Artist: "William Burroughs"
Album: "Dead City Radio"
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Fontana Island
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Review: I think you get a better handle on just about any writer by hearing them read their work. With some writers it can be just about essential. I personally couldn’t get my head around the great William Burroughs until I heard him read his stuff. Suddenly what had been nearly incomprehensible shifts in point of view, location, and logic fell into place, a rhythm of speech was revealed that gruffly but gently guided me through a maze of prose so easily I had to wonder how I’d missed it.
Of all Burroughs' recorded work (and while hard to find, there’s a lot of it) ‘Dead City Radio’ is far and away my favorite. The old man’s gravely noir narration is set to music that sounds like it was dug out of an archive of scores for 1930’s movies and radio plays, which is what I originally assumed it was.
In fact the score was arranged (the album gives no specific writing credit) by Lenny Picket, who’s done arrangements for David Bowie, the Talking Heads, The Rolling Stone and is currently the leader of the SNL house band. John Cale, Sonic youth and the NBC symphony orchestra.
Burroughs reads a few pieces original to the album, some excerpts from naked Lunch and a small slice of the Sermon on the Mount. There’s a pretty chilling straight ahead noir gangster story recounting the moments before the violent death of a small time bank robber and a lengthy formal prayer to Ah Pook the Destroyer whom I believe was a Babylonian God. You even get to hear Burroughs sing a bit of “Falling In Love Again” in German ala Marlena Dietrich.
Burroughs was undeniably a great American writer, the only one to my knowledge who covered drug addiction, homosexuality, psychosis and esoteric historical trivia with such unbridled verve, but it was his overwhelming personality that gave birth to the beat movement, inspiring it’s writers before he even began to write himself. If you’ve never seen the man on film, or heard one of his recordings, you’ve got a hell of a treat waiting for you. “Dead City Radio” is a damn good starting point.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
I like Bukowski myself, but strangely Bukowski hated Burroughs.
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