August 31, 2002

W/R/T Axl: People are taking a lot of pleasure in talking about how bad the G 'n' R performance was. It wasn't so bad. Axl can't hit the high notes like he used to, and that's unfortunate, cuz that was his ace in the hole. But the new song he did -- the snippet in between "Jungle" and "Paradise City" -- sounded lovely. It'd be nice if Axl could grow old gracefully and stop trying to be something he was 13 years ago; he's got a good voice when he's not being Cornholio, and he should make the most of that. Not everyone can be Roger Daltrey or Steven Tyler -- at age 40, Axl is much younger than either of those guys, and he doesn't have to spend the rest of his life being a karaoke singer.

The new band wasn't half-bad, but I have reservations about calling them "Guns 'n' Roses" -- that's like having a stepfather insist that you address him as "dad." It's just weird looking up at the stage, seeing Axl, and NOT seeing Slash, Izzy, and Duff. I never thought of it as singluarly Axl's band, so that whole Axl-plus-rotating-lineup conceit doesn't feel right to me, plus it's unfair to the other members of the original group.

He seemed extremely lucid and articulate in the post-show interview with Kurt Loder, so I can't buy into the myth that he's spent the last decade in a Brian Wilsonesque schizotropic haze. I wonder what he has been doing, besides working on Chinese Democracy.

The breakthrough moment finally came: OH MY GOD THE HIVES ARE GREAT LIVE. For a few minutes, my hipster defenses were down. Now they're back up, and the best I can do is "Fine, I'm convinced. That doesn't mean I have to listen to 'em." All this means is that the next time I'm at a bar and the band's name comes up, I won't smirk.

W/R/T Pink (and I've said this before): I'll give you "Get This Party Started," but IT FUCKING ASTOUNDS ME how much people overrate this woman's talent. OK... so now instead of being a teenybop/hip-hop chica, she sings about popping pills and uses the word "bitch." And it's not that Pink doesn't strike me as particularly rebellious (authenticity -- I mean, eh, whatever), it's that I think people are having trouble differentiating attitude and musical worth. What is it about "Just Like a Pill" that people like so much, aside from the novelty factor of a Disneylicious pop star pretending to be Marianne Faithfull (or, more likely, Courtney Love)? It can't be the song itself, which is fairly rote Top 40, blandly produced and not that well-written.

On to the show, then:

Shouldn't Little Steven get his own microphone by now?

Awright. Watching the rerun of the VMA pre-show. It's so insipid I'm pretty much numb to its stupidity -- I can't expect any better, and there's no disappointment. Christina Aguilera talked about her forthcoming album, Stripped ("No, no, it sounds like a sexual connotation but it's not, it's really about me as a person, and stripping stuff away to, um, get to the, um, personal stuff inside") (uh huh, and that's what Jennifer Love Hewitt's "Barenaked" is about). There was some embarrassing footinmouthspeak about Springsteen The Hardworking Post-9/11 American Hero. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. And yet I can't turn it off.

Kelly Osbourne was cute -- wearing a "My Boyfriend is Out of Town" t-shirt and revealing that she had no idea who was performing and didn't care very much.

Yes, new design, and reimplementation of the comments. Be forewarned, though (and I feel guilty as hell for coming off like a passive-aggressive schoolmarm here): Any comments that are creepy, psychotic, or otherwise out of line WILL BE DELETED, and remember that I have the power to ban you. That's just the way it goes -- cry foul if you want, but this is my blog and the reason I pulled the YACCS code down before is because a couple of comments scared the fuck out of me.

I don't wanna have to pull this shit down again, so play nice, kids.

August 30, 2002

Jeez, today is my day for The Band. After making some tossed off comment about how I'd like to see Mike Watt do a song-by-song cover of The Basement Tapes, I dug out my old cassette of that alb and popped it into the stereo. GREAT stuff. Tonight, I turn on the teevee and see that The Last Waltz is on. Now playing: Dr. John, "Secccccchhhhhhhh a niiiiiyeeeeeeeet." (Oy, such a night.)

August 29, 2002

A few days ago I downloaded Lifter Puller's "To Live and Die in LBI" from my funky friend Neight, and GODDAMN if I haven't been firing that shit up every time I open my mp3 folder. The song mentions two places that are near and dear to my heart -- Brooklyn Heights (where I live) and New Jersey (where I've spent a lotta time). I guess the "LBI" in question is Long Beach Island, and it surprises me that a bunch of Minnesota boys would namecheck a locale that's virtually unheard of outside of NJ beach-culture. Weird-ass song; the riff says Steppenwolf, and the chorus says Jonathan Fire*Eater. You wouldn't think that would work, but hey, they all laughed at Christopher Columbus.

Now playing: Karlheinz Stockhausen's Studie I (1952), composed entirely with sine waves and cited as the first piece of music constructed with nothing but artificial sound. It's surprisingly pretty -- it actually sounds kinda like an old, warped record of steeple bells ringing out across a '50s sci-fi martian village. And yet... even eerier than Joe Meek's most brain-damaged moment.

I don't know Marty Brown even though he writes for CultureDose (which I'll forgive him for) and we have a few mutual acquaintances. But his blog looks good, and this post is me reminding myself to add it to the links section.

New York Press has a decent, if somewhat cloyingly fannish, review of the new Cometbus omnibus. Reviewer John Marr seems to have a phobia of anything "pretentious" -- not realizing that anyone who has the audacity to put out a zine in the first place has an interest in cultivating a public persona (which Aaron Cometbus certainly has) and is probably in some cosmic way full of shit ("With a really great band -- it’s the soundtrack to people’s lives. And that’s what I want to do with writing. You want to have it the soundtrack to their life," sez Aaron, channeling Cameron Crowe). (Listen, I adore Cometbus -- I'm just being a pain in the ass.)

August 28, 2002

Listened to some of the new Sleater-Kinney tonight, and I was... I was... I don't wanna say underwhelmed, because I had my doubts whether it'd be good. (All Hands on the Bad One had as many bad moments as it had good moments; Corin's shrill, postmodern-indie-sexpot voice and self-consciously RAWK lyrics were responsible for many of the bad moments.)

As always, I like the guitar work, and now it sounds like the further they get from the early '90s and all those implications, the more Carrie and Corin sound like real guitarists and not just dilletantish hobbyists with a few Au Pairs records. No, now they're more or less Erase Errata with a secret stash of stoner rock.

The songwriting's still pretty collegiate -- ya know, I love dumbassed garage rock (the sixties kind), but the whoa-whoa-ohs here, as referenced and irony-tinged as I'm supposed to believe they are, still sound idiotic coming out of Corin's mouth. The vibe I get is LOOK HOW MUCH I ROCK GODDAMN IT I SAID LOOK AT ME! LOOK!!!!!!!

If only S-K could write a nugget as good as "My Friend Jack (Eats Sugar Lumps)." Doesn't even particularly rock, but it's totally ace.

August 27, 2002

It's Tuesday the 27th of August, and that means there's a new SSCB up for yer perusal. It's a solid issue, and I'd like to welcome Matthew Fluxblog to the team.

August 26, 2002

Frozen Rothko Sky wants to be my friend.

Today's musical godsend: "Legionaire" by Altered Images. It's a near-instrumental; it's like the bedsit-minimal, rifles-cocked-ness of Wire's Pink Flag mixed with a slower, cleaner take on Husker Du's Zen Arcade.

Actually, it's probably a pretty left-field comparison, comparing New York noise to Scottish pop-wave, but it seems like Sonic Youth's dissonant, flange-heavy mid-'80s guitar sound can be traced back to certain early Altered Images songs (er, "Dead Pop Stars" as lost EVOL outtake?).

Met up with this guy last night. He didn't intimidate me as much as I think he thinks he did. No, I kid, I kid... you know how sometimes you say "Hey, I bet I'd enjoy having a pint with that fellow"? Michaelangelo Matos is a good guy to get a pint with. I had three, in fact -- I wonder if each pint consumed incrementally increases a person's drinking-buddy worth. There was food too -- even better.

August 24, 2002

I know it's kinda Starbucks to talk about "great rainy-day records," but I'm listening to a bootleg of a Cat Power show from Paris ("4 mai 02 cafe de la danse les femmes s'en melent"), and it's one of the most beautiful, aching, soul-stirring, haunting, etc. etc. etc. etc. EVER. Perfect for sitting in the near-dark of a late-Aug. first-floor apt. with the raindrops smacking the a/c like the sudden death of a poisoned pigeon. Her records come so close to being like this.

Google referral of the day: "List of good industrial bands without Cookie Monster voice."

August 23, 2002

I'm in a weird mood. I woke up to someone making some kinda repetitive thumping noise (not a sex noise, more like a basketball being dribbled NONSTOP) in a neighboring apartment, and when I went to check my Hotmail, I found that someone had flooded my account by signing me up for a few dozen newsletters without my permission. Thanks a lot, asshole.

Pardon me while I cross the "this is only a music blog" line and complain for a minute about my life. Depression, misanthropy, confusion, an increasing lack of faith in humanity (there probably is a difference between "increasing lack of faith" and full-on "misanthropy")... I've never needed a beer more than I need one right now. Is 3:04 too early to start drinking?

August 22, 2002

Music I’ve been loving lately:

Boom Selection CDs
An overwhelming amount of music, surely more than any box set I’ve ever owned, but I’ve got the rest of my life to listen and let it sink in. Right now I’m loving the third disc, which has the wonderfully mashed-up “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/”Get UR Freak On” (it’s been years since I’ve had any passion for “Teen Spirit,” and the Missy song never did much for me, but Cobain and Elliot make a fine team), and Cartel Communique’s “Only Stan Can Break Your Heart” mostly succeeds at replacing Dido’s irritating Lifetime-network teasipperisms with the beauty of St. Etienne covering Neil Young. And OH MY GOD "Song 2 Smack My Bitch Up." It's EXUBERANT.

Fad Gadget – Gag
Robyn Hitchcock stylehopping toward a last-ditch electro cash-in? No, that’s the voice of the late Frank Tovey, on his band’s 1984 album. He and Hitchcock have a similar sarcasto-sneer (“I choke on the gag but I don’t get the joke,” Tovey snidely quips), but Tovey’s calling card was a sort of macabre, electronically tinged danceclubby postpunk (Joy Division? Art of Noise? Nick Cave?) that, like the Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight, manages to perfectly represent its place in history and find a comfortable position among 2002’s most time-specific records.

Queen of Japan, “I Was Made For Loving You”
More than just a novelty cover, “I Was Made” takes a disco-metal monstrosity and turns it into a sexy torch-ballad with a bittersweet low-alto croon. Koneko’s bitten-back, reserved, exhausted-woman-at-the-hotel-bar romanticism is a million stretch-limos away from Paul Stanley’s sweaty-balled, hairy-chested come-on.

Plastics, various tracks
Not Tracy and the Plastics, but rather the early ‘80s Japanese no wave/new wave band that appeared in Downtown 81. They’ve been called “the Japanese Devo” (cuz all American-sounding Japanese artists are “the Japanese _____”), and in fact the Plastics’ unlikely country/western undercurrent reminds me of the freakishly prefab ranch in the “Whip It” video. “Digital Watch” combines the arcade-game silliness of Devo’s “Snowball” (or “Jerkin’ Back and Forth”) with the slow-and-steady motorvatin’ groove of Neu!’s opening track, and adds to that an almost LiLiPUTian sense of playtime cheer.

August 20, 2002

I don't watch much television, but lately I've been watching a lot of MSNBC. No, it's not the most impartial, objective news source out there (if you have any negative stereotypes about the "liberal, Jew-run media," this network will do little to dispel them), but it appeals to a more intelligent class of people than the everything-bashing, stay-off-my-lawn Limbaugh-worshippers that comprise FOX News's viewership. Anyway, MSNBC editor-in-chief Jerry Nachman has his own show where he gets to sound off about the issues, and something he said recently regarding the Anna Nicole show's ratings really stuck with me.

He mentioned that Anna's show was the highest-rated program ever to air on the E! network, and then castigated his viewers for their hypocrisy: You're always complaining that there's no quality programming on TV, but when the ratings come in, it's the "quality" programs that are inevitably down at the bottom, and it's the sensationalist reality/tabloid trash that gets all the big numbers. We offer you the kind of programming you say you want, and you'd rather watch girls jiggling their breasts than listen to intelligent political commentary. So it's your fault.

I agree completely, and I'd even liken Bill O'Reilly's by-the-numbers jingoist/religious rhetoric to Anna's breasts -- it gets people sucked in even when they swear they're above that sort of thing. There's an article in the New York Times about Phil Donahue's declining ratings on MSNBC. Donahue's show is engaging, thought-provoking, and presents its host as one of the few voices of sanity in the frequently hotheaded "pundit" medium. But nobody watches. It's just not entertaining enough. Not like Connie Chung. Not enough celebrity profiles. Not enough of a shock factor.

So now there's the matter of Opie and Anthony's latest stunt on New York's WNEW-FM. For years now, Opie and Anthony's ratings have kept them above the law. They've been fined several times since their show began, and their various radio stations have happily forked over the money as "the cost of doing business." The duo's ratings are so high that stations will accept those FCC violations and fines as a way to keep getting eggs out of their financial golden goose. A little history about WNEW-FM: It started out in the '60s as one of New York's first FM stations, and it applied the college radio "freeform" format to a commercial outlet. Over the years, it developed a reputation for being one of the great rock radio stations, home to famous and influential DJs like Scott Muni, Allison Steele, and Vin Scelsa. In 1999, due to poor ratings and industry pressure, WNEW abandoned its music format and became a talk station. But Opie and Anthony's most recent prank may cost WNEW its operating license -- this is a big deal. The two hosts, who apparently make it a habit to ask couples to have sex in inappropriate places and then report it in a play-by-play, asked one couple to do it in St. Patrick's Cathedral, and they complied. I didn't hear the broadcast, but supposedly there was some Catholic-bashing as well. WNEW's highest-rated program advocates religious discrimination, and thinks it's cool to disrespect a house of worship (note: I'm not religious and I'm against the idea of worship, but if I'm gonna set foot in someone's house of prayer, I'm gonna try to act like a decent human being). Not only that, but it asks people to break the law (indecent exposure in a public place) for no other purpose than the amusement of the hosts and the listeners. And these assholes get away with it because of RATINGS, BABY. The people have spoken. This is what they want. Democracy's pretty cool, huh?

I want to defend this as "art," but there seems to be no artistic, ethical, or political intent here -- they're jackasses being encouraged (by WNEW, by Viacom, by Sumner Redstone) to act like jackasses and make a whole lotta other jackasses a whole lotta money.

The Opie and Anthony Show has been put into reruns indefinitely, and WNEW's program director has been fired. I would yank the reruns from the air too -- ratings be damned. I grew up listening to WNEW, even after it had passed its rock 'n' roll prime, and I was disappointed when it went over to the talk format. I considered that the end of an era, and all this is just symbolic of the horrible new era. Why do I feel like all this firing and stuff is just a formality, and it'll be business as usual within a few days? There's an awful lot of "investigation" going on regarding corporate scandals and other atrocities, and talk about the crass inhumanity of it all, but it feels phony to me, a temporary and false display of goodwill begrudgingly played up for the cameras like a fake orgasm. What's changing? Nothing. Entertainment is closer to pure pornography than it's ever been.

August 19, 2002

Dance party at my house! Here's the playlist.

One thing I wanna make clear: I'm consciously avoiding reading other people's "Best of 2002" lists until I've finalized my own. I'm all for reading reviews and recommendations, but I don't want to be influenced by any lists, and I'd like my own Top 10/20/30 to be as personal and self-selected as possible. That said, I'm not going to share my working list with you either -- I've got my reasons.

Really, despite ALL the records that are released every year, by majors, by indies, by regular folks with CD burners, it seems like the rock press always chooses the same 30 or 40 albums to praise at year's end. Is this because the rockcrit community (writers and readers) is so insular? Is it that they're only interested in what's being reviewed in Pitchfork and Neumu and (to a lesser extent) PopMatters, and because they don't listen to anything else, they can't review anything else, so the same goddamn bands end up on their sites/blogs too? Or is it fear of the unknown? I'm curious.

August 18, 2002

Another 2002 favorite, as I've been meaning to mention ever since I slagged Epitonic's description of the group, is Ladytron's new Light & Magic. What separates this from a lot of other electrosynth out right now is that it allows itself to move beyond mere danceability and celebration-of-technology, and become quite lush and meditative. I'd liken it to a cross between '80s Kraftwerk and maybe a less-innocent Young Marble Giants, or a less-funny/less-funky "Get Real Paid." Or maybe the circa-Crazy Rhythms Feelies with girls instead of guys and synths instead of guitars.

This one could actually withstand the test of time.

August 16, 2002

I'm probably not gonna go to tonight's Hot Snakes show, although I'd really like to -- they do one of the most songful Dead Boys/Radio Birdman/Gun Club approximations I've heard in a long while, and their new record's gonna be way the hell up in my top ten. But I think I'd rather stay home with my beloved air conditioner and try to get some writing done. Yes, on a Friday night.

August 15, 2002

E-mail I just got:


NEW YORK -- Imagine finding out that there's a million other people into the exact same music that you're into. Well now, you can imagine no more, because it's real. uses cutting-edge technology that lets you talk about Eric Clapton with a buddy in Tokyo, or find other concert goers for Madonna's next show in the Big Apple, or discuss Janet Jackson's latest album with a group of people from the south of France.

"It's pretty amazing what you can do," says founder and president, Jay Patel. "You never realize how many other people think the same way you do, and feel the same way you do about certain artists and singers. It's like finding a whole new world." lets you start relationships with people around the world, based on musical tastes. "It gives both people a lot to have in common right off the bat," says Patel, "plus I think you get along with people alot better when you listen to the same kinds of music."

The site allows users to log on and register for free, and then have the opportunity to go for even more advanced features for a small monthly fee.

Patel adds, "No more painful blind dates, no more relatives trying to "fix" you up with the "right" person. Rather, it's taking advantage of what technology has to offer…allowing you from the comfort of your home computer, to browse pictures and profiles of people, one them who could wind
up being the love of your life!"

The site is also useful for bands starting out, or hopeful singers and musicians. They can post their upcoming play dates on the website, as well as reviews of their CD's or albums. This gives music lovers the chance to discover new bands and artists.

"The fact that you're using a secure server, makes for a much more easier experience," he says. "You can find a date, or an online buddy, or possibly a long-term partner. You begin to realize that there's so much to do and so many places where you can enjoy music, and it really makes your whole entire life alot more colorful."

The service will begin in the United States, and will launch in Japan and the U.K. later this year.

"No more painful blind dates"? I doubt that.

"So... you like Beck, huh?"

"Um, yeah. Guess so."

"Hmm. So... you like Stiff Little Fingers, huh?"

"Did I say that?"

"It's on your profile, dude."


"Hey, you know what? Never mind. I think that was someone else."


"What do you like?"

"Um, I'm rilly into Oasis."

"Excuse me." (Person A gets up, beats a hasty retreat to the bathroom, and crawls out the window. We hear a loud thud.)

Jesus, this is Iggy.

I do wanna see it again. On DVD. (Do you know that a movie ticket in NYC now costs ten dollars?)

It's kinda nice that the cost of seeing a band at a bar/club hasn't gone up that much in the past 20 years -- I'm not talking about arena shows (or concerts at any other large venue), cuz those'll run you anywhere from $30 to $100. But New York still has plenty of bars where you can drop six bucks and see a couple of cool bands (and maybe a couple of lousy ones, on the same bill). And maybe you'll pay five bucks more for a beer, but that's your choice. $11 is still reasonable for a town that gets two grand for a one-bedroom apartment.

And then there are places like the Luna Lounge, where there's no cover at all -- they must make a MINT on their booze sales.

August 14, 2002

I saw 24 Hour Party People tonight. It was enjoyable, if perhaps a little self-consciously "postmodern" -- and I would have preferred more about Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, the Buzzcocks, etc., and less about THE MOST DOGSHIT BAND EVER TO COME OUT OF ENGLAND, THE HAPPY BLOODY MONDAYS.

I mean, it was funny, and I liked the Tony Wilson character -- there was obviously some depth lurking underneath all that bravado, and I liked it that they didn't just paint him as any old cock-wagging blowhard scene-maker. But most of the movie felt pretty superficial; we don't get to know the other major characters enough to develop any real feeling for them. Case in point: We see a few minutes of Ian Curtis, and he's supposed to be some "dour" fellow, and then poof, he's dead. OK. As a music fan, I'm aware of Joy Division and second-wave British punk, and I know that Curtis' death had a major impact on a lot of people. But as a moviegoer imagining Curtis as a character in a story -- I only see that a depressive punker has noosed himself, and then I'm supposed to be as touched by his suicide as all of Manchester apparently is. It's a weird transition, and it only makes the movie seem that much more shallow.

And I was a little put off by Wilson stopping every ten minutes to remind us we were watching a movie (that "This scene didn't make the final cut; maybe it'll be on the DVD" line really got on my nerves -- what is this, fucking Kevin Smith? Come on, insult my intelligence some more).

But no, it was good. By default, one of the better movies I've seen this year.

Also, I try to stay far away from movie theaters as often as possible -- it's traumatic and difficult to be in such close quarters with such horrid, rude people. I figured it'd be worth braving all that to see a good movie, but every time some asshole came in late and spent 15 minutes looking for a seat, it made me hate the very concept of going to the movies. I wish the cinema was like the theater -- where latecomers are shit outta luck, and if you leave to use the can, you've gotta wait outside.

One of the WORST bits of net.writing I've ever seen comes from Epitonic:

"Ladytron is a perfectly named group, as its music consists primarily of girls singing -- there's the lady -- and weird robotic synth-derived sounds -- the tron."

August 13, 2002

Fever Dreams is a site offering interpretations (or "shared delusions") of Steely Dan lyrics. SD fans are quite the well-read bunch, and seem pretty intent on tracing the literary sources of some of the more far-out lyrics. On the Pretzel Logic page alone, we have appearances by Burroughs, Borges, and Hegel.

I liked this part about Fagen and Becker's songwriting process:

Sometimes Steely Dan lyrics just seem random to me -- in the same way a Burroughs cut-up seems random, while making perfect sense and creating powerful images. In the PERFORMING SONGWRITER interview, Our Heroes reveal part of the process they sometimes use to arrive at what seems like a predetermined or actual meaning:

It's a stunning level of accomplishment they've achieved by being intricately involved with every aspect of the creative process, as consciously careful with each word of every line as they are with each beat of the kick drum and the snare. Though the ongoing brilliance of their seamless and soulfully singable songs might often seem to be the product of some kind of spontaneous genius, it's actually the result of a lot of hard work, as B&F explained. Take the flowing chorus of "West of Hollywood," for example:

I'm way deep into nothing special
Riding the crest of a wave breaking
just west of Hollywood

It's a single sentence that evolved through a profusion of lyrical permutations beforethe ideal form was discovered. "One trick of writing is to use the mechanics of typing things over and over again as a way of exercising and developing an idea," Becker said. To illustrate this technique, he shared some of the variations he and Fagen generated for this line:

I'm way deep into nothing special...
...coming from a place of power just west of ...
...with a base of support located just west of ... a matrix with its nexus just west of ...
...situated as I am in the crescent just west of ...
...having as my target the citizens just west of ... a cluster franchise operation just west of ...
...and business is booming in the triangle just west of ...

All the songs on the new album went through this lengthy process of thought and revision,each the result of many pages of notes, character development, and explorations into the best ways to compel and conclude narratives. Each character emerged only after sessions of abundant B&F banter and discovery, resulting in a rich emotional subtext that serves as a foundation for all these songs.
So in other words, the characters often emerge, rather than being fully formed and all growed-up before a single word hits the page. This Rubik's Cube they then toss out to us, challenging us to make all the elements match up somehow.And most of us have to ask others and discuss and read up on obscure stuff, because when it comes to knowing what lurks in the hearts of men, really,only the Shadow knows.

This is the extent of what I wrote to my pals about the SY show. I didn't actually get more than like two hours' sleep last night, and I've been running on a lethal "not enuf sleep"/"too much caffeine" cocktail lately, so you're not gonna get me at my creative peak right now. At any rate:

The Sonic Youth show [Sunday]... wow. It embarasses me to say anything too complimentary, seeing as my concert reviews as of late have all had a feel of "THAT ROCKED!" to 'em (and dammit, it's true -- it's just been an exemplary year for music).

The heat was brutal, and it took a band as mighty as Sonic Youth to drag me out to one of the things I hate most, the Free Outdoor Festival (crowds, rudeness, long lines to get into the concert area, concessions with markups of 200%). But when they finally came on, I relaxed a little.

Sonic Youth are SO tight right now! Moore/Ranaldo have always had guitar chemistry, but now it's as symbiotic and artful as Verlaine/Lloyd's. The difference, I guess, is that even though they were credited as both playing lead, Verlaine and Lloyd were big on delineating "solos" and "rhythm parts" -- and since Sonic Youth has Jim O' Rourke to help out with guitar stuff, O' Rourke can do the rhythm while Moore and Ranaldo can build one big, magical lead part. I couldn't hear Kim's bass that well, but her voice sounded fantastic. She's going for those high notes, and she's taking 'em! This is the most control she's ever had over her voice -- she can use "gutturality" as an effect instead of a gimmick, because she knows how to use it, let it go, and bring it back again. And good old Steve Shelley... the underrated, fabulous Steve Shelley... he's one of the best drummers punk rock has ever had. If Kim's bass is the rhythmic anchor, Steve's drumming is the monster tide with an eye on ripping the boat from the dock and hurtling it out to the far corners of the world. And yet, it's very precise and methodical, and never showy.

Damn good set. I believe this was the only New York stop on their tour, and it's easy to see that they don't take New York gigs lightly. Last week, Kim Chi of the Original Sinners explained to me that her band was nervous about playing New York -- it's a make-or-break kinda gig. I guess a lot of bands go through that, even Sonic Youth, who've been around for 20 years and who are actually FROM New York. They ARE New York, like the Velvet Underground were New York. You have no idea how many people came out for this show.

August 12, 2002

Here ya go: new Southside Callbox. Lotta good stuff here, including a review of a vintage bicycle-safety short called One Got Fat, an interview with Exene Cervenka, and a song-by-song rundown of Vincent Gallo's new soundtrack anthology.

I'm not up to it now, but maybe once I've gotten some sleep I'll post what I wrote (in an e-mail to a few friends) about Sunday's magnificent Sonic Youth show in Central Park.

August 09, 2002

Just came back from the Cornelius show at the Bowery Ballroom, and I'm floating. A Cornelius show is guaranteed fun -- it was one of the first shows I've seen where a packed house of indie-rock kids was in near-unanimous agreement that what they'd just witnessed was awesome. As a performer, Cornelius seems unaffectedly magnetic -- charming and adorable without being fey or foppish, radiating rock-star confidence without being arrogant. I get the sense that the man IS his music, that what he does comes completely naturally to him, that there isn't even one doubt in his mind that "Cornelius" is who he should be.

Some geniuses are lifelong sufferers. They carry the burden of the world on their rarefied shoulders, and they're never satisfied with themselves or anyone else. Some geniuses are savants. Cornelius is the best kind of genius -- he's aware of how talented he is, and he's obviously no slouch as a craftsman/entertainer, but he's finally surpassed the point of insecurity and defensive perfectionism and gotten good enough that he can relax, make beautiful, harmonically complex pop that's also silly and frolicsome. He's in his element. He's the Japanese Jeff Lynne!

It's hard to describe the Cornelius sound without describing the personality -- anyway, his musical repertoire is so vast that once you've found a hole for the pigeon, it flies out of your hands and homes in on another hole. You can't just use "psychedelia" or "Brian Wilson" or "Todd Rundgren" or "Prince" or "Stereolab" or "Beck" or "Jon Spencer" as reference points; those influences are not a life preserver for an artist stranded in an oceanic ditch of creative blockage, rather they're like accessories, enhancements, something sprinkled on to the finished product to give it that extra little bit of flair. The music is effervescent. I hate that word because it reminds me of 7-Up, but maybe that's appropriate; don't think of it as the tiny beestings of the bubbles as they explode on your tongue, think of it as holding your face over a freshly poured glass with ice, and the mist sprays your cheeks. It excites you, it relaxes you, it makes you feel gooooooood.

(More when I write my review. In the meantime, go download "Point of View Point.")

Today I'm using my blog as a notepad to jot down a list of things I must eventually check out. Here's another, courtesy of DJ Martian's page: (Update: "Introducing Carl Cocks" is totally badass.)

Tim Hecker - My Love Is Rotten To The Core - Substractif

'My Love is Rotten to the Core' continues the precedent of musical sabotage, or plunderphonics, established in Hecker's earlier releases. We will not ruin the surprise by mentioning who is at the mercy of this incredibly talented young artist but we can tell you that the outcome is amazing. If you were blown away by the homage to 60's pop by Fennesz, wait until you hear Tim Hecker's take on the 80's Cock Rock phenomenon. Tim Hecker has the remarkable ability to create compositions that combine both ambience and noise, yet remain very accessible to those who might normally avoid either or both of those genres. This is because he manages to create deeply emotional music even where there is a lack of melody, as is very evident on this latest EP. Here Hecker has laced together snippets of interviews, concert announcements and the manipulated sounds of the original artist to come up with possibly the most engaging experimental electronica to emerge in some time. Sampled voices unfold while a transformed guitar chord comes tearing from the left to the right speaker before erupting and reshaping itself again. This is ambient music with incredible punch and loads of surprises.

Tony Fletcher talks at length about 24 Hour Party People -- the movie, the premiere, the post-premiere party he co-DJ'ed with Moby. And Southside Callbox contributor Jeremiah Kipp interviews Party People director Michael Winterbottom in an online feature at Filmmaker Magazine. Me, I've not seen the movie yet, but I'm gonna try to set aside some time next week for that purpose.

Here's some info on the new John Doe Thing album, which I've yet to hear. Really, I'm not the X groupie you'd think I was.

"Grant Lee Phillips (Grant Lee Buffalo), John Doe (X) and Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) are planning a fall tour. The singer/songwriters came to decide to tour together out of a few commonalties; mutual admiration, they all evolved from band member to solo artist, and they each consider themselves to be a bit of an oddball. The show is being billed as The Exile Follies..."

And if you're in New York, you can catch the Exile Follies at the Bowery Ballroom on September 25. I'll try to be there -- Doe has never wowed me as a solo artist, but I'm hoping he catches some sparks from Kristin Hersh and Grant Lee Phillips. I've seen Hersh and Phillips live, both in similar settings -- Hersh did a set with Vic Chestnutt, trading songs back and forth, and Phillips did the same when he toured with Robyn Hitchcock. I hope that's what this tour will be like.

August 08, 2002

I just received some evil news: Vice Magazine is starting its own record label. Not exactly an indie -- it's an imprint of the oh-so-hip Atlantic Records. Their first release will be the "genre-bending" (OOH THAT SOUNDS LIKE "GENDER-BENDING!" FAR OUT!), "most important album about being young since Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols" Original Pirate Material by the Streets, who are apparently worthier to the Vice staffers than those (their word) "fags" the Talking Heads. The header of the press release states "Oh Shit": a reference, perhaps, to those fags the Buzzcocks?

August 07, 2002

I've been putting together my Exene article. I normally dislike the whole process of hooking up with someone for an interview (rock stars can be difficult and flaky), and all the weirdness of talking to someone who doesn't particularly want to talk to you. But I'm very happy with the way this interview turned out, and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with you. Here's an excerpt. The rest will be at Southside Callbox on Tuesday.

Jody: You’ve gone through the “struggling punk band” thing during the early days of X…

Exene: I was never in a struggling punk band.

Jody: Well…

Exene: I mean, when I was 20. But there was no struggling about it. It was just fun and wonderful, and immediately we got famous, so we never really struggled that much. At first, at some of the shows we got paid kinda low, but the minute we started playing, there was such a great scene there that it was just beyond any expectation we had.

Jody: That’s nice to hear, that you could get your music appreciated or respected and not have to work too hard for it.

Exene: But it was by, like, 12 people. It didn’t matter. Struggling is when you’re trying to get signed, and you’re trying to get famous, and you’re trying to get someone to give you a publishing deal, and you’re in Los Angeles and you have to get to New York cuz they don’t appreciate you, so you do that. That’s what struggling is to me.

Jody: So that was never a big concern for X?

Exene: Not really.

Jody: You just wanted to do your music.

Exene: Well, ya know, there were no independent record labels (except for, like, Dangerhouse) when we started.

Jody: Just the evil majors.

Exene: They weren’t interested. It wasn’t that they were “evil,” they were another world. They were only interested in James Taylor, and the Eagles, and disco, and stuff like that, and not what was going on under their radar.

Jody: There was the New York thing happening.

Exene: The New York thing was totally separate. I mean, except for the bands…

Jody: There wasn’t any crossover between the two scenes?

Exene: As far as the bands, yes there was, but as far as producers, people like Eno, no there wasn’t. The record companies weren’t interested in what was going on in California, and the media didn’t wanna give us any kinda legitimacy.

August 05, 2002

The weather is hot and gross and I'm staying in and listening to the Lothars and Julian Cope. I'm pretty miserable and I just want summer to end already. Going out (the physical act of leaving the house, and then being out in the heat) takes so much out of me. But I do get to see Cornelius in a few days, at a space I actually like (the Bowery Ballroom), and that should be enjoyable.

August 03, 2002

I just had the pleasure of interviewing Miss Exene Cervenka, whom I found refreshingly candid and no-nonsense and a bit of a shit-talker ("the Spheeris movies were a cartoon," "I don't consider myself part of any scene right now; the scene in Southern California is really unsupportive and I don't wanna be any part of it"). Her show last night (with her new band, the Original Sinners) was great fun -- a really energetic, passionate hybrid of country, rockabilly, punk, and blues. More on that later...

August 01, 2002

Julian Cope's Unsung Album of the Month for August is Sir Lord Baltimore's 1970 LP Kingdom Come. The review begins like this:

"In 1969, three longhairs from Brooklyn, New York, were thrown off the stage of Bill Graham's Fillmore East, for being what that now legendary promoter described as 'Pus'. The trio was Sir Lord Baltimore and they'd just recorded a flawed but fantastic first album, called Kingdom Come, which combined thee most histrionic proto-Kiss, proto-David Lee Roth vocal acrobatics ever with enough Stooged-out proto-metal to last any sane band a lifetime. Did you ever wish that 'Speed King', 'Highway Star' and 'Fireball' were the only songs Deep Purple had ever recorded? Did you ever feel that everything Blue Cheer recorded after side one of OutsideInside was unnecessary, including side two of that very LP? Did you ever lament that telling people just how much you love 'I'm on Fire' and 'Atomic Punk' from Van Halen 1 inevitably made them think you secretly loved later sub-Genesis detritus such as 'Jump' as well? Well, search out this album and you've got everything you need in one record."

There's been some talk throughout the blogosphere about whether the distribution of promo CDs to bloggers is a good idea. I think both sides of the argument have been represented quite eloquently, but as an editor of a biweekly online zine, I still have mixed feelings. Ethically, I am against the idea of being a record company's "hired gun," a contracted publicist working for nothing but a free CD and the opportunity to attach a particular artist's name to your publication. And receiving promos generally puts some kind of pressure on the reviewer to write about those CDs and adhere to editor-imposed deadlines for the sake of timeliness -- even if the reviewer doesn't have much to say about the record (yet).

On the plus side, promos are indeed a nice little kickback -- you can sell the ones you don't want on Amazon (something you can't do with downloaded CDs) and consider that more of a proper "paycheck" than you might get otherwise -- and most web publications and review-oriented zines with a degree of integrity and individuality expect you to work for free anyway. Right now, my zine's not really big enough that it gets gigantic stacks of free CDs every day -- I have to ask for what I want, and I'd never request anything that I didn't think fit in with the zine's format. So there's no pressure to review the latest album by (god help us) Linkin Park. Instead, I scour through some of the release-date pages on the web and try to get a good sense of what's coming out and what's being reissued, or I'll listen to recommendations from publicists -- chances are, they'll have a small mp3 page for their client so you can immediately tell whether the artist appeals to you, and if not, hey, you're not under any weird verbal contract to cover that artist!

And no, you shouldn't feel any obligation to write positive things about promos. It might be a little mean and pointless to trash something by an unknown band (unless said band is truly fucking EVIL), but publicists will be gracious if you give their artists a fair and even-handed critique. And if the publicist turns out to be a hypersensitive asshole (I've had this happen too), then you don't want to promote his/her artists anyway! The only thing you lose is one measly industry contact. No big deal.

But as this relates to bloggers... I kinda agree with Tom Ewing that blogs are not traditional media outlets, and blog writing must remain as pure and personal as it possibly can. Promo CDs alone will not necessarily taint this "purity," but any blogger who takes part in the Tres Producers offer should be aware of the potential Faustian bargaining involved.