Frontier Psychiatrist

Archive for June 2010

Given the recent news about Russian spies attempting to pull a “long con” on unassuming Americans, we feel compelled to reflect through pop culture. Seriously, what decade are we living in? Do we need to fear the Russians again? For now, let these songs soothe your inner sleuth during the long ride to St. Petersburg.

5. DEVO – Secret Agent Man

We avoided putting this Johnny Rivers classic on the list, because it was way too obvious. Then we remembered this jittery, post-punk rendition of the rock staple. The Mark Mothersbaugh quintet’s version, complete with stark yet dizzying synths, sets us off on our journey quite well. Found on DEVO’s stage setting second album Duty Now for the Future, “Secret Agent Man” keeps the urgency of the original, but adds trademark new wave aspects. Oddly enough, this cover has aged better than most of DEVO’s catalogue.

4. The Slits – I Heard It Through the Grapevine

This one may not jump out at you as a sleuth song, but there is definitely some sneaking and snooping going on. One of the most covered songs of all time, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” shares many similarities with spy culture. The first line of the song should give you enough of a clue: “I bet you’re wondering how I knew/about your plans to make me blue.”  There had to have been some wiretapping involved. We have put The Slits version of the song, because, you know, it’s awesome.

The Slits, I Heard It Through the Grapevine

3. Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better

What spy oriented list would be complete without a James Bond song? The Spy Who Loved Me is a classic Roger Moore Bond film, complete with submarines, an amphibious Lotus sports car, beautiful women, ski-slope shootouts and Simon’s iconic ballad to Mr. 007 himself. Centered the awe-inspiring class of a man like Bond, “Nobody Does It Better” raised the bar for movie intros back in 1977. Also, this song will make you proud to be a man.

2. The Decemberists – The Bagman’s Gambit

This song gives hope to all you Washington romantics. Or at least it proves that people in DC can love, despite what the news says.  An epic story of love and espionage set in the halls of the Federal Government, “The Bagman’s Gambit” reminds us not to fall for those who lie for a living. Although he eventually learns that he was part of an elaborate search for U.S. secrets, Colin Meloy’s character becomes infatuated with the spy who loved him in a bathroom stall off the National Mall.

The Decemberists,The Bagman’s Gambit

1. Talking Heads – Life During Wartime

“My chest is aching, burns like a furnace. The burning keeps me alive.” David Byrne shows us, as usual, that spying ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. “Life During Wartime” is a tour de force. With one pumping riff jammed over and over, Byrne and company synthesize the unpleasant adrenaline rush that comes with the job. After hearing this song, we’re glad we went to college and night school, didn’t want to be different this time.

Talking Heads, Life During Wartime


Today we tested out the new bike lane on Prospect Park West. It is sweet.

The lane runs approximately one mile from the corner of Grand Army Plaza to 15th street. As elsewhere in the city, the green paint means cars are prohibited from entering the lane. On Prospect Park West, cyclists are further protected by a row of cars parked between the bike lane and traffic. (It’s the same deal as the Kent Street bike lane along the Williamsburg waterfront).

In the past, Prospect Park West has been a site of clashes between bikers and drivers. Now some Park Slope residents tell FP that the new lane has caused conflicts between cyclists and parents with strollers. Maybe so. But on this afternoon’s test ride, we saw no signs of strife. Cyclists shared the lanes with roller bladers and kids on scooters and parents who crossed the lane with strollers. (OK, there was one jogger in headphone oblivion. But still.)

At 11th street, signs from the lane point to Celebrate Brooklyn‘s bicycle valet parking. So when you head to the Prospect Park bandshell tonight to see Passion Pit,  you can park your bike beneath a tent.  Ditto for The National, The Dead Weather, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and other Celebrate Brooklyn shows this summer.

Speaking of The National, the band provided the soundtrack for Racing Dreams, a new documentary film about three teenage go kart racers and their aspirations to become NASCAR stars. The film is now playing in Indiana and Oregon and opens July 9 in New York and July 23 in California. Check out the trailer below.

PS. If you’re riding to Prospect Park from North Brooklyn, your ride will be that much smoother thanks to new blacktop on Lafayette and Vanderbilt Avenues.

Keith Meatto is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist

We’ll be perfectly honest: Learning, the debut album by Seattle troubadour Perfume Genius, is likely to be lost in the dustbin of history.  It contains only 10 songs.  It runs under 30 minutes.  There is barely a sound to be heard outside of solo voice and distant piano.  In our increasingly desultory musical world,  without a fresh new pseudo-category under which to file it (is it glo-fi? agit-pop? witch-house?), the record is likely to be given a few spins by rock critics, stamped with the dreaded “singer-songwriter” label, and ultimately tossed aside.  Just because history might forget this record, however, doesn’t mean that you should.

Mike Hadreas (who performs under the aforementioned aromatic alias) certainly found all the right ingredients for a classic folk song-cycle: cope with an excess of personal tragedy (cf Tonight’s the Night); go into isolation (cf For Emma, Forever Ago); and record in a hurry (cf Pink Moon).  After a life evidently filled with vaguely-reported tragedy (drugs were involved), Hadreas move from New York into his mother’s home in the small exurban town of Everson, WA:

In this rather lonely setting, Hadreas (who previously had little interest in recording music), rediscovered the piano and recorded his first song, “Learning:”

Perfume Genius – Learning

The song, with its haunting melody and baleful lyrical content, was the first of several to come.  After streaming his work online for some time, he caught the attention of Turnstile records, which, in conjunction with Matador, released Hadreas’ debut full-length on June 22 of this year.

When heard straight through, the change of songs can be difficult to distinguish; rather than obvious changes in tempo or timbre from track to track, there is a gradual transformation of mood.  From the lonely, defeated stance of the title track, to the hopeful entreaties of “Write to Your Brother,” to the ultimately resigned “Perry” and “Never Did,” one trip through the album leaves the listener with the impression of something quite affecting, quite unsettling, and quite beautiful.

Perfume Genius – Write to Your Brother

Pefume Genius – Perry

Perfume Genius – Never Did

We hope that, after being left with such an impression, you’ll want to take a second trip.  Then, although the record may ultimately be lost to history, perhaps it won’t be forgotten.

(Perfume Genius can be seen in New York on July 20 at 92Y Tribeca and in Brooklyn on July 23 at Glasslands Gallery)

The world of music in the 21st century can be too distressing to bear.  Can I still be cool if I don’t like Animal Collective?  When did record players become popular again? What the hell is glitch-punk?

If you’re searching your soul for the answer to a musical question, send your problem to Ask a (Frontier) Psychiatrist, and every Tuesday we’ll present you with a calm, drug-free solution.  Remember, sometimes a guitar is not just a guitar.

Sure, we were dejected on Saturday after the USA soccer team fell 2-1 to Ghana in overtime and ended their hopes of World Cup glory. Then we ate a consolation burger and went to see Sleigh Bells and all was right with the world.

For nearly an hour, Alexis Krauss screamed, shrieked, and bellowed like a banshee over the drone of Derek E. Milller’s guitar and a wash of electronic drum tracks. Bathed in smoke and light, Sleigh Bells played songs from their debut record, Treats, which has been in heavy rotation here at FP since its release in May.  And we make no secret of our fascination with Alexis, who made our list of Top 5 American Women in music. She said little to the audience between songs, though she dropped down twice to dance with the crowd. And after the last song she threw her water bottle into the audience. We didn’t catch the plastic garter belt, but a few drops did splash our faces. Or was that just our sweat?

Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells @CreatorsProject

The Sleigh Bells show was the highlight of The Creators Project, a music and technology festival sponsored by Vice Magazine and Intel and housed in two floors of a warehouse in the Meat Packing District. (Crowd estimate: 40% Brooklyn, 60% Manhattan or tourist). Other highlights included The Rapture, Gang Gang Dance, and Interpol, whose sets on a loading dock stage were visible and audible from The Highline, the manicured overpass park that runs from Gansevoort Street to 34th street.  We also caught a few songs from Die Antwoord, and waited on line for drinks behind Alan Palomo, a.k.a. Neon Indian, who recently made our list of Top 5 One Man Bands. We wanted to share one of our maxims of manhood: When life gives you lemons, make a Citrus Collins. But Mr. Indian was busy working his charm with a person of the female persuasion.  Ah, the perils of indie stardom.

Interpol @CreatorsProject

After our long day of soccer and music (yes, we are so oppressed) we left before the not-quite-a-secret closing set from M.I.A. Oh, well. Next time.

Besides three stages of music, the Creators Project included art installations with colors and lights and 3-D effects that warranted posted warnings for epileptics. Thankfully, there were no seizures and we didn’t have to use our training in neurology. There were also laptops scattered throughout the venue, though they didn’t seem to draw much traffic. We feel their pain.

Our favorite piece was a video sculpture dedicated to the music of the xx. The exhibit replicated the technique of sound isolation used to record and mix albums. Here, three screens on columns played footage of each of the three band members performing songs from their eponymous debut, one of our favorite records of 2009. Below each screen, speakers played each band members’  vocals and instruments (bass, guitar, electronic drums) in isolation.

Oh, and there was gelato. We had the chocolate. And the mint.

(Does your inner gourmet want more?  Check out K-Town Homestead.)

Many a Francophile food writer has waxed poetic on the topic of the perfect vinaigrette. The simply dressed green salad has been fetishized to such an extent that a new cook would think it was a herculean kitchen task, like deboning a turkey or making your own soup dumplings. In reality, any salad dressing is a five-minute-or-less activity and the results are infinitely superior to the goopy, overly-sweet bottled products that line supermarket shelves. Making your own salad dressing is an easy way to punch up your culinary street cred. Once you get the basics down, you’ll never drop 5 bucks on Newman’s Own again.

Now, I am partial to a garlicky dressing. Most classic recipes call for a pinch of mustard and the barest hint of minced shallots — recalling, all too often, the wanly-dressed “spring greens” that are plopped next to brunch quiches at middling cafes. If we are going to be Francophile, let us be more Provencale than Parisian and embrace the pungent garlic bulb. There are many ways to garlic-up a dressing. If you are in possession of a rustic wooden bowl, then you can take the most delicate approach: cut a clove of garlic and gently rub it all over the inside of the bowl. Discard the clove and go about the business of vinaigrette-making. There will be a faint, garlicky perfume in every bite. In a similar vein, Elizabeth David, in her classic French Provincial Cooking, suggests that those who like a garlic-flavored salad make salade au chapon. The chapon is a piece of toast “well rubbed on both sides with a cut clove of garlic” and placed in the bowl underneath the lettuce. The chapon perfumes the salad and then, once the lettuce is gone, the more aggressive eaters — or ardent garlic lovers — can fight over who gets to eat the aromatic remains.

My mother-in-law taught me an even more garlicky approach to salad making (apparently cadged from the side of a Pepperidge Farm crouton box) and it is now the basis for my house dressing, so to speak. You take a garlic clove, put it in a bowl with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper and mash it into a fine paste with the back of a wooden spoon. Here, a wooden bowl works best, too — the surface gives you more purchase as you crush the garlic. Add a splash of balsamic, whisk in a good amount of olive oil, et voila! A homemade dressing.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart, and yields a lusty condiment that could do double-duty as a steak sauce (especially if you added some melted butter instead of olive oil….just sayin’). This is not a dressing you should make on a first date — your breath will smell quite…Provencale. Nor does it stand up to storage, so make it in real time. If you are careful with the care of your wooden salad bowl — use it only for salad and wipe it out gently after every use, rather than immerse in soapy water — the wood will eventually become saturated with garlic scent. Then, for the nights when you want a more delicate dressing, you can just make a vinaigrette — subtle garlic flavor guaranteed. No chapon needed here.

(Music Before 1990)

Last week, Frontier Archaeology did not make it to press.  We had planned to post after a day-long drive from the shores of Virginia back to Brooklyn, but sadly we were marooned on the Goethals Bridge for 3 hours as part of an epic traffic-jam-ageddon.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the mid-Atlantic region, the Goethals connects two of our most prized American treasures).  Suffice it say, this particular author could have used his own personal Frontier Psychiatrist to survive the experience.  But, we were not the first people to suffer on the highway, nor are we the first to be inspired by it.  So today, we happily bring you a set of songs inspired by the (not-always-so) open road.  Throw ’em in your 8-track.

Janis Joplin (via Kris Kirstofferson and Fred Foster) – Me and Bobby McGee

Tom Waits – Ol’ 55

Kraftwerk – Autobahn

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Wheels

The Hondelles (via Brian Wilson) – Little Honda

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L.V. Lopez, Publisher
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Listening To:

Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.