November 30, 2002

I find this so therapeutic.

November 29, 2002

One of my favorite albums of 2002 was released earlier this month to very little fanfare: Robyn Sings, Robyn Hitchcock's collection of Dylan covers. I'm a big Dylan fan and a somewhat-big Hitchcock fan (more Robyn himself than the Soft Boys, although Nextdoorland is really starting to click with me), so I find this release doubly exciting. One of the nicest surprises on here is "Not Dark Yet," perhaps the best track on Bob's otherwise disappointing Time Out of Mind -- I found Daniel Lanois' production on that record unbearably pompous and verging on self-parody, and Hitchcock's simple gtr-vox cover redeems the song by rearranging it to showcase some of Dylan's most personal, bitter lyrics ("Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain/Behind every beautiful thing there's been some kind of pain").

Another highlight: the similar treatment given "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," reminding me of Hitchcock's stark, dead-of-winter ballads on Eye and I Often Dream of Trains.

November 27, 2002

Newsflash: thinks I'm "talented." Thanks!

November 24, 2002

Seems like every day I come across a Google referral that's a real winner. Today's came from someone searching for a "Cobain headshot."

November 23, 2002

If you've seen or read Ghost World, you probably remember the "A Smile and a Ribbon" 45 that had special significance for Enid. Basic Hip Digital Oddio has a page dedicated to the singers of that tune, a '50s sister act called Patience and Prudence. There's a short bio, and some mp3s, including "We Can't Sing Rhythm and Blues" (they can't) and "Very Nice is Bali Bali" (an only-in-the-fifties gamut-run of Oriental stereotypes).

Joan Jett wrote a letter to Rolling Stone in response to the magazine's "Women in Rock" issue. The missive went unpublished, but it's making its way around the interweb now.

Jett is right to complain that "[b]y RS standards, Rock is no longer a style of music but a trendy costume to be whipped up by expensive stylists and slapped onto the latest pop tart barbie doll. Give a girl some tight pants and a spiky bracelet and POOF! She ROCKS!" It's insulting that female musicians who are accomplished and dedicated to what they do are left out in the cold as bimbos-come-lately in Halloween rock-star garb are treated as icons within the VERY SAME IDIOM that artists like Jett (a sex symbol, yes, but an excellent guitarist too) work in.

The problem is that Rolling Stone won't differentiate between "rock" and "pop" -- they're a "rock" magazine first and foremost, and the word itself lends weight to RS's reputation. Except now they're a "pop" magazine in a rock mag's clothing. A "Women in Pop" issue, even with the presence of Britney and Christina, wouldn't sell as many copies as the more impressive and formal "Women in Rock" (featuring the same women). But "rock" and "pop" are usually interchangeable terms and have been so since rock's invention. It was never problematic (as far as I can remember) when Madonna graced a "Women in Rock" cover in the nineties. The dilemma at hand is Rolling Stone's identity crisis as of 2002. They're clearly latching on to the rock-as-fashion-statement idea that the pop world has embraced for the past two or three years, and they're going us one worse -- they're subscribing to the tiresomely juvenile belief in (not merely rock but) RAWK, the notion that everything RAWKS and is BADASS and that if we wanna legitimize youth-oriented pop music and hip-hop we've gotta see it through the dusty old rock lens. This is rockism at its purest. And for a specifically rock-through-rock-lens magazine (i.e. what RS used to be), that's fine. But if RS is going to expand its definition of "rock" to make room for contemporary chartpop, it shouldn't intentionally confuse the sort of thing Britney does with the sort of thing Joan Jett does. It only makes both parties look silly.

This said, Jett's letter has a whiff of sour grapes to it, and it's obvious she doesn't take women in pop any more seriously than RS takes women in "rock." Her dismissal of Pink is pretty insipid and shows no understanding of the pop star's career trajectory. Pink's not synonymous with Britney. She's not "a Spice Girl reject," either. Female pop stars can have their own identities, just as female rock stars can.

So I'm glad Jett wrote the letter -- it's nice to see rock icons taking the establishment to task -- but it's not the letter I would have wanted Joan Jett to write.

(Update: I've since learned that Joan Jett is not the actual author of this letter -- it's now being attributed to someone in the Jett camp named Maya Price. I should have been tipped off to this when the writer referred to "Joan" in the third person.)

November 22, 2002

Let's see... I've been going out far too much lately, drinking too much, spending too much, staying up too late, and I seem to have roped myself into begrudgingly agreeing to throw some kind of birthday bash next week. And the truth is, I've gotten used to my recent spate of partywhoredom. It's cool to be among the last ones standing as the weaker dominoes fall away, go home for their sensible night's sleep, get that extra bit of studying in -- the end of the night often spawns more silliness than the beginning. I was out last night, and I was surprised and pleased at how many people made it to the 4:30 mark (by that time, the silliness had dissipated and turned to exhaustion, and it was decided that the party had pooped). I tell myself it's good for me, that this new set of friends is just what I need to help me kick off my late twenties; every so often I have to reshuffle my social deck, for the same reason I need to plunge into different musical genres, or move to strange cities, or create a whole new look for myself. I tell myself, after three failed flirtations with antidepressants and mood stabilizers, that alcohol is the best medicine. Doesn't take much. Three or four beers, the odd mixed drink, that's all that's necessary to lift the omnipresent anxiety and dread and get me to the happy special place where everyone (including me) is sparkly, engaging, funny, sexy, k-rad and a half. Inebriation is lovely. Except for being worn out all the time.

November 20, 2002

Yesterday I downloaded what I presume is the new single from Cat Power's forthcoming album, You Are Free. I've listened to "He War" maybe seven or eight times since then. I'm sucked in by the circularity/repetitiveness of it, the way the verses explode into stunning choruses in a slow bloom rather than a predictably disorienting loud-soft-loud pattern. The "hey hey hey" that it all builds up to -- "it" being the simple, heavy, martial rhythms and and tense, reserved melodies -- starts out as a single point and fractures into a throaty multipart chorale on its trip up the arc. And throughout, the riffs stay the same, but the verse parts and the bridges begin to bleed over to the chorus in layers, until it's clear that they weren't really "verses" after all, just introductory statements of themes she'd planned to use later.

(Thanks to Fluxblog for the tip.)

November 19, 2002

New mp3s up. The Dylan track is especially great.

Bob Dylan - "She's Your Lover Now"
Fania All-Stars - "There You Go"
Ann Peebles - "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down"
Rita Wright - "I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel For You"

Heads up: Mixerman's back!

November 16, 2002

Inspired by a recent ILM thread -- here are the first ten tracks that come up when I randomize my Winamp playlist:

Swell Maps - "Let's Build a Car"
Siouxsie and the Banshees - "Pointing Bone"
Goblin - "Flashing"
Kid 606 - "Don't Sweat the Technics"
Bob Dylan - "Are You Ready"
Crass - "Banned From the Roxy"
Louis Jordan - "Beans and Corn Bread"
Iannis Xenakis - "Kraanerg"
Curtis Mayfield - "Eddie You Should Know Better"
Osymyso - "John's Not Mad"

Stay Free! (with the assistance of the Internet Archives and NYU's Center For Media, Culture, and History) is putting on an exhibit called "Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age." There'll be an art exhibit, a film festival, and a panel discussion. Also, they're distributing free compilation CDs of "illegal" music by usual suspects like Negativland, the Evolution Control Committee, and John Oswald, and some really curious selections, including the granddaddy of all copyright-infringers, "Happy Birthday to You." More information on this exhibit here. (Via Wisdom Goof.)

November 14, 2002

You heard it here first!

November 13, 2002

Know Southside Callbox, that zine-like thing I put together every few weeks? Issue Nine is now up, featuring the latest Are You Threatening Me?. Hop to it, then!

November 12, 2002

One of my favorite sites, Forgotten NY, recently added a feature called Lookin' for Fats: The Jazzmen of Queens. The first installment is a tour through the Addisleigh Park section of St. Alban's. Addisleigh Park was once home to a mighty roster of jazz legends: Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Count Basie, Lena Horne, and more. And although he's not associated with jazz, Forgotten NY also mentions that another legend, James Brown, owned an ugly, Tudor-style house on Linden Boulevard in the 1960s.

November 11, 2002

In the Guardian, Pete Townshend reviews Kurt Cobain's posthumously published journals. Townshend's bitterness is hard to take at times -- and "middle-class white boy" is one of those use-other-words-please phrases -- but it's interesting to see one generation's nihilist hero comment on another's in such an affectless, honest way, and with the clarity of mind that comes from actually having survived all the drugs and the decades and the deaths. And yet, Townshend doesn't dismiss the book as a goth joke; as full of himself as he is being Mr. I Was a Rock Star Who Believed I Could Change The World and Now I'm An Adult Making Money Off The Legacy of My Two Dead Bandmates, he seems to identify strongly with Cobain's youthful petulance and selfishness. It's poignant.

An excerpt from that review:

"Most of these pages are facsimiles from what appears to be four or five other notebooks. The tatty front covers are sometimes themselves displayed. Apparently, there were actually 20 notebooks. It's a pity the entries are not dated, and that no attempt has been made to provide a chronology. The entries are not uninteresting. It is simply that they are devastatingly hard to contemplate. They actually hurt. These are the scribblings of a once beautiful, angry, petulant, spoiled, drug-addled middle-class white boy from a divorced family who just happened, with the help of two of his slightly more stable peers, to make an album hailed as one of the best rock records ever. I sometimes get letters from people who write and draw like Cobain. I put them in a file marked 'Loonies', just in case they try to sue me in the future for stealing their ideas."

November 09, 2002

The story behind Del Shannon's "Runaway."

November 08, 2002

This is what a gimp I am. I planned a night of roller skating with some pals for Saturday, November 9. I knew it was on a Saturday, and I said as much while working out the logistics. But my enthusiasm got the best of me, and these past few days I've been thinking that the 9th was a FRIDAY. I was psyched and raring to go, when suddenly, just now, I looked at the date on my desktop calendar, and it said 11/8/2002. WAAAH I WANNA GO NOW! But I deserve to wait another day.

The rink, hidden away in deepest Brooklyn, is the newly refurbished Empire Roller Skating Center. It either used to be called the Empire Rollerdrome or the Empire Roller Disco (I've heard both). In the '70s it was Studio 54 on wheels, and in the early '80s it was a venue for reggae soundclashes and hip-hop shows. I remember going there a couple times as a kid for birthday parties -- this would be the mid- to late '80s -- it was seedy and rundown, but it had its sleazy charms. I'm a little sad that it's no longer a fading disco, because I'm WAY into that sort of neglected-arcana shit now, but I hear the place is thriving, and I'm curious what types of people will show up for the after-hours skate session.

There's a lengthy interview here with the Empire's legendary DJ, Big Bob. The awning in the picture says "Empire Rollerdrome," by the way.

November 07, 2002

For those of you who've been asking about the fate of Southside Callbox (which hasn't been updated in a few weeks), there will be a new issue next Tuesday. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I'm guardedly optimistic.

November 05, 2002

I haven't yet made up my mind about Hank Steuver's Washington Post piece called "Unspooled: In the Digital Age, The Quaint Cassette Is Sent Reeling Into History's Dustbin." Steuver makes a good point -- one that's been made before, and one that deserves reinforcement. Tapes are vulnerable, easily eaten, easily warped, but there's a human element to them that many people connect with. They sound shitty, but it's part of their ragged glory. And, he says, with cassette sales in decline, it's important to remember this format and what it symbolizes for (his words) "Generation X."

The article fails by being unstomachably precious -- falling somewhere between gawky middlebrow Sarah Vowellisms (in fact, he quotes Vowell, AND Nick Hornby, predictably enough) and a cutesy this-sentence-is-so-clever-I-isolated-it-into-its-own-paragraph sort of puff-piece disposability that prevents me from taking the article any more seriously than I would the Apartment 3G comic strip on the next page. Also, it indulges in what I'll call The Amy Phillips Mistake -- the author assumes that the reader agrees with him (or her, in Phillips' case), using vague pluralities and rallying-cry pronouns like "us" and "we" and even that journalistic no-no "you" to forgive himself for the embarrassment his own nostalgia brings. It's not Steuver's fault he once loved Huey Lewis and the News -- it's the culture's, because apparently we all loved Huey Lewis too, and we all now regret it.

November 04, 2002

I will say this, though: Michael Daddino rocks.

Still not much to say about music -- it's not bothering me as deeply anymore that the words aren't coming, because I'm pretty certain, after years of being ambivalent, that I do not want to be a music writer. Or any kind of writer, or editor. Either my heart's not in it, or my heart's too into it. I take everything personally because the things (musical and otherwise) I love and care about and believe are a matter of life or death for me, and even if I can't express it on the page, I feel it in a big way, and it eats away at my mental stability and distracts me from the larger picture.

Anyway, though, I listened to some good records this weekend: Robert Wyatt's Ruth is Stranger Than Richard, Pee Shy's Don't Get Too Comfortable, Nurse With Wound's Spiral Insana, and the Silver Jews' American Water. And I'm a few drafts into the tracklist for a new mix CD, but with all the great songs I've chosen, it's still not coming together as a mix. I think I'm trying too hard. But that's fine; creative impotence isn't the end of the world, and probably not even as permanent.

November 01, 2002

According to Googlism:

jody is nearly killed by kittens
jody is an imposing physical specimen
jody is a bitch date
jody is past vice
jody is the only person i've known to eat chicken bones and to bathe in the swimming pool
jody is able to persuade connie to leave ramon and move with her children into a house for women
jody is the victim of inaccurate information
jody is surprised to find that there is no mayor
jody is too whiny
jody is delighted with the gift and quickly becomes attached to and overprotective of the pony
jody is causing a good deal of pain and has to grow up
jody is a certified lactation consultant and a founding member of the international association of infant massage