March 28th, 2005


Advertisement for a subtle and important protest group

Subtle and important protest pop group The Books (Paul de Jong and Nick Zammuto) release their new album Lost and Safe on April 5th on Tomlab.

According to Pitchfork, which previews the track Be Good To Them Always, The Books are now less important and less subtle. They protest too much: "The Books have always maintained a documentary-like distance from their material... [but] given the sparse instrumentation and the content of these snippets ("I could hear a collective rumbling in America"), their agenda is clear, eliminating the need for the listener to draw conclusions. In that sense, "Be Good to Them Always" compares to older Books songs like "Enjoy Your Worries" the way a Michael Moore film compares to The Thin Blue Line: They've revealed their hand and diluted some of their magic in the process."

For Pitchfork, The Books' political commitment is a failing. For the emotional communists in their audience, though, The Books' use of cold, objective "documentary" vocal samples to build up a warm, unified perspective on the errata of modern America is welcome, and an achievement. What's more, this time The Books are singing more. Some of these songs sound like a Simon and Garfunkel album re-assembled in a dust-free research lab by white-gloved scientists. Committed white-gloved scientists, working for the communists.

"Lost & Safe cannot be called an anti-American, and therefore anti-Bush album," muses Cokemachine, picking up the same political theme. "There is nothing specifically referencing the U.S... However, the general tone evoked by many of the excerpts more than suggests that The Books have had enough of American culture and foreign policy."

Here now is a Books Kit. First, some of the vocal samples you will hear on The Books' new album:

"I could hear a collective rumbling in America."
"I've lost my house, you've lost your house."
"This great society is going smash."
"You are something that the whole world is doing."
"You know, I simply cannot understand people."
"A culture is no better than its woods."
"Feeling of being connected with the past."
"Look at it this way: you may fall and break your leg."
"And so one leg is shorter than the other. Can nothing more be done?"
‘The modern town hardly knows silence.”
“It will rain, it will rain.”
"An owl without knees."
"I want all the American people to understand that it is understandable that the American people cannot possibly understand."

Secondly, a thought from Professor Momus: spoken word vocal samples are not only texturally gorgeous, and good for making poetic, fresh juxtapostions in aural collage, but give a 3D perspective on the present by throwing up humanistic sentiments from a past where people spoke, thought and felt differently. It's a kind of relativistic humanism which subtly re-inforces the liberating feeling: "Things actually don't have to be this way. We have other traditions to draw on."

Next, an mp3 of another song from the new album, An Animated Description of Mr. Maps. Followed by: a message-board thread in which early-adopting freeloader-downloaders discuss the album ("There is a really great track where they sing each vocal snippet they are sampling"). Finally, a list of the venues to be played during April and May, when subtle and important protest group The Books tours the US, that great society hobbled by one short leg.