Saturday, May 31, 2008

[outsideleft] Robert Mapplethorpe Died for Somebody's Sins, But Not Mine

Patti Smith and Kevin Shields
The Coral Sea

Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe might have been just a name whispered among us social defects that fill our pantheons with artists rather than sports figures and politicians had it not been for the fine gatekeepers of decency at the American Family Association, who took offense at his pictures of black penises and erotic self-portraits. Ever concerned for the misuse of tax dollars that could be with moral decency used for war, this group attempted to make an example of Mapplethorpe and the National Endowment of the Arts that sponsored the offending exhibition. Their attempts to beat down Mapplethorpe backfired of course; you can’t effectively whip a guy with a whip up his own ass.

His closest friend was Patti Smith. He took the photo for the cover of her debut album Horses, one of the most important records of the Seventies and the vessel in which flower power could finally whither and drop the seeds for punk. His photos offered a visual counterpart to Smith’s poetry. Both had a taste for the classics, as long as they were laced with strong beauty and transgression. The first line of Horses is Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine which embodies the idea of transgression better than any other. Transgressors do not pretend to be guiltless, innocents; far from it. Transgression implies the purposed crossing of lines in the name of beauty and love and existence. Many of the same wise gatekeepers that tried to hide Mapplethorpe’s images away would claim the very dumb virus that cut Mapplethorpe short in 1989 to be revenge from God upon the transgressors. Its sufferers would die for their sin. The truth is, we die for much less glamorous reasons than our sins. We die because of bacteria and bullet holes. The sins of looking at vulvic lilies and female bodybuilders and black cocks and rough sex are what make the journey to our inevitable worth making.

After his death, Smith penned “The Coral Sea,” an epic poem about Mapplethorpe taking a final voyage to see the Southern Cross before his death. People don’t write epic poems like they used to, I suppose, largely because we have been trained to bypass the poetic and the epic in life in favor of becoming good citizens and consumers. Patti Smith has never shown much interest in being either, and her voice in this reading of her poem, backed with supernova guitar ambience by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, has lost none of its rattlesnake bite, none of its gravity than it had in 1975. It can be safely said that Patti Smith can go overboard in her condor swoops through literary references and imagery, but it is an epic poem, you need to go long and deep in this game.

There are actually two performances on separate discs here with minimal differences. On the earlier one, Smith’s words are levied in even tones, controlled and smoking like the cocksure gaze she gives on that Horses cover. My money, however, is on the latter performance, where she seems less strident, adrift on those crashing waves of guitar. Shields is in equally fine form on both sets, seemingly taking a single cord through his labyrinth of effects, letting the signal crash and recombine into fireballs across an ocean sky, briefly illuminating the vastness of Smith’s sadness.

I shall refrain from offering snippets from the hour-long text because when spoken, they become a greater thing than when read. Smith almost becomes a rhythm section for Shields’ guitar, setting a pace, offering a backbeat, making the sway. As it proceeds, the sound in the recital halls must have been deafening for the audiences that witnessed these performances. Her words lap the shore of your consciousness, eroding the coast away until you are raw from experiencing her anguish and her love for her departed friend. Smith says in the liner notes that she could never get through the piece unaccompanied but that Shields offered an “all-encompassing landscape in which I could explain the emotions that drove me to write it” but I daresay that Smith, in turn, gave Shields some material over which he could expand his deep sense of sound, going beyond the elegiac but easily digested beauty he commanded in My Bloody Valentine into uncharted, blurry territory. I hope he takes a bunch of that reunion gig money and channels it into creating art like this.

So what of our dear departed Robert? How does he hope to fit into all this? His beauty was as singular as that of the two performers here. All involved – subject, poet and accompanist – all are masters of drawing you into their artistic vision, and the three twist like the lines in a rope, tighter and tighter until they become one. If Robert Mapplethorpe died for anyone’s sins, it was for those who never dare that kind of vision, who shy away from that dark impulse to find one’s own beauty in the things and people they love.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Sukie Outlined

You have new Picture Mail!

  • We got a dog
    • Rat terrier named Sukie
    • Her name was already Sukie
    • But it's likely we would have named her Sukie anyway
      • "Sukie in the Graveyard" by Belle and Sebastian is a favorite song of
        • Me
        • My daughter
          • It's actually not very age-appropriate song for a kid, lyrically speaking
          • But you can't really understand what they are saying
            • Sung fast
            • Scottish accent
          • But the organ beat is unstoppable
  • From Craigslist
    • This should have been our first warning
    • The second being the people met me at a gas station 30 miles out of town
    • The car had
      • The grandma, who
        • Was driving
        • Didn't glance in my direction
        • Didn't stop the engine
      • Three blond kids
      • Pregnant woman in her twenties that
        • Handed over the somewhat dirty kennel
        • Explained that her fourth was on its way and the Grandma had a seven-year-old herself
        • Wished I would've taken the dog and run
  • For free
    • No such thing as a free dog
    • We though she was just nervous and timid, then
    • We thought she was sick
      • Worms
      • Lethargic
      • Throwing up
    • And she was
      • Virus
      • Nothing that couldn't be fixed by
        • $300
        • A couple days at the vet.
  • For my daughter's seventh birthday
    • When I left to pick the dog up we told her
      • One of her friends was getting a dog
      • So they needed to go get a collar and bowl and etc etc for them
    • When I got back she saw her
      • And said Oh is that [friend's] dog?
      • And fell apart when we said it was hers
  • We are training her
    • Crate in the house
    • Total Dog Whisperer style
    • To walk on a leash
      • She hates leaving the house
      • And loves to come back in
  • And so far, she
    • Walks best with my daughter
    • Is quiet
    • Is a pretty good dog.

[Really Listening] The Unified Theory of Swamp Pop

Foret Tradition at Grace's Lounge, St. Amant, LA May 2008
Click here for more

In the June 2008 issue of Country Roads

I try to keep an open mind about music, recognizing that, of course, everyone has their own tastes and likes the music they like for completely unique reasons. But I can’t help but cringe a little at the oldies. Nothing against the songs, they are great songs and have earned their longevity. I just wonder when we are going to move on and create new classics and put these relics in the attic. I wonder why so many people cling to the same music decade after decade, music that was off the radar before they were even born.

I got an answer to that second question on the way to Grace’s Lounge in St. Amant. I forgot my usual stack of CDs on the counter in the kitchen, and was left in the static somewhere past the city limits where the signal for KLSU, the LSU college station, petered out. I set to scanning the dial—landing on a “new country” station. I was transfixed by how bad this music was to me. Dull cheesy clichés spread on over-processed slabs of sonic white bread. The songs all seemed to have the same themes: men trying to convince a listener that never asked that they are still a cowboy of some variety, women offering up preliminary atonement for being the object of those very men’s desires. Country music was once the last stronghold for humanity at its most hilarious and heart-wrenching; this bastardization had all the grit of an ad for expensive sunglasses.

I was heading to Grace’s to hear Foret Tradition, widely considered to be the best swamp pop band going. The problem was I’ve never gotten a good definition on what swamp pop really is. What separates a swamp pop band from a regular variety act? Swamp pop seemed to me to be a nebulous term for music, pointing more to a place of origin than something intrinsic to the music. I pulled into the parking lot of Grace’s, struck by the lack of a big sign with a logo; just a rented sign that listed Foret Tradition and a number of regional rock acts. This did not bode well for pinning down a Unified Theory of Swamp Pop.

“Well, you know when you hear music from New Orleans, and you know what it is?” said Grace’s manager Brandon Moran. “Swamp pop is like that. It’s music from the 50s and 60s dance bands with a local flair.” Moran operates the club that was first opened by 1974 by Grace Vasseur, as the live music venue it has been ever since. He books a variety of music at the club, reflecting the changing face of Ascension parish, but Thursday nights are all for swamp pop. “I grew up in a house where my parents danced to swamp pop,” he explains, listing Mike Broussard & The Night Train band and Kane Glaze & The Coozan Band as some of his parent’s favorites.

Foret Tradition kicked into their horn-laden upgrade of bar-band classic “Mustang Sally,” James Spells’ trumpet and Ryan Foret’s soulful growl injecting some of the Wilson Pickett swing into the song that has been worn down by a million bad variety band covers. The women in the bar dropped every conversation and immediately broke into one of the most spontaneous line dances I’ve ever seen. As the song blazed on I started to see some defining edges to this thing called swamp pop. It wasn’t about the songs themselves; it was about how and where it’s played. Foret Tradition tore through classics like “Domino” with an injection of Crescent City Funk and blare from the horns, making these old songs rise like a wave only to crash when they reach their fever pitch.

Slim Harpo’s classic “Ti-Na-Ni-Na-Nu” set the checkered floor into a jitterbugging frenzy, couples flinging and twirling in every direction. I’m used to seeing older couples demonstrate how a rug gets cut at Cajun dance halls, but I was shocked to see how well the younger people in the crowd knew the steps.

I approached Mallory and Courtney, two young women in their twenties, as they exited one of the evening’s many synchronized Electric Slides. I asked them why two young women were so into a batch of songs nearly a half century old. Mallory blurted without hesitation, “This is my kind of music. I was born and raised here and this is what we listen to.”

When I asked whether they practiced the dance steps, Courtney offered, “No way. I learned them from growing up here.” My last shred of skepticism about how ingrained this music was in the culture here was eliminated when I said, “OK, what CD is in your car stereo right now?” And they responded by pointing to band and saying in unison, “THIS ONE!” They quickly disappeared into yet another flurry of twirling bodies, leaving me to realize that I may still not know what swamp pop is exactly, but I have a good idea of who and where it is.


Apropos of tenuous prog-linguistic connections

Ogurusu Norihidie - Modern
Again. And again. I hope I rediscover this lovely piece of music every three years for the rest of my life. This is some of my favorite music. There is a cleanliness to it, like line-dried towels or sashimi. I am not the biggest supporter of "less is more" because I think each picture, when it expresses its essence, uses exactly the right amount of paint; every really great book has exactly the right number of words, etc etc - the sparse friendly guitar and piano over the quietest laptop purr exhibits the exact dosage of calm and engagement.

I didn't know until I looked that Ogurusu Norihide is a Shinto priest. Not that I really know much of anything about Shinto, or that this music points to that. Wiki says "The afterlife is not a primary concern in Shinto; much more emphasis is placed on fitting into this world, instead of preparing for the next" and I can see that in this music. It speaks of rare quiet moments edging up against the din of life that redirect focus rather than trying to silence the world.

Yes - Tales From The Topographic Oceans
and not to just prove how not "less is more" I really am. I actually wanted to listen to Genesis' Trespass after a mention here, but ole Phil C. probably has some beef against streaming media (seemingly the people that have made jillions all do, I can see why they would argue that they don't need it) so its not up on the Yahoo.

Apropos of tenuous prog-linguistic connections, here is the snopes article semi-debunking of the tale that Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" is about watching a guy drown in the ocean held back from helping by the topography of a cliff. I mean, there is nothing he could have done, but I have to think that if it were members of Yes up on that cliff, they would have quickly fashioned some sort of glorious mechanical bird out of reeds and palmetto fronds, donned some old fashioned Red Baron goggles and scarves they had in the truck and flown the bird down to the surf, plucking the swimmer from Neptune's grasp and soared on into the sunset.

Patti Smith and Kevin Shields - The Coral Sea
For review purposes, but holy hell, talk about not being "less is more!" The amazing din created just from Patti Smith's speaking voice, not even her old school caterwauls, and MBV MVP Kevin Shield's pedal setup is hair raising to say the least.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ogurusu Norihide

posted here so that I can remember how to spell his name. Norihide was part of a Minimalist Japanese laptop folk scene in the early 2000's who did two lovely albums, Humor (Study and I) and Modern, the latter of which I am listening to now. The music on it barely exists - two alternating piano chords slightly cut up but mostly hypnotic with the tiny brushed beats. Little piano bits enter the counterpoint so slowly you can experience how he lets the tones gradually lengthen into a high pitched drone and then subside. Techno is not my bag in the least, but whatever this is totally is.

Ogurusu Norihide - Modern

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today's bathing suits beat last decade's flannel every time.

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff: Deluxe Edition
This lazy slab of rock still spills the bongwater when it hits, but all is forgiven when the riff of "Touch Me I'm Sick" gets rolling out of control and the little solo in "Need" is like living in a pile of mud with a ray of sunshine unexpectedly peeking through the muck. Mudhoney, like the grunge movement it spawned, was never all that profound or even really much of a movement to me, but I think it fits the slab of boring work and the chest congestion I am enduring this morning, so we will fly the flannel and see what comes of it.

For instance, I've never liked "Mudride" all that much before, but it feel perfectly unformed and feral against the fru-fru grandma's antiques coffee shop I am in.

Tad - 8-Way Santa
Tad was the band that seemed to embody whatever grunge was supposed to mean: growling, mean, bearing and image of conscious imagelessness and heavy all with a sad melodic element. I mean, look at these dudes. It is as if the Universe decreed that without Uriah Heep, the karmic balance was off kilter, and Tad was formed out of spare Peavey amp parts, beef tallow and methamphetamines baked in an abandoned oven left in a field behind a newly built Pacific northwest apartment complex. It holds up surprisingly well. Like a truckstop Afgan Whigs. The more I listen to this record, the more I kinda love it. "Plague Years" has a timeless jangle to it woven in with that 90's insurgency that could get out of hand so easily when a string enough hand was not on the reins.

The Jesus Lizard - Goat
This live clip of David Yow getting beaned with a bottle only to eventually get back up and finish the show says more about the Jesus Lizard than I can

The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
Fucking love the Afghan Whigs. Forever and amen.

The Lemonheads - The Best of the Lemonheads

My daughter wanted to swim and our friends with the pool have wi-fi, so the venue thankfully changed. Said friends are championship BBQ chefs trying out their new smoker and brought out a tray of leftover shrimp and sausage and chicken to pick at while I work. And they just made mojitos. So we go to the sunnier side of the 90s with the Lemonheads. "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" sounds like a swimming pool, girls lounging in sunglasses and bathing suits getting splashed by boys perfecting their cannonball.

Guided By Voices - Mag Earwhig!
Summer hit of the supernova, that's what this record is, on the basis of "I Am a Tree" alone. Many consider this to be where GBV lost the thread, but I think its was the beautiful bridge between the ragged early material and his more polished stuff to follow, much like his beloved Who's Next was for The Who.

Now deep into it, this album needs no justifications or clarifications. It is rock music of the highest order. "Jane of the Waking Universe" alone is mightier than most groups' entire albums and "Learning to Hunt" is such a sweet love song, with real beautiful sentiment bleeding through Robert Pollard's usual joyous ramble
You were a child reaching out brave and true
For big things in the next room

And I couldn't step into such open sky

Where on the crest of uncertainty you loom

I'm learning to hunt for you

Say that you'll never run too far away
Even with all the answers out there
Where it's brighter but no one will care

Half as much as I care about you
I'm learning to hunt for you
(Back inside ordinary)
Richard Swift - Richard Swift as Onasis
Just to bring this sunburned parade of smoked meat and chlorine into the present day. Never have listened to Richard Swift, but have been intrigued by his ads and album covers (marketing works!) This largely instrumental tour through psychedlia's bitter end and scumbled lo-fi romanticism fits perfectly with my situation, sitting at a laptop under a patio umbrella, thinking about what I'm hearing. Some art lends itself so well to reflexive examination, where it seems to be art about itself as art. I think Frank Stella's early stuff had that, as does Alex Katz and David Hockney, two artists whose work I don't actually care for but like thinking about. This music has all that going for it + I actually like hearing it.

[225] Looking forward, looking back with Tom Rush

One is hard-pressed to name someone who embodies the term singer-songwriter more than Tom Rush. Armed with a guitar style that was equal parts twang and summer breeze and powerful tenor voice, Rush emerged out of the Harvard folk scene in the early 1960s, introducing the songs of emerging writers like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor along with his own timeless songs, such as “No Regrets,” on his early albums. His reputation was on par with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan in the early 1960s, but his finest hour was 1968’s The Circle Game, which Rolling Stone magazine names as having ushered in the singer-songwriter era with its sun-dappled orchestration, killer songs and Rush’s honey smooth delivery.

Tom Rush returned to the stage in 1982 after a hiatus, hungry to find new songwriters to work with as he’d done decades before. He started a series of “Club 47 Concerts,” named for the Boston club where he started out, and shared the stage with established contemporaries and jumpstarting the careers of household names like Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith and Alison Krauss. Rush said these concerts were about “looking forward, looking back, one generation introducing the next.”

On his June 13 stop at Manship Theatre, Rush will join two longtime collaborators from Baton Rouge: Duke Bardwell, an masterful singer-songwriter in his own right and a member of Elvis’ band in the mid 1970s, and Casey Kelly, founding member of legendary local rock band the Greek Fountains and writer of country classics such as T.G. Sheppard’s “Somewhere Down the Line” and “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight,” a No. 1 hit for Kenny Rogers. Both artists have toured with Rush throughout their careers, and this show should be a stirring homecoming and great night of song.


[225] CD Review: Smithfield Fair 20 for 20 (Stevenson Productions)

Performing Celtic music is tricky business. Keeping tight to traditions can isolate you; too much mucking around can send you into spa-music territory. Even the term “Celtic” is contentious. Baton Rouge’s Smithfield Fair has been traveling the world for two decades now, mixing the right amount of highland traditional sound and modern folk reinterpretation, and their journey is lovingly captured on their retrospective disc, 20 for 20. They have bagpipes and thudding bodhrán, spirited tales of bonny lasses out on the moors and windswept circadian guitars throughout the 20 songs here, but Smithfield Fair is more in line with groups like Fairport Convention and Pentangle, who use those traditions as a springboard for their own expression as they do in intricate numbers like “Back Where We Belong” and “Catriona.” In other words, they manage to do Celtic folk right without sounding corny. While there is no mistaking the inspirations for these songs, Smithfield Fair continues to follow those timeworn roads to places all their own.

Recommended if you like: Steeleye Span, Thistle & Shamrock, James Galway

Essential tracks:“Catriona,” “Moon over Caledonia,” “If I Were a Wealthy Man”


[225] CD Review: Harlan Spiderette (Odd Thud)

On the second Harlan album, Spiderette, songwriter John Norris—who recorded debut The Still Beat on his own—enlists the help of his live band. As a result the group sounds more at ease with its muse, utilizing a subtle yet dense pop orchestration to hold the songs aloft. For instance, “Cancelling the Frisbees” contains a chatter of handclaps and cinematic keyboard washing around serpentine lyrics. Spiderette is a mature, confident album filled with wonder. The band performs an album release show May 10 at Chelsea’s Café.

Recommended if you like: Lloyd Cole, The Cars, New Order circa Low-Life

Essential tracks: “Conundrums,” “Cancelling the Frisbees,” “Locked Inside My Brain (at the CIA)”


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

[Record Crate] Clinic amazes, Lizaveta will dazzle and Murder by Death might remind you of someone

To put it succinctly, last Saturday's Clinic show at the Spanish Moon was amazing. Their stage get-up consisting of aloha shirts and surgical masks points to their mix of icy distance and goofy fun that makes them stand out from the pack. They dutifully doled out their entire new album Do It! during the first set while reserving the rest for their back catalog, catching myself and the rest of the room up in their groove like we were being hypnotized by a maniacal organ grinder. Opening act Mark Sultan (of critical fave BBQ) offers a stripped-down version of the same, squealing his Motown soul over power chords and a bass drum played with his foot. Sure, both groups had their gimmicks, but each delivered their infectious rock 'n' roll with nary a shred of posturing or pretense. It was one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.

Stinking Lizaveta is a nebulous outfit from Philadelphia that knits hard rock, intricate world rhythms and swooning chamber music into a tight web in a manner that actually kicks ass rather than just demonstrates fret board and drum kit prowess. They will be appearing at an early show Wednesday at the Spanish Moon along with the Clydesdale Hooves of The Sword and Torche.

Murder by Death offer a different breed of heaviness at Chelsea's this week, one rooted in haunted woods and country fiddles. The melodramatic vocals of Adam Turla remind me of The Cult's Ian Astbury and Nick Cave while the band's cello-infused rolling thunder resembles 16 Horsepower and, er, Nick Cave as well. Murder by Death will plant their own bad seeds Thursday on the Chelsea's stage.

J.J. Callier grew up working in his father's zydeco and blues record store in Lafayette, learning the heritage of zydeco music as well as its place in modern life, and that experience gets transmitted through his funky accordion. He and his powerhouse band, The Knockouts, will be appearing at Boudreaux & Thibodeaux's on Friday.

Link to local events calendar

Monday, May 26, 2008


The Naked Brothers Band - I Don't Want to Go To School
I asked my newly seven-year-old daughter what she wanted to listen to while we cleaned the house this morning, and she didn't have a precise suggestion, which pleases me. The rest of her friends and their teenage sisters are all firmly suckered by the insipid Disney tripe of Drake Bell and Jonas Brothers and goddamn Hannah Montana, who is so transparently a marketing tool that she is actually two pop stars, Miley Cyrus and her rhyming alter ego. Even her "sexy photos" were dreamed up at a marketing meeting.

But, I am not above children being into pop tripe, I mean, that is ostensibly who it's for. So I asked her is there was something her friends listened to that she wanted to hear, like Naked brothers Band or something, and she looked up "Oh Yeah, I like the 1-2-3 song" so we found it, and true to form, this Nickelodeon product was a notch more palatable than Disney product. Disney has latched onto the profitible plague of humorlessness that infects most adults and tries to recruit kids into the team. nickelodeon goes more for the pie in the face, fart joke, in other words, embraces the classics.

Naked Brothers is stupid, mind you, but not without some human edges. The elder Naked boy sings in a tune-resistant sector of the range between Axl Rose and Janis Joplin, and the 1-2-3 song, "Three is Enough" is not bad, at least better than the ballads that made both of us wrinkle our noses in irritation. They have at least a modicum of insouciance compared to the well-behaved dullards working for The Mouse.

Serge Gainsbourg - Monsieur Gainsbourg Originals
Now, my teenage media obsessions fell more in the realm of sneaking into the living room late at night and watching "Emmanuelle" movies on Cinemax, which were largely soundtracked by Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is a beloved lothario figure (I mean, look at him!) and his theme for "Goodbye Emmanuelle" on this album holds up, but I'm going to go on record as saying musically speaking, he's pretty overrated, except for "Bonnie and Clyde" his famed duet with Bridgette Bardot.

My daughter even loves this song. When she was little I had it on a mix cd we'd play in the car and she thought it was funny to drone "Bonnie and Cloydddddd" in a deep voice like Bardot does. The two effuse en Francaise over a minor key guitar progression punctuated by orgasmic giggles, or possibly field recorded monkey calls. It's a simple song, but rather perfect. The scene from Laurel Canyon where Frances McDormand and whats-his-name coerce Kate Beckinsale into a striptease over this song is hotter than any old Emmanuelle flick could be.

(NSFW, I guess, unless you work in a sexy sexy Fronch kind of swinging office.)

The B-52's - Bouncing off the Satellites
Just for "Theme for a Nude Beach." This album sits in the awkward transition for the B-52's, going from punk/camp provocateurs to actual pop stars, its a rather lazy record for them, letting the plasticine synth lines and the female harmonies do the shouting. The less vibrant mood and absense of their signature surf guitar on this record is due to the passing of guitarist Ricky Wilson a year or two earlier, but honestly, it's really just not very good at all. I remember being at a party in high school and someone put "Theme for a Nude Beach" on the mix tape and it was perfect and lovely, fresh and giggly like the girl I had my eyes on at the party. She bobbed her head in mock-ditzy syncopation to the bop-boop-bee-doo throughout the song, and it only made me love her more.

Alas, my friends had an equal appreciation for latter-day Rush and Yes as they did for the B-52's, and something off Power Windows or 90125 came on next inspiring some drunken air guitar on someones part, and the girl appropriately wrinkled her nose at this and coaxed her friend to join her in a hasty exit. Surely I am not the only man on earth to be cock-blocked by progressive bands in their new wave period, but it still burns a little to the day.

English Beat - Special Beat Service
Now this! is! the best! pop record! of the early 80s! Seriously. "I Confess" is so lush and ecstatic I suspect both Vivaldi and Tito Puente were conscripted for its writing.

If I was making a wacky indie comedy about recently deceased souls adjusting to the afterlife, post-living among the living and having touching epiphanies, I'd have this line

Being dead don't hurt,
No only dying

Cards on the table time,

Sometimes it's right to say goodnight

playing when the protagonist sees his partner discover that he'd been unfaithful and he is left in limbo trying to plead for forgiveness across the life-death barrier, because his acceptance into heaven's arms depends on it! Maybe I'll call the movie "I Confess" and have Dave Wakeling play the stunning suave angel mentor.

and "Save it for Later" is simply perfect perfect with or without a half-baked movie pitch attached. In purgatory in the movie, I will have everyone hang out and have groovy dance parties of the damned in skelton festooned Euro nightclubs modeled precisely after the one in the video. Actually, If I can get Dave Wakeling attached to the project, we can just use this video by itself.

Depeche Mode - Some Great Reward

I really hesitated to put this on, only because this record meant A LOT to me in my formative years, and there is no way that it can come close, especially after listening to "Save it For Later" 10 times in a row. Just like back then, I instantly fast forwarded through "Something to Do" to revel in the sly stilted funk of "Lie to Me." "People are people" was a revelation in 1985, but David Gahan's mawkish tones against violence don't make the strongest case against beating him up. The marching portion at the end, with old Martin Gore stomping around in his skirts and non-Euclidian perm chanting can't understand what makes a man hate another man with shouts of people are people! intercutting it, capped off with that little sigh and the percussive breakdown brings it all back home.

My first serious girlfriend was a Swedish exchange student with whom I bonded over our mutual love of Depeche Mode. She told me they were huge pop stars in Europe, a fact I found hard to believe, because at the time you had to find out them through back channels, at least in our neck of the woods. In Houma, Bon Jovi was eyed suspiciously for signs of progressiveness.

Big Star - #1 Record
Required listening for anyone who has been a teenager in love. Not at the time, but twenty years later so that it can send all that hormonal surge shuddering back, hanging out down the street and crossing that street light, way past midnight and wishing we had a joint so bad. Preferably before you have kids old enough to feel the way Alex Chilton feels on "Thirteen." My daughter can go ask cartoon characters and imaginary Nickelodeon boyfriends won't you be an outlaw for my love all she wants, but I imagine I won't endorse it so heartily when it's to some other wretched teenager who feels the same way. I can guarantee the little fucker has less to say about "Paint It, Black" than I do. But its inevitable, and that's why "Thirteen" is the best love song ever.

Rolling Stones - Aftermath (remastered UK Version)
(addressing suitor from "Thirteen") For instance, I bet you didn't know "Paint It, Black" wasn't on the original UK release of Aftermath, but was a single tacked on the US version. And no, it's not about Vietnam, it was just used in movies about Vietnam.

What else you got? I'd really like to hear what you think about "Paint It, Black" (stepping in a little closer, cornering them near a bookcase where I pull down the critically acclaimed book I wrote about "Paint It, Black" and start leafing through it, chuckling to myself)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

When I become wealthy and famous, I will only drink

You have new Picture Mail!

thick icy medio litro bottles of toranja flavored Fresca imported from Mexico, like I am right now.

All we gotta do is be brave and be kind

Echo & The Bunnymen - Crocodiles
This album is such a deserving classic. Singer Ian McCullogh's Hinderberg ego had yet to crash on the Jersey shore of near-pop-stardom. It contains two of their three greatest songs, "Do It Clean" and "Rescue", and the overall mood of this record, the sparse thud of it, supports the romantic melancholia of the early eighties with an efficacy their more dour contemporaries could never muster.

Like with Joy Division, you could tell Ian Curtis was really falling apart at the seams, but unless you were yourself, you couldn't truly relate, as you couldn't to the Freudian collapse of Jim Morrison a decade earlier. You admire these figures for the bare nerve endings poking out the sides of their highly charged music, but ultimately, they were clowns in gloomy Mancunian/blistering Aneglino opera buffa of their own staging.

Echo & The Bunnymen, at least in the early years, were Everymen pushed to that brink, a cliff overlooking a choppy river of failing economies and The Cold War. Instead of milking Nazi imagery and Oedip0-narcissism, E&TB swooned wanting you to come on down to my rescue. They make paranoia and existential schism all teenagery and sexy, like flipping your asymetric haircut off your eyes as you nervously look over your shoulder.

The National - Alligator
A classic of equal stature to Crocodiles. A concert by The National spurred me to start writing about music for local magazines, because it made me angry that the place wasn't packed to see the best band of the year performing the best album of the year. Alligator shimmers like sunlight on the waves of a lake. So sad. When I saw them, one of the women around me said, "I think that guy really needs a hug" and damn he did. You thought he was going to break into tears or throw down the mike and dart out. I caught him to tell him Alligator was at the top of my list for the year, and he just shuddered, "Yeah, we get that a lot," not in a cocky asshole way, but in a way that expresses the futility of accolade in a life of suffering.

"Lit Up" is the finest portrait of being gloriously drunk, when you rise on a tide of your growing intoxication -

Cuz you're the low life of the party, bad blood
Bad blood for everybody

I'm in control and I believe

But the song that kills me every single time is "Baby, We'll Be Fine" whose whole first half is worth looking at
All night I lay on my pillow and pray
For my boss to stop me in the hallway
Lay my head on his shoulder and say

Son, I've been hearing good things
I wake up without warning and go flying around the house

In my sauvignon fierce, freaking out

Take a forty-five minute shower and kiss the mirror

And say, look at me

Baby, we'll be fine

All we gotta do is be brave and be kind

I put on an argyle sweater and put on a smile

I don't know how to do this

I'm so sorry for everything

Anyone who has entered the fluorescent lit purgatory of white-collar industry feels these button-down Beckett words like a jab to the ribcage. If they don't, I'm tempted to say their souls were already dead when they arrived and they will thrive in that polluted soil, or that their souls are hermetically sealed behind so many layers of plastic that it smothers in its own juices.

Otis Redding - Otis Blue
Man, crippling anxiety and existential crisis is fun! But, sometimes you need a slow swing that doesn't have a wrecking ball or a balled-up fist on the end. Happy Sunday, motherfuckers. Try to unwind a little and not kill anyone, OK?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Organ grinding

The Clientèle - Strange Geometry
I heard "Sunday Morning" on the radio this morning and it gave me an insatiable taste for tremolo guitar. Instead of boring the whole house by sitting around and playing arpeggios through my sunshine yellow Danelectro DJ-5 Tuna Melt, I will let a group who excels at it do it for me. The Clientèle sound an awful like The Monkees on Quaalude's, which may or may not be a good thing depending on where you stand, but they are a scintillating live act. They fill the room the same way light off a disco ball does and then every once in a while cut through the shimmer with a young George Harrison-meets-Television-grade laser guitar solo.

Clinic - Walking With Thee
Clinic has the same sort of thing going on except there is more brute force to their rotary motion, or -

The Clientèle : "Pleasant Valley Sunday" :: Clinic : "Sympathy for the Devil"

Clinic grinds a song into fine meal while leaving weird grainy things interspersed perfectly throughout the bread when its baked. Plus, they are playing here in town tonight, which is cool. I'll admit, I wasn't a huge fan of theirs until I dug into the catalog researching for the interview, but there is something really interesting about how they go about things. They almost have a techno sense of riff - set it in motion and then hang things on it as it progresses like it's a clothesline. It's a trait they share with my beloved The Fall, but Clinic has a bit more polish to it. But then, rusted out cars in back pastures have more polish than does The Fall most of the time.

(hours later)

...and now that I'm back from their live show, holy cow, Clinic is one of the best bands ever. More on that as my brain unfolds the oragami swan of organ grinding R-A-W-K that is Clinic

Review of A Drink with Shane MacGowan by Victoria Mary Clarke and Shane MacGowan

You can tell that Victoria Mary Clarke loves her husband Shane MacGowan for his faults and virtues equally, telling of long nights discussing Irish poetry and evenings of passing out in his food at restaurants with equal vivid relish, but its that level of starry eyed love that derails this book.

Shane MacGowan is a formidable subject, from his early days as a punk exemplifier to his reign in The Pogues, where he made Irish music un-corny for a brief moment. His lyrics are filled with backs stories that deserve mining (I'm sure there is an entire novel of hilarity and sadness behind "Bottle of Smoke" for instance), and his own narratives about his life growing have their stirring moments.

But, Clarke has a bit of the long-suffering wife in her, posing the unasked questions of "what's a yoga-and-vitamin-enthused gorgeous sweetheart like you doing with a unbathed, drunken wretch like this" to herself, and then answering to herself "Yeah, but I love him anyway." I mean, good on her - I'm sure he's a lovable bastard when you get to know him - but the narrative by which we could do that is probably better told by someone less enamored.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Raised by wolves and glows in the dark

Jim Dickinson's Field Recordings: Delta Experimental Project Vol 3
Jim Dickinson did a little piece for Paste magazine and had the best byline I've ever read.

Jim Dickinson was raised by wolves and glows in the dark.

Really, that has set the bar high for brilliant bylines. This collection of raw-as-fuck Mississippi hill country blues conspired itself to my ears today because of two emails I read this morning, one asking me if I was going to the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in July (unlikely) and another asking about Otha(r) Turner and the Rising Sun Drum and Fife Band, which appears on this record. My dream life would be to answer these kinds of questions all day. Maybe with enough questions, I too will glow in the dark.

The weirdest thing on here is Furry Lewis' "Turkey in the Straw." It's not that Lewis is out of tune, he is on a different metaphysical plane than tune. I guess that blues fed on some demonic strain of poke salot with roots soaking in the planet's infernal molten core is gonna sound a little messed up when it reaches the surface.

Furry Lewis - Good Morning Judge
North Mississippi it is today. "I got arrested once, all on the humbum" is how this atom bomb of a record starts. Listening to this, you can hear where John Fahey got a lot of his sense of dynamics from. Musicians from this part of Mississippi have a way of tapping into a cosmic density that other strains of blues can't get to. I think this kind of blues is a direct relative of Southern humidity, it is so all-encompassing that you have to submit to it, and let it under your skin even when its gone on for too long.

"Furry Lewis Rag" is recorded like you are sitting inside a refrigerator box listing to Lewis sing and fingerpick his intricate guitar melodies, crouched over, up close in your face, while someone beats on the outside of the box with a fence plank for the beat, each whack making your vision go white for just a second.

Mississippi John Hurt - Salty Dog: Live John Mississippi Hurt
I really prefer the archival Avalon Blues record to his revival recordings in the 60s, only because the music on Avalon steams out of a hole in time/space, tumbling through the fields of your consciousness on butterfly wings. I've always found the way he sings about murder and death and cheating and all the usual blues topics with such unassuming delicacy so disarming. I mean, Frankie did give old Albert that $100 for a suit of clothes and subsequently did her wrong with that wretched whore Alice, so it makes sense that she'd kill him in such a calm and lilting manner. Shooting him was part of keeping balance in the universe.

T-Model Ford - Bad Man
Converse to the gentle souls coaxing this music out of Stela acoustics with delicate fingers, T Model Ford is a badass motherfucker violently stumping a knockoff heavy metal axe with cloven hooves. I once watched T-Model Ford drone out a 45-minute version of "Mannish Boy" at the Maple Leaf at 3 in the morning, alone on an electric guitar. The pickup band joined him when he was finished and they launched into the same song for another 18 minutes, Ford cackling away over his beat-up guitar as his 8-year old grandson sold CD's to exhausted drunks.

If Mississippi John Hurt is a sleepy porch dog, occasionally nipping at a fly, T Model Ford is a Doberman barking at you from behind a chain link fence until you leave.

Hound Dog Taylor - Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers
And Hound Dog Taylor is so primitive that he makes T Model Ford seem like "town." This and its follow-up Natural Boogie are two of the most unchained records in all of blues. The beloved Alligator Records label was started to release this very record.

According to legend, Hound Dog was born with an extra finger on his right hand and cut it off with a razor blade one night while drunk. His guitar sounds like its trying to cut off another. You can almost smell the smoke of burnt amp circuits on it, while the drums rat tat like hailstones.

Junior Kimbrough - God Knows I Tried
And we close this Mississippi meltdown with mercurial music of Junior Kimbrough. His drag was the draggiest, mean was the meanest, dark mood was the darkest, incendiary was the incendiariest. He didn't really have the speed of Hound Dog Taylor or the kidney punch of Ford, but Junior Kimbrough was about setting fire to the house and watching it burn more than he was about knocking it down. It doesn't matter if you glow in the dark in Junior Kimbrough's world, the darkness will swallow you up like everybody else.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

6 things involving bicycles

You have new Picture Mail!

  1. At the aluminum plant where I am teaching this week, little old men ride around on three-wheeler bikes, bringing things to and fro, partially because it is a major security headache to bring a vehicle on the grounds and partially because it adds to the grand surreal nature of the place. The look sweet and ridiculous, taking off into the massive impossible structures of the plant on total granny bikes wearing hard hats and goggles.
  2. The rack of bikes made me think of Flann O' Brien's The Third Policemen, a beautiful book about murder, weirdness and bicycles, where bicycles and their owners became intermingled

    The gross and net result of it is that people who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who nearly are half people and half bicycles.

  3. At one point in the book, they speak of a scandal where the bike of a coquettish woman sits idly by a wall, trying to look small and unassuming, trying to get a man, to which the owner is not married, to ride it.
  4. The bikes at the plant are more akin to the Amsterdam white bikes, abandoned after each use, awaiting the next user.
  5. I would like to mount a milk crate on the front of my bike for a basket, in fitting with the free nature of the bike. I bought a proper bike basket, but I can't figure out how to mount it on there with all the brake cables and whatnot in the way, and I am usually pretty good with figuring out these sorts of things. All I need is zip ties. And a milk crate.
  6. On my way to getting some new shoes I saw the local surreal biker. He has a bike with an elaborate apparatus on the back with compartments where he can store things which is topped off with cage sitting above the rider's head, where his dog rides, catching the breeze.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

[Record Crate] Bolo ties, surgical masks and the general theory of metal

Paul Burch sometimes comes off like he's defending his thesis in Texas swing, but his take on it is a good one, maybe the best kind you can do now. There are plenty of country swing acts still reeling around the country in bolo ties and matching hats, but Burch made his own music through his love of Bob Wills and Charlie Rich on his stop at Chelsea's. He's the rare example of an artist who has actually learned from history rather than just be content to mimic it. He seems to like it here since this is the second time he's played here in eight months. If you have half a dance step in your repertoire and a tumbleweed or two hidden away in your soul, you owe it to yourself to check him out next time he blows through.

Liverpool's Clinic is another group that makes interesting hash of the psychedelic, punk and garage rock they love. The band explains the new album, their influences and the deal with the surgical masks in the May issue of 225 (and grinds it out at Spanish Moon on Saturday.)

Also at the Spanish Moon this week, Oakland's Subtle brings their saturated electronics and underground hip-hop connections (Subtle's Doseone is one of founders of the Anticon hip-hop consortium and member of the critically acclaimed cLOUDDEAD).

I sent a message to NYC all-female Slayer cover band Slaywhore, a while back, challenging them to a battle of the bands against our own Harptallica, a female Metallica-covering harp duo, but they apparently don't have the stones to respond. I guess the General Theory of Metal (Slayer is better than Metallica) doesn't hold true in the female cover band arena. The hometown girls will shred their victory by default this Thursday at North Gate Tavern.

And while we are talking about metal, I'm a little miffed that Laplace death metal group Rougarou stole the name I was reserving for my own secret swamp doom project. They did manage to get theirs off the ground and I didn't, so to the victor goes the spoils of a Friday all-ages set at The Darkroom.

Link to events calendar

A Reverse Abecedary on Self-Indulgence, in 100 Words

Vanity Smurf

Zenith to
Xperience* as a growing
Writer is when you are
Vilified for over-
Utilizing the
Technique of
Self-Indulgence. It is assumed there is a sacred
Responsibility on the part of author to express himself as
Quietly as
Possible through the exploration
Of the subject at hand. I do
Not believe this to be categorically true. The
Meeting of subject and author is sometimes
Like getting to
Katmandu – the enlightenment lies in the arduous
I do,
Get the
Feeling that
Editing is really all about
De-emphasizing those personal
Concerns into implication, solely for the
Benefit of

* I know I cheated with the X but my muse told me it was OK

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teaching rudely cuts into my playlist action

on the way there:
6 Pack Deep - Wake Up
For review purposes. I wonder why bands with complicated melodic arrangements like ska bands routinely derail their efforts with overwrought vocals intoning lackluster lyrics. Perhaps that is the modern condition and they are just expressing it in 2/4 time with a horn section.

during lunch:
Drive-By Truckers - The Dirty South
They are so fine on this one. Everything feels pushed to the edges, all extra twang, extra growl, extra death knell chord opening post-souther rock splendor. Like the tornadoes sung about on this record, it sounded like a train.

on the way home:
Kath Bloom and Loren Mazzacane Conors - Sing the Children Over
Generally innocuous, periodically punctuated by moments of shimmering light. Kath happens upon voicing the greater unconscious while Loren's guitar haunts the songs, converging in corporeality and suddenly fading into the ether. And then they totally blow it buy doing "I've Been Working on the Railroad." This is the modern condition.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Arthur Russell

I've been hearing the breathless praise for the works of avant-garde cellist/composer/curator for The Kitchen/disco pioneer Arthur Russell in the past couple years, and in the NYT this weekend there was a bit about a tribute to him, citing his career as bridging minimalist composition and disco. Upon finally listening to his music, none of those references to his curious vitae convey how singularly odd and lovely his records are.

His life and work is lovingly captured in the documentary Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, the trailer of which appears here.

His MySpace site has samples from across his career, but should your curiosity take you deeper:

Arthur Russell - World of Echo
This lovely record of vocal and cello songs might be similar to what Nick Drake might have made had he lived long enough to meet Vini Reilly from Durutti Column. The echo used here instead of being a mask makes the songs appear even more naked, his cello throb like heat off a summer sidewalk, little plucks and and plonks are birds alighting on that hot pavement pecking for scraps, while Russell's hushed voice comes on like an unexpected breeze across the urban pastoral, making you look up to the blue sky in gratitude. "Answer Me" almost sounds like its being played on snapped rubberbands, but is all the more poignant for it. "Being It" takes the tremolo of"Crimson & Clover" over the horizon in an balloon gone adrift. "She the Star" is the logical continuation of David Essex's "Rock On."

The real art triumph is "The Name of The Next Song," a perfect mix of poetry, Fluxus and pop music: he stops and announces the name of the next song is:[different name each time], then starts an increasingly feedback laden post Velvet Underground melody and breaks into a chant of California, here I come. All over a mock tabla beat made from plucks on the cello. Repeat ad infinitum. Completely absurd and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Right this second, World of Echo is the best album I've ever heard.

Arthur Russell - Springfield
This is from the disco side of Russell though after being lulled into hypnosis by World of Echo, the threads between the two are evident. I find the beats a little distracting here, wishing they were pushed far into the background, but its still a good listen. The three versions of the title track - original, remix and detail - demonstrate the mutative nature of contemporary dance music as Russell mines all the possible emotive content out of crooning Superman never been kissed throughout.

"See My Brother, He's Jumping Out (Let's Go Swimming No. 1)" and "You Did the Right Thing When You Put that Skylight In" are the real standouts, exhibiting the psychic exhaustion central to disco in his weird warm avant-garde rock. This latter would sound right playing in the nightclub in Blade Runner, should Ridley Scott be looking to re-cut it again.

Arthur Russell - Another Thought
This compilation of tracks (one of two, the other being the equally lovely Calling Out of Context) is culled from the avalanche of demos and tapes made before his death in 1992. These numbers are a little less processed than the previous and mile more intimate. His lyrics are practically conversational, lilting around his sweet melodies, e.g. the chorus to "A Little Lost"
I'm so busy thinking about kissing you
Now I want to do that
Without entertaining another thought

The sleepy hush of his voice, even less consciously present to that of Nick Drake, whose timbre it resembles, screams soundtrack. I've been doing some reading-heavy Internet research for the last hour while it played, which is something I usually cannot do with vocals playing.

Recent interest in Russell has caused into a being the EP Four Songs by Arthur Russell. Here is fellow soft voiced troubadour Jens Lekman performing "A Little Lost," the song he covered for the EP.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

[outsideleft] Jamie Lidell, World's Greatest Boyfriend

Jamie Lidell

First impressions are everything, they say. My first exposure to Jamie Lidell was on a magazine cover, where he sported two sets of glasses at once: one pair of black thick frames tight against his scruffy pale face, caught in a countenance that mixed mock surprise and faked orgasm, the other sunglasses in identical frames hanging lower on his nose. It was a terribly unnerving photo; I wanted to smack both sets of spectacles off his face. It was enough for me to forgo any conscious dealings with Jamie Lidell. Fortunately, a copy of his soul techno monster Multiply flew into my headspace, sounding like an oldies station blaring out of passing car, Doppler effect funk. It reminded me of the later insular funk explorations of Prince in that it misses the greater social point - funk is about movement en masse, not personal spelunking – in favor of its own slightly paranoid internal mission. It contains vast resources of fat synths and polyrhythms compressed into a small volume, as if to create unbelievable pressure. The hit “A Little Bit More” is an ironic declaration, considering Lidell sounds like he’s about to collapse under his own weight in there.

Jim is his follow-up where he strips down to the silk boxers of his Motown fetish, standing there as just a man. The beats and production are clipped to the quick, his roaming eye and identity crises have given way to being The World’s Best Boyfriend. On the opening track “Another Day” bluebirds pull back the covers as a refreshed Lidell bounds out of bed declaring the morning to be another day, another way for me to open up to you. It is as if Motown was bought out by Lifetime. Yet the brash positivity of it all, the brazen declaration of openness is so frank, it’s compelling. I’m used to soul songs being about “I’m sorry I lied” or “I know you’re lying” not “let’s talk about our relationship.”

“Wait for Me” seemed like a step back from this, with his tales from the road and how hard it is for a man to be away so long. Instead of using this as a segue way into begged forgiveness, it is a plea for her to wait for him. The inversion of the soul-song relationship dynamics is as unnerving as his Spartan groove is compelling. Even when this positivity goes overboard, as it does in “Little Bit of Feel Good” when he blurts the asinine line please don’t let my feel good go away over a James Brown-minus walking groove, you are willing to go overboard with him. Like his photos with the two sets of glasses on the magazine, I really want to hate this, but he wins me over, not by trying to change my mind, but by offering that we work this out together.

Things really gel on the ballads. “All I Wanna Do” feels like a lost classic, the strings and thudding bass falling far backstage from Lidell’s Otis Redding rasp. What many neo-soul arrangers fail to grasp is that this music’s caress is a light but complex one; you have to convey a lot of emotions while appearing as economic as possible for a soul song to really sink in, and Lidell nails it on this one. Even as he exposes the click track on “Green Light” like Timmy Thomas did on his 70s minimalist soul hit “Why Can’t We Live Together,” while also attaining a Stevie Wonder-grade build-up, Lidell keeps the song reigned in to an intimate scale. My first impressions of Lidell were way off base. Jim is a triumph of soul expression from an artist that reveals more and more with each look, just like any good relationship. Now if he’d just shave and lose those stupid sunglasses….


Saturday, May 17, 2008

I am the stone the builders refused

Van Morrison - Veedon Fleece
One of the many thousands of classics I haven't listened to before, or at least in its entirety. I had it on low as I squinted through the fog of waking up alone in the house, so arguably I still haven't really listened to it.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Zuma
I think this may be my favorite Neil Young record, even beating out On The Beach. "Lookin' for a Lover" is such a slyly brilliant love song.

But I hope I treat her kind
And don't mess with her mind
When she starts to see
the darker side of me

The Orb - Bicycles and Tricycles
Around 1993, I thought The Orb was the be-all-end-all, the next phase, the mothership connection. I grew out of it, leaving my ambient techno friends for punk rock friends and haven't checked in since. This record released a decade later sounds petty generic. Not quite hip-hop on the rap numbers, not quite "Little Fluffy Clouds"

The Orb - "Little Fluffy Clouds" off Live 93
Now this still holds up. That thudding heartbeat pulse and Rickie Lee Jones daydreaming about clouds - "Little Fluffy Clouds" is in a category all its own.

Asheru's myspace songs
I've had his theme from "The Boondocks" stuck in my head for a couple days, but I'm kinda drawn to his hip-hop/smooth Jazz Liberatorz track "I Am Hip Hop." It's not breaking any new ground or anything, but I dig it anyway.

Asheru - "Better"
The jagged organ groove on this is killer. In fact the flow, the understated production, everything on this track are dead on except for the lyrics.

Gil Scott Heron - Pieces of a Man
Gil is such a key figure in the development of hip-hop, how come his name doesn't get dropped more often than it is? "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" sounds as fresh as it did in 1971 but the badass shit is the junkie soul number "Home is Where the Hatred Is"

you keep saying, kick it, quit it, kick it, quit it
God, but did you ever try
to turn your sick soul inside out
so that the world, so that the world
can watch you die

This album, even in the dated soul-jazz numbers, is unstoppable.

Gil Scott-Heron - Small Talk on 125th and Lenox
The album previous to Pieces of a Man is far more incendiary, with Scott-Heron delivering his poems over a post-beatnik bongo backdrop. "Whitey on the Moon" is a must hear, if you haven't heard it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's only playlist wasteland

Scout Niblett - "Nevada" from The Black Cab Sessions
The Black Cab Sessions, if you don't know already, are a series of online videos of a band or musician performing a song in the cab for the duration of the ride. Scout Niblett is my fantasy rock 'n' roll crazy ex-girlfriend. The insular drone of these riffs trapped in that cab are perfect. At one point the cab rolls back to stalk a guy in a suit and watch him cross a bridge in time with the lyric put on that suit and lend me that costume. Serendipitous, or at least seeming to be.

Armitage Shanks - Takin' the Piss
Armitage Shanks are far more punk rock than the rest of you deadbeats. While it doesn't have quite the first-record-bought-with-my-own-money nostalgic power, the first song I ever heard on a streaming web radio station was Armitage Shanks on some garage rock ShoutCast station, and that convinced me at that moment internet radio is brilliant. So, contact your short-sighted congresspeople to keep them from ruining it like they do with anything else that's cool.

Click Save Net Radio for more info in how to be a hero for America and The World!

The Pogues - If I Should Fall from Grace with God
I'm poking A Drink with Shane MacGowan by him and his wife Victoria Mary Clarke with a stick as it sits on my nightstand, and it is largely corny and terrible except for these handwritten parts by MacGowan, esp the forward where he describes a vivid dream of chopping up some women in all in perfect Irish adjectival manner. I wanted to listen his album with the Popes, with that "Whiskey, Whiskey..." song but this record will totally do.

I saw Shane MacGowan and The Popes in Cincinnati with my friend Joe eons ago. He strutted out in a trucker hat, mirrored aviators, a gas station souvenir shirt form Alabama and, I believe, a Zima. It was if he saying, you know this is what you all look like to me, right? During the intro of one song, he couldn't get his lighter to work, so he sat off on the drum riser through the next two while the band rattled on. You could feel the seething of the rest of the band radiate into the audience, where some creative souls near us saw fit to start a fight to all this Irishness, and if memory serves, Joe and I broke up the fight. Or really, Joe broke up the fight and I tagged along for support. I spent the rest of my night bumming cigarettes because the venue didn't sell them, and drinking my way to the train two days later.

John Martyn - Bless the Weather
John Martyn is rather sublime. Right up on the edge of being overblown. My friend Rod is a decade older than me and grew up in England wanting to be John Martyn as a kid. We started talking about guitars, and having not played in ages, he pulled out his guitar and laid down a stunning, sexy even, version of "Bless the Weather." It was like that moment in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the kids discover Giles doing a killer cover of The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" at a coffee shop gig - didn't know he had it in him.

Neil Young - Mirror Ball
I'm not sure I've ever listened to this, his 1995 dalliance with Pearl Jam subbing for Crazy Horse. Back then the only thing I wanted to listen to less than Pearl Jam was a Pearl Jam side-project. I still don't really want to listen to Pearl Jam, but I will say in their favor, they tore it up on that second Lollapalooza tour, momentarily the greatest rock band in the world blasting through "Baba O' Reilly" in the humid New Orleans afternoon, even trumping Ministry playing with thunder and lightning in the background. "Truth be Known" is a delicious bit of hard rock pudding, barely formed beckoning you to lick the spoon deftly chased by the quote "I think I just fucked up. Let me play the groove for a bit..." before they do just that on "Downtown"

The Who - Who's Next
So it's becoming clear to me that this whole playlist was just a sly excuse to lead up to Who's Next. Why I would need an excuse is beyond me.