The Aura of the Flapper in Question

BADMOTORFLAPPER cover + Jessie Janeshek's faceI am enormously flattered that Jessie Janeshek, my favorite living poet, really grokked my debut poetry collection BADMOTORFLAPPER, & wrote a very kind review of it, which you can read in full on the instagram feed of Really Serious Literature.

I’ve talked about conceptual aspects of the collection; O’Brien’s craft is also strong. I love their flexibility with and careful use of form to suit both the aura of the flapper in question and the song that she’s paired with…


Transparent Anatomical Flapper; thanks to In Utero, The Saturday Evening Post, & William BlakeMy debut poetry EP, BADMOTORFLAPPERis now on sale! It’s a 10-track collection of poems I wrote as tributes to some of my favorite women of the 1920s + music of the 1990s. Some of these poems have been previously published in places like Yes, Poetry and Rag Queen Periodical, but some are exclusive to this little booklet.

Print Copies are $4US via PayPal (shipping in US only)

Digital (PDF) copies are $2US via PayPal

Track Listing

  1. DOROTHY PARKER will have her revenge on Manhattan
  2. GRETA GARBO behind the counter in a small town
  3. Sometimes ZELDA FITZGERALD gives the creeps herself
  4. JOSEPHINE BAKER ain’t nuthing ta fuck wit
  5. CLARA BOW is in your face but you can’t grab her
  6. THEDA BARA with butterfly wings
  7. LUPE VELEZ is a hot spitfire fit to burn
  8. Got them Down-in-a-hole BESSIE SMITH Blues
  9. ANNA MAY WONG’s gonna break this rusty cage
  10. Last Dance with LULU BROOKS

“Buddy Holly” in Many Loops

Today marks the launch of Many Loops, a fascinating new online publication obsessed with recursion. It includes “Buddy Holly,” which is a thing I wrote in 2018 about my nostalgia for Weezer’s 1994 video “Buddy Holly,” which was nostalgic for the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” which was nostalgic for the 1950s. It’s pretty much the most Joe O’Brien thing I’ve written to date.

This is something I’ve been writing called “Buddy Holly,” but it’s not really about the late preppy-nerdy rockabilly musician with the thick-framed glasses. It’s about a music video for a fuzzy-yet-sleek new wavy power-pop song called “Buddy Holly,” which isn’t really about the musician Buddy Holly either, it’s about how the song’s singer, Rivers Cuomo, resembles Buddy Holly.

This is something I’m writing in the year 2018, looking back affectionately and obsessively upon a music video I fell in love with when it first aired in 1994. Directed by eventual Oscar-winner Spike Jonze, the video features Weezer, a pop-rock band formed in the 1990s, playing their song “Buddy Holly” as if they were characters on Happy Days, a fondly-remembered sitcom from the 1970s that looked back warmly on American life in the 1950s.

This is about 2010s nostalgia for 1990s nostalgia for 1970s nostalgia for the 1950s. Nostalgia kinda like those Russian Nesting Dolls, or matryoshka.

[read the whole thing here]

Weird Times: NYC Rocknroll & Other 9/11-Era Tunes

Been indulging nostalgic urges by reading Lizzy Goodman’s MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM, an oral history of NYC rocknroll in the 2000s. Which of course has been putting me in the mood to listen to this autobiographical Spotify playlist I made a few years ago called “Weird Times: ’01 – ’02,” all the music I surrounded myself with as a collegiate NYC rocknroll kid between 9/11 through the end of 2002, a surreal & unforgettable period I spent oscillating between madly exhilarated & madly depressed.

Obviously this playlist has a bunch of those NYC rockers– The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, Andrew WK (no Interpol, though; never really my bag). But there’s also lots of kick-ass non-NYC rock: The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down, The Hives, The Donnas, Tenacious D, Weezer; plus plenty of wonderful non-rock: The Avalanches, OutKast, Eminem, Bjork (though alas, nothing from THE BLUEPRINT, because Jay-Z is still anti-Spotify at the moment).

Curious how most of these tracks were recorded before 9/11, but a lot of them still seem to anticipate some crazy, sinister, no-tomorrow times ahead. Or maybe that’s just hindsight-goggles talking. Either way, “Weird Times” is a pretty riveting collection of tunes if I do say so myself, even if it doesn’t necessarily transport *you* back to that year or so you spent stumbling around the East Village (and occasionally Brooklyn), finally able to legally drink and constantly on edge that the city around you would start exploding again so why not go to Brownie’s to watch some raucous sloppy-haired garage band while you get utterly obliterated?