September 28, 2003

Knocks all comers backwards over the cliff. Sassy, sultry, silly, sexy. I’m in love with Kelis.

Ludacris’ new album begins with a sample from Isaac Hayes’ magnificent cover version of “Walk On By” from his Hot Buttered Soul album; this makes me happy (the last people to sample it were the Wu-Tang, as I remember, on The W).

I’m nonplussed by the new Strokes album so far, but I was always nonplussed by them anyway. They’re tighter now, even more postpunk due to the addition of a touch of synth here and there and a sense of electronic energy running through the songs. They still need new trousers though.

So who’s running up fast? Basement Jaxx? Maybe… Kish Kash indeed. The Rapture? Missed opportunity. Muse? Every opportunity ever seized with both hands and shaken till there’s nothing left. Excessive. What’s surprised me is Siobhan Donaghy… Who looks like “a glass of milk”… So we’re back to milk being shaken… Always.

Nick Southall | 6:54 am | Comments (8)

September 27, 2003

Did anybody else see this tonight? Unreal. And those outfits!

Fucking hell. I’m going out tomorrow morning and buying the entire back catalog.

hutlock | 12:53 am | Comments (2)

September 26, 2003

Though most of us will always remember Robert Palmer for his cheezy ass videos (or worse, for the Power Station), it is worth noting that he really did have a killer voice and made some very fine albums. I recommend checking out Honey, a truly weird experiment from 1994 featuring Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme, Teo Macero, and a cover of Devo’s “Girl U Want” to boot. My all-time favorite remains 1980’s Clues however: Palmer does electro pop. Fucking brilliant. Check them out.

hutlock | 11:45 am | Comments (7)

September 25, 2003

Yeah, I don’t think there’s another album that quite begs for compilation quite like this. In a way, its disorganized sprawl is kind of charming, but in another more serious way the constant need to skip the lame, over-long skits and weak tracks makes it a bit tiring. Here’s my entry into the one-disc sweepstakes, I didn’t fully do the math, but I believe it’s a crisp 17 tracks in under 70 minutes. I was kinda tempted to also add “Vibrate” and “She’s Alive” from Andre’s disc, cos they’re both pretty cool and they’d fit timewise, but they don’t really work on the album.

1. Hey Ya! 3:55
2. Unhappy 3:19
3. The Way You Move 3:54
4. Behold a Lady 4:37
5. GhettoMusick 3:56
6. Take Off Your Cool 2:38
7. Bowtie 3:56
8. Dracula’s Wedding 2:32
9. War 2:43
10. Roses 6:09
11. Church 3:27
12. She Lives in My Lap 4:27
13. Flip Flop Rock 4:35
14. Love In War 3:25
15. Knowing 3:32
16. Spread 3:51
17. Last Call 3:57

Ed Howard | 11:46 pm | Comments (38)

September 24, 2003

Welcome to rock-crit’s hottest new parlor game, whittling down the massive 39-track buffet that is Speakerboxxx/The Love Below into a manageable one-disc platter. Nick alluded to this phenomenon in his review, and while I happen to agree with his warts ‘n’ all argument against this kind of bastardization, the ADD-addled pop fan inside me can only listen to so many skits and can only skip over personal duds like “Happy Valentine’s Day,” “Roses,” and “Bust” so many times before I start wondering if there’s a better way. While I think that Andre’s disc is a fascinating and rewarding one-sitting listen, I’ve pretty much gutted the hell out of it for my one disc super-set, which looks like this:

Intro – 1:29
Ghettomusick – 3:56
She Lives in My Lap – 4:27
The Way You Move – 3:54
Spread – 3:51
Prototype – 5:26
Rooster – 3:57
Bowtie – 3:56
War – 2:43
Love in War – 3:25
Church – 3:27
She’s Alive – 4:06
Dracula’s Wedding – 2:32
Flip Flop Rock – 4:35
Tomb of the Boom – 4:46
Hey Ya! – 3:55
Knowing – 3:32
My Favorite Things – 5:13
Take Off Your Cool – 2:38
A Life in the Day of Benjamin Andre – 5:11

My half-assed math tells me that’s under 80 minutes, but I could be wrong. Of course, if you pare that down even further to an indie-rock-digestible 11 tracks or so, you get a start-to-finish flawless classic that’s tighter than a fucking drum. Kind of puts Echoes in perspective, dunnit?

Josh Love | 3:34 am | Comments (5)

September 23, 2003

Derisively: “This sounds indie-rocked out.”

I must say I agree, but I still love the song. Odd.

Gavin Mueller | 4:06 pm | Comments (1)

September 20, 2003

01. Wu-Tang Clan w/Junior Reid - “One Blood Under W” (4:11)
02. Buzzcocks - “Oh Shit!” (1:38)
03. Massive Attack - “Future Proof” (5:38)
04. Hefner - “Another Better Friend” (4:58)
05. Belle & Sebastian - “Fuck This Shit” (2:31)
06. Kid606 - “Ruin It, Ruin Them, Ruin Yourself, Then Ruin Me” (5:25)
07. Johnny Cash - “Get Rhythm” (2:15)
08. Low - “Last Snowstorm Of The Year” (2:16)
09. Broadcast - “Papercuts” (4:32)
10. New Order - “Temptation (12′ Mix)” (6:59)
11. Mogwai - “Tracy (Kid Loco’s Playing With The Young Team Remix)” (8:31)
12. The Apples In Stereo - “Questions And Answers” (2:53)
13. Solvent - “Solvently One Listens” (2:54)
14. Pet Shop Boys - “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” (3:11)
15. Super Furry Animals - “For Now And Ever” (3:32)

Total: 61:25

Ian Mathers | 8:54 pm | Comments (30)

The revised policy concerning homosexuality in the armed forces involving service personal states that the commanding officers must put each case of “social misconduct” up against The Service Test: “Have the actions or behaviour of an individual adversely impacted or are they likely to impact on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Service?”

The callous stoic would say that any excessive emotional involvement with your brothers in arms is detrimental to the “operational imperative.” On the other hand, the more sentimental, affections-based romantic would champion close kinship as the most useful way of further tightening the bonds of the imperative’s goal to “sustain team cohesion and to maintain trust and loyalty between commanders and those they command.”

After hearing The Decemberists’ tale of homoerotic amore in the armed forces, “The Soldiering Life,” I was quick to jump and attribute to it First Pop Song to Deal With Homosexuality in the Armed Forces status. Then I remembered “Next.” While Jacques Brel’s ominous lament of the inherent and injurious machismo of the corps–typified in the song by the story of the forced assembly-line deflowering of young soldiers in a mobile army whorehouse–was possibly the first song to deal explicitly with homosexual undertones (as well as using the epithets “queer” and “fag,” which, keep in mind, were still taboo even in the newly Code-liberated Hollywood of the late 60s), the emphasis was on the painful and murky outcome. In opposition, The Decemberists’ pen and voice, Colin Meloy, puts a tender touch on the controversial and hush-hush subject.

Firstly, I must say that the love between the two World War I soldiers in Meloy’s tale could just as well be interpreted by the cursory listener as nothing more than devoted military camaraderie. I will attempt to quell this interpretation.

Our first encounter with the two men is seeing them stroll “madly” about town (the specific location is not made clear, but one reviewer presumptuously wrote that it was Belgium.) Picturing them hand-in-hand would not be out of order. One, we’re told, is a brawny Manhattan type who is so rough, he is caricaturish. It could be insinuated that this “bowery tough” is using this overly masculine temperament as a guise to hide his unacceptable sexual orientation. More evidence supporting this is the last verse, where we see the storyteller and he swathed in their garments as they lie, “eyes aligned” on a sullied mattress—not something you would expect from a man originally described as the human equivalent of a hurled brick.

The protagonist’s affection towards this more-than-brother in arms is not especially seen in the songs chorus. The only hint of anything more than loving companionship is seen in the macabre sobriquet the protagonist gives the unnamed soldier: “my bombazine doll.” Bombazine, a diagonally woven silk fabric, is often dyed black and used for mourning clothing. This last detail gives the impression that the protagonist sees his partner in dour but affectionate light— breeding grounds for homoeroticism.

Our final image of the two shows the men, side by side, clutching their rifles and hugging the long furrow as they blaze away into no man’s land. The protagonist, knowing full well death is at his elbow, declares the moment cognizant bliss. He wouldn’t rather be anywhere else. “The bullets may singe your skin and the mortars may fall / But I have never felt so alive.”

At a time where the popular tone is cynical gloom-and-doom, Meloy could have easily written about the perils of war—like the obligatory barbarism and moral degradation of Brel’s “Next”–but instead he paints a tender and evocative mural of unnatural love in the midst of unclear fate. The Service Test is discernibly inconsequential in the face of love.

Gentry Boeckel | 5:09 pm | Comments (1)

September 18, 2003

Spiritualized. Never has a band been more aptly named. Making the spirit active and tangible is what they do. I saw them play last night. And I am still reeling now. Now. Nearly 12 hours later, I still have that enormity of feeling - that glow -you can only get from seeing one helluva gig. It all started when I was 15 and visiting London for the first time via a high school trip. Yes, I was with Mr Dewey and Mrs Windheim but London was still all mine. We stayed in a hotel across the street from what was then the Town and Country Club, and is now the Forum. I looked out the window late one night to see a mass of beautiful shaggy hair boys milling around; all of them with the same lost look in their doe eyes. And they all had on the same t-shirt that said, “For all the fucked-up children in the world we bring you Spacemen 3”. And I thought, “God look how exotic and amazing those guys are. They aren’t like anything I have ever seen in my suburbs of New York hometown.” And with that - my love affair with the English man began. I eventually found out what Spacemen 3 was and embarked on my love affair with them as well. Now I have finally witnessed my man epiphany in the flesh. OK, Jason Piece is no J Spaceman but after last night, I don’t care.

Blissed-out and woozy - Jason Pierce takes us all on a sonic trippy trip through his mind-field of broken hearts, failed dreams and desperate pleas to God. They come on in total darkness, play for 90 minutes, and leave. No chatting, no encore, just the songs ebbing and flowing with tonal shifts from grandiose orchestrations to soothing meditations. Jason seems almost disconnected as his sits on a stool in the corner of stage, hiding comfortably by stacks of amps. Perhaps because the songs are so emotive, he needs to be detached. And that’s fine. Cause we are more than happy to pick up that slack. Here’s hoping that somewhere, some other 15-year-old girl’s dreams are being awakened.

Administrator | 9:29 am | Comments (11)

September 16, 2003

So anyway, there’s no top 40 rundown for last week, cos my weekend was not a good thing. For those who are fussed, B-E-P are still #1. Dido is still #2. Gawiff is highest new entry at #3. Just to clarify - that’s Gareth Gates being kept off #1 by the Black Eyed Peas. Laugh? Well… yes, actually. Stinaggulllerra was new at #6, Muse entered at #8, Nelly and P Diddy and Murphy Lee all entered at #10 all at once, Lisa Scott-Lee stared down the barrel of her career at #11, Rishi Rich and his various chums were new at #12, Linkin Park gnrrrr hfrrrgnrrrr gnrrr #14, Kontakt made #19, Dutch and Crystal “La Da Dee, La Di Da” Waters were #22, Finnish goths HiM had probably the best and least expected new entry of the week at #23, Seal was rubbish at #25, Celine Dion was newheeowweeowwwwheeohweehohweeyeah, uhhaugh, at #27, Mya slumped in at #33, The Bandits somehow managed to be #35, and with quite startling inevitability, The Cosmic Rough Riders were #39.

There we go. Next week - Westlife, Timblewimble, Rachel From S Club 7, Limp Bizkit, Jamelia, Nickelback, The Chemical Brothers, So Solid Crew and something else on which more in a little bit…

William B. Swygart | 6:11 am | Comments (12)

So porous. There are leaks and cracks and places to jump in and tear apart Second Verse from the inside but to do so you’d have to live this life, you’d have to understand where they’re coming from, you’d have to understand how something “So Grimey” can sound so washed-out and clean. It’s no wonder they’ve never made it big in America. Sure, Oxide and Neutrino are talented, but past that it reminds of sub-Bone Thugs vocalizings (the faster the better) and Neptunes circa summer and fall of 2001 production (”Bouncin’ Back” vs. “Six O’Clock”). But, in between the pores, there are moments that make you wonder, make you do the double-take, make you want to believe that it could still happen for them. But it’s impossible. It’s stuff that Americans do too well, already. No room for the English over here, unless garage becomes the new dancehall. Dizzee as Sean Paul. Oxide as Bounty Killer. If only.

Todd Burns | 1:32 am | Comments (1)

September 15, 2003

I just saw Sokurov’s Russian Ark, the film that was made in a single, 96-minute continuous take. However, that’s not the amazing part of the film. What’s amazing is the fact that this 96-minute continuous take was filmed in St. Petersburg’s famous Hermitage Museum, which used to be the Russian monarchy’s winter palace, and is today the largest museum in the world (bigger even than the Louvre or Smithsonian), using a narrative technique where the camera itself is a character (voiced by Sokurov himself) that is wandering around the museum, accompanied by a French Marquis, debating all things Russian and all things cultural, while, all around them, a cast of 1,000 actors and 1,000 extras in various costumes play out all of the important events of the life of Russia and of the Hermitage.

Imagine that: 2,000 people, a crew of hundreds, lights and sets and everything else, and, of course, the Hermitage itself and its priceless collection of art and artifacts, all captured on film in a single take, following a rather complicated narrative that spans 300 years of history–and not a single blown line or broken vase or burnt-out light. How did they do it? Well, get the DVD and you’ll find the answer in the form of a 45 minute documentary about the film’s creation. The documentary is almost as interesting as the film itself.

Of course, that’s a big problem, isn’t it. The “making of” is not supposed to be better than the film. One of the problems with Russian Ark is that the act of making the film–of following this insane idea of creating such a complicated work in one shot–overwhelms the actual film, to the point that I spent much of the film looking for mistakes, like moments when a reflection would reveal the camera crew or when a cast member or extra will accidentally look at the camera (no reflections–but there were some camera looks in the big ballroom scene at the end). In other words, I spent too much time thinking about the concept of the film, not immersing myself in the film experience.

I’m guessing others probably watched the film the same way I did. However, I can tell you that, on my second viewing, the novelty of the long take had withered, and I did find myself focusing more on the story, on the character of the Marquis, on the various processions of characters that wander in and out of the camera’s frame: in short, focusing on the film itself. Hence, I think this is one of those films that improves with repeated viewings. That’s true of the other Sokurov film I’ve seen, Mother and Son, and it’s also true of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the great Russian filmmaker and Sokurov’s greatest influence. So, if you are interested in seeing this film, I heartily recommend two viewings, at least.

Ah, but there’s something else I want to say about this film. The work was created in conjunction with the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, the town built by Peter the Great in 1703. The film was paid for by the Hermitage itself (the opening credits begin “The Hermitage Foundation Presents…” [or something like that]) and by the Russian government (and with funds from other European film and art groups). It is intended, first and foremost, to be a tour of the Hermitage–hence, there are long stretches here where the camera simply moves around the museum looking at various details in the paintings, in the architecture, in the sculptures, and so on.

Consequently, the film is, quite literally, a state-sponsored art project, like the silent films Sergei Eisenstein created for the Soviet government or Leni Reifenstal’s Triumph of the Will or Woody Guthrie’s works project songs from the 1930s. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have any problem with state-sponsored art. Even Triumph of the Will served (and still serves) an important purpose (namely, to make us aware of the power of Nazism). But I find it interesting that no one has really brought up this point in regards to Sokurov’s film. Perhaps it’s because the film, while made with (basically) public funds, seems more independent than so many of the flag-waving B-films made (ostensibly) with private funds in the United States. Perhaps, in our capitalist world (one where Russia is a fledgling member), the only truly independent film is the film made by the government.

Michael Heumann | 10:51 am | Comments (9)

September 12, 2003

My favorite Johnny Cash story — when I was in college, my roommate was dating a woman (he later married her) who was in the Oberlin Conservatory Of Music, a concert pianist. In fact, her last name was Paganini (yes, THAT Paganini). Anyway, she had been raised on classical music and even as a Junior in college, had really never heard much pop music. We were living in Oberlin for the summer, and one day out of sheer boredom, I went to the Oberlin public library fundraising record sale. I purchased (on a whim) for 10 cents a vinyl copy in mint condition of Johnny Cash Live At San Quentin (along with about 20 other LPs, including the first Neu! album… huh?!?). Keep in mind, this was before Johnny’s revival, pre- Rick Rubin hipness… this guy’s career was as dead as a doornail. But hey, I obught almost everything that I didn’t already own and wasn’t Liberace or a crusty classical record. Anyway, we spent the entire fucking summer playing that LP. The three of us memorized every line of every song and every bit of offstage patter and even what the prisoners were yelling. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than the moment when Ms. Paganini purchased her first pop CD — the old two-fer CD of Cash at Folsom Prison and San Quentin. The guy just transcended everything, even to someone who had no clue what the music meant — you got him and his wife, stories about spending the night in jail for picking flowers, A Boy Named Sue, jokes about popping pills and drinking, TWO versions back to back of the same song! And throughout it all, I felt like this was the greatest man in the world, greater than the pope or Muhammad Ali or Morrissey or my dad or anyone. He made me feel like more of a pussy and a weakling than anyone ever has, but I loved him for it. Rest in peace, J.R. Cash. There’ll be peace in the valley tonight.

hutlock | 10:19 pm | Comments (1)

On a day that is already filled with tributes and outpourings of emotion, there is probably little that can be said about Johnny Cash that won’t be said elsewhere. But as unsurprising as the news that he had passed on was, the reality of it still resonates with a slow burn, not unlike the Man’s music. I myself first heard his music during my sophomore year in college – if memory serves, I might even have been introduced to the Man vis a vis his performance on U2’s Zooropa, released a year or so before his definitive solo record with Rick Rubin, American Recordings.

That seems ages ago now. As hard as it is to believe today, Cash was widely seen as a washed up has-been back then – in one publication from around that time, he explained how difficult things had been in recent years and heaped praise upon U2 for giving him the opportunity to reach out to a new audience again with their song “The Wanderer”. Unknown is whether Cash had any idea at the time that a former Beastie Boys producer was about to give him the inaugural record deal for his new label – a move that would not merely resuscitate the country star’s hobbled career, but effectively cement Cash’s reputation an American icon for the ages.

It’s almost impossible to think of Cash in recent years without being reminded of the health problems; he looked at least a decade older than 71 when he appeared on television shortly before his death. But before he went public with them (he was also promoting his autobiography the same week, as I recall), I remember noticing in a performance on VH-1’s Storytellers show with Willie Nelson a conspicuous Band-Aid on his right hand, a sure sign in retrospect that he’d been in the hospital only recently. In my mind, it was a symbolic badge of honor for Cash – each of his last two albums, American III: Solitary Man and American IV: The Man Comes Around, would be recorded and promoted under the shroud of illness. It was as if Cash were saying that no matter how weakened he was or however trembly his baritone became, that it could only make his life’s work—his music—that much more powerful.

As with all great artists who pass into the light (protruding middle finger and all), Johnny Cash will be sorely missed.

Matthew Weiner | 3:30 pm | Comments Off

RIP The Man In Black

Dom Passantino | 12:57 pm | Comments (6)

September 9, 2003

I picked up Depeche Mode’s 101 rockumentary/live show video at the market at the weekend. Looking forward to seeing Dave Gahan crooning Gore’s songs of doubt and domination in an atmosphere of soft reds and harsh white lights, a devoted audience singing along with every word of the sombre songs.

So far so good as Gahan did that deep warbling thing he does throughout the verses about failed teen suicide. But then out of nowhere he starts punctuating the gaps between the verses with howls of “Yeah!” and “Come on!”. I was utterly aghast, Dave’s onstage behaviour is totally unacceptable. He’s standing there spinning on the spot with the mic stand held out Freddie Mercury style in the middle of “Blasphemous Rumours”. Where’s the gravitas? He’s roaring all over the bloody song.

I was prepared to let the tight white denims, matching vest and studded black leather slide without comment but he’s annoyed me now. He looks like someone’s precocious little brother at a school hall disco trying to look like Faith era George Michael. Anyone who looks sillier onstage that Martin “I’m kinky I am ” Gore is really pushing his luck.

Add to this my disbelief and mild horror at seeing a crowd filled with the extras from the set of The Breakfast Club; tanned permed stereotypical beautiful people in a sea of high school nerds. Where were the Goths? Where were my comrades in bondage gear? The disaffected? The only people I knew who liked DM back in the days of Black Celebration and Music for the Masses were the oddballs like me. You mean they were a global phenomenon all along? Bollocks.

But the question remains, can there be a more inappropriate front man?

(P.S. Well Done Dizzee)

Administrator | 5:49 pm | Comments (1)

You’re my hero. I wanna write like you do.

That’s all. I just think your writing is wonderfully different.

Samuel Bloch | 12:18 am | Comments (3)

September 8, 2003

The respect of which Italians, and Sicilians in particular, hold America, especially with respect to the liberation of Sicily by US troops in 1944, is astounding. A day of mourning was called in Italy for both the assasination of JFK, and the 11th of September. Streets around my father’s home village in Palermo include Via Eisenhower and Via Washington.

“Volare” is the biggest selling song in Eurovision history, pissing all over anything by either Cliff Richard or Abba. It plays at every Italian wedding ever, every Italian restaurant ever, every Italy ever. Domenico Modugno, the man behind it, was widely respected in Italy, for basically singing just that. England had Shakespeare, Scotland had Burns, Italy had Modugno.

This song can only lead to a war. It’s about as good for Italo-American relations as Colin Powell goosing Silvio Berlusconi’s wife, and only slightly less ugly.

It’s an awful song, to go with an awful film. The Lizzie McGuire Movie is full of “Ey, I-a smack-a you face-a” stereotypes, and so why not prove some of that Superior Western Culture by having Americans (good and intelligent, like Hilary Duff) “improve” an Italian (stupid greasy dagos) classic.

No.

Just no.

The improvement seems to revolve around shouting most of the song, in a matter not totally dissimilar to completely forgotten 2001 act Live On Demand. The backing rankles, the vocals annoy, and it soundtracks a shot of Hilary Duff’s stupid fucking face.

Next week, Mauro Piccotto covers “Freebird”.

Dom Passantino | 8:00 am | Comments Off

September 7, 2003

AKA ‘Theme from Powerade’. Which is a smidgen unfortunate, really, because Powerade is vile blue ‘energy drink’ for the active sportsperson (also available in vile orange flavour/colour), and not really deserving of having a song this smashing as its theme tune.

PTSB are some Japanese types who go breaking on guitars very loudly and crunchily, lobbing in some gently indecipherable female cooing “ah-eee, you are the-ee ear-er-ly ri-ser” for no real reason over the crashing surf riffery, animal/Ikara Colt drummery and high pitched electro dronery for about twenty seconds, then slipping into a big-band trumpet filler bit over which she “Ba-ba-ba”’s for a bit. Then there’s more of the riffing, then back to big band, then some weird little melding of the two, then it all shivers and BANG! here comes the riffery… big band… riffery…big banded riffery, and the end is some trumpets doing the whole big climax thing, and a nice little electric squiggle at the end. Indie disco classicism assured for ever after.

Why can’t the popular bands be this great?

(P.S., yes, I have heard of Cornelius… blaaaagh.)

William B. Swygart | 9:34 am | Comments Off

Jamie Stewart’s bro Joey gave the Xiu Xiu msg board the low-down on the new alb. It’s titled “Fabulous Muscles” and should be out in Feb. 2004. The tracklist is thus:

01. Crank Heart
02. I Luv the Valley OH!
03. Bunny Gamer (b)
04. Little Panda McElroy (b)
05. Support Our Troops in Iraq OH! (Black Angels OH!)
06. Fabulous Muscles (Mama Black Widow Version)
07. Brian the Vampire
08. Nieces Pieces (Boat Knife Version)
09. Clowne Towne
10. Mike

“I Love the Valley” is an old, and killer track from Jamie’s old band Ten in the Swar Jar. “Bunny Gamer,” “Little Panda McElroy,” “Fabulous Muscles” and “Nieces Pieces” were all on the Xiu Xiu/JYPU insound split, and are reportedly mixed differently and have some diff. arrangements. I hope “Support Our Troops in Iraq” isn’t some sardonically titled anti-war shlock.

Gentry Boeckel | 2:02 am | Comments Off

September 6, 2003

Things to think about:

- Talk Talk
- UNKLE “Celestial Annihilation”
- Stars of the Lid
- RZA’s Bobby Digital
- Roy Lichtenstein’s “Drowning Girl”
- Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”
- Villalobo’s “Easy Lee”
- Christina Aguilera’s “Stronger”
- “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
- Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”
- John Cage’s “As Slow As Possible”

Todd Burns | 9:45 pm | Comments (9)

September 3, 2003

updated links on the side. more blogs, more discussion, more writing, more ideas- it’s what it’s all about!

Todd Burns | 7:46 pm | Comments (3)

Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
Go to the stylus blog and read my ludicrous pretentious toss
Lisa says:
I am wading my way through it.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
it’s a bit serious
Lisa says:
And wordy!
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
aye
Lisa says:
to me it seems that you’re suggesting that people should not be musical fascists.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
yeah
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
basically
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
I could’ve done it in about a dozen words, but once I got started…
Lisa says:
people don’t understand that extreme left opinions and extreme right opinions are the same shirt in a different colour. if you are so geared up to be an elitist fuck you’re going to miss out on so much.
Lisa says:
why does popular immediately equate itself with bad?
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
Aye, totally
Lisa says:
It’s insane.
Lisa says:
pitchfork only serves to alienate readers.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
aye
Lisa says:
it reminds me SO much of academia.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
and make the ones it keeps so much more narrow minded
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
yeah, i can see that to an extent
Lisa says:
back in the 1600s - academics used to speak only latin to each other
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
aye
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
it’s elitist and alienating
Lisa says:
it was a way to immediately identify one of your tribe so to speak
Lisa says:
exactly
Lisa says:
but it just SMACKS of complete insecurity.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
i find it hideous
Lisa says:
its like - you don’t speak my indie rock language therefore you are not worthy of my time.
Lisa says:
when in reality - the pitchfork emperor has no clothes.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
yes
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
the one thing I hate above all else is small-mindedness, especially when it’s hand-in-hand with an air of superiority
Lisa says:
totally.
Lisa says:
“i have limited capabilities yet i am superior to you”.
Lisa says:
and what these people continually forget is that reviews are opinions!
Lisa says:
not facts!
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
totally
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
It’s like, on another messageboard I sill use from time to time (I so shouldn’t, it’s full of kids and idiots)
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
There was a kid complaining about Sean Paul’s voice being ‘put-on’ and ‘fake’
I can’t believe you waste time even typing anything about sean paul!
Lisa says:
I loathe him.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
i’m not keen
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
but this kid’s only 16
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
and his distaste is the indieboy distaste of the ‘other’
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
rather than because Sean Paul is crap
Lisa says:
why are indieboys even talking about Sean Paul anyway?
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
I don’t know
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
I guess to gather small-minded indie-cred
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
“look; I don’t like chartpop - ergo I am cool”
Lisa says:
I seriously don’t understand why not liking popular stuff makes one credible. everyone has at least a weakness for some chart stuff.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
because they think it shows an ability to discern the wheat from the chaff
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
and to remove oneself from the norm
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
thereby making oneself special and different
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
chartpop = the norm in their eyes
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
it’s a whole adolescent rebellion and pushing your identity thing
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
it’s just a shame that people like Ott still do it in their mid-20s and older – in fact, it’s kind of disturbing. Are the not comfortable enough with themselves to just like something, and to try and understand why they like it from there, rather than artificially positing themselves in some pre-decreed box?
Lisa says:
but if everyone does it = you are no longer outside the norm.
Lisa says:
its like saying “I don’t eat at mcdonalds because it is common”
Lisa says:
when we KNOW you do. If you are indeed so outside the norm you wouldn’t even know who sean paul is anyway
Lisa says:
much less that he sucks.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
aye
Lisa says:
Exactly! The only way to gain true credibility is through honesty
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
yes
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
blood+ guts honesty
Lisa says:
i mean people think is it ‘credible’ to like Motown right?
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
they do, aye
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
black = suffering = soul = instant cred - when, as you know, I don’t think ’soul’ exists, certainly in that context
Lisa says:
But Motown was a fabricated hits factory
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
fucking exactly
Lisa says:
Berry Gordy was the Stock Aitkin Waterman of his time!
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
the amount of times I point out stuff like this in arguments is incredible, about them keeping the drum kit in the same place in the same room from 62-69 so all the songs would have the same percussion sound to keep the audience happy
Lisa says:
it is only through the magic of time that it becomes credible.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
yes
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
all this writing your own songs stuff is bullshit too
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
It’s like the myth of the romantic artist
Lisa says:
oh don’t get me started on the misunderstanding of romanticism.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
eheheehehehehehe
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
i love the story about Taylor Coleridge and the laudanum
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
STC was a laudanum addict and was tripping off his nuts on the stuff whilst writing kubla khan and it was inspired by his visions
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
and he had an entire epic planned
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
1000s of pages
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
and then someone knocked on the door and he ‘forgot’ it
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
hence it’s only a few verses
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
if that’s not self-mythologising on the level of the stone roses chucking paint over everything, i dunno what is
Lisa says:
It’s like the theory that what was fuelling early divine visions amongst monks wasn’t god but moldy bread and that these supposedly higher power acts of god were in reality early acid trips.
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
Precisely
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
But people need the mythology, people need to surrender to a ‘higher power’, be it God or the alter of indie or whatever
Nick (may not reply because he’s not that clever) says:
Because they’re not brave enough to make their own decisions
Lisa says:
Stick this on the blog too.

Nick Southall | 9:58 am | Comments (26)

The thing is that all these notions are obsolete, and what’s more I’m not sure any of them were ever not obsolete. The problem is that they encourage a belief in universal truths, in objective facts about music, art and humanity, and there is no objective truth about these things. You may find Ott an interesting writer, Todd, but for me he’s flawed because he thinks he’s got it all worked out, when the reality is that there is nothing to be worked out. Ott’s “where’s your cred at” jibe may be amusing, but it’s also dangerous because it assumes that if you like X then you must ergo like Y as well, and what’s more that you must dislike Z, as if the vagaries of human tastes must fit directly into analogous compartments linked by threads of logic, when they don’t. We’re not dealing with logic, we’re dealing with aesthetic and emotional responses to things, to music, art, and ultimately through that, to the people and events and objects that compose our universes. “Credibility” as such, trusting a writer’s taste implicitly and completely, assumes that you’re the perfect fit for that writer; the only way you can be is if the writer created you as a perfect work of fiction designed to fit, like in The Circular Ruins by Borges. And like in that story, once you start trying to create things as objects of your own perfection you lose track of your own creation and existential choice, and thus lose the credibility you were pursuing in the first place. This is the whole problem with Pitchfork. As soon as you think you know the order that everything fits into then you’re fucked, because that kind of codification, linearity and mathematical proof simply doesn’t exist outside of science and mathematics. Even science as a discipline recognises now that none of its findings and laws are immutable, because the universe, like individual people, is a work in progress. Much as we can’t understand it, given that the universe is infinite, gravity could stop working tomorrow if something alters in the fundamental physics of the cosmos for whatever reason. If something that you’ve invested a great deal of faith and thought in as being a permanence, a given fact, an absolute, if something like that ruptures, flails, and alters completely for a reason beyond your understanding, then where does that leave you? Because if you pin yourself to a mast of one system, define yourself by it, and that system turns out to be wrong one day, then you have nothing of yourself left and you have to start again.

It’s interesting then that we still, as music writers in general, try to pin these little numbers on works of art as if we can state the immutable and universal quality of them, as if we actually know the minute differentials in class between a 7.8 and a 7.9, as if there’s a quantifiable (qualifiable!) system for working these things out. One of my lecturers at university sent off my final essay to be externally moderated, and it got sent back having been bumped up 3%. This didn’t alter its grade or even bring it nearer to a higher grade (it was already a first), and my lecturer confessed that he had no idea why they saw fit to add 3%, and also added that anything below 40% (a fail) or above 70% (a first) was simply arbitrary. With music writing this is accentuated, in that every mark is arbitrary, because there are no guidelines as to what constitutes a certain grade like in academic work; you simply have to rely on how you feel about something. As such I’m erring closer to Julio Desouza’s assertion that you ought to give everything either a 10 or a 1 – ie; bother or don’t bother.

Smashing apart these meta-narratives of universal truth is what postmodernism does at its most useful and positive utility, because it encourages (for me at least) a degree of incredulity and existential awareness (by removing meta-narratives it forces you to choose your own path and understand your own opinions). Cannibal Ox are not necessarily/intrinsically better than Jurassic 5, The Jesus & Mary Chain are not necessarily/intrinsically better than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, post-rock is not necessarily/intrinsically better than trance. You cannot ever hope to prove these memes (ideas? - opinions) as fact. All you can do is understand and explain why you’ve come to any conclusion that you have come to. As soon as you start accepting these kind of memes as universal truths then you’ve given away your existential control to an external party (and what’s more you don’t even know exactly who that external party is).

What this comes down to is that all you have is you, your own opinions and feelings about things, and your ability to communicate them to others and make yourself receptive to the thoughts and feelings of others in turn, in order to further your own understanding of your opinions and feelings. There isn’t one system of order which you can buy into which sorts it all for you, and believing that there is, and that understanding and subscribing to it gives you credibility, is both futile and short-sighted. I have much more time for the opinions of someone who knows their own mind and feelings and is open to suggestion and tries to understand different values and cultures and approaches and forms on their own terms, rather than trying to squeeze them into a matrix of pre-defined judgement. I prefer the incredible to the credible.

Nick Southall | 5:39 am | Comments (17)

Despite the jocularity of tone in Chris Ott’s response to my recent post about Basement Jaxx he, as usual, brings up an interesting point about music criticism. I mean, as much hate as the guy gets, he’s probably the most fascinating writer to me (maybe a combination of proximity and tastes that cross in very odd places and diverge in other unexpected areas) of the past year or so. (While I’m on this tip of asides, let me just say that Ott V. 2.0 is ridiculously better than his earlier writing. I can only hope to improve as much as he has in the coming years)

But, to the point, which is credibility. If a writer takes a positive stance on a particular artist that you’re vehemently against but you tend to trust them in most other cases, has it ever been a breaking point? Can one opinion make or break your trust of someone’s taste?

Or, in a more general sense, what if a writer really enjoys the same sorts of music in a particular genre that you both enjoy- but goes off into other genres that a) you hate or b) have never been exposed to? Would you discount certain things they now say about the previous genre that you shared? And, more pertinent to b, would you be more apt to follow them there even if it’s, say, a jump from Dirty South hip-hop to Italian opera?

All this taken into account- TI’s “24’s” and Rossini’s La Cenerentola…both killin’ it tonight for me.

Todd Burns | 4:00 am | Comments (4)

 
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