Unlike Lester Bangs, Nick Tosches has managed to shake off his label of "rock critic" over the years, in the eyes of the public becoming a writer first and foremost. Here, though, he reconnects with the Beat Generation tradition of poetry reading accompanied by music. Fuck the Living Fuck the Dead documents a performance at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris on March 24, 2001. Tosches' tone of voice, cynical attitude, and constant lighter-flicking (clearly audible) to light up cigarette after cigarette create a blend of Beat and countercultural atmospheres. His slow pace lets listeners catch every word (something the French audience must have appreciated) and his tone is suited for storytelling. The poems and prose that have the most impact are those that don't feature music. Catherine McRae's violin is too languid, too overtly melancholic to be taken seriously. Luckily, she appears on only a handful of tracks. Frank Funaro's light percussion work contributes more subtly to the words' drama, but again his playing is dispensable, as Tosches' reflections on beauty, love, philosophy, and God ("A Cigarette with God" being the set's highlight) don't require musical embellishment. For the concluding "Wild Leaves," the writer invites singer Patti Smith and her guitarist Oliver Ray on-stage. Smith has a hard time finding the right note to start the song, but after an embarrassing minute of uncertainty, the song takes off and the blend of Smith's vocals, Tosches' reading, and McRae's plaintive violin gels very nicely. The generous booklet reproduces Tosches' texts, alongside French translations.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture
feat: Patti Smith