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Buy Die On Me

Gregory Corso
Die On Me

label: Kock International
released: 08.13.02
our score: 5.0 out of 5.0

 
The Best Record I Ignored in 2002
by: matt cibula

So what the hell was my problem, not putting this record on my Top Ten list of 2002? It's everything a record is supposed to be: beautiful, brave, strange, adventurous, lyrically untouchable…. But I was afraid, I guess, afraid of pushing something this hard and this out on you, random member of the poor unsuspecting public. Trust me, though, if I was making my list today it'd be on there, probably at #6 or so. Or higher. Damn it's good. See what fear can do? But I'm not afraid anymore.

Here's the deal: Gregory Corso was, right there with Allen Ginsberg, one of the great Beat Generation poets. His stuff was always bizarre and hilarious and deep--I consider "Marriage" and "Poets Hitchhiking on the Highway" and "Dream of a Baseball Star" (none of which are on this disc) and "Bomb" and "Hair" and "Last Night I Drove a Car" (all of which are) to be some of the most important poems written by any American in the last 50 years.

Hal Willner is this dude who takes the work of poets (Ginsberg, Kathy Acker, Edgar Allan Poe) and sets them to music, and this is the last one in the series; mostly, this seems to be because he and partner Michael Minzer put so much into this disc, especially because Corso died shortly after they started talking to him about the project. Die on Me is a record of amazing Beat poetry set to orchestral and jazz and electronic music, so if you are a dyed-in-the-wool poppist, stay far away from this shit. But if you're a good smart person with a heart and a soul, give it a shot.

Why? Well, because the poetry is amazing and the music is sympathetic and stunning. No one can beat Corso for the kick-ass phrase, and his readings (which date from 1959 and 1971 and 1994 and 2001) are so touching that a stone would cry and laugh listening to it. Check out "For Homer," which Corso describes as "a classy poem": "There's rust on the old truths / Iron-clad clichés are proof / New lies don't smell as nice as new shoes / I've years of poems to type up / 40 years of smoking to stop" and it just goes on from there in his late-life croak; it hits hard when the spooky string accompaniment drifts in.

The hits are here: "Bomb" goes on for 9 1/2 minutes, to some messed-up computer pounding that underscores Corso's angry blissed-out masterpiece: "Bomb / You are as cruel as man makes you / You're no crueler than cancer / All mankind hates you / They'd rather die by carcrash." True, powerful, and perfect, especially in these uncertain Bushian days. And the old interview segments with Ginsberg and Studs Terkel are illuminating, and Corso's conversations with buddy Marianne Faithfull are touching, and her voice reading a couple of his poems almost makes me appreciate her, and….

Okay, I'm overwhelmed. I'm afraid that you will be too. But go ahead, give it a try. You have nothing to lose but your smug smile and your bearings, and those are useless anyway.
05-Jan-2003 5:06 PM


If you liked Die On Me...
Tracklist:

1. For Homer
2. Ode to Coit Tower
3. Inner/Outer Rhyme
4. Getting to the Poem -
5. Ode to the West Wind
6. Bed's Lament
7. Hair
8. Mythology
9. Bomb
10. Truth
11. Don't Shoot the Warthog
12. Prophecy
13. No Arrangement Was Made - Marianne Faithfull
14. As Rome Burned
15. Last Night I Drove a Car