Friday, October 30, 2009
Gweneth-ann Jeffers & Stephen De Pledge - Olivier Messiaen's "Poemes Pour Mi" (listen) Messiaen cuts right through me, less like a ghost, more like a new interstate and I am an impoverished neighborhood with lousy city council representation. Or maybe I mean the way a petty thief cuts through a yard after robbing the house next door, but not exactly trespassing per se. I know I don't mean "like a knife" cuts, or anything gastro-intestinal in nature. I just know I've been cut through when it's done.
Iron & Wine and Calexico - In the Reins - I started to listen to "Not Even Stevie Nicks" again, wishing for some sort of union between the odd warbling of Messiaen's singers, themselves engaged in a suite of songs about marriage, and the assured windswept Cinerama of when Joey Burns croons "into the bluuuuuuueeeeeee...." but I didn't do it. Instead I return for the first time in forever to this lovely little marriage of a record and every time the "Mexican Opera Guy" kicks in at 1:45, it chokes me up a little and I wanna kiss the bride.
The Books - The Lemon of Pink (listen) This too. For all of the above. This is some ways is "even more than Stevie Nicks", at least for a second before the birds carry it away.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (listen) You should listen to this every time it is mentioned, in the same way that you should always look out the window when you hear a siren.
Bert Jansch - Birthday Blues (listen) Every song on this record comes on like a whiff of something from the other room and you don't really know it's here until you wince for all the smoke.
Philip Glass & Robert Wilson - Monsters of Grace (listen) Seeing the Dickie Landry interview in print has put me in a Glass mood. This is one of the more recent and less celebrated pieces in the immense Glass catalog. Robert Wilson eventually distanced himself from the piece and musically, it can be seen as a train composed of the same old Philip Glass boxcars, rolling by with that familiar clack and thump. But I went for a walk at lunch with "Where Everything is Music" in my ears, through the crowded student union, browsing a sidewalk plant sale, weaving in and out of the tangle of slow-walkers and cars and bikes and the concrete and clay beneath my feet pushing up the persistent nag of self-doubt asking "Why write about this? Who is reading it? What are you doing?" and I hear from these lines from Rumi:
Don't worry now, about saving all these songs,
There's so many more just waiting to be found.
And if all these instruments should disappear
We would still hear something coming up from way down in the ground
and I remember why. Clack and thump.
“The first rehearsal, he gives us numbers: 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4-5-6, and I ask him what notes he wants us to play, and he says, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well we are all playing in different keys, we need the notes.’ ‘You mean I have to write all this out?’ I told him yes.”
Son Volt - American Central Dust (listen) or don't. I feel like I've heard everything Son Volt might ever have to say, and am compelled to say that I feel I've heard everything they have to say, which means the problem is me. If I have a pet peeve, it is the service economy thinking that has infected the mind of the music nerd in a manner so as to make him proclaim that he doesn't need to hear another X or is tired of Y's doing Z all over again. These are neither needs nor do they make you (me) tired; these are purposeful engagements of negativity on your (my) part, and yet, here I am, left-handedly not really suggesting you (I) listen to the recent Son Volt album Jay Farrar and crew have loosened close to my ungrateful and pouty ears. It's like all his records: gorgeously wrought, sleepy dreamy things full of wide-spectrum organs and harmonies and guitars strummed by storm fronts. Probably deep as hell if I was really listening. An eminently likable record, so go like it before I compare it needlessly to a Wilco record.
Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be (listen) Speaking of not being tired and needing things, I cannot stop listening to Devendra Banhart's new record since putting it on since yesterday afternoon, and I have that reaction to every one of his albums. I wallow in it until the mud dries and then I move on. Rejoice in the Hands (listen) is really the only one I go back to with any frequency, and I still think it a garbled jewel of a record. Yes it is derivative hippie shit and yes he plays on famous friends and larky photo shoots and yes his lyrics are functionally, analytically and likely purposely inane rhyming games posing as Meaning. Yes yes yes. I'm with you, but first let me just listen to this thing one more time. I like that part where he does this one thing, and then that next part where he does another and so on and yes and yes and yes.
Monday, October 26, 2009
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every literary-minded person who has done time in corporate America thinks "One day, I am going to write a hilarious book about all this and it will have been all worth while." Every one of them. I am one of those people; I even have a spreadsheet somewhere of fake replacement names for former co-workers. But few, if any of us will write that book, and even if we do, most of those books will not be as funny and poignant as Dan Kennedy's tale of selling out to the mid-to-upper reaches of the record industry.
Dan bumbles through this impassable terrain with self-deprecating humor and a satirist's eye, but is right after the trip to the Home & Office section of Sacks 5th Avenue to buy over-priced tchotchkes for his new office when the heart of the book is revealed. He proclaims to his girlfriend, to himself, but really to the no-one listening that he wants to do this right. Quit drifting and give this sort of life an honest try.
He does. We all do, even when we can't believe we have become that person that can not only operate in that kind of environment, but for a while, thrive. This book would've been too painful to read in my early thirties, a little too close a mirror, even though Simon Le Bon never stood outside my cubicle opening, not even once.
It is hard to feel sorry for someone making as much money as presumably Dan was making at the time, and thankfully, he seeks no pity in his prose. He remains as "Be Here Now" as you can in Rockefeller Plaza, making commercials for Jewel and Phil Collins.
Maybe I'm projecting because I too was ejected from corporate life and forced to figure out how to freelance and find that creative voice that I was certain The Grind was grinding out of me, but this book nails that weird mix of acquiescence and triumph of finding your momentary niche in the grid. And he's a lot funnier about it than I ever was, which is an important strategy to remember.
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Sunday, October 25, 2009
In order: the butcher corner at Hong Kong Market; fried spring rolls at Little Saigon; bánh mì (roasted pork po-boy with pickled vegetables) also from Little Saigon; a pound of roasted pork from Hong Kong Market.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Adam Carroll and Owen Temple, Red Dragon, Baton Rouge, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.
Performing the collected works of Gary Floater, songwriter, American.
Friday, October 23, 2009
existence. Really, they are a nice scrappy folky pinky country outfit culled from likewise othe bands, but their cover of "Monster Truck" has cinched me as a fan.
Neil Young - Life (listen) Somebody recently was trying to sell me on the inherent greatness of Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms and well, I have to put this fracture in taste down to micro-generational differences. I tried, but it still sounded a little like a disappointing happy ending for the Sultans of Swing, so I hit up the similar records for a quick way out and this forgotten Neil Young record appeared. He has so many of these, records that are neither high or low points but distillations of the times, those being 1987 in this case. Why did all the drums in 1987 sound like this? Dis we think it was a good idea? Did it sound particularly good on a Walkman for every beat to go "PISH!!" ? I do like how he gets his R.E.M ramble-jangle on in "Cryin' Eyes," letting Crazy Horse get a little crazy in the spots between boxcars.
Felt - Forever Breathes the Lonely Word (listen) Now, should you be interested in a fantastic record from the late-eighties that has almost no Neil Young to it (but does have a touch of Dire Straits) that you have never heard, it is any by Felt. I could go on and on about Felt, in fact maybe I'll seek out a platform in which I am allowed to go on about Felt definitive enough so that I am no longer compelled to do so. But yeah, Felt is a late-eighties indie rock done spec perfect.
The Tyde - Three's Co. (listen) And should you be wanting the ideal muddling of Felt's mopey hopefulness and a ray of druggy sunshine from the extinct California against which Neil Young's best material (Zuma, On the Beach ... I think its his best) bristled that neither of us has heard of before, the ingeniously-named the Tyde is your convertible ride to Awesome Beach.
The Kinks - Kinda Kinks - I was in the mood for the Kinks, maybe because I don't have any on hand so here is mosta Kinda Kinks culled from YouTube. I considered filling in the gaps of the songs I couldn't find with covers, but that is probably too much consideration for this endeavor already.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Ramen Review: Vifon Bún riêu cua, Dà nång style Rice Vermicelli with Crab Broth, originally uploaded by real_voodooboy.
Fear not the apocalypse rations foil packet awaiting you with the four other flavor packets in the bowl, nor should you fear the shocking electric yellow goop in said foil packet because it pushes this instant lunch into wild, synapse-opening terroitory without being chemical-burn spicy. It adds a curious note to the lunchroom air for the next person, possibly changing the lackluster microwave into some sort of Alchemist's oven. Perhaps that next person's Lean Cuisine will be taken on a fantastic journey on the yellow sauce's magic carpet, and thereby take the eater to The Next Level. They will likely be too freaked out to thank you outright, but next time you pass them in the hall, you might catch a wink from their third eye.
Fellow traveler Noodle Son says: "The herb responsible for this unique flavor is Culantro, a.k.a Vietnamese Coriander (Eryngium foetidum L., Apiaceae)."
Simple Minds - Empires and Dance (listen) This announcement of once contender-to-be-the-next-U2 Simple Minds and electro-architects turned reluctant pop stars OMD (my first concert, by the way, opening for the Thompson Twins; I wore an OMD shirt with day-glo bones all over it until it fell off my body) getting together to cover Kraftwerk night after night for some reason seems a little odd, but then I'm reminded that Simple Minds was up on the front of the synth-rock-get-down-but-don't-look-like-it thing back in 1980. You know, that thing.
Hoodoo Gurus - Mars Needs Guitars (listen) While we are getting nostalgic, my 1985 pretty much sounded like this record and the Church's Seance (listen). And the Bolshoi (listen) for that matter. I'm gonna stop before I drag out the Screaming Blue Messiahs. Or the Blue Aeroplanes, or any other blue band for that matter.
PDF version / Online version
This issue's theme is "Know Thy Enemy" (and here is what we mean by the word enemy) and we engage the giant crosses looming over the edge of town, Vincent Cellucci from the downtown poetry scene, and conservative libertarian firebrand Chuck Hustmyre in lively conversation. Technically, we only converse about the crosses, but I think their message gets heard in Scott Finch's discourse.
Physical copies, suitable for framing and wheat-pasting to future sites of cultural revolution, can be found at Highland Coffees, Perk's and PJ's and wherever the cafe society meets this week.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first Murakami book I've finished. I've started the more complicated ones in fits over the years but they never took hold, or rather I didn't have the attention available that these books merit. This one is, I think, a breezy beach-read version of that intensity.
At risk of lumping the few Japanese authors I know together, this struck me as a positive spin on Dazai's No Longer Human - the similar sense that even in the intimate confines of love, we are still only particles drifting in a largely empty void, and our collisions, while meaningful to us at the time, are mostly incidental. Dazai's protagonist wallows in this sort of nihilism and destroys everybody he encounters with it, while Murakami's characters give the void its due and then, with charm and a resiliently flickering sense of wonder, try to make it work regardless.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I spent the weekend hobnobbing and schmoozing with publishing industry folks from all over during the Louisiana Book Festival this weekend and I wish to inform you that they are all duly impressed with Baton Rouge. This is partly due to the miraculous weather we seem to get every Book Festival weekend, but most of the credit should go to Jim Davis, Robert Wilson and the slew of volunteers that make this thing a well-oiled machine. Just in case no one else says it, thanks.
One of the more interesting contemporary musicians straddling musical boundaries is classical pianist Christopher O'Riley. As a host of NPR's From the Top, he understands the struggle of presenting classical music to new audiences and through his albums of classical piano reinterpretations of Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake and other artists from the cerebral end of pop culture, he succeeds. Come to the Manship on Friday after Live after Five to be dazzled by his immense talent only to be jolted by that "hey, I know this song" feeling.
Teddy's Juke Joint is bursting at the seams with talent this week. Georgia roots and blues artist Roger "Hurricane" Wilson will be making a stop at the venerable club on Wednesday, Elvin Killerbee will whoop it up on Thursday, Mississippi guitar powerhouse Lil Dave Thompson with tear it up on Friday and Baton Rouge blues legend Kenny Neal will do two shows on Sunday.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Library kicks off this year's Live @ Chelsea's series of free dinner-hour concerts with Harry Anderson at 6:30. The American Tragedy will momentarily leave the earbuds of every teenager and materialize on the Varsity stage on Friday as Art Brut and Princeton angle their way into your thought processes at the Spanish Moon down the street.
Owen Temple - Dollars and Dimes (listen) Hey, look! a great country record! Waddayaknow? Every raspy ode sounds like the song that comes after the big barnbuster hit, sequenced to set you straight after the boot-scootin' glory, except that there are no glory moments to be found in the semi-industrial parts of Memphis and St. Louis and Winnepeg and everywhere, where guys have manufacturing jobs in metal buildings next to strip clubs where women have lousier jobs. No glory and no self-pity and that album cover is the best album cover of the year. Consistent as the workweek, a continuum that will bum you the hell out if you think about it too much, which is why people don't think about it too much, and getting over the hump of that continuum is life-affirming when somebody does actually think about it without over-thinking it. Which is what Owen Temple does.
The ever-insightful Jeff Giddens has a couple of illuminating bullet points on this record up at the No Depression blog/forum/site (whatever that is.)
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Mark Hollis - Mark Hollis (listen) So slight. This record is barely there. This is the guy from Talk Talk, another band from the days of yore that mixed it up with jazz, new wave, New Music, and adult contemporary without falling into the trap of any of it.
The Blue Nile - A Walk Across the Rooftops (listen) This record should be more of a classic than it is, or isn't, actually. I don't know if anyone remembers this record. I rhapsodized forth on it during a review of one of their later albums.
New Order - Power, Corruption, and Lies (listen) How dour we tried to be in sunny, humid south Louisiana. The melancholy mock-Mancunian mixtape of my mind would be grossly incomplete without something from here
Eyeless in Gaza - Voice - The Best of Eyeless in Gaza (listen) Oh man, this was the one song on that one mixtape that was a my reason for living. It actually sounds sharper through the hiss of both dodgy cassettes and dodgy memory, but those marimbas totally mean it.
Thomas Dolby - Aliens Ate My Buick (listen) I really thought Thomas Dolby was onto something here - mapping in J.G. Thirwell electro-manic-jazz, the whole Swing thing, Prince-ly new jack funk and Kid Creole & the Coconuts social commentary masquerading as party music. The problem is that while Dolby is a master stylist, knowing how to get to the source of a thing from the back panel, he was cursed/blessed with a British-humor novelty hit that no one could really get over.
I forgot how lovely these songs are, "My Brin is like a Seive" a peacock of Prince-ly prismatic splendor, "Budapest By Blimp" a big gorgeous thing of low-light synthesis. And "The Keys to Her Ferrari" is bananas in a way that no chickenshit hipster synth band today would or could attempt now.
They are dated (1988) but nothing is possibly more dated than this synthesizer medley featuring Dolby (in Amadeus getup), Howard Jones, Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder from the 1985 Grammys over which I vividly remember going a little ape.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Edwin Starr & Blinky - Just We Two (listen) - I was groovin' on some Edwin Starr this morning. You know Edwin Starr because of "War" and maybe because of "Agent Double-O Soul" and "Twenty-Five Miles" even though you might be me like me and think it was called "Walkin'" and was by somebody else. But, anyway, this lush couples record of no-I'm-the-lucky-one ballads popped up. Man, Edwin and Blinky Williams made each other so very happy, it verges on self-immolation. I love the way he says "Blinky."
Mississippi John Hurt - Avalon Blues (listen) Remind me to put this on my favorite records ever list so that I can lay it out when asked. This record is so good that it convinced me to get over my Grateful Dead aversions to listen to Jerry Garcia's Pizza Tapes, where he and Rice and that Dawg guy do some of these songs, and I love that record too. But this one, I just kinda love how sweet he sounds singing about "one morning gonna wake up woozy/gonna grab my gun and kill old Suzy." Cuz, I mean, you should at least be sweet about it.
I in no way advocate nor do I condone the killing of Suzies with this endorsement, no matter how she done you wrong. Love is the ultimate power, after all, so use it wisely.
I had a wonderful weekend with a lot of great people at the Louisiana Book Festival this weekend, ate some great food, made the acquaintance of more of the lovely Oxford American posse, especially my sister in bloggery Jamey Hatley and your next favorite new short fiction badass Barb Johnson, charmed some esteemed authors, editors, and publishers by not actually knowing where the Huey Long bullet holes* are in the State Capitol, then more fun with my wonderful and patient family afterward and yet I took only one picture, this one, of a snake in my driveway. Not that any of you are less deserving of portraiture, but, dude, a snake in my driveway!**
* I was just this morning told on relatively reliable second hand authority that much of the bullet-riddled marble from the main floor back hallway where Long and soon after, his alleged assassin Dr. Carl Weiss were gunned down, were recycled and used in the basement, at least the chunks that weren't shot up further and sold off to souvenir hunters.
** The charcoal line by the snake is part of where my daughter wrote "Love is the Ultimate Power" across the driveway with a briquette.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Elvis - The Complete '68 Comeback Special (listen) Like I said, I'm not really much of an Elvis person but I got swept up in this version of 'One Night" while walking across an ill-kept parking lot between the bus stop and my house.
The dull-pulse tambourine, the autopilot guitar, the chummy clapping that paints unlikely experience as "yeah, sure, here we are up in here with Elvis" - no one is prepared for when Elvis hyperdrive kicks in. He is a monster possessed by his own song; "Always lived a very quiet life" is ironically juiced by a high-tension power feed from secret dynamos buried deep below the Las Vegas by the architects of the future.
At one point the connection is physically cut - a plug falls out of an amp - and the whole scene is cast into sudden limbo, but this is with humor and professionalism repaired and like the Zarathustra he will soon become, his mountain a mansion and a fistful of pills, Elvis blithely demonstrates the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence by repeating the chorus, his "very quiet life" getting louder with each cycle until there is no more to repeat.
The Flaming Lips - Embryonic (listen) I am of the opinion that The Soft Bulletin, released in May of 1999 just when lingering fears of "Oh shit, it's really gonna be 2000" lurked in every heart - and I don't mean Y2K because nobody but kooks really thought that was going to be an issue - was a really important record, the last important record of the 1900s perhaps. A line can be stretched from The Soft Bulletin to Kid A and we made our way across it with shivering trepidation to reach a platform at the edge of The Present (the 21st century actually started at the early morning exhale of 01/01/2001) . By looking at 2001 and its ensuing nameless decade, it appears we sucked at The Future; the evolutionary tumult of the previous hundred years was for what? Half-baked disaster movie plots turned horribly real? Bank failures? Facebook?
So yeah, The Soft Bulletin was important, it was a springboard of bravery and doubt and while I like everything the Lips have done since, none of it feels important. Maybe we are post-important? I get the sense that there is something profound at the heart of Embryonic that will reveal itself with time. Maybe what we hear on this record is hum from that grid Elvis into which was jacked; we just are not big farm boys and/or took the wrong kinda pills to channel the current correctly. I get an equal portion of nothing and everything from these first listens to Embryonic and maybe a decade in, that's where we are.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
I took part in a panel discussion at the first of hopefully many Tabby's Hoodoo Party and 21st century Blues Symposium last night and the experience reaffirmed a couple things. First, it was made abundantly clear that Tab Benoit kicks ass, both as an engaging speaker and storyteller during the panel and as a player – he tore it up playing with Chris Thomas King in the Black Box theater at the Shaw Center. Second, the screenings of Robert Mugge's Louisiana music documentaries reaffirmed the idea that we live in an interesting place. Thirdly, it reminded me that we have a lot of work to do. The attendance was pretty low, there were kinks to be worked out but I think everyone involved walked away with the sense that a conference like this is worth doing. Culturally, we are so close to the root here that we forget about the tree the rest of the world sees as bearing the best fruit.
Speaking of roots, this week is a tangle of great roots music. Dread Clampitt is soulful string band from Grayton Beach that creates an intoxicating concoction out of bluegrass, rock, blues, R&B and what-have-you. They are appearing at Chelsea's on Friday with Baton Rouge music legend (not to mention former sideman for Elvis Presley) Duke Bardwell.
If I were hard-pressed to name my favorite female singer, I'd say it was Susan Cowsill, who is performing this Saturday at the Red Dragon. Susan got her start in the original family band The Cowsills and found her voice as one of the musical forces in the Continental Drifters. Since then, Susan is a mainstay at Carrolton Station in New Orleans where she and her band interpret classic records in toto. Her solo record Just Believe It is a devastating mesh of hope and despair, strength and fragility. Susan is not to be missed, especially in the intimate confines of the Red Dragon.
I still love Susan Cowsill, but her performance was canceled.
Hamilton Loomis is a blues and funk magpie from Katy, Texas who went backstage at Bo Diddley show at sixteen and started a lifelong friendship with the singer. Diddley said of Loomis, "You got to put some seasonin' in what you're doin', and this boy's got the whole salt shaker!" On his most recent album Ain't Just Temporary, the influence that comes to mind is soulful chicken strut blues of Dr. John. Loomis will be plying his funky wares at Phil Brady's on Friday before heading off to three weeks in Australia.
The description Jim Lauderdale's MySpace page says it all – "Real Music." Jim rose to fame writing songs for George Strait and Patty Loveless and won a couple Grammys along the way. However, on his run of earthy solo records in the 1990s, he established himself as one of the true voices of Americana: a folksy amalgam of tradition and modern life wrought from a love of real music. He is playing this Friday as well at the Manship Theatre.
Paul Burch is becoming a regular around these parts, laying down his sweet version of high lonesome country at Chelsea's on Thursday, touring behind his new album Still Your Man, as is Texas wildcat Roger Creager appearing that evening at the Varsity. I also have it on good authority that Denton Hatcher and the Sopabox Country Blues is a hayride you do not want to miss this Saturday at North Gate Tavern. You know, Baton Rouge, if you want to keep this up become a full-on roots music town, you have my full endorsement. Also go hit the Louisiana Book Festival on Saturday, downtown baton Rouge. Do it!
Dr. John - Trader John's Crawfish Soiree
Tab Benoit - Wetlands (listen)
Kenny Neal & Billy Branch - Double Take (listen)
NRBQ - Ludlow Garage 1970 (listen)
Elvis - The Complete '68 Comeback Special (listen)
I'm with Dennis Leary in that my Elvis is Fat Elvis. Monstrous, outsize, America incarnate as well as carnivorous. The '68 Comeback Elvis, like the rest of the nation, stood at the precipice of the hyperinflation that would follow in the next decade. No jumpsuits yet, he hadn't shook hands with Nixon, Graceland was not yet a Sultan's bunker, and young Priscilla was still hanging on for dear life.
Truth be told, I'm not much of an Elvis guy, but I perused the Elvis books in the music section at the library over lunch, and then saw his untested grandson just got a $5M record deal. Really, though, I think the confluence of Dr. John's hoodoo funk and Tab Benoit's lacerating boogie, Kenny Neal's rootsy side and NRBQ turning Sun Ra's "Rocket #9" into a danceable hippie jam summoned my inner Elvis to the surface. Good thing there are no donuts or TV's just sitting around.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
In sequential order: pork tenderloin special at the Chimes; the basement lobby of the downtown Chase Bank, the most Mad Men place in Baton Rouge; the stilted drama of the escalator descent to the aforementioned lobby; announcement placard for the blues panel at the Manship theatre - low turnout, but I think the seed is planted for better things; badass almond chocolate croissant and cappuccino at Strand's - Highland Coffees, you and your pasty pastries are on notice; Chris Thomas King performing after the panel and film; Tab Benoit tearing the roof off said performance.