Friday, May 8, 2009

a short history of progress

I just ran into a a friend who was reading A Short History of Progress, and had a great little conversation about cultural ecology and it had me thinking progress, progress, progress as I made it up the steps to my office. This week has been a blur; I'm more shocked than thankful it is Friday. I'm tried and languid, but bubbling with ideas that have simmered long enough. It's as good a time as any for ELO. (listen) Glorious as their filigree and tractor beam majesty might be, the bar band stomper augmented with both a string section and Marc Bolan on guitar "Ma Ma Ma Ma Belle" is one of the finest moments in the ELO catalog. I'd love to hear Wilco do a gauntlet-drop rendition of this.

There was a time when the Church was the finest band in the land, and as far as I know, they may have continued to be that all this time since, but neither I nor anyone else was listening. This new album Untitled #23 bears evidence of that, Steve Kilbey is still whispering in my ear while I nod out to a swooning tower of guitars, swaying precariously in the breeze. There is a bot of the latter Roger Waters Pink Floyd evident in the Church's evolution since the lofty heights of Starfish, particularly in the hypnotic narrative of "On Angel Street" intones over a melancholy blues-flecked miasma.

"Deadman's Hand" and "Happenstance" are both gorgeous moments, demonstrative of the powers wielded by this band, and inspiration to one fan with some video editing software.

Phoenix, I'm on the fence about. I had a friend once shout their praises over the din of a crowded bar, and this is a guy who doesn't shout much and has proven to have iron-fast taste over the years. There is nary a thing wrong with them; their organic and synthetic elements are as tightly woven as the aforementioned juggernauts. They are as effortlessly disco as they are comfortably guitar pop. I'm just not sure they are drawing me in. This is the kind of music that would sound genius in someone else's car, or maybe a cake that looks mouthwatering at the bakery but loses something on your dining room table. Fittingly, the band Cake hits me exactly the same way. I've had epiphanies over their flat jazz pop hash tangles in a bar that could not be recreated back in the lab, where epiphanies become word. Perhaps some flowers are not meant to be picked (or picked apart.)

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