February 13, 2007

snow1.jpgit is everywhere, i am not kidding

i cannot make it out to watch the dog show. i am more sorry about this than you are. instead,



the great question: gold diggers of 1933 or gold diggers of 1935? dick powell, smiling, sexless wonder: i lay in thrall.

by the way, truman mcmath was the cavalier king charles spaniel from little rock, arkansas. he did not make the cut.

from the arkansas democrat-gazette:

“if the tv is muted and a dog or cat comes on, even in a commercial, he perks up. but some movies have irritated him.

lawrence of arabia drove him nuts,’ she says. ‘he hated the camel and the turbans.’ he was also distressed by the nuns in the whoopi goldberg movie sister act. ‘i think it’s things on people’s heads.’”

few experiences are more human than being at the mercy of weather.

also: please watch this.

GETTING WARMER at 7:33 pm, 1 Comment.

February 13, 2007

destroying truman mcmath: cavalier king charles spaniel pinecrest rock the boat, the most best cavalier king charles spaniel

(look, sorry, i’m in transit, and i couldn’t get to real-time blogging last night. i will try to do it tonight. no promises though.)

says gabrielle, kind enough to have me to her house after months of silence and through curtains of chicago snow just to watch dog show night one: “god, it’s like the formal section of dress barn. nice amulet, lady”–caustic words hurled through bushmills on ice at the ankleless woman promenading flufftoy 2, one of our least favorite flufftoys of the night.

it’s getting late and we are paying a certain kind of attention: this is the dog show.

unlike, say, baseball on tv, the dog show is spoonfed: “this is the dandie dinmont terrier. the dandie was reared in the english hillside where it caught badgers, polecats, weasels, and other rodents. it takes its name from a character from sir walter scott. the dandie is the only dog in the akc named after a fictional character” and not “damn thing’s like a cotton sack with a victorian malady after a lover’s quarrel–someone ho11er @ an abuse counselor!” (incidentally, this year’s is the top-ranked entrant of the show and owned by doctor bill “doctor huxtable” cosby). there’s always an amateur commentator to counterbalance the dog crazies, to tow them in from the edge of breeding rhetoric and lacy poetic musings.

but at the same time, the dog show is a total rejection of science and sport, a parade of inscrutable mysteries. there are no points in the dog show. there are no hoops or balls or goals or finish lines. judges approach the dog. haunches are squeezed, tails fluffed, and teeth checked. they’re looking for an ideal, an ideal not divined so much as engineered through countless dog-fucks in lush pens across the world. this is the dark, circuitous irony of evaluation. we make them like this.

amateur commentator shyly asked, “is there a special challenge to showing a small dog?” to which he was offered a black mirror by suited dog-crazy w/headset 1: “yeah, don’t step on it.” later, suited dog-crazy w/headset 2 said “the eyes and expression are very important in this group because all their heads are the same.” these are the people are in power and they slave to feelings. every year i can barely believe how little sense it makes; every year i try to find some sort of answer that doesn’t cul-de-sac in blank instinct or gut reaction on the part of any LIVING THING staring at another LIVING THING and judging it to be GOOD; every year i try to find solace in the recurrence of the worst sequined frocks or the bonkers helmet-hair trims, the ass-balls of fur on poodles of all sizes; each year there’s nothing.

because when it comes down to it, the dog show is about staring at a dog and loving it and saying that is the best dog. (i won’t even get into what it means to buckle with awe to dogs, the queer mimesis of pet loving, or the ugly blankets of vanity that cover breeding, owning, and luvving on a delicately created species, but.) i wonder if casual readers of music writing feel about me the way i feel about the dog judge; if i look like a fat man with round glasses in a tuxedo, squinting at gait and testicle size, rooting through the fog for a metric. who wants to own up to gnosticism? not the housewives in labrador sweatshirts up in the cheap seats at MSG. they have some mothafucking shouting to do.

GETTING WARMER at 5:06 pm, 1 Comment.

February 7, 2007
brian eno’s pubic grooming is everything missing from contemporary music

brian eno looks a little bit like sting. just imagine a picture of sting

i am swollen with anxiety. go back and listen to brian eno’s here come the warm jets and make your bed. “on some faraway beach” works because anything phil spector did below 100 bpm was essentially about death, but death-as-subject usually needs some garnish to be marketable to teenagers, so lo, the paris sisters sang “i love how you love me” and not, i guess, “given the chance, i would die like a baby on some faraway beach.” i cannot find the interview where either jack nitzsche or eno hisself (a lifelong doo-wop fan, unsurprisingly) mused about how the best 50s and 60s ballads were basically about death: the swoon, faintness, buckle, and the splendor.

but eno was also a surging fruit who liked to sing in dumb voices (my softest spot–the coasters, animal collective, tom ze, brian eno). moreover, he had a sense of humor–a violent, paranoid one–tough to track because violent, paranoid humor usually gets dressed in dumber adjectives (cf ‘bizarre,’ ‘irreverent’).

i woke up the other morning with the climax from “the paw-paw negro blowtorch” lodged like a mantra–”send for an ambulance or accident investigator / he’s breathing like a furnace.” it was the first time that the song’s sexual claustrophobia really trapped me–the fear of being outperformed by a mutant who is constantly and irrepressibly setting vaginas on fire on fucking accident. a peerless suitor.

and there is, of course, the confession of “driving me backwards,” where he winks, his voice sounding throttled by something much larger than himself: “that’s just like me, i gotta be craaaaayyyyyzy,” a tack in the seat of people pigeonholing aforementioned ‘irreverence,’ a knife in the side.

i will wriggle out before gushing a long-winded lament about how new music so desperately lacks a good sense of humor, ESPECIALLY ‘vanguard’ music (i told caleb the other day that i would happily read wire if they were even occasionally funny), how simon’s year-end piece is right on about a new fetish for the apocalypse but neglects the possibility that we could acknowledge the horror, the horror with some sort of angle of the mouth. nobody who compared tv on the radio to eno acquiesced to that crucial gap. (i first saw tvotr four years ago in greensboro, north carolina. michael, unusually rowdy for a public place, moaned “PEARL JAM” and “COLLECTIVE SOUL” between songs.) anyway, i am on the edge of colorful crumples lately, so little of this will make any traceable sense.

new visual mixtape: old actresses becoming hysterical in the back of cars. because i have not tried lexapro.

at 6 am on monday i will move. tune in on monday and tuesday for REAL-TIME PBW COVERAGE OF THE 2007 WESTMINSTER KENNEL CLUB DOG SHOW–“LIBERALLY PEPPERED WITH SEX.”

GETTING WARMER at 3:30 pm, 5 Comments.

February 2, 2007
pt. 2: fall out boy has killed some unresurrectable part of me

dick powe

from now on this blog will be exclusively about the riddling pathos of dick powell

Why would I even bother writing about Fall Out Boy? Funny week, last week. Well, Fall Out Boy are kinda ghastly, really; behold! spaghetti in the bathtub; or, like a kid with poop, I surrender, disgusted and bug-eyed curious. And never have I so felt the strange vice of adulthood—me, 24—until I caught myself at home frying eggs with Fall Out Boy, a band I’d’ve never given a passing ear to when I was target-audience age but now find “compelling” in my own aimless, chinstroking, misguided way.

No. Bad. But I did it. So.

Fall Out Boy don’t want a scene, which is its own kind of beef, and nothing makes a scene like beef. Nice try, Fall Out Boy. The organic growth of social movements is many, many steps ahead of you. Fall Out Boy know their audience: self-important teenagers who warp their hysterical and absolutely normal libidos into a new, guarded forms of bad poetry. They Like Long One-Liners with Capital Letters because they always seem important on paper and sound dramatic if you say them and then part your lips just a little bit while turning your head to the side quite slowly.

Hair-metal bands and more muscly new wavers—Anthony wonders when FOB will stop foofing around and record “Jessie’s Girl”—were both big fun. While FOB are more or less their musical equivalent—well-funded landfills for monster hooks and monster choruses and slightly less than monstrous but nevertheless able to connote some acceptable level of rebellion guitar crunch—the content and context is different. Dom says that Infinity on High is their New York hip-hop record in all but sound. I see what he means. FOB like to boast. But they also like to employ contrived glosses on misery as a guiding force for their cocks. This new, pitiable angst is kind of boring, actually. In some bad light, Kurt’s suicide is a tattoo to FOB’s magic-marker moustache.

Anyway, Dom posits emo as the only real organic rock scene going right now, which I find terrifying and weird, but somehow plausible. I’m reminded of reading Our Band Could Be Your Life and feeling like I missed the days where it was neato and progressive to align yourself with a scene—like Calvin Johnson and Ian MacKaye—whereas now, bands are running from it like cats from water. Sad, really, but this is what I meant about the Klaxons: all the scene-forming feels out of control, more of a journalist’s opportunity than a movement, more an arms race (in the words of FOB). I give up, I promise.

Welcome to PBW’s hot night, Fall Out Boy; welcome to black tea and Arkansan snowfall and television documentaries about seal pups and the teats they suckle—welcome to all of Terry Riley’s tape loops playing in a room without a television. Here is a day at home with the paper, here’s a peeler for those potatoes, here’s an unironic conversation, and here is a game of Scrabble where, no, neither “cunt” nor its more point-winning variant “kunt” are allowed.

If I could possibly ignore all the things in the world that hurt my heart instead of feeling doomed to notice and devour them, I think I would be a complete person.

subquestions not addressed in text but pondered in hard darkness: do i miss being a teenager? if yes, is what i miss really just sleeping with teenage girls? do i still lust after teenage girls? do i identify with fall out boy? why does insecurity so often cause people to hurt one another? should i distance myself from my mom?

GETTING WARMER at 1:59 pm, 2 Comments.

January 29, 2007
(to clarify)

simon re: me & the klaxons:

See, if he means the stuff the band themselves spout, well I kinda think that’s how UK bands should be–mouthy but confused, fired up by having read a lot of stuff they’ve not properly digested. In that respect they do remind me a bit of Manic Street Preachers, who very early on I did kind of fall for as rhetoricians (only to become increasingly aghast at, as actual music makers).

(again, the problem isn’t with a band-as-rhetoricians scenario. i generally like when bands seem to care about the language people use in describing and categorizing their music. the problem with the klaxons is that they’re young and their fans are younger, so throwing out a term like ‘nu-rave’–which is both shitty and insufficient–does less to rally and more to a) draw ire from ex-ravers angry that their ‘ideals’ are being ‘corrupted’ and b) give writers a ‘interesting’ platform and tidy way to talk about the band [that, or deride them for not being what they claim, or something]. moreover, it binds them to a past that they’re not really a part of anyhow. seriously–as far as i can tell, ‘nu-rave’ only applies to them insofar as they make high-energy music with an occasional window for bliss. but, y’know, keep talking, klaxons, you might find a way out yet.)

also: new chapters in the tale of the stylus takeover:

andrew unterberger, boy wonder: now blog-fresh

the stylus singles jukebox, reanimated, at a frightening clip

GETTING WARMER at 11:58 am, 4 Comments.

January 26, 2007
what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine pt. 1

aka they’re taking her children away because they said she was not a good mother


i suspect this is some nu-rave shit as well

from what i understand, it was actually lead singer jamie reynolds who called his band the klaxons ‘nu-rave.’ granted, it’s not entirely his fault that people at print magazines and newspapers regularly engage in severe jackassedry just to make ‘good copy.’ of course, he should’ve known better. deer do not walk up to gun barrels and say things like are you looking for a deer.

so, teenagers like the klaxons; they like to come to klaxons shows and act like moonbats and wear stripes and goggles or whatever. the klaxons make teenagers dance. this is fantastic news! what is not fantastic news, however, is that instead of getting to be a decent band, they’re going to spend the next several months as a show pony, which is evident–to me, at least–by the fact that philip sherburne says they’re already trying to shake the ‘nu-rave’ tag, a nervous realization of the light mess they’ve gotten into.

i’m not arguing that rave, something i know very little about apart from what i read in generation ecstasy (which, remember, wasn’t even its original title), wasn’t an influence on them. and i don’t have any problem with bands being rhetoricians. but the klaxons sound more like a mash between supergrass and brainiac or les savy fav or an un-shitty version of the faint than any rave music. light psychedelics, kooky lyrics about oceanic tropes, polyrhythms 101, vocal octaves: this is not a scene.

and so nu-rave is just a cousin to that other misshapen premie, ‘freak-folk’: for one, the style just had to be a reiteration of something that had already happened–even if, say, the incredible string band was just trace influence; because cyclic histories are really reassuring–even if they co-opt the vitality of the present. second, bands were reluctant to be tied into a scene by journalists who desperately wanted one to exist, and so it just hung as a pr term for a little while and withered. the artists then found space to forge their own paths: joanna’s last album was as far from folk as could be, devendra discovered the antithesis of charm, and animal collective became a really good dance band.

what ultimately depresses me, i guess, is that the press on the klaxons reminds me that there’s a huge scene void in indie music that people are trying to fill in goofy ways. that, and that an energetic, unironic, slightly weird rock band that has kids really excited warrants, post haste, a lot of shitty writing in a style section.

pt. 2 of this will be all about fall out boy’s infinity on high, which contains two songs produced by babyface and, subliminally, the sound of an entire demographic setting themselves on fire out of curiosity and then trying to put themselves out by jumping in an ocean.

GETTING WARMER at 1:28 pm, 1 Comment.

January 25, 2007

#32.2 - STARS LIKE FLEAS - Sop the juice
Uploaded by lablogotheque

at home i have two small speakers that sit on a mantle next to a wooden mallard (drunkenly thieved from here), and a red-orange vase with a dead stalk of something. sometimes, headphones.

i started going to see the band stars like fleas because co-founder william fields was a sometime-contributor to stylus and an intelligent, right decent man.

the intent of most live shows, as far as i can tell, is to perform the music that the band has written together with a requisite amount of “flair.” did you see the drummer’s hair and so forth. was that not a scorching guitar solo. it’s not even like that on the record. i feel like the producer hemmed them in. no less than god could commit their music to tape and even then they would have to insert the tape in an angel’s mouth. they are indeed a force of nature.

i don’t love the music of stars like fleas. what i love, and why i tried to go to nearly all of their shows while in new york, is the feeling that their music is designed for place. sure, they write songs, but more often than not, what sticks is situational: slf with a shape-note choir at tonic; slf in a small forest clearing; slf completely unplugged at the glasshouse gallery. sound and place as inextricable as panflutes at the times square stop. i’m not saying it’s not compelling to hear music performed well, as i have been known to love a good scorching guitar solo with accompanying grimaces. but there’s something nervy, something priceless about a band who seem thoroughly concerned with music as a spatial thing, with live shows as a real-time negotiation of venue rather than an algorithm.

milking the sonic present is a feeling i’ve become unaccustomed to again, which is probably why i’ve returned to robert ashley’s private parts, an album that sorta serves as a–ha–placeholder for, treatise on, and reassurance of the entire sound/environment experience. i don’t really feel like i’m listening that much anymore, an absence that hadn’t really hit me until the other night, when, at a meeting for irrepressibly brilliant mix-cd swappers THE COUGARS, rod bryan said: “you know how you can tell? just put the speaker far away and see how the sound carries. some of this stuff…it just carries.” then rod, a man with things on his mind, put on an olive space suit and rode a bicycle. i lay flayed by his assertion.

watching these slf videos is a tease. time, preggers and showing, i pledge to show you new meanings of the word “waste.”

GETTING WARMER at 1:50 pm, Comments Off.

January 22, 2007

strongest endorsements for the new dust-to-digital sacred harp compilation. i really did almost crash my car.

GETTING WARMER at 11:23 am, 1 Comment.

January 21, 2007

at least they had shinhwa

what would’ve been north korea’s first-ever rock & roll show, the rock for peace concert, has been cancelled with a hugely confusing, emphatic, and emotionally nervy statement. i probably would’ve wept if it didn’t make the mystery even thicker: who was mr. kim working with? how were the meetings? austere? little richard? what had he really intended? what did he think would happen?

i can’t say that i’m not disappointed–i’d corresponded with mr. kim and he was actually trying to help me make passage–but i also can’t really say that i was expecting it to come off without a hitch. so we huddle around the table and, hush hush, next year in pyongyang.


the soccer son scenario has re-consumed me lately. let me explain the soccer son scenario:

i value art more than i value sports and i’m over six feet tall. these are not choices. i have two hypothetical sons: one is a fantastic soccer player and one paints pictures. the soccer player’s room is full of trophies. he has the grace of water and the humility of bark. the painter son ekes out brilliance at times but doesn’t have consistency; he doesn’t reek of quality and achievement in the same way soccer son does. and yet, i find myself valuing him more. (it’s perverse, i know; i’m sure this metaphor will disgust me by the time i’m a father.)

this is basically to say that, after a lot of critical catholicism and attempts to love everything, i’m finding myself back in the seat of accepting ambition over achievement, of weighing a great idea over its execution.

because, well, movies this weekend: guillermo del toro’s new hot dark verdant fantasia pan’s labyrinth and last year’s brick, a film noir played out in a high school. brick, which i’d first seen in august, is an imperfect movie, no doubt. some of the lines are loose, made all the more obvious by the concision needed to really pull off noir, where each line lands like a dart. the story, for all its ever-unravelling mystery, doesn’t really thrill. it’s a little mum. pan’s labyrinth is iced-out perfect, totally well-trained. no mess. and i felt nothing. brick tried something wildly different and, comparatively, failed. painter kid wins.


also, i don’t really know where to start with the dj drama and don cannon controversy, but i think it has something to do with finding out who owns lil’ wayne’s brain. i mean, it’s clear that the only reason the blind eye of the riaa and labels has miraculously regained sight is that people are actually making money off mixtapes. right? but the one dark corner that seems really crucial to illuminate would be, beats aside, who owns the rights to the work rappers are doing on mixtapes? i’m guessing that most of these guys have exclusive contracts and that recording a dj drama session would breach them, regardless of whether or not the artists “endorse” it or not. also: be sure to read jonathan lethem in this month’s harper’s for more good times in the grey area of appropriation.

GETTING WARMER at 7:56 pm, 5 Comments.

January 16, 2007
snowed in


but i have a camera now and the poodle dog in austin has shuffleboard.

also, i’ll be going to emp this year. here’s my proposal. there’s a good chance i’ll ‘fail’ as much as anyone could ‘fail,’ but i’m going to do my damndest.

The Pyongyang Hit Parade

A segment from an interview with a communist party official in Bradley Martin’s North Korean history Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader:

“‘What is rock-and-roll music?’ he asked me. ‘Do you mean jazz?’”

The DPRK’s pop landscape is less fertile than its soil. Fewer than 15 bands release CDs on one state-run label. The sound—a ghastly jigsaw of militaristic pomp, light jazzercise, and heavy-handed prom balladry—has hung in formaldehyde for decades. In a 1970 address, Kim Jong Il remarked that “Music which merely sings of nature unrelated to the struggle of our people for socialist construction, is utterly worthless.” Foreign music, known as “jazz,” is illegal; there’s little ethnomusicological arithmetic to be done. Superficially, then, it’s radically different from the way pop music tends to function almost anywhere else in the world—as culture that listeners, writers, and actors participate in freely and voluntarily; as art permeable and susceptible to influence; as entertainment or as a readable reflection of the time and place of the sound’s origin.

Oddly, though, DPRK pop resonates with one of Western pop’s richest contradictions—the tension between the idea of pop as an aural manifestation of time and place and the idea of pop as escape or transcendence, a knot most readily found in contemporary hip-hop’s rhetoric (but a theme the permeates music as separate-seeming as the Electric Light Orchestra and Sun Ra).

If there’s anything I fetishize about DPRK pop—because it’s not particularly exotic—it’s the comfortable distance it gives me to consider questions I still have about my own musical time and place. What can pop in North Korea tell me about its place of origin? What can it tell me about the idea of pop in general? Though DPRK pop isn’t the easiest stuff to track down, I’ve had some success, and plan to keep buying more as I’m able. I hope to draw on a formal analysis of the music, my own reading about the country’s history (and its present), correspondence with scholars who have been to the country, and theories of art in Communist countries.

GETTING WARMER at 5:35 pm, 2 Comments.