April 30, 2002

R.I.P. Lester Bangs, who died 20 years ago today. I raise my Boy Howdy in tribute.


1) What of the self-interview as a literary form?
Old hat.

2) You've said that you seek out bloggers that bypass the usual garden of solipsisms and self-indulgences; what's your explanation for the fetid mulch bore deep into your own particular garden?
I have a better vocabulary.

April 29, 2002

I'm up, watching movies on Sundance. First time I turn on my TV in a week, and they're showing Sid and Nancy and The Virgin Suicides back to back.

Sid and Nancy's not much more than a fun little punk-rock cartoon -- I hadn't seen it in a couple years, and I liked it better this time than last time. Suicides tears me apart every time I watch it. I remember the first time I saw it, out in Portland on a chilly spring night, and afterwards I just walked around downtown, past all those closed SW office buildings, lunch places, and department stores, cold wind bouncing off the stone monuments and fountains, lamp light providing a frightening flourescent artifice to the empty streets. Air hissing, leaves rustling. I wanted to kill myself... I always think about that in tandem with my memories of Suicides, never just the creepy beauty of those lovely, well-behaved midwestern Christian girls and their drab fortress of grey walls and dying trees, never just the gorgeous opiate of balloons, homecoming tiaras, peach schnapps, "Strange Magic," "I'm Not in Love," "Come Sail Away," secret kisses hidden behind the sparkling tinsel drapery hanging like kudzu down the foundations of the bleachers. There's a beat, one certain beat, towards the end, that makes me cry, always. No exception this time; I was a wreck and I still am. I'll be thinking about death a lot today.

April 28, 2002

Cristal Oro made me drunk and tired. I'm less drunk and less tired now.

The main event in my music life: I'm going to see the almighty Motorhead (umlauts implied) on the 30th! This is my first major major rock show since about 1999, when I saw Hole at Roseland. I've never been to "the World" (the name of the WWF entertainment complex in Times Square); I dunno if it's arena-sized or what. I haven't been to a fuckin' ARENA show since the early '90s!

I've been thinking about Fatboy Slim. I'm not all that familiar with the guy's work, but it seems like his brand of techno-muzak exists only to furnish cool video directors like Spike Jonze and Roman Coppola with a soundtrack. "Weapon of Choice" may have been 2001's best rock video (Christopher Walken, with business suit and briefcase, gliding Astaire-style-and-then-some through a swanky hotel), but damn the torpedoes if I can remember a single second of that song.

I just got back from a big Indian buffet lunch in Jackson Heights, Queens. Jackson Heights is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods anywhere on earth, and their Key Food is definitely representative of this. I looked at the beer aisle -- beers from the Czech Republic, Mexico, Central and South America, Germany, Ireland, India, Poland, Jamaica, Italy. Really nice selection of imports for a crappy local supermarket. I picked up a six-pack of Colombian beer (Cristal Oro, I think it's called).

Fivethirtyish on a Sunday morning, and it's too late for sleep, too early for much of anything else. Mindlessly strumming Velvets songs and whispering some lyrics grabbed from the 'net. "I'm Set Free." "Candy Says." "Heroin." "Femme Fatale." "Sunday Morning."

Partway through "Sunday Morning" (maybe around the "early dawning" line), I make a braincheck of the weekday and time. No sun yet; it's raining, in fact. But if you crane your neck to peek out my sliver of visible window behind the blinds, you might see a haircrack of dawn leaking through. "Sunday Morning" does indeed sound gorgeous right now -- a half-assed confessional mumbled at the end of a long, raucous Saturday night, or at the beginning of a new morning, when some shitcar down in the street wakes you up with its bleating alarm and you're too tired to crawl out on the fire escape and throw your toaster through the guy's window. Here it's just rain on the air conditioner, rain on everyone's air conditioner, rain that actually sounds like sheets (you know, when they talk about "sheets of rain"?), like long, thin slabs of sheet metal being shaken in the wind. Watch out, the world's behind you.

Least Consequential Singles of 1961

1) "Your Shiny Tailfins (Got Nothin' on Mine)" by The Knick Knacks

2) "Your Shiny Tailfins (Got Nothin' on Mine)" by The Original Knick Knacks (cover of the Knick Knacks song)

3) "She Says It's Not Mine (The Hooba Looba Song)" by The Four Klansmen

4) "(Everbody's Doin') The Foolish Chinchilla" by Bobby and The Boxcutters

5) "Czar of the Negro Underworld" by Brother Julep (spoken-word, recorded live at Gimpy's Folk Tonguebath, MacDougal St., NYC)

6) "Just a Closer Drive to Thee" by Sister Poinsetta Geranium and the First Official Gospel Jubilee of the Son of God

7) "Waiting For Marriage (It's Hard)" by Boff Nimbly

8) "He Grabbed My Throat (And It Felt Like Shit)" by Sadie and The Maso-Lettes

9) "That Horse Kept On Ridin'" by Gun Dickerley

10) "Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhh" by Twisti Froot

April 27, 2002

Happy Saturday. I've eaten nothing, done nothing, gone nowhere, and spent the last, oh, six hours nipping and tucking away at this style sheet and fooling around in PhotoStudio. You fuckers better appreciate this!

Ah yes... latest peeve: that Zach person. Who is he? How many times did he have to sleep with Janeane Garofalo to get his own show? How many Tom Green joke-writers did he have to bribe to get material for his monologues? And for all his yabber about his "family" being a "freakshow" (or vice-versa -- I forget), what's so oddville about trading dick humor with Carmen Electra and Tommy Lee? Bill's right; bring back the old music variety-show format. Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. The Midnight Special. Like that.

April 26, 2002

For lack of any news (regarding me -- if your curiosities lean more towards yesterday's explosion in Chelsea or Dubya's meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince, turn to your preferred talking head), this post will simply be an ordered list of the CDs I have sitting beside me in a crate.

Hanoi Rocks, All Those Wasted Years / Live At the Marquee

Flipper, Generic

Devo, RecomboDNA

Bruce Haack, Electric Lucifer, Book 2

Negativland, Over the Edge Vol. 7: Time Zones Exchange Project

Komputer, The World of Tomorrow

The Jam, Sound Affects

Soundgarden, Superunknown

Conway Twitty / Merle Haggard, K-TEL's Back-to-Back

Labelle, Chameleon

Ike and Tina Turner, Nutbush City Limits

Donovan, Barabajagal

Dump, I Can Hear Music

Nicky Hopkins, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer

Diamanda Galas and John Paul Jones, The Sporting Life

William Hooker, Radiation

Two Dollar Guitar, Weak Beats and Lame-Ass Rhymes

Rickie Lee Jones, Rickie Lee Jones

John Cale, Paris 1919

Lords of the New Church, Lords of the New Church

April 24, 2002

New purchases: Radio 4's Gotham and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's B.R.M.C..

Radio 4 would be very good if they'd ditch their vocalist, who sounds like Iggy Pop as filtered through some retarded Spuds Mackenzie fratboy party-rock equalizer. It's a shame, because I like their instrumentation -- they rip off two of my favorite bands, Gang of Four and Public Image Limited. Highly danceable dub-punk, and there's even a Gang-like harmonica towards the end, but I can't get past that fucker's voice. Screw it, I'll listen to Entertainment.

I'm listening to BRMC now, and I like that much more. Jesus & Mary Chain meets Ultra Vivid Scene: a nice return to late '80s/early '90s "college rock" (i.e. "new music"; "progressive"; "alternative") (the kind they used to play on WDRE).

Ocular mayhem has never been so lovable:

Still ill. It's these goddamn spring allergies. They're making my eyes puff up like I've been abusing the chronic! Oh, this is most foul. And last night I was curled up on the sofa, drowsy as hell from my cough medicine, when someone from my college alumni organization called me. It was just some kid, probably on work study, so I decided to be polite. I waited patiently through her spiel and answered all of her questions, apologizing for all the phlegm I was hacking up while she talked. I even felt bad when I told her I couldn't really donate anything right now. I was too sick and tired to be mean to anyone.

Even now, I need to go out, and getting ready seems like a task requiring Herculean strength.

I had a dream I was hanging around some abandoned L.A. projects with a teenage Darby Crash and his hoodie friends. We got the shit beat out of us by a bunch of troublemaking jarheads, and when we decided to leave, we noticed that a couple of the jarheads had set to wreaking havoc on one of our cars. We sucked it up and took another car. Teenage dipshits that we were, we thought it would be fun to drive backwards on the freeway. This was loads of fun until we bumped into a huge milk truck and the driver forced us off the freeway at gunpoint, threatening to break all our teeth and making us hand over every last dollar we had so he wouldn't report us. No one seemed to have any money, but I gave the guy ten bucks.

That was the first part. Second part had a friend and I walking through Brighton Beach and Coney Island (where I spent my formative years, home- and school-wise). Brighton Beach Ave. was still a low-rent dump. Aliza and I went to a bodega (an Indian-owned one; here they just call 'em "candy stores") and bought sodas. I had been talking in a fake British accent. Then a real Brit overheard and joined in our conversation, asking questions about obscure '80s English musicians, trying to make me look foolish. To his surprise and chagrin, I'd heard of all of them. My accent was bloody awful, though.

We all got on a school bus together. The driver had a public-address system and was singing Belle & Sebastian songs over a backing track. I hovered out the half-open window and marveled at how much Coney Island had changed -- it looked like Las Vegas, with white palaces and chandeliers, hotels and catering halls. Very glitzy. I exited the bus a stop before my usual one, and walked into an empty field not unlike the vacant lot in the Bronx's Co-op City (which used to be an historical theme park called Freedomland... supposedly if you walk out far enough you can still see decaying remnants of the old park).

That's all I remember, other than that the dream began practically the same way, in a field of weeds leading up to those projects. The dream began not with Darby but with a late '60s Laura Nyro "video" shoot -- a tiny camera crew and a black-clad Andy Warhol. During the shoot, Warhol contorted himself into a pretzel shape on the floor of a small corridor, while Nyro was filmed walking up staircases wearing a white summer dress. They all left the scene, surrounded by disinterested construction workers and young, filthy children... enter Darby and friends. Black and white turns to color.

April 22, 2002

The rain on the courtyard awning, the opaque tv rattle from the living room, sanitation squeaks, keystrokes, that six a.m. twilight space that dares and taunts the eyes one way or another, a wishy-washy bully directing traffic at the crossroads of consciousness and un-. Should be a great time to be out, meditative, breeze in my ears, moths, mosquitoes, dogs, green-painted benches with morning moisture waiting for the wipe-off. Coffee brewing and burning -- every bagel-kneader, hash-slinger, cigarette-peddler, donut man. Still dressed from yesterday, looking faintly around, taking stock of the greyscale inertia and the implied madhouse of looming obligations. The noise builds as the minutes push through the rotation.

April 21, 2002

Well, now, let's see. I played guitar ('til my fingers bled? Not exactly, Bryan, but I did get an ingrown nail a few days ago; thanks for asking), some of the more well-known punk tunes stored up in my mental cache: "Sheena," "Beat on the Brat," "Pretty Vacant," "Damaged Goods," and because I ended up on an Amin7 at some point, "Sister Morphine." (What the hell is more punk than "I'm tryin'-a score"?) I think "Smash it Up Part 1" was also in there -- two seconds of it. All your favorite Library-jukebox classics. For good measure, I'll probably work on the "Now it's 1984" part of "California Uber Alles" before I go to bed.

I'm sure this is all very exciting to you, "the reader," "the American public." So...

I added two new blog links to the "Miscellany" section: Texting: Urban Depressive Signals and Crimes Against Film. If you like what I do, you'll flip over these cats.

I saw Debbie Harry and Chris Stein on a Bravo show called Musicians. It's kinda like Charlie Rose meets Sessions at West 54th -- part "intimate interview" (David "Do I Look Like a Rock Critic or WHAT?!" Wild is the host) and part "intimate performance" (Stein and a session guy on acoustic guitars, Debbie on vox). They did some old songs, some new songs, and waxed philosophical about the good old days.

Debbie looks fantastic; I think she lost a little weight and maybe got some Botox, cuz she seems to have taken years off her face. Also, she's bombshell blonde again. :)

Her voice? Drop-dead gorgeous, as always. Makes my heart melt. And that Jersey accent... ooooh.

Chris Stein looks really good too; he's aging gracefully into that "mellow, greying beatnik with a Brooklyn accent" persona; naturally, he was wearing all black.

I'm in love with both of them.

But where was Jimmy Destri? I've long considered him Blondie's unsung genius; he was the other major songwriting contributor in the band, and was responsible for that signature Farfisa sound on songs like "Dreaming" -- in their prime, they were capable of generating pure ecstasy.

It's nice to see Blondie finally being taken seriously as a musical force (instead of "Hey, Debbie Harry, a woman in a band, how novel!" or "She inspired Madonna!!"). Debbie deserves heaps o' credit for not just being a hot chick in a rock band, but for being one of the great rock vocalists. So much personality. So much charisma. Grace, intelligence, poise, sarcasm, bittersweet emotion, flirtation -- all in the turn of a phrase. And the clarity of her voice -- oh, it can be rough, and it can be breathlessly sweet, but my god, she controls it so well. Like Ella Fitzgerald, her voice is a cruel mistress.

April 19, 2002

I can be very fatalistic. I always anticipate the worst, and when I anticipate the best, the worst always happens. Lou Reed says you need a busload of faith to get by, but so far I've gotten by on hopelessness. (Jules Shear says "The best thing about true hopelessness is that you don't have to try again.") This is without fail.

On September 10 of last year, I started a bartending course. It was, it seemed, the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Jody Beth Rosen. I was full of hope, dreams, ambition, all bright eyes and bushy tails. Finally, I was gonna make something of myself.

On September 11 -- well, you see where this is going. As I watched the streets fill with smoke, ash, and debris, and smelled the waft of burning flesh blowing in on the autumn breeze from across the river, I thought "Well, this fuckin' figures!"

I stayed with the class, but my heart wasn't in it. I slumped back into that old reliable depression, just stunned by the outrageousness and grand mal tragedy of what was going on. I didn't know whether to be happy the world was ending ('bout fucking time!) or to give a great big golden shower to the ones who were trying to end it.

And there was a Dylan album released that day. That's symbolic -- but not in the way you'd think. No, he's not a prophet, or a spokesperson for any higher authority. What it is symbolic of is that we were given a chance to fall in love with Bob all over again -- here he's put out his best record in about 10 years, and that should be a big deal, a really big deal (the Village Voice thought so, but these are rock critics, geeks like me, not real people). I liked the Dylan record. The music was a little flat (better than that beer-commercial Lanois bollocks), but the lyrics were exquisitely wrought jokes, puns, come-ons, poemlets, playlets -- this is the old Bob, the good Bob. It's too late in the game to expect a classic from Zimmy, but it's miraculous he can follow up a piece of cornspew like "To Make You Feel My Love" with anything as decent as what's on Love and Theft.

Luckily, most of the reviews were in the can by the time 9/11 rolled around, so we didn't have to hear about Bob's "apocalyptic" symbolism until the end-of-year polls.

But you see, Bob's not the prophet. I am. I predict doom, doom, doom. And if I'm wrong, I'll boil and eat my shoe and Les Blank can film it.

Posted a few weeks ago:

News item number two: I'm hoping to get a tattoo!

This never happened... the money didn't materialize in time for me to get it that weekend, and my plans got screwed up, and, well, all sorts of stupid excuses. I still want one. I also want to travel. I've never regretted traveling. I've never gotten a tattoo, so I have no idea whether or not I'd regret that. But that's as good a reason as any to get one: so I can find out!

It's all a pipe dream, anyhow. Things I wanna do while I'm young and stupid. I turn 26 this year, but I'm still 25, and I'm NOT OVER THE HILL YET!

This is gonna be my best and most important summer since I was 17. You fucking watch.

April 15, 2002

If yer interested in this so-called "New York Rock" phenomenon, the best band of the bunch is the Liars (just "Liars"? I've heard both) from Brooklyn. I've been into these guys for just over a year, and I saw one of their very first shows, at Brownies in NYC.

Their album's called They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, and they're getting all the right comparisons from the cool patrol: Gang of Four, The Fall, The Birthday Party, Swell Maps, even newcomers Radio 4.

The world needs good rock. Read up on the Liars, buy their record, go to their show... supporting underground music is your civic duty!

I'm not static, baby! I'm dynamic! I'm powered by Blogger!

Monday morning and I've got my little list of Things to Do ("gotta stay on top of my life," as the Kids in the Hall's Kevin McDonald once intoned, crossing off his completed tasks).

April 14, 2002

Now playing: The Slits' Cut. I've really underrated this record in the past. It's truckloads of fun!

From my review, written, oh, way back:

Cut (along with albums by bands like Public Image Limited, Gang of Four, XTC, and The Clash) is now considered an important part of the history and development of the punk-dub hybridization as a fairly prominent style of late-'70s English youth culture. On the American front, Cleveland band Pere Ubu also dabbled in the subgenre, on Dub Housing and other early (post-Peter Laughner) releases. To me, the best "punk" bands have been the ones who tried to push the musical style beyond its boundaries. The most punk thing about The Slits was the creativity they employed in spite of their inability to, as the old saw goes, "play the way the pros play." And their look—slutty, vaguely gnome-like Shakespearean cauldron-stirrers on a St. Vincent de Paul thieving spree—seemed to pave the way for '80s thrift-store tarts like Bananarama and Danceteria-era Madonna. Lesser all- or mostly-female bands without proper training might have been satisfied just to make a point of their sucking. After all, wasn't that what the early '90s Riot Grrrl movement gave us—chick bands content merely to be up there doing it? The Slits' talent was always bubbling under, and once they picked up their instruments, these ladies were able to express the innovative sounds swimming around in their weird little heads.

April 13, 2002

Exhaustion. Dehydration. Phantom hangovers.

Phantom? When you've hardly had anything to drink but the suggestion that the next day should bring illness actually brings on a headache and nausea. This was last night at the Knitting Factory, where I sweated uncomfortably through a Giant Sand set. I do like Howe Gelb, even if he's an easy performer to take for granted -- the way I take David Berman, Mark Kozelek, and Mark Eitzel for granted (and they all sorta sound like Gelb, that slack older-guy, the educated world-weary post-beatnik with a wounded heart).

Today I just feel like I'm wandering through sinewy humidity particles, lost and dazed between the post office and the pizzeria, and down the Promenade. The beams of light at Ground Zero shoot up into an artificial moon, a blurry birthmark splotch on a darkening sky. Winter is over; the way one week melts into the next isn't the easy comfort of a new season, it's that awful clarity of a dream that sputters to a close, not jolting you awake but depositing you in the doorway of the sentient.

April 11, 2002

6:44 a.m. and I'm crashing in slo-mo. Coming off an upper high but not tired enough to faint. I have to "get up" in an hour anyhow. What's the point of sleep?

Go back to Freezing number one. OK? Now ask me what I did last night.

I drank a Red Bull in Williamsburg.

Shit, no, god, I did more than THAT. I went to a club called Galapagos. Saw two bands. Liked 'em. Galapagos I approve of. It's arty and conceptual but you don't feel like you're walking into an advertisement for a lifestyle. No, it's dimly lit. Candles. Spacious -- an old garage, maybe. A (black?) reflecting pool with the subtlest island accoutrements. "Galapagos" for Brooklyn hepcats.


The Martinets: Aging Shimmy-Disc'ers playing NYC '77 redux, and they're good! Aliza says "yeah, but not dangerous" and she's right, but at least these guys were there -- they're at least 40. Or 38. Old enough to be cognizant of the first wave.

Dr. Mom: Aging Shimmy-Disc'ers (including Ann Magnuson), playing Bongwater tunes, covers, and a sprinkling of new songs. Old Ann is funnier and cooler than Old Patti. Old Ann is funnier and cooler than Young Ann! Plus, she's starting to resemble Irma La Douce-era Shirley Maclaine, which... yum.