Feb. 23, 2010

23 Feb

10:30 am

2 eggs, scrambled

1 biscuit

1 pm

Gen-wa

1 bowl of mul naeng myun

plate of galbi

various banchan

glass of water (with multiple refills)

I’d rank Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me as the second or third greatest triple-album in rock history. It’d rank behind the Magnetic Field’s 69 Love Songs and I haven’t decided if it’s better than George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Considering that the Clash’s messy Sandinista! is really the only other competition, this list is all dubious. Let’s face it, the length of double albums are rarely justified. Even the great ones, The Songs In the Key of Life, White Albums or Exile On Main Street, have fillers and can be a chore to get through. Triple albums though, those take cojones considering there’s no way the length will be justified. I thought Newsom’s previous album, Y’s, was massive enough, with 10-minute songs full of elaborately dense orchestration, musical left turns and a Byzantine narrative with talking bears. Have One On Me is obviously bigger, it’s two hours long, and again has a long rambling narrative that may or may not involve talking animals (birds in this case). But musically, it’s simpler, less orchestral and more pared down. Her fans might think of Have One On Me Joanna Newsom-light and while I do think Y’s is more interesting, there’s virtue in the more direct approach. When the songs work, they’re her most memorable numbers. In fact, the jazzy and Joni Mitchell-like “Good Intentions Paving Company” is easily her best song ever and the best single I’ve heard all year. When the songs don’t work though, it all blends together. And at two-hours, there will be fillers, particularly on the second album.

Here’s a free mp3 for “Good Intentions Paving Company,” my favorite song of the year so far. Don’t say I didn’t give you anything! Have One On Me is out now, on Drag City.

Eating at Gen-wa, in a way, is like listening to Have One On Me. Look at all those plates of banchan. There’s 21 in all, and they’re all refilled whenever you want. Half of it’s pretty good, though with so many, there are obvious fillers. You can instantly tell how good and generous a Korean restaurant will be by their banchan. If they’re skimpy, the other dishes might be as well. And if the quality sucks, then the food will be the same. With 21 banchans, Gen-wa tries to blow you away on first impression. I’ve driven by Gen-wa everyday on my commute to and from work and never gave it a second thought. It’s at the bottom of a new, soulless apartment complex in an awkward locale away from most Korean businesses, and the restaurant is just a black cube thanks to heavily-tinted windows. The entire apartment complex, restaurant and all, looks empty and foreboding. But inside, it was surprisingly busy at lunchtime. There were a couple of groups of Korean women and quite a bit of non-Koreans, including one E! reporter. The interior is even more black than the exterior. The tables, walls, waiter’s uniforms, they’re all black and sleek. Darth Vader was the obvious design influence.

Most LA locale’s will take Korean neophytes to Chosun Galbi for their first meal. It’s both safe and authentic enough to make a good introduction. Prices are also a bit higher, the food a bit better sourced and the setting is a bit grander. Gen-wa fits into this niche, in terms of food, price and decor.  The galbi uses better quality beef than most places and has a relatively sweet marinade with a pronounced ginger flavor, but you don’t get a lot of it. My friend Robyn’s dolsot bibimbap was massive, big enough for two and easily the best deal of this meal. It’s served in a very wide stone vessel as opposed to a smaller bowl, and that allows for a lot of rice to toast up, but only if the waiter doesn’t scoop it up prematurely. Surprisingly, the majority of the 21 banchans were pretty good. The flavors are tempered somewhat, you won’t get any of the more exotic dishes like jellyfish, and I wish the kochujang, or hot pepper paste, was spicier and not so watery. But the ingredients are of good quality and that made going through all 21 fun. That alone was good enough reason to stop at a place I looked past many times.

2:30 pm

Starbucks

1/2 tall nonfat latte

I couldn’t finish my coffee drink after such a huge meal.

7:15 pm

Chipotle

1 steak burrito bowl (with guacamole added)

1 medium Diet Coke (with 1 refill)

8:30 pm

Peet’s Coffee

1/2 cup of coffee

10:30 pm

Spaceland

1 bottle of Anchor Steam beer

1 24 oz. can of Pabst Blue Ribbon

This band is Free Energy, a rock band from Philadelphia signed to DFA and produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. As much as I like my insipid indie rock (like Beach House’s Teen Dreams), I do miss good old-fashioned rock. Back at the turn of the century (the early 2000’s), people went nuts for the Strokes. Grunge was officially a memory, Rage Against the Machine imploded and Britney, Christina and the Backstreet Boys dominated the charts. The Strokes weren’t actually great, per se. They just sounded like “authentic” rock music, and people clung to that hope. Ten years later, Free Energy has been hyped by the blogosphere for similar reasons. They ape Thin Lizzy and T. Rex, rather glossily like “Dazed and Confused.” It’s all a bit too precious. The one thing I like about Free Energy is their fizziness. Rhythms are bright, punchy and danceable. Considering that one half of LCD Soundsystem, that’s not a surprise. And I can see why Free Energy is the first rock band on the DFA record label. It sounds like actual rock and roll in a way, but they still want you to dance.

Here’s yet another free mp3: Free Energy’s “Dream City.” Their album Stuck On Nothin’ is out March 9, on DFA.

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3 Responses to “Feb. 23, 2010”

  1. Andrea Sardella February 25, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    I like how you tell us about every item that you’ve eaten, including the refills of your drinks. Reminds me of being in Weight Watchers.

  2. bobby ray February 25, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    I didn’t know gays like Joanna Newsom so much………

  3. Joe February 25, 2010 at 12:41 am #

    Bobby, look at that pic. She’s hot!

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