As far as solo debuts go, Alec Ounsworth‘s Mo Beauty (Anti-) is impressive. The Philadelphia-based Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman travelled to New Orleans to record the album with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and a host of the city’s notable musicians, including bassist George Porter, Jr. (Meters), drummer Stanton Moore and keyboardist Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars). The result is a mature, confident, 10-song collection that Ounsworth had only hinted at being capable of with his work in Clap Your Hands. He also has a second solo album, Skin And Bones (credited to Flashy Python and available online only), that features members of the Walkmen, Dr. Dog and Man Man. While all this new music is good for Clap Your Hands fans, you get the impression that the band (now on hiatus) is no longer a priority for Ounsworth, who became a father last year and is enjoying family life at home. Ounsworth is guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our Q&A with him.
Ounsworth: I am writing this in and, in a way, about my dining room. Dave Hickey‘s Air Guitar is on the side table. Nic Ratner gave me this book some years ago. Its complete title is Air Guitar: Essays On Art And Democracy. This is one of the better and more creative books on the subject that I have come across. I don’t think I need to go on here about why and how. The following is the beginning of “A Rhinestone As Big As The Ritz,” page 52: “The balcony of my apartment faces west toward the mountains, overlooking the Las Vegas Strip; so, every evening when the sky is not overcast, a few minutes after the sun has gone down, the mountains turn black, the sky above them turns this radical plum/rouge, and the neon logos of The Desert Inn, The Stardust, Circus Circus, The Riviera, The Las Vegas Hilton, and Vegas World blaze forth against the black mountains—and every night I find myself struck by the fact that, while The Strip always glitters with a reckless and undeniable specificity against the darkness, the sunset, smoldering out above the mountains, every night and without exception, looks bogus as hell. It’s spectacular, of course, and even, occasionally, sublime (if you like sublime), but to my eyes that sunset is always fake—as flat and gaudy as Barnett Newman and just as pretentious. Friends of mine who visit watch this light show with different eyes, They prefer the page of the landscape to the text of the neon. They seem to think it’s more ‘authentic.’ I, on the other hand, suspect that ‘authenticity’ is altogether elsewhere—that they are responding to nature’s ability to mimic the sincerity of a painting, that the question of the sunset and The Strip is more a matter of one’s taste in duplicity. One either prefers the honest fakery of the neon or the fake honesty of the sunset—the undisguised artifice of culture or the cultural construction of “authenticity”—the genuine rhineston, finally, or the imitation pearl.” Discuss. Video after the jump.