From The Vaults: Atomic Forest And Their Trippy, Urban, Southeast Asian Blues

What, you’ve never heard of 70s Bombay psych rockers Atomic Forest? Check out my deep dive on them over at Niche Appeal or read it below:

From The Vaults: Atomic Forest And Their Trippy, Urban, Southeast Asian Blues

It has to be tough to be a “psychedelic” rock band in India. Anyone who has ever set foot on this dusty, sacred ground knows that day-to-day, minute-to-minute life is infinitely trippier than anything The Incredible String Band ever dreamed. In a place where the membrane separating a pantheon of ancient Vedic Gods from the present is already thin, just how exactly do you wow an audience with something so this-worldly as an extended guitar solo? Enter any temple from Mumbai to Bengal and you hear Shaivist chanting and smell cauldrons of incense that form a far headier combo than any organ line cooked up by a dude in Silverlake sporting a Beefheart tee. If psychedelic music is meant to be used as a tool to break free from clinical, grey surroundings and stifling traditional ancestry, then what is a band to do when they hail from a region where their trad songs, dating back to B.C. times, serve as the unattainable template for any psych monster who has ever stalked the earth since the mid-60s? When the clothing and religious imagery of their homeland form the basis for how any and all self-respecting psych pretenders dress themselves and aim to navigate the world?

This may explain why there’s been a scarcity of real-deal psychedelic guitar rock from the very place that has served as the central inspiration to so many thousands of psych-leaning bands since the time Brian Jones and George Harrison first thought, “Hey wait, these tunings will finally free us from having to sing about wanting to hold hands with 17-year-olds!” It definitely explains why electronica in the form of Goa Trance has served as the main “westerners finding Shiva” music for the past 30 years and why, even in the ’60s and ’70s when seemingly the entire world was cranking out obscure heady bands on self-pressed labels by the hundreds, the fertile motherland itself was oddly silent.

But there was an exception, and thy name was Atomic Forest.

Comin’ atcha’ straight outta’ Bombay in the early ’70s, AF was fronted by professional ad man Madhukar C. Dhas along with his groovy fellow advertising professionals Neel Chattodpadyaya on the insane, fuzzed-out lead guitar that AF became revered for and the tight, rubbery rhythm section of Keith Kanga on bass and Valentine Lobo on drums. The Forest played out quite a bit, moving around clubs in Bombay, Mumbai, and hitting up the burgeoning counter culture scene in way-vibey Goa. They played at the Indian version of Woodstock, The Snehayatra Festival (sadly there seems to be no footage of their performance), and eventually put out what I believe to be the only (and please correct me on this, world music headz, because I want to hear more) full length Indian psychedelic rock LP of the time: Obsession.

Obsession is a real treasure. Kicking off with a wash of sounds that could either be ocean waves or street traffic, the title track is a gliding, funk-infused odyssey with stop-start staccato percussion flourishes and Chattodpadyaya’s barrier-free, all-seeing solo on the outro. “Locomotive Breath”, a paranoid gallop through the Indian transit system with an even more insane Chattodpadyaya solo and gruff, forceful vocals from Dhas, is southeast Asian urban blues personified. The heaviest track on the album, “Mary Long” features enigmatic vocals about virginity lost and stupidity gained, plus a lockstep rhythm that threatens to steal the song out from under itself. The jazzy, languorous “Sunshine Day” stretches out like the first light of sun after a long night party on an undeveloped beach, with stray dogs stirring and possibilities unfolding with the dawn. “Windmills Of Your Mind” features some awesome Moog squelches and “Butterfly” versions 1 and 2 welcome back the space funk of the title track.

If it’s the bell bottom blues you’re after, then look no further than the flute-infused “Booboo Lullaby” on which Dhas sounds as if he’s just about at the end of his rope as he croaks, “Sleep on booboo baby, the pace outside is CRAAAZZZAAYYYY”. It’s the type of primal scream that rises from a place of real fear as opposed to simple rebellion or sexual longing, and when he promises, “I’ll wake you when the times get light” you don’t really believe him.  “Man, You’re Not Number One” is a real trip, complete with race car sound effects, a defiantly falsetto chorus, and a subtle, teasing flute solo. Certain versions of Obsessioninclude one of the more insanely unhinged versions of “Foxy Lady” you will ever hear, recorded live before what sounds like a rabid crowd somewhere in India, and “Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say)” with it’s chorus of “I want to know, I want to know my God, I want to see, I want to see my God, If I die what will be my reward?” curiously verges on Indian goth/death rock.

There’s really no misses on this record, and the bonus interview with Dhas from some English radio broadcast about the rise of Atomic Forest, complete with snippets of a rampaging Jeff Beck cover, lends a helpful historical context to the proceedings.

In a land that epitomizes trippiness, it’s tough for a trad rock band to truly sound otherworldy and powerful. Atomic Forest not only achieved this feat but laid it down on wax for posterity.

Bless them for it.

Daniel Falatko

Evan Dando Show Review

I reviewed the living, walking acid trip that is Evan Dando and his insanely entertaining gig last Saturday. Read it at Niche Appeal or peep it below.

Gig Report: Evan Dando At Wonders Of Nature, Brooklyn, 9/29/18


Evan Dando is like a living, walking, breathing acid trip.

Everywhere the golden-haired, ageless one wanders, he sparks off surreal spells that enchant and confuse his immediate surroundings, morphing even the most placid of venues into temporarily warped portals catering strictly to his anarchic dedication to otherworldliness. One such venue was the tiny, 80-person-capacity art gallery known as Wonders Of Nature near the Williamsburg waterfront on a warm fall Saturday night.

Upon entering the storefront space one immediate observation came to mind: This former borderline superstar has certainly slipped many bruising notches down the showbiz ladder over the past two decades. How many magazine covers did this dude grace in the 90s? 300? A thousand? And didn’t The Lemonheads make the rounds at all the huge festivals in those years? And weren’t they still playing established clubs like Bowery Ballroom just a few years back? To go from all that mess to this “intimate” venue is quite a fall if you’re only measuring things based on drawing ability and cold, hard cash. But beings such as Evan D. just cannot be placed on such a strict and mortal measuring stick, which leads right into the second, and most important, observation of the night:

This is the type of venue Evan Dando was born for.

Hasn’t Evan D. always been too colorful and carefree for the established club circuit? His small but dedicated cult will regale you with many tales of missed start times, blown-through curfews, shows made up of nothing but obscure covers, forgetting to play “It’s A Shame About Ray”, and tour managers deserting mid-jaunt. In both attitude and presentation, Dando has always leaned more toward the wandering minstrel than the professional musician. So while for nearly any other former star the venue for this gig would have have represented a depressing career arch, for Evan it represents an artist finding himself, finally after a decades-long battle, right where he needs to be.

The girl at the door is barely checking tickets, concentrating more on smoking and texting while the 80-or-so Dando devotees wander in. There’s a tiny stage in a corner, a makeshift bar doing brisk business, and some rows of folded wooden chairs that the more age-challenged members of the Dando Cult, one of whom is his mother, make a beeline for and guard for the rest of the night like found treasure. So who are the non-related Dando cultists? From this crowd it can be deduced as expansive in age-range, 20-somethings up through those in their 60s, from indie rocker dudes in Husker Du tees to fawning female 90s refugees to strange British men in string vests who shout loudly abut the time they chopped out a line for Evan at something called “The Boogaloo Bar”. It’s a scene with a lot of depth, many dimensions involved, and one that is most definitely far out of place in the center of the cold heart of gentrified Williamsburg.

And then there’s Evan Dando himself, easily identified due to the blond shag that hasn’t aged a day since Lovey, sporting sparkly women’s flip flops, moving through the crowd and bowing to everyone he comes across. The vibe can honestly be described as Jesus-like, only it’s highly unlikely the son of god Himself would have popped down to the deli for a six pack like Evan does here, vanishing behind the curtain that forms the border to the makeshift “backstage” area. He doesn’t re-emerge for quite a while, a full half hour past the scheduled stage time to be exact, but his followers don’t seem to mind in the slightest. As a matter of fact, this act seems to be part of the fun for them. “How late will he be?” “Will he even come on stage at all?” “Did he already leave?” In a conversation with the woman next to me at the bar who was busy filming the empty stage with her iPhone, she made it clear to me that Evan begins playing when he feels like it. Suddenly this one-time MTV hero playing such a small, off-the-grid venue seems more like a stroke of genius than a career freefall.

If Evan only starts playing when he feels like it, then the mood struck him at 8:30 on this night. One would have thought that he would change out of the sparkly flip flops before facing his audience, but one would have thought wrong. Loud clapping. Hoots from the Britishers in the string vests. Evan wielding a Gibson acoustic. And immediately he fucks up. Several flat chords, a blown run, and he halts to tune up. It’s such a flop of an intro that it works for him. Had the Arctic Monkeys done this, the crowd would shriek in horror and demand their money back. In this setting, it is instead the perfect introduction to a defiantly unprofessional, brilliantly offbeat, and overall incredibly fun set of the type one never sees from name-brand musicians.

How many songs did Evan Dando play at Wonders Of Nature on Saturday night? 30? 50? A hundred? In the beginning acoustic set alone it seemed as if he ran through nearly every Lemonheads semi-hit and deep cut plus the bulk of his lone solo album, songs meshing into one another, sputtering to a halt, picking up where he left off several songs later. For example, my fave Dando song, the Manson-inspired ballad “Ride With Me”, is actually played twice, once while he’s tuning his guitar (how one does this, who knows) and joking with someone in the front row about his sex life, then another time in a clear, ringing version that really drew the previously-hidden melancholy out from under the weight of the track. How Evan D. can so utterly sabotage a song, then turn around and give it such a gentle, loving reading, is just one of the man’s many chaos magic hat tricks that he brings to the table.

For an individual whose Wikipedia page is front and center with a story about losing his voice due to crack abuse, Evan Dando sure can fucking sing. I don’t recall his voice being anywhere near as good as this during his golden god days of the 90s. On “Tenderfoot” the entire second verse was rendered in a perfectly framed falsetto that swooned out in all the right places, notes held for precious seconds, revealing great meaning in lyrics that previously rang as cryptic. On “Style” he dropped into a bassy, Leonard Cohen monotone that would be tough to pull off for anyone who doesn’t smoke or gargle with broken glass (Evan certainly has the former covered). Other times he deliberately allowed his vocals to falter, either to do a rough take service or simply to get laughs, like on the famous, drawn-out “Raaaaayyyyy” section of “It’s A Shame” where he let the vocal drop just to score a key anti climax.  You see, when you’re dealing with Evan Dando, it’s the mistakes that truly count.

At one point, during “Being Around”, when he got to the line, “Would you get down on your knees and scrub me”, Evan made his guitar imitate the sound of a rag scrubbing a floor. I didn’t know an acoustic could make such a noise. Another time, in the middle of a long-winded Elvis Costello cover, he dueted with a squeaky-breaked MTA bus outside for the entire middle section of the song, somehow making it all tie together. Evan often forgot lyrics over the course of the evening, relying on one helpful devotee a couple chairs back who  would fill him in, even on the covers. Should this guy have gotten some of the proceeds from this show? Yes, absolutely. Was this show like hanging out in your own living room with a bunch of friends as Evan Dando plays guitar and sings and has conversations? You know it. Not bad for 25 bucks.

There were other duets over the course of the evening, some random kid summoned out of the crowd to pull off a convincing Paul Westerberg ballad, and Marciana Jones for a number of tracks, standing stock still and smiling as their voices intertwined like Gram & Emmylou at a drunken rehearsal session. It took several verses to accept that they were actually covering a fucking Florida Georgia Line bro-country song, and then just seconds to concede that their version is stunningly gorgeous against nearly insurmountable odds. It was the same type of situation for Misfits classic “Skulls”, busted out after Evan plugged in a beautiful SG for the “electric” portion of the evening, which rang with far more whimsy and nuance than a song about nailing little girl’s heads to a wall had any right to.

At certain points during the electric set I wondered if perhaps the dude was going to play all night. Marciana was back on stage for a while, but I was distracted by a small misunderstanding between one of the string vest Britishers and a kid in Elton John-inspired shades that started as a near violent confrontation but ended with the two of them smoking on the sidewalk and embracing for many minutes. When you fall into one of these Dando dimensions, time becomes a warped concept and all facts are fluid. Anything is possible within this space, including Lucinda Williams covers that somehow sound like HOVDY deep cuts, something that DID happen during this gig, although I would be hard pressed to tell you where in the setlist it took place. Like I said, it all bleeds together in the best possible sense. And did he really make a joke about not being able to play guitar because he wasn’t getting laid enough…while dueting with his girlfriend in front of nearly a hundred people? That’s not just something I would make up, right?

And then, just when you think this may be an epic occasion where Dando plays until sunlight, until there are just a few passed out stragglers left and a lone cleaning lady mops the floors, when in the middle of a jangling “Into Your Arms” Dando unstraps the SG, lays it down, says “thanks”, and ambles off.

And yet even then the show wasn’t over. Evan may have vanished back behind the curtain, but at least half the crowd remained, drinking and trading Dando tales, one of which involved his bringing a bale of hay onstage from a nearby field at a show Upstate. For the world of Evan Dando is as circular as it is surreal, and I got the distinct sense that this show will be spoken of in the same way years down the line after yet another of these convention-smashing performance art displays.

It isn’t often that you leave a show thinking about anything other than whether to take a train or an uber. But after stumbling, for several glorious hours, into the tripped-out slipstream of Evan Dando I left believing that there really are no barriers, not age or cultural climates or whitewashed industries, that can ever truly stop the twin concepts of music and good times.

Daniel Falatko

Niche Appeal

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Genre deep dives. Band studies. Record reviews. Reviews of record reviews (slandering Pitchfork, basically). Strangest records of all time. Cult leader and killer musical reviews. Even some jazz. Stop through.

Who In The Hell Is Tyler Durden?

Lukewarm Review over at Shelf Stalker. Read it here or down below.

And yes, apathy IS the point.


Falatko’s newest book, The Travels and Travails of Small Minds, has his characters treading familiar ground—the streets of New York City—along with new territory—England, Moscow, and others.

Nathan is dragging along at a dead-end for a senile old crockpot loosely in charge of slumlike properties. His girlfriend lives too far away, his neighbor is a drug addict, and his sole coworker is no better off than he is.

Taking life one day at a time with no real future in sight, Nathan gets mixed up in a property scam that entangles him in the works of a dead beatnik of extremely dubious talent, that beatnik’s number one fan, and a large amount of money.

The book’s strengths are revealed in the writing of the city—it is a very comfortable place for the author. The descriptions would be familiar and smell like the sweet garbage funk of home to any New Yorker. It is a mix of the grungy underbelly and the unique moments that make it a city like no other: a guy selling tiny turtles on a street corner, drugged out kids dancing on the subway, brawls in the street. It’s the real New York, the one you see if you live there, pounding the streets every day.

There is a dark sort of comedy here, not really like a funny comedy, but more like theater of the absurd. You laugh because you don’t know how else to react, because that is the only feasible emotion for the craziness that is occurring.

Similar to Condominium, this book lives and breathes New York. The eccentricities and insider knowledge swells to the surface and is painted on every page. The characters themselves take a bit of a backseat to New York herself, which becomes obvious when the plot is driven away from the city to other countries.

As far as the character’s go, this one is a jumble of personalities and is very much a different style from the satirical look at the gentrification of New York’s boroughs that Condominium encapsulated. The characters in Condo had reached the top, they had nowhere to go but down.

Nathan and his pals, on the other hand, are not even trying to climb the ladder. An intriguing mystery, a pretty girl, even a potential opportunity at work fall into his lap and he can barely be bothered to look into any of it. He’s just coasting.

While the plot does manage to move forward in a haphazard way, that almost complete apathy does get in the way, especially in Nathan’s case. At what point will he decide to take action and be a deciding factor in his future?

I didn’t see him as a dynamic character, even as he makes stunning revelations, even with the One Year Later sections. He is just the same throughout the book. Riding the waves, taking what life gives him, and not really trying to change his situation. I would have liked more action on his end.

But perhaps his apathy is the point. Are we the choices we make, the job we have, the clothes we wear, the city we live in? Tyler Durden would say no.

So what is left?

In the end, this one is a wild mind-trip. Falatko has an interesting take on the world and it’s worth exploring.


Raging Biblio Review

Always happy to submerge expectations.

Raging Biblio review here. Or read it all below:


condominiumThe Short Version: Charles and Sarah, a present-day yuppie couple, have just bought a condo in Williamsburg, right on the water. It should be the perfect next step in their relationship and their lives… but what seems perfect quickly begins to destabilize the not-so-perfect couple. Will their new place break them? Or will they retain their individuality even in the face of a midlife crisis?

The Review: Expectations are a silly thing. If we work hard, we’re taught, we can expect to be rewarded. And we expect that, with those rewards, we will find greater happiness. Or we expect that our neighbors will fulfill the terms of the lease they signed when moving in – which might include things like not being obnoxiously loud at 3am, not doing drugs in public, not renovating the apartment without consent. And then there are the expectations that come from, say, cover and jacket copy of a book or the blurb and trailer of a movie – things that cause us to imagine that the plot and environs of a tale based on very little at all, and leading to expect something we’re never actually going to get.

So it was with Condominium. The cover and the title alone conjured images of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, a novel whose horrors are still rather present in my memory – and the jacket copy seemed to imply something crossed between that novel and the slightly-silly-but-still-totally-spooky Horrorstör. But while I do think Falatko is conscious of Ballard’s inspiration on this book, he’s not trying to write an update or even an homage. And he’s not actually writing a horror novel, despite the trappings in the early going. Instead, he’s interested in the terror of adulthood, of gentrification, and of the very real impact these things have on our mortal souls. All scary in its own right – just not the sort of thing that gets shelved in the horror section, you know?

Charles and Sarah, the couple who’ve just bought this condo, are a pretty ordinary sort of couple, for the most part. He’s a finance bro, she’s a bored assistant at a super-boutique indie press. They’re thinking about marriage but not really, yet. They’ve been together for a while now and the thing that’s getting to the both of them is the fact that their adventurous youth seems gone, now. Perhaps it was the purchase of the condo itself, a seven-figure investment that comes complete with views of the city, gleaming kitchen, hardwood floors, high ceilings, and all the mod cons. As someone who recently moved (renting, admittedly) into a new apartment in a new neighborhood, I understand how a new place can alter your perception of yourself – we very nearly avoided moving into a place that was way fancier than we felt we “ought” to be living in at this point in our lives, because we worried that it would alter our sense of being too much. So as I watched Sarah and Charles start to crack under the unexpected pressure of this beautiful new apartment that neither of them seemed to feel they deserved, I understood what was going on and what Falatko was aiming for.

The problem is, I was still hanging onto my expectations for the novel – and Falatko, it seemed, was hanging onto certain things in the first half of the novel that he would later give up on. The early going of this book is creepy. There’s an odd neighbor, who seems to be stalking Sarah but who is also just basically a character out of an episode of Psych: he shows up to complain about things he thinks the couple is doing, he’s always cleaning up cigarette butts at the smoking station, and they can’t seem to make it from their apartment to the elevator without running into him. And much musing is given to a “non-functional beam” in the apartment that straight up seems to move. Charles’ fear of the balcony seems like tremendous foreshadowing, as does a coffee explosion and Sarah’s night terrors.

But all of it, in the end, is looking only at what Bowie called “the terror of knowing what this world is about.” Charles is missing his glory days, when he and his best friend (a ne’er-do-well of the highest LES/East Village caliber) and said best friend’s sexpot of a girlfriend would (among other things) snort some heroin and go crazy on the town. And Sarah is realizing that she’s nearly completely financially dependent on her husband and doesn’t want to be an “old” just yet. It was the scene where Charles & Sarah meet the ne’er-do-wells in a bar – and end up snorting some heroin together, a terrifically questionable idea considering Charles is a self-proclaimed recovering addict. It has the end result of kicking the latent addiction entirely, but it also is the moment that the book began to pivot for me – and, I daresay, the author too. It was the first time I felt really engaged with Charles and Sarah as people as opposed to characters in a scary story and I got onboard for the rest of their story, leading up to one hell of a redemptive party to close things out.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel like the novel couldn’t shake off its desire to be actually scary. When the true nature of their creepy neighbor is revealed, it felt like somebody turning on the light to show that the scary monster is nothing more than a coat rack – but it also felt like exactly that, as though we were meant to have been spooked and thinking that something supernatural (or at least Weird) was going down, and that reveal felt a little out-of-sync with what the book had, by that point, become. I found myself wondering what Falatko’s actual point was, with this book. Was he writing about gentrification? Were we supposed to be on the side of the yuppies who own the building, on the side of the fake-yuppies (Charles and Sarah, who have more cred than their neighbors, ostensibly), or on the side of the people on the street we occasionally run into who express varying sorts of dismay at the change in their neighborhood? Perhaps you have to answer for yourself, based on your expectations of the world.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5. It’s a little uneven pretty much throughout the entire book, as though the novel doesn’t know what it wants itself to be. But Daniel Falatko conjures up the terror of growing up, of a thirtysomething’s identity crisis, of gentrification and missing the city you arrived into – and despite the book failing to meet my initial expectations, I course-corrected myself quickly enough to genuinely enjoy much of it. This isn’t anywhere near as bleak as High-Rise or the work of the Brat Pack – but, then, neither is Williamsburg in 2008, you know?

Gentrification Porn

I done wrote an article about gentrification porn over at The Weeklings. Check it out.

Or read it here:


SOME PEOPLE are into serial killers. Normal, harmless people who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You probably know at least one. That nerdy dude from the design department who obsesses about just what pushed Dahmer over the line from sick-but-harmless fantasy world to full-on heads in the freezer, that girl you went out with Freshman year whose Manson Family book collection went way beyond just Helter Skelter and would refer to obscure Fam members by their first names. People are obsessed by sick things sometimes. You probably know someone who reads up on the Holocaust so much that this formerly “special section on the shelf” has taken over the entire bookcase, someone who will sometimes casually quote Göring at dinner parties.

Yes, oftentimes non-dangerous people are interested in evil. For me, serial killers are far too loner science nerd to be fascinating and the Nazis were a bunch of dicks. But one truly evil aspect of mankind has always held a special place in my heart: Gentrification. And when I say “gentrification” I mean hardcore, drive out the poor people with guns drawn, cash grab every square inch of bombed-out ghetto and build an overpriced coffee shop on the bloodstained concrete gentrification. I even wrote a novel about it. Fortunately, I happen to live right at ground zero for urban “nickname Flushing Head ‘FluHo’ and the condos shall rise” gentrification of the most ruthless and cunning variety: North Brooklyn. Unlike what most people think, a good gentrification move doesn’t just involve putting in a juicery outside a project highrise and hoping for a “Juicery spotted in hot new hood” headline on Curbed NY. A proper gentrification move takes a certain cold-hearted precision and tone-deaf ambition, a blatant Viking invader mentality that elevates properly executed gentrification strategies to the level of an art form.

Fortunately, I don’t have to walk more than two blocks past my front door on Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to point out some really good examples of classic, evil-genius gentrification maneuvers. When I first moved onto this block ten years ago it was a desolate stretch of urban blight, the kind of place where if you saw another person walking on the street then this was a problem. Because nobody had any reason to be walking on this street. With Williamsburg now officially more expensive to live in than most of Manhattan, the street is now lined with so many juiceries, $200 jeans clothing boutiques, and specialty desert shops that they almost seem to cancel each other out. Which is, of course, perfect for a gentrification porn addict such as myself.

Williamsburg is just the same age-old NYC progression, only this time it’s right up in my face, just another couple of blocks on an increasingly bloody trail. Mobbed-up Hell’s Kitchen begat Clinton. The tent cities of the Lower East Side begat the East Village. And now bombed-out Billyburg, Brooklyn becomes a place for tourist groups and hip hotels, even though once war-torn Bushwick just two L Train stops past mine is now so utterly hip that certain areas of Williamsburg are calling themselves “Bushwick”. It’s a truly dizzying scenario, and it makes one wonder if currently war-torn Brownsville, Brooklyn, pretty much the last remaining ghetto in NYC proper, will soon be renamed BroVille for real estate purposes.

Of course, this is absolute paradise for a gentrification pornographer. There isn’t enough room in this piece to cover even a small portion of the truly cunning and cynical gentrification highlights this neighborhood has to offer, so see below for five really great gentrification chess moves I came across on just one ten-minute stroll through “East Williamsburg” (i.e. Bushwick, but now referred to as “West Bushwick”).


This is prime gentrification right here. Complete and utter genius. This used to be a quirky little neighborhood oddity, the kind of store that makes for a great talking point and gives any locale that WTF factor that really gives you a warm feeling when you walk past it. It was a store that sold a combination of tombstones and bread. Great-smelling homemade bread. You could pop in and order a headstone for granny and grab a loaf to have with your pasta that night while you were at it. It was run by two Italian dudes with matching poodles, with ads for their self-published memoirs likeSon Of A Don and I Did My Time in the windows. Every day at five they would come out on the sidewalk to peddle what was left of that days bread batch. “Two Dollar Loaves!” could be heard ringing up and down Graham Avenue. Followed by the yelps of the poodles.

Obviously, this down-home nonsense had to go. And why waste such valuable real estate on anything less than a high end tattoo shop? This is an incredibly well executed gentrification move since it isn’t obvious. It isn’t as if they threw the bread and poodles and tombstones out into the street and put in an Apple store or something. A good gentrification move must be subtle. A perfect one will even appeal to the old heads in the neighborhood, a Trojan horse deception smiling upon them with one face while driving up rents and calling in real estate developers with the other. Like this tattoo shop, for example. The old heads in the hood don’t realize that tatz are cool now. That they’re incredibly expensive. That these tattoo artists are probably branded celebrities with their own reality shows in the works. In their day, the only people who had tattoos were hoods or navy men. This seems, to them, like an underdog establishment run by bearded shabby dudes who couldn’t get an office job due to their neck ink. It stings far less to replace their beloved bread and tombstone store with this than it would another juicery. Yet it secretly hurts them far worse than a high end cupcake shop. Far, far worse. Because what is a better talking point when walking out of your 900K one bedroom than stating, “Yea, I’m getting inked up there next week. Grant got me on the short waiting list.”

Grabbing cash and adding to the gentrification of a neighborhood without having to endure all those annoying hall type meetings and flyer protests. Props to this tat shop for doing gentrification right. Keep up the good work, dudes.


Unlike the first example which is a cunning little gentrification chess move, this one takes the exact opposite strategy: The full-tilt, in-your-face, take-no-prisoners gentrification blitzkrieg!

“Oh so you were once this kooky little dinner with cheap and delicious heart attack shakes and a clientele of retired mafia members chatting about the dog races and old prison tales? A neighborhood institution that adds a lot of flavor and heart to the block? Well fuck you and all your haggard waitresses who call everyone “hon”. We’ll just buy the building and raise the rent and your colorful little world will be tossed to the ether where it belongs. And we WILL put in an expensive juicery with drink names like “Turnt Up” and “Wellness Now”. And there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, that you or anybody else can ever do to stop our steamroller of PROGRESS.”

Development companies as modern day Norse Vikings? Not too far off, really. And this move right here is admirable in its take-no-prisoners, rip the lungs from the chest cavity and post them high to warn the other inhabitants of this coastline that THAY ARE NEXT technique. Respect.


This one is just so simple. Somewhere, the gentrification Gods are rubbing their hands together and having a good laugh at this scenario. Oftentimes, simplicity is key when it comes to proper gentrification, and this is as simple as small number, no-calculator-needed addition. Let’s take a look.

What did this used to be?

Oh, just a well-regarded, affordable neighborhood dentist with a way cool/semi-creepy tooth logo in the window. Dude was probably there for decades, or at least the decade I spent living right across the street giggling at the tooth logo late on certain “relaxed” nights. This was the type of neighborhood dentist who would take in tooth-aching stragglers off the street and charge only what they could pay. He was rumored to be generous with the laughing gas as well. In short, this was a legendary neighborhood tooth man with a long list of old school local customers and the type of eccentric, kind charm one just doesn’t get from a dentist’s office with a shiny glass exterior and flatscreens advertising teeth whitening surgery in the waiting room.

So what does Gentrification have to say about all this?

“Um, why don’t we put in a totally hip, Instagram-ready, organic butcher shop instead?”

And I really can’t thank Gentrification enough for ticking all the needed boxes on this one. Tatted-up butchers with urban-amish beards? Check. Customers with smartphones in hand ready to snapchat the meats? Check. The People of New York for sale in stacks by the registers? Check.

The real Italian butcher shop across the street contemplating various firebombing strategies?


I’ll leave that box open for them.


Just like the Germans learned to do, proper gentrification involves recognizing and outing imposters to the Cause. This right here is a terrific example of flushing out non-comrades. This used to be a thrift store, which sounds like the type of establishment that should be left to flourish in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood full of the types of individuals who thirst for $200 vintage Poison tees and musty lumberjack attire. But the vibe of this establishment leaned too dangerously close to “real-deal second-hand clothing store” to truly fit into a proper gentrification scenario. This was not the type of place with “fashion” on its mind and waify part-time models working the registers. The store seemed to cater a little too close to…gulp…actual poor people who, like, couldn’t afford new clothes. So while allowed to exist in the early stages of the neighborhood’s gentrification, not immediately crushed in the name of progress, it was eventually outed as an imposter and immediately demolished to make way for something that is truly needed: luxury condominiums.

We won’t be needing your musty old poor people hand-me-downs anymore, thank you very much. Nice work, gentrification Gestapo. And long may you reign.


Hi, we’re a quirky warehouse space selling cool stuff. We are sorry your favorite record store had to move out of here to Greenpoint, but hey, we’re not the enemy. Just another local biz trying to make good. Oh, we look like an Urban Outfitters, you say? Nope. Not an Urban Outfitters. We’re local and quirky! Oh, so you’re wondering why we sell all the same stuff as Urban outfitters? That must just be a coincidence. Because we’re definitely a warehouse collective selling nothing but great clothes and turntables and books and records and all the things that will let your inner-hipness really shine on out. Great! So you’d like to purchase that “mock vintage” Echo & The Bunnymen tee? Let me just ring you up. Sure glad we’re not Urban outfitters, amiright? Have a nice…um, ok, so you’re wondering why your receipt says Urban Outfitters. Well, ahem, sorry no refunds. Next in line? Sir, ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to move it along. Do we need to call…ok, we do…security we have a situation on the ground floor…

These five fine examples of expertly executed gentrification were spotted just steps from my front door, and I didn’t even get as far as the true Ground Zero of heartless urban progress: The Vice Magazine-ravaged Williamsburg waterfront. Here is to hoping that our fearless and cunning leader, Progress itself, continues to drive out this type of homey, neighborhood nonsense and line the entire world with vegan coffee shops, Urban Outfitters, and juicery after juicery after juicery.

For only then will we truly be safe.

Dead End Follies Review

Thoughtful review over at Dead End Follies. This dude really seems to get it. Props to him.

“How can anyone own a view?”

I spent years of my life trying to figure out how society turned young and beautiful people filled with dreams and hormones into our parents. Today, I am 33 and I know. The first step is finishing school: nothing will help you reassess your worth as a human being quicker than an employer chuckling at your resume while bills are stacking up. The second (and final step for most people) is buying real estate. Buying a house or a condo seems like a straightforward transaction, but it’s fucking twisted. Basically, it’s the process of having a financial institution assessing if you’re worth owning a house. Building it yourself on an abandoned plot of land wouldn’t be simpler, but it sure as hell would be healthier.

I am 33 years old and I’ve been a bona fide adult for almost a year now, so I’m naturally interested in adult problems such as the material worth of my existence. I am 33 years old and remember being a kid with hopes, dreams and truckloads of testosterone and I still to let my reality define me as a person. That’s why I gravitate towards novels like Daniel Falatko‘sCondominium. I can only praise Falatko for writing a novel in the shadow of literary giants and while it couldn’t have possibly matched the intensity of already existing iconic real estate fiction, Condominium manages to makethe common pursuits of adult age sound as hollow as they really are.

Condominium is the story of Charles and Sarah, a young archetypal New York couple, who just moved in one of Williamsburg’s Waterfront skyscrapers, one of the most sought-after pieces of real estate in the Greatest City in the World. At the very moment they complete the transaction, an invisible tension settles between the two and starts prying them apart. Sarah finds herself isolated in this tower, prey to creepy neighbors and her unstable professional situation while Charles works late every night in order to make the steep mortgage payment and spends the rest of his time anesthetizing his alienation with his work friends. So, are they moving on up or are they just getting pulled apart by the existential pressure of owning prime real estate?

Let’s discuss the two elephants in the room first: J.G Ballard and Bret Easton Ellis. They’re all over Daniel Falatko‘s Condominium. It’s damn nearly impossible to live up to Ballard’s seminal skyscraper novel High-Rise (now a movie, starring freakin’ Tom Hiddleston), but Falatko seems very aware of that problem and keeps both feet firmly into realism. Although you will find scenes of malaise and awkward neighbors who overpass their boundaries that will remind you of Ballard’s book, Daniel Falatko never crosses the line although it feels like creepy neighbor Raymond is always a step away from bringing the narrative into Ballardian territory. Same with the party scenes that owe a lot to Ellis’ legendary knack for portraying debauchery, yet his character manage to keep their decorum and sense of social responsibility, at least most of the time.

He had yet to witness their building at night, from the ground, and had to stop on the corner by a vegan cheesesteak truck to marvel at the sight. A massive rectangle of light exploding skyward. These streets he walked through to reach it, dark and muffled, the lights too dim, the buildings too drab, all of them, all of everything, sucked into oblivion by the roaring slipstream of his Tower.

I know I’m not ACTUALLY discussing Condominium a whole lot here, but I believe going over Daniel Falatko‘s influences is important because they are two violent, otherworldly novel that helped shape something that’s much closer to the contemporary reality of real estate owning and yet feels almost as alienating. I liked Condominium for a very simple reason: it exposes the fallacy of having over being. I’m not some kind of anarchist who would nationalize housing or anything, but I thought that reading about Charles, Raymond and other owners value their relationship to “units” and assess worth to one another over simply living their lives because they’re defined by their financial selves, to be absolutely terrifying.

It’s how Condominium finds success in the shadow of High-Rise: it’s nowhere near as apocalyptic, but it threatens to be on every page. Daniel Falatkoleaves a lot undefined between his characters, so that his readers can build their own nightmare scenarios. Condominium is never apocalyptic, but it’s constantly threatening. Some details about the novel bugged me, nothing major in the scope of what Falatko tried to achieve, but it created distance with the character. For example: I fail to see how recreational heroin snorters with high stress jobs and insane mortgage payments can manage to keep their lives together. Of course, I don’t live in New York, so I have no idea what the real estate scene is over there, but I thought it clashes with the inherent realism of the novel and made Charles and Sarah come off as boneheads.

It’s possible to write an engaging and original skyscraper novel in the shadow of J.G Ballard‘s High-Rise and Daniel Falatko‘s Condominium is hard evidence of that statement. My own obsession with Ballard’s work might be talking too loud here and I’m sure Condominium is even more enjoyable if you haven’t read it, but I thought Daniel Falatko did a terrific job at defining an original discourse in the shadow of such an iconic and important novel.Condominium definitely is an “adult novel” about issues you can’t truly wrap your head around unless you’ve been confronted to them. It wasn’t flawless, but few novels are. It managed to portray the ugly world we build for ourselves with unflinching resolve though.

ReinReads Review

Decent review over at ReinReads.

Check it out or read it here:

Falatko’s Condominium takes place within the time span of just one week, with sections separated by day. Charles & Sarah have just moved in their new condo & it serves as a symbol of their semi-fucked up lives. The one thing they have in common is that they feel like the condo owns them instead of the other way around. In Bret Easton Ellis form, it’s a novel about materialism, existentialism, consumerism, & every other ism, but simultaneously about absolutely nothing. But unlike Bret Easton Ellis, it didn’t really have those stand-out sentences of epiphany. There was no “people are afraid to merge” type of sentence that really hits it home hard. However, there were incredible moments of clarity. Several scenes that were so unique, but also seemed almost like non-fiction.

For example, Falatko perfectly describes that dreaded Monday feeling. The awful train crowd rush, the exhaustion. But he does it in a way that’s comical, “How many American Apparel cashiers could they possibly need? How many internships at Vice magazine?,” Charles wonders as he passes hipsters on the street. Made even more hilarious because Charles is a step away himself from being a hipster himself. How many times are you gonna think about one of your “obscure albums from the seventies?” It’s one of the many great moments that just clicks.

Another great one liner that was such a clear image in my head, I swear I’ve seen it before was, “a man with the Rangers logo tatted on the side of his face who strangely kept ordering daiquiris.” These moments are gold buried within a lot of seemingly random & unnecessary NYC cliches & references. At one point there’s so much location name dropping that the Lower East Side, Seward Park, Essex, East Broadway, Grand, & Delancey are all referenced in just three sentences.

The timing is tricky because each action is described so minutely that the reader can get pretty bored. But it serves as an overall theme that time & space are relative. Time & Space, two subjects Falatko was right to consistently evoke Burroughs in, gives the work a claustrophobic feel. Space, & its effect on a person, is at the forefront of this storyline. It got me thinking how some religions believe a person achieves true grace when their environment no longer dictates their reality. It eliminates the need to adapt because you just are. Sarah & Charles clearly suck at this because their condo pretty much fucks up their life. Either that, or the drugs make them so paranoid that they believe it’s fucking up their life. Don’t even get me started on the weird neighbor Raymond, their paranoia levels are through the roof with that guy. But is it him? Is it them? Is he just a symbol of societal pressure? Who knows! Does it matter? Does anything?

Nothing matters in the novel at least. I mean Hamlet could take a lesson from these guys on inaction. At one point the thought of actually doing something, anything, brings creepily wide smiles to their faces because their jobs & lives are that vapid & meaningless.

I had a few gripes with the writing style. I hate head jumping when it’s not done skillfully, plus every sentence had way too many commas that ramble off & return back to their subjects inelegantly. I did however love the Falatko’s ability to flawlessly include curse-words in not only the thoughts, but the dialogue without it sounding overdone or clunky. It felt right with the characters & the context.

I was a little confused how old the characters were for a while, & when I found out they’re in their late twenties I was a little surprised. They complain like children, but reference Rolling Stone, smack their forehead, & say things like “the hard youth of today.” They seemed like those kids who’re a year older than you, but think they’re in their fifties. Realistically, if this takes place in modern day NYC, then they weren’t even alive for the height of the late sixties/early seventies, so I don’t know why they’d be so pretentious about it. Unless they’re dicks, which they probably are.

Last minute things that irked me:

  1. They referenced Californication. Ugh. Awful show.
  2. The sentence “Never date someone in publishing.” Yup. My boyfriend can attest to this.
  3. It dissed NYU kids, but gave FIT cred at one point, which is so backwards to me as a student of both institutions.
  4. It missed a real opportunity for a “beast of bourbon” pun.

Last minute likes:

  1. It never actually explicitly gives detail on the drug scenes, but still manages to convey significant meaning.
  2. Made me crack up when it said all bands now are named after animals (download Frightened Rabbit though & tell me you don’t love them).
  3. Deals with expectations of life not being met & having a skewed reality as a result of it, I mean, that pretty much sums up life in a nutshell.
  4. It didn’t dive into the impact of social media & technology & blah blah blah like every other novel of this kind.
  5. The copy description does not do it justice, so it definitely surpassed my expectations.