The growing notoriety of my son Andrew's band, MGMT, has long been something of a dicey issue for the Flyer's music writers. I feel their pain. It's a lose-lose proposition for them. If they're critical, they risk irritating their boss. If they praise the band, it looks like they're sucking up or showing favoritism. No matter that MGMT has been praised and dissed and profiled by every major music publication from Rolling Stone to Spin to Billboard and covered by most music blogs around the globe, it's still a ticklish deal for our guys.
I, on the other hand, don't have that problem. I'm free to tell you that Congratulations, MGMT's second album, is dense, lush, textured, difficult in places, absolutely euphoria-inducing in others. It is, as they say in the music business, a "grower" — that is, repeated listens reveal more depth and complexity. The lyrics blossom and begin to live in your head. The songs become earworms. It was the second-best-selling album in the U.S. last week. So yeah, I'm proud of my son.
And as you may or may not know, MGMT played Saturday Night Live this past weekend. Was I there? No, I was in a cabin on Beaver Creek, deep in the Laurel Mountains of Pennsylvania, near Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. I go to Beaver Creek for trout-fishing every year on the last weekend in April with two old friends from the Pittsburgh area. This was our 24th year.
The cabin is rustic, set on a tiny stream amid towering hemlocks, lush mountain laurel, and huge rhododendrons. The cable in the cabin is basic. The television is a 13-inch Magnavox. The D is not H. But we weren't going to miss SNL. These guys have known Andrew — and my daughter, Mary — since the kids were tots.
So we old farts poured ourselves some scotch and inched close to the set as host Gabourey Sidibe introduced MGMT. I admit to having some vicarious butterflies, but I shouldn't have worried. The boys absolutely killed. They looked sharp, they mugged for the cameras, and they played with confidence and swagger.
Since it's the Flyer's annual music issue, which celebrates all things musical in our fair city, I thought it would be okay to offer this completely biased story on a Memphis kid who's doing pretty well in the music business.
See you at Tom Lee Park. I'll be the wet, muddy guy.
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...
I just finished a book called Bettyville. It's by George Hodgman, who grew up in Paris, Missouri, near my hometown, then went to the University of Missouri school of journalism in the 1970s. After graduation, he went off to New York City and became an editor at various magazines ...
(such a sky and such a sun
i never knew and neither did you
and everybody never breathed
quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings