Going to see Alice Cooper in Atlantic City when you’re ten-years-old, we can attest, kind of messes up your idea of what a concert should be for the rest of your life. Basically anything that doesn’t involve wild stage theatrics, varied pyrotechnics, giant animatronic Frankensteins, live boa constrictors, and blood raining down over the first few rows seems downright dull. What we’re saying is, expect a show from “The Godfather of Shock Rock” (who claims to have gotten his wholesome-sounding name from a Quija board) when he plays MSG tonight with Mötley Crüe, possibly the hairiest and most umlaut-happy of the hair metal sect. See Tommy Lee, Nikki Sixx, and the original Crüe play their (alleged) last show in New York. If the Final Tour really is as final as it claims, this is sure to be one for the history books…or Necronomicon, same dif.

Tue., Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m., 2014


Glen Pourciau’s Invite Shacks Up In Raymond Carver Land

Nothing announces a piece of minimalist domestic realism quite like the expression “my wife and I.” The first story of Glen Pourciau’s Carveresque debut collection, Invite—winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award—begins: “The trouble started when my wife and I were planning a trip. . . .” The second story begins: “My wife and I never recovered from the loss of our son.” The fifth story: “My wife and I had been around and around about it.” And a Pourciau story in this summer’s Paris Review opens: “It was Saturday afternoon, and my wife and I decided to go to the mall. . . .”

The stories in Invite that don’t mention “my wife” in the first sentence are even more preoccupied with wives: “How Tommy Lee Turned Out Abnormal” is told from a wife’s perspective, and “The Neighbor” concerns another man’s ex-wife, who—here it comes—bears an unsettling resemblance to the narrator’s wife. Yet, these wives receive scant characterization, beyond the knee-jerk protection of their husbands’ fragile egos. The classic short story of the “my wife” genre—Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”—is practically a portrait of a wife. It’s dense with candid spousal observation, and the woman breathes on the page.

Nevertheless, the tragicomic possibilities of married life are often used to Pourciau’s advantage. In “Snub,” the narrator and his wife pretend not to notice an intolerable couple they know at an outdoor restaurant and suffer weeks of guilt-ridden post-analysis as a result. “Water” conjures a Larry David–like domestic drama, in which the narrator and his wife debate their neighbors’ excessive sprinkler use. But privately, cautiously: “Who were we to tell them to cut down on their watering?” Before they know it, wincing at a mud-soaked lawn has led to a major philosophical dilemma: Should we say what we think, or keep it to ourselves?

And yet both the form and content of Invite remain half-imprisoned by Carver’s influence. All the shopworn hallmarks are here: the drinking and cigarette smoking as a sign of inner turmoil; the clipped names (Don, Lou, Cam, Liv) meant to symbolize a working-class existence; the recidivist troublemakers who are, unironically, “at it again.” Pourciau seems tempted by irony and postmodern mischief, but in the end, he’s unwilling to let go of Carver’s staid earnestness. As such, the tone of his stories feels undecided, stuck in the same predicament as his characters. We’re left waiting to hear what he thinks.


Two Hours to Love

Most coverage of Mötley Crüe’s MSG freak show honed in on the spectacle, condescending for a moment of cheese while indulging itself in the fantasy that messed-up gender BS only happens on revival stages, amid pyrotechnics. Gee, Mötley Crüe sure are decadent. Did you watch their Behind the Music? Nikki was pronounced dead! Me, I thank the guy who played me Decade when I went punk in eighth grade, 1993. That guy is a huge loser now, lives in Ohio, works a real job, and I bet he and I like the band just the same—with Klosterman-style slack-jawed fawning. While I went to the Garden with my cool metal friend, I was really there with my swing-state skater boi.

The Crüe moved through two dozen songs—”some old shit,” relatively speaking, and their ’80s jukebox jams. Glam holdout Nikki Sixx pandered like a karaoke regular, rubbing against Vince Neil’s workingman tux and lining up for solos with Hot Mick Marrs. Marrs most recently shopped for a new hip and is the band’s human soul, so I grant him license to vibe Hot Topic. Tommy Lee had on some clothes, to avoid baby-arm rope burns while soaring between aerial drum kits in one of several regrettable instrumental interludes. And when time called for the Lee-palmed “tittie cam,” Vince baited Lee to balance it out by showing the junk. A small gesture, but enough to release me from the panic that I really should have been downtown at the Sleater-Kinney show.

Girls figured prominently in the performance. They went away on “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” just like Neil’s voice, which got filled in by 20,000 fans. They were aerialists beyond the pole on “Girls Girls Girls,” and acted out their Eve on “Same Ol’ Situation.” There were songs about drugs too, but none of the Crüe’s other famous genre—odes to E. praecox—which may prove that while they certainly are old dogs, they’ve mastered one decent new trick. At 24 years old, they lasted nearly two hours. I wonder if the same is true of my little skater. ‘Cause if so, I’d be willing to blaze a flame to “Home Sweet Home” again on the Crüe’s summer sweep-up.


How the Other Half Lives

Brent loves Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. And I mean he really loves Tommy Lee. He has “mayhem” tattooed on his stomach just like Lee; in his house, he has a wall of Mötley Crüe CDs displayed in a glass case as if they were precious items in a museum. Brent loves Lee so much that when the drummer came over to redecorate Brent’s garage in his style (drums for a coffee table, red flames on the walls to induce visions of hell), Brent was so overcome with joy he nearly wept.

This touching moment took place on VH1’s foray into the home-decorating reality-TV show craze Rock the House; the premise is that a person’s favorite rock star comes over, and unbeknownst to the fan, decorates a room in a paean to, well, himself.

Rock the House is just one of many shows that focus on the transformative powers of decorating and interior design. Martha Stewart might stoke the creative fires of Connecticut housewives, but programs like TLC’s While You Were Out and Trading Spaces, MTV’s Cribs, and innumerable others stoke the average Americans’ heretofore unknown need to get in touch with their interior designer. What’s more surprising is that the people watching these shows are younger than you’d think. Michael Klein, While You Were Out‘s executive producer, says that his audience is between 18 and 34 years old. “For the younger demographic, it’s about personalizing space,” says Klein.

A home can say much about a person. We can tell from their books and their music collections what their interests are. We can see if they are messy or neat, if they are a minimalist or a pack rat, if they are a family person or a single swinger, if they like to cook or eat out, if they are a modernist or nostalgic in their style. We can glean these things from the furniture, the collectibles, the colors of the walls, the curtains, the cookbooks, the stuff strewn around the house. What does it mean, then, when people need a designer to tell them what they like?

The people featured on WYWO and Trading Spaces usually live in the suburbs, and have actual homes—as opposed to New Yorkers’ “cozy” closets—but don’t know what to do with them. Their furniture is mass-produced, their home entertainment centers are awful monstrosities, and their wall-to-wall carpets are hideous (like the sweet man on WYWO whose bedroom was engulfed by a cringe-inducing shade of forest green). While Klein says that the rooms on While You Were Out are “designed to be reflective of the owner’s personalities or desires,” the homeowners tend to be so indistinguishable they are almost interchangeable. They most certainly wouldn’t have thought of making a light fixture comprised of Gummi Bears like John Bruce, one of WYWO‘s designers, does in one episode. But we root for them just the same. We want to see their living room morphed from dull to fabulous the same way we like to see Cosmo makeovers of plain-looking women re-created as sirens. The transformation is beguiling, even if we never want to live in a room that looks like a French boudoir.

The popularity of TV shows dedicated to home decorating and interior design can be traced to the ’80s program Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Robin Leach’s posh nasal whine introduced sick levels of wealth and extravagance, but while we felt ill watching it, we couldn’t turn it off. The pools, the gilded toilet seats, the private screening rooms, the things one could never have, tortured us even as they elicited excitement. Cribs‘ playful take on the same idea—showing how the pop star, athlete, or celebrity lives—is equally voyeuristic, but we watch, not just to see how many fancy cars line their driveways, but also to see what kind of person they might be. Mariah Carey’s walk-in closet, with its rows and rows of color-coordinated clothes, leaves us wondering if she is a neatnik or if she simply hired one.

Sometimes money changes nothing. The stars who had bad taste before they hit the jackpot continue to have bad taste, except extravagantly so. Big bland couches are plopped in the middle of Carey’s living room like beached whales. The only thing that’s impressive is the sheer size of the ugliness. Carey’s trashy Vegas lounge doesn’t inspire as much as the room where she stashes the gym equipment. We feel a little comforted because it is like a gym room the rest of us might have. Unused and lonely.

This fascination with interior design is twofold. We want to see how the other half lives, but we’ve also become more interested in design itself. The beauty of objets d’art has seeped into mass consciousness. In Fight Club, Ed Norton’s character reminisces bitterly about his apartment furnished with IKEA furniture as the camera pans across the room, each crevice filled with a well-designed piece of particleboard from the Swedish retailer. “I had become a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct,” says Norton’s character. “I would flip and wonder, ‘What kind of dining room set defines me as a person?’ ” It is a joke that, had it been told a decade ago, would have been met with silence. Futurist Bruce Sterling complains in the interiors mag Dwell that well-designed pieces remain “trapped in the museum vitrine,” but some of the everyday products at Target are created by white-hot artists like Philippe Starck, Todd Oldham, and Michael Graves. And even though it still holds garbage, our Umbra trash can, designed by Karim Rashid, is no longer an eyesore.

Magazines dedicated to interior design seem to outnumber the plain old art magazines at the local newsstand, and they nearly overwhelm the music rag section. While old standbys like Martha Stewart Living concentrate on doilies for your grandma, magazines like Real Simple and Dwell also suggest that younger folks previously concerned with partying now have interiors on their minds. Ready Made, a quaint how-to mag from Berkeley, breaks down simple home-decorating tricks for the design impaired.

Indeed, much of the supposed appeal of While You Were Out and Trading Spaces is their how-to aspect. But for most people who watch and think, I’ll try that, the walls remain white, the mirror rests on the floor, and the artwork goes unhung. “It’s probably similar to somebody choosing a new wardrobe,” says John Bruce, the WYWO designer who made the Gummi Bear light fixture. “They want it to be an expression of themselves but they don’t know exactly what cuts or colors to try. It ultimately has to come from the person, but they often need somebody to put the stake in the ground and say, ‘Start here.’ ”

Nest, an artsy design mag, dispenses with the notion that we could ever do any of these things ourselves, or that we would want to. Its m.o. is purely Peeping Tom. The whorehouse featured in the latest issue is intriguing simply because of its function. The design is slutty yet quaint: Tacky floral prints on the bedspreads give the rooms a homey feel, but the mirrors surrounding the beds remind us of the rooms’ real purpose. We don’t want to live there, we don’t want our homes to look like that, but we want to know.

Nest also shows a house built totally underground in Las Vegas, with air-conditioned everything, replete with fake evergreen and palm trees surrounding a garden terrace. There’s even a controlled skyline where the sun sets and rises at will. Forget it. We will never have it. But we can revel in it.