Nothing – Guilty of Everything (Record Review)

NothingCover1Nothing’s Guilty of Everything has spun repeatedly in my car this past month. At home, I’ve chugged from an endless keg of Nothing’s previous EP, Downward Years to Come. Either way, in either place, it’s been Nothing or its been nothing at all these past weeks. Hey, did you see what I did there? Nice.

My buddy Pepe loves this band called Starflyer 59. They play a brand of rock I only know as “shoegaze”: densely layered guitars over syrupy bass chugs and a smattering storm of uncharacteristically quick drum work. I hear there’s another band called My Bloody Valentine (who Nothing’s founder, Dominic Palermo, listened to incessantly during his impressionable years) that plays a similar brand of rock, but I’ve never heard of them and I’ll only embarrass myself here by mentioning them. But the point is that I’ve never taken to such swarmy guitar drones. I’ve always preferred a choppy metal riff or a smashing death growl, leaving the “shoegaze” luxuriance to Pepe and the My Bloody Valentine myth to the critical minority.

All that to say, surprisingly, Nothing won me with a single track NPR preview of their song “Dig”. And even though Nothing reminded me of Pepe’s Starflyer 59, I was hooked. It makes me wonder if I’m aging? Maturing? Is my musical palette performing on a more gourmet level? Hell, I’ve all but abandoned my Kelly Clarkson discs while just the other day I found myself actually grooving to REM’s “Nightswimming”! The tides are changing o’er my celestial berms.

Or maybe Nothing’s Guilty of Everything is truly a game-changer of a record. Especially this fourth track, “Endlessly”, that sounds solar and aquatic and cavernous all at once. Everything here – the sounds, the lyrics – feels elemental – “Mother / Reflect the Heaven sky / Father / Angel with bestial eyes / Gently / Love us gently . . . / In circles we spun / And fell to her Earth to the dirt we came from”. Or the third track “Bent Nail” – “I’m caught between a beggar’s teeth / Buried in the wilted roses and the pregnant weeds” – which rises and falls, rushes and slides. It’s fucking rich.

Still, congrats to Nothing for signing with Guilty, but I can’t help feeling Downward Years to Come is the superior title. Relapse Records released Guilty at the beginning of March, while Downward remains a Bandcamp only digital release – a damn shame in my book. There’s something eerily special about Downward, something possessing that makes it impossible to walk away with the same gaited cadence in which I approached. If I’ve never won you to any action before, act on this: check out Nothing’s Bandcamp page. Give them a listen. Buy their records. If enough of us do so, Downward will eventually release to LP, which is where it belongs.

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On The Overuse Of The Word “Love”

Forever and Always
My wife
My pugs
My parents
(and her parents)
My friends
Their adorations
My God
(though not necessarily “and country”)

A Torrid Affair
Black coffee / handled mugs
Greyer days / large windows
Ales / hops malts Hours / effects
(Sweet Christ, too much!)
Ginger / licorice / vinegar
Black high-top All-Stars
(tiding in or out depending)

It’s complicated
Teaching / breaks & summers
Quiet / nobody
Used books / dirty jokes / scary movies
(my pontificating such)
A pillow and a ceiling fan
A dangling foot
An atlas dog-eared and annotated
(Yellow Sea to Arkansan boy)

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On The Occasion Of The Day I Earned My Salary

Today was the kind of day

That drenches dry counties
In pints of ratified Prohibition,

That prompts fish to reconsider
Evolutionary legs,

That leads the proverbial horse to drink
The proverbial cow-pissed waters,

That makes dart-boards of day-calendars, fire-pits
Of incidentally paced windows and mirrors,

That moves my metaphors to curl-inward,
Tongue to tail, chewing their own tips

While snorting through gurgled juices
A lyric unmired by presentation or precision:

Ah, fuck it.

– Kiki Malone / February 2014

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On Why I Am A Vegetarian

Is a vegetable

In the soil

Of a bone

– Kiki Malone
February 2014
(Dedicated to William “Carnivorous” Williams”

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On Which I Wax Eloquently Concerning John Ashbery

You really should read John Ashbery. He’s the only poet you can say “I don’t get it” and you’d be 100% correct. Not getting it is the point. At least I think it is, even though to make such a statement would be to make a point. He’s eclectic like that. Like wind wearing a birthday suit. He’s there and not there. He’s images stacked in lexographical photo albums. You can’t make heads or tails of it – even he says he can’t either – so you just read on and feel good about yourself for being smart enough to read an important poet that pisses people off. Drop that at the next dinner party. “I read John Ashbery and he didn’t piss me off!” People will think you’re brilliant. They’ll invite their friends from other tables to meet you or they’ll Facebook an entire status about you: “Just met the person I want to be when I finally stop caring!”  Everyone loves the idea of poetry more than poetry anyway, so why waste your time with meanings. Did you know Ashbery won the Pulitzer for Poetry? Only one person a year does that. It’s like hosting the Oscars, but people won’t debate your clothes. There was a time when I liked poetry that said something, that aimed to billow the edges of flags and block bullets and suckle baby pigs and eat plums from the ice box. But talking about Ashbery makes me sound smart without needing to say anything so I’ll never look back. When you’re talking Ashbery, you can’t get it wrong. You could say he’s a woman and he’d say, “Maybe”. You could accuse him of being Chinese and he’d say “Probably”.

I just drank water from a coffee-mug featuring a typewriter. I ate a dozen saltines slathered in diagonal pattern of yellow mustard. I checked my Twitter three times. All while writing this. I’m multi-tasking, looking for the next image to stack, the next emotion to bend, the next flag to un-billow. I probably should sleep but I cannot. When is the end? After everything? But when is that? Three times this week I thought I might die. Can you believe that? 36 years old with dogs and a wife who doesn’t mind my flabbiness and I’m thinking it’s all over. My chest felt funny. My breathing got off kilter. What is that? A panic attack? Do people really have those? Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t but I’m still alive and I’m sizing up everyway to get more done without actually doing any of it. So I’ve given up John Steinbeck and I’ve taken up John Ashbery. In Steinbeck, they kept moving west – “Westering”, he called it – until they hit the ocean and then they had to stop. God, I thought I hit the ocean three times this week. Thought my wagon had jumped it’s wooden wheels. I wouldn’t blame an Indian for deciding not to take my scalp. The hairline’s not sufficient. Then again, they might take it as the punchline to an old scalping joke about Customer Service situations. I can’t begin to imagine how all that worked back then. Hell, I barely know what to do when I buy a shirt I realize later I hate. But back to Steinbeck, who has time for all that Westering? All that ocean bumping? Not me. So I’ve chosen the quicker mental path: “One must bear in mind one thing. It isn’t necessary to know what that thing is.” Two lines there from Ashbery. See? You can’t screw that up. It’s already tits. Already banging hard enough to wake the neighbors straight off the page. I can’t get enough. Just can’t swallow enough in one handful. Words like blueberries and my constitution’s getting stronger. I like that about being alive. I’ll miss it, you know. I’ll miss that part the most. That finding of the little things. That finding of something you wish you could climb completely inside like Luke curling up in the Tan Tan – life can be so much snow, so much Hoth. I won’t miss that. But I could if I figured out a way to capture it down on paper so I could look at it again and feel something true about it. I guess that’s the kind of poem I would write if I wrote poems. The kind that helps other people remember the thing you were most afraid you’d forget. I guess that’s the least we could ask of any poet, right? I can’t remember what they told us about that. They told us something. Maybe back East. Who can remember anyway? Dear God.

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For Seth Haines


I owe you a phone call. It’s been a busy week. But Monday on your website you requested book recommendations. I’ll echo the first comment / recommendation you received by tagging below the section from chapter two of Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss that I typed, printed, copied, and distributed at church Tuesday night. The first two sections go together and embody what any body of believers hopes to achieve. The following three little bits are just random quotes and passages from the chapter I thought worthy of sharing. I hope this brief excerpt will further strengthen a dual recommendation. Wiman’s writing wafts a Haines-esque fragrance.

From Wiman:

Christ comes alive in the communion between people. When we are alone, even joy is, in a way, sorrow’s flower: lovely, necessary, sustaining, but blooming in loneliness, rooted in grief. I’m not sure you can have communion with other people without these moments in which sorrow has opened in you, and for you; and I’m pretty certain that without shared social devotion one’s solitary experiences of God wither into a form of withholding, spiritual stinginess, the light of Christ growing fainter in the glooms of the self.


What this means is that even if you are socially shy and generally inarticulate about spiritual matters – and I say this as someone who finds casual social interactions often quite difficult and my own feeling about faith intractably mute – you must not swerve from the engagements God offers you. These will occur in the most unlikely places, and with people for whom your first instinct may be aversion. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Christ is always stronger in our brother’s heart than in our own, which is to say, first, that we depend on others for our faith, and second, that the love of Christ is not something you can ever hoard. Human love catalyzes the love of Christ. And this explains why that love seems at once so forceful and so fugitive, and why, “while we speak of this, and yearn toward it,” as Augustine says, “we barely touch it in a quick shudder of the heart.”



Herein lies the great difference between divine weakness and human weakness, the wounds of Christ and the wounds of man. Two human weaknesses only intensify each other. But human weakness plus Christ’s weakness equals a supernatural strength.


 Be careful what you wish for, be ready for what you crave.


Human love has an end, which is God, who makes it endless.

–  from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

by Christian Wiman

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New Year’s Day 2014

Grandma Hilda believed that whatever you did on New Year’s Day you would do a-plenty in the year to come. With this in mind, Grandma structured the activities of her New Year’s Day more carefully than any poser publishing their self-inflating resolutions. For instance, Grandma loved to travel, so on New Year’s Day she piled the kids in the car and took a small road-trip around the neighboring countryside. Ever hopeful that her kids would be successful in their ventures, Grandma made certain that each kid built a project or cleaned a room or completed a puzzle on New Year’s Day. And Grandma made sure to eat black eyes peas on New Year’s, steadying herself for the winds of chance that blow seethingly against even the strongest constitution. Grandma Hilda left us many years ago, but her New Year’s tradition lives on as an enduring family legacy.

With Grandma Hilda’s memory prodding me into 2014, I decided to keep a New Year’s Log, a running predictive commentary of what the approaching year may reflect from the workings of this single day. In retrospect, I feel the year ahead is full of promise, of literature and caffeine, of pugs and long walks. From all accounts, it appears 2014 will be the year my biographers will reference and say, “By God, he finally got it.”

January 1, 2014 : An Inner-Commentary*

8:25-8:45 =      Wake and immediately berate myself for rising late in the New Year. Consider the entire year a wash. My most Thoreauvian moments of 2014’s dawn squandered between flannel sheets rather than leashed to my pugs, gazing on box turtles glistening in the corner creek. What’s the use? New Year’s snooze-beers. Ah, but nature.

8:46 =              First shiver of 2014!

8:47-8:55 =      Make coffee using Starbucks Christmas blend. Berate myself for drinking corporate coffee. Consider tastiness of Starbucks Christmas blend. Consider my previously published rants about stimulating local economy. Consider tastiness of Starbucks French Roast. Recognize first dual of the New Year between shoulder angel and shoulder demon. Resolute myself to be less Republican in 2014.

8:56-9:15 =      Walk the youngest pug (without a poop bag).

9:16-10:42 =    Drink aforementioned corporate coffee (not for long!) and begin reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Caffeine slow to act. Have difficulty focusing on story. Mentally rehearse announcement to friends that I began the New Year reading a super important classic that exceeds 600 pages. Caffeine takes hold. Crap, this book is really good and super important. Friends’ facial and verbal approvals of my classically steeped literacy annotate the margins of my reading. Resolute myself to read more important books in 2014. At least two. Counting this one. Maybe a shorter one next, though.

(9:16-10:42 =   Send three or four mass text messages announcing my reading of East of Eden. Attempt to make domestic tranquility of warm coffee, Arkansas Razorback moccasins, and snoring pugs central to my textual thesis, but I also type EAST OF EDEN in all-caps. No reply.)

10:43 =            Wife arrives home from running a 3K. Pugs go ape-shit. Wife is smiling and announcing resolutions to run even more in 2014.

10:44 =            I rise from my reading chair, feel the stiffness in my back, and resolute myself to get a massage in 2014.

10:45-Noon =  Cook brunch: Applewood smoked pork bacon (per my 2014 resolution to give up turkey bacon because I’m not a little bitch), scrambled eggs with aged whisky cheddar, biscuits, locally produced and manufactured honey (from Democratic bees), and a few of those little Cuties oranges. Consume brunch at dining room table with wife. Marvel at “adultness” of brunch. Slip pugs a little bacon fat and scrambled eggs. Youngest pug vomits.

12:01-12:30 = Walk both pugs. Wave to unknown neighbors. Feel great sense of community and a keen swell of accomplishment to have exercised so early in the New Year. Resolute myself to celebrate with ginger beer straight from the bottle.

12:31-12:40 = Cellular telephone call Otha Graham. Pride myself for being socially gracious on a major holiday. Envision myself in 2014 hosting intellectual forums in local parks, poetry readings in cafes, artistic klatches in the parking lot outside Painting With a Twist. We agree – Otha and I – to have lunch and discuss cinema soon. Chalk up first phone call of 2014 as a blazing success. (Also, I’m happy to report the entire Graham family is in good health.)

12:41-12:47 = More coffee. More Steinbeck. Less focus.

12:48-1:55 =    Ditch East of Eden for Eastbound And Down (Season 3). Mass text Kenny Powers line about Cabbage Patch Kids fornicating in a dojo. No reply. Begin rough drafting a mass text that plays on East of Eden and Eastbound And Down titles. Gotta keep a balance. Resolute myself to find the joke there.

1:56-4:30 =      Nap like a competitive napper. On top of the covers. Wearing my shoes and glasses. Total REM. Ninth rung of sleep ladder and everything. Wake cradling a pug, wondering where the hell I am and where Jamie Lee Curtis ran off to.

4:32-4:47 =      Stretch. Brag to wife about gold medal napping. (Omit the JLC bits.) Mass text about Best Nap of 2014. (Still omit JLC bits.) Second shiver of 2014! Pour another coffee.

4:48-5:15 =      Walk pugs. Upon returning to drive-way, resolute myself to wash my car way more in 2014 than the previous year. Count by memory number of times I washed the car in 2013. Realize I only need to wash it twice in 2014.

5:16-6:30 =      Assist wife in dinner preparations. Clean dining room. Select dinner music. Change pants. Brush teeth. Lift hat and scoff at hairline. Mentally prepare three jokes about dinner that are sure to kill. Practice one joke via mass text. No reply. Resolute myself to give up comedy in 2014. Feed pugs. Set table. Suddenly remember East of Eden and Eastbound And Down bit. Resolute myself to not give up comedy again in 2014. Prepare beverages. Set out appetizers. Run “to powder” before guests arrive. Resolute myself to meditate on comedic timing and the comedy rule of threes. Third shiver!

6:31-7:05 =      Welcome dinner guests. Serve prepared beverages (iced water) and appetizers (bowl of Jelly Bellies). Dinner prep takes longer than anticipated – lobster and shrimp! Resolute myself to teach pugs parlor tricks in 2014.

7:06-8:30 =      Consume meal with the grand Nelsons. Share stories. Ditch previously prepared jokes and work “off the cuff”. First two attempts bomb. Slide third joke seamlessly into Courtney’s conversation about “Sup to Sup” (Supervising the Supervision) – “You should ask them when they wanna try ‘Ass to Ass’: Assessing the Assessment” – and it kills. (Comedy rule of threes!) As does another seamlessly slipped line about mistaking a friend’s second child for the un-grown version of their first child, which kills harder than the “Ass to Ass” bit. Resolute myself to pursue this art form financially in 2014.

8:31 – 9:15 =   Dismiss friends. Clean kitchen. Walk pugs. Contemplate the richness of friendship verses the momentary glitter of wealth. Review jokes that bombed.

9:15-10:20 =    Read more East of Eden. Meet Cathy Ames character. Subsequently redefine personal definition of bat-shit crazy. Pride myself about having an inside literary Steinbeckian “bat-shit crazy” joke – “Are you sure you wanna date this girl? She seems to be a regular ol’ Cathy Ames, if you know what I mean.” Pencil these details in the margins, even though it’s not my book.

10:21-10:?? = Find a stopping place between chapters. Revise and re-revise and re-re-revise East of Eden and Eastbound And Down joke. Fire it off in a mass text. No reply.

10:?? =             Silence phone. Go to bed. Resolute myself not to check message Inbox till morning.

*Times are approximate and rounded to nearest large number on clock face.

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