May 29, 2003

I love Pavement, but since that band broke up I haven't paid too much attention to Malkmus' solo output. His first Jicks album was all right, not super (exception: "Jenny and the Ess-Dog," a yuppie-indie relationship tableau that was a nice piece of writing in spite of its "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant"-style narrative); when Pig Lib came out I got all perverse and willfully ignored all the hype and didn't even buy the record, although I secretly wanted to, and secretly held out hope that it'd be better than all right, and was afraid it'd be as tepid and uninspired as people were saying.

Over on ILX, people have been throwing around the phrase "rural prog" a lot, and especially in conjunction with Malkmus. I had heard Malkmus say, circa Terror Twilight, that he'd been going through an Incredible String Band phase, but I wasn't aware that he was (and is) also really into Mellow Candle -- kinda interesting, because within the same couple of months in early 2000 that I picked up the ISB's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter and Changing Horses, my friend Darren sent me a tape of Mellow Candle's Swaddling Songs LP, which I've cherished ever since. So the Mellow Candle reference reignited my curiosity re the ol' Malkster -- dude has good taste.

Long story short: Pig Lib might might might be my favorite record of 2003, but it's too early to tell and I can't yet articulate my impressions other than to take the PR-bait and exclaim YAY PROGGY NOODLY PASTICHEY CANTERBURY BLABLABLA and say that this would have been the logical (and more fully realized) follow-up to the fun-but-patchy Terror Twilight. "1% of One" is the obv. standout, the centerpiece, the lengthy groovy psych-folk Fairport-meets-Yes tribute. Fine, cool, I adore this kinda nonsense; I'm there. BUT: There's a bonus EP, and ON that bonus EP is a cover of Mellow Candle's "The Poet and the Witch," and it's absolutely wonderful and incorporates the whole late-Pavement thingness into the sound so well that at first it just seemed like a bit of brilliant self-penned mannerist jokesterism (like the way "We Dance" was a totally OTM send-up of '70s-Brit-glam-via-Oasis), until I figgered out what song he was doing. Cover version of the year, yo -- he's got that locked down fer sure.

May 27, 2003

It's uncommon to get to see two of your heroes on the same night, and even stranger when their performances are part of totally separate events. The evening began with a free concert in Battery Park by James "Jaaaames Browwwwn... Jaaaames Browwwwn" Brown, and ended with a real fun hardcore show at the Knit's Tap Bar -- headlined by the amazing Guyana Punch Line (hidden away in last-week's self-indulgent meanderfest of a blog entry is my thinly veiled love letter to the lead singer).

James Brown thing was good; weather wasn't so great, and I spent most of the show trying to find the friend I promised I'd meet, which distracted me from the main event. James Brown was James Brown, giving a performance befitting "a real professional," basically "putting on a hell of a show" and everything else you'd expect from James Brown-brand entertainment and prompting all the default watercooler comments people tend to make after seeing "IMEANWHATCANISAYHESTHEGODFATHEROFSOUL" in concert . No actual complaints on that front, just the typical Jody observations. However, I did think it was weird when he covered Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" (c'mon dude, you're not Dan Aykroyd; show some self-respect), and equally weird when he broke into a rendition of "God Bless America" (patriotic goon in the audience: "WOO! YOU BET YOUR FUCKEN ASS"). Heading towards the subway I saw something I honestly haven't been first-party witness to since about 1985: a team of breakdancers, bustin' it up on the concrete, in time to a bit of old-school hip-hop, one guy passing around a steel pail for tips. I encourage such behaviors. More, please. More graffiti, too. New York needs it, now more than ever.

Won't go too deeply into GPL coverage, but yeah, they definitely brought their A-game, and Mr. Bickel was in fine form, makin' with the interbanter funny all night long, rockin' the Catskills like his name was Beck Hansen. New CD's out and I picked one up; scrawled across the back in small punky collagey Bollocksy pink it sez "IF YOU BUY THIS RECORD THE TERRORISTS WILL WIN." Which, come to think of it, is really the necessary antidote to James "I don't know karate, but I know careerism" Brown's "God Bless America."

Ain't no use in going home
Jody's got your girl and gone
Gonna get a three-day pass
Just to kick old Jody's ass.
Anyone who has seen a movie about the U.S. Army has heard soldiers chanting and singing as they march or run. These chants or cadences are called jodies or jody calls, after a character in many of the songs. The character Jody is a civilian who has stolen the affections of the soldier's sweetheart back home.

"The military use of jody call and the sense of jody meaning a civilian of draft age date to World War II and were introduced to the U.S. Army by African-American soldiers. Jody is a clipping of the name of Joe the Grinder, a slightly older character in jazz and blues mythology.

"Joe the Grinder is the name of mythical ladies man in blues tunes who seduces the wives and sweethearts of prisoners and soldiers. He's also known as Joe De Grinder and Joe D. Grinder. The term dates to at least 1939. Grinder is from an old slang verb, to grind, meaning to copulate (1647-present)." -from

(PS: I've been working on a compilation of songs, mostly blues, R&B, and jazz, that mention "Jody." I've got a lot to choose from, and you can bet Horace Silver's "The Jody Grind" will be there front and center.)

May 23, 2003

Note to J0hn Darn1e11e: When you eventually move into your "underground Idaho bunker," I'm coming along.

Related topic (insofar as Darn1e11e's topic is "paying for music," and insofar as he's a fan of the following band): If you'd like to toss a few coins into the Walter Becker/Donald Fagen coffer, Reprise Records is offering an mp3 of Steely Dan's new single, "Blues Beach", for $1.49. I should, and perhaps I will as an act of good faith, but I'll admit to having nicked "Blues Beach" from WinMX first to see how it was -- hey, I like it! Groovy late-model Dan bizfunk, nothing terribly ambitious, sorta more or less the Sanford and Son theme played by sarcastic muso-jewsos, talkin' bout "scraping bottom ... groping in the dark" and makin' reference to a "stoned soul picnic" (mystery Steely Dan/Laura Nyro connection: Gary Katz). It's no "You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It," but what is?

May 22, 2003

I need to let stuff out here. Do not read if you hate blogs that actually sound like blogs.

I think overall I'm a nice person. I make an effort. Sure, underneath it all I'm always yay close to jabbing everyone in the eye with a leaky pen (cue Morrissey: "in myyy liiiife, why do IIIII smiiiiiile..."), but I usually feel so guilty about this that it forces me into politeness overdrive when I'm around strangers. Please, thank you, excuse me, holding doors, all that -- and not even that sort of disingenuous sweetness self-consciously "bitchy" people brag about employing because they believe it's a rilly canny way of concurrently "taking the moral high road" and revealing the true depths of their insufferable twatiness (like this is a good thing). I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I end up hating and distrusting and feeling disappointed by 98 percent of the people I interact with, but it's worth a shot, right?

Still, I'm nice. I'm an optimist. I wanna like people. I wanna love people. And because of a fairly short attention span and a knack for self-preservation (despite the death-wish devil on my opposite shoulder), I just don't allow that many people into my inner circle. It sometimes feels like I physically can't do it, like there's a "Maximum Capacity" warning sticker safety-pinned to my heart and a bouncer waiting outside. I've gotta think you're the ant's pants -- and even then you're not guaranteed access. But the couple of really close friends I've had have meant everything to me, have brought me outside of myself and made me care, made me ill with worry sometimes, made me feel concern in a way that tossed to the four winds the overvalued and quite selfish notion of hero-roleplay and forced me into long debates with my conscience about the ethics of intervention. And more often than not those friends have just made me happy by being totally fucking balls-to-the-wall COOL, and this is urgent and key: If I think you're that kind of cool (and no, it doesn't have to do with fuckin' popcultrefs -- although those are among the funner small-talk conversational crutches, as long as they're not centered around some stupid TV show), you've got my heart, basically, and if you treat me good and make regular mention of how totally fucking balls-to-the-wall COOL I am (hey, I may be a groupie, but I'm not a doormat), I'll love you forever.

There's this friend I've been thinking about. We were much closer a year ago than we are now; our lives have gone in separate directions and our network of mutual friends has broken apart several times over, but we still talk every so often. He was on my mind recently -- someone furnished a great old quote of his and I was all GODDAMN I MISS THAT GUY and yesterday we IM'ed and turns out his band's hitting NYC next week and GODDAMN I MISS THAT GUY and it's not even crushy longing anymore, I just wanna see him and reconnect for the brief flash of an instant he's in town and bask in the presence of one of the only citizens of this vast and populous world I've ever seriously truly honestly given two thirds of a fuck about, and that includes the majority of my ex-boyfriends, current crushes, regular acquaintances, and familial ties. Sorry. For real.

May 21, 2003

In 1993, journalist Jennifer Toth published The Mole People, a book-length investigation of New York City's subway and rail tunnels and the mysterious civilization of homeless people dwelling there. Although I sensed much of the book was fictional, exaggerated, or based on statements that were never verified, I still found The Mole People very effective as a piece of writing, and had nightmares for weeks afterward based on the characters and places.

Subway obsessive Joseph Brennan (who does the GREAT "Abandoned Stations" site) has confirmed my suspicions -- he claims "every fact in this book that I can verify independently is wrong," and backs this up with some rather damning evidence. (Thanks to Chris Barrus for the link.)

On a related topic: If you've got a strong stomach for this sort of thing, check out these photos taken by transit workers just days after the WTC collapse. This one probably hit me the hardest.

May 18, 2003

OK, back to the disco pics!

May 17, 2003

And speaking of sentimental New York pride, I'm getting very emotional over Funny Cide's magnificent finish at the Preakness just a few minutes ago. Mad kudos to Jose Santos, hataz be damned -- I hope everyone involved in that bogus "mechanical device" scandal feels really stupid now.

May 14, 2003

May 07, 2003

I added another mp3 to the sidebar links just now (I'm only keeping the file on my webspace for a limited time, so catch it while you can).

In the late 1970s, a young singer-songwriter named Bryan Adams was working on a track called "Let Me Take You Dancing" in a Vancouver studio. When it was done, John Luongo was brought in for some last-minute remixing and overdubs, and subsequently Luongo took the tape down to producer Michael Barbiero in New York. Barbiero, upon hearing "Let Me Take You Dancing," sensed it was too slow to be the dance-floor smash they were envisioning.

Luongo: "I had to speed the track up to the most I could to make it groove harder and be at the tempo that would rock the clubs and back then there was not time compression or pitch compensation programs ... Bryan's voice was altered slightly due to the speed shift. Bryan was not really happy about that and felt that it did not suit his vocals to his taste."

Adams hated the changes so much he disowned the song. Even though it was pressed as a single and released to some success, Adams was apparently so embarrassed by "Let Me Take You Dancing" that to this day, he's never made it commercially available on any of his albums, and the original 12" single has obviously fallen way way out of print.

But copies do circulate, and some even get ripped to mp3! Like the one I've got right here. Adams' vocal is in fact alarmingly, nonplussingly fast -- not fast by Chipmunk standards, but one has to wonder why, with all the studio innovations that had already come to pass by 1979, this crew couldn't find a way to produce a disco hit and keep a grown-ass man from sounding like one of the younger members of Menudo. The strangest thing about "Dancing" is that the bulk of the song is indeed sped up, but there are overdubbed backing vocals that seem to have been recorded at regular speed. No... the strangest thing about "Dancing" is that it exists.

May 06, 2003

You know, for all the complaining I do, my life is pretty good these days. Or maybe it's that I'm finally beginning to accept the depression, anxiety, and irritability as immutable parts of my chemical makeup, constantly gurgling away but easy enough to ignore under the right circumstances.

I think this is why I allowed myself to have such a great time at the Kentucky Derby this weekend -- even towards the end, when I got a throat infection (me in the van: "*wheeze wheeze dry heave* GRRRR FUCKIN FIGURES"), I tried not to become as meta about it as I usually do (i.e. "waah, I can never just enjoy myself for any stretch of time; it's like there's an evil god outside the door gleefully WAITING to hand my plan a monkeywrench, saying 'hey, thwart is a rilly cool word, isn't it?'").

Anyway, Matos blogged the road trip in better detail than I can muster right now, but in case you were wondering, the Gaines book was ATROCIOUS, and the "weirdo disco on cheapo vinyl" Matos alludes to is a FANTASTIC assortment of LPs I found while thrifting/scavenging in Louisville (Bohannon, Cerrone, Teena Marie, France Joli, Eartha Kitt, the Andrea True Connection, the Ritchie Family, Freeez, Ebn-Ozn, some 12" singles, and some rockish stuff like Karla DeVito and Nazareth).

Music played a major role in this trip. In the minivan we rented, we all took turns playing CDs, tapes, mp3s, and the radio, and among the six of us we had quite a playlist going: psych-rock, psych-folk, trad-folk, postpunk, hip-hop, garridge, filthy acid techno, Night Moves, "Steal My Sunshine," the New Pornographers, Rocket From the Tombs. When we staggered into the house the first night I put on the copy of Sticky Fingers I'd brought along, but I headed to bed before "Dead Flowers" ("making bets on Kentucky Derby day") came on. Another plan thwarted, but it's the thought that counts.