Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bears! Mirrors!

Bears at the LSU Museum of Natural Science. Run!

You have new Picture Mail!You have new Picture Mail!

The merciless infinite mirror thing at the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum. Also run!

You have new Picture Mail!You have new Picture Mail!

non-stop black sex y'all

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber - Black Sex Y'all Liberation & Bloody Random Violets
This is an all-time favorite of mine, one that I pull out only when I've built up to it because it stays locked on repeat for at least a day solid. Burnt Sugar is the jazz/rock/improv/blues/trip-hop /hip-hop/adult-contemporary/NYC campfire of blackness organized by Village Voice critic Greg Tate. This is another oversize album that functions like a radio station when you put it on: you hear everything from Prince to Prince Far I, Sun Ra to Sonny Boy Williamson, Public Enemy to... well I was going to say General Public just to keep up the shtick, but changing gears is all part of keeping the Burnt Sugar motor runnin'. Oh, how about Phil Collins to Bootsy Collins! No? Whatever. This album is bigger than any jokes I can make about it.

Robert Christgau reviewed it when they worked together at the Village Voice, saying "wish Tate edited his music like he edits his copy (which does not mean perfectly, believe me)" but I respectfully disagree with his in-house dig. Tate spins the spectrum of modern black sonic culture on his finger like a basketball idly making shots form the three-point line when the mood moves him to do so. He expands the cosmologies of Sun Ra and Coltrane and Anthony Braxton and Lee "Scratch" Perry and Grandmaster Flash to usurp everything - I can hear, among other things, quotes from avant-garde piano composer Henry Cowell's Aeolian Harp and some of Throbbing Gristle's crunchier moments in "random violets."

It also radiates the black consciousness he expresses so profoundly in his books Everything But The Burden: What White People are Taking from Black Culture and Flyboy in the Buttermilk and makes me feel like the honky douchebag I am for bringing up basketball and all but saying he is "remarkably articulate." I mean, couldn't I have made a watermelon analogy too while I'm at it, or described it as the sound of a thousand stolen car radios? White people.

Brilliant thought-provoking music that sounds better on the third successive listen today.

Daniel Patrick Quinn's "The Burryman"

Daniel Patrick Quinn - "The Burryman"

I had this little slab of homespun Irish Scottish minimalism stuck in my head this morning, but I could not for the life of me remember who did it or the name. The Boogeyman? The Ferryman? I even reviewed the album ages ago and lost its odd title Ridin' the Strang but searching for 'ten-inch record' in my gmail revealed it. Ridin' the Strang is a great record for those with serial minimalist tendencies and a tolerance for unabashed Irish-ness, and "The Burryman" is the highlight.

I love it when I can find something.

[outsidleft] The Hold Steady and the View from the Water Tower

The Hold Steady
Stay Positive

I believe The Hold Steady is the band we’ve been needing, just like The Clash was in the 70’s, Guns ‘N’ Roses was in the 80’s, Fugazi was in the 90’s, Drive-By Truckers has been for his decade. All of those groups took up the musical framework into which they were born and transcended them; what the Clash did with/for punk, The Hold Steady did with the unlikely candidate of emo – they made it convulsive, funny, populist, drunk, confused and thought-provoking. Their music is an exalter of the scant human traits that manage to still cling onto our plastic husks. The Hold Steady feel it and sing it. People say they are too talky, I say those people are afraid someone is going to tell them something they don’t want to hear. Too Springsteen-y? We Americans need Bruce Springsteen. He’s the last Atlas holding the roof of the garage up as we sit in circles around his workboots, feeling each other up between bong hits in the dark, and his shoulders are getting tired.

Main Holder of things Steady Craig Finn has an anachronistic take on songwriting – he actually says things, and makes the rhymes work. Their singalong nature is readily admitted in their thesis statement “Constructive Summers” that taps the last drops of the kegs left floating by Hüsker Dü, drunkenly climbing the water tower to the line Let this be my annual reminder that we can all be something bigger. It’s corny as hell, tossing in a cringe-inducing Let’s raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer, I think he was our only decent teacher, but it bears reminding that St. Joe Strummer could get pretty corny as well, because he, like The Hold Steady, was willing to let things fly in the name of expressing one’s heart.

“Sequestered in Memphis” is a simply a great fucking song, one that has eclipsed every other song I’ve heard this year. I won’t pick out lines, because I’d have to go through each one, so let me say that Franz Nicolay’s brilliant flourishes underscores the fact that rock ‘n’ roll was invented on the piano.

The only fault I had with Stay Positive is that it didn’t floor me immediately like Boys and Girls and Separation Sunday did. The harpsichords on “One for the Cutters,” the boorish crassness of the chorus over some straight-lifted classic rock moves on “Navy Sheets” had me thinking they had traded meth for meta. I wanted Charlemagne the drug dealer and Holly seeing Jesus in her hospital room and the girl from “Chips Ahoy.” But a careful listen found them hiding unnamed in the chapel of “Lord, I’m Discouraged” closing with a guitar arpeggio that dares rival that in Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” before collapsing into strummed echo. The Hold Steady use their Catholicism the way they use countless drugged out weekends and stays in the ICU – as places put their launch pads.

The most powerful song on the record is their greatest stylistic departure. “Both Crosses” rolls out in mock Western heat lightning, not entirely unlike Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” which is seeing a second life as the theme for the HD workingman’s porn The Deadliest Catch, but instead of taking the first turn into anthemic bombast, they scratch the dust beneath their feet, revealing the roots and bugs wriggling in the damp murk. Banjos and vibes and even a goddamn singing saw conspire on this muted infernal hoedown as the female protagonist stands at the windswept crossroads, melding her carnality and faith – Baby, let’s transverberate – one of countless, if I may, crucial decisions a girl has to face.

Fortunately, that track is followed by the answer to the opening song’s questions. “Stay Positive” is the now putting a concerned hand on the shoulder of the past.

There’s gonna come a time when the scene’ll seem less sunny,
it’ll probably get druggy and the kids’ll seem too skinny.
There’s gonna come a time when she’s gonna have to go
with the one who’s gonna get her the highest

The last line is a quote from “Hornets! Hornets!” from Separation Sunday, and there are plenty of quotes throughout it, culminating in the only possible solution: we gotta stay positive. The songs that follow have their merits, a knucledhead genius hook of magazines and daddy issues, I hope you’ll still let me kiss you on “Magazines” that is only slightly derailed by a guest appearance by that raspy guy from Lucero, the dreamy noir reference-salad of “Joke about Jamaica” housing the brilliant bar-desperado observation the new girls are coming up like some white unopened flowers, and “Slapped Actress” rounds the bend like the last run of the rock ‘n’ roll locomotive, but it’s you gotta stay positive that hangs in my mind, like the smoke left from fireworks; so simple, too simple even, but impeccably placed.

And maybe I’m now that guy who only sees forests while the kids are busy carving their names on trees before climbing to the high limbs with thoughts of jumping off, and realizing that feeling never goes away, and life never gets easier dammit, it only gets more tedious – you work at the mill until you die, just like they said on the opening number – and I want to lean a ladder against the water tower and climb up and drink and talk, and still want to see the world up there as being ripe with opportunity.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Genius of Madlib

Madlib - Yesterday's Universe: Prepare for a New Yesterday (Vol. 1)
I am skeptical of the dj-as-genius patina that causes such an awful glare when I step into the club-not-club turntablist world, but this collection by Madlib is so goddamn good, he can be a genius if he wants. Built on a bed of fusion, this album sounds like you stumbled on the best lite-jazz station ever imagined, as if in the face of a cold future, the higher powers assembled the perveyors of antique-store and ladies-who-lunch-restaurant music and decreed, it's all up to you, you are our only hope, and they brought their soprano saxes and windchimes and muted Latin percussion instruments to the frontline for the battle between good and evil, enlisting one Madlib as the field commander. So delicious. I want to stroll endlessly the brutally hot streets of Baton Rouge with this bursting out of a boombox on my shoulder.

Madlib - Beat Konducta Vol 3 & 4: In India
In light of the faux Indian Devendra Banhart video the other day and randyf3's tales of taking tabla classes in India, I have had a tabla thud and the perpetual swirl and bells and sitar waves on the brain, and this disc assembled by Mr. Madlib is only making things worse. Extended samples of dialog and orchestral swells from movies are woven just haphazardly enough in Madlib's doped-out dubby loops to make it perfect. I got to know Madlib through a mixtape-or-maybe-actual-album free download thingy he did with Talib Kweli called Liberation, and his loose approach with beats really resonated with me. Madlib is not afraid to let the seams show, letting that blank spot at the end of the loop become part of that neagitive/positive space dynamic that is present in a great DJ. At many points, the samples are just that, window dressing on the top of rickety beat but on the occasssion number, he burrows into it, pulls loose threads back out and tangles himself up in them. See "Onthatnewthing" for a stellar example - it sounds as foreign as Harry Partch microtonal percussion workout and as immediately familiar as cars passing on the street. and like many of the tracks here, it works its idea to completion in about a minute and a half and then moves on to the next. If you are familiar with Christian Marclay's massive snippet pileups, imagine one with a syllabus, a box of curry takeout and and undercurrent of casual funkiness, you will get this record.

Madlib - Theme for a Broken Soul
This album from 2004 is closer to the bone of turntablist practice: piling and piling and lining things up, leaving the edges sharp for a minute in order to establish form, and then smearing it up to give it your own (or perhaps all of our collective) texture. This reminds me much of The Orb, who owned my world for most of 1994, though it lacks Alex Patterson's sense of landscape. At points, it sounds like expensive-haircut music, but sometimes I like those points, even as expensive haircuts are lost on my melon head. maybe next time I get a haircut, I'll request that they play this disc and it will feel expensive.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

[The Record Crate] Personal Journey

This week my headphones have been half-filled with Stay Positive, the fantastic new album by The Hold Steady, who play at Chelsea's next Thursday. The Hold Steady follow in a line of great music from Minneapolis (even though they have relocated to Brooklyn, where I suspect we will all one day converge) in that like Prince and The Replacements, they reaffirm the zeal once had for music, no matter how jaded adulthood has made you. They still sing to the kids on Stay Positive, but they also sing to those singing to the kids, and pile up a lifetime of high-octane listening into each cataclysmic tale of teen love and druggy devastation.

During the guitar solo slyly uplifting "Lord I'm Discouraged," I tried to suss out what it reminded me of. It hit like photon torpedo from an eagle-shaped neon spaceship: Journey. I hadn't consciously listened to Journey since junior high school. I gave my copy of Escape to an Italian exchange student with whom I was hopelessly smitten, but with that transfer, Journey went to the back burner. Recently, however, they are everywhere. I stopped into the electronics department of a certain retail behemoth, pulling The Hold Steady out of my ears to witness Journey blasting out of each assembled flat screen, like the Aurora Borealis but with more color. Replacing Steve Perry as their singer seemed a dubious decision when Steve Augeri took the mic in 1998, but recent recruit Arnel Pineda, just a small-town boy from the Philippines who guitarist Neal Schon found on YouTube, does a rather convincing, even inspiring Perry squeal. Thus, the other half of my listening has been to Journey.

In continuing my re-Journey-fixation, I see Fronteirs -- A Tribute to Journey will land at The Varsity this week. I typically bypass tribute shows. Nothing against them personally; it's not really my thing. Bands like The Hold Steady wear their influences nakedly on their rolled-up sleeves and invoke them through their own voice and words, whereas tribute bands are conscious shadows of the original, mining veins that largely have dried up, or maybe never existed in the first place. But this confluence of Journey might be enough to pull me into their orbit. You never know, Neil Schon might be lurking in the shadows ready to anoint Jerry Hunsicker. But whether you go or simply dig out that worn copy of the greatest hits CD you bought on a whim, promise me you won't stop believin'.

Link to original with local events calendar

"the weak back of The Existent" to "summer forever!"

FourTet - Everything Ecstatic
Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid - Tongues
I loved that Four Tet album when it came out and I still think "Sun Drums and Soil" is a pinnacle of whatever kind of techno it is that he does. Its the kind of song that makes you expect time to stop and slide back and forth with its lurches - cars crash and uncrash, traffic should expand and contract just by it being present on your headphones. And then when the pressure gets to great at the end, all this trans-dimensional convulsion gets to be too much for the weak back of The Existent to bear, and it collapses in a heap to those Joujouka locust horns at the end.

And his (Kieran Hebden, = Four Tet) records with jazz drummer Steve Reid are pretty badass too, if not quite as Kundalini pileup on the expressway to yr skull as is Four Tet.

Caetano Veloso -
I've heard/read more about Veloso than I've actually heard, and this is much sparser and sharper than much of what I've heard. The music has a bit of Wire and Gang of Four up in it I believe, occasionally sweeping up around his dreamy voice with sharp sticks and stray naked wires. Like if Chet Baker had hooked up with some new wave radicals he met at a botched drug deal in Sao Paolo. OK, maybe not that severely dichotomous, but there is something like that going on here, and I like it.

Ok, I do not like this record; I love this record. It is clearly not what I expected but it is scratching my sonic itch like it was designed solely for that purpose. Thank you , M. Veloso for seeing through time and deciding somewhere there would be a lumpy guy in a darkened room staring at a computer that needs your specific velvet jaggedness.

Les Rita Mitsuko - "C'est Comme Ça"
Rhapsody is temporarily Crapsody for having no Les Rita Mitsuko on tap for my immediate needs, but fortunately YouTube is there to pick up the slack

and no Swamp Zombies either? And to think I brag on this service to my friends. I hope you are happy that you are making me thank goddamn MySpace?

The Swamp Zombies MySpace page. Thank you, MySpace.

The hottest things out of Santa Ana short of a brush fire, The Swamp Zombies were what happens if you form a triangle out of Oingo Boingo, The Cramps and Steamboat Wille and then sacrifice a rubber chicken in that vortex, summoning up day-glo voodoo acolytes with stolen Mexican guitars. I love these guys. I can see a direct line between these guys and Animal Collective, but if I could only pinpoint the place between 1988 and now where the message got garbled, I predict we would not be in the mess we are in now. We would have been too busy having swinging zombie beach parties to have voted Republican, missile silos would have been converted to absurdly oversize bongs and we wouldn't need Spencer Gifts and World Market because life would already look like that, and every corner would have a jerk chicken stand that also served ice cream and it would be summer forever!

[225] Review: 6 Pack Deep - Wake Up

Ska offers a number of opportunities that other brands of music don’t. The tradition behind it, Jamaican calypso bands interpreting Sixties music from radio stations in the Southern U.S., lends itself to hybridization. 6 Pack Deep are participants of a fourth wave of ska groups, absorbing everything from jazz to rap to metal into a hyperactive tangle of interlocking horns and thumping beats, a prime example being “Crak Rox (Sux).” The problem with modern ska, however, lies in the non-ska parts of the equation, and 6 Pack Deep short-circuits by overemphasizing vocals and uninspired mall-punk lyrics when its intricate instrumentation could’ve shined. Its stabs at humor, namely the medley piece “Bar-B-Q,” come off as sophomoric, and sure, maybe that’s the point, but ska has a tradition of mixing humor and heavier topics effectively. It is something a band with tight musicianship like 6 Pack Deep should try.

Recommended if you like: Mighty Mighty Bosstones, They Might Be Giants, the Deuce Bigalow movies

Essential tracks: “Wake Up,” “Chuck Tuna”


[225] Review: Barisal Guns - No. 1

Peering through the eyes of Baton Rouge’s Barisal Guns, you would see a landscape dotted with houses of the holy and ensconced in smoke on the water. The band makes no effort to hide its classic rock leanings on No. 1. The title track rides high on a galloping rhythm before succumbing to an air guitar-worthy solo. The album is evenly mixed with what you might expect: smoldering blues numbers (“Stagelight”), arena-ready anthems (“Come In”) and heavy riff meteors complete with an over-the-top drum solo (“Son of Kong”). There are, however, a couple of songs that pull them back from being Spinal Tap. “In My Mind” is a sweet yet dense love song that sounds like an improbably successful mix of Big Star and Yes. Companion pieces “Where’d I Go Wrong” and the Beatles-esque “Where’d We Go Wrong” would make for a rather brilliant single.

Recommended if you like: Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, three-in-a-row rock blocks

Essential tracks: “Come In,” “In My Mind,” “Where’d We Go Wrong”


[225] Review: David Egan - You Don’t Know Your Mind

Piano-based blues suffered at the pyrotechnic hands of B.B. King and Eric Clapton, but Lafayette’s David Egan reminds us that piano keys are for pounding out the blues. The epic-length title track has a stomping rhythm progressing like the march of time, punctuated by Egan’s subdued howl and atmospheric organ. The history of the piano blues is played out on this album: barrelhouse rockers like “You’re Lyin’ Again,” slithering New Orleans funk on “Love Honor and Obey,” and torch song weepers like “Bourbon in My Cup” all play flawlessly. The sentimental “Small Fry” points to The Band at their folkiest. Ultimately, Egan’s tasteful touch comes through in each track on this delightful record.

Recommended if you like: Dr. John, Leon Redbone, long walks along the pier

Essential tracks: “Bourbon in My Cup,” “Small Fry,” “You Don't Know Your Mind"


[225] Larry Garner: A Few More Miles on Him

One of the most engaging figures in blues today is Baton Rouge’s Larry Garner. His conversational lyrics, laid-back grooves and a diesel Ford van with 296,000 miles have taken his music all over the country and the world. He grew up playing the errant American Legion gig with friends and continued to hone his craft while serving in Korea, but it was a fateful traffic jam in 1982 that really launched his career.

“My sister found me a good wife, and I took a job with Dow Chemical, started a family and rarely played in public,” he says. One afternoon on the way home from his shift, he pulled off the snarled highway. There he saw a sign that read, “Blues Jam Tonight” outside the old Tabby’s Blues Box on North Boulevard. He went back that night after his wife told him, “You know you’ve got to go to work tomorrow,” and the rest is history. At Tabby’s he played with legends like Silas Hogan, Arthur “Guitar” Kelly and Kenny Neal. Neal convinced Garner to quit his plant job and play the blues for a living. In 1995, Garner did just that, eventually playing to audiences worldwide. The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation named Garner the 2004 Slim Harpo Ambassador for the Blues.

Garner lists an encyclopedia of influences ranging from gospel to psychedelic rock, from The Soul Stirrers and Bobby Womack to Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix. “I admired lots of musicians but I never wanted to be any one,” Garner says. “I’ve always been pretty content with me. I just wanted to play as well as every guitar player I heard.”

His 2002 live album Embarrassment to the Blues—titled after a narrative about indulging too heavily after a patron sent him drinks—demonstrates his eclectic approach to this music. After the extended smooth R&B intro of “Somebody,” he explains, “The blues don’t care what kind of music it takes to sing it.”

Despite serious health problems in recent years, Garner shows no sign of slowing down. “I’m still bouncing back from triple bypass surgery,” he explains by e-mail from Belgium during his recent European tour. “It did affect me, having to cancel some work right after surgery, but three weeks out of the hospital I went to Russia. The doctors didn’t really want me to go, but American Express don’t take kindly to you getting sick and not being able to send them their money.”

Garner’s latest album, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, came out of that whole experience. “The inspiration for the title was from my near-death operation,” he says. “We can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

It turns out Garner is a lot like his Ford van. He has some impressive mileage and a little wear and tear, but there is no sign of him pulling off the road just yet.

Garner will perform Aug. 16 at Phil Brady’s and Sept. 26 at the free Live After Five concert series.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

five things

  1. Walking the dog in my neighborhood. We've lived here basically since Mardi Gras of 2005 and just now I am discovering nooks and crannies of my own neighborhood of which I would have been ignorant had it not been for the multi-daily ritual of the leash, dog and plastic bag. The other day we discovered an entire named street (albeit a small stub of one that basically turns into an alley, but with an official street sign and at least one house that has it in its mailing address) that I'd never seen before. If someone had told me they lived on ___ street it would have produced a blank stare. And I like to think of myself as attentive of things like that. I wonder what else is within bottle-rocket distance that I don't know about. Elephant in a cage? A yurt? Leper colony? Maybe someone opened that nearby bakery/cafe I keep trying to will into existence. There is a former vacuum cleaner repair place nearby that would be perfect for it.
  2. Not working this weekend. This is the first weekend in ages that I have not had some pressing assignment that I should be doing or actually was doing. Writing a blog entry about it feels a little like fulfilling some ghost assignment in the place of actual work. If I thought about it, there is probably something I could be doing, but none of it has crept into the Should Be Doing arena.
  3. Working less in general. This summer has been one of transitional overlapping employment that was supposed to be done lickety split and is dragging on, due to the bureaucratic nature of my new employer. Freelancing has its benefits and its rock 'n' roll aspects, but the hustle has become a grind and I'm looking forward to it flickering back into a glide with occasional shuffle. I mean, once in the last months I took a day off from Work to get some other Work done, which is messed up.
  4. Not working on my book. This solid rock block of working has given me time to reflect on it and see ways to make it better, give it a bigger purpose than just it having been written. The few things that have reached the public have gotten both congenial praise and disparaging comments, so I think somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot. As of now I have 160 out of 200 ballpark pages written and am seeing now how they need to be rewritten. And its making me want to finish it so I can move on to write another book about something else.
  5. Documenting my listening. According to the Google, about 45-100 of you daily slog through my narcissistic habit of writing about what I'm listening to. Every once in a while someone of note picks up on something and reposts it, which is nice. Its a little like my college DJ days - I like to think I'm talking to someone besides myself, even though I am generally the intended audience. So, thanks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Just when I thought I didn't really like Devendra Banhart anymore

I kinda love this


XTC - The Big Express
I bought this on a whim at the mighty Rock 'N' Roll Collectibles in the French Quarter, a place where I bought nearly everything that mattered - the whole Beatles catalog one evening, much of the Pink Floyd catalog a year after that, countless forgotten alternative albums offloaded by the Tulane radio station and this. As XTC albums go, this is a rather difficult one, and really I might not have latched on to them had it not been, for in the same batch as this I bought a couple of Anthony Braxton's dense orchestra pieces, Trout Mask Replica and, I think, a Laibach album (this was pre-internet - we latched onto anything and everything). The Big Express is in many ways an amalgam of everything I bought from that store, even that pink c-90 of the first two Psychedelic Furs records and my first copy of The Clash's Sandinista which I did not like and sold back to another used store. (I've bought and sold Sandinista at least three times I think, and yet still I want to like it, and still don't.)

XTC - Mummer

A friend of mine had this album but somehow I've never listened to it. This precursor to The Big Express came on the heels of Andy Partridge's nervous breakdown or whatever happened that has kept him from the stage ever since. I say whatever, there are plenty of touring bands, let a few stay back at the ranch and craft sonic masterpieces. Post-Black Sea XTC was for me what Steely Dan is for other people, a band that trapped anxiety and fear and cynicism and reluctant by overriding love in Fabergé eggs, daring you to peek in and see those spirits swirl around, daring you to undo those ornate clasps to let them out. The exquisite "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" is full of shimmering shifts in a four-minute song, like Yes reduced into a thick syrup, infused with Indian and Celtic flourishes and sly Curtis Mayfield moments. and "Great Fire" is a epic built on the gloriously repeated great fire burning THROUGH my house in Partridge's idiosyncratic crooning emphasis. It is a markedly more listenable album than The Big Express, which I just now found myself having a hard time getting through, and it offers a launch pad for where the band was headed.

XTC - Skylarking
I listened to this record so many times when it came out, I feel it rather than listen to it. One of those that I can remember every drum thud and little cricket in the background and everything. I remember the details of this record better than I remember those of the supposedly all-important senior year of high school for which it was the soundtrack. Even though the band did some fine work after this, I never fooled much with it because this record was more immediately there than anything else was. We would map out the life of a man throughout the album, analyze everything on it, the double meanings of grass, the recognition of male vulnerability in "You're Really Super, Supergirl" etc etc etc. It's all pretty obvious really, but man, it was the supernova of Art exploding above our flocks of sheep back then. And still is.

I mean, that Burt Bacharach shit they pull off on "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" still knocks me out. I may have to listen to some actual Burt Bacharach to come down from it.

Now, I remember the dub I had (from the LP version) of this had "Dear God" coming right after that one and before "Dying" and its placement being a point of contention among our gang of struggling Christian new wavers. One made a big show of fast forwarding through it where as the punkier contingent would break into it with frequency. The version of Rhapsody has it tacked on at the end, which is correct since it was an off-album single, so I'm wondering how it ever ended up in the middle on my tape. Back then it was a source of pride to cram as much music judiciously on a C-90 so maybe someone did the math and figured that there would be less slack on side A with the reshuffle, or just maybe, the compiler who doled it out (the one of us who had the actual album) decided that it's cosmological defiance should come after the swoon of reflection in "Sailed" and the acceptance of fate in "Dying."

And I started to re-visit their Nuggets-y Dukes of Stratosphear side project, but decided to listen to The Ventures instead.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

100 words on Soliloquy for Lilith

I once claimed Nurse with Wound was the perfect band in that it was essentially one person, sitting in a studio shack out in Ireland or wherever, sometimes others, sometimes not - issuing out endless recordings, as if the "band" was a Surrealist precipitate for the artist living his life, pursuing his interests. I was in a very Rauschenberg place with art then; not so much now – I think great art is experience shaped purposely by the will, the artist is not a passive sieve but a sculptor. In that way, Nurse with Wound is still kind of a perfect band.

[Record Crate] Doggs and Wolves Lead the Pack

The unsinkable rap icon Snoop Dogg will be appearing alongside America's longest-running act that is "no Sublime" -- 311, at the River Center this week. As of this writing, Ticketmaster still has seats to be filled by those whose capacity for summery grooves and pot anthems have yet to be sated. Snoop Dogg has never topped his debut, but each successive album over the years has shown him rolling with the ever-changing tide of hip-hop while maintaining a consistency and charm to his songs -- on his latest Ego Trippin, he invokes Johnny Cash of the rambling guitar track "My Medicine." 311, however, has never figured out what they wanted to be, whether it was the rap-metal hybrid that played a State Street house party over two decades ago, their watered-down reggae pop hits or their recent stab at 1980s alternative revivalism. Whatever, a high time is predicted at the River Center this Tuesday, July 29.

Canada of late has been taking the reins of sweet indie pop music, a style they have excelled at for years without due acclaim in the states, and Wolf Parade is one of the pack leaders. Sharing members with Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake has not prevented Wolf Parade from honing their own sound; their latest, At Mount Zoomer, blends piano and synthesizers into their winsome melodies, laced with a delicious melancholy. They will be at the Spanish Moon on Saturday.

I've said many times the Manship Theatre is perfectly designed for virtuoso guitar music, and you'll get a chance to see what I mean Thursday. Muriel Anderson became the first woman to win the National Fingerpicking Championship in 1989, and recently contributed to Harp Guitar Dreams, an all-star album dedicated to this rare multi-stringed variation of the guitar. Joining her at the Manship will be fellow finger-picking champ Richard Smith and Thom Bresh, master of many guitar styles and son of country legend Merle Travis. Here's hoping for a down-home country/flamenco/classical harp guitar trio throw down in those immaculate acoustics.

Finally, Billy Bob Thornton has been busy with his home studio and new band The Boxmasters, shilling for Dell computers and crafting the sprawling and surprisingly good boutique country debut album. Thornton's first love was music, and his movie career has been dotted with releases, but The Boxmasters is his most cohesive configuration yet. The band will be appearing at The Varsity on Monday.

Link with local events calendar

lurking at the bottom of the murky depths

Earth(1) - Pentastar in the Style of Demons(2) - favorite track: "Crooked Axis for String Quartet"
Sleep - Jerusalem - favorite track: it's just one hour-long song split into five tracks(3)
John Cale - Sun-Blindness Music - favorite track: "Summer Heat"(4)
Swans - Children of God(5) - favorite track: "In My Garden"
Skullflower(6) - Last Shot at Heaven - favorite track: "Dufus"
Grey Daturas/Monarch - Dawn of the Catalyst (split EP)(7) - favorite track: "Golden tusk of the Endearing" by Grey Daturas
Melvins(9) - Hostile Ambient Takeover- no real favorite track

and for this afternoon

Nurse With Wound - Soliloquy for Lilith (discs 1-3) - just for the clarifying effect of those sinister oscillators.

(1) Earth was original name of Black Sabbath. The Earth here is the Seattle group that formed in the late 80's
(2) One of the best album titles ever, perfectly befitting half cheeky/half serious way that Earth approaches this kind of music. It is interesting that they are considered the standard bearers of stoner rock in that I'm half convinced that they have been parodying it since their inception.
(3) This has been since released in its full single-track form under the original name "Dopesmoker" though the band has said to prefer this version.
(4) This the more VU offering bookended by two blistering slabs of La Monte Young droney excess. I never have quite figured out what I think of John Cale. I want to love his stuff but I never really do. He always seems to be missing some small key element that would make whatever he's doing perfect.
(5) I love this album. It is so saturated with equal measures of contempt and longing for a devotional vehicle.
(6) Skullflower was discovered (by me anyway, I'm sure someone else was aware of it before I was) in a batch of metal CD's sent to me ages ago. Here is my review of their equally powerful Orange Canyon Mind.
(7) Heavvvvvvy. This is the kind of atmospheric ragged doom metal I would want to make, were I to make some. And I am laying claim to the doom metal name "Bathynomus"(8) in case I ever get around to it. My first album would likely be named Abyss Ritual, should that need to be claimed as well.
(8) Bathynomus giganteus(11) (12) is a gigantic deep sea isopod that is basically a monstrous foot-and-a-half long roly-poly that lies lurking at the bottom of the murky depths, ready to coldly devour anything that makes the mistake of going down there. So metal is the Bathynomus giganteus.
(9) I met a guy at the park who had a daughter near the same age as mine, and he didn't seem to be the same dull park dad so we started hanging out(10). Turns out he made horror movies and was way into Melvins and gave me my first real introduction to the rarefied blunt pleasures of that band. Oddly enough, for someone so into loud and vicious art, he was one of the quietest talkers I've ever met. I suppose one should always watch the quiet ones.
(10) That sentence sounds so seedy! Really, it was just playdates... which now sounds even worse.
(11) Pictured above.
(12) The whole annotation-heavy nature of this entry is due my editing a very style-heavy document while I listen to this stuff. I just looked up the rule for italicizing genus and species(13) out of shear habit
(13) Chicago 8.128

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sisyphus longing for the stone

Rhys Chatham - Guitar Trio is My Life!
Chatham's Guitar trio is a compelling piece of rock-meets composition - a one-note riff is established and embelleshed upon for 20 minutes over a rock drumbeat, building and complicating until it fills all the spaces. This 3CD set captures 10 of these performances, all seemingly similar in tone and intensity. At first adhering to my tendency toward song endurance tests I was determined to listen to all of them, but that is like Sisyphus longing for the stone when he should be enjoying the downtime.

James Blackshaw - Litany of Echoes

This disc bridges the rigor of Chatham's cheeky minimalist aggression and the new agey-er sides of the Takoma guitarists (John Fahey, Robbie Basho, young Leo Kottke) without falling into the traps of either direction. This album is lush and lovely, almost Hollywood swell at points, but ultimately smart for music so occassionaly breathless.

J.S. Bach - Complete Lute Suites, performed by Sharon Isbin
Um... the instant win Rhapsody has over Yahoo! Music which it is replacing is that Rhapsody has classical music up in its catalog. I don't really listen to as much classical as I did in my college years, where 20th century composers was nearly all I listened to for a while, but man, it is nice to have it at a click's reach.

Alexander Scriabin - Late Piano Pieces, performed by Paul Crossley
Like this. Ever since reading about his Mysterium, I've wanted to know more about Scriabin. The pieces here are dreams for piano, in that melodies twist and cavort under their own obscured logic, each connection from note to note makes perfect sense, obvious sense even, but the full twist of this river is determined by darker sources. This music might make perfect sense on cough syrup, perhaps some enterprising and hip Houston music student could craft a "chopped and screwed" Scriabin and open up that black hole of destruction he wanted to invoke with Mysterium at the foot of the Himalayas.

Morton Feldman - The Viola in My Life, parts I-IV

This seemed a fitting full-circle to Ryhs Chatham. Like most of Feldman's pieces, The Viola in My Life is long and unfathomably spare - small tight events happen in the distance: a cluster on the piano, a whinny from the strings, a sigh from the woodwinds, a feather rustling a cymbal somewhere out there in the gray-green fog.

Still though, Feldman's misty moor is a sentimental plane where one slowly pulls apart the machinations of love and remorse and the passing of time, holding each gear and belt up to the dim light for examination. I'm not sure if I know anything new after listening to Morton Feldman, but I feel like I know what I already did know a little better.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

afternoon soundtrack with elipses

I was hanging at some friends' house this afternoon, commanding the soundtrack with stuff that was on my phone. Some of this I have talked about at length, so I will skip it, but it made for a compelling stream of music with cohesive flow like I planned it.

Steve Reich - Daniel Variations

This led to a conversation about the early minimalists and Terry was trying to think of the keyboard player that helped champion this music. I offered La Monte Young and Terry Riley, which fit his description of "big hippie" and "wild hair" but neither of them were it. It vexed him so that he had to go upstairs and look it up, and shortly returned announcing...

Yes - Fragile

My wife and I had a Yes moment not too long ago. She mentioned that they were very popular in San Luis Obispo where she used to live because one of them bought a house there, and members of Yes were always hanging around. Yes was a band I never got into, fearing that I might never get back out but we dialed up some Yes as we sat around. At the 425-minute mark of "Cans and Brahms" during one of Mr Wakeman's prodigious solos, she remarked, "Man, Yes, don't hold back!" to which I responded, "Well, the band isn't called Maybe or Perhaps..."

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
While I no longer deny Yes from my life, the languid afternoon called for markedly more funk. This also needed playing because somehow neither of them had ever heard his record. Everyone needs to hear this record, especially "Wars of Armageddon" at the end, collapsing prog and funk and acid rock and sound collage and the end of flower power into a nin-minute fire-fight, culminating with an atom bomb, thunder, a human heratbeat and a mysterious whipser of "It's a fat funky person..."

Sly and the Family Stone - There's a Riot Goin' On
prompting to pick out a skinny funky person, one who embodied Funkadelic's cosmic paranoia on a personal scale, crafting beautiful spare music while waiting for the cops to kick down he door.

Friday, July 18, 2008

a rictus that simply says stop

Terry Riley - Shri Camel
Endless burbling amidst the plinks and planks of dated keyboards. Terry Riley makes the loveliest of music as long as you are OK with it not necessarily going anywhere, which I am (this morning anyway) Terry Riley sounds like what I want it to sounds like when I lay my untutored hands on a keyboard and just start playing, but alas it never does. My keyboard stylings, instead of opening a window to the infinite, create a vacuum that causes all heads to point in my direction and contort into a rictus that simply says stop.

The Books - Lost and Safe
I need something engaging and innocuous and subtly romantic, and can't listen to another note of Yo La Tengo so this will serve as a substitute. The whispered monotone recitations here (and the static wheel of sound) on "Be Good To Them Always" reminds me greatly of the composer Robert Ashely, were he attempting to get as close as he could to a pop song, and failed gloriously at it. There is a bit of old David Van Tiegem in this too - you couldn't stick a tow in downtown NYC music in the 80's without tapping on his sawtooth electric violin oscillations. And there is a heavy helping of Carl Stone in here - "Vogt Dig for Kloppervok" might actually sample directly from Stone's already-sampled closing track from Mom's. Anyway, The Books don't do it as well as Ashley or Stone or Van Tiegem or whoever else they are aping, but they are sweeter and more charming than any of them when they do.

Rothko and Caroline Ross - A Place Between
I love Rothko. They are always an easy go-to when I need intelligent instrumentals that step off the orchestra chart at just the right moment for a jangly strummed chord. I know not who Caroline Ross is, but her stilled songwriting wedges in perfectly with Rothko's sepia-toned gravity.

Spiritualized - Songs in A & E
I hate Spiritualized. I want to like it, but what's-his-face's flat smile about his precious drugs turns me all the way off. Great drug songs are a mix of shame and bombast, much like drugs themselves. Simple glorification in song form is like endlessly proclaiming a love of backrubs or masturbating. Really? You like that feeling of ecsatcy? How weird...

There are some arrangements here that are rather lovely things, pulling all his gospel and techno and California sunshine tropes in smart alignment, but then his voice comes in and kills it. Every time.

Shivers - Beaks to the Moon
Thanks to the one-man Shivers cheer-leading squad randyf3 of local agents of noise Wilderness Pangs, I am now also a fan of Shivers. Shivers is wholly derivative in a way that Spiritualized also is, but Shivers manages to make something fresh and smart out of the parts. Hard organ stops in sync with his gulped Ryan Adams-y confessionals float in the airy spare arrangements. "Half Invisible" is the high-level Lou Reed shtick Lou Reed can hardly pull off any more, and when the break into the hoedown mid stream, it is actually shocking, like made me gasp I need to know who does this when I heard it. Randy is also the music director for the radio station on which I heard it, so I deduced the source of origin when I heard it. It was as if the love of playing this song to the masses somehow came through the radio. I miss those magic radio moments.

Destroyer - Your Blues
"It's Gonna take an Airplane" is on the short list of songs I've heard on the radio that has made me come to a screeching halt, overcome with a need to purchase the album containing it. The rest of the album is good, if a bit too "jazz hands" for me, but damn "Airplane" is genius.

Just look at this interlocked lyric and chorus

In my (submarines)
Evil empire, I (don't mind)
am gonna be a star (spending their time)
in the night sky (in the oceans)

That is infrastructure! But the rest of the record is like adding syrup to your pancackes with each passing bite. It's too much breathlesness

Radiohead - In Rainbows
That's more like it. This album has worn better than I initially thought it would. With the exception of OK Computer, Kid A and especially Amnesiac, I've always liked each new album of their and quickly grew tired of it. perhaps they have smoothed over something in the interim here that has given it a little more universality. Here is what I thought at the time of the Big Radiohead Sales Event.

[outsideleft] Watching for My Exit with Beck

Modern Guilt
(DGC Records)

I listened to Beck’s new CD on my commute yesterday, and it struck me that it is the perfect place for him. Beck is the poet laureate of the carpool lane, amplifying the musings that occur on the perpetual journeys between mundane destinations. Much is made of his funkiness, usually just short of expressing the alarming “blackness” of such a skinny white kid. I think the claim is a bit stretched – Beck is less about mining black music Elvis-stylee than his is about walking the top rim of a mountain chain of pop music that has black music at its core, injecting outcroppings of soul into modern soullessness. Producer Danger Mouse is a perfect travelling companion for this trip, given that he’s made his name from conflagrating the cool and the uncool. Together, they gyrate and bunny-hop from 1968 to 1988 to 2008, perhaps taking cues from the impressive collection of vintage shirts I would guess both these post hipsters have in their walk-in’s, pulsing away from my shot Corolla speakers as I stare at the brake lights and concrete and clay beneath my wheels. In our cars, we allow ourselves momentary transformation through music that we do not afford ourselves otherwise. We will sing along off-key at high volume with abandon, in muted full view of those all around us. We will excite the air with our sounds as we pass while our endpoints of work and home are often bookended in silence. In our cars, as Gary Numan said, we are safest of all.

Modern guilt, I'm staring at nothing
Modern guilt, I'm under lock and key
It's not what I have changed,
Turning into convention
Don't know what I've done but I feel ashamed

Beck is excellent at giving soul and funk and other back-channel music a forum for wide acceptability, taking the idea of the DJ and exploding it to that of the full artist, as well he should; it’s in his blood. His grandpa Al Hansen was a key member of the Fluxus art movement whose concerns pointed at removing art form its ivory tower through a series of serious games, a parade of flat jokes. Al’s forte was e-creating the same Venusian silhouette of a woman in varying materials: cigarettes, Hersey bar wrappers, discarded stickers. While is it rather simplistic to say this categorically, Beck is in many ways his grandpa’s grandson. Over the years, beck has created a formula that has become as familiar as our daily commute, travelling through the same neighborhoods we never actually visit over and over again, letting snippets infuse our own continuum.

He hit his high mark on the deservedly praised 1996 album Odelay which just saw a lavish reissue package. His follows up in ’98, Mutations is just as good from a songwriting perspective, maybe even better in some spots, but the party from Odelay had already started to wind down. In keeping with our commute analogy, we were approaching our exit, and the succession of complex surface-road turns we have committed to muscle memory reflect how I feel about Midnite Vultures, Guero and The Information, with his sad-sack folky diversion Sea Change serving as that expression of panicked “what have I become” that happens on those days when the grind gets to you.

Nothing has particularly changed on Modern Guilt: it leaves the same house in the morning, takes the same route as always and arrives in the same exact parking spot, but somewhere of this trip, beck has taken stock of the trip and has come to some sort of epiphany. He has managed to transcend being a product of his process – the pileup of beats and styles and cultures behind him sound positively effortless now, the charming gibberish of having devil’s haircuts in his mind and vapid look-at-me-ma-I'm hip-hoppin' exultation of his two turntables and single microphone have given way to Beck being a poet of his trip. He’s finally expressing something real and palpable out of all this driving, wondering so many people, where do they go on “Chemtrails,” seeing a face Into the mirror reflecting on the surface of fear in “Walls,” empathizing with that Japanese girl who jumped into the volcano; Was she trying to make it back, back into the womb of the world? in “Volcano.” Modern Guilt is no street party, but street parties are usually only fun for the first 20 minutes anyway. Modern Guilt is a sigh, both of resignation to the trials of life as we ascend the on ramp, and of relief when out exit comes into view.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

[Record Crate] Let's Hear it for the Girls

Two red-haired, piano-playing women with roots in Baton Rouge return with bragging rights on successive nights at the Spanish Moon: Lindsay Rae Spurlock returns from NYC to fete the release of her new CD on Friday, and Brooke Waggoner takes a break from charming the pants off Nashville to play Saturday with Paper Route. I have not yet heard Spurlock's CD, Heart On, but Waggoner's 2008 album, Heal for the Honey, is rather exceptional for someone so young: tension and drama slyly packed in a lush, hushed atmosphere and a breathless landscape.

Syreeta Neal offers a soulful, sophisticated facet of the Neal family legacy, mixing adult contemporary with a delightfully understated jazz mood and a killer voice. Really, I'm not what I'd call fan of adult-contemporary, but her passionate delivery, especially on funny and moving "The Groupie Song," have me sold. Corinne Bailey Rae, Alicia Keys and the like might want to think about making some room.

Donna Angelle and the Zydeco Posse make a pit stop at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux before a heading overseas for a week of festival performances in the Aquitania region of France. The key ingredient in a good zydeco song is having a bluesy, soulful swing to one's chank-a-chank. Just listen to the undulating pulse of her song "Rodeo Show" or the smoky, he-did-me-wrong blues number "I'd Rather Go Blind" to see how it's done.

Link to original with local events calendar

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dissed by Michaelangelo Matos in Idolator!

You have to work hard not to get a decent interview from Ian McKaye, but the one in this issue is surprisingly and disappointingly one-note: all about Dischord's ethics, just like every other Q&A with Ian McKaye you'll likely read this year and decade and century. I don't blame Alex V. Cook for asking the questions he did, but I wish there had been more dimension—maybe some of that got cut out from the manuscript. Still, will someone interview this guy about music, please? Songwriting? All that fallback shit you trot out when the new album sucks but you need a few hundred words to fill the space? I bet he's got a huge record collection. I bet he knows shit about doo-wop that would blow your mind. I bet he can name all of Miles Davis's bands from the '50s to the '70s. I bet he's read more about rock history than most of us have. I bet he's a pretty interesting thinker about subjects you wouldn't expect. Somebody should really find out—and if someone has, please link it in the comments.
Matos is a hell of a music writer and I'm honored to be mentioned in his column, and more importantly, I hear him; but I would point out with that all that fallback shit you trot out is the kind of stuff I generally hope to avoid and Mackaye expressed a disinterest in offering.

Up on Jerk Mountain

Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation
Much is made of the reprehensible character of rock stars lately, of Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty's respective whirlpools of mayhem, but er, is this a new development? Haven't rockstars always been kind of, you know, terrible people? Isn't that part of the Olympian charm, tsk-tsking at their antics as we bask in their glory. You prefer Chris Martin or Dave Matthews - dull people making dull music? If so, you can stay on the valley of the inoffensive while I climb Jerk Mountain.

What separates Pete Doherty from the rest of the pack is that he's rather awesome at this rock 'n' roll business. This album has The Jam, The Kinks, The Beatles, Badly Drawn Boy, et centera upon well-crafted English cetera written all over it, but those are great things to have written upon you.

Luna - Bewitched
This is one of my all-time favorites, but it has unfortunate connotations for me. The first time I listened to it in its entirety was when I was working a late night contract job in New Orleans. I borrowed it from my friend with whom I was staying, and let it blare out in the empty office as I pecked away at automating bills of lading for an import company. Dean Wareham was my constant companion those evenings as I made some extra money for our ill-fated move to the Pacific NW and times like now, when I find myself up late alone chiseling away at a sticky computer job, Bewitched is the album to which I gravitate.

One of the things I like about Luna is that their albums are fraught with love songs where the narrator is kind of a jerk, but in his admissions of exasperation, the love here seems all the more real. I suppose Dean Wareham is that jerk in real life, since he just published Black Postcards a book detailing how he left his wife for his band mate Britta Phillips. I'm sure its a great read if it bears the same frankness found in his lyrics, but dude, rub it in why don't ya.

But goddamn I love this record.

Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
Maybe not so much explicitly, but implicitly this has always struck me as YLT's "apology" record. With the exception of "Cherry Chapstick" this is a melancholy, vulnerable record from what I think of as a rather cuddly band. Maybe its the icy expanse of the opening track "Everyday" where everything is tense and drawn out, a background hum only getting louder as you try to whisper through it. I get the feeling that Ira fucked-up big with Georgia, and the songs here are his way of patching things up. And she is the star here - And Then Nothing is an album led primarily by her brushed drums and the quiet thud of her presence, and the lyrics and guitars and everything glide in low orbits around her.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why I love my new guitar

  1. It was $10.
  2. It was sitting on the far end of a garage sale a block from my house. Finding something a garage sale is good, but if it's off on the side, then it is even better. I have been duped by sidelined classical guitars at garage sales twice before - "Oh that's not for sale, that's just to give me something to do if no one stops by," says the wily proprietor each time. It's also to lure guitar types like me to your otherwise lousy garage sale. I'm on to you, Segovia...
  3. I caught its out of the corner of my eye, and everything is lovelier when caught out of the corner of your eye.
  4. I've been wanting a classical guitar since forever but could not really justify the expense of one, nor had a place for it.
  5. A $10 price tag trumps those things.
  6. It is a "new guitar*" - that is enough right there.
  7. It does not have a brand or manufacturer logo on it, just a weathered sticker proclaiming "MODEL FG-309" on the inside. I love the mysterious air of a no-brand guitar. Who made this thing? Since it was obviously a cheap knockoff purchased decades ago, it must have been loved by someone all this time to have survived. Surely someone learned their first song on this guitar, or maybe even wrote their first song, and that person has drifted on through sands of time and left only the possibility resonating in this instrument.
  8. I had to buy new strings for it and the guy I know at the music store pulled me aside and told me about his trip to Argentina to study tango.
  9. Restringing a guitar is the finest among procrastination strategies - it is markedly productive, makes a contained situation better, requires a mid degree of escapist meticulousness and momentarily makes you (me) sound like a better guitarist when you play that first lick.
  10. And writing about restringing guitars and gazing up at it on the wall on the little hanger and thinking about it is an even better procrastination strategy.
* New to me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

[outsideleft] A Moment of Applause for Bruce Conner

Bruce Conner. November 18, 1933 - July 7, 2008

In the late 50s, Conner leapt in with the Beats in San Francisco and the likes of Wallace Berman and Jay DeFeo, rendering the wild, wide-eyed, post-Whitman Americanism in sculpture form, building masses of glorious, luminous browns and muted citrus color, out of discarded nylons and clothing. Many times these were suspended, hanging in the air like a chrysalis, tellingly waiting for the art world to catch up with his thinking, for just the right time to let the fullness of his vision bloom.

For you see, Conner was a true multi-media artist. His work spanned painting, drawing, conceptual art, performance art and, most famously, experimental film. The thing that separates Conner from other art school brats is that he always had an eye for accessibility in his work, one that could see through the trends of the day and illuminate the soft part of the American belly – the place where we were at our most tender and most vulnerable.

His short film accompanying Brian Eno and David Byrne’s much lauded "America is Waiting" from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is a fine example of his strategies. Here he stitches together war footage, close-ups of instrumentation panels, the movement of machinery to mimic the lava flow of destruction that is war. Similarly, his more playful 1966 film Breakaway, featuring a ravishing young Toni Basil in

cutaway hippie gear and undergarments, gyrating away in flickering jump cuts has a similar effect. He is chipping away at the patina of flower power, letting the sex appeal of the youth counterculture – its most reliable power source and asset – be amplified by the fracturing of the times. A simple smart move is that at the halfway mark, the film and song reverses, revealing both the flimsiness and the universality of his subject.

Conner was a master at the simple smart move. In 1966, he crafted an offset lithograph, black text on a white background that simply said “APPLAUSE.” Like all truly good conceptual art, the joke behind it is multi-faceted and cuts deep– on the surface, it mimicked the “Applause” signs that cued live studio audiences to clap in the live television era, a necessity when the producers of the medium realized they were embarking on an epic journey of not exactly entertaining people that has resulted in the anesthetized media culture we have today. But it cuts deeper. By keeping the message still, or perpetually “on,” the viewer is compelled to either comply or refuse, but their action is mediated by the art. The young artists of today whose bloodless video projections are screened on Bruce Conner’s back would do well to look away from their phones for a second and applaud the life and work of this underappreciated master.

(Above; still from A Movie, by Bruce Conner, 1956. Click here to view the film at

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

[Record Crate] Swamp Things, Rockabilly Gunslingers and Warlocks

The summer in Baton Rouge can seem like lean time for the discerning concert fan; even rock stars are smart enough to wait until school is in session to hit the college circuit. But there is plenty of Louisiana roots music to dig into. Boudreaux & Thibodeaux has become a hotspot of swamp pop and zydeco. Franklin's Johnny Firmin has been keeping the swamp pop torch lit for years, having played with folks like Conway Twitty and Billy Preston throughout his career. Sure swamp pop relies heavily on the Brown-Eyed Girl standards, but it's the way these bands deliver it with an injection of New Orleans funk that sets them apart.

The same can be said about R&B singer Ernest Scott, who has a rasp that cuts through the thick groove of his band Real Time like it's hot, buttered soul. Technically proficient R&B cover bands are a dime a dozen, but Scott is one of those rare performers who gets it, that you have to rise above just playing songs people know and embody them. He'll be setting The M Bar on fire Saturday night.

Rockabilly is about as rootsy a music as there is, and one of its legends Bill Kirchen will be performing a Sunday show at the Red Dragon. Kirchen is most famous for being the guitarist for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, contributing the iconic lead on their 1972 "Hot Rod Lincoln." This video of Elvis Costello performing with Kirchen at the 2006 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco will indicate the kind of resume this guy has in rock circles, and a taste of his timeless guitar mastery.

Modern ska bands tend to keep their foot firmly on the pedal for their whole set, which makes the chilled, rock-steady reggae and ska of The Stellaphonics so refreshing, bolstered by Alex Faucheaux's harmonica and Danny Nixdorff's sax. Their low, easy summer throb will be in effect at North Gate Tavern on Wednesday. Also, the Myrtles will come tearing through their whiskey-soaked ballads and distortion-saturated covers at the Chelsea's stage.

Finally, the Warlocks, a Los Angeles troupe of atmospheric psychedelic true-believers will bring their trance-inducing clouds of heaviness to the Spanish Moon on Tuesday night. Now that I look back across it, it is not a bad weak for a lazy summer season.

Link to story, with local events calendar

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Reverse Abecedary on Tiredness, "The Quest" and Boats

Zeroing in and
Yawning through an e-
Xorbitantly messy computer problem, I am
Wired and
Unraveled but
Some degree, I think I needed it to
Re-establish my
Quest, to
Off from the dock and sail into
Looking for the
Had once
Gurgling inside,
Eddies over the
Doldrums, and most importantly
Bait for the

Monday, July 7, 2008

An Appreciation of the Grown Folks Music of Los Lobos

Los Lobos - The Town and the City
I woke up in a funk of not wanting to be a responsible adult and tried a number of corrosive agents to sand the crust off: black metal, speed punk, sad-eyed suicide folk, when a lone wolf bayed in the back alley of my mind, and on its tail Los Lobos comes rumbling in to the rescue. I happen to think they have never made a misstep as a band, and this underheard 2007 album is another of their perfect meta-rock masterpieces. Mariachi and Keith Richards, soul and soundtrack music all blend seamlessly under their watch.

I love these guys. I bought This Time new on a whim about a decade ago when I deduced that i was in too deep in an indie rock hole, and needed to hear a band that could actually sing, actually write songs, actually play their instruments - in other words, grown folks music. The problem with most grown folks music, the kind that is sold in rotisserie stands at Starbucks, is that it is so tepid. So easily digestible. It would not surprise me to find that the geniuses behind Hear Music are the same crew that engineered Disney's takeover of the teen music market.

And this is not a dig, really. I know I'm a snob and am looking for something more than most people do from art. If people can put some music in their lives, and some artists can make some money, then cool, good on them. I do not pretend that if Starbucks was not pushing KT Tunstall and James Taylor on the caffeinated masses (of which I occasionally am part), The People would become wide-eyed inquisitive and explore the same uneasy ground I like to scour. I'm just saying, Los Lobos is the kind of band that tends to wind up in those racks next to the mints and the chocolate espresso beans, and they, much like Starbucks itself, is pretty reliable in plying their particular addictive wares, and is one of those things you start to enjoy when you grow the hell up already.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

[outsideleft] Onwards to the Back 9: Outsideleft's Most Popular Stories of 2008 So Far

There's little to add by way of introduction to Outsideleft's Top 50 at the mid year, except maybe, to say, Alex V. Cook writes, you read. Anyway. Here's your chance to catch up with some of our most popular stories you may have missed... Drive By Truckers, Mountain Goats, Joe Dolan, Kathleen Hasgard, Velvet Revolver and Winston Chruchill are just a few amongst an entire cavalcade of stars names.

  1. Drive-By Truckers: Poetry Flies on Chicken Wings and Rides a Mechanical Bull by Alex V. Cook
    Did I mention that Drive-By Truckers is my favorite band? I did? Well let me tell you why...
  2. These Mountain Goats Make a Worthy Sacrifice by Alex V. Cook
    John Darinelle crafts his finest yet tribute to recognizing the perverse glory that is the self on Heretic Pride.
  3. Joe Dolan: He Sent Them Home Sweating by Joe Ambrose
    Irish showband man, Joe Dolan, remembered well...
  4. Ariel Pink, Walk With Me by Alex V. Cook
    Somehow in the wreckage of car trouble and the culture jamming of Ariel Pink, something pure and beautiful emerged.
  5. Up on the F*cking Block with Xiu Xiu by Alex V. Cook
    Jamie Stewart's Xiu Xiu is like what would happen if Henry Miller and OMD were blown up and reassembled as one horny beast.
  6. And You Don’t Stop…But Where to Go? – Sole and Lupe Fiasco by Alex V. Cook
    The ultimate outsider and the ultimate insider offer different rocky roads ahead for hip-hop.
  7. The Velvet Jackhammer of Einstürzende Neubauten by Alex V. Cook
    Blixa Bargeld and his band of provocateurs show the softer side of destroying civilization on their latest release Alles Wieder Offen
  8. Snorkel Channels by Paul Hawkins
    Paul Hawkins moves through 'The Glass Darkly' and hears a lot
  9. Cut It Up by Paul Hawkins
    Paul Hawkins meets Joe Ambrose, Islamic Digger and says, "Cut It Up and Start Again, Joe..."
  10. At the All-Star Break: Waiting for t'Pau by LamontPaul
    Comets, stars and superstars its all in an nba day
  11. The Hissing of Herbie Hancock by Alex V. Cook
    How the Grammys managed to pick such a rich and complex album as River: the Joni Letters for 2007's Album of the Year is anyone's guess. I do know that Tina Turner can still kick all y'alls ass.
  12. Mother Earth is Pregnant for the Fourth Time by Alex V. Cook
    Your wretched soul has one last chance for funkification, courtesy of Ms. Erykah Badu
  13. The Future of the Left is Better than the
    Now of Everything Else
    by Alex V. Cook
    Wales' Future of the Left is the raging phoenix rising out of the sonic ashes of McLusky and Jarcrew, and might be our last hope for awesomeness in rock.
  14. Take Me Home Again, Kathleen by Peter Williams
    An American living in London, Kathleen Haskard, offers a reminder that straying far from our roots is a beautiful but bittersweet thing
  15. AdMITT it, You'll Miss Him by LamontPaul
    I can't get Roy Orbison operatic singing out of my head this morning... It's Over
  16. Menstruation is racist... period by Chris Connolly
    keeping up our elections coverage chris connolly noticed some changes on the campaign trail...
  17. The Magnetic Fields and The Disturbance in the Force by Alex V. Cook
    Stephen Merritt's parade of song makes a pitstop at the pawn shop and picks up some amps on The Magnetic Fields' aptly named Distortion
  18. 300 Words From London: Verdi Grief by Lake
    The signs are up at the opera house. Anna Netrebko will not be performing. She is suffering from bronchitis.
  19. Kissing Cousins Are Gonna Make It... Alright by LamontPaul
    The Echo Park / Silverlake nexus is a hilly rich, rich vein of creative talent. A hive, a giant ant farm, teeming. The Kissing Cousins? Well they're right on the top of it all, The Queens of the Hill
  20. Everyone Knows Crowes Blows by LamontPaul
    Maxim Magazine which has been a self-parody since year 2 has caught some flack for guess what? Publishing a review of a record they hadn't heard. So what...
  21. Run London Run: From Hitler to the Smurfs by Henderson Downing
    Paramilitary Smurfs enact Nazi ritual on the streets of London in bid to get the city running
  22. Bang On with Your Fangs On: Vampire Weekend and Panther by Alex V. Cook
    Vampire Weekend and Panther both sink their teeth into their favorite records for short-lived but palpable thrills
  23. That's Correcto! by Shane O'Reilly
    Take one member of Franz Ferdinand, one member of The Royal We and two clever new boys on the scene, mix them all together and what do you get? Correcto!
  24. NIN: Free Work’s Alright If You Like Vibraphones by Alex V. Cook
    When the aliens inspect the Earth's nuclear-ravaged landscape in the distant future, the only sign of our existence they'll find will be "NIN" spraypainted on a knockoff biker jacket, and Ghosts I-IV will still be playing.
  25. Tift Merritt, Country Singer of the World by Alex V. Cook
    On her resplendent new record, Tift Merritt finds the country girl inside while holed up in Paris.
  26. Dead Ledger by Shane O'Reilly
    The passing of Heath Ledger, a youngster commented to the New York Times, is akin to the demise of James Dean
  27. This is the Sound of a Young Galaxy by Shane O'Reilly
    Canadians, Young Galaxy get the once over from Shane O'Reilly
  28. Bon Iver: Over the Breakup and Through the Woods by Alex V. Cook
    Bon Iver's Justin Vernon opens his mouth and his heart to the ice storm of human love on For Emma, Forever Ago
  29. 300 Words From London: Anthony McCall - Remain In Light by Lake
    Anthony McCall makes spectacular, immersive art from smoke and light.
  30. Brian Jonestown Massacre: Idiots, or Harbingers of the Boring Endtimes? by Alex V. Cook
    BJM succeeds by caring less about success than any other band ever.
  31. Grant Me The Serenity to Accept the Black Keys I Cannot Change by Alex V. Cook
    Black Keys, it's not you, it's me...
  32. Things To Do In Dover When You're Dead by Lake
    Going underground, Lake is back on the trail of Winston Churchill.
  33. Matt & Sarah & Jimmy & Ben by Jaycentee
    The Sarah Silverman/Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel/Ben Affleck videos have been so successful (and now so insanely pervasive on the web that even has them), that our inside man on Riverside Dr. Jaycentee heads up you abroad-sters on what the locals know, on how it all came to be...
  34. Cocaine and Christmas Carols by Chris Connolly
    Dublin's Chris Connolly returns with cautionary seasonal tale...
  35. It’s a Vernal Cabaret! by Dan Breen
    We don't usually preview events, but then again... Supporting Organic Farm Aid in New York, the Dan Breen way...
  36. LACMA Turns On by J. Charreaux
    J.Ch. Made it out to the members only opening of the Renzo Piano designed Broad Museum of Contemporary Art at LACMA Opening.
  37. The Outside(r): State Farm by LamontPaul
    A new series of comments and personal opinions on the events of the day
  38. This Year’s Deluxe Models: Elvis, Ronnie and Ryan by Alex V. Cook
    Proving that thunder only happens when it starts raining, we examine recent deluxe edition packages of Whiskeytown, Elvis Costello and Lynyrd Skynyrd
  39. Happy Shopper #20: Jordan Gaunce by LamontPaul
    Happy Shopper #20, painter Jordan Gaunce, channels the great latin american kinetic artists a bit, with his imperfect man made machine art. We took to him shopping
  40. Romney Marshes by LamontPaul
    Super Tuesday lights are going to find me, But I won't feel blue, Like I always do,'Cause somewhere in the crowd there's you...
  41. Hostel New Hampshire by LamontPaul
    Iowa so much to answer fa seemed to be the mantra of the party political bosses this past weekend. Good theatre.
  42. I Can't Believe I'm Writing about Gnarls Barkley by Alex V. Cook
    Not because they aren't worthy of analysis, but because I didn't think they would last this long.
  43. R.E.M. - An Acronym for Themselves by Alex V. Cook
    Once upon a time R.E.M. carried ancient burdens, young despite the years. Alex V. Cook offers his shared history with the band
  44. Yeah, Here Comes the Waterworks - Velvet Revolver R.I.P. by Alex V. Cook
    The dissolution of Velvet Revolver has unforeseen repercussions on the OutsideLeft staff.
  45. Forgetting Sarah Marshall's Ex-Boyfriend's Wang by Seth Sherwood
    Seth Sherwood is back in outsideleft and somehow got himself out to the movies just in time to see as he puts it, some rare cinematic cockery and Sarah Marshall
  46. 300 Words From London: SHAM - Jimmy Pursey Live by Lake
    Lake remembers buying the Hersham Boys 12", from a record shop in Tenby, Wales when he was 13 with some money that his Grandma gave him. If he still had it he would have thrown it away after Friday night's fiasco.
  47. I Heart NY by Chris Connolly
    if you always hate the one you love you also always hate the one you hate
  48. Everyday I Atrophy by Chris Connolly
    Dublin's Chris Connolly brings the perfect New Year's Day Morning story
  49. A Cat Story by Wayne Wolfson
    The place had a private courtyard (not as fancy as it sounds) which was full of cats, everywhere. They seemed to have their own little society and were indifferent to the comings and goings of man...
  50. Enter the Little Dragon by LamontPaul
    The best Swedish story since that one about IKEA giving Danish names to their least glamorous products, subtle pop darlings Little Dragon swoop in from the Frozen North to melt the hearts and minds of LA-ers