By Nahed Elrayes
A well-written album booklet is nice, but you don’t exactly need to be Pynchon, do you?
In Lotion’s case, it doesn’t hurt. Although there are no images, and the introductory run-on sentence don’t capture your eye instantly, the choice of fan testimony does.
Often an articulate expert on the American mood from the sixties to here – the nineties – Thomas Pynchon traces the context leading to this obsure and poetic rock album, running “through peculiar waters, full of undetonated mines from the cultural disputes that began in the Sixties” (Pynchon, 1996). The reader is left to infer exactly what these disputes are. It is unique that rather than simply allude to the time and place involved, Pynchon does so through the surrealist tone of the lyrics themselves, describing “unannounced calls at ports that seem almost like cities we have been to, though not quite, cityscapes that all converge to New York in some form, which is after all where these guys are from.”
There is a flaw in Pynchon’s literary background: while the essence of lyrics and mood are well-captured, is difficult to get an exact sense of the album’s sound. Our only clue out of roughly 500 words are “feedback-striken, edge-of-chaos guitar passages” and “lounge chords”. It is unfortunate that he leaves out the polytonal moments and sporadic rhythms that make this a remarkable album, though he may have wanted the music to speak for itself. As Robert Christgau suggests, “writing about music is about writing first” (Christgau, 2005), so I at least forgive Pynchon’s focus on the aspects he describes well.
With the indie-rock genre in mind, the note has in mind a reader who is neither musically ignorant nor pretentious. It compares the “humor of a cruise combo” within Lotion’s dramatic sound to a shameless piece of baroque polyphony, lurking inside a twelvetone composition. Pynchon balances this advanced language with the almost vulgar ending of “find the remote, get out the Snapple and Chee-tos, and like the Love Boat staff always sez, welcome aboard”. Without taking himself too seriously, he succeeds in portraying what Dean L. Biron and Colin Symes call the “inside story of the music” (2011). Overall, the liner note to Nobody’s Cool is articulate, intriguing, and inviting.
Biron, Dean Leonard. “Writing and Music: Album Liner Notes”. Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies 8.1 (2011): 4. Online.
Christgau, R. “Writing about Music is Writing First”. Popular Music 24.3 (2005): 415-421. Print.
Pynchon, Thomas. “Thomas Pynchon’s Liner Notes for Lotion’s ‘Nobody’s Cool’”. Thomaspynchon.com. N.p., 1996. Web. 26 April. 2017.
Picture which appears twice whenever I insert it for some reason: