Sophisticated Whoppers


Last month my neighborhood Burger King underwent a cosmopolitan rhytidectomy, in accordance with mandates to transform such troughs into elegant gastronomy. McDonald’s has emerged in recent years from an extended postpsychedelic adolescence to embrace the Library of Alexandria aesthetic, while Jack in the Box, under direct orders from draconian CEO “Jack,” has jettisoned its staple blues and reds for a soothing Humidor Autumn. The desired effect, according to corporate literature, is contemplative chi, as opposed to “Holy God, this Applewood Bacon Cheese Fist is wrapping itself around my heart.”

Having never patronized a chic Burger King, I decided this morning to have it my way. On foot I passed the phantom of its children’s playset — the industry no longer caters to plebes. In its place stood a scale replica of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon complete with tanzanite wall, over which flowed a talkative Chianti stream. Occupying its drive-thru lane were sleek fleets of Google cars activated by smartphone apps. Four impeccably attired valets monitored the parking lot, sending any vehicle older than 2008 to a “VIP lane” seven blocks away.

The building’s exterior could best be described as futuristic neoclassical. Its sanctum, inspired by the parlor in Don and Betty Draper’s Ossining home, wallows resplendent in oaks and comfortable beiges. Posted advertisements no longer boast of “flame-broiled” or “flame-grilled” meats; they’re now “artisan-crowdsourced.” Six overhead flatscreens broadcast “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” with a corner space nearby to discuss the film with the shift manager, a former Harper’s editor-at-large. Wafting through the restaurant: Herb Alpert’s “Fandango,” on 180-gram vinyl.

I immediately recognized my counter garcon’s uniform as Yves St. Laurent. “Yes,” she confirmed. “They outfit us all.” “But what about grease stains?” I asked. “Those,” she said, “are flown in from Vienna.” She then apologized for the store’s wine steward, whose flight was delayed in Milan. “That’s fine,” I replied, and ordered the venison curly fries with a 32-ounce growler to go.

Because of the restaurant’s new decibel regulation, I saw only one other “broseph,” as BK calls us nonemployees: an older gentleman pecking at a laptop while seducing a mimosa. Sans prompt, he told me, “It’s a Dogme-esque novel about a man who’s smarter than everyone else but is too humble to share his rare gift, so he hangs out at Burger King, tormented in self-imposed silence, until a beautiful cashier who recognizes his shyness as intellectual superiority offers him her soul. I liken its tone to a Ferrari 458 speeding recklessly past the intersection of Huxley and Terry Southern, and crashing into an abandoned storefront that once sold steampunk fetish wear.”

Alas, I left before the BK book club convened in the alcove, but I’ll be back for the Appalachian dulcimer jam this evening. If you’re not too busy with the Taco Bell barrel tour, feel free to bro by. Bring your Konghou — and plenty of antacids.


The Righteous Brothers: Mysti-Bliss at 2:55

Reportedly, Phil Spector, his hand-picked marksmen, and the two Righteous Brothers hammered through “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” from August to November 1964, and you know who was alive then? Not me.

I tried to coax some context from my parents, lowly adolescents at the time, albeit to no avail. They were woefully unaware in their microcosmic dioramas that Heartbreak History was going down in Los Angeles as summer tripped toward fall, which then slid into blizzards of promenades where they and other agog-orbed everybodies heard this song for the very first time, the paint still fresh and sweet. (I cursed their luck as I begrudgingly twirled partners to the pizza-box whimper of Bon Jovi, whose “I’ll Be There for You” nevertheless crowds my senses with the nectar of Doublemint gum, Aqua Net, and post-clutch expectations.)

My first “Lovin’” rush came through the pocket-comb prism of Hall & Oates, soaped down and hollowed out, a Xerox of a Xerox of pale-faced blue-eyed soul. A few years later it tumbled into the mitts of Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, et al; their “Top Gun” barroom mayhem inspired scores of off-key parrots shit-deep in cheap beer and Cupid-drunk on cheaper love. Does no one respect the classics?

O’ to’ve been a stealth intruder during Spector’s grandiose construction. To have witnessed the impatient Bobby Hatfield, the Brothers’ honey-toned half, demanding to know what he was supposed to do while partner Bill Medley sopped up all the tape, only to have Spector, that bargain-carpeted pipsqueak custom-fitted over a tyrant scumbag, allegedly riposte, “You can go straight to the fuckin’ bank.”

Phil was sure an asshole, but he was an asshole with ears. His techniques and omniscience were once beyond reproach. After all, the dude had been moving units with alarming ease since he was a 19-year-old nobody leading his Teddy Bears to No. 1 (“To Know Him Is to Love Him,” 1958).

And he was right about “Lovin’” too: Hatfield is strictly support for the first two minutes — a chorus-bolster — then his tenor breaks free at exactly the right moment, when his Brother can no longer carry the burden alone. “Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you,” Medley sighs, weary, lonesome, defeated. Into the breach steps Hatfield with the save: “If you would only love me / like you used to do,” pleaded with every last-ditch pine a pain can articulate. Spector’s Wall of Sound surge falls back to a light pulse and lets the duo do its thing.

The song plays well to both men’s strengths: Bill could testify, Bobby could beg. Who the hell with a heartbeat could resist such a combo of honest regret? When the two then rise in a back-and-forth call/response —“baby” to “baby,” “please” to “please,” trading “I need your loves” and “bring it on backs” — it’s just not fair.

But that’s not even the best part, oh, no. Spector & Co. reserve the goosebump payload for the 2-minute, 55-minute mark, after the voices have spent themselves and left an open gasp for a downpour of strings and a crash of drums, an airborne soul touching terra firma following a hopeful glance that became a yes that became a freeze-frame kiss. The same DNA comprised “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and any number of play-’em-agains bearing crescendos that carried crushes through many a suburban daydream. It was a Spector specialty, that heavy, narcotic pain, creating a lovelorn beauty unachievable in life, the musical embodiment of teenaged yearning. If only she could see me. If only she ever knew. If only I could ever express myself, she’d see that it was true.

The Righteous Brothers at 2:55 is that moment: a cocktail of heartache and hope. Bring back that lovin’ feelin’. It still hurts even now, despite the fact that I know it’s coming, as I’ve known since the song and I first became acquainted, back when I pretended sentiment was beneath me. I saw every girl then. I’ve seen every girl since. That tiny sonic hiccup and they’re all fucking there, a cruel parade of vanished futures. And then they’re gone, gone, gone. Dust, glimpses, ghosts.

Songs like this don’t grow old. They age with you, their import intact. You can hear them ’til they’re empty — examine their structures, plumb their mysteries, dismiss their formulas — but when you set them loose, they find you. They hit you where you’ve always lived.

As heard on The Essential Phil Spector (2011)

Those Damn Kids Today


There are many accusations leveled at the young people of today. One hears older people referring to the careless, lazy, altogether good for nothing young men of today and to the silly, shallow, excitement seeking young women. They say that modesty and courtesy are absolutely extinct; that the younger generation is extravagant, selfish, and irresponsible; that the object of their dancing is to accomplish the maximum of motion in the minimum of space; that fads are more contagious and dress more erratic than ever before.

Before answering these statements let us consider that generalizing term, “they.” This is an age of standardization in which everything must be condensed and labeled; but the young people of today cannot be standardized, as many older people are attempting to standardize them. It is not fair to any mass of people as large and varied as that characterized as “the younger generation” to judge and condemn it by a few of its number.

If the people who criticize the youth so broadly could see it in the classroom, they would realize that these young people are efficient, that they really observe and think, and above everything else, they are capable to take care of themselves. These boys and girls are looking ahead always; never backwards. They are on their way to character, not made by an immovable groove of traits and habits.

Again, who are the admired ones in the high school? Inevitably the upstanding athlete wearing the school letter, or the boy or girl who has won recognition through the writing of an article or the winning of a contest. The younger generation’s judgments are not all unbalanced.

Bear in mind that these young people are born in full possession and realization of the telephone, radio, motor car, airplane, moving picture, and any number of equally important modern inventions. Where their parents felt reckless driving behind a fast horse at fifteen miles an hour, the modern youth has the automobile and possibility of fifty to seventy-five miles an hour. The cases are essentially alike. These same parents traveled as fast as they could and enjoyed themselves as much as possible when they were young, and there is no question but that their fathers and mothers worried over them as much as do present day fathers and mothers. Today’s younger generation is doing exactly the same thing, the difference being that they have more to do it with. The youth of today is fundamentally fine and true, with an immense power for good that will someday rule the nations of the world as successfully as they have been ruled for the past centuries.

Author unknown
From the Albany (OR) High School Whirlwind, June 1924

F!: An Exclusive Interview

Cory Frye stands behind a -- well, he was here a second ago.

In a multimedia press conference earlier this week, author/rake/journalist Cory Frye announced his retirement from writing, calling it a “prehistoric means of expression.”

With that change came his decision to condense his full birth name, Cory Justin Frye, into the letter “F” and an exclamation point. “I felt it was necessary to make a clean break from my shameful past as a scribe making an honest living,” he told the New York Times. “‘Cory Frye,’ as prolific as that name has been, was a necessary casualty.” F! is now pursuing his latest obsession, the “Culture of the Moment.”

We recently caught up with the former Cory Frye to discuss this abrupt re-brand.

So what comprises this “Culture of the Moment”?

Nothing. The Culture of the Moment is momentary. It’s already passed. Who cares, honestly. Adieu to that ancient rubbish. I do not watch the news, read books or blogs, or listen to music, for uttered phrases and freshly struck notes or characters are nothing but apprentice artifacts, preludes to the distant past. Even the real-time chasm between a page or a speaker and my much-coveted attention is a distance I can no longer abide. Live performance is nostalgic necrophilia, and I vomit upon its tragicomic decrepitude. I live solely for the present and the future. Now I live solely for a more urgent present and a closer future.

So are you disowning your past work?

I will not discuss my previous work. I have pissed upon it all. It’s the puerile yelp of a jackanape.

Well, but some of it is quite good. For instance, your 1999 art film, Man Drinks Coke, Does Not Die, is considered a cornerstone of pretentious independent cinema.

The 1999 Cory Frye was a potato-faced Luddite. He had no cell phone. He did not text. He enjoyed recorded music. He read books, wrote words, completed sentences. He did not tweet. He did not have a Gmail account. He made films using film, for Christ’s sake. He was backward in every respect, and I have thrust a poisoned dagger through his Neanderthal obsolescence. I will speak of him no more.

At what point did Cory Frye become F!?

I have been F! since birth. My parents meant well, but they did not understand. They wept like snot-webbed bitches when I informed them privately at the age of three that I was not to be addressed as Cory, Cory Justin, or Cory Justin Frye, that I was finished deferring to oppressive customs. I could not in good conscience acknowledge that slavish form of address. Of course, I played along at school and at work, out of a sense of convention, but now I am wholly, completely — and publicly — F!

I selected the majuscule because I find lower-case displays so boorish and self-consciously modest: “Oooo, I’m not more important than you, but I’m different anyway!” I have to laugh at poor danah boyd; does she not realize how tiny she seems, how easily she’s lost in a wild brush of sentences? The “F” helped me stand apart while also establishing my masculinity, which I stamped with an exclamation point. It is a statement of dominance, confidence, and dynamism. danah could learn much from my colleague “Wh–” — her em dash neatly gives pause. So jarring, so abrupt. So mysterious.

Cory Justin Frye was a 20th century albatross. Once free of its shackles, I was able to pursue my art.

What is your art, exactly?

You’re sitting in it.

The couch?

Not the couch, you salamander-menstruation. Incidentally, I purchased that couch for your comfort, as F! cannot sit, for F! is forever in forward motion. Which is why he is on foot during this interview and moving away from the reach of your recording device.

(shouting) This begs the question: If you’re so dismissive of recording as promotion of the past or — as you called it in OK! magazine — the “amplification of dinosaurs,” why did you consent to be recorded for this interview?

(louder) Hello?

You still in here?

(sounds of grumbling, sprinting, panting, doors opening, birds chirping, cars passing. F! is located; the question is repeated)

F! is sympathetic to your creative limitations and deficiencies. You are a word serf confined to print and digital, exhibiting static syllabic cadavers to deviants — “readers,” you call them. Therefore, you require an accurate transcript of my raw brilliance.

Personally, I would never record myself now. I’m contemptuous of words once they’ve passed my lips. I feel them fester as they tumble from cerebrum to tongue, bless their suicidal hearts.

Just out of curiosity, how would F! conduct an interview?

For a start, F! need not interview anyone but F! And F! would simply shout into the wind and let the exuberance of his words come back to him, then drain into the valley below.

Earlier I asked you to explain your art. You replied, “You’re sitting in it.” Care to elaborate?

I cannot elaborate, for your question is now a relic. To answer would be to dwell in the past.

I think you’re being evasive.

Art is evasion.

That’s a pat answer.

Art is a pat answer.

No, it’s not.

Art is negative and argumentative.

Now you’re being a pseudo-clever prick.

Art is the vessel of pseudo-clever pricks.

And now you’re just mocking me.

Pish-posh. I am transforming your banal observations into something more sublime. You’ve supplied the basic strokes; I am taking those strokes and expanding them into an auditory Matisse that would have fetched $20 million in auction. Connoisseurs would hail it as three-dimensional post-millennial vaudeville, praising my ability to wring divinity from your wretched mediocrity. However, I have let the moment pass without exploiting your handicap for profit. I am an artist. I piss on my genius with genius.

Will this “Culture of the Moment” produce anything lasting?

Culture of the what?

“Culture of the Moment.” It’s your new religion, remember?

Since when?

You announced it Tuesday.

Can’t be bothered with Tuesday. F! has moved on.

So what’s F! moved on to?


Review: Billy Joel, “The Hits”

Billy Joel
The Hits

Nov. 16, 2010

In “I Go to Extremes,” a sorta grown-up “You May Be Right” and his last real track of significance, Billy Joel proclaimed, “I feel like I’m in the prime of my life.” But it wasn’t true: he was about to say goodbye. Just four years later he sounded drained, dispirited, admitting to fatigue on “The River of Dreams.” “I’m tired,” he sighed over a gospel-glazed doo-wop lope dragged through Paul Simon’s Graceland, “and I don’t want to walk anymore.”

That was back in ’93, and we’ve heard nary a pop peep since. At some point he’d become disillusioned with the whole damn milieu. Stripped of a stream of music to slag, the press, never exactly sympathetic, began picking at the tawdry morsels of his life. His only real new recording has been the 2001 classical excursion Fantasies & Delusions, a double-whammy of whim indulgence and fuck-you to the machine. Everything else has been a calculated run of hits jobs, the latest of which, er, The Hits, launches a 40-year-anniversary reissue campaign of the Joel repertoire, fattened with the usual non-LP singles and vault effluvia.

For an artist whose output over the last 20 years could barely congest a baby, is yet another retrospective necessary? To an ailing music industry, the answer is yes. Why not give a man of Joel’s stature one last bells-and-whistles parade before dispatching it all as vapor to The Cloud? For the rest of us living in an accelerated culture, where even nostalgia’s a passing blur, the answer is, “What was the question again?”

The Hits is your basic, damn-near automated tour of the Joel mausoleum. It democratically culls up to two tracks apiece from each record, which makes it, of course, woefully undernourished. Joel hit a prodigious groove in the late ’70s that carried him through the ’80s with multiple charting singles on every release. So for every “Only the Good Die Young,” there’s no “Just the Way You Are” or “She’s Always a Woman.” “Tell Her About It” represents the smash-addled An Innocent Man (1983), but “Uptown Girl” didn’t make the cut. That a package called The Hits would be missing one of Joel’s biggest — only “Tell Her…,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” charted higher, all at #1 — calls into question said title’s veracity.

But nitpicked chestnuts ain’t Billy’s problem. He chucked that jive years ago; all that’s left is routine canon maintenance for sales bumps. Out come the ancient Polaroids of the young saloon key-slinger with Dylan-esque dreams, a last-call troubadour who turned his piano around to comment on the sad-souled rummies searching for shelter in familiar songs. “Everybody Loves You Now” (not a hit) and “The Entertainer” spoke to the pitfalls of fame, one the pianist had yet to experience on a level he’d one day know too well, thanks in part to the Top 40 “Piano Man” in 1973. Part anthem, part albatross, it was an earnest plod of piano and harmonica, two of the loneliest weapons known to man.

He graduated to “The Entertainer” the following year, a Billboard interloper with the wherewithal to execute the ambition of his wildest hair. Pianos shared space with prog-rock whimsy — kitchen-sink sonics, anything to be heard. The plaintive serenades were now delivered by a wary icon. “But I know the game, they’ll forget my name,” he sighed, “and I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts.” He’d unwittingly become a character in one of his own tales; everybody loves you now, for real.

Billy Joel’s was a pugilist’s spirit, a necessary defense for someone whose heart bled in buckets. Critics waxed their knuckles on his schmaltz, stabbed his discography with indifference. His nostalgia stuck in their tastemaker craw, no matter how he dressed it in contemporary threads. There was no ignoring the greaser libido panting through “Only the Good Die Young’s” verbal swerves toward honeypot paydirt (Catholic girls, those challenging figures responsible for 86 percent of pop’s hormonal ache) and a randy sax solo whisked in via Studebaker from a ’61-model senior prom. Beatles-esque harmonies descended into the otherwise Me Generation-friendly “My Life,” and “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” rode Phil Spector’s “Be My Baby” thump so hard it resurrected the Ronettes as a droop-lidded white boy from the Bronx. For anyone questioning his sentimental fusion of the hoary and new, Billy had a ready response: “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” complete with rockabilly strut and more of that Sockhop Sax.

He’d plenty more in stock too. An Innocent Man marked the perfection of the formula, adeptly melding scrapbook rhythms to early-middle-age scenarios. “The Longest Time” combined the moonlit kiss of street-corner doo-wop with the flush of a brand new, yet firmly adult love. “Tell Her About It” painted in tones of whitewashed Motown, and “Uptown Girl” — poor, absent “Uptown Girl” — was the perfect Frankie Valli vehicle with a true-life storyline torn from a Four Seasons song: untouchable socialite takes up with a neighborhood runt. That the reality couldn’t match the up-tempo ebullience was indicative of the Valli after-effect: Did love as gushed in teenage declarations ever survive the cosmic three-minute mark? Sometimes they veered into confusion and doubt, as voiced in “A Matter of Trust,” which was driven not by keys but by the toothsome charge of longtime Joel guitarist Russell Javors.

Billy’s wistfulness, nostalgia, and fear eventually gelled into the runaway ’89 smash, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” a sing-song time capsule condensing four decades into five minutes of Baby Boomer helplessness. His was a generation of cultural spectators, observing Chubby Checker and Beatlemania giving way to Reagan, AIDS, and crack cocaine. We’ve sunk deeper in the 20 years since, but Billy now prefers to grouse in everyday language. “This country’s going to hell in a handcart,” he harrumphed in 2008. “This country’s been hijacked.” True, it lacks the zest of “Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law / Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore,” but the sentiment’s about the same.

But those days are long behind us in our journey with Billy Joel. All we have left are ivory ghosts, strategically resuscitated every few years to move units, maybe add another wing to the bunker or keep the bloodsuckers fed. Meanwhile, the Piano Man is content to deliver comfort food to priced-out arenas of sad-eyed souls. With its patched-together sequence of rancid leftovers, The Hits reminds us not of Billy Joel’s everlasting artistry, but of a career that stalled, leaving what the Bronx Bard himself would call the cold remains of what began with a passionate start.

Cory Frye Is Not 37

The author at the height of relevance.

The title was a joke last year, ’cause I was 37 when I wrote this. Alas, boo hoo, the joke’s on me. Last week the punchline became the truth. Forever. Adios, 37. Off it went to that chronology morgue where most of my 30s lie in silence, never to return. Thirty-eight, man. Sounds violent. Yegads. Can’t sell the mid-30s bob-and-weave no more; I’ve parachuted quite firmly into “late.” And what’s that dashing glimmer in the foyer? Why, it’s the mythical 40, martini in weathered mitts, dignity clinging in crusted clumps to a deteriorating frame, and I’m summoning the courage to twirl it ’round the ballroom in a tango bittersweet.

So what have I learned from this aging process? Well, first of all, I don’t mind getting older. Sure beats the alternative, wakka wakka. Seriously, though, there’s some truth to that quip. Silly kids think “old” is an epithet. That it cuts you to the quick (well…). Someday they’ll realize it’s a privilege. In fact, it’s a pleasure. It’s a pleasure to behold my graying form, with its endearingly vacant puss, its ever-present smirk, and those laugh lines tunneling from eyes that have catalogued nearly four decades and are as brown as they’ve always been. I love these pepper tines sprouting from my chin and spilling bravely from my scalp. Brother, they’re mine and I’ve earned ’em. With this package — the face, the life, the accumulated experience — why would I ever wanna leap back to 22? Fuck that anguish.

My 30s, which I once dreaded, turned out to be a gift. They came with a minor chemical miracle in which I ceased giving a shit. Was I listening to the right music? Was I saying the wrong things? Was I successfully charming that girl at the record store without appearing transparently self-conscious? After 29, the answer was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzznx.

Of course, once you’ve scaled these hoary heights, you must surrender certain things. After all, you’re at an age where 20-year-olds regard you with mild, impatient irritation (get in the fuckin’ box, Methuselah!) and you probably don’t even register to the average teen. New Rules come into play. I believe it was the comedian Greg Behrendt who observed that if you wear a Phil Collins T-shirt at 20, you’re making a clever statement of irony. If you wear it at 40, you’re a fan. You’re too old to get away with irony.

Yes, certain sartorial preferences will soon be verboten. I’ve learned to make peace with the fact that tees and jeans, my standard armor since who knows when, are gonna look ridiculous one day. So I’m sculpting my torso into something that may appeal in sensible dress slacks. Then my hair — dear, sweet Christ in an Ogilvie home perm. It was fine back when Mudhoney and L7 had major-label deals. But now: shave to the neckline, prune to the ears, keep the rest the length of tinseled pencil-points. And no more prowling parking lots for random empty sex. But perhaps I’ve said too much.

Remember earlier when I claimed I’d never wanna leap back to 22? At the time, it was true. Now it’s not. Well, now it’s true again. Anyway, sometimes I do envy youth. That confidence. That arrogance. That swagger and VOLUME. Part of me wants to shout in protest, “I was just you!” But I wasn’t just you. My “just” is a sizable chunk of your lifetime. A decade to you is the distance between elementary school and college. To me it’s a weekend.

I do struggle with ageism — the stereotype that cuts both ways — and I don’t always succeed. Sorry, but I’m bound to think that most of your bands are derivative pussies and that all your heroes are fake, not like mine in the Days of Brilliance, when shit was Real. Occasionally, I’ll assume that the way you dress is a failed but adorable attempt to express your individuality. I may even mock your Mohawk as the sad retro ghost of rebellion. I’ll conveniently forget my own awkward juvenile crimes, oblivious to the likelihood that I’ll someday regard my current perspective as naïve. So I apologize in advance for my quiet disdain. It’s part of my nature as a curmudgeon. It may become part of yours, too, even if you swear to God it won’t.

But it’s all part of the journey. That’s another thing I’ve learned: There’s no such thing as a “grown-up.” You should always be a work in progress, learning, evolving, and ending your blog posts in mawkish sputter because it’s nearly midnight and your ancient mind’s become sentimental mush. Live long, sleep well, stay warm and upright. Most of all, enjoy the age you are and embrace the ones you’ll be.

Review: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network”

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
The Social Network

(The Null Corporation)
Sept. 28, 2010

A while back, to my extended-postadolescent horror, I awakened a long-stilled jones for video games. Luckily, I brained it comatose before it ran amok, but I was nonetheless unnerved by this momentary slip of composure.

The object of my obsession was The Sims, purchased in an impetuous fit. I was fused to my living room floor for 27 hours straight. Life did not, would not intervene.

When I finally stirred from my stupor, I was surrounded by corpses of breakfasts and snacks ravaged in delirium and only vaguely recalled. My cell phone bled increasingly frantic missives from the outside world. Weariness stung my eyes, tattooed ’em in throbbing gray. My limbs were numb; I rose only with agonized determination. Somehow I’d leapt from afternoon to afternoon with no clear memory of the trip. And I’d done all this, this nothing, while clothing, feeding, and maintaining a nonexistent doppelganger at the expense of my own social gratification. I stumbled bed-ward in a muddled buzz, where my dreams were pounded by godless chaos.

These visions returned with clarity as I listened to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score for The Social Network, a calculated excoriation or clear-eyed appraisal — whatever your hot-blooded bias — of wunderkind Mark Zuckerberg and the rise of the almighty Facebook. As I’ve yet to see the film, I’ll reserve my judgment on that front. But, sneak peek, motherfuckers: I’m a fan of both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin (I’m saint enough to admire Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as an interesting if bewilderingly inconsistent fumble), so I might refrain from accusing them of purposely undermining our Tech Utopia of Milk & Cookies on Hollywood’s wheezy behalf.

The Social Network’s a tough listen; at over an hour, it could be difficult to endure in one sitting. But considering its subject — the hurricane angst of a man-child uncomfortable in situations that can’t be controlled by programmable code — that’s to its credit. It’s a frigid enterprise, hypnotic and distant, with belligerent bursts of sustained magnificence.

The compositions hum with what seems like the entire history of electronics, from crude burps to effervescent burbles (“Intriguing Possibilities,” “Complication with Optimistic Outcome”). They tangle ruthlessly with more conventional instruments — the ongoing struggle between digital and analog — in a bid for sonic prominence. Pianos tremble cold and lonely, their trepidation pursued by an ever-present synthesized dread. Guitars squall and lurch from horizon beds of clinging tar. Beats are stripped to their motherboards or devoured in aggressive data streams (“3:14 Every Night”). Tracks like “Painted Sun in Abstract” are constructed as if to observe civilization from a comfortable distance: the passage of time, the changing of seasons, the living of lives. The only acknowledgment of humanity arrives in “Eventually We Find Our Way” as faint transmissions from another room — or maybe another realm, a vanished fantasy of the Used to Be. A treatment of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (alas, online or off, there’s no escape from trolls) winks at Wendy Carlos’ wired-in classical reinterpretations for A Clockwork Orange (1971), but this electronic calliope, its structure held unsteadily by strings, eventually spins loose from its axis into manic, breathless hysteria.

The Social Network stands as a natural progression from Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV (2008) — a few of its tracks are even careful reworkings or good-humored links (“A Familiar Taste”) — while serving to augment a completely different vision. And if the music’s this spellbinding without the visual stimuli, imagine how devastatingly revelatory it is against the palette of a shared epic darkness.