Weeklies

Artist: "William Burroughs"
Album: "Dead City Radio"
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Fontana Island

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 1/23/2008

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.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

The Goddamned Batman
Jan 24th, 2008, 06:50 PM
Burroughs has been on my list of writers to check out for a long time.

I have a long list.
Fanboy
Jan 24th, 2008, 08:53 PM
I love everything this guy recorded or wrote. He was like a force of nature. The "Cities of the Red Night" trilogy blew my mind. This is a must-have album, along with "Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales".
Esq.
Jan 25th, 2008, 06:14 AM
Naked Lunch was an interesting novel, but the film adaptation I found to be yawm inducing
Waiting for the worms.
Jan 25th, 2008, 04:12 PM
Burroughs is the king. Polyester suit and all.
Fookin' up planets!
Jan 28th, 2008, 03:55 AM
If this album tickled yer fancy, check out any audio or video recording of Charles Bukowski, man was genius.
Creepy Old Fart
Jan 29th, 2008, 01:41 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Protoclown View Post
Burroughs has been on my list of writers to check out for a long time.

I have a long list.
Find a book called "Word Virus". It's a Burroughs anthology and also includes a CD of spoken word. New, at a bookstore, it might run ya 35 dollars. If yer cheap, see if your local library has it first.
Creepy Old Fart
Jan 29th, 2008, 01:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain PirateFace View Post
If this album tickled yer fancy, check out any audio or video recording of Charles Bukowski, man was genius.
I like Bukowski myself, but strangely Bukowski hated Burroughs.
The Moxie Nerve Food Tonic
Jan 29th, 2008, 02:14 PM
A book CD combo is a great idea. I absolutely recommend hearing him before reading him. It makes it ever so much easier.
Fookin' up planets!
Jan 30th, 2008, 03:15 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by JediScum View Post
I like Bukowski myself, but strangely Bukowski hated Burroughs.
JediScum, you are completely correct..
I remember Bukowski jabbing Burroughs in one of his books saying something along the lines of Burroughs sitting at a bar crying in his beer after selling the movie rights to "Naked Lunch" for the amount of what it cost to buy a case of beer... or something along those lines.

I think Bukowski just generally disliked the "Beat" poets because someone always tried to group him in with that whole crew and Bukowski believed himself to be very far off from that whole click.
OH GOD
Jan 30th, 2008, 07:43 AM
clique
pickled
Jan 30th, 2008, 07:21 PM
Yeah, "Word Virus" would probably be a good place to start reading Burroughs.