21 September 2006

(favorite song of the moment: "sally o'gannon" by the tamborines (listen). it's not nu-gaze, not enough guitars--more like a glaze. or a sheet, instead of a wall. they're also fond of random keyboard outbursts, as well, and melodic pop. it's as if "sally cinnamon" took up w/ the reid brothers, and they took her down to the darklands. "so much better now!" the chorus goes. we all should be singing along. (buy.)

natasha khan is, for all intents & purposes, bat for lashes; she's a friend of devendra banhart. now, listen carefully b/c i'll never say this again: but don't hold that against her. she's getting a lot of positive press over in the uk; i was fearing joanna newsom mk ii. no no no and, therefore, yes yes yes. bat for lashes, at its/her best, is like the shangri-las lost in a soundtrack to a 1960s french film, something by delerue, maybe. "what's a girl to do" (listen) is for girls dressed in black who can never go home anymore (buy).

another thing i never thought i'd be able to say: i've found a saturday looks good to me track i really really like, rather than one that reminds me of other bands i really really like. "edison girls" (listen) is their latest, and to my ears, greatest, only available on a wonderful new compilation called the kids at the club from the good people at how does it feel to be loved? (buy). even at import prices the collection is a downright steal, w/ daymaking tracks by vs&l favorites like voxtrot, i'm from barcelona, lucky soul, suburban kids with biblical names, and stars of aviation.)

20 September 2006

(a friend said, "i'm sorry, i know you were only trying to do the right thing." i said, "ha, well, if certain people are to believed, i only try to do the right thing when it can serve as a convenient cover for my baser wants & selfish desires" (as if they confused who i am w/ the name of this website, and but they did). i'm not sure why i try to do the right thing; it hasn't gotten me v. far--months ago, i thought of turning evil or scientologist.

another said, "shoot her down as much as you want ... tell her to go fuck herself." ah, that's why one has friends, to say such impossible, bizarrely gratifying things! that's why one (listen)s to lou reed, too, whose "somebody else would have broken both of her arms" is something that same friend would have agreed w/.

and yet through a statement like that, one is reminded how removed even your closest friend is from you, b/c they could never understand why what they say isn't a feasible course of action; they could never understand why lou would say somebody else would have broken both of her arms. simply, that person meant something, means something, and you'd feel a phantom pain if they lost a limb.

other statements, like one i heard tonight, reminded me w/ great sadness how far removed--from myself, from how i perceived things--even someone whom, for a time, was closer to me than anyone else alive. just goes to show how wrong you can be--or how wrong they can be--& both. b/c something she said caught the attention of the man in the moon and made him sing this song.

i said to her, "i'm not feeling better now," and i should have added, "but i will." and i can b/c i know she's reading this. it stings now, but it's a flesh wound, on skin i'm due to shed any minute. i've a new job, a new life, a new love interest, and something really, really new to me: purpose.

for now, though, i dedicate a few songs to someone and raise a glass to the past, and yet i can't quite shake the feeling that she must have been drinking alone awhile before she said what she did, else she saw through that glass, darkly.)

19 September 2006

(... but maybe i spoke too soon.)

12 September 2006

(writing "official" emails for school & such has gotten me back into the accursed habit of using capital letters. grading doesn't take me nearly as long as i thought. kids are receptive; some are, dare i say it, enthusiastic. none have found this page, but one myspaced me after i took steps to prevent just that. nothing to hide, really, but it struck me as a boundary that didn't need to be crossed.)
(And this is a song by british post-teen goth betty curse. it's fucking great.

 My, this is a wonderful track from bromheads jacket, the arctic monkeys it'll be okay to like.

 Yeah, this here is simply an amazing beyoncé track. (buy.)

 Right, you'll probably love this if you <3 jens lekman--& you know you <3 him. (buy.)

 Oh, this has the sample of the year; girls aloud must be pissed she beat them to it. (pre-order.)

 Sweden's still on a roll. here and here, electro-pop equal parts manchester & mpls. (buy.)

 Enough for now.)

10 September 2006

(i always thought ccr's "travelin' band" was meant to be the beatles covering little richard. hearing jerry lee lewis's cover, on his new record (pre-order), w/ fogerty in tow--well, it sounds like he's just reclaiming something that's always belonged to him. (listen.) like fire, and passion. jesus christ, he sounds great. jesus? one suspects the devil's involved in this one, he sounds too good. the devil, though, will have to wait awhile for his quarry. what, you thought this would be another old-timer confronting his impending mortality? shit, son, they call him the "killer," not the "killed."

one of the perks at my bookstore gig is free cd promos. i noticed today that no one claimed herbert's album & so i went a-proselytizin'. prince writing for dr. buzzard's savannah band. w/ a name like that, you'd think it'd ring a few bells. "cherchez la femme"? um. "tommy mottola lives on the road." oh, right. (indulging me, i think.) then it occurred to me that scale sounds exactly like prince side-project the family, best-known for the original version of "nothing compares 2 u." but, really, they ring far fewer bells than august darnell et al. "the screams of passion" (listen) would have been the best song on matthew herbert's album, and that's no knock against his record. (naturally, the family's lp is out of print. but the girl 6 soundtrack (buy) may be the best single-disc prince primer out there; it's certainly got the most interesting tracklisting. "adore!" "girls & boys!" "nasty girl!" "how come u don't call me anymore!" "erotic fucking city!")

the album is still unclaimed.)

07 September 2006

(magazine is the most underrated band ever. perhaps i exaggerate--no, not there, here : when howard devoto left the buzzcocks, he went on to form magazine and, w/ them, post-punk. (john lydon "leaving" the pistols & forming pil is also acceptable, but "shot by both sides" was out seven months before "public image.") "give me everything" (listen), their third single, is my favorite magazine song; it amazes me that it's not on any of their "hits" compilations (buy). it's a bit like sly & the family stone meets eno-era roxy music, something for the the cognoscenti to dance to. put differently, it's a coupling of two of my favorite bands, conceptually & musically, a real dream fuck. & yes, there's something recognizably punk to it, the jabs of the guitars, the abrasion in the chorus, devoto shouting "now you give me everything!" devoto's lyrics, too, have influenced every songwriter who practices rock & roll & who wants to mean something. he's at times blunt, at times indirect, as if there's an ideal listener out there that the song is directed at, someone whose personal knowledge of & dealings w/ devoto fill in the gaps--and yet you can't shake the feeling that he's talking to you, and, well, what does he want? in other words--in devoto's words, "so bleak and easy" or "so oblique and so easy." and in the music, disco or art rock. then, both. at the same time.)

05 September 2006

(arctic monkeys won the mercury prize. i was hoping they were like the obvious answer on a standardized test that the testmakers want you to choose instinctively. alas, they were the right answer. richard hawley shoulda won, even alex turner thought so; (listen) to this & tell me he shouldn't have. ok, that track isn't from from coles corner, but you should know that he has other records, too, that you should (buy). it's about the rain, like so many hawley songs, and soothes like the here & there of your windshield wipers on a late summer early a.m. no one does this type of song as well as him--except maybe the clientele, who i'm seeing tonight at the knit. maybe they'll do "rain." i don't know what to expect since they have few, as i see it, definitive songs. every fan has v. different favorites, as w/ will oldham or the fall.)

04 September 2006

(i've just finished claire messud's much-buzzed-about the emperor's children, which might as well be subtitled the way we lived then. it's excellent. read it before oprah puts a sticker on it, as happened to the much-buzzed-about novel i was reading exactly five years ago today.

9/11 happens in the emperor's children. it's neither as near as world trade center nor as far away as mcewan's saturday. it is the first 9/11 book or film i've chosen to encounter; i don't think i need to see a film--the memory is all visual; i'm not sure i need another book now.

my birthday falls four days after the 11th; that year, it was on a saturday. the weekend, when one is robbed of their routine. time meant for other pursuits. yet that week, it was all as one, since i was off the rest of the week, and the media coverage was constant. my birthday passed happily unnoticed, but it made me think of people whose birthdays were on the 11th, about albums released that day (i still remember jay-z & mercury rev; dylan i didn't learn about until later)--about anniversaries & births. and, too, about private tragedies completely unrelated to that day's events. if it was your fiftieth wedding anniversary, were you allowed to celebrate? if your fiancé/e called it off, could you grieve?

the most moving moment of messud's book is not the handling of 9/11, which is minimal, but precisely such a private loss as i've mentioned, a grief observed in a window that once looked out onto the towers, as smoke & ash & the smell of fuel overwhelmed. "she had seen these things and had been left, forever, because in light of these things she did not matter."

let's get it out of the way : here is what i was writing then, saved on the 9/11 digital archive, unalterable, frozen in amber.

but what the emperor's children reminded me of was the subject of an entry i'd written the next week. "the posters," messud writes, "thick and thickening like some mad foliage, each with its photographs, its carefree snap at a wedding, a beach, a picnic, and its plea, shone white in the dusk, and people circulated, quietly, wet-faced, examining them."

i never cried when it happened. my mother did, copiously, much of it probably b/c she wouldn't hear from me for hours; but to this day, she still wells up when she hears "God bless america." two miles from the wtc, i suppose i was neither close enough nor far enough away, too wrapped up in just getting out of new york & getting home, having at the time only seen the first plane hit, cut off from any reliable news source (but not from lots of gossip & secondhand accounts; the last information i'd heard was that a tower fell, this as an elevator door closed in front of me). i cried last night, remembering & in remembrance--and maybe i used the opportunity, as so many in the emperor's children do, to shed a tear or two for my own personal losses & disappointments, reflected in this wondrous piece of fiction.)

01 September 2006

(one of the things that bothers me most is the sainthood given to the "insane," the nimbus that surrounds the entire output of artists as disparate as daniel johnston, syd barrett, brian wilson, and james carr, when even these fellows are lucid enough to recognize that some of their material is shit and there aren't enough prescription drugs in the world to make it seem otherwise (score one for the new critics). what bothers me even more is when this same mentality, if you will, is applied to the works of, say, obscure, intense religious types, like those making up the compilation good God! a gospel funk hymnal (buy); as w/ the praise of the mentally ill, it's a sort of exoticization that condemns at the same time as it elevates, i.e. "look at these crazy God people!" which always annoys me & makes me feel both protective & propietary, not the least b/c of my own amorphous undefined religious beliefs, which are beliefs, make no mistake about it; the more observant among you will have noticed that i can't bring myself not to capitalize "God"--& also my infrequent reference to my catholic upbringing.

so, as an "insider," i say that this compilation is pretty good, not great--best when it lifts popular r&b licks & melodies--and this to me is the best song by a country mile. it's a choir & a drummer, that's all. i fail to provide you w/ a title b/c i want you to make out the words for yourself. in parts, it might as well be greek (or latin, to rep for the western church), it's so unintelligible; even when deciphered, it might as well be greek to the outsider. what moves is the depth of conviction, common to so many gospel records; unlike many, esp. contemporary gospel records, though, it's the sense of awe & beauty conveyed by the simple lyric, the group vocal, the sparseness & low-fidelity of the track & not the tropes of the genre--sweat, buoyancy, wailing--that galvanize the listener. it's as mysterious as individual faith & as involving as shared belief.)


(& if that's not your bag, here's a link to a new decemberists song, one of two on the soon-to-be new album (pre-order) worth hearing. anthems for civil war reenactment types (more blue than grey), or drama kids too cool for queen--or "alt," as we said in my day. i have a constitutional weakness for songs about hanging one's head in sorrow : it's the nexus where real grief meets a learned pose. tom waits sings "hang down your head," but here colin sings, "i'll hang my head," breaking down some sort of wall, demonstrating near-unforgivable self-consciousness (like any drama kid worth his or her salt). but only "near" : it's so damn swelling & soaring, it covers a multitude of sins--or at least half-an-lp's worth. shame about the rest.)

28 August 2006

(said the gramophone has posted a new lloyd cole song, an (excellent) cover of an old moby grape record, "i am not willing." i had thought of posting it, but it's time had come & gone; several weeks ago, though, it would really have said so much about a certain situation. picture the girl from pulp's "like a friend." now imagine if, instead of running into an obliging jarvis cocker, she ran into someone w/ the determination of lee hazlewood in "big red balloon" or the singer of "by the time i get to phoenix." unlike in those two songs, no physical distance is traversed : it's all figurative. the girl is no longer welcome & one couldn't be more thankful, thankful that she finally gave him a reason to leave. what's magnificent about lloyd's cover, apart from the ethereal keyboards, is the attitude that he brings, true to a man who sings breakup songs w/ lines like "baby you're too well read." when he sings, "now i'm so grateful, no longer willing to have her home," his tone adds a tacit addendum : "no hard feelings, babe," and that's the truth.

so, no, no lloyd cole now, b/c that ship has sailed. instead, i'm posting "hit the ground running" by smog (listen) (buy). normally, i'm not much of a bill callahan guy. apart from "ex-con," i find him real boring & for types who will listen to dull, annoying music just b/c of the lyrics, people who ... well, listen to callahan's gf, joanna newsom. "hit the ground running," though, is propulsive & awesome and callahan, through kid choirs & string bits, makes the distance from :01 to 6:54 seem as brief & invigorating as stepping out your front door at dawn on the first morning of daylight savings. oh, & yeah, lyrics : "i had to leave the country / though there was some nice folks there / now i don't know where i'm going / all i know is i'll hit the ground running." ain't traveling nowhere, babies, but i'm going places, figurative like, and listening to smog makes me feel like a stowaway on a freight train, seeing life firsthand, like joel mccrea in sullivan's travels.)

26 August 2006

(like many things in life, the following goes down easier while listening to al green, here singing "what a wonderful thing love is" (listen)(BUY!). al condenses four-hundred pages of baldwin into about four minutes, and if he spares us the view from the gutter, it's only out of christian charity. sometimes i think only al green is in the position to sing about love b/c only he has as many tones as love has modes, and he has the scars to prove it, Lord. love begins as a loping groove, it brings laughter & joy; suddenly everything begins to scatter, most notably the self, and al cries & entreats, but he's never ashamed of it, he is not too proud. "what a wonderful thing love is"? it's not irony & it's not r&b--he's singing for all you kids. that said, i can't think of another al green song in which the words are quite so unintelligible ... but never has he sung so directly about the subject of love--that is, the loved object-- not even on "l-o-v-e (love)." he goes to the river; he drowns; he comes back & he's still in love w/ you. what did he see? what is his message? "i've been crying about your love." happy tears or sad? yes.)
(one of the reasons we read, i think, is in the hope of finding our inmost thoughts expressed in writing, presented to an accepting public, validated & affirmed, confirming that we are neither mad nor alone. this morning, i finished james baldwin's another country; in the v. brief closing chapter, dated by the author, i discover that on 10 december 1961 in istanbul, james baldwin had an idea identical in content to one i had forty-five years later, seated against the exterior of a shopping mall in elizabeth, nj, as my companion smoked a cigarette.

we were near newark airport, and so there were many planes in the sky. i would ask her where she thought each was headed. we shared, among any things, a romantic view of planes in flight & truckdrivers on the highway in the early a.m. we never really discussed why; but as two kids from jersey, it made a certain sense. after all, when we were born, it was to the strains of that keening harmonica that opens "thunder road." it's always been far easier, then, to look outward, toward the highway, toward the horizon, than to dare look inside (which is the difference between born to run and darkness on the edge of town).

one character in another country says, "maybe i'm crying because i wanted to believe that, somewhere, for some people, life and love are easier--easier than they are for me, than they are." this is what i used to think when i saw a plane in the sky or heard the whistle of a train. but then i went other places & met other people, and i soon realized this wasn't the case. every country has unhappiness, and like tolstoy's families, they're all unhappy in their own way.

no, maybe the only true moment of happiness is liminal space, when one is neither here nor there. it's like that lambchop song, where the woman's favorite hour of the day is the one before her husband gets home--the waiting, the anticipation ... & perhaps also the knowledge that, in that hour, she can't harm him nor he her. on an airplane, making his first visit to the united states, the frenchman yves encounters many friendly people : his seatmate who invites him to stop by if he's ever in montana; a flirtatious housewife; a businessman who shares stories of fishing in lake michigan. yet, when the plane lands, they all return to their former selves, defined by their occupation & class. the answer, it would seem, is to be forever like zeno's arrow, suspended in midair, never going anywhere.

but that's not life. one must dare or fail. true, one may dare and fail, but better to have taken the risk. "perhaps," a character says,
if you can accept the pain that almost kills you, you can use it, you can become better. ... otherwise you just get stopped with whatever it was that ruined you and you make it happen over and over again and your life has--ceased, really--because you can't move or change or love any more.
one must strive for forward motion, otherwise the loved one never arrives home, otherwise you never get anywhere. in another country, those characters who cling to what's known are those who doomed; those who take risks have a chance at a life--and a chance is the best we can hope for.

hope? "the word seemed to bang from wall to wall. 'hope? no, i don't think there's any hope." it's an opinion i can understand, one i've held even recently, as i recognize that just about every hardship that's befallen me has come from hoping for something better for myself & others. morrissey sings, "my only mistake is i'm hoping"; baldwin himself, whom morrissey saw in barcelona in 1987 but lacked the nerve to approach--baldwin wrote, ten years after another country, "the hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself." hope begins w/ the individual & then radiates outward. (you'd think someone as solipsistic as morrissey would understand that!)

yet through much of another country, there is no cause for hope. i encountered just about everyone i ever knew in the book, and many of those people were me. i've heard these conversations; i've played both parts; i recognized my own anger & anguish, i recognized the hurt & the helplessness of someone i loved. (i should revise what i said earlier : there are some of one's thoughts reflected in fiction that bring the reader no comfort.) it's disheartening when you realize that there is no other country where people live & love easier, b/c love itself is another country. it's a country w/ barriers to entry that rival the great wall & satisfy u.s. conservatives; it's a country whose officials expel you w/ cheerful readiness & often for no reason; it's a country where most of us are aliens, regardless of our age, sex, race, or orientation.

hope arrives, at the v. end of the novel, from across the sea, a tremendous hop, skip & leap of faith. like our fictional counterparts in baldwin's novel, we continue to try to overcome the obstacles to citizenship (whether they be age, sex, &c.). we want to gain entrance to that coarse, howling country, even though we're unsure of why or what exactly it is we hope to gain. someday, we think, we'll make a home there. or at least we hope we will.)

25 August 2006

(last night i finally got my sacd player to work. i put in blood on the tracks; it was like hearing the album for the first time. "if you see her, say hello" is one of my favorite songs. i must admit that i never really noticed its inexorable pace; in this mix, the percussion slaps you across the face & ends in double-time, like an expression of impatience, someone tired of hearing your story.

will oldham's wrenching cover of david allan coe's "in my mind" (listen), as lovely as it is rare, is like a late-night early draft of "if you see her ...," country cousin to dylan's second take of the song in new york (listen), ragged & exhausted. (lapse of time & change of scenery turned despair into resignation for dylan.) it sounds like he's sharing a basement flat w/ poor ol' toussaint mccall & between the two of them, they can't find a way of keeping the cold out. "if you see her ... " is music for looking at the stars; w/ "in my mind," well, you can't see nothing for all the tears. instead, you close your eyes & struggle to call to mind an image of someone you used to know, peering past the patina, wading through the fog.)

22 August 2006

(sometimes i'm so happy i feel i can't speak sensibly. one of those moments was earlier this afternoon. my paperwork officially went through; i copied my syllabus; i copied roland barthes's "photography & electoral appeal" for my first class. there was a bounce in my stride & a strong temptation to skip. i got in the car & my ipod, bless his empathic electric heart, offered me up the following : herman's hermits, "i'm into something good" (see earl-jean's version for a wonderful alternative, a production that would be right at home next to "i love how you love me") ; david bowie, "starman"; johnny nash, "i can see clearly now"; the charlatans uk, "the only one i know"; saint etienne, "he's on the phone." & so you see i didn't have to speak--i could sing. the song that best sums up how i feel now is peter bjorn and john's "objects of my affection" (listen) (buy) : and the question is: was i more alive then than i am now? i happily have to disagree. i laugh more often now, i cry more often now, i am more me. of course, that's just part of it, & written it doesn't seem like much--perhaps that's the peril of trying to speak sensibly at such times. but, of course, it's a song & the music sings far more forcibly & expressively.

to think, there are people out there to whom music means nothing or v. little. hm!)
(a real treat. keep this one under your hat & near about your heart.)

18 August 2006

(here is a link to a mix made for a friend. it's called scandimania. it contains tracks by the knife, i'm from barcelona, envelopes, junior senior, josé gonzález, lo-fi-fnk, jens lekman, acid house kings, moonbabies, sondre lerche, the concretes, the radio dept., peter bjorn and john, serena maneesh, dungen, marit larsen, love is all, kings of convenience, annie, bobby baby, and loveninjas. it's a celebration of the v. amazing music coming from northern europe in recent years. it's so much more, you know, than porn & gonorrhea--or even ikea, for that matter. enjoy.)

16 August 2006

(this, this is what is wrong w/ the world.)

(apart from, you know, war & poverty & screwdrivers & vaseline.)

15 August 2006

(sorry, jake, but i feel like dancing. this is my favorite song in the world to dance to, this side of anything by james brown. james inspires really intent dancing, especially deliberate dancing; this, though, this is pure joy & delight in one's ability to move. i don't know if i can dance, if only b/c i don't know how people dance nowadays; i hear diddy is bringing dancing back so until i see the results, i'll hold judgement. i can move, most assuredly, & no other song can get me to move so. i think that'll be the moment when i realize that i've aged, when i can't move like i do now w/o pain & accident. poor fred astaire, how sad the day must've been when he understood that he could no longer leap into the air & land ably. let us not think of it or any other potentially sad thing; let us all dance this evening even if no one can see. )

(& when we're done, let's buy this cd.)

(i know what i said. don't get used to this. tonight, well, i don't know why, but i felt like dancing ... & since i've got a lifetime lease on this here hall, i thought i'd play dj. repeat : this is a one-off, this is a one-off. go back to eulogizing & visiting the consistently--& constant--fine sites on the sidebar.)

(shouldn't you be dancing?)

06 August 2006

this is the last post.

i finished the magic mountain today. i started it months ago--this date, exactly--when things were so different. but i had a feeling, i had a feeling that it was inevitable that once i finished the book, that this site would come to an end as well. maybe this is why i tarried so.

but i'd never have guessed how it would end, either the book or the site. i was drafting this in my mind today; i had the tone down & i had the song chosen, but something interrupted it, something completely unforeseen, & now the tone & song have changed--but not the need to end.

i'm ending b/c i need to, not b/c i'm downhearted over a girl or b/c i fail to see the point. i'm not downhearted over a girl--indeed, i feel, at the risk of immense hyperbole, like i've seen the stone rolled away from the crypt; i am a believer, but it's not a belief anyone else can understand, nor would see good reason for such a belief. they may be right, but my faith is unshakeable at this moment. i feel like a pilgrim on his way to a shrine.

nor do i fail to see the point. i know that a number of you really enjoy this site, that i've helped at least a few of you through some difficult times, just as surely as you've helped me. i'm sorry to be giving it up, but i'm not vain enough as the title of this site suggests to believe that it'll affect you all that much.

i'm leaving, simply, b/c there's not enough time. i'm going to be v. busy & i relish that idea. it's been quite some time since i've been occupied. this is where the magic mountain comes in. if you're worried about me "spoiling" plot points of mann's book--if "plot" can even be considered a part of the book--i'd advise you to leave now. thank you so much for reading. i appreciated it immensely. try hard to stay well.

now, for the rest of you. the magic mountain was the culmination of all of my concerns of the past year. (it's now been a year since i returned from new york; it's almost a year since i kickstarted vs&l.) i've thought about love, time, despair, purpose, society, &c.--all covered in mann's book. indeed, i had to put it down for a considerable stretch of time b/c it said too much to me about me, mirrored too exactly events in my own life.

hans castorp goes to the sanatorium to visit his ill cousin. there's nothing wrong w/ him--or so he thinks. he plans to stay three weeks, but not long after he gets there, he is diagnosed w/ a "moist spot" in his lungs. in a sense, none of us is completely healthy & given the rigor of berghof, all of our healths would be found wanting.

three weeks eventually becomes seven years.

but what ails hans is nothing physical; kierkegaard would have seen it from the start : he suffers from despair. he is, as herr settembrini surmises, one of "life's problem children." he becomes enamored of berghof, where he has nothing to do but study & read & take nature walks & pine for frau chauchat. if he did push-ups & sit-ups--strictly forbidden!--this would be the recipe for my life over the last several years. i sat around, observed mankind, read up on everything imaginable, worked a piddling job, hid out in academia as surely as hans hid out in the sanatorium. i performed what binx bolling called a "vertical search" : i examined life from high up in a tower, looking down, as opposed to the "horizontal search," which involved actual living.

as i made my final descent down the mountain, trying to find the way out of my tower, i worried that hans would never break free of his despair, that he had become the perfect patient, embracing his role as a problem child. i'd already made up my mind at this point to make serious changes to my own life : i wanted hans, so much my doppelgänger, to do the same--i almost felt as if i needed him to do it. he lost his cousin; he lost friends; he lost family; he lost his ties to the world below; he even lost frau chauchat, for whom he waited years & years. i wanted him to gain something, to make a choice.

something does happen, "the enchantment was broken, ... he was released, set free--not by his own actions, as he had to admit to this shame, but set free by elementary external forces, for whom his liberation was a very irrelevant matter." what happens is world war i; everything is turned upside-down. but he does make a choice, a peculiar choice given what we know of his character : he chooses to fight in the war. i am proud of him, as proud as my friend was of me, simply for making a choice.

the last chapter of the magic mountain is called "the thunderbolt." i read it on my lunch break at work today. today ... it was a day for seeing ghosts. i saw old college friends; old customers; old co-workers; and i saw her, i saw x, i saw my "beatrice," my frau chauchat. she was as surprised to see me as i her. we had little time to talk; she asked for book recommendations & i made them.

i did not foresee this. i planned on writing this post today, on ending it; i knew how it would end, i knew the song. & then i was struck by a thunderbolt ... again. i thought based on how i'd been treated lately, that i'd sufficiently gotten over her, that i was ready to go. i dare not speak for her, but for me the effect was the same as ever. draped in stormclouds, she brought w/ her confusion; she issued thunderbolts from her bitten nails. i was confounded & perplexed; elementary chores became difficult. i was reminded of why hitchcock called his greatest love story, vertigo. i felt precisely like james stewart as he watches kim novak for the first time : the music swells at her approach; the lights brighten to illuminate the profile; the camera angles used in successive shots create a vortex--into this maelstrom, jimmy & i fell together, helplessly & happily.

let me not deceive you : like vertigo, a happy ending seems unlikely. she was v. polite to me, complimented me; her body language indicated that she was pleased to see me & she waved as she left. but she's given me no hope, since i saw her, of responding to any of my calls. but that doesn't mean that there is no hope. regardless, i feel like kierkegaard's independent lover, barthes' man who doesn't wish to possess--all the things i'd written about months ago. what i understand now, what i've reclaimed is a sense of the future--that it will exist, that it is nothing to fear, that she & i will both occupy it & as long as that is so, no one knows what may yet happen. & while one cannot know the future, what i do know & remember fondly is the past--& what we had together is something that would cure the lovesick troubadour, that will be a source of warmth & light as fall approaches & both start to become scarce.

fall approaches! september's coming soon! september's not so far away! &c. w/ it, i will be busy peddling books & molding young minds, showing them, as much as possible, how to write. i will continue to write, which is one of the reasons i'm looking at a future of teaching; i will also continue to listen to music, naturally. i will be buoyed by both, my twin enthusiams, as well as by the enthusiams of all those i know. i'm v. excited. knowing myself as well as i do, i know this feeling cannot last & so this is why i've chosen to write this, to memorialize this moment, as well as this site.

thank you all. thank you all. thank you all. i cannot say it enough; but if i said it too much, i'd truly give the lie to this site's name. thank you for what you've given me; thank you for what you allowed me to give you.

allow me to give you one final thing. it is the song hans castorp sings to himself on the battlefield, the prayer he recites to keep himself from harm as his fellows fall beside him.

franz schubert - "der lindenbaum" (baritone, dietrich fischer-dieskau) (from the winterreise lp, available for purchase here.)

the lyric, translated from the german :
at the well by the gate
there stands a linden tree;
i dreamed in its shadow
many a sweet dream.
i carved in its bark
many a word of love;
in joy and in sorrow
i was always drawn to it.

again today i had to travel
past it in the depths of night.
there even in the darkness
i closed my eyes.
and its branches rustled,
as if they called to me:
"come here to me, friend,
here you'll find peace!"

the cold winds blew
right into my face;
the hat flew off my head,
i didn't turn around.
now i am many hours
distant from that place,
and i still hear it whispering:
"you'd find peace here!"
i remember carving names in wood, names that still find a way to haunt me (though they're so small!)--& i know i have to get past that point. i've started down a path : i hope a friend has the courage to come along ... but i hope i have the courage, should she not, to keep walking past the whispers & the calls; i hope i have the courage to turn away from what's easy, what's merely comfortable, so that someday i might truly deserve both ease & comfort.

mann writes :
it was truly worth dying for, this song of enchantment. but he who died for it was no longer really dying for this song and was a hero only because ultimately he died for something new--for the new word of love and for the future in his heart.
to love, then, & to the future! i thank you all again for walking w/ me this far. perhaps our paths will cross again in the future.


04 August 2006

maybe just one ultimatum ...
the long winters - "ultimatum" (from the ultimatum ep, available for purchase here.)

no, this isn't just rank cleverness. i had been thinking of posting this awhile now--it says a lot about so much--& i was reminded of it when i saw that the album came out last week (the album version is crap, i'm sorry to say : stick to this one). that is, i had been thinking about posting this long before i thought of using the word "ultimatum" in the last post.

or had i? the magic mountain, which i should be finally finished w/ soon, has made me aware of the fact that i'll never have a good handle on time, or other things.
the beach boys - "the little girl i once knew" (from the today! / summer days (and summer nights!!) lp, available for purchase here.)

my life is filled w/ unlikely confluences.

i was reflecting on a girl i know today and w/ some sadness the phrase "she's not the little girl i once knew" came to mind. i thought of the beach boys song of the same name, the last single they released before pet sounds--or maybe it was the other way around, i thought of the song & then i thought of her. the order, as we shall see, is no trivial matter.

i had just the other day asked her if she owned a copy of pet sounds. no reply. the beach boys are my favorite band, as some of you know; i own about three copies of the album & could part w/ one. i thought to ask her b/c so many of her favorite artists & bands use the template set out forty years ago by brian wilson; but it came to my attention b/c earlier in the day i had been reading about another reissue of pet sounds on nme.com, this time for, yes, that fortieth anniversary.

"caroline, no" is the song that ends pet sounds. it's all about a little girl brian wilson once knew whom he realizes isn't the little girl he once knew--he even asks, "where is the girl i used to know?" BUT. "the little girl i once knew" isn't about that theme at all; i was stunned to realize that i'd long misunderstood a song by one of my favorite bands. so why not post "caroline, no"? b/c you all know "caroline, no." & i thought it more interesting to let my misapprehension stand, b/c i realize that it's not the only thing i've misunderstood recently.

let's pause for a moment & summarize. so far we have 1) reading about pet sounds reissue 2) asking if she had a copy of the album 3) no reply, which should have given me a hint about the direction the wind was blowing 4) my reflection today that she's not "the little girl i once knew," which was the single that preceded pet sounds. which takes us back to ...

i was saying, it's not the only thing i've misunderstood recently, or even today for that matter. i was thinking of a poem, theodore roethke's "i knew a woman," which is not so dissimilar in title to "the little girl i once knew," which is one of my favorite love poems, which is a poem that often called this girl i know--or knew--to mind. (it's a beautiful poem : read it here.) but today i was struck when i realized that the poem was written in the past tense--yes, yes, says the adjunct professor of english, i know, it's something any close reading of the poem should have yielded. but what happened to this woman? did she die, à la roethke's own "elegy for jane"? did it happen one day that he realized that her loveliness was merely in her bones, not expressed anywhere else? that her beauty was not skin-deep but bone-deep? &, really, what was the good in that, unless you had an x-ray machine? i'd written something about bones in an email to this girl the other day : was i thinking of the poem or did my writing about bones make me read the poem today?

so, order, then. in "the little girl i once knew," brian reflects how there was this girl whom he had no eyes for, but w/ the passage of time, he developed interest, leading to the declaration in the chorus. "the little girl i once knew" is, essentially, "caroline, no" in reverse (but remember "caroline, no" was written later--or ... ?) & if you reverse "the little girl i once knew," one gets v. near my estimation of the v. girl i've been discussing in this entry.

it also gets v. near this girl b/c it occurred to me today that she does things in reverse, that whether she's familiar w/ the term, she utilizes backward induction frequently. what is backward induction? it's like taking a quiz on the internet & knowing what you want the result to be & then making it so by answering the questions in such a fashion to get the result you want. i'd sometimes ask her a question & she'd know why i was asking it & what result i wanted & she'd be contrary & give another answer & then have to work backward to support her claim. it's sort of like her behavior to me recently : she treats me as if i've done something wrong to her (when i haven't) & then i act in such a way that would give her reason to feel that way--if she hadn't already made up her mind to treat me as if i had, &c.

order matters, is what i'm trying to say, & sometimes we're surprised & confounded by the order of things. as i said earlier, the song & the poem aren't the only things i've misunderstood lately, as i realized earlier today. but i've got to attempt to establish order where i can. given my standing, i'm in no position to give ultimatums or, well, orders to her; i can however order my own life, get my own balloon off the ground. & if one wishes to come along, well, you're well, you're welcome--but not as things stand now. there was a time when i measured time by how a body sways, but now i find myself singing these lines--yes, from "caroline, no"--instead:
could i ever find in you again,
things that made me love you so much then,
could we ever bring 'em back once they have gone
oh, caroline, maybe?
love - "my little red book" (from the love story : 1966-1972 lp, available for purchase here.)

r.i.p. arthur lee.

03 August 2006

steely dan - "dirty work" (from the can't buy a thrill lp, available for purchase here.)
hans castorp--"head over heels in love," as people say, and yet not in the happy sense of the idiom, but as one loves when it is forbidden and unreasonable, when there are no calm little songs from the flatlands to be sung, terribly in love, dependent, subjugated, suffering and serving--was nevertheless a man who remained shrewd enough amid his slavery to know exactly what his devotion was worth, and would continue to be worth ...

02 August 2006

the horrors - "death at the chapel" (from the death at the chapel single, import available for purchase here.)

i'll tell you one thing : the horrors don't sound like the libertines.

... which is exceedingly rare for a rock band getting a lot of publicity in the uk these days. "death at the chapel" is basically a motorcycle crash tricked out to sound like early bad seeds, right down to the haircuts, only nick's literary aspirations are replaced w/ splatter film appreciation. it's not quite goth, though goth it seems is on the ascendant again; no, it's more like monster garage, w/ a cover of "crawdaddy simone" on the flip.

&, man, can they scream!
nancy sinatra & lee hazlewood - "big red balloon" (from the nancy & lee again lp, out of print.)

then, one day, one of them tries to leave--and does. but in a most peculiar way ...

"big red balloon" is the damnedest song, i swear.

it's like "send in the clowns" meets "up, up & away," as sad as the former, as sprightly as the latter. it's central conceit is as bizarre as anything from a kafka story & at the same time as ordinary as dirt (admittedly, the combination of these two is what gives kafka's stories their power). it moves, too, in unanticipated ways.

well, not entirely unanticipated : after all, you have the song title. lee, in what's fairly typical for him, fucks around w/ the gender roles. listen to nancy's part; listen to lee's part; play it again & think how much easier it'd have been if they were reversed. "easier," true, but less incredible, in as many ways as you wish to interpret that word.

the music, unlike many of the nancy & lee duets, sounds like it could've come off of any of lee's contemporaneous albums, esp. cowboy in sweden : there's a charging acoustic, swathes of strings & high-pitched backing vocals. it sounds like the opening credits to some country caper or another, filmed in panavision.

i say, it sounds like the opening credits but what nancy doesn't realize is that this is the last reel. she didn't know that he would really go. she figures he'd never leave--shoot, he'd never get that damned balloon off the ground. as he leaves the ground, he gets in his last rebukes : he'll never eat her cooking again and he's headed for heaven (might even touch the moon!). one of his last criticisms is as unexpected as it is tender : "you never gave me children," he laments, "you never had the time."

he's unloaded all of his baggage : his new life has begun. maybe if things had been different, nancy would be in the balloon w/ him; at one time, i'm sure lee would have lassoed the moon if she had asked. but it's far past that point & anyway lee is ten feet off the ground. our ways of escape are unique to us, it would seem, and they're always available whether we realize it or not. sometimes it's just a matter of finding the will to get that damned thing off the ground.

01 August 2006

while we're mining 90s uk obscurities, here's
brian - "you don't want a boyfriend" (from the understand lp, out of print.)

brian ended up at setanta, home to the divine comedy & edwyn collins, when his heart really sounds as if it's w/ sarah--if only the craftmanship & fidelity of his records weren't on such a high level & his lyrics too lacking in bitterness & self-pity.

the more you give yourself away to someone, the less they think of you.

a line that cuts right through to the heart of the matter & vice versa. unlike wah!, brian suggests that there's something to damming up all tributaries that lead to the heart; that a heart that's closed for business might be open to other opportunities.

& maybe, maybe you hurting me wasn't a bad thing, wasn't a bad thing.
wah! - "heart as big as liverpool" (from the songs of strength & heartbreak lp, out of print.)

"heart as big as my hometown," pete wylie sings. his hometown, as you might've guessed, is liverpool; my hometown is here in northern new jersey, about 1/30th the size of liverpool. if you've got five minutes, i can show you everything worth seeing.

oh, but listening to this song, my heart just swells & swells! i want to find old ladies & help them cross the street, even if this means stirring them from the slumber; i want to call up everyone i've ever known & tell them everything is going to be just all right. & if you're not in your hometown, tonight, ah, i bet it's never seemed dearer ...

this must be what bono feels like all the time, except when he's drunk, at which times he's even more sentimental. it's like george bailey running through bedford falls shouting "merry christmas!" that is, it's sung by a man in pete wylie who lost his money & nearly lost his life & he's found reason to celebrate nevertheless.

so what's so sad about you?

31 July 2006

charlotte gainsbourg - "the songs that we sing" (from the 5:55 lp, released september 4, import available for preorder here.)

this is the song that i've been singing most often, enough to make me want to post early monday a.m.

whenever "luminaries" get involved w/ projects for female stars, one fears two scenarios. one : the nancy sinatra, in which famous boys help out b/c they would really like to have known / had feelings of bi-curiosity inpsired by her father. two : the marianne faithfull, in which famous boys b/c really would like to have known / had feelings of intense desire inspired by her younger self.

so, enter charlotte gainsbourg & w/ her, just on this single, air, jarvis cocker, neil hannon & david campbell (who is probably as weary of the appositive "beck's father" as charlotte is of "serge's daughter.")

worries scatter like falling leaves w/ the first chime of the track. "the songs that we sing" is the first song i've heard this year that reminds me that fall is on its way, a not altogether unhappy prospect, w/ it so many things of promise for me ... & for you too, i hope. a september release for this album is perfectly apposite. unlike either nancy or marianne, charlotte's not quite ready for the september of her years & this single--the album, too, i hope--is sure proof. essential.

(i feel like the nme having closed a review that way!)

28 July 2006

the long blondes are fucking amazing.

no, no mp3 tonight. i've already posted three or four of them & i feel guilty. go check hype machine or some shit.

one, i've never been in the knitting factory when it's been that packed (or that young; truly, this must be the myspace effect). two, i've never felt the floor shake so.

ok, ok, ok, so kate, yes, but reenie the bassist, placed at the left hand of kate. it's not easy to deadpan when you've got a human cyclotron like kate next to you. but, my. she's the reference librarian of your dreams, that reenie, shooting you looks that you feel are meant for you alone, the kind of look that makes you feel as if you've been caught checking out her gams as she climbs a ladder to access the stacks.

but kate. ah, had i known how amazing she'd be it would have been worth dealing w/ the myspace kidets at the front of the stage--yeah, bummer, all ages--w/ their sunglasses at night indoors, their strings & strings of pearls, their energy drinks & ... their moshing. she's a bit like pj harvey, i guess--kate, that is, not The Kids--only she's more fashionable & fun; she was obviously enjoying herself, swigging a corona between songs--& like everyone else who wanted to drink, she had to wear a wristband, which she probably hated b/c it didn't go at all w/ her outfit, think b&w godard femme.

she's pretty but not the most beautiful girl in the room. i only say this b/c, when she's on, the room, & everyone in it, just seems to disappear, such are her powers. maybe she's known this awhile, kids can be cruel after all, & so she took to solitary pursuits, like books & music & films. she dances, too, like someone who danced in front of the mirror often, by herself, imagining a crowd. her time in solitude was well spent : she's emerged w/ an incredible self who's making up for lost time and having a v. public airing.

to see her in motion, gripping the mic & flailing about like dorothy malone in written on the wind, one wonders how she could be so unlucky w/ guys as to have enough material for all of these songs. perhaps b/c she's used to being on her own? or maybe it's b/c she can't be onstage all the time.

enough on that. i was affirmed in my belief that the music, pulp influence aside, is heavily steeped in the bassy, post-punk dance of the late 70s / early 80s, by bands like essential logic, delta 5 & girls at our best. indeed, the long blondes might be the only band working right now who have a tune--in "giddy stratospheres"--that would fit in perfectly on wanna buy a bridge. i suppose the only downside from my vantage point was having to sit through three opening acts & then not hearing "big infatuation." unless that was played as an encore; i didn't stick around--i realized the band really doesn't have that much more material. (although i suppose they could have played "autonomy boy," but they seemed to avoid their early early catalog. might tonight's setlist hint at what will be on the album?) anyway, setlist as best i remember it:

fulwood babylon (they started the show w/ a b-side!)
lust in the movies ( ... & followed it w/ another!)
once & never again ( ... & then one that only saw release on a cd that came w/ the nme!)
in the company of women ( ... & then a new one!)
weekend without makeup ( ... & at last, the new single.)
swallow tattoo
appropriation (by any other name)
you could have both
giddy stratospheres
separated by motorways

26 July 2006

the puppini sisters - "panic" (from the betcha bottom dollar lp, released july 31, import available for preorder here.)

your grandmother would love it. but what would morrissey say?

well, he wouldn't like it, first, b/c, well, it's not morrissey singing, is it? second, he'd probably make some ill-considered remark about its edges being smoothed--OR TOO PARALLEL (sorry, on a morrissey kick lately)--&, you know, it no longer being subversive.

he'd be right, to a degree. the vocal arrangements are really smooth & there's not much thought given to the instrumental backing. (it's not the best song on the record--that may be their version of "sway," by dino, not the stones--but it's their "statement.") that is, you could slip this in between your mum's rod stewart songbooks & michael bublé albums & she'd be none the wiser. put this on top 40, though, & then give a listen.

like the pipettes, the hot puppies, lucky soul, &c., the puppini sisters bring back the classic girl-group sound ... only here, by "classic" i mean "traditional" & by "girl" i mean "dame." this is straight-up andrews sisters, a beat i don't think anyone has worked since bette midler doing "boogie woogie bugle boy." let's call the original "panic" what it is : "metal guru" w/ "play-my-record" griping & kiddie choir (which, as evidenced by ringleader, morrissey still thinks is really subversive, some twenty years on). surely, in the mid-80s, there were far more bands, probably in manchester alone, who sounded like t. rex than there are traditional harmony groups today.

the song's central claim, too, rings far more true for the puppini girls than it did for morrissey/marr/&c. : "because the music that they constantly play / it says nothing to me about my life." again, surely angsty pasty boys had many more bands shedding vicarious tears for them than neat girls, neither quite pop nor indie, do today. but if the aforementioned bands end up getting their records played--&, yes, actually write songs about their own lives--well, bless the hanged dj, indeed.
oh, what the hell, might as well post that other track mentioned earlier.

pavement - "box elder" (from the westing (by musket & sextant) lp, available for purchase here.)

next monday, it'll be a year on from the day i thought i'd left new jersey forever.

two songs ran through my head, either transmitted through headphones or transmitted by synapses. one was "regret" by new order; the other was "box elder." i fixed on one lyric, "i had to get the fuck out of this town." alone in my car, singing along, i would try different inflections, to make "fuck" sound as definitive & as permanent as possible.

the move was neither definitive nor permanent. a year later, i've never felt more provincial & happy to be so. i thought that the problem was w/ this state & not w/ me. i thought that a change of scene would do me good, that i could lose my giant on one of the hudson crossings. the fault, dear reader, was in myself. you know, classic moody jersey boy, stuck always between philly & nyc & everyone knows this is nowhere & anywhere is better than nowhere. "born to run" & all that--but run to where, exactly? & where did bruce end up, anyway? back where he started. me, too.

a distant voice, who has gathered near once more, said she was proud that i made a choice, hoping that wouldn't sound too patronizing. she's right. last year, i was caught up in a motion that subsumed my own, pushed along on a wave of flattery & praise. this year, i made a choice--i've made a number of them, actually. small things--cooking more, cutting my own hair, &c.--that led to bigger things : dropping a bad habit, starting a new job. i'm kinda scared shitless. but i've become too complacent & so i've resolved to do more things that scare the shit out of me.

so "box elder" still appeals. but i've gotten past the f word--have gotten past a lot of things, recently. i've moved on down the lyric sheet and elsewhere. for me, it's about going places & not necessarily about destinations. i don't want my feet to get rooted to the ground, though, & so every morning, i make sure to ask myself, where to next?

25 July 2006

morrissey - "hold on to your friends" (from the vauxhall & i lp, available for purchase here.)

(trainspotters : see how many "hidden" morrissey references you can find! send your answers to the usual address! winner gets one (1) used walkman, melted.)

a friend of mine is the biggest morrissey fan i know. i sang her a line from this song the other day; she told me she didn't know it. the song is for her, then. & so is the rest of it.

if i were a morrissey album, i'd undoubtedly be vauxhall & i. i could assuredly write about my relations w/ a certain person i know in my life using nothing but lyrics from this album.
could you pass by? will you pass by? ... oh.

ah, but bunny, i loved you.

i am hated for loving for loving, anonymous call, a poison pen, a brick in the small of the back again. ... and i am hated for loving, i am haunted for wanting.
... & then there's "the more you ignore me, the closer i get"--but, no, back to that later. for now, "hold on to your friends."
a bond of trust has been abused, something of value may be lost ...
my most morrissey-like trait is not the wearing of gladioli in pocket, but the wearing of heart on sleeve. this comes, as all these things do, from watching my parents as a child, seeing how freely they expressed their love for one another. the other night, thirty-six years into their marriage, i saw them--mother on her couch, father in his armchair--holding hands, w/ a lack of self-consciousness, watching a lifetime movie.

this, i sometimes have to force myself to recall, is not everyone's experience. it is not the experience of my mother's daughter from her first marriage, now going through a divorce. it is not the experience of my father's daughters from his first marriage, neither of whom have married.

& so i'm always v. open w/ people about how i feel, at times too open, stumbling drunk down maudlin street. but i never thought it'd be held against me : i'd never run into a personality before who recoils from fondness & appreciation.
but now you only call me when you're feeling depressed, when you feel happy i'm so far from your mind, my patience is stretched, my loyalty vexed ...
but now i have & it's a brick wall that i keep slamming myself into, repeatedly. 'twasn't always this way, no. only a month ago, we got on royally--but she seemed far more unhappy then and i was, for a short while, her only true friend.

ah, but the vicissitudes of friendship! for her, things are at least back to the status quo, though i hope they're over & beyond that, and i feel like i've been put back on the shelf. do i remind her now of those chaotic times? did she reveal too much of herself to me? am i too much of a friend or not enough of one? i have to ask these questions b/c, like joni mitchell sings,

"i don't know where i stand" (from the clouds lp, available for purchase here.)

(disoriented, yet? imagine how i feel.)

but, no, joni's not quite right for me today--she's too tentative. she feels "too foolish & strange" to say the words she's planned. one wonders, too, how gender roles fit into this, esp. as this was recorded in the late 60s. but damn she sings it pretty.

the sentiment is otm, though. i don't know where i stand. today, i was on campus, filling out paperwork, ordering textbooks for my classes (oh, yeah, i got that position i mentioned the other day). i stopped in the library; i saw that they were giving away some books. i thought, "she'd like these"--and the moment i put them in my car, i felt i made a mistake, that i shouldn't have done it. the words of isaac hayes ran through my head : "ladies, sometimes you mistake love & kindess for weakness." or, too, mistake love & kindness for wanting something in return.

but i've no expectations of reciprocation. for me a gift is the reification (!) of a kind thought, concretized confirmation that at this particular time, on this particular day, you were thought of. again, like morrissey, my world view is kinda manichaeistic, the forces of idealism locked in eternal struggle w/ the armies of pessimism, the love inside the house i grew up in vs. the hostility of the world outside. i give & give & give to people, but i don't look for anything in return--maybe acknowledgement, at the most. but, w/ her, maybe it's b/c of what we once had, well, it seems my only mistake is i'm hoping. i should know at this point that she won't reply to anything, if only b/c i've let her know how much she was missed while she was away & b/c i kept asking for her to make some time for me.

i know how to undo this; i know how to make her call. she's given me the key herself, told me what one needs to do. but that would be base & therefore, whether she thought so or not, unworthy of friendship. so, morrissey sings, "it's war" in "the more you ignore me ... "--but for me, it's not. in many ways, that song sums up the situation better than any other on the album could. but war is a game. & i don't play games.

i've left it in her hands & this is the last time i'll ever bring it up (hooray!) ... until i change my mind again (groan!). at long last, i've got a lot of good things coming my way, as another band sings--no, no download for that one--& i'd like her to be a part of it. but i've done my part. i can only hope--there's that word again--i say, i can only hope that all of this really means nothing, that it's just another station on the difficult road to becoming friends. after all, she bought me back a souvenir from her trip. maybe i need to have faith that, in the words that close out vauxhall & i, she remains true to me ...

... in her own strange way.

24 July 2006

right, since i can't get it out of my head,

gene vincent - "cat man"
(from the gene vincent & his blue caps lp, available for purchase here.)
"c" is for the crazy hairdo that he wears around.
"a" is for the arms that he'll sneak around your waist.
"t" is for the taste of the lips belong to you.

cat man.

listening to 50s rock & roll, not only does it seem like they got to all the best ideas first, one also wonders how anyone who followed had the nerve to pick up a guitar. in homage, maybe, w/ bent knee, to keep the hoodoo that runs through songs like "cat man" alive. (see, for instance, the birthday party's cover on hee-haw.)

this is a fucking beast of a record. it all could have gone silly & kitschy so easily--shouts of "CAT MAN!!" at the top of one's lungs & all--but sweet gene wouldn't allow that. "tiger man" has a better name, but cat man's got his girl.

yours, too.
vain, selfish & lazy's sort-of half-year round-up.

tracks. (links lead to write-ups, where applicable.)
10 sunshine underground - "commercial breakdown"
9 heavy blinkers - "try telling that to my baby"
8 josé gonzález - "hand on your heart"
7 delays - "valentine"
6 the lodger - "let her go"
5 t.i. - "what you know"
4 mission of burma - "2wice"
3 camera obscura - "lloyd, i'm ready to be heartbroken"
2 guillemots - "made-up love song #43"
1 nelly furtado - "maneater"

bonus : farina - "island of hotels" (click to download; click here to buy.).
my favorite track of the year i've not seen anyone else talk about. what i said then:
the first thing you notice about fariña is that they earn that tilde over the "n." from a distance, you'd think you were flying over the balearic islands, what w/ the trumpets and tropical sway. it's only when you land that you realize it's actually the isle of man. fariña, then, are a bit like an english calexico w/ a helpful dollop of go-betweens. indeed, "island of hotels" sounds quite like "bye bye pride" had it been recorded in la brisa de la palma. "don't need a crystal ball / to see the future at all," the chorus goes, "don't need to know who to call / to know where to find me," and where the go-betweens used three-part harmony, fariña increase that number exponentially. it's incredibly bright and buoyant, reminiscent of the balmy effects of the guillemots. the trumpets, meanwhile, do suggest calexico, but they also call belle & sebastian to mind--which in turns brings one to love, both band and feeling. the world is at your feet and la brisa is at your back, and it's an unseasonably warm one for england.
now i say, i feel like the pied piper of the brokenhearted when i whistle this one loud.

albums. (click to purchase.)
10 heavy blinkers - the night & i are still so young
9 futureheads - news & tributes
8 ghostface killah - fishscale
7 art brut - bang bang rock & roll
6 scott walker - the drift
5 my latest novel - wolves
4 belle & sebastian - the life pursuit
3 herbert - scale
2 guillemots - through the window pane
1 broken family band - balls

23 July 2006

guillemots - "if the world ends" (from the through the window pane lp, import available for purchase here.)

my dearest friend, her deepest fear is the end of the world. not her own death, mind, but everyone else's--and the destruction of the world, too. it make sense w/ me : i left my old job once to go elsewhere : it wasn't nearly so sad as when we closed & the whole damned thing came tumbling down.

it makes sense to me : i've barely seen her shed a tear for herself, which awes me given the things she's gone through. i have seen her cry for people she doesn't know; tears, too, that don't seem so much like they've been pushed out of her eyes as like they've jumped, her sadness that profound. after the last time--well, the mascara never did come out of that t-shirt, which doesn't keep me from wearing it anyway.

she's my dearest friend, regardless of how i stand w/ her. i've seen so little of her, heard so little from her recently, and i don't know why that should be so, but i know that i miss the hell out of her. the upside is that all those frustrated & unresolved daytime thoughts become my evening's entertainment : the most time i've spent w/ her of late was in a dream. which reminds me of a poem by robert desnos:
I've dreamed of you so much you're losing your reality.

Is there still time to reach that living body and kiss
onto that mouth the birth of the voice so dear to me?

I've dreamed of you so much that my arms, accustomed
to being crossed on my breast while hugging your shadow,
would perhaps not bend to the shape of your body.

And, faced with the real appearance of what has haunted
and ruled me for days and years, I would probably
become a shadow.

O sentimental balances.

I've dreamed of you so much it's no longer right
for me to awaken. I sleep standing up, my body exposed
to all signs of life and love, and you
the only one who matters to me now, I'd be less able
to touch your face and your lips than the face and the lips
of the first woman who came along.

I've dreamed of you so much, walked so much, spoken
and lain with your phantom that perhaps nothing more is left me
than to be a phantom among phantoms and a hundred times more
than the shadow that walks and will joyfully walk
on the sundial of your life.
... which reminds me that i wanted to share w/ her another poem, about the end of the world no less, but we can never find the time. i said to her once that there was never an end to the things we could talk about, only to the time we had to talk about them in. and so knowing she's an avid reader of these pages, i use this virtual space to make real time.

when we talk lately, though, it's never about anything that means something, mostly me being dramatic about never getting to see her, unwittingly helping her to forget what she ever saw in me. when we talk in dreams, my unconscious mind supplies all of the dialogue; what i love most about her is that the author of her conversation is someone i've never come across, in life or in fiction, someone i'd happily spend all my time w/.

in "if the world ends," fyfe too has a dream, and his former beloved is in it, more beautiful than ever. she doesn't speak, she merely plays along the doomed shore w/ buckets of sand, water running through her hands. he has faith in her power to transcend even the end of the world :
if the world ends,
it won't finish you.
you're not the type they can capture,
you flit like a flycatcher.
they can't pin you down.
the song builds slow, as many songs on through the window pane do, but it does build--sand castles in the air, at that, w/ corridors & passages filled w/ spectral humming. then the waves come in & tear the playhouse down--but what's left, well, it's even more beautiful than all that came before, and the end of the world seems like a small price to pay for a beginning so ripe w/ possibility.

it's been raining around these parts like ... well, like the end of the world was nigh. we had the other day what they call a supercell thunderstorm, something i'd never ever heard of before, but it was something to behold, for sure. today, however, leaving work, i looked at the clouds--and they never seemed more beautiful to me, and all of the brutish weather was worth it if only b/c it led to this. my friend, she recently came back home from a trip. looking again at that sky, i can only think that the clouds have arranged themselves in this way to please her; that having gotten to know her as she passed through, they wish to make her life as beautiful as possible.

the clouds & i, then.

18 July 2006

so let me tell you.

my friend, who is so much of a presence here (& elsewhere)--well, she finally ditched that undeserving boyfriend; and jesus christ, will he regret this. she said to him basically that, pace iggy pop, she no longer wanted to be his dog. she did it; and she did it for herself; and overhead in the near distance one hears the sound of first flight & a hard-won song of joy.

i started a new job today. i'm interviewing for an adjunct position at a local university this week, hopefully.

my life of late has been a series of opportunities for me to put my foot in it, all of which i've seized w/ alacrity. the other day, at a party for my cousins, i was ready to put something else entirely in it, i.e. my backside right into a piece of ice cream cake.

but then something happened. right before the point of no return, my sister called out to me and mundane misfortune was for once averted. in other words, i feel like things are starting to go my way.

... & then, disaster struck, power surged to an inordinate degree through my computer & my motherboard was fried, as was my hard drive. even so, my hard drive was salvaged, my luck not having abandoned me entirely. (however : w/ the amount of money i've spent on this computer in the last six months, i probably could've purchased two dells.) thus, no posting.

but, tonight!

the young knives - "loughborough suicide" (from the voices of animals & men cd, released august 21, import available for preorder here.)

the young knives are a band that have been getting a lot of pub, who are liked by many sensible people, but also a band that i've felt nothing for until now. (cf. the mystery jets.) however, "lougborough suicide" is just about the song i've listened to most in the past week. it's like the buggles crossed w/ the wire of 154; bear in mind, too, that the album takes its name after an adam ant lyric. it's damn triumphant! like a young paul weller emerging from a pile of dead bodies, victims of the class war, and singing "i will survive!"

the chorus goes, "I WILL NEVER! GO DOWN! FIGHTING!"

and of a sudden, it all changes. the clarity of the vocal, not to mention the exclamation points, fooled me into thinking that this is something other than it is. instead of a rallying cry, it's the greatest paean to suburban ennui since the future bible heroes' "lonely days." it's a song, i think, for people who want to shout & proclaim, but who are more familiar w/ its tune than w/ its words. i do not know of what i wish to sing, but i feel as if there is at last reason to lift one's voice & join w/ another's, if only to declare that we won't get fooled again.

05 July 2006

the beauty room - "soul horizon" (from the beyond an infinite lp, released august 7, import available for preorder here.)

i know. everything you read up there sounds horrible. some of what i say below may be equally distasteful, but i have to ask you to trust me on this.

listening to this record, i was reminded of what robert christgau once said of debarge :
I know of no pop music more shameless in its pursuit of pure beauty--not emotional (much less intellectual) expression, just voices joining for their own sweet sake, with the subtle Latinized rhythms (like the close harmonies themselves) working to soften odd melodic shapes and strengthen the music's weave.
as you might have guessed, the beauty room shamelessly pursuits pure beauty, but whereas debarge's pursuit was vain, el's paeans to himself, the beauty room's pursuit extends outward, to some unnamed helen.

it's v. unlikely music; what i heard right off was the following : steely dan w/o the libido (& hired axes); debarge w/o the narcissism; junior boys w/o the beats; and p.m. dawn, the great lost band of the 90s (which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue given their string of pop hits & radio staples). no, i haven't heard a band so singlemindedly concentrated on reproducing the sublime, at the expense of all else, since p.m. dawn. and by "all else," i mean that this is music that is magnificently winnowed down, no solos and definitely no ego. like love, then, or how love should be.

03 July 2006

belle & sebastian - "i'm waking up to us" (from the push barman to open old wounds lp, available for purchase here.)

"i'm waking up to us," despite the trumpets on their earlier singles, is the belle & sebastian song that most resembles love, right down to stuart's stilted line delivery, recalling arthur lee at his most precious. this is ironic b/c it is also the belle & sebastian song that is most like the love that a friend of mine finds herself in.

but i fear it's neither too lovelike nor lifelike; it's a song i've really wished i had a reason to post. i may be flattering both myself and her to think that any of the words in this song are ones she could sing. every now & then, it seems close, i see a twitch, a stretch, an eye half-open. so far, though, i don't know that i can say she's woken up; i fear she might've decided to remain in bed, to remain benighted.

maybe, though, she takes her waking slow? regardless, she'll find someone at her bedside when she does--and i think she knows who it'll be.

02 July 2006

the rolling stones - "under my thumb" (from the aftermath (uk) lp, available for purchase here.)

"under my thumb" is a vicious way of thinking, old testament kind of justice, eyes poked out left & right. if you believe there's due cause for mick's spleen, you'll cite the opening lines:
under my thumb,
the girl who once had me down.
under my thumb,
the girl who once pushed me around.
and even if you don't believe there's due cause, it's disquieting how easily one slips inside the song, which is down to the first-person narrative & the handclaps. i'm not sure what the ethics involved are here, but i don't think there's anything wrong w/ singing along--perhaps we've all felt like mick does here at one time in our life, and this is just our way of sublimating.

imagine, however, being underneath the thumb. that is, imagine living this song.

imagine, too, that the first verse has been excised; instead there's scant reasoning behind his actions, at worst, petty reasoning, at best.

imagine that you've been told flat-out that it's enjoyable to make you squirm, and that may be the least offensive thing said or done.

lastly, imagine telling that first person, "i love you."

alert de saussure! we've got a serious slippage of signs here. when i speak to my friend, i feel like i need a translator. she says to me how it was "dumb" to try to undergo behavior that might effect a change in the romantic crisis and i am left severely nonplussed. here, the person in "love" isn't speaking a language unknown to herself, pace stendhal, she's speaking a language unknown to me, full of phrases i'm familiar w/--"love," "dumb," "mistake," "wrong," "relationship,"--but, in context, it all sounds scatological.

or, in other words, severely fucked. here are the rest of the lyrics, just so we know the type we're dealing w/.
it's down to me.
the difference in the clothes she wears.
down to me, the change has come,
she's under my thumb.

under my thumb,
the squirmin' dog who's just had her day.
under my thumb,
a girl who has just changed her ways.

it's down to me, yes it is.
the way she does just what she's told.
down to me, the change has come,
she's under my thumb.

under my thumb,
a siamese cat of a girl.
under my thumb,
she's the sweetest, hmmm, pet in the world.

it's down to me,
the way she talks when she's spoken to.
down to me, the change has come,
she's under my thumb.

under my thumb,
her eyes are just kept to herself.
under my thumb, well i,
i can still look at someone else.
our beloved dog, it seems, hasn't learned any new tricks, and is in all actuality forgetting those she used to know. and to what end?

i can't help but think of isabel archer in the portrait of a lady, that this is precisely the sort of song gilbert osmond would sing if he wouldn't doubtlessly find rock & roll too crude for his sensibilities. you wonder what sins isabel has committed that james hasn't shared w/ us ... until one realizes that in her v. refusal to leave osmond, not to abscond w/ caspar goodwood, whose kiss sends white lightning through her frame, she's committing a sin of pride. at that point, one must cease to think of her as a victim, for she is no longer someone whom something is happening to and has become someone actively courting heartache & disaster. one is forced to face that she may no longer be the same person; that, while it may not be irrevocable, she still has changed as utterly as her language.

& guess whom it's down to?

29 June 2006

billy bragg - "levi stubbs' tears" (from the must i paint you a picture?: the essential billy bragg lp, available for purchase here.)

folks, i concede that there are countless motherfuckers walking around free who need nothing so much as to have the living shit kicked out of them, so as to make way for that final, dying shit. it might be selfish of me, but tonight i can only think about one of them. there are words for what he did, but i don't have them, and you wouldn't want to hear them. oh, i could say it was lowdown, vicious and flat-out mean but that doesn't fully signify.

at a loss for words, then, this evening i post "levi stubbs' tears" by billy bragg, which is just about the saddest song i've ever heard.

as much as i hate to admit it, i know that there are some things your favorite song can't help you w/. holland-dozier-holland can make a heart sing, but they can't put a heart back together again, not after the world does its worst. listening to "levi stubbs' tears" did however help me remember one important thing that i shouldn't have forgotten in the first place : you don't blame the victim. you never ever fucking blame the victim. (do i sound like i have regrets?) told in third person, "tears" foregrounds the victim, making the fact that these things happened to her inescapable. her boyfriend "put a hole in her body where no hole should be," but "it hurt her more to see him walking out the door," and he's just as guilty of that second pain as is he of the first. by begging him to come back, she may seem to all the world to be asking for what he's doing to her--but one confuses this w/ her deserving what's happened to her at the risk of losing a friend.

so there are things your favorite song can't help you w/. the trick is to not let things get to that point. and that's the risk to you, that you won't be allowed to help when you're needed--that's the risk you run when you risk losing a friend.

28 June 2006

the long blondes - "weekend without makeup" (from the weekend without makeup single, import available for purchase here.)

i've been holding back on this track b/c i wanted the single to be released officially before i posted it. after all, this is their first single w/ their new label, rough trade, and everyone should buy it if they can b/c the b-sides are even better.

furthermore, i'm glad i held back. "like some kind of fifties housewife!" kate! i used those exact words to a friend of mine this week! the long blondes seem to be singing her life; there are worse bands who could be singing your life. arab strap, for one.

here, the blondes sound a bit like pulp, ca. his 'n' hers, only the guitar riffs are much more sour. maybe that's b/c, on that album, jarvis was singing about girls whereas kate is that girl. she deserves more than she's getting, and she doesn't even ask for much, just what's she due. what seems to have happened, though, is that her man has fallen out of love w/ her, leaving kate in love alone--only he's still hanging around, stopping in every once in a while, to fuck w/ her head & heart & nothing else. he goes about his business as if nothing's changed, like he's still her man. as the chorus goes, though, you can love or be in love, but they're two v. different things. when the other person doesn't love you back, one moves necessarily from loving to merely being in love, which is a damn lonesome place to be. he's not keeping up his end of the bargain, and if she stops loving him, the whole ridiculous edifice will come falling down, leaving the young lady out on the debris, in total ruin.

but is it such a bad thing? really? true, one has to relocate and runs the risk of being without shelter for some time. bear in mind, though, that "there are wants and there are needs," and neither are being met anymore. far better to leave the site behind, condemned & abandoned, and instead seek out land far outside of the flood plain, where one frequently drowns in her own tears. there may be no hope for kate : she's got this boy under her skin. happily, though, and contrary to psychological evidence, even a dog will be kicked around only so many times before it looks for new ownership, and a girl humiliated only too often before she orders an eviction notice. this girl i know--oh, i hope it's but a matter of time before she's loosed herself from this entanglement, when this lout is out from under her skin and out of her hair entirely.

25 June 2006

1965 : at the start of "leader of the pack," one of the shangri-las asks, "is she really going out with him?" after all, he drives a motorcyle; he's probably also told at least one teacher to cram it w/ walnuts. oh, nostalgia!

1976 : the damned begin "new rose" w/ "is she really going out with him?" homage? irony? regardless, the most offensive thing about the damned is their fashion sense.

1979 : joe jackson - "is she really going out with him?" (from the look sharp! lp, available for purchase here.)

there's no better time for self-appraisal than when an old flame starts dating a burnt match. this is the first time i can ever recall that there's nothing i'd want to change about myself, nothing i'd wish to exchange w/ the new guy. this should be the cause of no little pride--only, he's got the girl.

2006 : and i'm asking, "is she really going out with him?" joe jackson & i, we're standing at the same window, scratching our heads. "they say that looks don't count for much / if so, there goes your proof." (i didn't say it! joe did!) it's almost more difficult when you can't see what they see in him, when you find it hard to believe that the same girl loved you both; a boy starts to wonder what's wrong with him. i say, it's especially hard when you've heard enough to wonder if she really sees anything in him, other than the ineffability and nonplussing of limbic attachment, his having matched the prototype formed as she witnessed the relationship between her own parents, as she established her own emotional pattern through her relations w/ her father. "people will choose misery with a partner their limbic brain recognizes," the authors of a general theory of love write, "over the stagnant pleasure of a 'nice' relationship with someone their attachment mechanisms cannot detect." and besides, "loneliness outweighs most pain."

oh, but psychological pull aside, it'd be so much easier if she were happy. it really would be. if only my own eyes could deceive me, as hers deceive her, and i could believe otherwise! if positions were reversed, she'd tell me what i'm telling her; as i've said, though, as another has said, you can't take your own advice. there's a reason there are so many self-help books out there : b/c they don't do much for you. but that doesn't stop one from turning to them, hoping that the next time will be better. the only real way out, though, isn't his departure, b/c that doesn't solve the root problem. the only real way out is revision, the fighting of "an uphill battle against the patterns already ingrained."

but it ain't easy.

& loneliness outweighs most pain.