13 October 2004

OMG. george w. bush has a bit of froth accumulating in the right corner of his mouth. AND I CAN'T STOP FIXATING ON IT.

29 September 2004

so, yeah, smile is out in record stores, thirty-seven years after its conception. but william shatner can top that -- it's taken him THIRTY-SIX YEARS to record his sophomore album. well, maybe it doesn't top that, but it does beat my bloody valentine, guns & roses, and the stone roses combined.

"that's me trying" was penned by the unusual writing team of nick hornby and ben folds, with aimee mann on backing vocals b/c, when you hear the song, if you hear the song, you'll realize that this is exactly the sort of thing she does. i'm not a big fan, or, indeed, a fan at all, of either of the musicians involved: indeed, out of the three here who have recording contracts, my favorite recording is "mr. tambourine man." so, of course, the cynical reaction is to think that this will be some unholy synthesis of about a boy, "brick," and the magnolia ost and that's even without accounting for shatner. a few minutes in, mildly enjoying the track i mentally composed a short review: "wow, this song really makes me wish i had a child i'd abandoned just so i could try to make up with her."

but, holy shit, out of nowhere, this thing moved me. it's like david ackles' "down river," except about a kid, about a girl (quiet -- i'm trying to be serious). basically, it comes down to shatner as actor and the listener's ability to believe him. perhaps it's just me, and i apologize mr. shatner, but i can see shatner as deadbeat dad easier than i can see shatner as jarvis cocker (which is another song, and another story.) sample lyric:

how about this: let's choose a book and we'll read it before we meet,
then we can sit down at a restaurant, have a look at the menu, and talk about it while we eat.

see ... if we never had a problem, then that's what life would be like.

he speaks, he doesn't sing, this is shatner being shatner, not being richard harris; shatner as personality, shatner as pitchman -- but more than that, this is shatner the pitchman in the service of shatner, the man, a man who has know pain: the record draws a remarkably thin line between the two. the latter subsumes the former by song's close. in one of the bigger musical surprises of 2004, even more so than the cover of "common people," "that's me trying" does something that never entered my mind prior to hitting play: it makes me feel.

28 September 2004

u2, "vertigo." having saved their career, bono is now free to save the world. if "vertigo" is any indication, how to dismantle an atomic bomb will be a laid-back affair, to its predecessor as rattle & hum was to joshua tree: htdaab will be the concert album, only without the concert, if that makes any sense. only, one can hope that it won't be the zooropa to achtung baby. (an aside: as much a beating as zooropa takes, "the first time" and "stay" are two of my more favorite u2 songs.)

as for "vertigo" itself, it's fun, though one would like to hear what the earlier, fire-breathing incarnation of u2 would have made of it ... until one recalls that said version of u2 was anything but fun, and so the looseness and the playfulness, typified by the interjections of spanish, would be out the window (i mean, could you imagine a young bono skipping from three to fourteen in his count-in?) still, the band knows what we're looking for, and bono is smart enough to throw in the grace note of "feel," and then "kneel." in short, i am optimistic.

preliminary thoughts on nancy sinatra: the best song i've heard is, and typical in these all-star affairs, written by a couple of nobodies and nancy's kid, called "bossman" (the song, not her kid, though if she wanted to heaven knows i wouldn't stop her.) the most memorable, mostly for bad reasons, is thurston moore's "momma's boy." creepy early 80s soniks, but the rest is garbage and not even intimations of oedipal-lovin' can save it.

oh, and jarvis cocker's "don't let him waste your time," with nancy as agony aunt, may ultimately end up being the best track on the album. bono & the edge's contribution makes me less optimistic about their own album: the title, "two shots of happy, one shot of sad," is so bad that even michael buble would think twice. lastly, if morrissey were a true friend, he would've suggested that nancy cover timi yuro's "interlude," something he and siouxsie sioux did to grand effect, instead of throwing her the dog from his own most recent album.

27 September 2004

oh my God. what i'm suggesting sounds like a livejournal, doesn't it? only without the pictures and the angst. well, most of the angst. i am somewhat angsty. after all, i just turned 27. tick tick tick ...

26 September 2004

that, indeed, what i want to do here is to do this for me. i've always had this notion that there is this "audience" out there, composed of i don't know whom -- well, maybe not, i can always guess a few of you who are around to poke the corpse with a stick. does that sound terrible? it does, doesn't it. i don't mean it that way at all: in fact, i love youze guys -- and if there are girls among you, i love you MORE. despite the fact that i don't ever do anything to see how you all are doing. i do think about you and the thoughts are always quite fond and tender.

so, with all those beautiful sentiments related, what i'm saying is that i don't care if people are reading this. i don't can if people AREN'T. what my new formulation is for 'vain, selfish & lazy' is exactly that: vain, selfish & lazy. well, perhaps less of the "lazy." so, no more lists. no more countdowns. but more unfinished fragments. HOORAY.

or should that be "boo"?
i think part of the problem is this compulsive belief that everything i post on here be definitive. i'd much rather use this as a honest-to-goodness journal (i can't bring myself to say the b-word anymore, despite the fact that vs&l is powered by it; it's a word that's not meant to be said, in my estimation at least, and recently all anyone anywhere can do IS say it) instead of as a platform for honest-to-goodness polished pieces.

all right.

so people are watching this space. how WEIRD!

i wish i could think of a way to make this seem less like a burden, like something that needs to maintained, and that it needs to be maintained in a very particular way. perhaps i could sneak in posts while i'm in office hours at school. is that reckless and/or irresponsible?

if anyone is interested, i'm looking at my winamp and these are the artists currently populating it: the chameleons; television personalities; jacques dutronc; blood, sweat, and tears; the bluebells; comsat angels; and eminem's new single.

08 September 2004

holy shit!


sean hannity used sleeper's "what do i do now?" as bumper music on his show. WHAT?!

just don't ask me how i now.

wow, i'm really glad no one will read this.

22 April 2004

11. shy (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
one of the things i've always found difficult to locate within prince's work is the influence of joni mitchell. he's mentioned it ininterviews, he's quoted her in songs ("dorothy parker"), as of late, he's covered her ("case of you" on one nite alone.)

"sometimes it snows in april" could be joni-influenced; it could just be a man with a guitar, like any other singer/songwriter of the 70s. something about "shy," though, from the overlooked gold experience seems to just shout "joni," though it's more like a wordless cry. i can't quite capture it in words: maybe it's there in the vocals, the way he scales octaves; maybe it's in the lyrics, an elusive account of a sexually-charged encounter. mostly, though, i think it exists in the guitar playing, in the numerous textures he elicits from his guitar, layering, juxtaposing. it brings to hejira to mind; it's a song i wish he'd reclaim and a reminder to all the young'uns that influence need not always manifest itself in slavish recreations.
late last week, i received e-mail from a gentleman wishing to inform me of the existence of his band jackdaw. as a slogan "brick-throwing celtic rock" isn't quite as intense as "face-pounding rock from dallas, texas," but few things are. (where have you johnny solinger?) i've received these before, but i'll discuss this one since, even if you received one, they were nice enough to personalize it with my name, unlike so many others. (and, besides, i like the idea that i'm an influential tastemaker -- oh, the places flattery will take you!)

he described the band's music as "the pogues filtered through the american working class experience." okay, good start, i like the pogues. [...] but then i think about that statement a little: yeah, i do like the pogues, but i don't really care for the brawling, distempered numbers, where the use of traditional instruments can't help but evoke images of darby o'gill & the little people, no matter how pissed (in both the us & uk sense) shane manages to sound. instead, i like the tracks that can only work because of these songs, the ones that counter the belligerent side of shane, the hard rock with the heart of gold numbers like "rainy night in soho," "fairytale of new york," and "misty morning, albert bridge."

b-but i like the waterboys! they're irish, right? (sort of?) make use of traditional instrumentation. but even here, i only really care for the lush songs, "whole of the moon," "this is the sea," the ones that are as immense as mike scott's dreams.

all that said, i think that if one does enjoy the pogues, i think he or she will like jackdaw. it seems as if they have a rather substantial following as it stands, whose advice guided me through my listenings (i'd recommend "broken cans" from armed and legged). i admire the decision to make their own way professionally; that they've generated such a following should attest to their ability. i wish them the best of luck, while adding that there's nothing wrong with adding a string section, when budgets allow of course.

find out for yourself.

21 April 2004

10. ripopgodazippa (from crystal ball compilation (disc 1), 1998, recorded in 1994)
earlier i had said that prince has had difficulties with reggae: if this were his sole representation of the genre, such a statement would be difficult to make. unlike "the sun, the moon, and stars," which i'll get too soon, prince doesn't attempt to toast on "ripopgodazippa." rather, his approach is laidback and relaxed, content to let the groove do much of the work, while he focuses on the finer things, so to speak. (trainspotters will doubtlessly recall "ripopgodazippa" was used, along with the gold experience's "319," in showgirls.)
some might disagree, but apparently blogger thinks i'm "active" enough to qualify for a free g-mail account: take advantage of it, if you haven't already.

as for actually making myself active, here's a new songs to download & sing, or: the "mix tape" playlist on my ipod. i suppose i can talk about the ipod eventually; later, i'll continue the prince comments; and i also eventually want to write about bobby darin & dion at length. semester ends in two weeks, but until then...
fiery furnaces, "chris michaels"
joy zipper, "baby you should know"
prince, "on the couch"
the vines, "winning days"
adem, "these are your friends"
pixies, "debaser" (live, 04.13.04)
the roots, "don't say nuthin'"
tv on the radio, "the wrong way"
ghostface, "save me dear"
sufjan stevens, "in the devil's territory"

16 April 2004

9. chaos & disorder (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
at one time, i knew the song whose live extended jam became "chaos & disorder," the song; goes to show how disconnected i've become from my former fanatic self. like a pete rock or dj premier, prince, in his prime, could toss off bonus beats (or riffs) that could form the core of a lesser artist's canon. perhaps a sign of the times (sorry), then, that prince resorted to re-using that riff for "chaos & disorder." i can't blame him: it's a great one, and the song itself is a nice "dance to the music"/"the jam" introduction of the band number, with prince's most clever use of samples ever.

btu perhaps the second-handedness of the song was a jab at warners and a wink to his fan, letting both know that this was contractual filler. among the dross to be found on chaos & disorder were two jewels -- a sign that, even when he wasn't trying, he could still come up with something quite potent: a surprise to fan and, quite possible, artist alike.

13 April 2004

oh, while i'm talking about prince, a friend of mine, and former prince obsessive like myself, was, contemporaneously, working on his own compilation, in light of musicology. for a second opinion, i list his version:

01 The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
02 Letitgo
03 Space
04 I Hate U
05 Gold
06 Dinner With Delores
07 Betcha By Golly Wow
08 Somebody's Somebody
09 The Holy River
10 Welcome 2 The Dawn
11 The One
12 Come On
13 The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
14 Man O' War
15 U Make My Sun Shine
16 The Daisy Chain
17 The Work
18 She Loves Me 4 Me
19 A Case Of U
20 Musicology
21 A Million Days

so he and i only agree on four tracks. again, perhaps more proof that this is a very rich period.
8. goodbye (from crystal ball compilation (disc 3), 1998, recorded in 1996)
"goodbye" was replaced by "the holy river" on emancipation, which strikes me as an unusual substitution. not because "the holy river" sucks -- indeed, it is great and i'll talk about it soon -- but because their subject matter is completely different. "goodbye" is a really beautiful ballad, a better philly soul ballad than his covers of either "betcha by golly wow" or "la la means i love you" turned out to be, one that would have to have been placed on disc 2. the problem with that is that disc 2 is so celebratory, prince so happy to have found his true love in mayte, that "goodbye" would have been jarring. (and it's far too amicable of a parting to be directed at his former "slave" masters at wb.)

now, i wonder if i pick "goodbye" over any of the ballads on emancipation because it didn't make that album, because it's not tainted with some of my own personal associations with it. but, ultimately, i believe it comes down to my own predilection for songs that are bittersweet, a feeling more akin to how i intend on viewing myself than the hosannas of songs like "saviour" and "flsmw."

12 April 2004

i really want to like the new fiery furnaces album, blueberry boat more, and yet i think a desire to separate themselves from the "the" pack has yielded too much of a (pretty) good thing -- thank goodness for the liberating power of sound editing programs. certainly, no one will mistake this for the white stripes, even if jack did add piano to their palette on elephant. indeed, what i mistake it for is the first two springsteen albums (because, at 76+ minutes, it's nearly as long as those two combined) translated into -- and i hesitate to use this word because i might be called upon to define the term and, as it is, when i use the word it's something of an inchoate concept... but, okay. PROG.

or even smiley smile, that is it possesses a goofy kind of charm and a mutated eclecticism, but that it also begs the question of what might have been.

or maybe it's just the magnolia of new york-based rock. make of that what you will.
7. "dinner with delores" (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
i remember seeing the video once, but this single disappeared about as quickly as the album it appeared on. not surprising, since it's a fragile thing: falsetto trills and cooing backing vocals, bound together in my mind by one of his most archetypal guitar solos, a solo that demonstrates, like santana, how important tone is to his playing. it's a song that ends with a good bye that sounds more like "good riddance," an apt sentiment considering that this was his last non-archival album for warner brothers. and, yet, as this era proves, there is such a thing as too much freedom (and, unsurprisingly, as with 1999's rave, he now finds himself leaning on a major once again -- each "comeback" is inextricably bound up with one of the big five.)

09 April 2004

6. papa (from come lp, 1994)
"papa" is an oddity in prince's catalog, which is saying a lot because that catalog covers so much ground. it's short, mostly spoken, with a blues motif more akin to robert johnson than any of his electrified followers. prince utters the line, "don't abuse children, otherwise they turn out like me," which leads to a brief, but powerful full-out rock coda. the whole song is incredibly harrowing and suggests for the first time that prince may have been abused (after all, unlike a springsteen, a prince listener is familiar with their man singing in the first person.) i owned come on cassette, and i think it must function more effectively in that format, with both time and space between the two sides (how does "loose!" sound seguing into this?) "papa" itself functions more effectively in its singularity and in the disturbance created by its claim.

08 April 2004

the swan is diabolical on any number of levels and, as much as i enjoyed the first episode, i can't help but wonder how much better it would have been if, once a contestant loses, the team of experts UNDO all of the surgery and such.

perhaps it's best that i'm not in television.
5. she spoke 2 me (from girl 6 ost, 1996, first attempted in 1992)
okay, this is potentially a cheat. "she spoke 2 me" was first tried out for the symbol album (so, at the very least, there's some association.) as far as i know, this take, which first appeared on the girl 6 soundtrack, was recorded in 1996.

i could be wrong; i may be going with this story because it's convenient to me. (actually, i didn't even know it was recorded in 1992 until i assembled this compilation.) true, it would've fit in well on the symbol album, which had a jazzy atmosphere that extended from the (lesser) diamonds & pearls. this is the perfect example of the sort of song he could once write in his sleep -- a sinuous melody, a skillful pre-chorus, a breathless middle 8 -- put simply, it exudes confidence.

yes, would've sounded good following "love 2 the 9's" or leading in to "damn u." but i like it better here. my story and i'm sticking to it.

07 April 2004

4. endorphinmachine (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
one of the things that plagued prince during the symbol era was a seeming inability to leave well enough alone. in any case where i've heard an original version of a song, the later, "official" take is always, always overproduced, e.g. just about every previously unreleased track on crystal ball (most heinously: "crucial.") another case in point: "endorphinmachine." i was tempted to include the version found on the test pressing of come, but it was annoyingly difficult to segue. what the gold experience version teaches us is that, yes, there is such a thing as too much cowbell. and yet it rocks, a pre-millennial "let's go crazy." the endorphinmachine, if one is curious, was a part of his set during the album's tour, a set constructed like an upside-down vulva, wherein the endorphinmachine is the clitoris.

all before he became a jw, you see.
3. in this bed i scream (from emancipation lp (disc 1), 1996)
when i conceived of this project, i thought i had made a mistake in trying to limit it to a disc -- after all, this period includes both the gold experience and emancipation. what surprises me now is how little of emancipation is indispensible and how much of it has been tainted by events that have transpired since (the death of his child casts a pallor on "sex in the summer" and "let's have a baby"; his divorce from gives the lie to both "friend, lover, sister, mother, wife" and "saviour.")

"in this bed i scream" was just about the last song on the album i took to. peculiar that, since it bears so many of the hallmarks of his best 80s work -- discordant guitar, complex drum programming, wonderful synth tones. logically enough, then, it's an appeal to wendy & lisa. and even the fact that that reunion (and the planned roadhouse garden album) fell through is not enough, thankfully, to spoil "itbis."

06 April 2004

2. p control (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
one could probably get away with saying that, after the name change, prince suffered from a judgement problem (or, that, indeed, the name change itself was an outgrowth of a latent judgement problem.) namely, he no longer seems to know what makes a great pop single -- and, arguably, that continues to this day with "musicology." to wit: the three singles he selected from the gold experience, his best album of the last 15 years, needed to be edited, the first two because they were long one, the last because it contained a chorus of "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh... pussy control... ah" (repeat).

which is not to say that "p control" isn't a great song. given his troubled relationship with rap -- along with reggae, one of two genres he has yet to really assimilate -- "p control" represents an incredible step forward. perhaps this is due to the fact that he's being himself, rather than trying to claim compton roots, and rapping about his kind of girl, a woman who uses what she's got to get just what she wants. as an album opener ("good morning, ladies & gentlemen, boys & motherfuckin' girls, this is your captain with no name speaking and i'm hear to rock your world"), it's ideal; as a single, it was a non-starter.
1. the most beautiful girl in the world (from the beautiful experience ep, 1994)
i assume we all know this record, yes? no need to speak of its merits as philly soul confection? all right, let's historicize then. if memory serves, "tmbgitw" was the first record released under the symbol. so, if this set were organized chronologically (and it isn't), it would serve as the opener. as it is, i selected it to start this compilation because it betrays a certain mindset of its creator at this time. not only was "tmbgitw" issued under the symbol, it was also released independently. what it suggests is that the songwriter believed he could still dash off pop hits whenever he chose, just as long as it didn't detract from his headier pursuits. it served as proof that he had not lost his touch, nor, more importantly, had he lost his mind. and! he did it without the benefit of a major! surely, if he were free, the only way was up. he must have felt untouchable, his hubris at its pinnacle (which, given the nature of the artist, is saying a lot.) in short, "tmbgitw" begins this compilation because, during the symbol era, it was also his commercial pinnacle.

and, oh, did he have a long way to fall.
on friday, matthew had posted a track from the new prince album. it's good, and so, within the comments, the old discussions about what he's done with himself in the last ten years or so came up. i suggested that, actually one could make an incredibly strong single-disc compilation of the years 1994-2004. and, so, that's what i've done.

it was somewhat odd, like looking at an old photo album. this era marks the time that i first became a prince fan and, later, an obsessive. i purchased each of these albums as they came out and greatly anticipated what was to follow. it was also during this time, roughly, that i started college and "discovered" the internet. on the internet, i found newsgroups, most notably alt.music.prince and alt.music.alternative. these groups became welcoming communities, sorely needed as i felt especially alienated at school. a.m.p., in particular, introduced me to all of the materials that existed: the bootlegged concerts, the copious outtakes, the numerous side projects.

in assembling this compilation, i needed to track down some of the albums that time has been less kind to. these albums are in a bin, tucked away -- albums that i'll get around to selling one of these days, if i can find a buyer. what they all have in common is that they each are attached to a particular memory and that they also were all released between 1994 and 1999, years when it could be said that i was "finding myself" (it's an ongoing process, but i think i've reached a point where my music taste is less hit or miss -- all right, so i did buy the sounds album.) within the bin, one will find second-tier britpop (longpigs, mansun), dated trip-hop (olive, NINJA TUNE!), and neo-soul never-weres (laurnea, adriana evans.) oh, and the npg's new power soul.

that album is as bad as i remembered it. none of the tracks from it made it onto the compilation, though i did save "the one" from ignominy for its fretless bass and strings. actually, once i was done fine tuning the tracklisting, i realized that not one track from the new millennium made the final cut. what i've unintentionally made, then, covers the years 1994 and 1999, or basically an overview of the symbol years, an age that begun on prince's 35th birthday (june 7, 1993) and ended on the last day of the century, the day, not coincidentally, that his contract with warners expired. so, rather then 94 04, a more appropriate title becomes symbolism, or even contractual abnegation. tracklisting is as follows:

1. the most beautiful girl in the world (from the beautiful experience ep, 1994)
2. p control (from the gold experience lp, 1995)
3. in this bed i scream (from emancipation lp (disc 1), 1996)
4. endorphinmachine (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
5. she spoke 2 me (from girl 6 ost, 1996, first attempted in 1992)
6. papa (from come lp, 1994)
7. dinner with delores (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
8. goodbye (from crystal ball compilation (disc 3), 1998, recorded in 1996)
9. chaos & disorder (from chaos & disorder lp, 1996)
10. ripopgodazippa (from crystal ball compilation (disc 1), 1998, recorded in 1994)
11. shy (from the gold experience lp, 1996)
12. dark (from come lp, 1994)
13. the sun, the moon and stars (from rave un2 the joy fantastic lp, 1999)
14. the holy river (from emancipation lp (disc 2), 1996)
15. the love we make (from emancipation lp (disc 3), 1996)
16. gold (from the gold experience lp, 1996)

notes to follow.

22 March 2004

maybe i've been reading too much edward said lately, but i feel as if, as an american, i cannot really comment on the new streets single, "fit but you know it." which is, of course, quite different from saying that i won't. if i wasn't feeling like enough of an outsider, complicating matters is the fact that "fit" sounds like something overheard, like a conversation one is privy to while waiting for a drink, an especially compelling conversation given its musical underpinning. my first reaction was: "OI!" after further consideration, it seems as if skinner is becoming something of the son and heir, with all apologies to baxter, to ian dury, that pre-rap rapper and, regretfully, no longer living embodiment of a specifically british musical and cultural tradition, at least to this yank. or perhaps, after the backstage contretemps between mike and damon, it's just a "parklife" pisstake. a wicked tune, regardless of tis origin, what it means, and what it bodes for the full-length.

17 March 2004

r. kelly, "happy people. pederast or no, he's lock-stepped into a groove; "happy people" is his first tune in ages that is satisfying unremixed (though, detractors may argue that "happy people" is little more than a "step in the name of love" remix). it's amazing that he can create music that's so light and airy, exuding such unfettered joy, when he's in the position he's in (which, admittedly, got better today). what's nickelback's excuse, then, for making such onerous (as opposed to onanist) rock? and, yes, i suppose i was wrong about them. who would have thought that, four months after its release, it was too early to call "someday" a stiff?

08 March 2004

apologies for lack of updates. i've been writing three papers for mid-term. i'll share this one, since it alludes to something i'd written about earlier. since i no longer have webspace, i'll have to put it here, in full. spoiler warning: if you intend on seeing the dreamers, you may want to skip this. or you might want to skip it on principle.

Sibling Revel(utiona)ries: Incest and the Social Order in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers

In “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” Gayle Rubin performs a “somewhat idiosyncratic and exegetical reading” of Marcel Mauss’ Essay on the Gift and Claude Lévi-Strauss’ The Elementary Structures of Kinship in order to demonstrate that the gender hierarchy does not have a biological basis, but rather that it is inextricably bound up with our culture (Rubin 228). According to Rubin, Mauss proposes in Essay on the Gift that “gifts were the threads of social discourse, the means by which such societies were held together in the absence of specialized governmental institutions” (231). Examples of gifts included food, spells, rituals, words, names, ornaments, tools, powers, and, as Levi-Strauss put forth, women: “marriages are a most basic form of gift exchange, in which it is women who are the most precious of gifts” (231).

If a patriarch would not, for instance, simply give away the fruit of his labor to someone within his kinship system, it would seem a certainty that he would not give one the fruit of his loins, his “most precious of gifts,” his woman. So, it follows, that the incest taboo emerges, “not as having the aim of preventing the occurrence of genetically close matings,” but, rather, as having the “social aim of exogamy and alliance upon the biological events of sex and procreation” (231). The result of the taboo on incest is a “wide network of relations” ordered by a kinship structure that is the basis of social organization” (232).

Rubin believes that this practice, this “exchange of women,” is not limited to “primitive” societies; quite the contrary, “these practices seem only to become more pronounced and commercialized in more ‘civilized’ societies” (232). Not only did the “world historical defeat” of women begin with the origins of culture, she argues that it is “a prerequisite of culture” (233). The exchange of women is emblematic, then, of a system “in which women do not have full rights to themselves.”

Aside from the “extermination of the offending sex” (228), how can women, or even one woman, assert her right to herself? I intend to argue that Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers (2004) offers a way. It is not, perhaps, the most agreeable approach, never mind the most moral, yet what could be less agreeable than the status quo?

The Dreamers is set during the months leading up to the Paris student riots of May 1968. The last time we saw Bertolucci’s Paris, in 1972’s Last Tango in Paris, Marlon Brando gave Maria Schneider the phallus repeatedly, so to speak, in what could hardly be considered a pro-feminist exhibition. The Dreamers, to be sure, is not completely free of female objectification, yet it does make an intriguing argument about female commodification, about woman as gift. By performing an “exegetical and somewhat idiosyncratic reading” of The Dreamers, I will contend that, in its depiction of a woman freely giving herself to her brother, the film strikes a blow against both the diachronic social order of patriarchy and, ultimately, against the synchronic social order of the Paris of May 1968.

• • • • • • •

The film is centered around the Cinémathèque Française, where “modern cinema was born.” Indeed, the film posits the uproar over the dismissal of Henri Cinémathèque secretary-general Langlois as ground zero for the impending student uprising. It is during the Langlois protests that the three protagonists meet each other for the first time. A young American student, Matthew (Michael Pitt), sees the Parisian Isabelle (Eva Green) ostensibly chained to the door of the Cinémathèque. It turns out that she is in fact only holding onto a chain – this becomes an important symbol of Isabelle and her brother Theo’s (Louis Garrel) lack of physical commitment to the burgeoning movement.

Isabelle and Theo are the “dreamers” of the film’s title: theirs is a world where art does not imitate life, but, rather, initiates it: they re-enact scenes from famous films, quote them incessantly, and play games of “forfeit,” where the loser is compelled to do whatever the winner asks. Inspired by Godard’s Bande à part they run through the Louvre, eluding guards, with their new American friend in tow. For his participation, Matthew risks deportment, but with its successful completion, he is “inducted” into Isabelle and Theo’s society through the chant, “Gabba, gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us,” taken from Tod Browning’s Freaks, an epithet that becomes a subtext of the film.

Membership has its privileges and so Matthew earns a dinner with Isabelle and Theo’s parents: their mother, an Englishwoman, and their father, a celebrated poet. The father declined to sign a petition against the Vietnam War, content to enjoy his bourgeois life in the family’s immense Paris flat. He is incredibly dismissive of his children’s belief that they can change the world through demonstrations. Theo, especially, is cut to the quick by his father’s criticism. “It is not enough to ignore them,” he says. “Parents should be arrested and put on trial.”

The dinner the family has that night will be their last for some time: the parents are off on an extensive holiday across the continent, leaving behind checks to make sure that the children are taken care of. Matthew is invited by the siblings to, essentially, sleep over while the mother and father are away. What he discovers during his stay becomes almost more than his naïve American sensibilities can process. While looking for a bathroom in the middle of the night, he peers into Theo’s room only to see the siblings sleeping in the same bed, completely nude. In due time, he will also learn that they kiss on the lips, use the bathroom in front of one another, and bathe together. For all intents and purposes, they play house with one another, outside of the watch of their harried mother and judgmental (yet passive) father.

Yet, what disturbs Matthew most is the aforementioned game of “forfeit,” where the penalties are left entirely to the (in)discretion of the winning sibling. As a result of failing to realize that Isabelle was acting out a scene from Blonde Venus, Theo is “forced” to masturbate in front of a picture of Marlene Dietrich as both Matthew and Isabelle look on, the former with horror, the latter with approbation. What Matthew perhaps does not realize at this point is that, after his initiation, he is fair game himself.

Later that evening, too much wine and pressure weaken Matthew’s faculties, leading him to lose Theo’s forfeit. The “penalty”: he must have sex with Isabelle as Theo watches. He accuses the two of them of being out of their minds and runs – not through the exit, mind, but through the labyrinthine apartment. He is eventually “caught” and after some more drinking, he yields to Theo’s request. For his part, Theo makes eggs as the two make love.

It is in this scene that Theo plays the role of the traditional patriarch, gifting his sister to another man, a man outside their particular kinship structure. It is a move that he comes to regret. After they have made love for the nth time, Matthew says to Isabelle that she and Theo are “like two halves of the same person.” He leaves the room momentarily, only to return and find Theo, in a fetal position, pressed up against Isabelle’s naked body. Matthew finds little shocking at this point and, instead of questioning what Theo is doing, he comments that the siblings have “made me feel like part of you.” It is important for him to be loved, to be accepted by the “family,” the kinship structure that Theo has brought him into, through Isabelle. Yet, resentments seem to harbor close to the surface as Theo replies that there are only two and only ever will be two: “There is no room for a third.”

• • • • • • •

It is apparent that, after the first sexual encounter between Matthew and Isabelle, she is a virgin, to Matthew’s relief. In bed, he quizzes her about her relationship with Theo. He asks her, “Theo’s never been inside you?” to which she responds: “He is always inside me,” figuratively, not literally speaking. He also inquires if their parents know about their strange relations, and what would happen if they did find out. “It must never happen,” Isabelle replies. “I would kill myself.” The parents do not know, and thus their protest remains silent (and unconsummated), locked behind closed doors, just as their spoken commitment to Henri Langlois and the Cinémathèque Française remains unacted upon.

It would seem, then, that at this point my thesis is untenable. Incest, I would argue, is generally understood as sexual intercourse between people so closely related that they are forbidden by law to marry. In my despair, I turn to the OED, which, as usual, provides the key to my salvation. Incest is defined as:

1. a. The crime of sexual intercourse or cohabitation between persons related within the degrees within which marriage is prohibited; sexual commerce of near kindred (my emphasis.)

Cohabitation: the sharing of a room, the sharing of a bath, the sharing of a bed. Only once does Matthew even see Isabelle’s room, in a violation of her wishes. It is, quite literally, the bedroom of a twelve year-old girl, adorned with lace and teddy bears, and it appears as if it has not been used since Isabelle was twelve.

The three (or the two plus one) cohabitate inside the enormous space as the outside world edges closer and closer towards anarchy. Theo is a revolutionary in his own mind, forever challenging Matthew’s pacifist stance and quoting political texts, especially his favorite, Mao’s “Little Red Book.” Theo sees Mao as a “great director” with a “cast of millions,” who hold “books not guns.” Matthew responds: “If you believed what you were saying, you’d be out there.” Despite his best intentions, Theo’s involvement in the domestic drama that he precipitated keeps him from acting: he is, in reality, no better than his father.

It is at this point that “the street comes flying into the room,” figuratively and literally. Figuratively: Theo and Isabelle’s parents return from their trip early, unable to phone since the bill went ignored. They discover the tangled mass of slumbering, naked bodies in the living room, but say nothing leaving only another check behind to affirm their presence. Isabelle wakes first and notices this check, sending her off to make good on her earlier promise.

Literally: She is interrupted by a piece of asphalt that comes crashing through the window of the apartment. The riots have, yes, been brought literally to their doorstep. The three take to the streets and join the chanting masses. Theo, however, rushes to the frontlines and takes up a Molotov cocktail from an organizer, with Isabelle at his heels. Matthew tries to prevent Theo from giving in to violence with an impassioned plea of love over violence, of art and beauty over chaos and disorder, sealed with a kiss. Theo chooses the side of the rioters. Matthew’s gaze turns to Isabelle. Despite their protestations of love to one another, she too denies him, running off with her brother to fight.

• • • • • • •

After this rejection, Matthew turns back towards the shouting crowd, a lone(ly) American in Paris. He disappears amongst the throng. With Matthew removed from their lives, Isabelle and Theo reassert their commitment to each other, to the cohabitation that dare not speak its name.

And yet it has been spoken, or better yet articulated: the parents are aware of what goes on when their back is turned. That Isabelle does not kill herself; that she seems as revitalized as she does at film’s end; that she chooses Theo and those implications over Matthew and a “normal” life all would argue that their defiance would continue even with their parents’ knowledge. The reaffirmation of their “union” vitiates the historical kinship structure, as, out on the streets, it seeks to weaken the contemporaneous foundation of capitalist France. As Communist flags wave on the streets of Paris, Theo and Isabelle unite not only on the domestic front, but on the Popular Front, as well.

02 March 2004

the beta band, "assessment"

the new single by the beta band opens like a track that should've started u2's unforgettable fire album. eerily so, all that's missing is bellow (or bono, take your pick). so, yeah, apparently, several years late, the betas are getting into rock. it's a fantastically atmospheric thing and the tension mounts quickly. one hopes that this isn't it: given their track record, the idea of a simple three-minute rock song seems difficult to resign one's self to, especially after all the news about the band recording the album four or five times.

but, basically, that's what it is. and then at the three-minute mark, it becomes something different, but not like something else entirely, cf. "layla." what i mean to say is that, at 3:00, the glockenspiel makes an appearance, followed in no short order by the clanging double-octave 'e' piano key that detroit made famous and a full brass section. in short, it goes from zero to fierce in about thirty seconds. the whole record, but in particular the coda, represents ensemble playing at its finest. and yet what i keep wondering is, well ... when did the betas become a band?

24 February 2004

in the spirt of yesterday's piece, here is an interview or, perhaps more succintly, a facilitation with kevin rowland and kevin archer from 2001 conducted by everett true, courtesy of tangents.

in other news, has anyone else received compensation from the cd map antitrust suit? i got my check for $13.86 today. i feel just like the little girl in the pepsi-itunes commercial who's getting a song for free and can't be stopped ... except i can (more or less) buy a whole album and she can't! unless, of course, she's using the hack...
in the spirt of yesterday's piece, here is an interview or, perhaps more succintly, a facilitation with kevin rowland and kevin archer from 2001 conducted by everett true, courtesy of tangents.

in other news, has anyone else received compensation from the cd map antitrust suit? i got my check for $13.86 today. i feel just like the little girl in the pepsi-itunes commercial who's getting a song for free and can't be stopped ... except i can (more or less) buy a whole album and she can't! unless, of course, she's using the hack...

23 February 2004

shuffle: dexys midnight runners, "plan b"

what i love about this format is that it allows me to write about things that i've always intended to write about, but, for whatever reason, i had neglected to. in a way, it functions like the radio: at this point, when i have so much music that i sometimes have difficulty navigating through it, skipping through radio stations reminds me about songs that i've loved, that i've wanted to sing along to, but due to sheer volume i've been unable to find.

hearing the opening of "plan b" -- "you've always been searching for something..." -- provides me with that moment of recognition: here is the last band to change my life, a band i've written far too little about. eternal thanks, for many things, really, goes to tom for introducing to this yank the idea that dexys were more, much more, than one song.

i can't say that i actually remember "come on eileen." i allowed myself to be tricked into thinking i did by the spate of totally 80s commercials that undoubtedly always featured a band of ruffians in overalls called dexys something something singing "come on eileen," before a jump cut into "der kommisar." and so following the syllogism that one-hit wonders = bad; dexys = one-hit wonder; dexys = bad, i bore a systematic grudge against them.

and then one day, tom talked about "the occasional flicker" and about dexys in general, and i gave them a chance. that song was quite unlike anything else i ever heard -- until i picked up don't stand me down. dexys was more than just the records they released; they were, like, a theory. i don't think america generally likes bands with ideas: put out records, play live, pose for photos, but no manifestos, please. let the press manufacture your legend; don't try to build one yourself.

someone correct me if i'm wrong here, but it seems to me that dexys may have been the first band of importance to emerge fully-formed, with ideas about everything from their message to their look to their 45 sleeves. true, punk definitely had a look, but i think that's more general (unless, of course, sex pistols fans looked markedly different than, say, damned fans). and glam artists, as individuals, cultivated their images -- but did they transcend their physical appearance and their press photos? maybe roxy music, but i don't know if ferry was as articulate about roxy as kevin rowland was -- and, thankfully, is -- about dexys. every aspect of the band was contrived for maximum effect, and i think one of the band's great triumphs was to give contrivance a very positive connotation. even more impressive: to turn affectation and mannerism (and, later, many other things), terms that would seem to be the antithesis of the genre, into soul music.

this weekend, i brought searching for the young soul rebels to work. i played it in our back room while i was opening stock. a younger co-worker asked who it was and was surprised by the answer. he's a big morrissey fan like many kids his age are and so, in trying to dispel his notions, i described dexys as "the smiths if they were a street gang": dexys kicked down doors, whereas the smiths and morrissey (who had to be influenced by kevin) were more about hiding behind them. listening to "plan b," i still hear a band who want to change the world; with someone as defiant and as unyielding, i can't believe he ever formulated a contingency plan.

22 February 2004

as many of you know, brian wilson debuted smile live friday night at the london royal festival hall. thanks to the industry of others, i had the chance to hear the smile section of the concert in its 46:14 entirety. my first reaction was: how would someone who's never heard this material before react to it? in its live setting, it was presented as a work with three movements: the first ends with "cabinessence"; the second with "surf's up"; and the third with "good vibrations." the lyrics, courtesy of van dyke parks, are as dense and as self-referential as the music itself, which includes such standards as piano, bass, and drums, but also reaches out into things like fire whistles, construction tools, and the sound of vegetables being chewed.

my own experiences began, as with most people, with the harbinger that was the "good vibrations" single, followed after the project's collapse due to brian's instability by "heroes and villains," which we understood was truncated, cobbled together, like the smiley smile album itself, by the other beach boys; and that, depending on who one talked to, existed in a form ranging from anywhere from 7 to twelve minutes. with the purchase of the beach boys boxed set, i became familiar with what we were told was much of what remained from the aborted project. through the smile shop, to whom i am forever indebted, i had a chance to hear various takes on the album by fans and by those in the know. finally, following the tracklisting established by domenic priore in look, listen, vibrate, smile, i created my own personal smile. so, in other words, it all came together piecemeal: i had a chance to let it all sink in over the years. hearing all of this for the first time, as a whole, would be, i think, both richly rewarding and incredibly daunting.

about this particular arrangement of the putative album, i know very little. the album was never finished. i believe there was a tracklisting that escaped on printings of the record sleeve that capitol failed to suppress. still, there's no evidence that that in any way was final. as far as i know, brian was still working when it all became too much for him to bear. as much as i'd like to believe it, it's doubtful that brian himself arranged this 2004 version all by himself. unless, unknown to us, the album did have a shape. it might not be beyond the realm of possibility. after all, despite my own familiarity with the source material, there were many things i had heard for the first time. in particular: many songs i only knew as instrumentals -- "barnyard," "child is the father of the man," and "look," amongst others. also, i believe most experts figured that "surf's up" would close the album and that "good vibrations" was a record company imposition. in this live version, "surf's up," as mentioned above, closes the second movement, and "good vibrations" itself not only ends the "album," but it sounds incredibly well-integrated -- notice the similarity between opener "prayer" and the "i" that begins "good vibrations. in this current arrangement, smile essentially culminates in "good vibrations."

here, according to my searches, is what passes as the "official" setlist for friday night's smile portion:
heroes & villains
do you like worms?
old master painter/you are my sunshine

child is the father of the man
surf's up

i'm in great shape/i wanna be around
whispering winds/wind chimes
heroes & villains intro
i love to say dada
good vibrations

if anyone is having difficulties in getting to hear the performance, leave a comment and i'll see if i can help.

19 February 2004

could there be a more unfashionable band than the vines right now? well, maybe jet. regardless, i was a rather staunch supporter of the band following their first album, and what i appreciated, more than the cod-nirvana rockers, were the quiet, folk-inflected songs that represented craig nicholls' innate talent for both melody and harmony. i've heard the new album, winning days, and, yes, once again, it's the more meditative tracks that win the day, in particular "rainfall" and "winning days" itself. both feature acoustic guitars and beach boys-influenced harmonies (the latter even features a string section), and though i've never been to australia, both seem to tell me a lot about what it might be like to experience the country at its most beautiful (though finney would know better).

unfortunately, two of the uptempo tracks seem set to be radio singles, "ride" and "ftw." "ride" is -- well, as boring as a long-distance trip in the back of your parents' car. "ftw," in full "fuck the world" is -- well, perhaps one sees the problem already, eh? it has a great bassline and the screaming is admirable, but it's called "fuck the world." this side of the strokes or perhaps puddle of mudd, the vines are the worst act to have a song with that title as it only painfully calls to mind that craig is "mental," that the man don't give a fuck. (craig: you're mad, we understand, but that doesn't give you the right.) the chorus goes "come on, fuck the world," so if one uses their imagination, maybe he or she could recast it as an ode to making out with mother earth, but that strikes me as tenuous. so it seems as if the vines will be the first of the garage rock revival bands to fall off the face of the earth, with the hives set to plead their case this spring. damn it, i really liked my vines t-shirt too.

18 February 2004

say happy birthday to matos and, while you're at it, visit his new site (everything's relative). give him a 30th thing to be happy about -- or be sensitive and don't. but hurry! midnight is upon us! though, then again, he's in seattle. so no hurries.

17 February 2004

i saw bernardo bertolucci's the dreamers today. there's so much to say about it, yet given my own particular time constraints as i write this, it's probably best to say as little as possible. (why write about it at all, then? simply because it's fascinated me since i left the theater.) at times, it suggests a henry james novel -- naive american embroiled in a world of european decadence he can hardly understand; at other times, it seems like an inversion of a bout de souffle's creative team, that is truffaut directing from a godard treatment. put in the most ungainly terms, the dreamers is a film about film, for people who love film, and about people who live life as if it were a film; that is, as if it were life that imitated art instead of the converse, or perhaps, and more troubling, as if art initiated life. the film is set against an increasingly agitated political culture (the days leading up to the may '68 student riots in paris), and it's not until, as the film puts it, the streets come flying through the window that the protagonists confront what is happening inside their ever-shrinking internal world and realize the implausibility of living like it's still 1959.

the film deserves its nc-17 rating: i can't imagine many under 17 finding much of interest in the film, apart from the sex scenes, which they can probably download off the internet as i type this. (and, yes, eva green has instantaneously set herself up as an object of both lust and affection for generations of moviegoers to come. moreover, she gives a strong performance -- though feminist critics might argue otherwise, and, to go out on a limb, i think she will have a brighter future than, say, maria schneider.) however, if one is a cinephile, this is basically your high fidelity. the viewer can play a meta- version of the "name that film" that the characters themselves play: is that "ferdinand" from duhamel's pierrot le feu score? is that tom ewell on the screen? etc. leaving the theatre, i felt nostalgia for an era i never lived through, an era where film was granted primacy and something worth fighting for. if only for that reason, it's worth seeing; its charms, however, are multitude.

16 February 2004

shuffle: sam cooke, "tennessee waltz"
he has done far more important and influential work, but this is in all likelihood my favorite sam cooke track. in a move of c&w recasting that would have made brother ray proud, cooke takes patti page's waltz and reimagines it, at perhaps the fastest tempo he'd ever record, as a twist. there's a note he hits at 2:15 which stirs the soul like nothing else he ever sang, even going back to the gospel days; singing along as i inevitably do, it's a note i've only hit once or twice, in incredibly euphoric or enthusiastic moods. so, obviously, where sam parts from ray is in his sympathy with the material. who knows, maybe he just really loved the melody: belle & sebastian liked it so much that they recorded it with new lyrics and title -- which is generally considered more of a rip-off than homage, but, you know, "slow graffiti" is a great song. so, patti's lament becomes a good riddance, a hit the road, jack, to a no-good woman and a false friend. two birds with one stone. sorted.

sam cooke was the first artist i took to that i had in common with my father. my first cooke tape was made by dubbing his a man & his music lps. it was something that was difficult to come to terms with. after all, one is supposed to break from their parents, not sit around and listen to records with them.

my father is a difficult guy to make out. he's a contemporary of many of the legendary first-wave of rock & rollers, and yet he's never been a rock & roll guy, despite having owned a bar in asbury park where a young bruce springsteen would play as he was finding his creative voice. like bruce, my father is a jersey guy, having grown up on the tough streets in nutley, new jersey. like many in the neighborhood, he had an attachment to the sounds of frank sinatra and nat king cole; not long afterwards, he'd become fond of the burgeoning doo-wop sound. singing, back then, was still seen as a very masculine thing, something the guys would do together on their stoops or at local talent shows.

for a bunch of roughnecks, one would think that rock & roll would come natural to them, yet for my father and his crew, there was a great deal of reluctance. sure, rock & roll was tough, but perhaps it lacked beauty. sure, up front, dion, or whomever, would be singing defiantly about his louche ways, but in the background the belmonts would be singing a beautiful harmony. and, besides, who could afford instruments? kids with garages and front lawns -- that is suburban kids.

dion, actually, would be a good point of comparison. i contest that he has the greatest rock voice i've ever heard, and yet i think one could argue that he never really made a rock 'n' roll record; that, even after he dispatched the belmonts, he still maintained the core elements of their sound. which, in part, could explain his post-beatles chart difficulties. for his part, dion would alter his sound and experience success as a folk-rocker before public indifference and a terrible drug habit would be his undoing. my father... he never compromised. as far as he's concerned, the music died in 1962, and he's still listening to those same records. great records, to be sure, as i've been lucky enough to discover. today, he's far removed from the old neighborhood, if only figuratively speaking, but i think he hears the echoes still in those four-part harmonies. the people have moved on, the places have been paved over, but when the needle hits the groove, it's nutley all over again, and he's remained true to it.

15 February 2004

my best friend just got engaged. certainly, a happy valentine's day all around. and yet we're only in the second month of the year and i have a very real possibility of being a party to three wedding... parties. should i just buy a tux and adjust tie and cummerbund as required? perhaps readers of this site shouldn't be surprised to know that one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was, "i wonder what the wedding song will be?" so, of course, there's me who is the farthest thing in the world removed from being married -- happily, i say! -- and yet i have a disc of proposed first dance songs. (list can be provided upon request.)

but, wait, there's more. a friend's father turns 70 this year; my own personal mother turns 60. i got an evite from a friend for her 30th birthday! what's wrong with people?! if they're not aging, they're marrying and having kids. will i remain the only living boy in new jersey?

12 February 2004

so, tonight, shuffle interrupts my incessant playing of "o caroline," but more about that later. tonight, the wheel lands on...

marvin gaye, "can i get a witness?" this is about as close to stax as pre-whitfield motown gets. after a self-possessed start, marvin really lets go, effortlessly recalling sam cooke in a way that otis redding, who really had to work for the money, never could.

i had to re-write the above because what i realized on this particular listen was that my memory of the song, particularly of marvin's vocal, in no way corresponded to the real thing (fighting hard here to resist adding "baby.") i thought marvin maintained his cool throughout the entirety of the record, but, damn, he does rip it up. the first cassette i bought as an informed consumer, thereby discounting the california raisins' sweet, delicious & marvelous,was marvin's greatest hits. i would later buy a boxed set. in a pinch, relatives would buy me some compilation of his (given motown's track record, it tided me over for more holidays than you'd think). now, with a few exceptions ("when did you stop loving me...," "inner city blues," "stubborn kind of fellow") i don't listen to him regularly. a slip like this reminds me that i need to. how many other records might i have misremembered? (which is, of course, different from how many records have i misrepresented, you wags.)

but speaking of misrepresenting, i just noticed, listening to a lot of robert wyatt as of late, that i left "o caroline" by matching mole off the twee set, which means i need to re-record the whole of it, probably losing roxy. this is where i really wish i had a server to upload mp3s too, as "o caroline" is from a fairly obscure one-off. it's clumsy, endearing, cute, and finally heartbreaking, perhaps not a million miles away from david ackles' "down river" (and a direct forebear of belle & sebastian's entire aesthetic). which i'd also like to share. damn.
and so all of a sudden, primal scream become a much easier band to describe to friends and family who are not au fait. yes, it's time to do away with "they had that one song in airheads with brendan fraser," because they now have their very own at&t commercial (t&t?) or, rather, "come together" does. i suppose it'll help fund the revolution or whatever bobby's up to nowadays. apparently what at&t has over other service providers is an ability to bring people together less expensively, not to mention a better record collection. people of all ages and sizes sing along a bit, "come together" and so forth, but i think in a post-janet america they're going to catch hell for having that little girl sing "i want you to touch me." it's all too much.

11 February 2004

shuffle!: in which i set my cd... machine on random and tell it to do its worst, as i attempt the same here.

guns 'n' roses, "mr. brownstone": did g'n'r officially use two apostrophes in its name? or did it go the route of the less grammatically-correct single? well, as axl might say, grammar be damned. my first encounter with "mr. brownstone," by which i mean the song -- haven't i already annoyed the hell out of you with my non-substance policy?

so, "mr. brownstone." i was... 11. my best friend's older brother owned the record. "mr. brownstone" became a sort of code, if it wasn't already. what it signified was not necessarily heroin (?), but being badass. that is, until his mother broke the record in half when she saw the artwork. God knows what she would have made of the music itself. after that, the older brother turned to ozzy, who apparently was more palatable to mom. hm. as i say this, the record has ended -- yes, now you realize how long it takes me to come up with this material. what's playing now is the pet shop boys' "se a vida e." did you know that axl is a fan?

roots of twee: i recently assembled a mixdisc that traced the history of twee (or histwee) for a friend. i ended up making it two discs because my desire to sequence is chronologically -- first track notwithstanding -- meant that i would have to leap from roxy music's "just like you" to orange juice's "consolation prize," and that was something i didn't want to do. i would theorize that the gap between 1974 and 1980 was due to the rise and fall of punk, with the return of twee as a reaction to that genre's nihilism. the following is the tracklisting for the discs. i'm working on notes for them right now and will post them when i've finished.

disc 1.
1. nick drake, "sunday" (from bryter layter lp)
2. donovan, "catch the wind" (from catch the wind lp)
3. the lovin' spoonful, "you didn't have to be so nice" (from daydream lp)
4. the beach boys, "you still believe in me" (from pet sounds lp)
5. the beatles, "here, there and everywhere" (from revolver lp)
6. the left banke, "walk away renee" (from walk away renee/pretty ballerina lp)
7. the monkees, "take a giant step" (from the monkees lp)
8. tim buckley, "song for jainie" (from tim buckley lp)
9. the rolling stones, "back street girl" (from between the buttons [uk] lp)
10. the velvet underground, "sunday morning" (from the velvet underground & nico lp)
11. the incredible string band, "first girl i loved" (from 5000 spirits or the layers of the onion lp)
12. the mamas & the papas, "creeque alley" (from deliver lp)
13. spanky and our gang, "sunday will never be the same" (from spanky and our gang lp)
14. sagittarius, "my world fell down" (from present tense lp)
15. the free design, "kites are fun" (from kites are fun lp)
16. cowsills, "the rain, the park and other things" (from cowsills lp)
17. love, "andmoreagain" (from forever changes lp)
18. the bee gees, "melody fair" (from odessa lp)
19. tyrannosaurus rex, "cat black (the wizard's hat)" (from unicorn lp)
20. suzi jane hokom, "for a day like today" (from cowboy in sweden lp)
21. simon & garfunkel, "the only living boy in new york" (from bridge over troubled water lp)
22. bread, "it don't matter to me" (from "it don't matter to me (second version)" 45)
23. the stories, "love is in motion" (from about us lp)
24. roxy music, "just like you" (from stranded lp)

disc 2
1. orange juice, "consolation prize" (from you can't hide your love forever lp)
2. shop assistants, "somewhere in china" (from safety net ep)
3. the pastels, "breaking lines" (from "truck, train, tractor" 7")
4. the smiths, "ask" (from "ask" 7")
5. the vaselines, "son of a gun" (from "son of a gun" 7")
6. primal scream, "imperial" (from sonic flower groove lp)
7. talulah gosh, "i can't get no satisfaction (thank god)" (from bringing up baby ep)
8. the go-betweens, "dive for your memory" (from 16 lovers lane lp)
9. the la's, "there she goes" (from the la's lp)
10. pixies, "winterlong" (from "dig for fire" 7")
11. the sundays, "here's where the story ends" (from reading, writing and arithmetic lp)
12. the field mice, "september's not so far away" (from "september's not so far away" 7")
13. electronic, "get the message" (from electronic lp)
14. magnetic fields, "100,000 fireflies" (from "100,000 fireflies" 7")
15. bmx bandits, "serious drugs" (from serious drugs ep)
16. heavenly & calvin johnson, "c is the heavenly option" (from le jardin de heavenly lp)
17. blueboy, "sea horses" (from if wishes were horses... lp)
18. saint etienne, "hobart paving" (from "hobart paving/who do you think you are?" 7")
19. the wedding present, "gazebo" (from watusi lp)
20. trembling blue stars, "abba on the jukebox" (from her handwriting lp)
21. belle & sebastian, "slow graffiti" (from this is just a modern rock song ep)

10 February 2004

towards a definition of the jersey guy: the jersey girl phenomenon has, of course, been well-documented, but now that it has become a marketable type, peter genovese attempts, in an article from sunday's newark star-ledger, to delineate the character of the jersey guy. the best definition comes from a woman named "jenna" who wishes to remain anonymous for... i don't know, fear of the stigma that would attach itself to her:

"Ambition, humor, smart sarcasm, a strong sense of family and friends and a self-deprecating humility," she replied. "Just look ... at the Jersey guys -- Jon Stewart, Bon Jovi, Bruce. All family guys, all just down-home good people. Proud to be from Jersey.

"Jersey boys are funny and fun, and loyal to their friends. Don't get me wrong -- they can be complete dogs to the girls they date, but they will make sure to work very hard to be the biggest dogs they can be; they won't settle for second-rate status. But at the end of the day, if given a choice between a Jersey guy and one elsewhere, and I have dated a ton from both, it's all about Jersey."

living (and dead) embodiments of the jersey guy: abbott & costello (asbury park & paterson, respectively), yogi berra (montclair), jon bon jovi (sayreville), danny devito (neptune), james gandolfini (westwood), ed harris (englewood), jerry lewis (newark), richard lewis (englewood), ray liotta (newark), vince lombardi (englewood), bill maher (river vale), norman mailer (long branch), jack nicholson (neptune), bill parcells (oradell), joe pesci (penns grove), frank sinatra (hoboken), kevin smith (red bank), kevin spacey (south orange), jon stewart (lawrenceville), john travolta (englewood), frankie valli (newark), bruce willis (penn's grove).

my dad is perhaps the ultimate jersey guy. given my own particular aspirations, i think i tend towards the philip roth/allen ginsburg pole. yet i still derive a great deal of pleasure from meeting up with friends at a lousy highway bar and shooting the shit until the bar band inevitably works itself up to "living on a prayer." and there are few things i enjoy more on an autumn sunday than driving out to the hot grill, picking up a few all-the-way and gravy fries, and settling in to watch the giants game with the old man.
whatsthedownload.com, thetruth.com of illegal downloading: maybe you've been hearing "a lot of noise" recently about this site, ever since neil portnow "dropped science" about it sunday night. what's up with that? feel free to "hit them up" for the "haps on the craps." don't got e-mail? that's a-ight because whatsthedownload.com rocks on and off the internet. so, yeah, share the love. or, rather, don't.

when you visit the site, try to figure out which slang is on the site and which i just threw in there for the hell of it. also: ask yourself if there are any real young people behind this site. as follow-ups, consider: were they sued? and: are they the kids from zoom! all grown up?

09 February 2004

songs to download & sing:
the delays, "long time coming": one of my favorite self-invented microeconomic is called, for lack of a better name, songs-that-could-have-been-in-80s-teen-movies. with a synth line that whistles like the breeze through one's hair and a petulant verse hook of "why'd you go and do that for?", the third single from britain's the delays is an archetype of the genre; that it mildly recalls both 80s and post-80s bands like tears for fears and the la's don't hurt either. and, yes, i've always been a sucker for songs that seem to be about returns or a desire for return after long absence (e.g. lovin' spoonful's "darling be home soon" or ltd's "stranger.")

the cure, "2 late": have i mentioned that i also enjoy "i will wait for you" themes as well? now, i'm not the biggest cure fan in the world -- what was it i once said? tuneless twat? -- but, as evidence of a kinder, gentler me, i'm listening to, of all things, cure b-sides, and i've really taken to this song, a b-side of "lovesong." perhaps i don't so much dislike the cure as i never seem to see eye-to-eye with their fans: i tend to prefer the cure songs, like "friday i'm in love," where happiness seems like an option, as opposed to the ones that last, on average, nine minutes in length and, in between the thudding drums and muted synths, read like pages torn from a hot topic employee's diary. (did i say "kinder, gentler?") "2 late" could be read rather bleakly, too, but i hear expectation, the desire to catch even a fleeting glimpse of a loved one, but not creepy in a clay aiken "invisible" kinda way. in addition, the music is lovely, smith's hopes borne aloft by beautiful guitar figures that sound like amplified sighs.

scissor sisters, "mary": "mary" is the kind of elton john pastiche-- or perhaps homage, as "pastiche" might be taken as a pejorative, that would make robbie williams lament parting ways with guy chambers. in fact, "mary" is better than 90% of the songs on don't shoot me i'm only the piano player, the elton album it most recalls. ("skyline pigeon" still has it beat, even if it was a bonus track.) will elton john be to '04 what the cars were to '03? and does anyone have a u.s. release date on the sisters' album? matthew?

...and one not to:
janet jackson, "love me for a little while": ugh. no wonder she had to bare a breast. in fact, it's going to take a lot more than that to sell this turd, media firestorm or no. janet makes her "rock" move. admirable though it is to try and broaden the pallette, especially after the mostly-disappointing all for you, "love me for a little while" comes off like a shania twain afterthought, with poorer production values -- i have to hope that jam & lewis had nothing to do with this. in 18 years, she's gone from "let's wait awhile" to "love me for a little while" and the new album, damita jo. promises to "expose her sexuality." (...) what one wouldn't give for a little chastity at this point.

05 February 2004

hello again.

if you're reading this, you must be a glutton for punishment. (my key demographic.)

i've no idea what i intend to do with this space. except fill it with words, for now. usually when i kick things off (or re-kick them off), i do a list. i don't know, perhaps i'm a little less ambitious or else maybe i've gained some humility in the time away.

or perhaps i'm just as lazy as ever.
songs listened to on a car ride home:
the verve, "bittersweet symphony" (wplj)
coldplay, "in my place" (k-rock)
roberta flack & donny hathaway, "where is the love?" (cbs-fm)
twista ft. kanye west & jaime foxx, "slow jam" (z-100)
outkast, "hey ya!" (k-rock)

as "bittersweet symphony" was released, richard ashcroft went on endlessly about the layers, all the tracks that the band (of course, meaning himself) layered one on top of another, trying to lead the listener away from the fact that the song's core isn't ashcroft's bittersweet diatribe about life, but the string sample pilfered from an old symphonic stones record. and so, yeah, tonight, the track sounded simply adorned in a coat of strings, with the double-kick drums tugging one back down to earth and an occasional steel cry echoing through the evening air. paired back-to-back with coldplay's "in my place" with its high 'n' lonesome guitar lines, i was wondering when the heat would kick in.

one can usually depend on donny & roberta to bring the heat -- not for nothing that biz markie sampled them for "it's spring again." sure, one can look at the donny & roberta team and despair of the fact that they, along with sympathetic motown refugees, brought to soul the sense that heart wasn't enough, that lyrics was where it was at (and, thus, covers of, um, "you've got a friend.") but it seems like so much quibbling when those voices blend and the bass starts to move. whatever happened to nimble bass players?

and whatever happened to slow jams? waylaid by the narcissism brought on by cribs culture? and why on heaven's name did kanye give this track to twista when his own (i.e. kanye's) output can't be heard on top 40 radio? or is that the point? and forget about his aborted solo career, does anyone remember jaime foxx, full stop?

and will everyone forget "hey ya!" long enough to get another andre 3000 track on the radio? he's lucky outkast are a known quantity and so "hey ya!" won't develop into the kind of millstone that nickelback will be forced to bear for eternity. (but don't they always sound like they're carrying some heavy load -- or need to drop one?) and if they were unknown, would anyone make it through that span from 0:36 to 1:10 where the two word chorus is made to support the entirety of the song without switching stations?

i often wonder what "hey ya!" would have been like if the monkees had gotten to it first. there's no way don kirshner would've put up with that chorus, handclaps or no.
i am the boy who cried wolf.