April 30, 2003

On the hunt for reading material for my upcoming trip to the Kentucky Derby, I picked up the new Donna Gaines memoir, A Misfit's Manifesto: The Spiritual Journey of a Rock & Roll Heart. Normally, a title like that is reason enough to stay far far away, but Gaines authored a great book with a similarly shitty title: Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia's Dead End Kids (a nonfiction piece about the mass suicide of four Bergenfield, NJ teenagers in the late '80s, the "burnout" culture that spawned them, and the way the community and media responded to the teens' death). If I mention Teenage Wasteland a lot, it's because I feel a strong connection with those kids (my blue-collar Brooklyn wasn't much different from their blue-collar New Jersey, which wasn't much different from Gaines' blue-collar Queens -- it's a pretty unified regional identity), and I've taken a great deal of creative inspiration from the book. I'm not sure whether I'll like this new memoir, though... just flipping around I'm seeing dozens of variations on "I'm punk! AND I'm a sociologist! I'm punk too! Look, here's a picture of Johnny Thunders! Now HERE'S a picture of August Comte! And check out this blurb by Legs McNeil saying how cool I am! And I'm a sociologist too! Yep, a 'turnpike intellectual', in fact. It's true!"

I'll let you know how it is.

April 28, 2003

Downtown Brooklyn, April 2003

April 26, 2003

April 21, 2003

Pamala Stanley - "Coming Out of Hiding" (1984)

I am sick of the '80s. Except I'm not. I'm sick of other people's '80s -- their relationship to it, their nostalgia for it. I'm sick of hearing that the '80s are "back," you know? Cuz I don't need the mountain brought to me; I'm perfectly content to bring myself there with a drill and a hardhat and accidentally "fall" down a shaft for a few days. So. Now it's 1984 (as Jello Biafra said). So 1984 it's dizzying. "Coming Out of Hiding" is the "I Wanna Love You Forever" to "Flashdance (What a Feeling)"'s "...Baby One More Time." Pamala aspires, wants, longs, to be the transcendent vacu-goddess that twirls the pop moment around her diaphanous shapeshift like a lock of hair around a young girl's finger. She's just a chick, though, like a lot of people are -- they gussy her up but she still looks unspectacularly ethnic, blue-collar, eternally unglamorous, and she sings the same way. Good. Trained. Not great. By no means bad. More than good, even. But about ten degrees left of the big cookie. Ambitious, obviously, but not the kind of ambitious they make movies about. Ambition that shows a healthy work ethic and an "old college try" approach to life, but that's never enough to build a career on, a lasting legacy; there's the one hit, the throes of marginal fame, then the occasional soundtrack work, then she'll spend her remaining years playing the suburban resort circuit, subsisting on the odd trance-remix royalty check. Too bad... she sounds sexy, less self-consumed than Madonna on "Burning Up," about where Regina was (attitudewise) with "Baby Love" but not quite as playfully innocent, perhaps a little weary and hard-knocked, sad. Too sad for the dance floor? Yeah, and probably just sad enough for nostalgia night in Jupiter, Florida. (Pamala who?)

"...to put it in terms rudimentary enough for the unitiated (and myself) to comprehend, Giorgio Moroder decided to make disco with computers and ergo drew up the blueprint for techno. That's simple enough. But there's so much baggage included with that whole evolution, things that've been written about ad nauseam, that I can't shed the same light on this that hasn't been used to sun-fade the pristine white into a crumbly beige: the voice of the erotic versus the pulse of the mechanic; the usage of mathematical programming to stimulate the impulses inherent in human emotion; ones and zeros versus the 4/4. What gets me: Summer's exclamations are sentiments pared down to their most basic essence -- 'It's so good. I feel love. I got you.' -- with hardly a word more than four letters and one syllable long. It doesn't use any language a two year-old couldn't immediately understand." --Nate Patrin on "I Feel Love"

April 17, 2003

"This web site is not meant to be the Jewish equivalent of mulletsgalore.com."

(via Gawker)

April 14, 2003

Anyway, fans of Led Zeppelin and/or rockcrit history are encouraged to check out the following: Rolling Stone's original reviews of the first four Zep albums. I scanned these last night from my copies of the Rolling Stone Record Review Vols. I and II (small pulpy mass-market paperbacks published in the early '70s).

Led Zeppelin (John Mendelsohn, 3-15-69)
Led Zeppelin II (John Mendelsohn, 12-13-69)
Led Zeppelin III (Lester Bangs, 11-26-70)
Led Zeppelin IV (Lenny Kaye, 12-23-71)

April 13, 2003

April 12, 2003

I like Lou Reed's "The Bed" for sounding like a Leonard Cohen cribnote of Lee Hazlewood's "Some Velvet Morning" as meant to score an early '70s laundry-detergent commercial in which the pitchmistress/heroine swallows the detergent. Lou Reed's pretty good at this beautiful-music gig; even the Carpenters had their Klaatu moment, even more bizarre really than any chemically derived abyss-gazing on Berlin, so if Lou'd kept at it steada goin all Rathke-distorto and "writing" Kiss lyrics he coulda been the next John Denver (except wait, John beat Lou at his own wildside-walking game by not just gazing all englishmajorly at the abyss but flying his fucking plane INTO it) (Rocky Mountain Buh-Bye!) or Dick "Hello, Please Kick Me" Hyman!

April 11, 2003

"I'm extremely interested in squalor." -Esmé

April 10, 2003

I love Tillie too. (Who doesn't?)

Dear New Jersey,

I really do love your state. The shore, the pizza, the metal-culture, the humble-working-class thing, the tacky nouveau-riche suburban thing, the noncommital pitter-patter of Weehawkenites and Hobokeneers, the persistent hum and dark dinge of the tunnels, the hooker motels, the remnants of abandoned hooker motels, the hot gust that greets me upon each entry to one of your PATH stations (a delicate bouquet of dead rats and the shit-panted homeless), the earnest rocker boys in boardwalk cover bands, the sly Jewish boys, the college (and formerly college-affiliated) radio stations, the gambling, the miles of pawnshops fortressing the hub-community of aforementioned gambling, the weird rural parts, the antiquey/nautical southernmost parts, the bizarrely trashy Philly-suburb parts, the faded amusement-resort towns, etc. New Jersey, you are the finest state in all the Union.

April 08, 2003

April 05, 2003

The 5th Dimension's "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" is a very rewarding song for a singer who can put it over well. The melody gives Marilyn McCoo a challenge: she has to keep the low notes on those abrupt downswings "up in the air" as it were. Vocalists have a natural urge to go flat when they're unsure of the pitch, when the musical gravity of the song is pulling them down and they lose control of their ability to resist that force. "Last Night" succeeds because of this Sisyphean tension (and because McCoo's such a great singer) -- the lines go up up up, sometimes allowing for breathtaking octave leaps, and as listeners we're rooting for them to make it up the mountain, but right until the end they keep rolling back down, brushing themselves off, trying again. The reward is that the high notes are fabulously singerly -- there's a built-in momentum in the shape of the ascending phrases that makes McCoo sound flashy even though she's not doing anything technically dazzling (this has to do with the lyrics as much as the melody; "sleep at all" comes out as "slee - PAT - all," and the aspirated "p" sound gives a little fuel to the "at" syllable, makes the note come out clear and forceful; in the chorus, the octave-jumping "last night" has a slight connecting swoop where the openness of the "a" vowel in "last" gives the "i" in "night" a bit of a push, puts some wind in its sails). Pop songwriters just aren't this conscientious anymore. Hats off to Tony Macaulay!