Entrenched in the coolest scene of all time, the 70’s New York punk movement, Television was an influencer then and now. With friends/fellow influencers Patti Smith, Brian Eno, and the whole crew at CBGB’s, Television helped to start something new. Surprisingly, their contributions are not always seen as founding the punk movement itself. Many argue that Marquee Moon, with its more complex guitar work and impressionist lyrics are some of the first sounds of post-punk rather than punk, but it helps to first view their album within the context of punk.
Television’s connections to the punk scene of the time is what has made them the stuff of legends, contributing to Marquee Moon’s timeless canon. Television’s founding member Richard Hell is credited with inspiring the founding style of the Sex Pistols, convincing CBGB to become a punk club, and now inspiring the bunches of contemporary New Yorkers now looking back and starting punk bands.
They were rebellious, in their screaming, gut-wrenching vocals and drooping, drugged-out hair cuts. But they were also an extremely ambitious, revolutionary band, said to practice for hours on end. Does that make them less punk? And is that a bad thing? Maybe or maybe not. Looking back, Television’s classification as punk or post-punk doesn’t detract from its value. It’s worth listening to for its energy and jammy guitars that you can dance to matter what their genre.
See No Evil
Opening track “See No Evil” starts with a simple pattern of scratchy guitars dancing on top of each other. Frontman Tom Verlaine's gutsy vocals complement the sound interplay in a song about running from your wild tendencies while simultaneously reverting to your dark ways. It's a jam for self-conscious punks.
“Venus” brings out another song about choice of lifestyle that continues a similar aesthetic from “See No Evil.” Here, guitars are more spacey and expanive while Veraline sings about “the night.” In Verlaine's night out, he adventures in an imagined New York city street caught between the Medieval Times and involving romantic entanglements with classical goddesses. Verlaine's still pointing to that rebellion of punk themes, but doing it in his new, heavily art-referenced way.
When Television first tried to record with Brian Eno, the band said that they sounded like The Ventures, in a really bad way. Here, with "Friction"’s cascading, reverb-drenched guitars, you can hear some of that surf rock influence. But the song moves away from free-flowing guitars of surf rock or exploding guitars of punk with more of a battle. The instruments all fight for your attention. Fitting for this battle, Veraline’s lyrics focus again on his own moral debates.
By the time you get to "Marquee Moon," the self-titled hit of this album, you realize the genius of Television in the context of post-punk: Veraline’s self-exploration. On this track he sings most memorably: “There I stand neath the Marquee Moon/Just waiting,
Hesitating/I ain’t waiting.” No punk would wait and contemplate. But Veraline’s been a punk, and now he’s slowing it down, adding intricate guitars, and asking you to consider your life.
"Elevation" is the most romantic, saddest track. Verlaine’s still being contemplative, but he’s doing it now about a lover. For this love song, there’s a fitting Police-esque, Sting-y vibe to the sound.
"Guiding Light" starts slow but somehow picks up the spirit after “Elevation.” It's another slow-ish jam but with an emotional “build” proper for a song about rising up. The opening lyrics “Do I, Do I?” get you ready for a Verlaine space trip: one with layers of escape into your own thoughts.
The drums on “Prove It” steal this show. For the first time, they take over the work from the guitar on Marquee Moon, and they have success. Like the battling guitar sounds of prior songs, they instead use powerful starts and stops as to maintain Television’s frantic energy. It’s a key point to look to the creation of the album’s instrumentation.
Torn Curtain"Torn Curtain" takes you out with a bang. Veraline almost goes psychedelic, with some crazy keys and references to “trances.” But I like to think he just wanted to make a song that would stay with the listener as you leave. Like psychedelia, his contemplative efforts on "Torn Curtain" involve traveling to other dimensions, ones that exist only in your self-conscious, post-punk head.
text: allie miller
The Battle of Versailles was a fundraiser held on November 28, 1973 to raise money for the restoration of King Louis XIV’s palace. Described in Elle as “the Met Gala mixed with the Oscars and the Grammys,” the fashion extravaganza effortlessly meshed Broadway dancers, princesses, and orchestral music to create what is now known as a monumental event in fashion history. The Battle of Versailles demonstrated not only a revolution in fashion but a revolution of the times.
To put things into perspective, Americans were known to copy French fashion quite openly. American designers would pay extra money to copy French designs and consequently did not have much standing in the industry. Nonetheless, five American designers were invited to show their items at this event against five of the best French designers. When the American models pictured above appeared on stage, it was heralded as an announcement of a whole new era. It was the first night American fashion was seen in the limelight and an unforgettable moment for models of color.
The Battle of Versailles by Robin Givhan covers the political standings of both countries at the time of this event. As opposed to the description of America’s sixties as “crunchy-granola liberalism and navel-gazing self-criticism, bold political activism and racial diplomacy,” she describes France as a “paternalistic culture” at the time despite its ever-changing social and economic setting. The standings of each country were what made the featured designers so great. Yves Saint Laurent revolutionized fashion with his introduction of women’s trousers on the runway at a time when French women were required by law to ask the government's permission to wear pants.
This event carries a certain cultural significance that you can't find at just any runway show. American fashion was stepping out of the background in the same way that women of color were becoming more visible in society. In America, the number of black university professors more than doubled between 1970 and 1990. In France, a transitional decade was underway in politics with the increasing practice of liberalism. The Battle of Versailles proved that fashion has the ability to make statements beyond couture.
The Battle at Versailles Palace was a symbolic feat because it granted security and confidence for American fashion. Never before had they made their mark and forthcoming designers could take pride in the idea that their predecessors had completely changed the direction of the industry. Black women being featured and celebrated in the show represented a new direction for the country. Although we can’t say the women of color who walked in this show cleared a path for others (due to the lack of diversity in the fashion industry today), we can say they have inspired others, which can prove as a path in itself. This event made a statement about what fashion is meant to be: constantly breaking boundaries, questioning ideals, and confronting areas of weakness.
text: sydney bradford
visual: fashion institute of technology
Eva Elton is a seventeen year old singer/songwriter from Boston. I recently sat down with her to talk with her about her music, inspirations, and plans. She released her Reckless EP last spring, and it is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and any other streaming service.
Tell us about yourself.
Oh man (laughs). I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, I’m seventeen years old, and I play tennis, too. I spend most of my time when I’m not at school or with friends writing or playing guitar, so that’s a big part of my life.
When did you first start writing songs?
I started writing songs probably when I was, like, nine. And then I started learning how to play guitar when I was eleven.
Do you play any other instruments?
I play banjo, ukulele, and mandolin.
What inspires you to write songs?
I always thought that I made up stories in my head, but then I realized that they actually come from experiences in my life and I kind of, like, dramatize them a little. Yeah, I’d say they come from experiences, and it’s just how I process those things.
What is your songwriting process? What’s the hardest part?
Okay, so I think the hardest part is taking an emotion that you’re feeling, or that someone else is feeling, and actually verbalizing what that feeling is. Sometimes I write songs about things that are going on in my friends’ lives, and just putting words to such complicated emotions is probably the hardest part. My process? I don’t know, usually I wake up in the middle of the night with a line in my head or a melody, and I’ll turn my light on and write it down or record it in my phone. Or sometimes I’ll be walking down the street, and that’ll happen too. So I don’t know, I don’t have, like, a process process, but an idea will come to me and then I’ll come back to it later, like, not in the middle of the night.
How did you decide on country music?
My mom is from Texas and we go there a lot, so I’ve always been surrounded by country music. My whole extended family is in Texas, and I spend so much time there… so I don’t know, country music has always been playing in my house and then been a big part of when I go down there. There’s tons of live music in Austin, which is where my family is. I love it, I like the stories that country music tells. I love old country most– I think some of the new country that’s on the radio is kind of, like, not as well written (laughs).
You recorded the Reckless EP in Nashville – tell us a bit about that.
So I recorded it at Omnisound Studios, and basically I got in contact with one of the people who runs their studio, and we went back and forth about which songs I should record. That was a fun process because he had everyone in the studio listen to them and gave me lots of feedback, which is really helpful. We chose five songs for the EP, and then I went down to Nashville over March break. I hadn’t met any of these people yet, so I was kind of nervous. I walked in, and I was surrounded by all these incredible musicians; like, the session musicians that worked with me were absolutely amazing. At first, I was like, “Oh my gosh, these people are all so intimidating!” because they are all so talented, but then I realized that we both have the same love for music. So we worked together and I wasn’t afraid to give them my input, but I also learned so much from them because they have so much wisdom and experience. The drummer is Kelly Clarkson’s touring drummer and Paramore’s drummer, and he was so cool! They were all so fun.
Which artists have had the biggest influence on you and your style?
That’s such a hard question, there are so many! I think Tim McGraw, George Strait a little bit, Shania Twain, and Ingrid Michaelson. I would say those are my favorites. Oh– Passenger is also, like, my favorite artist!
What’s the best advice you’ve received, and what you say to other budding musicians?
Well, I think…two things. One, if you love it, keep doing it. I think that’s very important. It’s really challenging to find something you love a lot, and if you find it, that’s really amazing and special, so follow that. And two, make sure it stays fun. I think it’s easy to have something that you love to do, like playing soccer or piano, but it’s also easy to make it stressful, and put a lot of pressure on yourself. I would just say keep it fun. I think that’s been the most important thing. Music is not something that stresses me out, and I don’t feel time pressure in things I have to write or performances because I love it so much, and practice doesn’t really feel like practice. Also, keeping in mind that it’s meant to be fun– it’s my outlet. I wouldn’t want to lose that aspect of it.
What are your plans for the future?
That’s a good question. I would say probably performing a little bit more. Since I was away this fall, I didn’t really get to perform, so ramping that up again. Maybe adding on, like, five more songs and making a full album would be a good next step. Maybe… kinda want to move to Nashville? That would be fun! But we’ll see how that works out. Yeah, I think just performing more and getting out there more, because I get very nervous before performing, but I think it’s so important to do. Also, when I’m in it, it’s the most fun thing. I love it and talking to everyone in the audience. It’s so much fun!
text: meera singh
visual: eva elton
Warning: spoilers ahead.
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums that feels so effortlessly warm, with a certain evocative, delectable appeal. It’s a highly paradoxical sentiment-- after all, this is a film about falling in love with your adopted sister whilst also dealing with your outré estranged family and your mescaline-addicted cowboy best friend. But despite this outlandish plot, everything seems pristine. Punctuated by irreverent, absurdist humor and an aesthetic straight out of a chocolate box, Tenenbaums is able to steadily traverse the fine line between real and quixotic-- making the film (arguably) Anderson’s best.
The Royal Tenenbaums revolves around a family of three washed-up former child prodigies: Chas, who is played by Ben Stiller, is a logistical-mathematical genius who has not been able to get over the death of his late wife. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who was adopted at birth, is an award-winning playwright that feels blasé with life after settling down, and subsequently begins an affair with her wannabe cowboy and childhood neighbor, Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Richie, played by Luke Wilson, is a tennis champion and artistic virtuoso, but threw his career away following a nervous breakdown over the news of Margot’s impending marriage. Many years later, the alienated siblings are reunited when their estranged father, family patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) pretends to be dying of stomach cancer in order to win back their tender affections.
As you can see, Tenenbaums is filled with dark edges of plot: whether it be Royal’s aforementioned cancer scheme, Richie’s suicide attempt, or Eli Cash’s mescaline-induced car accident, there’s a layer of tragicism involved in the film-- but that’s what makes Tenenbaums feel so much more real compared to Anderson’s other endeavors. Whereas Moonrise Kingdom has its eccentric, lovable paramours that like painting nude portraits and traversing through the wilderness, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou has its apathetic, bantering sea explorers that like David Bowie songs in Portuguese and rare sea specimens, Tenenbaums has a different cast of characters: people that are heartbreakingly, devastatingly, hilariously real. Whilst Margot’s wooden finger and Chas’ ridiculous matching tracksuits might seem a bit hyperbolic, each character is still flawed, and each character makes normal, human mistakes. As you watch, your suspension of disbelief is never fully strained-- a rarity in the Anderson universe.
It’s quite refreshing to see a cast of characters that are so erroneous, yet so distinctly amiable. Margot is blissfully unaware of what she truly wants: after all, when she says goodbye to her husband, Raleigh (Bill Murray), he proceeds to inquire: “You don’t love me anymore, do you?” Instead of doing what we, as an audience, expect the autarchic and apocryphal Margot Tenenbaum to do-- leave her husband completely-- she instead tells him: “I do, kind of. I can’t explain it right now.” She is not the clichéd, independent Manic Pixie Dream Girl following her free spirit, and she is not the dear devoted wife in this scenario. Instead, she makes a complicated, messy, yet respectful and altogether adult decision. Likewise, when Royal Tenenbaum realizes he has a made a grave mistake with his cancer scheme, he does not attempt to defend himself. Instead, he realizes he did a bad thing, and prepares to make amends as best as he can.
Tenenbaums is beautiful, both visually and plot-wise. A scene within the film depicts Richie and Margot sharing their first kiss, located in a yellow pop-up tent set up in the living room. Whereas in a traditional romantic dramedy a blaring song would be playing, the kiss would be passionate, and a million fireworks would be going off, everything in the scene feels tender and delicately amorous, with the Rolling Stones' “She Smiled Sweetly” playing in the background whilst Margot holds Richie in her arms. Nothing is ever too harsh.
Aesthetically, the film contains a color palette of light creams, pinks, subtle reds, and dark browns, with meticulously crafted symmetrical shots between Royal and his children, Chas and his two sons, and Margot and her various lovers. Furthermore, the soundtrack is one of Anderson’s most critically acclaimed to date-- it’s what boosted songs like Nico’s “These Days” and the Velvet Underground’s “Stephanie Says” to a newfound layer of popularity, amongst other distinctive 1970’s tracks featured in the film.
Watching The Royal Tenenbaums feels like a conversation with an estranged old friend- there’s a certain sweetness to it, despite all the pain and chagrin that might be lurking underneath. The film is a good reminder that life is not the sun-soaked romantic romp of Moonrise Kingdom; life is messy and deliberate and complicated, and Tenenbaums doesn’t try and sugarcoat that fact-- instead, it embraces it and gives the audience a sense of clandestine comfort. Royal has complicated relationships with his children, Margot has complicated relationships with her significant others, and Richie has complicated relationships with his entire family-- all situations that are morose, yet relatable. And yet, despite these transgressions, each character is able to make amends with the people they’ve wronged and pursue romantic relationships with other characters without sacrificing personal autonomy or internal beliefs. Each Tenenbaum is unabashedly true to themselves, playwrights, tennis stars, and math geniuses galore.
In the latter half of the film, a certain line has always stuck out to me. Eli Cash, after being rejected by his former friends, wistfully mutters the line: “I always wanted to be Tenenbaum, you know?” Every time I have watched the film since, I have known exactly what he means.
text: savannah bradley
visual: the royal tenenbaums
The great thing about taking English-literature courses in college is that you’re introduced to a new literary world full of authors and genres you’ve never heard of or could ever imagine. Thanks to both the short story class and contemporary American literature class I took last semester, I’ve learned about a couple new authors who have quickly made their way into my personal collection of favorites.
In those classes we talked about a need for inclusion of all races in literature, and how it’s important to study and recognize POC authors in addition to the usual plethora of white authors who have been studied for years and years. What does it mean to be a revered “American” writer? Perhaps some names come to mind: Twain, Hemingway, or Fitzgerald; all classics, also all white men. When did literature become such a niched pastime for white dudes? Why do we really only know them as the so-called “greats”?
My professors encouraged us to “reimagine” American literature as contemporary readers in a world where literature is endlessly being created, where great works have been published within the last year and ten, twenty years. Where this cool stuff’s being written by people who aren’t white. So here are a few authors I love, and ones to just know.
Junot Díaz is a Dominican-American author who also teaches literature here in Boston at MIT. My favorite work of his is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a story about social outcast Oscar Wao. Oscar is lonely, nerdy, and fat: all attributes that completely contradict the macho Dominican male persona. The novel touches on some pretty complex themes like masculinity, sexuality, identity and just growing up. Díaz depicts the Dominican slums of New York in both Oscar Wao and also short story collections Drown and This is How You Lose Her; all three works are connected. The way Díaz writes about his characters makes you feel a connection with almost everyone you read about; reading Oscar Wao made me laugh and cry and feel all types of emotions that I hadn’t felt about fictional people in a long time. His writing is phenomenal-- Díaz is known for his incorporation of Spanish slang into his writing which contributes to the authenticity and also elucidates the importance of Latin American culture to the narratives.
Gish Jen makes me proud to be an Asian-American woman writer. Perhaps my love for Jen also comes from the fact that she, too, is a child of immigrants and writes a lot about this facet in her novels and short stories. Badass New Yorker and Harvard grad, Jen touches upon the Asian-American family dynamic, as well, in Mona in the Promised Land, The Love Wife and Who’s Irish? What draws me to Jen’s writing is that it’s daring and unapologetic. She writes from the heart and she doesn’t ever hesitate from writing about topics that aren’t beautiful or flowery-- it’s all very real. For example, in Who’s Irish?, she employs a similar technique to Díaz where she writes the whole story from the perspective of an Asian mother who speaks in Broken English. But it’s not just the diction here that makes the story so impactful: it’s the subject matter. In this story, the narrator expresses about the difficulties of raising a daughter in America where the culture is so different and contradictory to Chinese culture. She also has trouble accepting that her daughter marries a white man. The comparison of the two different lifestyles and reluctance to assimilate to the Western one is really interesting.
Gay is a professor at Purdue, New York Times contributor, self-proclaimed feminist, and bisexual woman, and also author of one of my favorite books of 2016. I follow her on Twitter and her tweets are amazing. However, unlike Jen and Díaz, Gay writes mostly nonfiction. Super funny nonfiction. Bad Feminist (my fave) is probably her most popular work, and I completely understand why. Every essay in that book is hilarious, yet complex; she discusses issues ranging from intersectional feminism to her passion for the game of Scrabble to humorous vignettes about being a professor. Somehow everything she writes about -- some topics more abstract and deep, others just about her personal life -- is so enjoyable to read. I would highly recommend Bad Feminist to anyone; Gay’s philosophy towards feminism and just life in general is so admirable and relatable. The conversational writing style makes it a noncommittal, easy read that you can finish in no time.
text: isabelle truong
visuals: macrolit, kalamu, kayana szymczak, kevin nance
In need of some of some punk, rock, or pop? Or maybe an inbetween of all three? Then look no further than Philadelphia based band Sheer Mag.
Comprised of Tina Halladay (vocals), Kyle Seely (lead guitar), Hart Seely (bass), Matt Palmer (rhythm guitar), Ian Dykstra (drums), Sheer Mag currently has three EPs out (I, II, and III) and just recently put out a compilation LP of all the remastered songs from those respective EPs.
Sheer Mag, formed around 2014, is a rock band that implements aspects of pop song structure into their music, while intertwining classic punk ideologies, like calling out injustice and staying true to oneself no matter what. They thus create a unique sound that probably would’ve thrived in the underground 70s music scene as well as it thrives now.
Their steady growth in popularity is undeniable, given they’ve played Coachella and have been featured in publications like Rolling Stone. Despite this all, they stick to their DIY roots, playing small venues and manning their merch table at gigs.
The DIY scene also influences their sound just as much their lifestyle, considering their music is something of a small rebirth to classic angsty, fast, and crunchy garage rock/punk in a new catchy way that’s worthy of moshing or dancing to.
Their lyrics particularly convey their punk influences, as they emit a “pissed off” mentality with an underlying tenderness. Halladay sings of a common message through most of the songs: making your way through life, despite any and all hardships met along the way. In “Button Up,” she borderline growls about recognizing injustice: “Well I don't claim to know what's right/but I can see there's a growing need,” while in “Nobody’s Baby” she sings her take on the classic tale of heartache: “I can't tell which is worse/never having known/or wanting you so bad that it hurts.”Check out Sheer Mag's website and Bandcamp.
text: lydia velazquez
visual: sheer mag