by carl wilson

Planetary Stumpers, Answers We May Never Know

Dixie Chicks: Is Nashville a Pyramid Culture?

Still not quite back on the regular-posting train, but here are some tidbits:

Video of Neko Case on Leno last week. Very nice - you can see even Leno being surprised how good she is. (By the way: Although Jenny Lewis seems to have her heart in a nice, Neko-loving place, she cannot sing country. Or even countryish. She's much better in Rilo Kiley.)

This weekend the Toronto Star ran a piece about Bad Bands Revolution. Some kind Stilleposter fixed it so that you could see both pages, complete with the glam shot of Pyramid Culture opening for Of Montreal. It's a fine piece, but I felt it framed the bands as much more reactionary - against, for instance, Broken Social Scene - than they really are. This is a persistent problem, and it's a frame-of-reference issue. Here's an alternative suggestion: While much of the music scene these days is looking back to post-punk as a source of an "angular" guitar sound with a dollop of disco, these bands are drawing on the intellectual underpinnings of post-punk and no wave, trying to interrogate the ideological framework of rock music and nightclubs in a confrontational way, reclaiming and updating the underlying critical tradition in indie or underground rock, rather than just borrowing a series of gestures with only cursory attention to content. When you think of something like Pitchfork, you're thinking of a conversation in which the existence of a genre and network known as "indie" is taken for granted as a naturalized fact. Bad Bands Revolution is about denaturing that fact and asking "why" again, in as giddy and rapturous (and occasionally angry) a tone as possible. (For further background reading, look up last week's Slate dialogue on post-punk between Simon Reynolds and Stephen Metcalf, which again is better than Simon's book itself, I feel - maybe I'm just not the intended audience, but it seems as if Simon only figured out his bigger ideas about post-punk after the book was done.)

Also on the Bad Bands front, if you have not yet listened to Parasitic Fetal Twin and Saturnian Sponge on the Pyramid Culture MySpace, you are sadder than you need to be. (I am less fond of the theme song, which works better live.) Not that PyCult actually has that much to do with the preceding thesis - they are more in solidarity with Bad Bands than they are one of them, although they come in for some of the same indie-guitar-rat sniping. And to come full circle, Pyramid Culture do sing country music, except that the countries are Ancient Mesopotamia and the moon.

And speaking of country, the Dixie Chicks have come back with a single that is a complete fuck-you to everybody who attacked them over their anti-Bush remarks. It's called Not Ready to Make Nice. Lyrics are by Natalie Maines, I assume. The chorus goes, "I'm not ready to make nice/ I'm not ready to back down/ I'm still mad as hell and/ I don't have time to go round and round and round." In case the subject matter is in any doubt, dig this verse: "I made my bed and I sleep like a baby/ With no regrets and I don't mind sayin'/ It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her/ Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger/ And how in the world can the words that I said/ Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter/ Sayin' that I better shut up and sing/ Or my life will be over." I haven't heard the music yet, but I'm thrilled that rather than try to shut the door on the whole episode, they won't let it frigging go. That's politics. Chickxx rulez OK.

A drink recipe from the Mountain Goats mailing list, just for the heck of it. I have not tried it but it sounds delicious.

Add to iced shaker:
2 parts gin
1 part fresh lemon juice
1 part creme de cacao
1 part lillet blanc white wine
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Taste heaven.

| Posted by zoilus on Monday, March 13 at 3:04 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (11)



Especially when some of the artists (I mean me) are prone to extreme stridence and basically unreadable writing when defending or explaining themselves. I thank Carl.

Posted by Matt Collins on March 16, 2006 7:35 PM



PS: At the same time, it doesn't seem weird to me that critics might articulate things the artists themselves don't or won't or can't. That's my end of the job, isn't it?

Posted by zoilus on March 15, 2006 1:05 PM



I get what you mean now, Ben. And your points are very valid. I guess I think it's still early in most of these bands' existences to attack them for their lack of rigour. My suspicion is that only a few will last long enough to face that question. I have brought this up in previous posts with regard to Dollarama, however. I've also told Pyramid Culture that I think they should sharpen their choral work (while agreeing that doesn't mean they should eschew performance until they've achieved it). But the compilation itself and the show supporting it are/were more impressive than any of their parts, and I think Matt and Kat Collins knew what they were doing on that level.

Posted by zoilus on March 15, 2006 1:01 PM



Re: Dixie Chicks.

On a related note, here's something I got this morning from Rock & Rap Confidential:

From James McMurtry's op-ed piece ("Musicians: Keep the Politics In Your Songs") in March 18 Billboard:

In a recent article in the Austin Chronicle, interviewer Andy Langer said to Kris Kristofferson: "Some people say the smart thing for folks like you and the Dixie Chicks is just to shut up and sing."

Kristofferson's response was: "I would say back, 'Shut up and listen.'"

Posted by Richard Davis on March 15, 2006 9:43 AM



Both of those things, missing an extra "!". Boat analogies (too much ballast etc.) would have been too heavy-handed. But so how much of the seriousness is constructed by you the critic participating in all the debates (both here and outside the Zoiluscape) and always at the ready with more articulate rhetoric than anyone involved in the BBR has ever offered up? At the moment I see a papier mâché tiger where I would really like to see the culmination of 5 years of increased emphasis on conceptually rigourous and radically inclusive art and music in this city. And the thing is that I like these bands but already there is a whiff of complacency about their importance where as I see it there should be vigilance and stridence and clear thinking about why this stuff is worthwhile rather than the phone in, "If you don't like it then you don't have to listen to it" response to people who can't get behind it. So, what I meant was that this nascent approach to performance and popular music in the city of Toronto risks sagging beneath the weight of other peoples' commentary and its own complacency before it has really figured out what it wants to accomplish if anything at all. Is that not worth thinking about? Having been implicated indirectly, I feel like I have to think about these things.

Posted by benstimpson on March 15, 2006 9:26 AM



Mill that grist for your gravy train, Carl, but do you know which side of your bread is buttered?

Hey, I'm getting hungry!

Posted by john on March 15, 2006 12:21 AM



wow. the band gravy train blew my fucking mind when i saw their dvd.

Posted by andrew on March 14, 2006 10:26 PM



when i read benstimpson's comment i thought he meant the band gravy train!!!! in which case i think the comparison is both apt and rad.

Posted by jay on March 14, 2006 3:59 PM



Perhaps Ben meant that the BBR is providing a bit of grist for your critical mill when he used the phrase 'gravy train'?

At any rate, I'm sold on everything but the creme de cacao in that drink recipe. Don't forget to tell us how it tastes.

Posted by jennifer on March 14, 2006 12:39 PM



"Gravy train"? Weird choice of words. What do you think, I'm getting kickbacks? In any case, Ben, there have only been three related posts and a mention in one other. And I don't think I would have brought it up again now except that the Star article came out over the weekend and, I thought, pulled things in the wrong direction. For most of the month I have been too busy apartment hunting and so on to catch up with much other new music.

But I think the "gravitas" is warranted in that the challenge the BBR comp makes toward the indie context is serious, even if not all of the music presented in its name is so mindful of what it's being recruited to. I think it identifies an important side of the Toronto thing - although the best Bad Band that Toronto's ever had is still the Barcelona Pavilion.

Anyway, man, it's a blog: I do tend to chew something over for a week or so and then move on. Sorry if your patience was tried.

Posted by zoilus on March 14, 2006 11:55 AM



The bad bands thing is obviously becoming a bit of a critical gravy train(!!!) for you but at what point does all of this commentary and contextualizing risk weighing down a not very coherent musical community with more gravitas than it can handle?

Posted by benstimpson on March 14, 2006 10:36 AM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson