Weirdest thing just happened. I was napping on the futon, with the computer in "standby" mode in the background, when completely unprompted (there was no other music on and I didn't have anything queued up) my mp3 of DJ /rupture's Gold Teeth Thief (Part A) started playing. Thanks, computer!
freezing to death in the nuclear bunker
will change your life
June 30, 2003
June 29, 2003
Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (2003)
There's something different about Hail to the Thief, different from all the other Radiohead records and esp. the post-'97 ones, that I couldn't wrap my head around at first, and you know what it is? HTTT is neither "more of the same" nor "return to form" nor really anything particularly out of character -- what's going on here is micro-Radiohead, the histrionics ever-present but pitched down noticeably, as if to signify emotion by passing implication since hell what fresh blood could they possibly squeeze out of those old red feelings? It reads like a review of a Radiohead record, a keen and not entirely objective precis from a listener who knows the band well but finally realizes that maybe this band is too knowable. "Myxomatosis" = "haha this is the song where we pretend we're Can." "Sail to the Moon" = "haha contemplative piano and slow disassociative-seasick tempo!! GO FUCKING FIGURE!" It's hard to relate to the emotions on display because they seem so remote and uncommunicative. Yorke's not trying to reach out in that way anymore; this is just his thing, his natural state that he's plenty aware of but in no hurry to impress upon others (it's been done, even on Kid A, which was supposed to be their big alienate-the-fans headfuck piece), and in fact there's a veil of indifference atop all the crooning and swooning, leading to the occasional bum note and listless delivery. But as remote as HTTT seems, it makes me work harder to draw myself in. I've either gotta turn the volume up on my ears/brain or go focus on another, less obvious aspect of the music -- and since Radiohead are moving laterally from Amnesiac instead of forward, I get sort of bored revisiting a set of once-exciting ideas (glitch-prog! Messiaen! barbershop harmonies!) (the concept of using far-out "space rock" to address Yorke's relationship with physical earthbound "space") (etc) my mind had conquered by the end of 2001. But the new thing to consider maybe is negative space: how Yorke et al resolve their nightmare claustrophobia by shutting out the oppressive density of the world and turning inward instead of competing with the furious clatter of everything out there.
As with Kid A (the polar opposite of HTTT? grandiose delusions/artistic sadism vs. self-effacing humility/admission of fallibility?) (and scare quotes around both sides of that dialectic) I'm left wondering how Radiohead want (expect) me to respond to this release, and whether I'm a sucker for wondering at all.
June 23, 2003
June 21, 2003
Capturing the Friedmans, dir. Andrew Jarecki, 2003
There's a scene in Capturing the Friedmans where one of the sons suggests that the home videos and photographs his family constantly took were often substitutes for having to commit the more painful times to memory, that much of the fighting and agonizing they caught on tape had indeed been blocked out so they could cope, maybe try to live their (admittedly abnormal) lives without falling apart.
Me, you know, I love photography, although (a) I don't do it enough, (b) I've never been into photographing people, (b1) not even my friends and family, and frankly, looking at photographs of OTHER PEOPLE'S friends/family quite often bores me to tears, (c) my parents themselves never took many pictures and never owned a video camera, so past a certain stage in my development (after I stopped being cute) the folks didn't really even bother with Kodak moments. And I've wondered whether my acute powers of perception, my ability to fill in small, peripheral details from memory with great accuracy, has anything to do with my immediate family's lifelong indifference to documenting its own existence, and in turn, I wonder whether that indifference has influenced some of the alienation I've felt as a fairly self-sufficient thoughts-and-words person eavesdropping on a predominantly visual culture's cris du coeur of "SEE?! WE'RE A REAL FAMILY! WE HAVE BARBECUES AND GO ON EXPENSIVE VACATIONS AND OUR KIDS WIN AWARDS!" or "SEE?! I'M NOT A LOSER! I HAVE FRIENDS! HERE'S THE PROOF!" Memory (and testimony) can't be trusted; stories are full of half-truths, white lies, inconsistencies, misremembrances; sometimes the story you get is contingent upon how the story gets gotten. Hard evidence is all there is, and that's sort of a drag because this reliance we have on always needing to be shown encourages people to look outside their brains for the answers.
The Friedmans were from Great Neck, Long Island, an area that's collectively very keen on impressing the Joneses, and even the fact of owning a fancy camera betrays an awareness that buying such an item is The Thing To Do. The obvious irony is seen in light of the Friedmans' utter lack of introspection and self-examination -- it's second nature to have the videotape rolling ALL THE TIME ("reality" is a peculiarly American fetish, and a disturbingly common one), and the "family" (a fetishized concept in itself) is captured in its least beatific moments because no one ever gets the idea to turn the camera off until the family unit unravels. And then they go and have a feature film made about them.
June 19, 2003
The Eagles, "The Disco Strangler" (1979)
There's hardly any bottom here at all, and what "bass" is here is purely ornamental, serving no real function other than to provide a quirky counterpoint to the monochromatic rhythm-guitar strums in the absence of a melodic lead guitar part. If it's a disco parody, it's a poor one, because it doesn't send up the genre in any perceptive, knowledgeable, or even necessary way that shows why disco DESERVES to be sent up (wow, prominent hi-hats... no rock band has ever done THAT). As disco-qua-disco it's pretty worthless; even the most mediocre hacked-out Prelude Records house-band stuff would be more successful getting people on the dance floor than this, except that as rock-qua-experimentalprotopostpunk it's a near-masterpiece, the bastard right-wing cousin of Devo's "Satisfaction"!
June 18, 2003
Pic taken from the terrace of my old apartment sometime in the '80s. That's the Verrazano Bridge off in the distance, with the sun setting over the bay. (Cue: Journey, "Lights.")
From the other side: Brighton Beach.
Ocean Parkway (with the Belt Parkway crossing over it). Coney Island Hospital in the background, Lincoln High School in the left foreground.
(First order of biz: It appears that the great and awesome dave q's seemingly endless blogging hiatus is over, and to this I say FUCK YEAH.)
Moving on, then. Today I went back to the old neighborhood (right at the Coney Island/Brighton divide -- technically "West Brighton" if that's a real demarcation, but yeah, down by Lincoln High School, and that one shopping center on Neptune Ave where most of the stores are at least 25 years old and retain their original signage) to have a peek around. Haven't been there in a while; last summer I hit Coney for the Siren Festival, but I didn't get a chance to walk around, plus I had a sinus headache and I left early.
But this afternoon I went down there with a plan. Took the Q to Brighton Beach Ave. (the last stop), walked the eight-or-so blocks down to Ocean Parkway, turned right and hiked some more until I found my old building. I only had to hang chill for a couple of seconds before some people came up to the side entrance from the parking lot, and I followed them in -- no questions asked, not that I expected any (it's a huge building). The apartment complex seems to have changed a little (a LITTLE) since I moved out 12 years ago; the lawn looks particularly well-kept, and the lobby looks freshly painted (they've hung some pictures on the walls as well). Refurbished the elevators too. Other than that, mostly the same... went up to the 23rd floor (where I lived); same drab blue paint job with darker drab blue trim. Went up the stairwell to the roof landing, but didn't go outside (there was a small sign saying "if you open this door an alarm will sound" and although the sign's been there for decades and in my experience the warning's BULLSHIT cuz no alarm ever went off, I didn't want to risk getting caught trespassing, at least not for something as twee as "visiting my childhood home").
This building figures in my dreams a lot. I hardly ever dream about any of my subsequent dwellings; this one's made the biggest imprint/impact. In these dreams, I'm often being chased through the ground-floor corridors -- so today it was important for me to see these hallways again, to pass by the creepy dingy yellow laundry room, the meeting room where they'd set up voting booths during election season, the doorway leading out to the playground that separates the rear of our building from the next one in the complex, and another corridor, starting at the incinerator and making its way out to the edge of the parking lot on West Ave. I did the whole tour; when a groundskeeper spotted me peeking through exit-door windows and into service closets and asked if I was "lost," I figured I'd leave. Luckily I was right near the exit for the playground -- unluckily, it didn't exist anymore. The rows of benches, the lawn: still there. The jungle gym, the tire swing, the long metal slide, the basketball hoop, the sprinkler, the little coily springy animal rides: all gone, with only an empty slab of concrete left behind. I almost cried. I wonder what prompted the park's demise, whether someone maybe got killed there. Kind of a drastic move; you don't fuck with a kid's playspace.
OK, so through the concrete jungle and up Neptune, taking a right at I guess West 8th St, 'nother right at Surf Ave (by where the aquarium is, although the once-ornate aquarium footbridge is deteriorating and in disuse), past the junk stores and junky furniture shops, to the hub of Coney Islandness around Stillwell Ave. The area's experiencing a hipster renaissance; all the white kids come down on the weekends and see the sideshow and do the bumper cars 'n' shit. (Same kids wouldn't have been caught dead down there 15 years ago, but it's cool now that Time Out New York has given the art students permission to mingle with, like, poor black people.) But the neighborhood's still a slum. Half the buildings are abandoned and many of the businesses are barely hanging on at all. On the back fence behind one of Astroland's kiddie rides is a sign warning ne'er-do-wells of attack dogs. "What an interesting juxtaposition of images," I think as I peer past the sign at the pretty primary colors in the amusement park. Then I look down... there's a visibly malnourished guard dog sleeping behind the fence. Such an "interesting juxtaposition" that I'm gonna get the fuck outta there.
Did Nathan's (hot dog and fries... yeah I know you can get Nathan's ANYWHERE now, but you can only have it in Coney Island when you're IN Coney Island). Did the boardwalk (three games of skeeball for 75 cents... left the winning tickets behind for some lucky kid to find). Walked on the sand. Dug out my CD player and put on Steely Dan's "Blues Beach" (ah, when reclusive depressive beatniks discover summertime!) and drank lemonade on a bench while I tended to my aching feet. Nice day.
It's a shame they've demolished the gorgeous old facade at the Stillwell Ave. subway stop -- a shame because this peeling decaying mess was one of the most striking relics of New York transit history, and because the construction has caused a whole buncha trains to be rerouted, except for the W, which I'm still confused by (me and everyone else in NYC). Go figure though, I found the demolition very beautiful too, in that cool post-apocalyptic way.
Time to get The Warriors on DVD.
June 16, 2003
It's the weather, probably. It brings out the worst in me. I can't think straight; I'm very irritable; I'm chugging down my expensive Bavarian hefeweissbier rather than taking nice classy sips. The Fall was fine for before; now I'm kneedeep in the sludge of an old Flipside hardcore comp I've been into lately (Naked Raygun, Germs, Vagina Dentata, White Flag). Punk was made for days like this -- all that "anger is an energy" bullshit Lydon tried to pawn off on us long after the fact actually did have half a grain of sense somewhere within, that there's a realistic midpoint between maximum smashism and the absolute suppression of one's feelings and ideals, and it's called "rock music," basically, taking your grievance, wadding it up with the bacterial filth of your saliva, and spitballing it at your enemy's window like so many molotov cocktails (in your dreams).
June 11, 2003
Steely Dan, Everything Must Go (2003)
Steely Dan have this sweet spot they hit when all the machinations are in high gear and they've abandoned their flaky neurotic outer selves so well (everything must go) that all that's left is the essential absolute (and it takes a lot of work and self-awareness to do that!) and when they hit this spot it's like the warm wild twinkle of an emerald, bending into the senses like a pleasant ache. Well, here's the new Dan record; the trial run's over and rah rah rah the real recording reunion's begun, the retroactive followup to Aja and its unrelenting expressionist strokes (although hey Gaucho was brill too -- but that would be next in the sequence). I'm always engaged here, even from a subconscious position, snapping to full attention whenever I need to rewind the CD a few seconds (about 1:02 into "Slang of Ages," 0:47 into "Pixeleen," the entire entirety of "Green Book" but especially the 2:07 and 4:45 marks) and make sure I haven't dreamt what I just heard. No dream, buckaroo. More like an elaborate musical -- the jolly jokey seltzer-in-your-pants overture that readies you for the ACTUAL beginning, then the expository emotional stuff w/ interstitial laffs to throw the audience a bone for putting up with being dropped into the vat of partykill so early on, then a funny-but-minor transitional setpiece, then the lovable villain with the goofy name takes the spotlight ("GodWhacker"!!), then something cool and majestic to send you off into the second act, which if you stick around is where the real payoff is, the "earned drama" and devastating romanticism and squalid desire and goosepimple-toecurl noir. It's all very shrewdly structured, but unlike some Flaming Lips concept thing, it doesn't wear its (cough cough) STRUCTURE on its sleeve (do you see!!?) with the conspicuous embroidered logo of an insecure amateur. These old yutzes know what they're doing.
There's a doozy of a punchline in the last number, the title track (a kicky midtempo, with a cautiously impulsive spring in its step). Comes early in the song, unexpected and much-welcomed after the melodramatic tenor-sax bombast that introduces it: "I move to dissolve the corporation in a pool of margaritas." If I could afford a bottle of Cuervo Gold (times are tough), I'd raise it to that.
June 10, 2003
Forgive me father; it's been nine days since my last post. Been busy and shit, plus Blogger's been down, plus my internet connection has been acting screwy. Highlight of the past week or so: seeing the temporarily reunited Rocket From the Tombs at Maxwell's (great old band, great old club) and having the show kick the puny kiester of any reunion gig I've ever been to. God bless David Thomas, that hulking, lurching, menacing, darling teddybear of a man and his imposing girth and his cane and his dance moves. God bless Cheetah Chrome, who looks like death in a microwave and sang an "Ain't It Fun" so chilling and visceral it made me never wanna touch any drug hard soft narcotic recreational prescription OTC alcohol banana peels nutmeg whatever ever again. And Richard Lloyd, sitting in for the tour -- he didn't do much, but I love him anyway. This was a good, short bit of hit-and-run punk rock; they did their hits, stayed about an hour, didn't pad the set out with underrehearsed covers or subpar new songs (I don't think that'd be the case though; the recent Ubu stuff has been terrific).
Liked the opening band too (from Cleveland as well; didn't catch their name but I have the flyer around here someplace). Bar-band punk with actual songs and actual playing -- singer reminded me of Craig Finn (Lifter Puller/The Hold Steady) and David Lowery, with even MORE cynicism if that's possible.
June 01, 2003
File under: "records I expected I would only be moderately amused by with the most cursory attempt at supercilious ironic appreciation (because any earnest investigation would reveal a truth too embarassing and painful to come to grips with), but which in all fairness I get a small, pleasant kick out of, like for example that Chuck E. Weiss thing."
Er, yeah, so for a larf I put up a new Nerve personal last night, but I don't think anyone's gonna write to me... however if you live in NYC or its immediate environs and you resemble (philosophically if not physically) "the approximate midpoint between Tomata du Plenty and Father Yod," gimme a yell.