31 August 2005

mahalia jackson - "come sunday" (a capella) (from the black, brown & beige lp, available for purchase here.)

another night, another nightsong.

the song that has been on repeat in my head more than any other in the wake of the devastation of hurricane katrina, even more so than "when the levee breaks," is duke ellington's "come sunday," particularly the version by mahalia jackson on the 1958 recording of black, brown & beige.

understandably, events like this really make one question whether there is such a thing as God, and, unfortunately, makes one question the people who do believe when they're connected to tripe like this. (a minority opinion, really. credit is due to the southern baptists for the work they're doing, regardless of any political disagreements one may have w/ them.) me, i'm not religious--i'm catholic, which is less of a joke than it seems (see also: "when the levee breaks). during the funeral of the pope, i reflected on the man and his beliefs and it seemed to me that someone whose faith was that deep and genuine, and, unlike some of his brethren, entirelydetached from political and (debatably) world gain ... well, how could he not go to some sort of heaven? a piece in the latest economist discusses a study at the university of michigan that shows that physical changes in the brain occur w/ the mere suggestion that a medication will help. could such a thing carry over in matters of faith? regardless of the answer, hearing mahalia jackson sing "come sunday" is, for me, another one of those moments where i simply believe that, if there is no heaven, she has carved out some place for herself after death.

lines like "He’ll give peace and comfort to every troubled mind" may be hard for those whose houses have been consumed by untrammeled waters to swallow. less so supplication like:
Lord, dear Lord of love,
God almighty, God above,
please look down and see my people through.
or the rudiments of optimism embodied by this lyric:
i believe the sun and moon,
will shine up in the sky.
when the day is grey
i know it's clouds passing by.
lyrics aside, it's the melody of the song that make it, for me, so apposite. it's determinedly an earthbound song as the minor key makes clear. in the rare moments when the song does seem to ascend, it's the fleeting moments in life when the sun and the moon shine in the sky, unobstructed by clouds. i would argue that the original version from 1943, w/ johnny hodges bearing the load, is as powerful; if i prefer mahalia's version today it's b/c it puts a human face and voice to the music. putting a human face to things is especially pertinent right now as one tries to move away from the requisite sensationalism (and ratings) katrina provided for the twenty-four hour news cycle, and toward the victims and all the basics which they need provided.
tinkering, tinkering, ever tinkering.
first, donate if you can.

the political insanity around this is already rearing its head. mr. kennedy may very well be right; frankly, i don't know enough about the science. his timing, though, reeks of "i told you so"--he surely couldn't have appreciated malcom x's "chickens have come home to roost" comment about his uncle. ms. malkin, too, is to an extent correct, and i personally have little patience or sympathy for most looters and think drowning too good for the worst of them, but let's not paint them all w/ the same broad brush; stealing essentials for large corporations is one thing; stealing televisions from peoples' homes is something else entirely. (this, of course, also fails to take into consideration those bitching about the lack of foreign aid.)

and, if possible, for some comic relief, i present the lunatic fringe. scott stevens is an erstwhile weatherman for an nbc affiliate in albany. i say "erstwhile" b/c he left after a kerfuffle over his credentials; i say "weatherman" b/c, unbeknownst to his employers, he never finished his degree in meteorology. the learned, even-minded mr. stevens says
[ivan and katrina] are both very russian sounding names. it has been established that the former soviet union (fsu) developed and boasted of weather modification technology during the 1960's and 70's with deployment against the united states coming in 1976 with the audible arrival of the woodpecker grid. these weather operations continue to this day.
(if you care to hear him in his own voice, click here.)

he's right about ivan--i mean, the name being russian. he is off though on katrina, which is a variant of catriona, itself a gaelic form of katherine. of course, the russians can't be that bright--i mean, apart from their ability to wield influence w/ the world meteorological organization and, yeah, the ability to build hurricane-making machines, they're obviously dumb enough to give these hurricanes russian-sounding names. according to the wmo, the u.s. won't be attacked by a russian-generated hurricane again until 2007, when olga strikes.

let me demonstrate how easily conspiracy theories are made. i think it goes w/o saying that someone will pin this on bush, someone other than rfk jr. and someone who believes bush to be directly implicated. let's start from the beginning:
-on august 13, 1953, eisenhower signs into law a bill that will create a new agency known as the president's advisory committee on weather control.
-in 1960, picking up where that committee left off, the national center for atmospheric research is formed, funded by the national science foundation.
-in summer 2001, what were the major news stories that preceded the 9/11 disaster? shark attacks and a missing girl (chandra levy). and summer 2005?
-but, what's more, what are the other major news stories of this summer? cindy sheehan, the iraq war, and bush's plummeting approval ratings.

so what, the cynic might ask, does the hurricane enable george bush to do? cut-and-run from crawford, leaving camp casey behind. he gets to act presidential, delivering a speech from the rose garden. maybe he goes down to the gulf coast, surveys the area, makes an impromptu speech, hugs a few people, w/ a net result of increasing poll numbers. oh, and he gets to tap our emergency oil reserves, therefore increasing pressure to drill in anwr (or go after more oil-producing countries, like venezuela--who have just offered us oil and aid, incidentally.) what does it do to cindy sheehan? relegates her story to the back page; makes her demands seem petty in comparison to the tragedy people in the affected area are struggling through. the russian name? to throw people off the trail, like poor mr. stevens. who's to blame? karl rove.

see how easy it is? did i mention that you should donate?

30 August 2005

roísín murphy - "the closing of the doors" (from the ruby blue lp, available for purchase as an import here.)

so, the synesthesia makes listening to music a visual as well as an auditory experience. the major problem: i really can't listen to music that doesn't match the atmosphere or mood. which means that i probably hit skip on my ipod more than the average listener; which means that i'm ponying up for new batteries more often--quite literally, the price i pay. indeed, i can only write about a song like this and hope to do it justice at the closing of the day. synesthetically speaking, it's a fairly bleak affair, w/ dapples of light contributed by a french horn part and some backing vocals. conveniently, this also happens to sum up the song as well.

i probably have a moloko album somewhere; some morcheeba and hooverphonic albums, too, but i used to be into all kinds of shit. it should follow, then, that a roísín murphy solo album would be right up there w/ a spoken-word album from the guy what used to dance for prodigy. early reviews, though, were quite enthusiastic; "if we're in love" reduced some to glossolalia--not me, mind; i don't dislike it, i just can't make a good argument for liking it, though. why i persisted is still beyond me, but i'm glad i did.

"the closing of the doors" is a remarkable, improbably elegant thing. it suggests, quite unintentionally, a perfect counterpoint, in both tone and message, to colin blunstone's "caroline goodbye." "i knew a man who was better," she whispers, "much better than that," and the french horn is the only component of the song to betray w/ what anguish those thoughts were put into words. what "the closing of the doors" does exceptionally well is fuse two popular early 70's strands of--if richard can forgive me--female pop. it's like carly simon w/o the pretension and bathos, and a leaner (i really hope he can forgive me) carpenters. even supporters couldn't have expected such refined melancholy from a woman who sang "tatty narja."
[edit : mp3 removed at the request of record label.]

junior senior - "dance chance romance" (from the hey hey my my yo yo lp, import available for pre-order--though it's already out in japan!--here.)

they're like the new jake & ana, the new elton & kiki even. no, not junior & senior--after all, which one would be elton?--junior and some unidentified singer girl, whom i might think was kathleen hanna if it wasn't for the happy absence of political axes being grinded. maybe not so identified: "hot damn," junior says by way of introduction, "here comes the new girl in town," before assuming a leo sayer-esque falsetto. really, how else would you imagine a junior senior boy/girl duet to go? (early prediction: if d-d-don't stop the beat was the history of the world (1967-1977), the new album will update it to, oh, 1987 at the least.)

"dance chance romance," both song and title, demonstrates that junior senior are very likely as well-versed in the tropes of popular music as stephin merritt, and, at this stage of history, more comfortable w/ abba. this, though, is more for edwards-rodgers than for andersson-ulvaeus, witness the heart-stopping, pulse-quickening breakdown at 1:47, itself strange bedfellows w/ a vaguely middle-eastern lead guitar figure.

some time ago, i drew parallels between junior senior and andrew w.k., namely that the former are to am gold what the latter is to fm rock. though the wolf has its merits, i think awk, an otherwise peerless populist, lost sense of what his audience wanted from him; when "dance chance romance" breaks into a chorus of "yeah! yeah! yeah!" one realizes that junior senior understand who they are better than any act in pop music, and hey hey my yo yo, one hopes, will show that they're not prepared to either burn out or fade away.

29 August 2005

my morning jacket - "wordless chorus" (from the z lp, available for pre-order here.)

oh, i know i promised no familiar formulations, but i can't resist just one. it is a truth universally acknowledged that
prince + junior boys = my morning jacket
it's quite possible that i haven't been keeping up w/ the boys from louisville, to whom i only usually turn when i want some good old-fashioned, kentucky back porch, twilit nostalgia. "wordless chorus," though, is less at dawn than it is "dawn chorus" by boards of canada. indeed, so much so that my first instinct is that it's as fake as the numerous copies of campfire headphase that are making the p2p rounds. one thing that's unmistakable, though, is the voice of jim james--that is, until the last minute of the song when he emits falsetto shrieks of a kind not heard since prince was . he sings, "we are the innovators; they are the imitators."

that sound you're hearing? the sound of one hand clapping. ladies and gentlemen, your moment of zen.
two mp3's about two girls named caroline.

colin blunstone - "caroline goodbye" (from the one year lp, available for purchase as an import here.)
matching mole - "o caroline" (from the matching mole lp, available for purchase as an import here.)

i've never known a caroline and i consider it one of the chief failures of my life so far. based on all i've heard about her, she sounds like a really nice bird, despite what lou reed's been whispering in my ear; a girl so dear and precious that the thought of her changing inspires heartache. the two songs i've posted today really make me wish i knew one so i could something quite lame like putting them on a mixtape for her--after all, she has to be getting tired of "sweet caroline" by now.

of course, thematically, it'd probably be a last-ditch effort on my part ... or, worse still, one of those mixes you make but never send. in "caroline goodbye" she's going; in "o caroline" she's gone. from the object of their affection down to their unavailability domestically, the songs are similar in a number of ways but there are differences, which come down to the singers themselves.

when he pushes himself, colin blunstone is able to express a panoply of emotions, most notably hysteria in "she's not there" and, because she is there (or soon will be), joy in "care of cell 44." when he stays within his range, though, he communicates very little, aside from cool (which shouldn't be undervalued). cool and, perhaps, resignation: that breathy tone suggests nothing so much as a sigh, a tone perfectly suited for "caroline goodbye." the song is related in the first-person, more likely a diary entry than direct address, but one gets the sense that colin would have no problem telling it to her face. after all, her love is ending--not his, a line as convenient as it is ancient. (another clasic boyfriend-who's-moved-on trope he employs: he stresses how much her career is taking off, how much she has to look forward to.) as the mellotron horns blow an ill wind during the chorus, but colin just bundles himself up in his self-possession.

i don't know if it's coming across, but it's an excellent song. the blunstone voice is a marvel and one always hoped he'd have more first-rate songs to sing; he must have thought something similar when he decided to write this one. additionally, i've always had a weakness for songs that can stare stoically in the face of a farewell.

what it isn't, though, is "o caroline," which, after "down river," is the second-greatest piece of music i will ever post on this site.

w/ that said, i don't want to say much more for fear of ruining it. robert wyatt is one of the dearest of men--wheelchair, right, but, like curtis mayfield, the man doesn't want your sympathy; he gets it nevertheless, through the simple act of opening his mouth. the same can't be said of me, so, by way of a conclusion, just a few more things that i believe (which, again, might make me a fool): i believe that stuart murdoch sleeps w/ this record on his pillow (and comes up w/ his best ideas through osmosis); i believe that there is an actual caroline whom robert wyatt is addressing the song to; i believe that people can actually win girls and save relationships w/ pop songs; i believe that the last couplet will break your heart, and if that doesn't, his harmony vocal on the final chorus surely will. i'll let robert say the rest:
david's on piano & i may play on a drum,
& we'll try to make the music work, we'll try to have some fun.
but i just can't help thinking that if you were here w/ me,
i'd get all my thoughts in focus & play more excitingly.

i love you still, caroline.
i want you still, caroline
i need you still, caroline.

if you call this sentimental crap, you'll make me mad,
'cos you know that i would not sing about some passing fad.
& if my attempts at rhyming aren't convincing to your ear,
then memory's betrayed you through the passing of the year.


you must think it doubtful that i mean the words i sing,
or that all attempt to reach you, this way could not mean a thing.
but you must admit we both thought we'd be man & wife,
& that i could make you happy for the best part of your life.

i love you still, caroline (8x).

26 August 2005

the sapient folks over at merge records have made available for download the new single by the clientele, "since k got over me".

the clientele have always been one of those bands that i want to like more, that i wish would try to woo me a little harder. a chill wind seems to blow through most of their records, but a stiff wind would scatter their song structure like gossamer--i need something stronger to latch on to. happily, "since k got over me" offers just that. in my hitherto-favorite clientele song, "as night is falling," alisdair plies himself, but it sounds like a last gasp, rage against the dying of the light. in "since k got over me," though, he's just dying to express some rage: "THERE'S. A HOLE. IN. SIDE. MY. SKULL. W/. WARM. AIR. BLOWIN'. IN." what's more, the song structure, heretofore a sort-of quicksand for lyrics and melody, provides a buttress for the words; it's still vaguely-byrdsy, but there's a nod to "then he kissed me" and drums insistent as the beat alisdair pounds out in the bridge.

i'm so glad to hear these developments b/c i just love to love bands who:
1. conceal album or song titles w/in a seemingly cast-off line.
2. have a mythology.

just who is this "k"? an abbreviation? an enigma? the head of k branch? and if this song is about "k," then just who is julia? it's like a supermarket tabloid, and i love it all the more for that. it's the sort of thing that now has me eagerly anticipating--listen for it--strange geometry.
over at breaking news, i've posted the arbitron and nielsen ratings for all the shows i intend on watching.

it seems, go figure, that everyone is taking next week off. so, instead of the earlier-touted august 31 date, i'm pushing the project back to wednesday, september 7, at which date everyone should be tan and fully-rested, yours truly included.
david ackles - "down river" (from the david ackles lp, available for purchase here)

it's early days yet, but i can safely say that this is the greatest piece of music i will ever post.

hopefully, that got your attention; w/ that out of the way, i can write about it a little. i've said elsewhere that, w/ odessey & oracle fixed in the canon and w/ multiple reissues of s.f. sorrow, the age of discovering lost music from the 60's is over--and then i remember david ackles. he has his famous fans: elvis costello's "500 records" from vanity fair, itself a monument of list-making, is where i first heard of him; elton john, for whom ackles opened at the former's american debut; and phil collins (!), who named "down river" one of his 'desert island discs' on the bbc. notable artists have covered "down river," like linda thompson, the hollies, and, um, spooky tooth (you laugh now). for all this, though, ackles remains a footnote, best-known, if known at all, as the author of a flop single by uk pop duo julie driscoll & brian auger ("the road to cairo.")

ackles sounds like gordon lightfoot if he were a midwestener--or, better still, scott walker if he remembered that he was a midwesterner. "down river" itself seems to prefigure both early tom waits ("rosie") and later bruce springsteen, himself no stranger to rosie's. i don't want to say too much for fear of giving it away; it should say something for ackles's style that one treats its revelations like the ending of a film or a novel. indeed, the bridge of "down river," introduced by an organ flourish, is as shattering as anything in pop music, as heartrending as the climax of a cheever short story or a tale from winesburg, ohio. simply put, if you're not terribly affected by about 2:19 in, never come back here.

the lyric, the vocal delivery, the sympathetic musical framing: ackles was a contemporary of randy newman and leonard cohen, but he was also an avid admirer of gershwin and bernstein, not to mention an actor as a child--interests and talents that coalesce to make "down river" unforgettable for the happy few who have heard it. i've listened to it five times this morning. i suppose the greatest compliment i can give "down river" is that it's among a small class of songs, songs that i don't necessarily listen to often--the sentiments it expresses wouldn't allow it--but when i do put it on, it's not enough to listen to it just once.

25 August 2005

[edit: brian wilson - "this could be the night" (from the for the love of harry: everybody sings nilsson lp, out-of-print)

this is the cover version mentioned below from the nilsson tribute album. it's taken at a faster clip, and he excises the intro--usually these subtleties aren't lost on wilson--but one gets the idea. and, besides, given its highly litigious nature, i'm not tangling w/ abkco.]

here's one reason i am an utter fool (space has been provided in the comments section for your own suggestions): i really believe in pop music. not in the sense that i believe in its continued viability as an art form, which, incidentally i do. no, i believe everything that a well-rendered pop song has to tell me, about myself, about life, about the world.

(this naturally leads down another path, different from the one i intend to tread here: what is it that people do w/ pop music? aside from consuming it, singing along w/ it, inserting it as their ring tone? do other people live by it? or do most people just live along w/ it? consider.)

i was walking around manhattan today, communing w/ my ipod. "this could be the night" by the modern folk quartet came on and i felt a quantifiable lift in spirits and outlook; science could measure the increased spring in my step. i wasn't up to anything in particular; i have no great prospects, either for this night or for any other in the forseeable future. "do you think it's dangerous," as stephin merritt once asked, "to have busby berkeley dreams?" i leave you to ponder that as i discuss the modern folk quartet.

researching this song, which has long been a favorite, i was shocked to find that, one, it's only available in one place (spector's back to mono box set) and, two, it was never officially released until the spector set came out in 1991. yet, i could swear that i heard it, any number of times, on (the lamentably late) 101.1 wcbs-fm. though never released, it did serve as the theme song to a performance film called the big tnt show, the 1966 sort-of-sequel to the previous year's epochal the tami show. by comparison, it seemed to fare less well, particularly since, unlike tami, it didn't feature a young rolling stones or an earth-stopping performance by james brown (a sampling of tnt performers: ray charles, the byrds, tina turner, donovan, bo diddley, petula clark, the lovin' spoonful &c.). writing in 1969, robert christgau seems unaware of its release; google registers 5x as many sites for tami as for tnt.

one artist that didn't perform--though, as you see, they were listed on an early poster--was the modern folk quartet. for one reason or another, spector failed to sign the lovin' spoonful and the young rascals; his attempt at speaking to the kids was in the form of the modern folk quartet, whose members would go on to fame in different areas of the music industry ... but not w/ spector. my little investigation of this song has taught me two things: how we tend to create our own little insular world w/ its attendant hit parade and how resentment can be covered over by an excellent song. spector never released any of the music that emerged from his collaboration w the m.f.q., which has left members of the band bitter right up to the current day (he does have a way w/ burning bridges, and other things, doesn't he?)

"this could be the night" sounds huge, an adjective that can be used for every spector production, up until at least let it be: a martial drum beat, handclaps, glockenspiel, a steel guitar sounding from great depths, a lead singer that's a ringer for al jardine (brian wilson would later cover it for a harry nilsson tribute, nilsson the co-writer w/ spector), and an immense chorus--one's heart drops slightly when considering what he might have done w/ something like "darling be home soon." aside from its heft, it seems like a foregone conclusion that "this could be the night" was a top ten hit, that it would take a force of nature to stop it from ascending the charts. of course, one might argue that a force of nature did stop it: the typhoon of teen. happily, knowing that it was never a hit has little effect on my affection for the song, no measurable loss in spring of step. it might seem that chart positions is inextricably tied up w/ pop music, that its general sentiments (basically, though not limited to love) aim for popular acceptance. pop being basically a fool's game, and me being a fool, i believe everything a song like "this could be the night" has to tell me about myself--and itself. to use a recent example, i'm fairly certain that helen love's "debbie loves joey" will never be a hit, but it's convinced me that it is, and w/ the basic faith established, i also fully believe that the stars may very well be my own, and, indeed, that this may likely be the night.
john phillips - "holland tunnel" (from the john phillips (john the wolf king of l.a.) lp, out-of-print)

two things i've always known about the rolling stones in 1969: let it bleed was released and they played altamont. for good reason, i think, i've always believed that let it bleed, with its generally sour sentiments, was produced in the aftermath, if you will, of altamont. doing a little research, though, i discovered that altamont took place on december 6--the day after let it bleed's uk release (eight days after its us release). the stones, on reflection, had a perfect right to be hostile, given the deaths, drugs, and general disillusionment that attended them in that year.

altamont is often pinpointed as the moment the 60's died, twenty-five days before the calendar says so. the stones never struck me as a part of the 60's peace & love crowd, their satanic majesty's request (mind the title) and mick's "brothers and sisters" rhetoric notwithstanding. it wasn't "brothers and sisters," but another familial relationship that was an integral part of that scene; a band that seemed to be the very essence of peace & love--and a band that i long thought was some sort of hippie put-on--was the mamas & papas (imagine a contemporary rap combo called mamis & papis; remember britney's wedding party, the pimps & maids.) as a young person, i still remember my own mother talking about "papa john" and "mama cass" and wondering what she was on about.

the mamas & papas never saw the end of the 60's, at least as an act. the band broke up in 1968, w/ mama cass achieving solo success w/ "dream a little dream." john phillips, though, didn't release his solo album, john the wolf king of l.a. (one of robert forster's 10 favorite records) until after the 60's were over, and, as such, was produced in the aftermath of altamont. "you can't always get what you want" was, according to the sequencing, the stones's last recorded message for the decade; john phillips's was called "holland tunnel," and similarly it was placed at the end of his debut--and the similarities don't end there. "holland tunnel," too, has a light gospel feel, w/ church organ and backing vocalists singing "la la la," all against a leisurely backing--it's all much less studied than "ycagwyw," w/ its choirs and french horns and such. there is, in a word, a lightness to the proceedings, though a lightness that suggests detachment rather than nonchalance.

the song itself, taken out of context, might be viewed as a prequel of sorts to "california dreaming," about escaping new york. the opening lyrics detail just that:
first thing you do, drive right through that holland tunnel,
pay your toll to the soul on the other side.
pick up a ticket for the new jersey turnpike,
and drive, baby, drive ...
of course, one doesn't travel light; one has his or her giant for company. remembering all that preceded this, the deaths, the drugs, the disillusionment, the tragedies both macro and micro (which ian mcewan's saturday deals w/ so masterfully)--well, where to now? just keep driving. the final verse repeats the first, but w/ a slight alteration:
first thing you do, drive right through that holland tunnel,
pay your toll to the soul on the other side.
pick up your ticket, everything will be all right ...
john's last word on record is a repetition of "all right." there's a six second pause between the two, and one can imagine it took him that much time to muster the nerve to suggest such a thing. it's a weary, strained, and, yet for all that, hopeful thing, transliterated it would look something like "ahh haw haw haw hAGGHLL right." after that, the backing vocalists take up the weight w/ their "la la la"s, which one might argue are, for pop/rock fans, the most profound words in the lexicon.

at the altamont show, the stones covered "the sun is shining," an elmore james-jimmy reed number that they never recorded and hadn't performed on that tour or, indeed, for six years. "the sun is shining"? peace & love, no? no. the song contains this: "i had a dream, i had a dream one rainy night, ahh," that last syllable the second most profound word in the songbook. that line is "holland tunnel," but john phillips somehow found a way, if only in song and not in his own life, to stretch that last syllable into the word "all right."

24 August 2005

earlier, i had said:
all of this, plus he covers kylie's "hand on your heart," in earnest, on the b-side. (which, incidentally, i'd love to hear.)
now, i say:
jose gonzalez, "hand on your heart" (b-side to "stay in the shade" single, available for purchase as an import here).

kylie's version, available domestically on ultimate kylie, fits the mold of her late 80's work. the sheen provided by s.a.w. and kylie's delivery take the glass half-full view of the relationship: when her beau puts his hand on his heart, the words won't come (or he's just a bloody liar). gonzalez's version admits no such hope, as the catch in his throat on the word "heart" at :44 makes all too clear.

what's also quite clear is the respect gonzalez has for the tune; his cover is closer to marc almond's affectionate reading of "something's gotten hold of my heart" than travis's wink-wink, nudge-nudge "... baby one more time." it's a reasonable move by gonzalez, as "hand on your heart" demonstrates once again the pliancy and durability of the stock-aitken-waterman team; stripped of its gloss and, more importantly, kylie's megawattage, the song still generates power, though of a different, more low-key sort.
jose gonzalez - "stay in the shade" (from the veneer lp, available for purchase as an import here)

when i first heard jose gonzalez, i was ready to set him aside w/ devendra banhart et. al., whose appeal i'd have to attribute to the fact that he has a hell of a name--hereward thimbleby price, eat your heart out--and is neat-looking (one expects that picture to say, "touch my heart--w/ your foot.)

upon a listening of "latest" single (the album was originally released in 2003), "stay in the shade," i'm ready to alter that opinion and say that here is an honest-to-goodness nick drake man: it has the starkness and brevity of pink moon and the bongos of five leaves left. what gonzalez brings to it is the benefit of his experience; a swede of argentine descent, "stay in the shade" exhibits the tunefulness of his birth country and the guitar rhythms and chordings of his ancestral home.

all of this, plus he covers kylie's "hand on your heart," in earnest, on the b-side. (which, incidentally, i'd love to hear.)

23 August 2005

shocking confessions over at breaking news, a prelude of what's to come.

today, i see that chris matthews and janeane and sam are back from vacation, so i'm setting a tentative date for the project to begin on wednesday, august 31. watch this space (that space, too).

you're right, i did advertise my website three times in this post. and i just missed a chance to do it again. ah, restraint!
last night on 'the o'reilly factor,' former republican senator slade gorton did my job for me. below, you'll find a portion of his exchange w/ bill o'reilly.
O'REILLY: But, what I know to be true is that there was a tremendous amount of confusion, from 1995 onward after this crazy act that Janet Reno for some reason in her office made everybody aware of, that Intelligence sources overseas were not to brief criminal investigators like the FBI. —We know they have an intelligence arm, the criminal investigators. —If they got something, it was a violation of people's rights.


O'REILLY: Now you know that as well as I do.

No, you have slightly misstated it, but the misstatement is a very important one.

They were not to go to U.S. attorneys who were prosecuting cases. There was no limitation on any intelligence agency sharing anything with any other intelligence agency at all. And so if...

O'REILLY: So you think that
subtlety was known by all of the investigators?

Subtlety? It isn't a remote subtlety.

O'REILLY: I think it was a culture established by Attorney General Reno.


O'REILLY: ...that don't get involved.


O'REILLY: The overseas people doesn't get involved.

GORTON: There was a policy established by Congress and by judges that you couldn't use intelligence information gotten through one kind of -- you know, of subpoena or wiretap in criminal prosecutions. It had nothing to do with sharing among agencies. And as you've rightly said, when it was finally taken down, you know, not by Ashcroft who just -- who went along completely with what Jamie Gorelick said, but by The Patriot Act.
look again at the non-italicized sections. this is exactly the problem w/ the "new" media, whether it's liberal or conservative: the small lie; playing fast & loose w/ the facts; no accountability.

the video is available here, and highly worth watching.
the boy least likely to - "paper cuts" (from the best party ever lp, available for purchase as an import here)

i have synesthesia.

no, no, it's going to be okay. i was diagnosed--if that's the word--years ago by michael daddino, after discussing marvin gaye's what's going on? in terms of color. oh, not like that, racist--here, let me cite vladimir nabokov, another synesthetic, who explains it thiswise:
on top of all this i present a fine case of colored hearing. perhaps "hearing" is not quite accurate, since the color sensation seems to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while i imagine its outline. the long a of the english alphabet (and it is this alphabet i have in mind farther on unless otherwise stated) has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a french a evokes polished ebony. ... the confessions of a synesthete must sound tedious and pretentious to those who are protected from such leakings and drafts by more solid walls than mine are.
indeed, so i hope you'll bear w/ me through this.

nabokov later adds, "music, i regret to say, affects me merely as an arbitary succession of more or less irritating sounds." for me, however, it is music--and not the alphabet, which i don't find irritating one bit--that produces the sensations nabokov explains above; it is perhaps for this reason that, given my disparate interests, music remains in closest proximity to the heart. nabokov's definitions suggest that he sees solid colors, but that's rarely the case for me. to be sure, there are some reactions that resemble a rothko painting; more often, though, it's like forked lightning across a tinted sky. at its best, though, it's like a skittles commercial. a quick example: david bowie, "'heroes'": green and red tendrils reaching across a deep gray background, like a foggy late evening, an hour before dawn.

synesthesia has probably led me to champion music that others might find less than praiseworthy--convenient cop-out, that. i'm thinking in particular of early 90's smooth r&b that utilized irresistible keyboard colors (nothing suggests itself at this moment; it was more of a general trend on stations like 98.7 kiss-fm. there was a song by will downing that i still recall ... "don't wait for love," maybe?) more meritorious masters of such conceits include stevie wonder; those who know me know the special affection i have for his music. in large part, this, again, is due to the colors he created w/ his synthesizer manipulation (and, yes, there's irony here, the colors generated by a blind man ... ) even the synesthetically uninclined will find much to admire in his albums released in 70's. other r&b songs that play tricks w/ my mind: kool & the gang, "summer madness"; al b. sure!, "i'm still in love with you"; mary j. blige, "all that i can say." greatest non r&b source? brian eno and his productions (best examples: "the big ship," "here he comes," and "'heroes.'") see also: the magnetic fields.

all of which leads to "paper cuts" by the boy least likely to. you'd be well within your rights to wonder if this is another song that just appeals to my mental technicolor. yes, the keyboards on the chorus are skittles commercial for me (last time that happened: basement jaxx's "rooty," the bridge), but i think there are other things on offer here, not the least of which an endearing earnestness and weltanschauung that will appeal to fans of, say, belle & sebastian. and then there are the colors.

22 August 2005

bill fay - "be not so fearful" (from the bill fay lp, available for purchase here)

a brief timeline:
11/1974. nick drake dies, aged 26, of an overdose of antidepressant medication.
1994-1996. debuts albums are released by the likes of elliott smith, belle & sebastian, and the elephant six collective.
11/99. volkswagen begins airing a cabrio commercial, featuring nick drake's "pink moon."
12/01. drake's "fly" is used by filmmaker wes anderson in the royal tenenbaums.
03/02. wilco begins playing bill fay's "be not so fearful" in concert.
2002. devendra banhart releases his debut; sufjan stevens begins his fifty states project w/ greetings from michigan.
03/04. joanna newsom releases her debut.

what i'm trying to demonstrate w/ the above is the moving away, likely commercially motivated (no pun intended), from nick drake, in favor of new icons--someone less prolific, perhaps even more troubled, and w/ wacky religious beliefs to boot! thus, judee sill and bill fay--and, to a lesser extent, gary higgins, who may be w/o faith, but is not w/o his adherents (comets on fire recently covered his "thicker than a smokey.")

i've not taken to higgins or sill (in the same way that i haven't taken to stevens, banhart, and newsom), but i dig--is that the word?--i dig bill fay. some of his stuff is marred by kitschy orchestration (says the richard harris fan), but songs like "be not so fearful" would be v. difficult indeed to mar, even by solo acoustic tweedy (but i kid wilco). indeed, in the case of "be not so fearful," the orchestration only enhances: the rising strings behind the line, "and when you wake up you will find you can run" enables a very simple sentiment to take wing. it's but a mere five seconds, but, based on evidence so far, i wouldn't trade it for the whole of stevens's proposed enterprise.
today, i've set up a new blog for the below-mentioned news project, which will now be called breaking news. not sure of a target date yet, but, basically, when all of the hosts are back from vacation. what is set, though, is a program, seventeen hours of opinion and commentary ... and i'm sure i'll have a thing or two to say as well.
11am. springer on the radio. (wlib)
12pm. the rush limbaugh show. (wabc)
1pm. day side w/ linda vester. (fox)
2pm. the al franken show. (wlib)
3pm. the sean hannity show. (wabc)
4pm. all things considered. (wnyc)
5pm. the randi rhodes show. (wlib)
6pm. the savage nation w/ michael savage. (wor)
7pm. the newshour w/ jim lehrer. (wnet)
8pm. the o'reilly factor. (fox)
9pm. the majority report w/ janeane garofalo & sam seder. (wlib)
10pm. scarborough country. (msnbc)
11pm. the situation w/ tucker carlson. (msnbc)
11:35pm. nightline w/ ted koppel. (abc)
12am. countdown w/ keith olbermann. (msnbc)
1am. the daily show w/ jon stewart. (comedy central)
2am. hannity & colmes. (fox)
3am. hardball w/ chris matthews. (msnbc)

you may be thinking to yourself, "hm, 'the daily show' is only a half-hour long ... what will he be doing from 1:30 to 2?" oh, i don't know, eating? getting a glass of water? stretching my legs?

orwell feared that "the very concept of objective truth" was disappearing from the world. mediamatters.org (run by former conservative david brock) and the media research center operate on different sides of the ideological fence, pointing out where the other side is spreading inaccuracy. today, appearing on both of their front pages is msnbc's 'countdown' having named rush limbaugh today's "worst person in the world" (the mrc's brent bozell was named second worst on that particular day).

the mediamatters account.

the mrc's account.

now, go make up your own mind. and don't make me have to make it up for you!

21 August 2005

2046, starring tony leung, zhang ziyi, and faye wong, directed by wong kar-wai.

the number in the title might be a year; it might be a place; it might be a number. if you've seen in the mood for love, which you should have, but don't really need to if you're going to see its semi-sequel, you'll know which it is; after seeing 2046, you'll know that it doesn't really matter. at the close of citizen kane, thompson says, "i don't think any word can explain a man's life. no, i guess rosebud is just a piece in a jigsaw puzzle." 2046 is a jigsaw puzzle, to be sure--also, a romance, a detective story, and a science fiction spectacle, with a tenuous grip on time--and one that is missing its last piece. normally, this causes some degree of frustration, but in wong's hands, it is a rapturous experience, and the enjoyment comes from turning the box upside down, searching the floor carefully, trying to find that last piece. wong takes the ephemera of a doomed relationship and makes it ring like the number of the place first shared w/ one's lover or a locale hallowed by a first glance. if in the mood for love was brief encounter and casablanca, 2046 is part kane, part (tarkovsky's) solaris, part vertigo, yet wholly wong.

2046 two-fer!
vincenzo bellini, "casta diva" (from the opera norma, available for purchase here)
after schubert, you all should be ready for some opera. this aria from norma is used often in the film, mostly to drown out a particular family quarrel. wong's use of music--opera, xavier cugat, connie francis, dean martin's "sway," nat king cole's "the christmas song"--is as essential as the images themselves in establishing the dreamlike tone of the film.

danny chung, "happy together" (from the happy together ost, available for purchase as an import here)
when wong made happy together, my favorite of his films, he was unable to license one song: frank zappa's cover of "happy together," from fillmore east -- june 1971. so, he did what many companies do today when they can't get rights: he commissioned a soundalike, but one that, i think, trumps the original cover.

20 August 2005

added a picture of george orwell--to the left, naturally--which is only fair enough since he is an/the inspiration for vain, selfish & lazy, in more ways than one. the following from "why i write," first published in gangrel, no. 4 (summer 1946), contains a familiar formulation:
looking back through the last page or two, i see that i have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. i don't want to leave that as the final impression. all writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. one would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
two things i strive for on this site: always to be, at the minimum, "only fair enough"; never to write familiar formulations. in all things, to all things, i hope to be honest and equable, to do my level best to demonstrate, like hume's ideal critic, "strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice."

a declaration of principles, if you will.
more notes on glam and glitter: i had intended for this to be a response to badger in the comments under the last post, but it grew into something larger.

badger admits only being familiar w/ a couple of the names on the boobs tracklist; i am completely ignorant of all of the acts. at the same time, though, i'd like to think that i'm au fait with a wide array of garage and freakbeat acts--power pop acts, too. power pop was a contemporary of glitter and, like garage rock, it has a duded-out rhino compilation series tracing its ephemera (nuggets and poptopia, respectively). if (if) garage is a lo-fi version of merseybeat and power pop a higher-fi version of the same, that is to say, both forms are derivative, at worst, of another genre, why doesn't the boobs series--its artists standing in a similar relationship to glam artists--receive a similar treatment?

the only argument i could muster was the old "style over substance" line that reigns even up to the current day. glam being, so it might be contended, all style it couldn't possibly be meritorious, forget about glitter; garage rock would be said to have no style (but isn't that as much a conscious decision as having style?) as far as i see it, garage and glitter have something of a fraternal relationship: the former aesthetic a band before it becomes famous, the latter, after. i would also argue that punk--another highly anthologized subgenre--doesn't follow from garage as neatly as some might believe; that, but for the aesthetic influence of glam, it would have become something else, something lesser entirely.

of course, all this talk of aesthetics leaves out a key contribution of glam to the actual music. the repertoire of the british invasion bands, as they were starting out, was largely composed of earlier rock hits, songs that largely began to fall out of public consciousness once the beatles, stones, et. al. began to compose music of their own. glam's appreciation of these same acts--chuck berry, buddy holly, eddie cochran--makes it an unlikely inheritor of a (substantive, naturally) tradition, and, if such justification is even necessary, strong enough, as boobs demonstrates, to support a subgenre all its own.

19 August 2005

the rats - "turtle dove" (from the boobs: the junkshop glam discotheque compilation, available for purchase here.)

allmusic guide, as you ought to know, grows more indispensable w/ the day, and stephen thomas erlewine's critical voice is one i've long respected, especially since few other american-based critics seem to place such a premium on the recorded output of suede.

taking a look at the site the other day, i saw a link to an album called boobs, which i followed b/c ... just b/c. erlewine wrote the review and, though the project, a sort of nuggets of glam rock, isn't necessarily high-profile, he really rises to the occasion, or perhaps brings the occasion up to his level. he writes this:
certainly, rock & roll in the 21st century no longer means the trashy, sleazy fun that is 'boobs' (the title, by the way, is an homage to a glam club of the same name from the mid-'70s) -- with an exception or two, it's well-intentioned and somber, even morose, either stagnant in its sincerity or designed for posterity and overly reverential of the past.
... which puts into print feelings i've long had, and explains, i hope, why i latch onto "are you gonna be my girl?" by jet and "god killed the queen" by louis xiv. these two songs, from bands i otherwise abhor, merely have the good sense to rip off iggy pop (or should it be katrina & the waves?) and t. rex, respectively, and, as a result, would fit in perfectly w/ bands like the rats on boobs.

(an aside: brandon flowers, from every piece on him i've seen, seems to have admirable taste in music, but somehow it fails to translate in the killers.)

the major difference, of course, is that these songs aren't mere curios: they're verifiable hits, which says less about the timelessness of these songs than it does about the current marketplace. alas, jimmy jukebox, erasmus chorum, and hobnail--you were all born too soon.

18 August 2005

so about that new franz ferdinand single ...

(yes, yes, it's a link to the myspace stream and not the mp3; i'm not touching it.)

[edit: first, first thing: four days later, it strikes me how beatles '64 the opening is. i half expect "i wanna hold your hand" or "twist & shout" to follow; that it doesn't, that it's followed instead by indie-disco says something about franz ferdinand. but what?]

first thing: being a literary kinda guy, i notice punctuation and its absence. so, parentheses, ellipses, dashes, colons, exclamation points, and, oh, yes, question marks. flaming lips' "do you realize??" has, as you can see, two: the listener should feel sufficiently prompted. franz ferdinand's "do you want to" has none, and i have to think this intentional. it's as much of a question as, say, "let's spend the night together," which is one of several touchstones i'm going to bring up.

admittedly, i haven't listened to franz ferdinand in some time and so the ubiquity of "take me out" has altered my perception of the band, a perception since righted by "do you want to." what i like about the band--and where the comparison to orange juice goes wrong--is their sense of menace. to be sure, they're not nick cave, but in the pantheon of creepy songs about girls, "do you want to" is closer to "deanna" than to "hello," and its guitars are sharper than sting's--the wit too. what i like more than the menace is their ability to dress it up nicely, to fine tune it for maximum commercial acceptance (even if that requires a little greasing of palms ... ) it's time that parents worried about what their children are listening to; not in a marilyn manson way, but more like the kind of concern that parents of the earlier times had about elvis, mick, and wicked pickett.

the song itself is a bit of a mess that cleans up nicely after several listens. there's the intro part, with its late-riser looking to make somebody--ooh, the indefinite pronouns--love him; there's what one would call the chorus, i guess, since it contains the title; there's a little verse about blowjobs; and finally a return to the top before shifting into a coda. as far as 2005 chart songs go, it's not as willfully arbitrary as "trapped in the closet," but the end result, of both songs, reveals minds operating at peak pop capacity, while making the radio a little less safe for all of us.

17 August 2005

the cribs - "the wrong way to be"(from the new fellas lp, available for pre-order here)

i think my post of yesterday necessarily implied that i'm not listening to much contemporary music, which isn't quite true. what i've been listening--what, really, i've been listening to for the last eight years or so is british pop & rock. one of the bands that i've taken to, and a band that haven't necessarily received the pub that many of their peers have, is the cribs, whose debut is released next week in the states.

the cribs' second album, produced by edwyn collins, is a marked change, to my ears at least, from their debut, which seemed to be a hybrid of the libertines and the strokes (at which one might confidently ask how one makes a hybrid of two similar acts). this set me about thinking about this new wave of british pop, which several outfits have called "the return of britpop," which is fair, i think, if the reference is general; not quite so accurate if it refers to the years, oh, 1993-1997.

following this proclamation, i attempted to make a band-to-band correlation between the two eras, only to quit in frustration when i realized that i had six or seven blurs, w/ nary an oasis in sight. it seemed much easier to compare these bands to the original british invasion (w/, say, the libertines as the stones); even easier when comparing them to british (post) punk outfits (ooh, but who will be gang of four?) i suppose at this point i should list the bands i'm talking about, which is somewhat difficult in itself. there are two different headings, i believe, but they're not mututally exclusive. (bands marked w/ an asterisk could just as well have been in the other category.)

the libertines (debut: 6/02)
razorlight (11/03)
*the cribs
*the ordinary boys (2/04)
the others (4/04)
*hard-fi (1/05)
dogs (2/05)
the rakes (4/05)
arctic monkeys (5/05)

franz ferdinand (debut: 8/03)
kasabian (9/03)
art brut (3/04)
bloc party (4/04)
engineers (9/04)
kaiser chiefs (11/04)
maximo park
editors (1/05)
clor (2/05)

(do let me know if i'm missing anyone. i used the nme singles of the week as my guide; i can't think of a better listing of the hip and the has-beens.)

what this particular classification factors out is the futureheads, who debuted in march of 2003, five months before franz ferdinand. at the time, franz ferdinand made more sense in the early 80s/late 70s style that the futureheads seemed to revive with the 1-2-3-nul! ep, a style also being worked by lesser contemporaneous acts like dogs die in hot cars, the delays, and, um, ambershades. since then, however, i think most bands have chosen to follow the commercial path blazed by franz. (not to say that the futureheads haven't had success--i've heard "decent days & nights" on commercial radio here, but it seems more like an exception than a rule.)

the cribs, then, aren't necessarily the new fellas their album would have you think. indeed, they've been around almost as long as the aforementioned ferdinand. what is new, though, and this might be the edwyn influence, is their exchanging new york cool for cool britannia: "the wrong way to be" has the attitude of dexys ("your scene has got a lot to answer for") crossed w/ the racket of a fall w/ 'top of the pops' on their mind. they are, along w/ maximo park, the two bands, at this point, that i expect the most out of. not to be confused w/ the band i expect the most interesting out of, who may still very well be franz ferdinand: i'm not sure what to make of "do you want to," but i now very much want to hear you can have it so much better.

which is another story entirely.
i know it's a terrible thing, but anytime i hear about the btk killer, i think of b2k, and then you got served, and you know where that leads. at least omarion is still safe, or was at last check--perhaps he will ask for more prayers as btk goes through this trying time.

16 August 2005

franz schubert - "du bist die ruh'," d. 766 (soprano, gundula janowitz)

whenever i feel like i've reached the end of popular music, i tend to find my haven in classical music. there's something reassuring about this august edifice, standing s(t)olid for centuries, indifferent to the caprices of contemporary taste; it seems, in a word, inexhaustible.

pop is, of course, not indifferent to classical, from sinatra's "if you are but a dream" (rubinstein's "romance" for piano in e flat major) to eric carmen's "all by myself" (rachmaninoff's piano concerto no. 2 in c minor) to, erm, andrea bocelli. and also to "franz schubert," which many of you transpotters might recall, is a song by kraftwerk, an homage to the composer that ends with a digitized voice intoning "endless," a suggestion perhaps that the interplay between the past and the present is just that.

"du bist die ruh'" (literally, "you are rest") is highly accessible--also highly intimate, highly gorgeous, highly poignant, but not highly available (gundula janowitz's rapturous interpretation is sadly out-of-print.) schubert's collected lieder make, in this novice's opinion, for the easiest access-point for the pop fan, along w/ strauss's four last songs, into the art song. perfect for those who find opera's excesses distasteful; perfect, also, for anyone who wishes to further cultivate their knowledge of beauty.

15 August 2005

vic godard & the subway sect - "stool pigeon" (from the what's the matter boy? lp, available for purchase here.)

this posting is not going to be about vic godard or the subway sect; it very easily could be, though i'm sure it's been done better elsewhere--here, say.

oh, okay, one thing. for the longest time, the only sect i knew was "ambition," which should have been more than enough to spur a full-on investigation. in retrospect, i suspect that it was the lack of domestic availability of key albums--or should i say album, namely what's the matter boy? after a summary listen to said album, i would group him/them amongst the orange juices, the go-betweens, the dexys--in other words, bands that one finds compatible w/ their personality, that dovetail neatly into the way one has chosen to live their life. given the unfortunate paucity of sect recordings vis-a-vis those other bands, however, is enough to place them at a slightly further remove from the heart. (though, upon reflection, i do wonder if such a move is due to an unwarranted, petty jealousy: in my idle dreams of starting a band, one of the requirements for would-be recruits would be the ability to sing, as i'd like the band to be one part beat combo, one part street corner doo-wop outfit, a hybrid that godard had, i'd say, mastered some months before i was born.)

so, instead of that which i said i wouldn't write about (but already have), i want to discuss the process of discovering a song, of realizing that, of all the songs on an album or playlist, there is one that you need to hear again immediately. from what's the matter boy?, the song that fit that criterion for me was "stool pigeon."

it begins fairly mellow, a resounding guitar chord, melodic bass, w/ a pretty piano run filling the air between the two; seventeen seconds the pace quickens, leading to a crescendo that welcomes in godard's vocal. so far, so pleasant. (for those unfamiliar w/ my predilections, lyrics are always an afterthought--indeed, even as i write this i'm unaware of what the song is about, taking for granted that's it about anything.)

the chorus sounds like a full-band shout, while instruments are deployed in a very effective way--so far, it reminds me of a less smooth cockney rebel. after the chorus, the song returns to its opening tempo and feel, and, yes, speeds up in time again for the verse. (two other predilections: chiming acoustic guitars; slow-fast dynamicss.)

the bridge is when i looked up from what i was doing. it was, to be precise, the three seconds from 1:57-2:00. godard sings the word "sea" (or maybe "see"?), and the acoustic guitar rises to the fore. more than that, though, the vocal melody goes somewhere not dictated by the music, the two seeming at odds w/ one another, like an undertow pulling one where he or she is not sure they want to follow.

at this point, at least musically, i'm thinking early rod stewart, the mixture of soft and harsh, the energy generated by an acoustic band w/ an enthusiastic and charismatic vocalist; the closing eighth-note (?) stabs seem like something rod would have done as well, though he'd probably have turned it into a coda.

and perhaps, aside from the above anatomization, that's the reason the subway sect is elevated to a position of privilege in my personal listening habits: the good sense to accept--and appreciate--the lessons one can learn from what at the time, and, in the case of rod stewart, for all time are considered unfashionable acts and trends, the willingness to listen from the mainstream and to turn one's back on that which is prevailing in the punk(/alternative/indie) scene.

12 August 2005

the rolling stones, you might have heard, are catching hell from the american right for a song called "sweet neocon." i haven't heard the song, but, at the very least, it's refreshing that the stones are trying to be topical again.

one would quite naturally expect that any attacks by said neocons would be against their recent recorded output, an easy target--but no! it's more than that. as w/ all things on the right, there must be a rewriting of history. witness sean hannity on his radio show, saying that he has "outgrown" the stones (and led zeppelin, for that matter); that "brown sugar" just doesn't do it for him anymore. in other words, he's put away those childish things (and graduated to what? martina mcbride? leann rimes?)

there's more! on 'the o'reilly factor,' fox & friends co-host brian kilmeade railed against the nfl for allowing an "anti-american" band like the stones headline their opening kickoff. note to the nfl: not only can't your performers be sexy, they also can't have political views that run contrary to the dominant ideology--which would now disqualify last year's super bowl half-time performer, paul mccartney. so who would pass this litmus-test? martina mcbride? leann rimes? one senses that nashville--or maybe branson, mo--has a hand in all of this ...

last night, laura ingraham slagged off coldplay's chris martin for snubbing tony blair. but again, one, it seems, is unable to say, "i hate his politics but appreciate his music." no, now, apparently all coldplay songs sound the same: she had seen their latest video (unspecified) one night--only b/c it was late and she couldn't sleep, you see--and after that she was unable to bring herself to listen to the new album. (note: she may have a point here, but i find her politics so disagreeable that i can't give credence to her theory.) hannity is one thing, but ingraham prides herself on her music taste, her website offering her cd picks. "planet telex" by radiohead opens her show; "portions for foxes" by rilo kiley is often used as well--perhaps no one told her about hail to the thief or "it's a hit."

the most amusing incident i've heard of this phenomenon was matt drudge taking on bruce springsteen, ca. the "vote for change" tour. drudge--he's the pop culture one on the right, remember--asserted that springsteen hadn't had a hit since born in the u.s.a.. ever conspiratorial, drudge found it odd that springsteen has been unsuccessful since the implementation of soundscan in 1991, a statement that carries w/ it the faint hint that, before soundscan, liberals simply made up sales figures. of course, he was all wrong: human touch and lucky town, released concurrently in 1992, both charted in the top 3; his greatest hits album went to #1, as have the rising and devils & dust.

i remember a class discussion i once took part in about art & one's personal beliefs. the professor firmly believed that there was some sort of connection between the two, and so it followed that no one whose beliefs were reprehensible has created a lasting work of art. ezra pound, noted fascist and anti-semite, is the famous case; when he was awarded the bollingen prize, george orwell was one of his defenders. in "a prize for ezra pound," printed in the may 1949 edition of partisan review, he writes:
none of this is a reason against giving pound the bollingen prize. there are times when such a thing might be undesirable--it would have been undesirable when the jews were actually being killed in the gas vans, for instance--but i do not think this is one of them. but since the judges have taken what amounts to the 'art for art's sake' position, that is, the position that aesthetic integrity andcommon decency are two separate things, then at least let us keep them separate and not excuse pound's political career on the ground that he is a good writer. he may be a good writer (i must admit that i personally have always regarded him as an entirely spurious writer), but the opinions that he has tried to disseminate by means of his works are evil ones, and i think that the judges should have said so more firmly when awarding him the prize.
so, what would orwell say about the stones? (admittedly, one cannot see them necessarily being his "thing," and he would undoubtedly find something quite shameless about what they've been doing in the last fifteen years or so.) if christopher hitchens is to be believed, orwell would have supported the iraq war, so any position opposed to that would be wrong, but, and here's the distinction, not evil. neocons are within their rights to attack the message of "sweet neocon," but it's ridiculous--and dangerous, as orwell knew all too well--to attempt to rewrite history.
the go! team - "bottle rocket (single version)" (from the australian-only are you ready for more? tour ep)

the go! team are, i think, an example of the wonder of file-sharing. thunder, lightning, strike! was very likely my favorite album of last year, even though it never received a proper domestic release in the u.s. i know many others who had similar affection for their debut--indeed, the album version of "bottle rocket" was so well known that i already know many who are disappointed in this re-recording.

and, yes, it does take some getting used to. basically, group member ninja takes over vocal duties, replacing the sampled rap that had formed the foundation of the original. don't worry, it still sounds, like the whole of thunder, lightning, strike!, like music for end-titles. in this case, it's drumline meets lucas, as an army of marching bands score the part of the movie where the underdog not only improbably scores a touchdown securing the state championship, but also gets the girl in the process. amidst a frenzied crowd assembled at the fifty-yard line, they are alone together. extreme close-up as they kiss. crane out. fade to black.

(bonus: three tracks off the top of my head that would make great end-titles music: david bowie, "teenage wildlife"; mercury rev, "delta sun bottleneck stomp"; the pogues, "a rainy night in soho." added bonus: great opening credits song: the allman brothers, "midnight rider.")

11 August 2005

orange juice - "blokes on 45" (from the glasgow school lp, available for purchase here.)

if i was the dictator of pop, these are the first two edicts i would issue:

1 a band's first single must be an introductory affair, along the lines of "(theme from) the monkees" and "creeque alley."

2 in lieu of greatest hits, a band must create a "stars on 45" medley of their popular favorites, a la prince's "purple medley" and, er, stars on 45.

orange juice, whose the glasgow school was just released in the states on tuesday, satisifies both of these in one song (which is, of course, paradoxical, but i'll let them slide on the introduction-as-first-single requirement). "blokes on 45," recorded for a peel session, is a medley of their postcard singles, a sort-of aural "goodbye to all that," comprising "falling & laughing," "moscow," "lovesick," "blue boy," "breakfast time," "simply thrilled honey," and "poor old soul (part one)." it begins, however, with a then-unreleased "satellite city," over which edwyn collins affords an introduction to the band's early fortunes:
we made trendy 45's just to keep ourselves alive. we had just signed off the dole when we made "poor old soul."
in the notes, drummer steven daly, perhaps out of professional jealousy, refers to the beat as "remedial disco thump": perhaps this is why he wasn't in the band when "rip it up was released." an orange juice reissue allows the lazy journalist an opportunity to mention oj's debt to that disco thump. in particular, in reviews for the album, i've seen numerous descriptions of the band as some sort of amalgam of chic and the velvet underground--as if that brings one any nearer the truth (indeed, they might just as well be describing the talking heads). what it neglects, naturally, is a lot of far less fashionable influences, like west coast rock, early 70's soul, and songs better known by their titles than by their artists, i.e. most of the great ones. (another gripe: the franz ferdinand connection. certainly, they're both scottish; they both make what is nominally rock music. it's the same kind of ghettoization at play in comparisons between bruce springsteen and bon jovi.)

what they also tend to leave out of the reviews is edwyn's position as a classic british eccentric, the linchpin between bryan ferry and morrissey, the type of eccentric--see also: kevin rowland and jarvis cocker--whose music, alas, rarely survives the trip across the atlantic. edwyn, however, is a survivor: as you may know, he suffered two brain hemorrhages recently but appears to be on the mend at long last. on the message board at his website, his wife, grace relayed the following:
i asked him if he had a message for all of you and he said "yes, disaster area," but followed it with his nutty laugh, which some of you may be familiar with.
yes, yes. godspeed, you old eccentric, you.

10 August 2005

from an astrologer on 'the situation' w/ tucker carlson:
george bush is a cancer.
i'll never doubt the prescience of astrology again.

(oh, and jessica simpson? also a cancer!)
roll deep - the avenue (single, from the in at the deep end lp, available for purchase here.)

my inaugural mp3 post is an unusual choice for me since, as w/ just about any current form of dance music, i know absolutely nothing about its genre, grime.

oh, i know the names: dizzee, wiley, kano, lady sovereign, and so forth. the sound, that is, the rapping and the music, is cartoonish, as the names themselves might indicate. what kind of cartoon characters, though? not average people like the simpsons or the griffins, not exactly superheroes either--somewhere in between. hulk hogan's rock n wrestling, maybe.

roll deep--if my sources are correct, a mike skinner discovery--do nothing to ruin my thesis. like late 90s american hip-hop, it's 80's-fixated; being british, though, the sample choice is idiosyncratic: the maisonettes' "heartache avenue." it quite literally sounds like a roller rink--or roller rinks as i remember them from the mid-80s: neon lit, arcade games, hand-holding, &c. the effect roll deep create is analagous to american peers like kanye west and ghostface and all of the old-school superheroes; w/ very little tweaking of the sample source, roll deep seem as if they're merely rapping over whatever's handy. it may make for weak ring entrance music, but it's a hell of a summer single, whichever side of the atlantic one calls home.
as far as the news project goes, a decision has to be made: do i try to be "fair & balanced" or do i just focus on the conservatives (for, unsurprisingly, one cannot fill out a broadcast day w/ just liberal hosts unless one listens to air america all day)? if one simply monitors the conservative shows, a list like this emerges:
12pm-rush limbaugh (wabc)
1pm-dayside w/ linda vester (fnc)
2pm-the radio factor w/ bill o'reilly (wor)
3pm-the sean hannity show (wabc)
4pm-the bob grant show (wor)
5pm-the big show w/ john gibson (fnc)
6pm-the mark levin show (wabc)
7pm-the michael savage show (wor)
8pm-the o'reilly factor (fnc)
9pm-the laura ingraham show (wabc)
10pm-scarborough country w/ joe scarborough (msnbc)
11pm-the situation w/ tucker carlson (msnbc)

i could lose ingraham and be quite happy about it: as attractive as she may or may not be, in a reversal of the old axiom, she has a great voice for silence. even if i lose her, i still might have a woman in the lineup, if juliet huddy is filling in for vester. ('dayside' is interesting, b/c it's the only one of these shows that has a (decidedly biased) studio audience.) also, does one really need to hear o'reilly twice? or is more important to get hannity twice (on his radio show and then on 'hannity & colmes'?)

the liberals i would like to cover are all on air america: jerry springer, al franken, randi rhodes, and the majority report. as for television broadcasts ... very little representation: chris matthews, allegedly, and keith olbermann on 'countdown,' which has taken up an amusingly anti-fox line. an alternative line-up:
11am: springer on the radio w/ jerry springer (wlib)
12pm: limbaugh
1pm: dayside
2pm: the al franken show (wlib)
3pm: hannity
4pm: the randi rhodes show (wlib)
5pm: grant
6pm: savage
7pm: the majority report w/ janeane garofalo & sam seder (wlib)
8pm: o'reilly
9pm: hannity & colmes (fnc)
10pm: scarborough
11pm: carlson
12am: countdown w/ keith olbermann (msnbc)
1am: hardball w/ chris matthews (msnbc)

in which i lose gibson (okay), ingraham (all right), and levin. i'd rather not lose levin, but unfortunately (?) he's only on for two hours a day.

oh, but before i get to that.

i've been thinking a lot about politics lately; i have a degree in political science, but i've never done anything w/ it. UNTIL NOW.

inspired by michael's 'pornography of semiotics,' i'm giving serious thought to blogging a twenty-four hour news cycle, a mixture of talk radio and cable news. i don't know when, exactly, but soon, possibly. when i come up w/ a schedule, i'll post it here. ideally, i'd get at least an hour of all of the major programs--actually, now that i give it a little more thought, i might only make it 12 hours, from 12pm, when limbaugh starts, to 12am, when 'the situation' w/ tucker carlson ends: both cable and talk radio are late risers and early sleepers, it would seem.
... and you're already thinking, "why do you bother?"

oh, i know, i know, i know.

but, i've gotten my master's in english, and i've received a year's deferment from my ph.d. program, so there is time-- too much of it, i'd contend.

hello again, then.

one major change, though: i've lost a limb! well, no. i mean, i feel as if i've gained a handicap.

no, but seriously. i've always dreamed of having an mp3 blog, like matthew's fluxblog, and now my dreams need not be troubled by anything but public nudity and falling from great heights. in other words, i've devised a way to share the many unpopular things i love, and i will begin shortly ...