time and worse for their political affiliations

Kevin Curtin, Dec. 21, 2018

You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Tori Amos's Boys for Pele
The cult of Tori Amos and how to navigate a life of writing

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 21, 2018

More by Audra Schroeder
SXSW Interactive Conference Quick Cuts
The Signal & the Noise
Statistician Nate Silver on more data, more problems

March 15, 2013

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'Kiss of the Damned'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

March 15, 2013

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Time to vote! Best of Austin 2019 balloting is underway   VOTE NOW