by carl wilson

The Birdies Are Saying What I Want to Say

In the midst of an almost criminally sane and balanced look at the rockism-poptimism wars in Slate today, Jody Rosen cites my EMP paper. The second-most-pleasing aspect is that he's chosen the lines that are the crux of the piece for me. But the most pleasing is that I think with his reference to "The Celine" he was smuggling in a sneaky shout-out to the Zoilus comments box! (But Jody - what, no link?) Intentionally or not, Jody's timing also serves as a little teacherly nudge at why people should stop the hell with the name-calling already. (To which, by the way, everyone concerned has recently (more-or-less) agreed, without abandoning the deeper point. Hoorah. Because you only have to check the reader response to yesterday's Slate piece to find a lot more cream-filled-centre cryptoracist reactions to hip-hop than Stephin Merritt's - though there was also this smart contribution - or look here for even more wack comments, after a post that - while making reasonable points, especially bringing Matisyahu into the subject - goes on ahead and calls Merritt a "fudge.")

But enough about me and that and those. In honour of Jody's semi-defence of semi-rockism, please find herein some juicy pastrystuffs of Zoilus art-rock favourites discovered today on YouTube:

Pere Ubu performing Birdies live (circa 1980?) from the new-wave doc Urgh! A Music War. If you've never seen David Thomas perform, do not miss this. (If you have, I don't need to tell you.) Rumour has it, by the way, that the upcoming new Ubu album is their very best since the "classic" mid-to-late seventies period. If true it would, automatically, make it the best album of the year (on formal if not sociological grounds, anyway). I'm inclined to believe this hearsay in part due to further hearsay that indicate serious private turmoil, which has always produced extraordinary results from him in the past. I recognize the scurrilousness and aesthetic dubiosity of that leap however. (I also recognize that dubiosity is not a word probably.)

Destroyer, currently holding the album-to-beat title, performing Looter's Follies at at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle last Friday (May 5/06).

Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) doing The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead at the Music Gallery in Toronto in April. I hesitated to post this one because it's fuzzy and doesn't include the beginning of the song, so you miss the whole Owen-constructs-backing-track-before-your-eyes alchemy, but was convinced by the backs of the audience members' heads bobbing up and down throughout the song. I would so buy DVDs that featured only footage of audiences listening to music.

Other Final Fantasy live videos and many more Toronto-scene pics and vids (including Zoilus at a Wavelength panel a couple of months ago) can be found at Aperture Enzyme.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, May 10 at 2:58 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (8)



Hey Kevin, thanks for the pointer to the Booth book - that sounds very relevant and helpful.

Posted by zoilus on May 15, 2006 2:43 AM




I read the Slate piece first, this morning (one of the things I like about the internet is it's NOT always fishwrap (is available to late-risers like myself). Just wanted to say your argument, such as I understood it from the brief mention, and reminded me of the excellent literary critic Wayne Booth, who in The Company We Keep, a book about "the ethics of fiction," suggests that when something is widely loved (not just for a year or two, but for a considerable time) that a critic needs to understand it's because there's some intrinsic quality -- something "loveable" -- that makes it so. Hardest thing for a critic to learn is how to value work he or she has no affinity for whatsoever. In my experience, if I outright despise something, chances are there's some niggling thing of substance there that's part of the irritation. As for Celine, I weep with embarassment every time she pumps that underfed arm of hers, but interestingly, in true ki tchy context, she seems to look better. Witness the "Diva Las Vegas" special (which couldn't have played on A&E;, could it?) a glorious abomination that stranded Aretha among a grabag of low and low-middle brow over-the-top cupcakery (Jessica Simpson, Cher, Stevie Nicks, Dixie Chicks), in which Celine came out and buried their asses, deep. I now wonder if she's all that much worse, than, say, Aaron Neville.

Posted by Connolly on May 13, 2006 11:39 AM



Hey glad you liked the Destroyer video. It was a great show!

Posted by heyrocker on May 11, 2006 6:29 PM




"ignorant in ways complicit with pervasive and systemic racism" is a subtle and useful phrase.


This discussion has helped, painfully, to raise my consciousness, raise it like a barn roof to protect my imaginary livestock. I want my imaginary livestock to be healthy and thriving, see, and I need a good barn roof. Thanks for your help, and my apologies if I've shared too much of my pain in getting there.

Posted by john on May 11, 2006 4:08 PM



You're right John. In which case I would say that the comments on the Slate site didn't deserve to be called racism, while many on the Byron Crawford site definitely do. Saying that rap "isn't music" and is just obscene grunting over a drum machine might be ignorant in ways complicit with pervasive and systemic racism, but it's not a racist remark. Talking about black people's "animalistic behaviour," on the other hand...

Posted by zoilus on May 11, 2006 3:56 PM



I'd say, no more casual or indirect name-calling. If you're going to name call, back it up and argue it. I was wrong to insinuate racism to remarks made by prominent rock critics in your comments box; if I thought the comments were racist, I should have said so explicitly and why.

See, Carl, you're not immune either. "cream-filled-centre cryptoracist reactions" -- the prefix "crypto" does not un-call the name. I'm not saying you're wrong to say it. Call 'em as you see 'em. Don't tiptoe around racist or sexist or homophobic or xenophobic comments out of fear of offending the people who made the comments.

Posted by john on May 11, 2006 11:53 AM



maybe you can call your Pere Ubu tribute project Dubiosity Housing

Posted by Kevin on May 11, 2006 9:50 AM



Yes, Carl, it was a sneaky shout-out. And I should have linked -- drat! Sorry...

As long as we're Youtubing, here's a nice way to rememebr the late great Grant McLennan:;=go-betweens

And I trust everyone has seen this art rock classic by now:;=sex%20over%20the%20phone

Posted by Jody on May 10, 2006 7:32 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson