A book so good…

I saw Questlove on The Daily Show. I knew who he was in a general way—in fact, are my favorite sticks when I’m playing—but I hadn’t, to the best of my knowledge, ever heard a single thing by The Roots. Ever.

Thinking back on it, my memory of the interview was that it was a little awkward. Re-watching it just now, though, suggests that my memory is shot to shit—I mean, I didn’t even remember that it was John Oliver, and while it was a low-key interview, it wasn’t really awkwardness per se, or at least not on Questlove’s part.

Regardless, it convinced me to buy the book.

I was a third of the way through it, when I realized that I had to by a copy of it for my friend Paul for a couple of reasons.

The first is because Paul is two months younger than me, and Questlove is a month younger than that—so when Questlove is talking about his childhood, it resonated with me surprisingly strongly. I mean, no, I was not black, nor was I growing up in Philly, but we share a passion for music, and many of the musical touchstones of his childhood are ones that I remember, even if they weren’t quite as much a part of my cultural identity. I mean, I didn’t really come to an appreciation of Parliament until I was in my 30s (incidentally, I’m going to see them at the end of the month), but there are Earth, Wind and Fire albums that I have known down to the note as far back as I can remember. I remember Soul Train in the 70’s, though I mostly remember just being…baffled, it was that far outside of my experience.

Anyway, that was the first reason—we’re all contemporaries, and I figured Paul would feel a kinship with many of those same things.

The second, of course, is because Paul owned a hip-hop club in Atlanta in the 90’s. And so I sorta wondered if he had ever met Questlove. In fact, he and his wife knew the whole band. Not fast friends or anything, but they knew them.

Anyway, I think this is probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s interesting to read his perspective on the roots of hip-hop, about which I know relatively little—I’ve always been a rock and roll baby. It’s hilarious to read his meetings with Kiss and Prince and Tracy Morgan. it’s profound to read how The Roots are grappling with trying to be a band after 40.

If you care about music even a little bit, why haven’t you already read this book?

It was all a horrible dream…

This has been a post a while in the making—one of the problems with writing the software that lets you post to your blog is that it puts you on the hook if something changes, and I wasn’t timely about handling that, so I’ve got some posts that have been stewing.

Anyway, It’s not without slight embarrassment that I admit that I like the new Van Halen album. It’s not great, mind you—it’s no Fair Warning, or frankly even a Van Halen II (what I think to be the weakest of their Roth-era albums)—but there’s a swagger, coupled with a wink and a grin, that is really fun to witness.

And I’m realizing that the reason is unequivocally David Lee Roth.

When 5150 first came out, I liked it a lot. And I suppose it’s not a bad album even now. And OU812 and even For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge are similarly not bad albums—but they lack a spark. Listening to them now, while the musicianship is great, the actual songs are…I dunno. They’ve become smaller than life; pedestrian; humdrum.

I guess at some level I recognized it even then. I never bought their last album with Sammy Hagar, Balance, or their one album with Gary Cherone, Van Halen III,

A Different Kind of Truth, on the other hand has plenty of flaws, but it also has lyrics like:

How many roads must a man walk down
before he admits he’s lost.
And do you really, really drive this way
just to piss me off?

It’s inconsequential, but it’s not without a certain cleverness. The Sammy Hagar era was trying to be significant (one need only look at the lyrics and/or video to Right Now for confirmation), but David Lee Roth, if he tries at all, is happy to undercut it with a good laugh:

Like the ancient immortals said
Don’t want ’em to get your goat
Don’t show ’em where it’s hid
But that’s just what I did

I’m not going to have it on infinite repeat for months on end, but it’s a fun little diversion, and it’s almost like the intervening 25 years never happened.

You should read Young Avengers. Full stop.

I’m going to be honest—my first serious encounter with Kieron Gillen was his current stint on Iron Man. It has not been knocking my socks off, though I recognize that some of that is because it’s coming on the heels of Matt Fraction’s run which quite liked.

That said, I was well aware he was capable of doing great things—not everyone can make the Internet cry, as he did with the finale to his ‘Kid Loki’ storyline in Journey Into Mystery. But I hadn’t been picking it up as it went along, and it hadn’t been collected yet, so I waited. I bided (bode?) my time until the entire run was collected, and then followed a to start at the beginning and follow it through to the end.

I’m totally comfortable admitting I cried. Really, completely OK with it. They were very, very manly tears.

I hadn’t realized that he was writing Young Avengers, and I hadn’t realized it was starring, among others, Kid Loki. No, I don’t know how I missed it…what are you, my mother?

Anyway, I checked with the guys at the comic shop, and they told me that the first collection, comprising issues 1-5, was going to come out last Tuesday, so I went ahead and picked up issues 6-8 off the rack, and then waited for the trade.

Oh, my. I can’t recommend this enough. You don’t have to have read any of the other Kid Loki material to be appreciate it. You don’t have to have read the prior Young Avengers series to understand what’s going on.

Don’t wait. .

Incidentally, while you’re at it, you should also be reading the other best superhero comic of the moment: Hawkeye. Collections and are out, and you should read the hell out of it. It is every bit as brilliant, though I have to admit to being a little sad on those issues where David Aja isn’t illustrating—his brilliance is impossible to overstate.

One day, if they’re smart, Marvel will collect the whole Kid Loki storyline in one place, in order, with all the supporting material, so you don’t have to sit down with your set of collections carefully annotated with post-its so that you can read it all in order.