Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Record Crate: ...And You Will Know us By the Presence of a Guitar Tech

Ever since I moved back to Baton Rouge a couple years ago, I kept hearing about the legendary mayhem of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's chaotic shows at the Spanish Moon, where bottles were broken on the wall and amps and guitars destroyed -- and, if rumor is to believed, an actual dragon was conjured out of the smoke and was decisively slain by the band. This was a lot of build up for a show. Read More....

225: Voodoofest Coverage

Here is my official report on the 225 website, but overall it was a great weekend spent hanging out in New Orleans, gingerly stepping over acres of napping douchebags and witnessing the remarkable innovations in outdoor concert sound.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ramsay Midwood and why I hate CD's

I got asked to create a mix CD of great Southern music and it struck me as yet another chance to champion the laid-back stoner country blues of Ramsay Midwood, whose first record Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant is one of my all-time favorite albums. I have bought this CD three times already, having either lost or loaned out previous copies or let them emulsify in the Petri dish of spills under the seat in the car, and did not regret each time I bought it when the wet charcoal chug of "Mohawk River" kicked in, the cellophane lying freshly torn on the passenger seat. Maybe that's why I keep losing this disc - it never makes it into the house, occupying my car CD player for two weeks until some young fresher trifle slyly edges it out of the way.

So, of course, now that I NEED this CD right this very goddamn motherfucking second, it is nowhere to be found, and I peer into the potential money drain of the iTunes store and there it is, smiling, saying c' me again. You will have me in an instant, no clumsy disrobing of cellophane, no wait, me 'n you can get down to business right now, and I couldn't do it. I know it's here, I saw it! But then, right next to it on that crappy iTunes store is Popular Delusions & the Madness of Cows - another Ramsay Midwood album I had no idea existed! Snap and zap and here it is. I love you and I hate you, iTunes.

I should rejoice at the discovery, but I'm still in a fevered, unfulfilled thrall over finding Shootout to really let this new one sink in, even on its second listen in a row, but it is a reasonably facsimile. My reaction to it so far is like when you see a girlfriend on the street, about a year after the breakup - you can still picture her naked just fine, but the reality looks askew. I may not ever really be able to get this second album right because of how much I love that first one. Y'all don't even know.

Which leads me to why I kinda hate CD's. I am not of the vinyl worshiping kind, but I rarely misplaced albums. They were so bulky and unwieldy that they required special shelving and locations. Cheap plastic jewel cases, you can stuff that shit anywhere, and I often do. The artifact becomes a manifestation of the music's metaphysical purpose - the music is the mortar that holds the bricks of my consciousness together, and stupid jewel cases are stuffed in every crack and free spot with the liar's promise that I'll find a good place for it later. I might as well set the things on discarded ice chest lids and set them afloat on the river, confident that they will return in the morning tide. Shelves of albums look glorious; shelves of CD's look plastic and horrible, hence why I'd just as soon go fully Kraftwerk on their asses and put it all in the machine and be done with facing my distinct lack of librarianship in the mirror every time I need a goddamn CD right now.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Review of my OA Daniel Johnston Article in Offbeat

Alex Rawls gives my Daniel Johnston piece in the Oxford American a favorable nod in his Oct. 25, 2007 Pop Life column, comparing the OA Music issue and Da Capo's Best Music Writing of 2007:
More than suggesting that people will still read longer works if they're well-written and say something - check out novelist Jonathan Lethem's profile of James Brown in Best Music Writing for Exhibit A - the pieces on cult artist Daniel Johnston speak to the difference in the publications. Baton Rouge's Alex V. Cook looks at Johnston's conflicted art and the questions it raises, particularly as songs stretch into albums that stretch into a career. Nitsuh Abebe's piece on Johnston for Pitchfork looks at the drama in his life now and the equally complex questions about his family relations, and the degree to which they contribute to his fragility and the degree to which they benefit from it.

Abebe's piece is more compelling, but Cook's essay serves the function that liner notes once served. It contextualizes Johnston's art and suggests a way to hear it, and that's what the majority of the OA music issue does.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some Observations About Bruce Springsteen's The River

Recently, a friend of mine was recounting on a message board a conversation with his brother where he proclaimed Darkness at the Edge of Town to be a better record than The River, and I had to confess that early catalog of Bruce Springsteen is one of those holes in my musical knowledge that begged filling, so I acquired both. After a couple days listening, I vote with Darkness*, but it's a close race. In this, though, I did observe a few things about The River...

  1. "Jackson Cage" might be my new favorite song of his, wrestling the title away from "Atlantic City" and/or "Downbound Train" You can't toss a paper airplane made from your pink slip without it landing on a mediation on the corrosive nature of work in Bruce's songbook, but the lies inherent to the Protestant Work Ethic smolder in lines like

    To settle back is to settle without knowing
    The hard edge that you're settling for


    Are you tough enough to play the game they play
    Or will you just do your time and fade away

    This is the kind of song I could not listen to if I still had an office job and had to slog through evening traffic night after night. Kinda like how I could not watch Brazil when I was facing the choice between graduate school and a corporate job, both in fields I was not sure I really liked anymore.
  2. The only time I'd heard 'Jackson Cage" before was a ham-fisted rendition by Elvis Costello on a compilation, and the synth and drumroll intro on the original ironically sounds like the beginning of the best Elvis Costello song that never was.
  3. "Outfit," generally considered the best song by Drive-By Truckers, is either a rip-off or a close homage to "Independence Day" which has the same structure, mood and nearly the same melody. It doesn't diminish the impact or cosmic truths in "Outfit," but the threads between the two are clearly there.
  4. I didn't realize "Hungry Heart" was that old of a song. I thought it emerged in that retro frat rock era along with Huey Lewis and the News and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. I mean, its a better song those by Huey lewis, but still...
  5. I could never put my finger on what Bruce Springsteen "sounds like" until I listened to "Out in the Street" - it's like he's panting, out of breath and nervous - it's as if he has run two blocks to tell you something important. Such is the urgency of The Boss.
  6. For all the wrecking ball devastation in the title track, it's this bit that hits the hardest

    But I remember us riding in my brother's car
    Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir

    At night on them banks I'd lie awake
    And pull her close just to feel each breath she'd take

    It is corny as all hell, but like Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen knows how to sharpen sap to a Ginsu edge, knowing how to temper it with just enough light, with nostaligia precise enough to make it work gloriously.
  7. What keeps the album from edging out its competitors is that by the time he is driving that stolen car down Eldridge Street, hoping to get caught, I'm worn down by all the emotional erosion of this record. Goddamn, Bruce, I know. It never really works out right and our temporary denial is a thin sheet of ice we shimmy across on Saturday night, hoping we don't fall through. But I can' t take any more. On Darkness, he is tighter, his dogs are on a shorter leash. On Nebraska, he lets the leashes run right through his tired fingers, with no hope that they are going to come back. On The River. those dogs have just enough lead to sneak up to the fence when you walk by and suddenly bark that demon dog bark and scare you down to your spine.
  8. On the latest Bright Eyes album Cassadaga, which I love more and more each time I listen to it, there is a line in "If The Brakeman Turns My Way"

    Tried to listen to the river
    But you couldn't shut your mouth
    Better take a little time to level out

    and of course, he might be talking about an actual river and an actual babbling trollop getting in the way of his Angry Young Man need for forced transcendence at its banks, but it struck me that he might be talking about The River, and its a combination of his own thoughts on the record and Bruce himself who keeps coming at you with his panting and pleading and sadness and nervous laughter and Clarence's goddamn saxophone and that piano tapping out constant distress calls all night and that it is all too much to take in.
* truth be told, I always vote with darkness

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Record Crate: Look out, Honey, I'm Using Technology

Iggy Pop sneered this sentiment in "Search and Destroy" back in 1973, but it applies just as well to my past week spent courting tinnitus and experiencing the full sensory application of amplification of the human spirit. Read more...

Here is a sweet picture of sweet little Damon and Naomi who opened the show, serious and fragile as little birds

and an inadequate one (smoke machine + crappy camera) of the almighty Boris who roundly deafened all in attendance with Brobdingnag volume and awesomeness that lived up to that which is their fable.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I am uploading all my old outsideleft posts to this site, hopefully backdated correctly, so be warned that the RSS feeds may look crazy and you might see a deluge of content coming through this particular tube.

The Wire, October 2007 Issue

has hit the streets, containing my article on New Orleans for their monthly Global Ear section. Or rather, it has been on the streets in the UK and to subscribers, but its takes about a month to stores here. I just received my contributor copy this evening. The article looks great and they used a number of photos and everything.

The Wire is one of the magazines of which I tend to keep an issue around for ages, reading it in little spurts - a review here, an article there, ambiently until the cover comes off from either being trod upon at the side of my bed or steamed to paste from the shower. It is very difficult to process seeing my own name in it, among its regular contributors. Kinda like Artforum for music, except without the creepy interest in the business side of things.

But, if you have the slightest inclination toward adventurous music, The Wire contains consistently the finest quality writing about the subject, willing to step out of record crates and concert halls and see this music in a greater philosophical context, and I am honored to be a part of it.

If one more reference to Robert Wyatt (appearing on the cover) comes up today, like if he's a guest judge on America's Next Top Model or something, I will be sufficiently creeped out to go into hiding.

Outsideleft: Crushing Society under Their Wheels - Vic Chesnutt and Robert Wyatt

I never fail to be amazed at people’s capacity and appetite for banality. I am not talking about current trends or anything, I’m talking about The Classics, and how ultimately The Classics consist of great talent going to great lengths to make the most agreeable milquetoast work. I bring the Beatles in as a prime culprit. Their talent and importance are both inarguable (trust me, I’ve tried) but their music hits me now as safe, maudlin and sometimes, a little insipid.

Robert Wyatt and Vic Chesnutt are two contemporary artists who are never insipid. Read more..

Friday, October 19, 2007

Alex Cook Trampolining

Alex Cook Trampolining - Front Flips

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I am way into trampolining, or "tramolining" as I accidentally put it in the closing credits (never make a typo on the internet or you risk becoming an ironic "YouTube star." Trust me, it is not as cool as you think. People coming up to you on the street saying "How's the 'tramolining?' all day. Grow up, people!)

I don't talk about my tram(p)olining a lot, though it is one of my greatest passions. The spring of the mat, the perfect moment when you either must do that front flip right now or not yet now, exhilarating. I still have trouble with my dismount as demonstrated on the video, but then I forgot to wear my grip socks that day, and if you had logged in as much mat-time as I have, you'd appreciate how slick those things are. Outside of that, my flips are the mack. I am comfortable saying so.

Still though, some guys (and girls, too) get all caught up in their form, but for me it's really about the air, the defiance of gravity, making the world spin around you for a second. It's like the difference between competitive surfing and being a "soul surfer." I am like both of those on the trampoline.

I guess I don't talk about all that much because all the other things I do are talk, and trampolining is all do. Perhaps one day I'll put it all together and write a book about trampolining, like be the Hunter S. Thompson of it, like he was for football. Or how George Will wrote that book about baseball, except you got the feeling he never really played baseball. There is something there, but for right now, I want to keep that part of my life pure.

Thanks to my boy Daniel Bishop for directing and his parents Sue and Ian for producing.

I don't want to be defeated! I don't want to be defeated!

FUGAZI, y'all. I had a chance encounter with Fugazi on the iPod the other day (I am in the A-F binder of CD's in my digitization efforts) and it really will not stop. It's like when I first heard Fugazi in Fred's apartment, which had eerily been my old girlfriend's apartment not too many years before, and all I could listen to was Fugazi, making up for all that time I foolishly spent not listening to Fugazi. And, possibly, indirectly from this chance meeting, I landed an interview with Ian Mackaye for a certain graphically distinctive literary journal! The iPod apparently does not know its own strength, or scarily, maybe it does.

"Bed for the Scraping" off Red Medicine was the guilty track that started all this mess. This afternoon, I got stuck in traffic crossing the bridge in my no-AC sweltering car and just played this song and over, yelling "I DON'T WANT TO BE DEFEATED" red-faced, over and over with them until that perfect air-raid-siren guitar riff hit, and in an instant, the fear of collapse I have every time I get stuck in traffic on a suddenly physics-improbable bridge became a moment of electrified Oneness with the hubris of trans-river architecture (and civilization too, in a way) and the gamble we take when we utilize it. I reasoned I could listen through that riff at 0:28 - 0:40 one last time as my rust coffin hung on the edge and then plummeted into the Mississippi. So punk rock, that would be. I never have this feeling when I take the ferry. The ferry is more of a Nick Drake/John Fahey experience, all quaint and complex in its turns and machinations, but slow and simple enough to witness everything going on. I was glad when traffic started moving, but I still listened to this on repeat until I got stuck in traffic safely on the other side, just to be sure.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Record Crate: The Roots of Things

The next night, I was met with the glorious noise of guitars arcing out into the night sky above Teddy's Juke Joint. Mem Shannon had jumped in on the tail end of Lil Dave Thompson's set, and the two guitar sharpshooters took turns putting their crosshairs on the blues. I really love Lil Dave's playing, a hyperkinetic barrage of melody that still follows the river of the song and having Mem Shannon alongside only made it better. Read more...

Outsideleft: Jazz Vs. The Chicago Underground Trio

Being the music snob that I am, I’ve struggled with jazz, since along with blues and classical, its one of the staples of the snob diet, and I can appreciate some jazz though I lack a real jazz snob’s devotion. When I look at the piles of reissues and decades of discs available, all those names and instruments, it’s as daunting as trying to instantly become a baseball fan. Real fandom calls for the encyclopedic knowledge of coaches, players and positions and thickets of pedigrees, who played where with whom and when and why and I cannot muster the interest. I believe writing about music should be about the music and the listener, not the genealogies and resumes and mythologies of those making the music. Read More....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Suggestion for Cat Power Regarding The Upcoming Album

Dear Cat Power:

Pitchfork just revealed the tracklist of your upcoming covers album and I have to say after the somewhat mistitled The Greatest, I thought I was over "Cat Power" (the recording artist, as opposed to the person. I don't pretend to know you as a person) , and am even more over the idea of you doing a Bob Dylan cover and am soaring miles above being over a new song by you about Bob Dylan. We all love Bob Dylan, already. It's the goddamn Official Year of Loving Bob Dylan. But I can use a break from Bob Dylan, or at least the aggressive loving thereof. Merle Haggard one said in an interview that we loved Elvis to death, and I'd hate to kill off good ole Bob with smothering hugs and sloppy kisses.

That spewn, I heard "Cross-Bones Style" on the radio today, and I remembered how much I love that song and the way you sing it, and now, I'm thinking how much I love your weird somnambulist reading of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" off the previous covers record, so maybe there is hope yet. I am totally not over "Cat Power."

And really, the only reason I posted this at all is when I saw the tripled picture and the mention of a covers record, I was really, suddenly, really hoping for a cover of Clarence Carter's raunchy line-dance staple "Strokin'" to be included on your album.

Click here if the YouTube thingy doesn't appear.

I don't know if "Strokin'" is as persistent everywhere else as it is here, but on any night, at any crappy blues club, one quarter can be spent on Clarence Carter and suddenly a panoply of women of all shapes and sizes and creeds and backgrounds will assume formation on the dancefloor and Electric Slide up a sexual storm.

So please, Cat Power, if you are the type to google yourself, as I suspect you might be, consider "Strokin'" as a late addition. Or a B-side. C'mon, you've delayed things before...this is a good idea! Like your Rolling Stones cover, or the karaoke version of "My Name Is" that made the rounds on the web. You own a cover when you do it right.

And, while I'm asking, consider doing a video for it with Feist and Peaches. And let Dave LaChapelle direct it. Or even better, let Dave Chappelle direct it. Either way, it's an idea whose time has come.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Ask the Dust by John Fante

Alex V. Cook's review
rating: Gr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_active

Ask the Dust is about as good a book as has ever been written. I say book, instead of novel because I'm not sure it is a novel. Same with story, not sure there is much of a story here either. Instead, it is a hotwired connection to the mind of Arturo Bandini, the manic writer manifested in this and two other books Fante wrote. It might be a shambles of a story, a bust as a novel, but it's a motherfucker of a book.

It's been said that Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a collection of all things in the world at that moment, half of them in Ireland, half of those in Dublin, half of those on Joyce's street, half of those in his house and so on and so forth until you reach either infinity or negation, depending on which way you traverse the graph.

In Ask the Dust, Bandini feels everything whether in proximity or imagined but it all channels through this one man in a frightening rush, and this man, ill equipped to survive even without the encumbering of being the universe's conduit, is ravaged by the unending spurt of life. Bandini possibly experiences nothing, no one - they are figments in his narrative. I've considered the possibility that this book actually takes place with a catatonic Bandini sitting in that dour Bunker Hill apartment, his synapses sparking out like burnt fuses, manufacturing this wild life of devastating failures punctuated by successes. I've also considered that Bandini is Fante, a juvenile, but often dead-on assumption among writers who only write a few books all about writers.

None of it matters though. Arturo Bandini is the greatest. Muhammad Ali took ego lessons from Bandini. He is a shrieking lunatic mostly because it is possible that he is the only living person all earth, that the rest of us are either dull shades or occasional fellow lost souls. Reading Ask the Dust makes you want to go raving mad for just a while, so you can get the taste of blood in your mouth, so you can hear what it sounds like when you howl like a wolf. I think its the third time I've read this over the past decade, but the first time as a writer myself, and Bandini's anguish and longing to be read and to be loved and whatever pathetic impulses and personality defects that compel a person to Make Things of Spiritual Value only serve to underscore and expose the frightening longing we all have to exist.

xposted at goodreads

Drive-By Truckers: 10/13/2007, Tipitina's, New Orleans

Here is the whole flickr set

This was their acoustic "The Dirt Underneath" tour, which came off like the best episode of Austin City Limits ever, minus the self-conscious reverence of the Texan music nerd. Instead, there a plague in fraternity form had descended upon the club, desperate to prove their air-guitar and hi-fiving skills and also their comprehensive knowledge of the lyrics. One air guitarist, named Eddie Van Halen, kept bumping into me and singing in my ear every time Cooley sang, but I understand when you are young and its your first big-boy concert, and possibly had too much sugar, you get excited. However, when his air guitar solo got out of hand and I really could not crane around his antics to see, I caught his dopey childlike eyes and said, "Dude. C'mon."

He froze in a rictus of mock riffery, glancing at his hand, then back at me as if I should have either commented of the quality of his performance or seen that his hand that I assumed was twisted to form a B Moron chord was actually the awkward invitation of a handshake. I just stared, and then he made a mime's tear-streak-down-my-face motion, to which I could only turn away.

Later, his date kept staggering her cigarette into the left arm of a large Bike Nite type and he turned and bellowed at the poor drunken thing in a way that made me feel a little sorry for her, even though... This only accelerated Eddie Van Halen's resolve to "party it out", and within minutes, the same Bike Niter had summoned the bouncer to dress him down for assuming the "you wanna start something" stance, humiliated in front of his bros and everything. I felt vindicated. I have been reading Ask the Dust, and thinking Arturo Bandini curses upon this oaf, wishing he'd be stricken impotent and his mother would cry ceaselessly at the end of the family line and the shameful uselessness of little Eddie's weener, and then feeling bad for thinking such thoughts about a guy just trying to have fun at a southern rock concert for fuck's sake. Where did I think I was? But, old man as this sounds, I did not pay $18 and drive an hour and a half to watch a future account manager cavort.

The show was magnificent, with Nashville veteran Spooner Oldham at the keys and John Neff at the pedal steel, young Jason Isbell's absence didn't even register except that none of his songs got aired. Neither did anything off the last album which I thought was strange. Eddie Van Halen and his contingent seemed to have a weird control over the band, spending each break bleating song titles and 4 out of 5 times, they would play them. I was shocked when they belched "Heaaaathhheennns!" in the air, being one of the Truckers' more sensitive numbers and the band responded in kind. For a moment, I understood human power dynamics.

The band was magic, as they always are, but acoustic their songs were allowed room to breath. "Box of Spiders" sounded like it was echoing up from the earth, "Buttholeville" tacked up next to Martin Luther's edicts and "The Night GG Allin Came to Town" proved itself once again, perhaps the most genius song ever written.

The best moments of a DBT show is when Patterson gets to channeling, and this time he launched into a trance-like "State Trooper" by Bruce Springsteen, exposing the beating drunken heart barely contained in that song. A roadie played electric, the band writhed like a gaggle of Hieronymus Bosch monsters and the place went up in smoke - so perfect. And, unlike 107% of all shows I've attended in New Orelans, it ended before 1 AM, allowing me to get my tired-ass home. I thought about braving the crush at the bathroom on the way to the exit, but decided to wait for the Last Chance Motel.

The Last Chance Motel is just a gas station actually, the final outpost of coffee before you hit the Bonne Carre Spillway bridge, and where everyone from Baton Rouge stops on the dark treacherous trek home. Once the night clerk spooked the hell out of me, mouthing "who's your daddy" at me along with The Zombies' "Time of the Season" right at my deafened head as a swarm of actual zombies tried to sell everyone there a stolen watch. I now cherish any opportunity to go there.

I gassed up, started walking to the door when in a cloud of woooooohoooooos, a stretch Hummer limo screeched into the parking lot and what looked like the cast of a little theatre production of Entourage poured out, and kept coming, like circus clowns. At the tail end, strutting with the disgust only a twenty year old white boy of moderate privilege can muster was Eddie Van Halen, momentarily glaring back as he and 300 of his brothers and brothers' consorts proceeded to clog up the store. I pictured him standing in line behind me trying to get my piteous Diet Coke Plus and Met-Rx Bar, rightfully mocking me for making such a stupid purchase, and I decided, Bandini-style, to graciously allow him the day unchallenged, my full bladder and lukewarm half-bottle of water an adequate penance for cursing the poor bastard impotent. I mouthed a silent "see you in hell, motherfucker" as I rounded the hearse at the next pump and slung myself out into the pit of the night.

(Ed. Thanks for the link,!)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

100 Words on How Awesome My Day Has Been So Far

Today I awoke in a giant silent house out in the middle of the woods only to pad out to the living room and find my daughter was occupied with the other kids attending this multi-family weekend, and that the owners of this house have very extensive and expensive tea habits so I got to enjoy a cup of exquisite imported Darjeeling as I lazily read parts of Ask the Dust only to look up and spy a trio of deer jetting across the pasture, after which I took said kids out for a swim in an icy life-affirming creek.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orrdige RIP

from BoingBoing

 Files 2007 10 11 19 38 07 Lady Jaye 19692007 Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, wife of industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge and member of Psychic TV, died of heart failure on Tuesday. Lady Jaye and Genesis were in the midst of an ongoing life-art project to make them look more alike through matching breast implants, haircuts, and other body modifications. The aim was to merge their identities into a single "pandrogynous" being, named Breyer P-Orridge. We send our condolences to Gen and the extended Psychic TV family.

I did a piece on the P-Orridges and the new incarnations of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle a couple months ago on outsideleft. PTV/TG has had a big impact on me in my life, not that I want to be some rivet-head, quasi cult acolyte, or that I am entertaining body modification options, but keeping up with their brazen out-ness was and is an anathema to my increasing normality. So long, we hardly knew ya.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Outsideleft: Radiohead - In Rainbows, Onto Darkness and Approaching Self-Actualization

But I bit and I bought and there it was in my inbox, the new Radiohead in download form. I guarantee a bootleg Bit Torrent would’ve taken less time, but I’d already spent an undisclosed sum on this adventure in the new marketing and found the whole situation rather painless. It’s too early to call the dismantling of the paradigm but I can say that the product lives up to the hype. It's like the Apple Corporation made it or something. Read more...

The Record Crate: Get up off that couch

I opted out of the bar scene last week in preparation for the killer shows we have before us this week. Read more...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In Rainbows








I am weirdly excited about this. Since Radiohead falls in the R-Z import phase, I've been sorting through the last couple albums in between bouts of Replacements and Lou Reed and they hold up pretty well.

Of course they hold up. Radiohead is our Pink Floyd (or is Tool our Pink Floyd? depends on what angle you come at it), our U2 (even though I'm old enough to have had U2 the first time) and they deserve the mantle. Those records are perfectly of-their-times and slightly timeless.

OK Computer is the classic end-of-the-century album people make it out to be, and no more really needs to be said about it, but I wish to give a shout-out to Amnesiac, the instantly maligned follow-up to Kid A. The techno-infused tracks rock that cyborg rock with ice-cold blood dripping from its chassis, the swooner hits like "Knives Out" sound like what big hits should sound like, I guess, and "I Might Be Wrong" which is somewhere in between the two might be the best muzak ever made. A man could buy the most tricked out iPod available listening to that song.

Perfect Song: The Angels of Light - "Praise Your Name"

I've always had a cultish devotion to Michael Gira and Swans, maybe because they explore that type of relational power dynamics and maybe there is something in me that seeks that out. When writing about music, I try to separate the musician out of the equation as much as possible, because I think you can get too lost in biography. Like, when was the last time you put an Elvis song on, compared to the last time you referenced Elvis in some capacity? And maybe my daddy-issue bullshit engenders this arguably forced divition between creator and product, and in defining myself, which I think is largely what one does as an artist, maybe I am over-reacting against it. I assume this is transparent to those that know me, and I'm not sure I'm all that interested in the resolution of this conflict, because its working for me.

And I certainly don't see Michael Gira as a father figure, or if I do, the misanthropic callousness and need for annihilation exhibited in much of his catalog makes me an even more fucked-up little dude than I thought. But something in that way Gira's Angels of Light portrays The Abyss I find exhilarating. In my book, I said this about The Angels of Light:
It bodes you well to remember who the OG Angel of Light really was, and we all know that ever since Robert Johnson had those aforementioned strings put on his instrument at the crossroads, his music is always the best.
and the melancholy gospel of "Praise Your Name" is like that whiff of smoky brimstone I always find comforting. Maybe its the onset of autumn. if one is to believe the Greeks, we got autumn and winter because randy old Hades popped out of the Earth to swipe Persephone, ripe in innocent womanhood, as they will have it, and took her down into hell for his bride, and the vengeance of Demeter, her mother the harvest goddess, was manifested on earth by famine.

Perpetual winter puts a damper on god worship, so deal was worked out between Olympus and the king of the dead. Because the foolish girl ate six pomegranates seeds while in Hell, and could not exactly return them in the original packaging, she was bound to her husband for a season each year, and Demeter's sadness became the winter, but more importantly, autumn was the time when she took Persephone shopping for a new hell wardrobe and packed her suitcase for their impending separation, and maybe that is sadder than the actual event. Preparation for death vs. death itself. How do you adequately prepare for such a thing?

You can only embrace the autumnal and roll with it, and that is what this song does for me every time I hear it. It bums me out, but in the best possible way. Enjoy!

The Angels of Lightpraise your name

Hold My Life

The Replacements!

A dubious procrastination decision to copy my old CD's to this new external drive, starting with the first binder I grabbed for, resulted in all my old Replacements CD's getting unearthed, and they will thereby rule my life for the next week or so.

Goddamn, the Replacements are good. I know this is a no-brainer to most folks, but it stands being said. Jerri and I were listening to The Rolling Stones last night thinking, sure, the case can be easily made for The Beatles being a better band, but when it comes down to it, I'd pretty much always rather listen to the Stones over the Beatles. Those knucklehead chords at the beginning of "Brown Sugar" are perfect even though I'm sure I've heard then about 10,000 times in my life.

I feel much the same way about The Replacements and the sing song na-na-na-na swang of "I Will Dare" and the drunken foolishness of Hootenanny, the first Replacements album I ever got. It's so loose and fun and goofy and then Paul Westerberg throws in the one-man basement 4-track genius of "Within Your Reach" - the goofy synth, that drum machine and the flanger set on emulsify, it is rock and roll alchemy, crafting gold out of clay. I've heard these songs hundreds of times, and they are all as fresh as they were the first time. And I've wrangled with friends that somehow see The Replacements as "just a rock band" populated by drunken losers whereas contemporaries like REM and Hüsker Dü made Great Strides toward Great Art, and maybe they are right. But in the presence of something "better," I'd still rather listen to The Stones and The Replacements.

(Ed: Thanks,, for the shout out!)

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh

Alex V. Cook rated it: Gr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_activeGr_red_star_activeGr_orange_star_unactiveGr_orange_star_unactive

Read in October, 2007

This is one of those books that was good enough that I couldn't quite put it down, but corny enough that I wanted it to be over with. The Twilight Zone story and the cliched characters make this book somewhat torturous. I figured out what was going to happen about 100 pages in, and I am usually very slow to "figure it out" so the remaining 280 pages involved a lot of impatient waiting.

What saves it is that Welsh is a great prose writer. His conversational asides, the thoughts of the varying narrators are all drenched in the loathing and glory for which his characters are known. Kibby is painful to watch if you have the slightest nerd streak in you, while you aren't sure if you hate Skinner more than he does himself.

I am a huge fan of Welsh's The Acid House; one of my favorite books of short stories to skim through and re-read and only the tightest of assholes is completely immune to the laddish charm of Trainspotting, but I've never really been able to get into his novels, and while this one avoids the stylistic tics present in Filth and keeps the slang decipherable to us non-"Skarrish" readers, the story never quite rises to the occassion its audacious premise and open narritive invites

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mass Storage vs The Albatross

Stacks of old CDR's of mp3's, binders of CD's long stashed in closets all containing unknown pleasures unceremoniously tossed into the scrap heap but a few years ago. Introduce a new 300Gb external hard drive into the relationship and all this dusty music awakes from hibernation, and slowly creaks into the bright light of Organization.

I used to obsess over the organization of my music library, wanting then in nice tidy Artist/Album/Song hierarchy with a separate folder of playlists set up so I could access them off a menu off the Start button. Stretching back about a decade, I had about 2,000 albums neatly arranged in arcane arrays in crates I built from 2x4's picked up in fits of Organization similar to the one I am experiencing right now.

There are gourmets and gourmands in the music nerd game. Gourmets have impeccable collections and can espouse the rarity and qualities of the music they have meticulously assembled. I love a gourmet's collection. I feel like I am 5 and experiencing Disneyland when I see records I've heard of but never heard neatly set up, shelf after delirious shelf. They also have incredible stereos.

I however am of the gourmand variety. I have soem decent Bose computer speakers and another Bose wave stereo in the living room. The stereos in my car is the cheapest one that will accept an iPod via a clumsy patch cable from Radio Shack. My one monumental record collection, clawed to valuelessment thanks to the attention it received from a parade of apartment cats, got halved over and over agin with each successive move across the country, until I was cleaning out the garage preparing to leave Kansas forever, only to find my poor albums sitting in a box at the bottom of other unwanteds a that only get touched when you are moving, so I brought them to the one relable used record place I knew of and traded the whole box for about 10 cd's, the second iron & Wine being the only one I remember. So long Tones on Tail, so long Yes albums I found in a trash can around the corner from my first apartment I had without stuff-filter of a girlfriend to prevent me from bringing you inside. It was good, you and me, but it was time to move on.

I think I have the taste buds of a gourmet, able to find refinement where most experience bitterness and even revulsion, while still not being to high on myself to enjoy grocery store fried chicken and bean burritos from Taco Bell. But I am more interested in the access rather than the purity of my larder. Rifling throug this stack of silver discs I've only touched in the last year because I knocked them over trying to get something else, I'm finding so many things. All these Stereolab albums! The Velvet Underground boxed set! A mile of dodgy dub tracks that got me through one particulalry brutal Kansas winter!

Letting go of the artifact has been the best thing that ever happened to me as a music fan. Sure there are some irreplaceable things that I have let go, but it happens. Arguably every moment past is a non-repeatable wonder, but to linger on these moments will only find you sitting on a dusty pile of memories, feeding scraps to your bloated pet albatross you keep on a tattered leash. I say sharpen that iPod to a fine point and sever that leash with it. let your albatross find its way to the sea and leave your cave to blink in the sunshine.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Portrait of the Artist

as a reorganized, action-oriented, goal-accomplisher!

I hijacked the old computer table from the living room, as well as the old computer and the printer and whatnot that had become a maddening Gehenna of tangled cords and dust and re-established them in the music room, which is now the master cylinder around which the house revolves.

I just referred to it as "my office" a minute ago which makes me cringe a little, but looking around at the window before me and the guitars on the wall to the left and posters and flyers behind me, it has the feel of a perfect stoner high school bedroom with a maturity upgrade, which is pretty much how my life can be described most of the time.

Part of this organization is one phase in a two-month Writing Plan, where I execute two new major projects, one in October and one in November, while continuing work on an ongoing third.

And I realize the hollow vanity of posting about Projects I Plan To Do and The Room in Which I Will Execute Them, but if blogs are about anything, they are about the inflation of hollow vanity into something, if only personally, glorious and useful.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Welcome to the World!

Oona Lark Walker Lamont, born to Paul, the muscle behind and his wife Andrée

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Outsideleft: Bless My Soul - Sharon Jones and Bettye Lavette

There is no good reason for your life to fail to be infused with soul music, but until recently, mine was. I like soul music, love it in fact, but the shit is everywhere, bleeding in from every angle, and since I have apparently never gotten over high school, I buck against ambient culture when ever its is presented. Thankfully Sharon Jones pulled up in a mile long Cadillac of song and rescued me from myself. Read More...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

225: Rev. Horton Heat, T-Bo, and more

In the October issue of 225, I profile the irrepressible Rev. Horton Heat, go on the scene of a video shoot for aspiring white rapper T-Bo, let a local art maven go on and on about Menomona and then some..

Musical Meanderings: Nunu's

In the October issue of Country Roads

When we talk of attractions, we like to think that they are naturally occurring phenomena waiting there for us to discover. That’s the perverse, egotistic joy of exploration: to think some roadside restaurant or perfect riverbank or stretch of scenic highway has been just sitting there, muddling along waiting for us to happen along and complete the circuit. It’s a fallacy, of course, but one that works in everyone’s favor. Read More...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tied to the whipping post

I spent the night at in New Orleans last night after a champagne-heavy, in-a-mansion engagement party for one of my best friends and after a breakfast of the best motherfucking croissants ever had by man or beast in or out of France, I hunkered down for the ride home. An houly bullet train between Baton Rouge and New Orlenas would make my life a lot easier, but until they do, I plan on keeping The Allman Brothers Band's At Fillmore East on my iPod.

I just finished Killing Yourself to Live, which has page after page of music to get you across the fruited planes of both love and country, and thereby am very susceptible to corny road music epiphanies right now, but really I was just wanting to get home, and was thinking that it would be nice if I could get home by the time "Whipping Post" finished, which started its 22 minute run right as this photo was snapped.

To my surprise, a wormhole heretofore unexperienced on this dreary stretch of I-10 opened up and, with their 11/8 time signature and incendiary synergistic gale in my sails, I shot down the highway as if in hyperspace. It confirmed my usual choice in riding alone, because no one should be victim to "Whipping Post" unwillingly and it needed to be heard right then to make the wormhole appear. It is the quintessential egregious jam, one whose pleasures come only with the beating you receive from it. As that fucking drum solo convinced me of its singular brilliance, I saw a sign showing Baton Rouge being only 19 miles off, and with my sense of time and proportion being bent like a needle dropped out of Gregg Allman's tour bus window, I thought it worked! I really will make it home before "Whipping Post" is over. I thought about those theoretical space travel routines, where a ship needs to slingshot around Jupiter to pick up enough speed to get to Saturn, and was momentarily convinced I had experienced that very thing in my decade old Corrolla.

I saw traffic quickly backed up to the dawn of time right after the exit. I also noticed a motorcycle nearly plummet into a truck, which seemed parked on the highway compared to the cyclist's speed, eerily mirroring the way Duane Allman went out, just as he picked up his guitar again in the song. But by then, the wormhole had already collapsed. I pulled off to the exit at the last second and took some lackluster back roads home, as eh transition to the even-longer but less epic "Mountain Jam" slid me eventually into my driveway.