September 28, 2002

I'm awful. I just spent $8 on an LP of the somewhat-difficult-to-find Party Party motion picture soundtrack (1982) for one reason and one reason only: the Bananarama cover of the Sex Pistols' "No Feelings." (You heard me.) It's fantastic, too; it sounds just like Bow Wow Wow. (Bow Wow Wow/Pistols connection duly noted.) Another highlight of this LP -- in the bottom-left-hand corner of the jacket is a cassette-and-crossbones logo accompanied by the infamous warning "HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC," with "AND IT'S ILLEGAL" in small print underneath the logo.

I also dropped $13 on Walter Steding's self-titled 1980 LP on Red Star Records (New York Dolls, Suicide), produced by Chris Stein, featuring guitar by Robert Fripp and Richard Lloyd, and not available on CD as far as I know. Trouser Press isn't too hot on Steding, but I liked what I saw of him in Downtown 81.

September 27, 2002

They say that listmaking is the last refuge of the unoriginal (or something) -- but the blogosphere is so solipsistic that regular editorial rules are either ignored altogether or swiftly chucked through a plate-glass window with great aplomb. Freezing to Death aims to be nothing more than a good read and an occasional source of information, and I'm not being aw-shucks humble here -- I consider blogs very ephemeral and temporary, and I do my blogging with the knowledge that I might one day pull the plug and delete everything I've posted.

Anyway, it's Friday night and I just cracked open a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon, and I'm enjoying some of that on the rocks while I do a little last-refuge listmaking in my head.

I promised I'd sit on my 2002 Best-of So Far until the end of the year, but there doesn't seem to be much point to that anymore, and withholding that information REALLY isn't any skin off anyone's Crunch-sculpted hindquarters. That said, here are the top five as of right now:

1) Sonic Youth, Murray Street
Strange summer here. Miserably, oppressively hot, humid, rainy... rude, pushy people, power failures, a creaky overburdening of the metropolitan infrastructure, one that I haven't felt since Koch was mayor. New York is usually nice in the summer months. And when I look back at June-September 2002, I'll always associate it with Murray Street. Like New York itself, Murray Street sounds like a band buckling under the pressure of its wheres and whens, but forging ahead instead of drowning in hopelessness --playing around on the monkeybars of the end times because what the hell, no one's looking anymore, and let's just burn ourselves out in the scorching sun until the sky zippers open and shakes itself off in gratuitous splotches over the entire tri-state area.

2) The Walkmen, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone
Meanwhile, the Walkmen's debut album is kind of a testament to brushing the worms and the dirt off your shirt and exhuming yourself from a long winter depression. It moves very cautiously, like it's just getting the hang of walking again (hence their band name? or is that stupid?). When the Walkmen (three of 'em) were Jonathan Fire*Eater, they sure didn't sound this pretty. Fire*Eater was its own magical steam-engine, awash in organ noise and delirious lyrical schizopoly, but they were so goddamn self-assured, so up-front, so much a crowd-pleasing rock band in addition to everything else layered underneath. But the Walkmen are a more world-weary model of same. They're cynical, and in the good, interesting way -- they're the ones in the semi-empty, semi-upscale sidestreet bar, huddled around a dimming votive candle, drinking to the sublimely cruel ironies of life, maybe singing along quietly with the bartender's Kinks album. Hamilton Leithauser's "I'm a modern guy..." (the opening line of "We've Been Had") isn't the druggie bravado of Iggy Pop's "Well I am just a modern guy," it's the opening line of a monologue, a shared philosophy from the mouth of a slightly older fellow whose youthful pain-in-the-ass go-go-retro hipster prescriptives have failed him ("See me, age 19, with some dumb haircut from 1960 / Movin' to New York City") -- and now what? Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone tries to answer that question. And it's helping me broach similar questions for myself.

3) The Hot Snakes, Suicide Invoice
Suicide Invoice's leadoff track, "I Hate the Kids," is a great companion piece to "We've Been Had" -- it begins with the sarcastic indictment "Nobody does anything
wrong / Nobody is a dilettante / Everybody does everything, everything they want." Like the Walkmen, the Hot Snakes' cynicism isn't a kitschy, adorable pose, it's a well-earned purple heart for active duty in a trench full of fertilizer. Unlike that band, this is full-throttle punk rock, not hesitant about its intentions, loud and fast and melodic but not in that irritating, goofy NOFX manner -- more Wipers-ish, with a slightly intellectual bent. Records I like tend to have some combination of passion, backbone, and musicality. Suicide Invoice is as sturdy and taut as a locked safe, as intensely passionate as an Islamic militant with dynamite strapped to his chest, and possibly the most resolutely songful album I've heard all year.

4) Kylie Minogue, Fever
The problem with the mainstream music of the past several years is that as focus-grouped and youth-conscious as it purported to be, there were only a couple of singles (I'll
grant you "Baby One More Time" and Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" and TLC's "Waterfalls") that were imbued with the sense of ecstasy and presence of mind that defined the things I'd always associated with the best hit records and MTV videos. Fever is remarkably lithe, limber vanilla-pop-soul -- futuristic without being alienating, alternately past-referenced and here-and-now. I'd thought "Can't Get You Out of My Head" was amazing (is that the riff from Roxy Music's "Love is the Drug"?), and then I heard the breezy Italodiscopop of "Love at First Sight," a shot of cool pink lemonade in a hot wet American summer, and in no time at all my defenses were toast.

5) Liars, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top
Released on Gern Blandsten in 2001, not properly promoted or distributed, finally rereleased on Mute/Blast First a month ago, to much fanfare. I experienced one of my only "I was there" moments with this Brooklyn band -- having attended one of their very first gigs, at NYC's Brownies in early 2001. The person I was with kept saying "What's with that fake British accent? Who does he think he is? That's the worst excuse for a Brit accent I've ever heard!" Show ends, and he goes over to talk to the singer, Angus Andrew, and compliment him on a really stellar performance. My friend comes back to our table. "Oh, I get it now. He's Australian." The Liars are weird like that -- they fake you out, they deceive you, they puzzle the shit out of you. They say they have their "finger on the pulse of Americaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh," but in Liars-code that simply means they've got our name, they've got our number, they've got a line on us. There's an unrepentantly big-balled funk-bass thud here, something somewhere between the Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace and the Beastie Boys' Ill Communication, and a post-disco danceability that runs counterpoint with the band's sinister agenda. Creepy, intriguing, flabbergasting, and absolutely marvelous.

Um... maybe Beck's not a practicing Scientologist. But maybe he is. Go here, translate it with this (the botched translation is a riot, by the way), and note the ambiguity of Beck's answer.

Now I feel stupid for speaking too soon.

September 26, 2002

I have a theory about the identity of Mixerman. I was tipped off that MM had worked on albums mastered by Dave Collins. The other clue was that MM began his career engineering/mixing hip-hop albums. A little research led me to the name Eric Sarafin, whose discography includes records by the Pharcyde and the Brand New Heavies. Another page had a quote from Sarafin that could easily describe MM's recording philosophy:

"There are plenty of things that can make you more valuable than [other studios], such as: A better sounding room. Being able to tune drums to sound great, maximizing guitar sounds and bass sounds. Understanding music, and recognizing weaknesses that can easily be fixed in a song. Understanding how to make a band or artist relax, or be agitated (whichever works best) enough to perform their best. Having a good head for sound, and the interaction of sound and frequencies. Understaning arrangement, and providing that understanding to your client. Understanding how to run a session smoothly and efficiently. Understanding song structure, rhyme structure, rhythmic structure, and what makes a great song. Understanding how to get the clients 'ear' or trust over time." - Eric Sarafin

Also: He's posted to over the past couple years (just like MM), and he hates ProTools (like MM). And this post to is VERY telling, if you've read the diaries:

>>I have
>> done edits on 2" for drums, which included 3 takes, and had over 100 edits
>> in the song.

More uncanniness:

-Both MM and ES have posted using the same ISP (
-One newsgroup post said very plainly that ES has been known to post under a pseudonym.
-ES seems like a bit of a hothead.

September 25, 2002

OK, so I missed the boat on the 2001 Bobsled release of Stereo Total's Musique Automatique, but Kill Rock Stars, who are reissuing the album on October 8, have cured me of my ignorant ways. This record is DELIGHTFUL, so much better than I expected it to be (I just listened to an mp3 by an awful blippy-midi group called Coin and thought THIS HAS TO STOP NOW! A POX ON YOUR GENRE!). But Stereo Total actually make very listenable and lovable and repeatbuttonable music -- music that sounds like an accomplished piece of art rather than just nervous, detached dilletantism. They're German, but they make synthy French pop that's less record-nerdy than Stereolab, less locked-down than Komeda (who are Swedish, but owe it all to the Frog-pop tradition). Thankfully, the emphasis is on the pop here, even as Stereo Total bounce between snaky Bardot-Gainsbourg sex-jazz and cheeky Elastica sex-wave and posing-for-consumer-products Kraftwerk sexless-sex and breezy, joyeux Yellow Magic Orchestra roller-sex and creepy-children's-music Bruce Haack perv-sex and focus-grouped-to-hell Josie and the Pussycats germ-free-adolescent-sex. Sweet.

Awright, let's do this.

Top Ten Most Deplorable Hipster Attributes

10. Hails from the Midwest, lives somewhere in Brooklyn. HAHAHAHA no. Born in Brooklyn, live here, will likely die here. (Although I did spend a year in the west coast equivalent of Brooklyn -- Portland, Oregon. And I suppose that although Being From Brooklyn isn't a political act of conscious hipsterism, the act of Moving Back To Brooklyn very well might be.)

9. Owns at least two Guided By Voices albums. Own 'em; don't like 'em very much and never listen to 'em.

8. Firmly believes that Ralph Nader should have won the 2000 presidential election. I don't "firmly believe" that -- if I did I would have voted in that election. I did vote for him in '96, though. :-)

7. General arts over-education (i.e. has either designs to attend graduate school, is in graduate school or has gone to graduate school) Does a certificate course in graphic design count? (Oh, fuck, of COURSE it does.)

6. Parents shoulder some of his/her financial burden. Some of it, but mostly they help me figure out what kind of assets I have and help me liquidate them so I can pay off all the credit-card debt I've accumulated.

5. Owns at least three too tight T-shirts adorned with dated symbols (usually fuzzy or shiny/decal) with which he/she has absolutely no knowledge or connection.
No. I once "ironically" bought a used Rush t-shirt from the bargain bin at Domsey, though. This was nearly ten years ago and I don't think I ever wore it because I was afraid I might catch fleas.

4. Can readily and willfully recall the theme song from at least one television sitcom that was cancelled before his/her birth. Yeah, man, that Husker Du cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme RAWKKKKKKED!! (It did!)

3. Will consciously muss and/or neglect to wash hair in order to achieve a 'look.' (male only) I'm female and I haven't washed my hair in three days. And you know what? It looks horrible!

2. Is of the opinion that 'Pet Sounds' is the greatest Beach Boys album (a comment generally follow by this statement): 'rivaling the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.' I think the Pet Sounds Sessions box set is the greatest Beach Boys album, followed by the Smile Sessions box set. I don't really give a fuck about the Beatles. (This is the true hipster answer, by the way.)

1. Insists on calling movies 'film,' insists on calling concerts 'shows.' For me, "movies" are "movies" AND "film" AND "cinema" (ugh... only when absolutely necessary, I swear). I refer to most "concerts" as "shows" -- fewer syllables.

September 24, 2002

"Highest movement unit sandwiches"???

The new ABKCO remaster of the Stones' Let It Bleed is 100 percent totally fecking marvy. "Live With Me" and "Monkey Man" (the latter being a song I've never particularly enjoyed, not even on the vinyl version) sound stunning, and "Let It Bleed" sounds really different -- the vocals seem lower, or something. I'll write a real review in due time, but in the meantime I'm on the lookout for information concerning exactly what kind of mojo this "restoration producer" and "sound restoration and archive coordinator" worked to make the Direct Stream Digital encoding create such a thing of beauty from a bunch of 33-year-old tapes.

Right on time, here's your Southside Callbox Issue Seven. I wrote a crazy-big article on Bob Dylan, if you're interested. If you're not, Nate's got a crazy-funny review of the new Missy Elliot single. If you like both Bob AND Missy, you're cool and you should come play in my sandbox. If you like neither, get bent.

(There's other stuff too, so here's that link again.)

September 22, 2002

"Radio Freeze Turkey" is a 2-CD mix that I made for a friend out in Salt Lake City. The idea was to treat it like one of my old radio shows -- no set theme or genre, just good arcs and great segues. Vol. 01 hits the ground running with the dancey clubby stuff, and then abandons the dance idea for a bit of postpsychedelic Euro-prog, and picks the beat back up with some Latin (and Latin-influenced) soul jazz. Vol. 02 keeps the samba and soul jazz going and alternates it with touches of soul AND jazz (and funk), until... halfway through... the whole affair turns into a silly singalong rock extravaganza, climaxing with Klaus Nomi's marvelously operatic and cheerful "Simple Man" and encoreing with Nina Hagen's barnburning "My Way."

September 21, 2002

Songs I'm "feeling," as the parlance goes:

No Doubt - "Don't Let Me Down"
In the hindsight of late 2002, Ric Ocasek's synths here remind me a LITTLE too much of Andrew W.K. (and I like "Party Hard," but that's not necessarily a musical style I'd like to see popping up in other contemporary songs -- that song only works because of how AWK takes the status quo to its logical QED and makes it seem friggin' BIZARRE in contrast to the status quo itself). But for "Don't Let Me Down"'s release date (2001), this may be the most 1997 song No Doubt have ever done, and if they wanna remake That Dog's "Never Say Never," fine with me -- even if it sounds out of place on an album that Sly & Robbie and the Neptunes had a hand in (Prince had a hand too, but I'll be damned if "Take Me With U" and "Raspberry Beret" aren't blissful pieces of post-wave masterpop). The highlight of “Don’t Let Me Down” is the way Gwen so forcefully attacks her “g” on “don’t you forget it,” like she was Debbie Harry saying “I’m gonna ffffind ya, I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha.”

Jonathan Fire*Eater – “Everybody Plays the Mime”
If it weren’t for the emergence of The Walkmen as one of 2002’s premier NYC hype-grabbers, Jonathan Fire*Eater would probably only be remembered by the critics and fans who recognized how good they were and by the haters and antihypeniks who were happy to see JF*E’s breakthrough disc stiff like the deer that tried to cross the road. I’m a longtime fan of the Walkmen’s previous incarnation (with Stewart Lupton on vocals), and I’ve been listening to Wolf Songs For Lambs a lot lately, in tandem with the Walkmen record. “Everybody Plays the Mime” is big and slinky, like a rattlesnake that’s just swallowed a whale. It’s the 13th Floor Elevators, but with fuckloads more control and focus – like a white War with Jon Spencer (or Jack White) (or maybe a young Black Francis) guest-singing instead of Eric Burdon. This is eerie, soulful, seductive, smart, and weird – and way more substantial than the band’s sleeveful of ‘60s tricks would lead you to believe.

Television – “The Dream’s Dream” (live, Portland, Oregon 1978)
Beautifully filthy and not at all pristine. When Tom Verlaine’s guitar takes flight after the first verse, just for a fistful of notes before retreating into the too-cool-for-school Mink DeVille Loisaida strut, and then comes back with all guns blazing in the breakdown, it’s a marvelous feeling, that piercing cry that comes from only a couple of strings, some fingers, and a little electricity. Any allegations that Television were nothing more than proggy mathrockers on the right intersection of the Bowery at the right time – well, I’m not the punk police, but if you go for that whole “pure expression played loud” theory, how can these Verlaine solos not be punk?

Gil Trythall – “Wildwood Flower”
From Gil’s 1970 Country Moog (Switched on Nashville) LP. I don’t know ‘bout you, but sometimes it gets a bit tiring hearing folk standards arranged and performed the same way again and again by every hackabilly Faux Depression coalminers-n-Jesus revivalist altband that comes down the Mississipp (or more likely, the Delaware). The solution? Modular analog synthesizers! The Moog-ed up “Wildwood Flower” is every bit as country as anything a Carter or a Cash ever laid to tape – it’s fast and footstompy enough to be hardcore bluegrass, but baroque enough to be a slightly funkier J.S. Bach processional theme, and wacky enough (science is faaaarr ouuut!!) for a full-color spread in Suzy Suburban’s Reader’s Digest.

September 20, 2002

As far as Dylan reviews go, this is one of the best I've read -- it doesn't strive too hard to draw out Social Importance or Deeper Meaning (and deeper meaning is not inherently bad, but "meaning" can also be a very superficial thing, and it's often just a small part of the larger musical picture), it goes for Feeling. Personal association, yeah, there's a little of that, but it's really about the way the album strikes a chord with the reviewer, the way the lyrics fuck with his head, invite him to a clandestine mug-raiser with jokers and jacks of hearts, reach out a veiny old hand for support, etc. My Blood on the Tracks review was good -- this one's better. An excerpt:

Contrary to what we often demand from art and artists, Blood on the Tracks hardly provides any significant insight into the life of Bob Dylan. I know a thing or two about his story, as I have been an astute reader of his numerous biographies, but there is scarcely anything in Blood on the Tracks that smacks of autobiography. From the first-person narrative position, this is an album of tales that are told in song by a motley cast of fools, drifters, infidels, cuckolds, criminals, lovers, and dreamers. For all I know, Bob Dylan could be any number of these characters or none of them at all. But if there is any place in which Bob Dylan emerges as himself in Blood on the Tracks, he is found in the opening lines of "Shelter from the Storm": "'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood / When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud / I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form". That is, if he emerges at all, it is only for this brief moment as the artist, the creator as the creature from the wilderness who is "void of form". Real life and real heartbreak are doubtlessly the original impetuses for the creation of the album, yet Blood on the Tracks ultimately achieves its singular universal greatness by stripping away the layers of specific and local pain (of the singer and the songwriter Dylan) that have been accumulated from private experience and by connecting these loose foci along the colossal and timeless themes of Love and Loss. In this imaginary journey from real life to that of art, Blood on the Tracks creates and refashions an unworldly world that is full of wonder, treachery, buffoonery, mystery, and reward; in short, the human condition.

And throughout Blood on the Tracks, Dylan keeps us constantly on our guard. Sometimes, as in "Simple Twist of Fate," the narrative lapses from its third person perspective to the first person: "They walked along by the old canal / A little confused, I remember well". Or, as in "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts", Dylan floods the story with a ceaseless parade of characters and curiosities for there to be just one meaningful appropriation. And what is the significance of the rooster crowing in "Meet Me in the Morning"? There is no answer given but like the great blues tunes, the song raises this question for itself: "Little rooster crowin' / There must be something on his mind". Even the seemingly straightforward tales provide elusive details of their very nature. Is "Simple Twist of Fate" about a single titanic love affair or is it a couched confession of a night of infidelity? In "If You See Her, Say Hello", the real reason for the breakup with the lover (whose fault was it, really?) is stated rather offhandedly: "We had a falling-out, like lovers often will". Everything is a little upside down, indeed.

September 19, 2002

"Brown 'vowed to the media that his daughters will never get a dime from him', court papers state. 'James Brown has kept his word.'"

The Village Voice's streak of regrettable/embarrassing music writing continues with its review of Beck's Sea Change.

In lieu of a lengthier quote, I'll just say that the piece uses the phrases "zero to hero" and "he could see the stars from the gutter" and "Beck clothes his dark side in black" and spends several paragraphs speaking about (guhhhhhhhhhhhhh) 9/11 and (gahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) Kurt Cobain. There's no mention of Beck's recent flirtations with Scientology, but there is a terribly cute Geffen/Interscope-supplied headshot at the top of the review.

September 18, 2002

Will the Glueman succeed in combating piracy?

Hell no. Furthermore, this sounds like an awfully expensive way to deter a couple of dumbshits from making mp3s. If the majors are losing so much money on CD sales, how can they afford to send out these single-use Discmans with every promo? And why are we supposed to support an industry that shows so much obvious distrust and contempt for consumers?

I'm feeling better right now than I've felt in a week -- and it's because I just rocked my choral audition.

I did much better than I anticipated. I have difficulty breathing when I'm nervous, and I thought I might choke up -- my only problem come auditiontime was that my high notes were a little squeaky, but the choral director told me I've "got some nice stuff going on up there" (meaning my soprano voice, not my... you know... ) and commended me on my sight-reading ability. He shook my hand at the end and said "You're a great musician!" (I'm still laughing about this... that's the LAST thing I expected him to tell me. He's obviously never heard me play guitar!)

Sooo, err, ummm... I don't suppose anyone has an extra ticket for the WFMU benefit?

I'm a putz. I hardly ever buy tickets before the night of a show. I used to, ya know, and then I started feeling stupid when I'd get to the venue and the show would be nowhere NEAR sold out. And I seem to remember once trying to organize some sort of concertgoing experience with a friend, and having the friend rejoin my suggestion with a dismissive "Who the hell buys tickets IN ADVANCE?" (Same losers who wanna get there early to see the opening acts their cover charge is paying for, I guess.)

But here's why I love New York City. A benefit featuring ESG, the Styrenes, Outhud, and David Grubbs -- AND EVEN LIKE A WEEK BEFORE THE SHOW THERE ARE NO TICKETS LEFT. For once I'm actually proud of the Time Out New York-reading poseur hipsters that live here.

September 17, 2002

i am open-minded!

How indie are you?
test by ridethefader

You're pretty knowledgeable about music in general. You like indie music, sure, but that's only part of it.
You'll listen to any old shit as long as it sounds good to you. You're not snobby about music at all, you
just like what you like. How boring. Curiously, this makes you popular with the opposite sex.

I haven't seen this, but I'm gonna track it down. From an e-mail list I'm on:

check out the last 2 issues of the hip-hop magazine Big Daddy(I think that's what it's called.) It has an amazing 2 part series called the History of Cut-n-Paste, starting with the french avant-garde composers, and going deep deep deep and in depth into disco re-edit bootlegs, Danny Krivit, tape spliced hip hop and electro to sampling, Pal Joey, Coldcut etc etc. Totally educational.

NB: The Big Daddy site (which appears to be down, but you can view a cached version) says there will be a Part 3 as well. The series (by Neil McMillan) is called "Cut Up or Shut Up: An Edited History of Cut'n'Paste." Anyone seen Part 1?

September 15, 2002

The Great Gatsby goes hip-hop.

September 14, 2002

About a year and a half ago, a good friend gave me the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds Sessions box set as a gift, and to date it's one of the best and most keeps-on-givin' presents I've ever gotten. A lot of young ears have a hard time understanding why Pet Sounds is hailed as such a classic -- after all, it's so old-sounding, so cluttered, so lo-fi (that's a mono mix, not to mention it's an orchestra/band/vocal group sharing a limited number of tracks, and the miking isn't as close as on modern recordings), and it just plain sounds like dadrock and now that _____ have come along to make the same thing sound relevant and hip, why bother with this Beach Boys bullshit anymore? (By the way, FUCK YOU RYAN PITCHFORK.)

The box set explains why. If you're not terribly familiar with Pet Sounds, start with the mono version. If you know the mono version from back to front, start with the stereo version done for the box -- approved by Brian Wilson and allegedly up to three generations closer to the original tapes than the mono was. Certain sounds that were previously buried now leap out to the forefront -- there's an entire closing horn section in "I Know There's an Answer" that I'd never heard, because other instruments were more prominent. And this is not to say that the stereo mix is better, but it's nice that I'm finally hearing everything Brian Wilson had in mind for the record.

I think that the key to appreciating Pet Sounds as a contemporary listener is to take the whole goddamn thing apart and study each detail. Well, okay, that may be pretty didactic of me; I mean to say that if you dislike the album but you're willing to figure out what other people see in it beyond it just being "a classic," then this box set will offer a lot of insight about all the work, creativity, and singularity of vision that went into these recordings. Yes, Wilson's harmonies were derivative of barber-shop quartets and '50s harmony groups; the "wall of sound"-style drums and horns were obviously tributes to Spector; large assemblages of musicians such as Wilson's were hallmarks of '40s and '50s jazz-pop sessions (where all instruments were recorded in the same room in the same take).

As an arranger, Wilson was in the league of any of those cats, but being somewhat brain-damaged, he could take the flowery Nelson Riddle romanticism and add bits of plinky-plinky chamber baroque (the intro to "Wouldn't It Be Nice") and jarring expressionism (tubas that sounded like snoring elephants = "pet sounds"?) and have very adventurous and progressive chord charts and multipart harmonies that would look like spectacular mountain ranges if you mapped them out.

The vocals disc (which mutes the instrumental arrangements in favor of the breathtaking harmonies, and fades the players back in when the Beach Boys aren't singing) brings out a sort of churchy purity to the group's voices; they're no longer a silly cars 'n' girls boyband slumming in orkpopland, they're in Vienna singing HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH. (Except they're not; they're in a California studio singing "Run run whee oooh.") Really, you don't expect the vocals disc to hit you with the impact that it does -- chances are good you already KNOW that the Beach Boys' bread and butter was harmony, maaan -- and then the attack of vocals-minus-musicians (it's that simple) leaves you slackjawed.

So it's not that you should abandon the idea of listening to Pet Sounds as a whole, self-contained work of art -- but after you've heard the box set a few times, you'll probably never hear the regular mono mix the same way again.

P.S. For kicks, I played "Don't Talk (Lay Your Head on My Shoulder)" backwards, and the instrumental break is eerily similar to the "normal" arrangement.

September 13, 2002

This guy is a jerk!

I've been trying to guess who the producer (not the engineer/narrator) is in this recording diary, and checking the Velvet Rope I can see I'm not alone thinking that it's Rick Rubin. The name Michael Beinhorn is thrown around, a name that has also crossed my mind.

September 12, 2002


That is all.

By the way, the new U2 single from their greatest-hits package? Great.

My theory holds (for me, anyway) that no matter how much they embarrass themselves on their other recordings, U2 always come up with one bang-up single for every album they put out. Yes, even Rattle and Hum.

I might as well share some thoughts on 9/11.

Yesterday I watched a few TV things here and there, but I wasn't that interested in hearing the same "national tragedy" spiel ad nauseam. It numbs the mind after a while. And to be honest, I remember 9/11/01 well enough a year later -- I haven't lost any of the bitterness or confusion or sadness.

The morning of 9/11, I was awakened by the clock radio, and the DJ was introducing a new Bob Dylan song called "Summer Days." I thought "What a cool thing to wake up to. What a wonderful song" -- and I hoped it would set the tone for the rest of the day. Next thing I knew, the DJ was saying "Turn on the news when you get the chance; apparently a plane has hit one of the Twin Towers."

I was on my way to a class, but when I left the house I wandered in the opposite direction of the subway, down to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where I could see an unobstructed view of the burning tower across the river. A huge group of people had already assembled down there -- they weren't emotional at that point, they just wanted to see what was going on. I stuck around for a few minutes, and walked to the subway.

I was able to get down to the Court Street N/R platform with no problems, but I knew something was wrong once I'd been waiting for my train for 20 minutes. Soon, all the subways were out of service. No way I was gonna make that class, so I headed back to the Promenade to see what was happening. The smoke was getting thicker, and blowing into the air on an 11 o'clock angle. Went home and turned on the news.

I had left the room for a second, and while I was in the other room I heard a loud, startling thud outside. New York cable news station NY1 had live coverage of the first attack, and as I ran into my bedroom I was able to see the second tower being hit.

Back on the Promenade, people were gathering, taking pictures (which I thought was tasteless), staring in disbelief, screaming "Holy shit!!!" -- but despite the vision of two skyscrapers on fire, things were still considerably under control on our end. Until... the towers began to collapse and the debris started flying.

The smell was AWFUL, like the most grand mal, grotesque barbecue you could imagine -- an inescapable odor of smoke, gas, and burning flesh. People were running for their lives, covering their faces with their hands, trying to keep the smoke and debris out of their eyes. The air was a greyish white. It was impossible to see anything, and my clothes and hair became covered in debris (my guess: reams upon reams of paper, some detritus from the structure of the buildings, some soot, and maybe some fibers of burned clothing). I went home, and I didn't go back out until the afternoon, when the buildings had completely collapsed, and the smoke was contained on Manhattan Island and the skies above it.

The smoke didn't clear until days later -- but on the afternoon of 9/11, it was so thick that it covered the entirety of lower Manhattan and much of midtown. That afternoon, I just sat out on the Promenade, watching the smoke clear in real time, treating the act as a meditative exercise. By the time evening rolled around, I could actually sort of see the negative space that once contained the towers, with the smoke clinging to the buildings' angles like phantoms.

The days following were awful. I was terrified of everything; I didn't wanna take the subway for fear of a suicide bomber; I kept looking out the window of my midtown classroom, wondering when the Empire State Building (two blocks away) would come toppling down on us. Like everyone else, I watched the news constantly, but there was no hard news, only expressions of shock and replays of the two planes crashing into the towers.

It was an emotional time for me, because of the WTC, because of other things I was dealing with (and I still look at 9/11 as kind of an outrageously melodramatic metaphor for the shitty year I was having... when I put it all in context, I was like "well, THAT fuckin' figures"). So it's tough for me to relive all that stuff now, in 2002.

I did go down to Ground Zero yesterday. It was the first time I'd gone to the disaster site; I'd just never felt the need to go, to gawk and rubberneck and congregate with all the picture-snappers and t-shirt buyers. Not my style -- I decided I'd rather mourn with my memory than with my eyes.

Yeah, so I went down there, and it was all blocked off by police barriers (the president was down there, so security was kicked into the highest gear). Crowds were kept at bay and made to stand several blocks from the site.

I didn't stick around; I made it down to the river and walked north along Greenwich St., checking out the historic buildings and warehouses in the area, feeling lucky to be a New Yorker, in such close proximity to some of the world's most beautiful architecture, landmarks protected from ravenous developers and pretty much guaranteed NOT to be a target for terrorists. As I came up behind Borough of Manhattan Community College, I discovered a whole row of perfectly preserved Federal-style houses from the 19th century, tucked away on Harrison St., hiding in a tiny cranny of the more modern, utilitarian surroundings of the college.

It must sound corny to out-of-towners, but these are the things that make New Yorkers passionate about their city. I began the day feeling a little down. I don't usually drink in the morning, but I dreaded the day and figured I'd polish off the wine I'd bought the previous evening (a 2000 Rabbit Ridge Merlot -- very yummy and perfect for a drinking binge). By noon I was feeling okay and I went out for a really satisfying pasta lunch at a local Italian place.

If that's what the pundits mean by "defiance" -- enjoying good food and wine and other aesthetic pleasures on a day associated with terror and victimization -- I'm in. I think I'll make this a tradition.

September 11, 2002

Meanwhile, I mean every word of this (it's adapted from an e-mail to a friend):

Since about age 11 (before which I just absorbed things from the various Top 40 and "urban" radio stations and my parents' baby-boomer record collection), my aesthetic has been mainly punk/metal/folk/classical, with some excursions into jazz and electronica and hip-hop and classic rock and indie rock and all that other stuff. The older I get, though the more bored I become with the limitations of all those rigid classifications. It all bleeds together, doesn't it? All I wanna do is listen to as much music as possible and not have to feel guilty about what I'm NOT listening to or what I'm listening to too much of. Like I've said, it's all music, and if you make music, you might be living on the other side of the world under a completely different set of circumstances, but you share something with every single other person making music on God's green earth -- you wanna make music, and music's timeless and universal and no matter how complicated it can get it REALLY BOILS DOWN TO A PRETTY SIMPLE CONCEPT. So even if you think they're "good" or "bad," the distance separating Nuggets and the Ohm box and Samba Soul '70 and Now That's What I Call Music is not all that great. So I'm all about challenging the "rockist" orthodoxy that keeps people scared of embracing other forms, but at the same time it bothers me that some of the more vocal parties of the anti-orthodoxy have so many biases of their own, and the whole pretense that they're "educating" people about weaning themselves away from ___ and instead appreciating ___ has a weird, NPR-ish, swallow-your-medicine-junior, intellectually schoolmarmish tinge to it that puts me off.

I wanna make something clear -- because I have a weird sense of humor, and sometimes when I'm being sarcastic I make it extra-difficult for people to read between the lines. That post I made a few days ago, the one where I said I was sick and how that entitled me to act like a jerk? Well, I meant some of what I said, and some of it, including that "hating indie is like hating black people" thing, was tongue-in-cheek, a bit of confoundingly meaningless blustery bragadoccio added for my own amusement (see: "Nobody listens to techno"). The sentiment is not entirely untrue -- I feel that an across-the-board blanket hatred of any mass culture is a show of ignorance, and it's pretty wrongheaded to dismiss a whole culture because there are a few people (or bands) or viewpoints that rub you the wrong way. I probably shouldn't have used the phrase "black people," because that tends to get people up in arms regardless of the point you're trying to make (I could have substituted ANY ethnic group or lifestyle), but "hating" was really the operative word. And it's not like I said "beating the shit out of" or "stringing up" or "holding political rallies to protest the integration of" -- if that's how you read it, that's your problem.

September 09, 2002

From the Omnitectural Forum: What if the Spice Girls Were Midtown Skyscrapers?

September 08, 2002

Alex Cox: "And I very much like that sequence which Abbe Wool improvised - the one of Sid and Nancy kissing in the alley with the garbage falling all around. She invented that scene, which was shot by Roger, when we lost a location at the last minute and had to improvise a bridging scene. In some ways it's the best moment in the film. Pray For Rain apparently find that piece of music being used by directors and editors when they hear the "demo" version of films they're supposed to score."


Alex Cox: "On the American poster, yes. And if you compare it to the original scene you'll see those aren't really the legs of Chloe Webb! Chloe's legs, which are fantastic, still weren't enough for the marketing department. They photographed the legs of a BARBIE DOLL for the poster. Which is somewhat ironic, since in the film Nancy complains she'll never have legs like Barbie's."

September 07, 2002

Greatest bio ever. "Shakira is one of the poetic songwriters of her generation." Yes, yes she is.

Shakira, the graceful one, has been sneaking up on you-the Grammys, the MTV Video Awards, those Pepsi spots. She's a child prodigy who wrote her first song at age eight, a blond-locked Colombian who speaks three languages and loves only in Spanish. She's a perfectionist who spends hours in the studio; she needs to be close to nature but her passion is the crackle of electric guitars. She is in the blush of youth, but she's far older than her 24 years. As her countryman, Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, "Shakira's music has a personal stamp that doesn't look like anyone else's and no one can sing or dance like her, at whatever age, with such an innocent sensuality, one that seems to be of her own invention."

The swift ascent of Shakira's star is the stuff of Latin American legend. At the age of 13, she signed her first recording contract with Sony Music Colombia and released her first album Magia. (Magic). After graduating from secondary school, Shakira decided to dedicate her life to the music, recording Peligro ("Danger") and Pies Descalzos, ("Barefeet") in the years that followed, which broke her in Latin America , Brazil (over one million sales) and Spain. Her next album, ?Dónde Están Los Ladrones? produced by Shakira and executive produced by Emilio Estefan, established her as the major force behind Latin pop-rock, going multi-platinum in the U.S., Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Central America, Mexico and platinum in Spain. Then came a Grammy and two Latin Grammys, the key TV appearances, the brave new world of Shakira, the star. Shakira is a walking, living, breathing, singing contradiction. "I was born and raised in Colombia, but I listened to bands like Led Zeppelin, the Cure, the Police, the Beatles and Nirvana," said Shakira. "I was so in love with that rock sound but at the same time because my father is of l00% Lebanese descent, I am devoted to Arabic tastes and sounds. Somehow I'm a fusion of all of those passions and my music is a fusion of elements that I can make coexist in the same place, in one song."

It's the songs that make her new album, LAUNDRY SERVICE, her first with English-language tunes, the kind of breakthrough work that will turn the pop world on its head. From the tango-inflected "Objection (Tango)," to the Middle Eastern flavor of "Eyes Like Yours," to the lyrical innovations of "Underneath Your Clothes", to the richness of the melodies of "The One," to the pop-rock of "Whenever Wherever," Shakira will stand in the ranks of the best singer-songwriters in any language.

"I think I am celebrating life more than ever," said Shakira. "I had a slightly narrow vision of love. Now I am feeling unguarded, and it feels great. I feel washed clean of the way I looked at things in the past, which is why I am calling the album LAUNDRY SERVICE."

The most extraordinary thing about LAUNDRY SERVICE is the way she was able to translate her Latin American sensibility into a new language. The idea to do songs in English first came up during Shakira's partnership with Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Gloria initiated the process by translating "Ojos Así," a song that appeared on Shakira's last album, Dónde Están Los Ladrones? (Where are the Thieves?). "I wanted to have her involved in this somehow because she was one of the people that really believed that I could make a record in English," said Shakira.

But nurturing the belief that she could write songs in English was a strong challenge. "The first song I wrote by myself for this record was "Objection," remembered Shakira. "I prayed and asked God to send me a good song today, and I remember I started writing the song a couple of hours after. I wrote the music and lyrics at the same time, and when that happens it's really magical to me." When she completed "Objection," she knew that she could write ten more, so she packed up her loved ones and set up portable studios in rural Uruguay. Taking in the primordial energy of natural surroundings, Shakira came up with a crop of new songs more introspective, more passionate than any she had written before. "I had to find a way to express my ideas and my feelings, my day to day stories in English. So I bought a couple of rhyming dictionaries, read poetry, and authors like Leonard Cohen and Walt Whitman," she said.

"I would feel love in Spanish but I would think about how to express that love in English. Afterwards that became such a natural process, and if you check the subject of my songs, most of them talk about my own experiences and feelings and what I was actually going through in my life," said Shakira. "Is impossible not to write about love.. It's the great mystery of life. It makes me ask myself new questions every day."

Shakira is one of the poetic songwriters of her generation and considered the best female lyricist in Latin America: On the ballad "Underneath Your Clothes," she claims as territory a man she likens to "a song written by the hands of God"; on the blues-rocker "Fool" her "tears make a sea of desert." But she is still as quirky around the edges as she's always been-on "Ready for the Good Times" she remembers close encounters with roaches; on "Poem to a Horse" she scolds a friend dulled by "hydroponic pot," and on "The One," she rewards her true love by shaving her legs and learning how to cook.

"I try to represent only myself, but there are many women that identify with me," said Shakira. "I am definitely not a woman who washes her husband's clothes every day. I hope I don't sound like a feminist leader saying these things. I just try to be honest the way I write."

There's no doubt that Shakira has maintained her creative integrity with her new project. But perhaps more importantly, LAUNDRY SERVICE is a record that reflects her deep love for the basics of rock production. "I felt that I needed to make an organic record with real players in the studio playing live music and doing it like they made records 30 years ago, in the old times," said Shakira. "We used an engineer named Terry Manning, who's worked with ACDC, Led Zeppelin, Lenny Kravitz. He's somebody from the old school. I was determined not to depend on too many electronic sounds, and he definitely understood that."

On LAUNDRY SERVICE there is a very strong dedication to old-fashioned rock riffs, to the soulful, bluesy singing styles of a Bonnie Raitt, even the mournful, wailing guitars of Aerosmith. But Shakira can't help being herself, and that means that "Whenever Wherever," will bounce along with some help from Andean pan flutes and Brazilian drums, and "Eyes Like Yours" bursts from your CD player with navel-baring, belly-dancing furor. And for those longing for Shakira in her original language, four new tracks in Spanish are included. "The world has become so small and music is so eclectic now, and our taste is so broad that that's almost predictable that all this crossover from one culture to another was going to happen," she said, then paused for a second, making sure everyone knew she had her priorities straight. "But I know that rock and roll is never going to die."

September 06, 2002

I'm sick as hell and I think this gives me carte blanche to be a total jerk to everybody this weekend.

So: Things I hate.

1) People who are stuck in the past.
2) People who are stuck in the present.
3) People who are obsessed with some vague "future" and get their jollies pretending that musical innovation gives them the right to deem anything else irrelevant and useless.
4) People who have across-the-board hatred for specific genres of music, regardless of how varied and complex those genres might be. "I hate indie" is as bad as "I hate black people." Oh yes it is.
5) People who think they're "above" punk rock because they think that 25+ years of lame-ass media ponderousness equals what punk rock actually is (and I don't even know what "is" is). The ones who hate punk because of those limited definitions are the ones who are ignorant to all of the seized possibilities and all the good that has come from whatever movements have existed under that aegis.

So shut the fuck up. All of you.

September 05, 2002

The good news first: I'm going to see the Walkmen tonight. This rules, because I've fucked up or missed out on every opportunity I've had to see them thus far -- including my More Than Music pilgrimage in July (I was too exhausted to stick around the extra couple of hours that Sunday night). So, as a vocal champion of Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, I'm excited. In preparation, I listened to an archived webcast of their live set on WFMU. What a FANTASTIC sound -- like a hand-cut piano roll at some Weimar carousel with a sign on the wall sayin' Achtung Baby. What a great vocalist Hamilton Leithauser is once you get past the not-for-everyone constipated-Kinks thing he does. I love the drawl, love the sardonicism, love the class. Can't wait to see what kinda stage moves he's got.

Bad news: I'm sick. I just can't catch a break.


Been working on this for the past three days and it finally sounds the way I want it to.

September 04, 2002

Nate: It's actually "get your nails done ... get your hair did." Nose is funnier, I know.

The worst thing about being party to a copy of Boom Selection_Issue 01 is that for days upon days I have not been able to get the guitar riff from "No Scrubs" out of my head.


Subject: Editor,international Vladimir Nabokov society: Deflorated teens on video release

Dear mr. Editor

Do not continue unless you know your local obscenity laws and, furthermore, know that they do not prohibit the
viewing of adult material.

1.I am at least 18 years of age.
2.The sexually explicit material I viewing is for my own personal use and I will
never expose minors to said material.
3.I am not a U.S./European Postal official, nor law enforcement agent, or acting
as an agent thereof, attempting to obtain any evidence for the prosecution of any
individual or corporation, or for the purpose of entrapment.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language:


Fourth Edition. 2000.SYLLABICATION: def·lo·ra·tion
NOUN: 1. The act of deflowering. 2. Rupture of the hymen, typically in sexual intercourse.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English defloracioun, from Late Latin dflrti, dflrtin-, from dflrtus,
past participle of dflrre, to deflower. See deflower.

Check oulawed Nabokov Society video release samples here:

September 02, 2002

Just heard that Brooklyn's Grace Choral Society is holding auditions this month, and I think I'm gonna give it a crack. I've sung with about a dozen different choirs (not bad for a Jewish girl!), but I haven't done anything recently, and I'm dying to. My only wish is that I'll get to learn some new pieces -- these choirs have a habit of recycling the same five or six works, catering to popular tastes out of financial necessity. The last choral work I sang was Beethoven's Fucking Ninth -- gorgeous, but it's kinda the "Freebird" of choral music. Or... it would be, if musicians took all those requests for "Freebird" seriously.

Today I had lunch at a New York institution, and one of my favorite downscale-cheapo eateries, the Bendix Diner (the one in the East Village -- the flagship location in Chelsea is no longer there). The Bendix is homestyle American cooking with a sort of pop-Thai fusion. Curries, satays, basil dishes, side by side with comfort food like mashed potatoes and meatloaf. I had the buffalo wings, which aren't tabasco-based; they were served with a light chili sauce/orange-reduction thing that had a mild kick instead of being cockwavingly spicy. A nice change of pace, and very tasty.

Then I went down to a delicacy store on the Lower East Side and got some nosh: Turkish pistachios, prailine coffee, chocolate-covered espresso beans, and amaretto cordials (oh man, you haven't LIVED...). I like eating well ("well" as opposed to "the crap I settle for when I'm lazy/strapped for cash/pressed for time"); it makes me feel good about myself. And a happy tummy = a happy Jody.