I wasn't planning on posting this week (I'm currently parked in front of a stranger's house, logging into their internet) but this news it too exciting to pass up
I won the Rolling Stone contest! I've got a 3 month gig there this summer! Wooo!
Fact is, I'm going away to Orlando at the end of the week, so the standard project is taking a slight break. There might be one or two more project posts this week, but the truth is that my focus is on finishing work that needs to be done... and getting ready for the trip. Some more articles:
Good Charlotte Review
Second single "Keep Your Hands Off My Girl" namedrops Dior bags and Louis Vuitton while indulging an ugly misogynist streak: "I got a model, 26/But she stays in her place." This isn't new territory for Good Charlotte—one of their first hits featured the lyrics "Girls don't like boys/Girls like cars and money." But you used to be able to ignore it because it sounded like kids making a tasteless joke. Maybe they'd grow up. With their new emo-radio-hit sound, though, they sound angry and hateful. The cute punks grew up to be really scary jerks. Relationship advice? "The only way y'all ever keep her in your hands/Is breaking apart her heart."
Joni Mitchell Tribute Notes:
Sufjan Stevens - Free Man in Paris: So bad, it actually makes me completely reevaluate whether I like Sufjan Stevens. I think he scrapes by, but barely. This is a horrific cover - and deserves as much disparagement as possible.
Prince - A Case of You: Whoever told me earlier last year that Prince did great versions of Joni was OTM. It's odd enough to be Prince and faithful enough to be a cover. It's the perfect cover - it changes the song just enough to become a new entity, but it's still a "free lunch" because of the original (contrast to Sufjan's cover).
Sarah McLachlan - Blue: I hate to say it, because I generally dislike McLachlan's stuff, but having her do Blue (Joni's most downer song on Blue and maybe in her entire discography?) was really inspired. It's fitfully sad, and just as mournful as the original. The only problem is that the layered voices and chimes in the background don't really distinguish it enough. It's fairly true to the original.
Annie Lennox - Ladies of the Canyon: Also surprisingly good. More bombastic than the original, and it fits the song well. A nice spin.
James Taylor - River: I've got a bootleg where he sings this song with Joni, and so I thought I knew what to expect. But it's really such a lovely tribute to Joni, and you really hear the tenderness in his voice. There's something faintly nostalgic and very warm about his cover. It's the perfect ending to the album, and more than anything I've ever heard/read it communicates James love for Joni. Maybe the best (most important?) thing on the album.
Stooges - The Weirdness Reviewed
The instruments are about as blunt as Iggy's sense of humor. Which is to say that it's firmly within the tradition of punk music - a couple of chords played over and over. Sometimes that formula becomes grating, like on "Greedy, Awful People," which could have been a stellar song if the rhythm section didn't give you a headache halfway through. Even writing that briefest of critiques makes me feel guilty, though. As though I were one of the "greedy, awful people," Iggy is singing about, with a severe lack of class. The truth, though, is that it operates perfectly on many of the other songs, and sometimes even achieves sublime results.
For the sake of easy compilation (at some unforeseen date in the future):
Bright Eyes: Second Verse, Same as the First
If Modern Times was a reminder that the greatest songwriters grow as artists, then Bright Eye's latest EP Four Winds is a reminder that not everyone is Bob Dylan. "Reinvent the Wheel" finds Oberst singing: "You'll never come back now to the world where people are / Because you never understood what they loved you for." Essentially, he's lodging a reactionary claim that you should stick to what you're good at. But how many times can Oberst rerelease I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.
How to Ruin a Fallout Boy Album in 14 Songs
At this point, Pete Wentz could overdose on cocaine, light himself on fire, get into a fist fight in Boy's Town and throw himself off a twenty story building - and he still wouldn't get anyone's attention.
Manowar: Gods of War - Rated E (for Epic!)
Instead, I shall review each track using iambic couplets and Beowulf references. Following that, I will jump off a large cliff, smash into the rocks below, and be reborn as a Phoenix. From there, I will fly throughout the land of the living and the dead, and recount of the cycles and stories of the brave soldiers of Manowar. It is only fitting that during this recounting, I will constantly interrupt myself to declare Manowar's praises. For how can I speak of them, and not burst into spontaneous affirmations of their greatness?
Wrote my first comic book review ever. Since I'm not used to this kind of writing (where you need to discuss narrative and the art with equal deliberation) I didn't field it out yet and instead published it on #comic-scans
. The next one I wrote (on X-Factor) I fielded to Popmatters.com. So we'll see how that goes. If they don't want it, I'm pretty sure #comic-scans will be happy to keep taking my stuff.
Neil Gaiman’s The Eternals, which recently ran as a seven-part limited series, could have been anything. Although Jack Kirby’s original 1976 series had very specific tropes and storylines, no one but diehard fans would have faulted Gaiman for taking liberties with Kirby’s Eternals. That’s partially owing to Gaiman himself, who has earned a ticket to do whatever he wants. But it’s also due to the source material. The Eternals is essentially a story about giant robots and goblin-like hoards. In the hands of a graphic novel auteur like Gaiman, you would be forgiven for expecting a complete rewrite of Kirby’s ethos and mythology. Be prepared to be surprised. Gaiman is faithful to Kirby’s vision to a fault, which will either thrill you, or result in an immensely disappointing experience.
to read the rest of the review.
Between a dozen articles due, editing responsibilities, and classwork, I think I may have actually burnt myself out on writing this week. Every word I write, I feel like I've seen and written that word before. Recently. That can't be good. None of it seems fresh. I need some new verbs, some new nouns. I need a new bloody set of pronouns to work with. I'm certain that I've used every word in this paragraph at once before this week. My vocabulary is reaching its limits. Language is dying. I'm beginning to understand Beckett. Or maybe not. Ack.
Luckily, Green doesn't demand a lot from me. His music is seductive on so many different levels. It's sexually seductive, obviously. But it's also emotionally seductive and intellectually seductive. He doesn't require that you fight to listen to him. He's like the womb, you could just float on his silky smooth voice - suspended in the warm liquid of his velvety music. "Womb." Now there's a word I haven't used yet this week. Thank god. Al Green gives me language!
Tomorrows album is Heart of the Congos, and as of yet, I don't know how much of a challenge it'll be. If it's not too bad, I'll do a post tomorrow night. But if it's a bit overwhelming - I may have to beg out early this week. But I promise, loads of music writing next week. So let me do a tid-bits section tonight of various comments, reviews, notes, etc from the last week. Beginning with the greatest performance thus far on American Idol: Jordan Sparks singing "I Who Have Nothing": http://youtube.com/watch?v=OzkNMiKjrGU
Top Ten Singles Thus Far in 2007 (ILX, Teenpop Thread)
1. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend
2. R Kelly - Flirt
3. Taylor Swift - Tim McGraw
4. Natasha Bedingfield - Babies
5. Fallout Boy - This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race
6. The Klaxons - Atlantis to Interzone
7. Lloyd ft. Lil Wayne - You
8. D.B.’z featuring E-40 – Stewy
9. Bright Eyes - Four Winds
10. The Stooges - Free and Freaky / The Stooges - My Idea of Fun
The normal all-over assortment of singles. No particular order, though some are more heavily weighted than others. I can't imagine Bright Eyes, Bedingfield, Lloyd, or Klaxons making it to the end. Also, if Spring Awakening OST had a single, it would certainly be on the list. Also, I like both Stooge's singles equally, though my preference is for "My Idea of Fun" slightly over "Free and Freaky" but not enough to not list both - also, I don't like either well enough to give them their own slot. Together they earn slot 10. Any other caveats... oh, yeah. Swift is the cheater listing, because it was a single in 2006 - but it didn't hit charts until 2007. So I'm counting it. Na-na-na-boo-boo.
Frank and Adorno, Alternatively DMX and Kafka (Koganbot Livejournal)
Frank, I quoted you last week in my course on Kafka. We were talking about Adorno - and about how he uses Kafka instead of discussing Kafka. He basically takes a Kafka quote and then launches into his own creative expression - which is disguised as criticism. I quoted your answer to the question: Are there more great songs than writing about songs? And you said yes, but not for an essential reason. Then you explained that there aren't more great songs than conversations around songs, or dances to songs, or jokes about songs. And essentially, Adorno is using that with Kafka. He's dancing to Kafka - or joking about Kafka. For my last Kafka essay, I included a couple paragraphs about why I wanted to really write about DMX's use of dogs (instead of Kafka) and how my decision not to use DMX speaks to our prejudices around Kafka. (Ie: That DMX isn't on par with Kafka. Or that Kafka is a genius and DMX is a 'rapper' as though they are mutually exclusive. or that Kafka was writing intentionally using dogs and DMX's use of dogs are accidental. All premises I feel you'd reject.) Anyway, I felt that talking about why I wanted to do DMX on Kafka is a lot like making a joke about a song. It isn't inferior just because it isn't recognized in academia (and I remember your quote in the book about Meltzer - whether rock can save philosophy or not and the question of whether philosophy is worth saving).
Review of "Army @ Love," the New Vertigo Comic (#comic-scans mIRC chatroom)
It's about an attempt to raise morale in the army by hosting explosively sexual retreats and throwing expansive orgies for all the military personal. That's the plot, but it's actually about showing naked soldiers killing people. Throw in anymore hot triggers and the comic might as well be a Mountain Dew commercial (Eugene Mirman reference: "Do the Dew before the Dew does You!")
Excerpt from Short Fiction Piece (Submitted to YU Writing Contest)
We took the 3 train into the city, and for the duration of the trip my brother kicked his legs back and forth and rambled on about wrestling. “The Undertaker, he destroyed Vince. He was gonna - gonna facebuster him - but then, he hit him with the gutwrench superplex.”
While he talked, I read the advertisements on the subway walls. When he went silent, catching his breath or running out of things to say, I asked him another question to keep him going. “So what is your wrestling name going to be?”
“Facebust Feinstein. Or Michal the Murderer. Or the Hopping Hebrew.” He jumped up on the subway seats and hopped around to show himself off. “My signature move is gonna be...” and he threw his fists out and kicked into the aisle. When he kicked, the fringes attached to his undershirt came loose and I grabbed one to pull him back down.
“Don’t stand up.”
“Can we stop in the WWE superstore in Manhattan?”
“Sure. But we can’t get anything.”
Clearly when I wrote last night that I'd be updating later that night, I lied. Not maliciously, but the callousness of fate led me away from this blog and into an early evening slumber. Too much Indian food weighed heavily upon me, and I needed to close my eyes for only a few minutes - just to relax my head. Yet no sooner had my face hit my delicate pillow then my soul suspended over my body - kabbalists say that sleep is 1/80 of death - and thus I slept. Which is to say, in simpler language, I didn't come back to the blog, I didn't write about Miles Davis's evocative Live-Evil.
"Live-Evil." Without the dash, it would be a declarative - a command. "Live, Evil!" he might be demanding, and from the tone of some of the songs ("Little Church," "Selim.") I'm not entirely sure that isn't
what is happening. He's rousing something from sleep. I'm not sure it's evil, though. It may just be the surreal, or mystical forces and cosmic vibrations (last week was the tenth anniversary of Allen Ginsberg's death) that Davis is rousing forward. Certainly, he is evoking something, bringing forth something, calling attention to some other-worldly or non-human force. This isn't music that human beings make! It's haunting, snippets of humanity slipping in through breaks in the narrative - touches of flesh in a fog of smoke. This is music best described through imagery, not through description!
Look at that cover alone - the swollen (pregnant?) belly. The lady pyramid in the lower left side - is that a river of a headdress spilling off her head? Or the woman/snake/wave/cloth waving throughout the right-hand side. The bizarre symbols in the background. Is this album witchcraft? Is it meant to confound or lure the listener?
Obviously, the album is not called "Live, Evil." It's called "Live-Evil" and that's because it's a double-album. Yet for all my listening, I can't point out whether that changes the perfect match of the two albums. They seem to compliment each other beautifully. And when they don't, it's not because of the albums, but because the songs themselves are disjointed. Case in point: "Little Church" which starts out with a whistling sound - piercing loudly while what sounds like random piano keys are played dimly behind it. Yet fifteen seconds in, a hideous, horrible, angry screech diverts the listener's attention. It holds your attention for a few seconds and then starts to dim... into the whistling sound you heard in the beginning. Even this is a brilliant feat though. Because you are used to the first sound, when the interruption comes, you're obviously biased against the interrupted. But when the interruption is illuminated to be the one and same sound you first identified with, it completely manipulates your listening. You don't know what to trust anymore, or whether any sound you're hearing deserves prejudice over another. Something similar happens a minute and a half in, but instead of horrifying you, like the first sound, you're already accustomed to this trick. And so a sound that would normally startle you (like if it happened in the first seconds) seems rote and normal.
That's the story of "Live-Evil." It tricks you into accepted the otherworldly and the obscure and the rare and surreal. It doesn't make you think those things are normal - it merely blends them into the normal so that you dare not question them. After all, the interruptions are still audible - you just don't bother to respond. Are those chickens in the beginning of "Medley: Gemini / Double Image" or merely the approximation of chickens? I'd rather not ask. I feel like it'd break the spell.
Last week the Village Voice printed my review of the Reel Big Fish / Zolof the Rock N Roll Destroyer album, Duet All Night Long:
Since no one is paying attention, Duet has the freedom to experiment, such as on a version of Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch." What does it feel like when a ska band covers a ska band? Like staring into parallel funhouse mirrors.
Read the whole review here
Going out to dinner. Will update later tonight.
Sun, Mar. 18th, 2007, 04:43 am
I went with my heart and choose Villanova to go (almost) all the way. Truthfully, a moment of self-control took over and I picked Georgetown over Villanova. Though my heart ached - because I'm a 3rd generation Philadelphia (Ukranian Jewish immigrants tended to accumulate in Philadelphia as opposed to the Polish/German immigrants in New York) and my mother attended St. Josephine's for a brief few semesters. So picking another PA parochial school seemed like a way to pledge myself.
As it goes, despite picking 50% of the first round East games wrong, my Regionals are all ironically in good shape (perfect shape if Texas beats USC). My Midwest lost Notre Dame - which kills my final four, and so that's out. My South is ugly as hell, which is the flipside irony of my East games. Because my first round picks for the South were spot-on gorgeous. It's only now that the flaws begin to emerge.
Finally, sad-sad-West. I'm sure everyone's brackets took blows with Duke and Gonzaga losing (except those who are hardliners when it comes to hating teams. I once bet against the Eagles, because I was sure they'd lose to Minnesota - this is years ago. They ended up losing, but I couldn't forgive myself. So I understand the hardliner-hatred mindset. It's just hard for me to give myself up to it). But not only did I literally get 50% of the games wrong (including aforementioned Duke + Gonzaga) but my pick for the semi-finals was Villanova. Sad, pathetic, glorious, painful Villanova. Which means that half my top four didn't place anywhere near that (Notre Dame + Villanova) and my bracket is officially DOA.
Last week I placed in the top 10 on the Rolling Stone contest again. Next week is the final week, and then they pick the Grand Prize (a gig writing for RS). I assume I've got a 1 in 10 chance. So I'm crossing my fingers, and whatnot. The upcoming week's contest is writing about a local business and their relationship to the environment. I picked Yeshiva University, and listened to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On
, while I did research on my college's spotty relationship to the environment. The only bright point are student activists, which is how I spinned my Rolling Stone piece. I have no idea if I'll place again, but I feel like I really put the effort into this contest in general and I'm hopeful about the final results. Working for Rolling Stone is a dreamjob, and even if they don't pick me for this, I submitted an application for a summer internship. So maybe I'll be there through different means.
I don't know if it's that What's Going On
sounds political conscious, specifically environmentally conscious, or just sexually conscious and I've been brainwashed to believe there's a connection between sex and social activism. Anyway, the music put me in the proper groove for outraged social commentator. Here's hoping my University doesn't throw me out after reading the piece (if they end up posting it). It won't be the first time I pissed off Yeshiva University. The lyrics themselves lend themselves to a passionate shifting of the times. But unlike Dylan's "The Times Are A'Changin'," and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," Gaye's words seem far more passive - or at least more like wide-opened excitement. "What's Going On," isn't as blunt, but it's far more seductive. It's like the music itself can convince you to join the movement. "Drink some understanding here today," could be as easily be an invitation to sit down and get drunk (Happy St. Patrick's day!).
And "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" is essentially about our destructive attitudes toward the environment. "Where did all the blue skies go? / Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east." "Oil wasted on the Oceans and upon the seas / Fish full of mercury." "Radiation under ground and in the sky / Animals and birds who live nearby are dying."
So it's one of those serendipitous moments in this project - when my real life writing coincides with an album. I remember during the 2004 election, there were websites where liberals would sleep with you if you didn't vote for George W. Bush. Obviously they got their idea from Marvin Gaye. If you can make saving the environment sound sexy, you might be able to affect some positive changes.
Wish me luck in the contest! If I don't place, I'll post the piece here. Also, once the contest is all over, I'll post all the pieces from the contest (or links to them). Since I have actually entered in every single one.
Well, I turn off my computer for 24 hours because of the Sabbath and my comments go to hell. For awhile, I've wanted to follow in a number of respected blogs, and refused to delete posts. But I don't see how tolerating conspiracy theorists and religious nuts are going to improve the quality of a music blog.
One bonus to this unexpected gluttony of posts: I thought I'd have a hard time proving to my readership that Sex Pistol-deniers and Ramones-deniers exist. I mean, it sounds outrageous to believe that the Sex Pistols were a boy band. Yet these people exist, and are apparently attracted to the same threads as conspiracy nuts. So there ya go, anyone from Idolator or ILX that made their way here. There are actually people who believe this stuff. For some reason, The Clash have escaped being painted by the same revisionist brush. (Ironic how music revisionism and political/racial revision use so much of the same jargon.)
Anyway, here's the rule for anyone joining this blog: No racial/sexual/etc hate or I delete your post. Otherwise, you can state your opinion and freely expect courtesy and intelligent discourse over what you believe. I'd rather not have to switch blog services to one that provides an IP blocker. But if I start spending more time deleting posts than reading them, that's what I'll do.
And I'll do my album music post later tonight... after I see how much my NCAA bracket has been decimated.