October 31, 2002

Thanks to The Rub for the mp3 of Entrance covering one of my all-time faves, "Love in Vain." I don't know anything about this Entrance guy, but I like what I hear (the mangled wail, the choppy/strummy guitar) -- I just hope he's not another dour country luddite like Ryan Adams or Will Oldham.

Happy Rotten Egg Day. I'm sure most of you have heard the news that Run DMC's Jam Master Jay was killed yesterday in a Queens recording studio. I don't want to become too philosophical or wistful about his death, but sometimes when something like this happens, I feel like another little piece of the past crumbles away. I've been writing for years now about my childhood awe of 1980s New York City, and Run DMC (the dorky Adidaswear, the love they gave to a mundane neighborhood in a banal outer borough, the hard-ass electrometal JMJ scratch-n-skronk that sounded almost TWICE as gleefully self-important as any of the king-of-rock nonsense being shouted over it) were a big big part of the way my city's music culture affected and influenced me. This is what we referenced in the schoolyard and on the bus, cuz we all knew it. This is the stuff that was playing on construction sites and inside of Korean delis and blasting outta headphones on the elevated D train out by Coney Island.

I mourned when the city waged a campaign to permanently wipe out all the grafitti (that awful, ugly urban blight!) from the subways; when I saw that they'd succeeded in turning these funny, bold, expressionistic art-punk aktions into empty canvases of boring, sterile metal, I considered it the end of an era. Not the end of hip-hop, just the end of a living urban mythology that was special to me. Hearing about this new crinkle in the '80s myth is like learning that a long-abandoned building has finally been demolished. You can remember it and romanticize it, you can furnish photos and other historical documents, but the building is gone for good.

October 29, 2002

With Halloween approaching, the binge-eater in me has been craving profane amounts of sickeningly sugary candy. Tonight I bought some candy corn, and I seem to be tearing through the bag with great zeal. To make myself feel less gluttonous, I ventured over to Google in hopes of learning more about this maize-like confection, and lo and behold, Haunted Bay had a detailed history of the snack's invention and production, as well as some interesting factoids.

October 28, 2002

Jody's Self-Pity Corner: I'm starting to feel old and senile. I turn 26 in a month and I'm at a strange crossroads. My writing now is the best it's ever been -- I've figured out how to be both formal and impulsively imagistic without skewing too much in either direction, and I finally feel that I write like an adult and not merely a petulant/careerist twentysomething. But now that I care about words to the point where I'll labor over a single phrase for an hour to keep it from seeming insincere, overhyperbolic, or amateurish, I'm finding that the act of writing gives me a lot less pleasure than it used to; it can be torture trying to drag an honest opinion out of myself these days. I love writing and I feel terribly guilty that I can't live up to the "a writer writes, always" ethos (cf. Throw Momma From the Train), but every time I fire up MS Word and search my inner rockcrit for a snazzy hook, it's not there, and all the time spent not writing leads me to believe that I'm not a writer, only an inarticulate boob, an artless plebe. The night was... uh.

October 24, 2002

It's trivial in the grand scheme, but I, like a lot of people, have a fondness for keeping score of celebrity statistics. I'm not interested in marriages, divorces, prices paid for Hamptons estates, number of detox visits; my curiosity extends primarily to who's gay/lesbian, and who's Jewish (me: I'm 100% Jewish, and the sexuality thing's somewhat murkier). Anyway, one of the "is she or isn't she?" cases I've been following concerns the Jewishness of one Courtney Love -- I've heard her refer to herself as "a quarter Jewish," but I've learned not to believe anything coming out of that woman's mouth.

Turns out she's telling the truth (although pre-nosejob pictures of Love suggest a deeper level of membership in the tribe). The editor of Jewhoo, a consistently reputable who's-who of Jewish celebrities, has a blog called Red Sea Pedestrians, where he addresses the twisted and convoluted details behind Love's heritage. In short: He deduces that her birth mother is five-eighths Jewish. How he arrives at this conclusion -- it's mindboggling. Take a look.

I've linked to The New York City Anti-Hipster Forum before, and goddammit, I'll do it again.

A few months ago I was walking down the street, thinking about an old friend I hadn't spoken to in a while (I had sent him a mix CD the day before as sort of a long-time-no-see greeting card). I looked up, and there he was, coming from the opposite direction. It was almost like I'd willed him into appearing, or maybe it was (read the following in a hammy Master Thespian voice) Meant To Be. I am a strong believer in fate, and every time something like this happens, that belief only gets stronger.

So... recently I was taking a walk through my neighborhood, feeling sentimental about all the great, weird, fascinating old records I've found this year, things that have just made me marvelously happy if only for the joy of discovering that they existed. I was deep in thought, as I usually am when I go out walking -- those trips around the neighborhood with my Walkman have generated the fodder for some of my best writing. When I came to my senses, I found myself right in front of a stoop sale. There was a box of records, and sitting at the start of the pile was -- holy mother of a cratedigging god -- an Israeli pressing of Eurovision '79. For a dollar.

As an American, I'm completely intrigued and mystified by the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Eurovision '79 LP feeds right into everything I'd previously imagined about what the music would be like. It's amateurish to be sure, but it's so cheerful and hopeful, perky and innocent -- and totally guileless in the way it rips off other, more famous '70s pop songs ("Nobody Does It Better," "Fernando") and artists (the Bee Gees, the Starland Vocal Band) for a shot at the big cookie. Many of the entries' lyrics are broken-Anglicized and sung in heavy, phlegmatic accents. Much of the music is watered-down, thoroughly mainstreamed midtempo orchestral disco, as filtered through whatever the entrants' home countries understood about pop music -- there was no MTV, no internet, no global culture. I'm sure it must have been a really amazing thing to see fellow Eurovision winners ABBA emerge from Sweden (Sweden!) and become not only a worldwide phenomenon, but a cottage industry. And that amazement -- that awestruck optimism of "If Sweden can do it, maybe Finland can do it too!!" -- is all over this record.

October 20, 2002

According to my Sitemeter, the following search terms have led people to Freezing to Death in the past 24 hours:

-how to make a monkey from twisty balloons
-where to score heroin nyc

Update: Add "brothels in nyc" to that list. WTF?

October 19, 2002

"In the video, the scantily clad 22-year-old pop star dances in a boxing ring next to a wall with posters in Thai that read 'Thailand's sex tourism' and 'Young underage girls.'"

October 16, 2002

One of my longest-standing obsessions is urban exploration -- you know, discovering abandoned buildings, railways, things left to rot and decay because there wasn't the money or the interest to maintain them. I don't know why I'm so drawn to abandoned things (draw your own "abandonment complex" parallels if you must), but I find a certain romance about structures that were built by humans, neglected by humans, and left alone to be slowly and peacefully absorbed back into nature.

Found a great link tonight -- DetroitYES: Home of the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit. It's a very comprehensive photoessay about what decades of poverty have done to a city filled with beautiful architecture and evocative factory buildings. I've never been to Detroit, but from the photos, it seems a bit like the Bronx (which has some gorgeous old structures amid the devastation and burnout). It's nice to see that there's a small effort being made at restoring the more touristy parts of Detroit, but considering the recession we're in, I doubt they'll get terribly far before they run out of money. (I've seen this happen a lot in New York, and it's a depressing reminder of every crackpot good intention that shot its wad before completion.)

October 15, 2002

By some totally weird coincidence, Nate happened to find the very same page I was looking at last night, about Harvey, Illinois' Dixie Square Mall, left standing in abandonment and disrepair since 1979, which is right around the time The Blues Brothers was filmed there.

October 14, 2002

Scissor Sisters - "Comfortably Numb"
My song of the moment. It's the Pink Floyd classic covered Bee Gees style (although I think it also sounds like Controversy-era Prince), with the one-note guitar riff from Stevie Nicks's "Edge of Seventeen" and a housey early '90s feel.

October 12, 2002

The Stylus blog links us to the bizarre story of how and why the Andrea True Connection's "More More More" got made.

One more reason why I hate Vice Magazine. (When you're done with that, read the offending New York Press article.)

October 10, 2002

Just saw something incredibly cool: the Rolling Stones on SNL in 1978, doing "Beast of Burden" and "Shattered." This is my favorite period in the Stones' career -- when they were doing the mountains-of-coke, Studio 54, New York Dolls-gone-disco scene, not just Englishmen but honorary richbitch Gothamites slumming it up in the artpunkdance ghetto. This SNL appearance had Mick bathed, nay, smothered in a red light, doing his exaggerated ostrich moves in a really charged, diabolical way, ripping his tight red t-shirt off, putting his arm around Ron Wood to lean into his mic; Keith was laid back but you could clearly hear his cranky voice barking out the so-called "harmony." "Beast of Burden" is more Lone Star than Mudd Club, though, a beer-and-sawdust bourgeois-bohemian twang singalong for hairy new-parent potheads who haven't yet hightailed it out to the Jersey suburbs. Which makes '70s SNL (which feels like the hippest swingers party anyone's ever gone to) the PERFECT venue for such a performance.

October 09, 2002

Strange week. Strange past few days. Stayed up all night and read, and spent today in a not-quite-awake state that in the early going made it very difficult for me to get my bearings and keep my eyes open. Had Indian food and waited forever and forever for it. Went to choral rehearsal and it was disturbingly good and fast-paced, and everything I felt insecure about last week I did great at this week, but it freaked me out. It was too good. Right now I'm listening to Boards of Canada's "The Smallest Weird Number," which sounds like a the warped tape from a 25-year-old educational reel on astronomy, meditative and tranquil but meant to invoke awe and fear, projected to a room of blotter acid and gnawing boredom and uncertain desperation and walls the color of melting caramel. It would be the perfect soundtrack to Todd Haynes' Safe: not the new-age music played in cults, but the otherworldly, off-rocker music playing in the cultists' heads, wavering and echoing and chiming like secret sine waves, both comfort zone and endless plateau of soulsickness and terror.

October 08, 2002

SSCB readers: There'll be a new issue next Tuesday.

October 07, 2002

From the NYHappenings list. FYI.

"You are at the best party you have ever been to. Emerson, Lake & Palmer are jamming with the Basement Jaxx. Peaches struts past seductively looking for The Velvet Underground and to your left Salt 'n Pepa are grinding to The Stooges. Destiny's Child have finally got to grips with 10CC's chord changes while Dolly Parton stomps along to twisted Bobby O beats. Sly & the Family Stone cheer while Nena hangs on to a solitary red ballon giggling madly...You have now entered the bizarre fantastic world of 2 many dj's" --Time Out London

Thursday Oct 10th
2 Many DJs (Soulwax)
w/ Justine D, JDH, & special guests!!

93 2nd Ave (between 5th & 6th)


October 05, 2002

I had the scare of my life when my computer speakers suddenly stopped working the other day. After some futzing about, I finally got them working again this afternoon -- must have been a software problem, because there was nothing wrong with the adapter when I tested it elsewhere, and when I rolled back my computer to an earlier setting, the speakers worked again. Huh.

Now I can go back to enjoying the songs I've had in rotation this week:

Game Theory - "Seattle"
If I define myself by what I've done and what I've liked, I also define myself by where I've lived and traveled. I'm very much a New Yorker -- I've got the black clothes and the cynicism and the romanticism and the worldliness down pat, and everything about this wretched old place is in my blood. But there were times when I just had to get the hell out for a while and clear my head, and in late 1999, I headed to the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon) to stake out some new territory. I spent much of my free time traveling around by bus, up and down the coast and through the mountains, and into the cities. I ended up in Seattle quite a few times. Nice town -- and (this seems like an obvious thing to say given the city's reputation over the past decade and change) very sorta self-aware and grounded in its bigness and oldness. Down in PDX, the locals would look at their northerly neighbor with a bit of jealousy and awe (and sometimes disdain); it was the huge, mythic-proportioned shadow that loomed over our humble, underdog, hippie-punk-writer-stripper-queer town. Game Theory's "Seattle" (from 1986) is a corny-yet-100%-heartbreaking Sister Lovers-style acoustic love letter (can "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle" rightfully exist in anything other than the most earnest municipal anthem?) to something, somewhere, at some point in the past... and when I hear the song I'm not totally sure what it means on a literal level, but it's like looking through a box of postcards you've bought and having the postcards themselves -- just the very thereness of the postcards, not the stupid photographs that accompany them -- trigger dozens of different emotions, memories, names, faces, songs.

Dead Moon - "Rescue"
Speaking of that part of the world, "Rescue" comes to us from Dead Moon, Clackamas, Oregon's very own garage-rock legends. They played NYC recently and I was on my way to see 'em when I realized I didn't have my ID with me -- and for some reason getting home that night took much longer than usual, so by the time I got home I didn't feel like going back out again. But that's okay. I got to see Dead Moon at some shithole in PDX, and I still remember the drunken riotous energy quite well; plastic beer cups and cheap beer on the floor, people dancing and shaking the sweat out of their saturated hair, fists in the air, a nobody's-looking-so-let's-rock vibe, with the horrible humidity outside strangely working to the night's advantage. Picture that and you've got "Rescue" -- one of the most distinctly Northwestern songs ever.

Cardigans - "Hanging Around"
American music fans remember the Cardigans as the airy, slightly exotic Swedish pop band responsible for the massive 1997 hit "Lovefool" -- and some of them also remember that the group's follow-up album, 1998's Gran Turismo, was a critical and commercial bomb. I like Gran Turismo; it's not a lost classic or anything, but it's not a dismal failure either. Maybe it's just that I'm completely hopeless when it comes to pop vocals sung by sexy Continental women, but Nina Persson's voice suckered me in from the beginning. On "Hanging Around," she's sad but she's not aloof; she sounds like she's beautiful (and she is) but a lot smarter than beautiful girls usually are; she's angry but not mean or off-putting or even remotely bitchy; she's in love and familiar with the pain and used to the abuse. The music is somewhat Butch Vig-ish (he didn't produce it, a guy named Tore Johansson did -- TOR JOHNSON??), lots of simple alt-hooks jazzed up by keyboards, fuzz bass, and fidgety studio tricks. And that seems like it would be pedestrian, but it fits the song perfectly. "Hanging Around" could have been a huge hit, and it wasn't, and I'm glad I have it all to myself.

Life Without Buildings - "PS Exclusive"
Oh dear God, this is so much better than anything on that horrendous new Sleater-Kinney album (sorry... they've done good things, but One Beat tries too hard too many times). This, my friends, is what an S-K record would be if Corin let Carrie sing all the songs. Cute, boundlessly feisty, very clever, very clean and direct.

Last night, after a fierce debate-with-self regarding whether I should or shouldn't go out and Do Something, I half-remembered that Manc-rockers the Chameleons were in New York doing some reunion gigs, so at the eleventh hour I trotted myself out to Park Slope (it's close, but it's really not) to see them at Southpaw with Jack Rabid's old band Springhouse. Both bands gave very good performances, but it was the sum of various parts that made the evening not just "very good" but "fantastic." Southpaw is a nice, low-key club that thankfully doesn't overstate its yuppieness or its grunginess, and the beer is cheap (enough), and the sound is good, and there are places to sit. Also, the crowd (cute, mid-thirties white guys) was superb; they were so into it, dancing and bouncing around ecstatically, drunk and just on the pleasant side of rowdy, really appreciative of both Springhouse and the Chameleons (who won my respect by saying nice things about New York -- I love when visiting rock bands do that). And the weather was beautiful.

I'm a bit hung over now, and I embarrassed myself by showing up late at the street fair where I was supposed to be manning a table (I overslept). But everything worked out fine, and when this headache goes away, I'll feel great.

October 04, 2002

I've hardly posted anything this week, and for that I apologize -- I haven't gone anywhere or bought anything or downloaded anything life-changing. Well, I did put in an appearance at Tuesday's free White Stripes show in Union Square, but, eh, you know. The heat was awful, the crowd (mostly dumb, shrill NYU kids and modelish girls) made me feel very old, and by the time the show started I felt a little claustrophobic and anxious being surrounded by so many people that I normally go to great lengths to avoid in my day-to-day dealings. So I left during the first song. It's okay; I'm not even really a White Stripes fan.

October 03, 2002

Cibula writes about one of the greatest jazz albs ever.

October 02, 2002

CMJ schedule's up.