Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for December, 2004

The Life Aquatic, Light & Dark

December 31st, 2004

Jackson Pollock, Blue (Moby Dick), c. 1943

A long post today, but first things first: Benefit shows are beginning to be organized for the tsunami-wracked nations of the world. In Toronto, dance-music promoters take the lead, with nights at Andy Pool Hall on Wednesday, Studio 99 on Jan. 8 and Supermarket on Jan. 13, all with strong complements of local DJs. Details are in the January gig guide below.

These events provoke reflection on (among many other subjects) the stereotypically passive but latently immense power of the seas, on how little most of us attend to the coiled force of nature. It’s difficult to reconcile with many cultural images of sea-faring - swashbuckling, new-age meditative, even comical as in the current movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. I haven’t seen it, but (given the mixed reviews) I wonder if it suffers by regarding its oceanic subject too casually? The subject deserves the obsessive grip of Moby Dick.

In any case, today in The Globe & Mail, I go (mildly) cuckoo over the soundtrack of Wes Anderson’s movie, most of all for Brazilian actor-singer Seu Jorge’s remarkable acoustic - arguably “aquatic” - covers of David Bowie songs. [...]


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Unwrap It! Zoilus’ January Live 2005

December 31st, 2004

Neko Case

To be updated as news strikes. Zoilus-approved shows are marked with a *star. Special picks are **double-starred. If it’s not starred, it may mean I don’t find it especially thrilling, or just that I don’t know or am not sure enough to recommend it. See you out in the cold. [...]


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Top 2004, 2: Twang Ten

December 30th, 2004

The Drive-By Truckers

Another day, another niche-marketed Best of 2004 list. Expect a broader review of the year in my column this Saturday. Meanwhile, some context for this one:

To my shock, I’ve been a member of the Postcard2 email list for something like eight years now, joining a few months after its inception - it began as a spinoff of the Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco list Postcard, to allow for broader discussion of alternative country, roots rock, indie rock and traditional and (very occasionally) mainstream country. This was back in the early days of the No Depression zine, before P2 created Twangfest in St. Louis, back when alt-country was expected to flower into something grander that only briefly ever came to be. [...]


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The Missile That I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Is Mistletoe

December 29th, 2004

Yes, you’re still on vacation, but for me it’s worky worky worky. Go amuse yourself: It’s a little late in the season, but this is the funniest boy-band parody since Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s I Am A Boy Band, though nowhere near so beautiful as that one (pictured above).

“War is so not awesome”: Hell, it beats “Do they know it’s Christmas?” as a slogan. (Note: When you click the link you have to allow pop-ups, or no present for you.)

In other news did I mention I got an iPod from Mrs Zoilus? I’m thrilled. And now I promise never to mention it again, unlike every other journalist on earth.

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The Death of Irony: Susan Sontag, RIP

December 28th, 2004


Susan Sontag is dead at 71. She succumbed this morning to complications of acute myelogenous leukemia.

Sontag never wrote about music, so far as I know, but her essays about film, literature, politics, fashion, illness and sexuality (among many other subjects) should matter to anyone who reads or practices criticism, and few of us could ever hope to copy the jib she cut doing it. (Imagine being born into a world where there had been no Notes on Camp, and having to be the one to explain it!) She was often wrong - and she was often the one to correct herself.

One of my colleagues, hearing the news, immediately said, “She was a bitch,” then laughed self-consciously. (This was a woman, who’d met Sontag.) I was annoyed by the superficiality and disrespect but it was typical of the reactions she provoked. Her obit in the Times includes this paragraph: “Over four decades, public response to Ms. Sontag remained irreconcilably divided. She was described, variously, as explosive, anticlimactic, original, trendy, iconoclastic, captivating, hollow, rhapsodic, naÔve, sophisticated, approachable, abrasive, aloof, attention-seeking, charming, condescending, populist, puritanical, sybaritic, sincere, posturing, ascetic, voluptuary, right-wing, left-wing, mannered, formidable, brilliant, profound, superficial, ardent, bloodless, dogmatic, challenging, ambivalent, accessible, lofty, erudite, lucid, inscrutable, solipsistic, intellectual, visceral, reasoned, pretentious, portentous, maddening, lyrical, abstract, narrative, acerbic, opportunistic, chilly, effusive, careerist, sober, gimmicky, relevant, passÈ, facile, illogical, ambivalent, polemical, didactic, tenacious, slippery, celebratory, banal, untenable, doctrinaire, ecstatic, melancholic, humorous, humorless, deadpan, rhapsodic, aloof, glib, cantankerous and clever. No one ever called her dull.”

Now that’s the way to have them talk about you when you’re gone.

But this should be said too: The very model of the responsible public intellectual, Ms. Sontag would no doubt appreciate donations being made in her name (or anyone else’s) for Asian earthquake/tsunami relief. She would also, I suspect, point out that as horrific and dramatic as this natural disaster is, the ongoing manmade disaster in Darfur has killed more people while the world watches, hands folded. Remember her by demanding more talk and more action, as well as humanitarian aid.

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Best Best-Of Of The Year?

December 27th, 2004

Tiny Mix Tapes‘ Top 20 album covers of 2004 may or may not be the same ones you’d pick but looked at in aggregate they make me realize that sometime in the past couple of years, the aesthetic puzzle of the inferiority of the CD cover to the LP cover has been solved and now we are awash in luminous minimalist beauty. Hurray!

Hi. How was yours? Mine was fine, thanks. Terrific to see you. Isn’t this horrible though? Man. So what are you doing for New Year’s?

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Seeing Stars

December 23rd, 2004

Wherry is on to the best music-based love story ever. Well, John & Yoko, Johnny & June, Nas & Kelis, me & Mrs. Zoilus and other usual suspects aside.

Meanwhile, the hip-hop misogyny debate continues. It’s the most important thing going, but now doesn’t feel like the time. Today’s my birthday - and also Festivus. And then there’s some other kind of celebration on Saturday. Post-weekend, we will be all up in it, promise. Also best-of-2004 lists will proliferate. Until then, hearts and flowers to thou and thine.


Humbug De-Bugged

December 21st, 2004


It’s not quite perfect but compared to your usual all-holiday-gunk radio (as discussed in this week’s column), there’s certainly superior Xmas listening, if not for the whole family, here at San Francisco’s SomaFM. Look down to the bottom of the page for the Xmas in Frisko program stream. A few too many “quirky” remakes of the season’s 10-song Greatest Hits List, but in the past hour its playlist has also included Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas, Eazy-E’s Merry Muthaphuckin’ X-mas and the Japanese Kick The Can Crew’s Christmas Eve Rap - so there’s progress. (Thanks to Brad Bechtel for the tip.) Care to recommend any other on-line alt-xmas listening?

If you’re out to the record shop in search of a seasonal soundtrack, you could do much worse than to use Dusty Groove’s holiday page as a buyer’s guide. (Thanks to John Wendland for the clue.) My craziest discovery there is pictured above. What kind of a Christmas morning can you have to the sounds of Hey Lord by Suicide, It’s A Holiday by Material with Nona Hendryx and Christmas With Satan by James Chance? Not sure, but I think there’s lighter fluid in the egg nog and everybody’s getting a black leather jacket!

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Разом нас багато/ Нас не подолати!

December 21st, 2004

Yesterday I mentioned in passing the Orange Revolution anthem in Ukraine, a hip-pop chant that’s not only been the soundtrack of the protests but is actually a transcription of what the protesters were already chanting, set to music by a group called Grinjolly (Sleigh) on the second day of the uprising. (That’s an unusual strategy for a political song, though perhaps a more common one for a soccer anthem.) (The music, it must be added, is similarly utilitarian. Should western aid programs be sending Timbaland?)

The key phrase in the chorus, “”Razom nas bagato, nas ne podolati!” (which I think is the title of this post, in cyrillic) is the Ukrainian equivalent of El pueblo unido/ jam·s ser· vencido, which will be familiar to you if you’ve ever been on a protest march in the western hemisphere (”the people united shall never be defeated”). You can hear it here and read the lyrics here. Also, listen to a report from Public Radio International’s The World. And there is other music coming out of the movement as well … though so far nothing from The Ukrainians.

That, by the way, is Peter Solowka of The Wedding Present and other Ango-Ukrainian friends, playing punked-out Ukrainian songs along with Ukrainian covers of the Smiths and the Sex Pistols. Rather clairvoyantly, they released a best-of album, Istoriya, in early November, and it comes highly recommended. Meanwhile the Wedding Present, like every other great band of the 1980s, has reunited, with a new album due Valentine’s Day and a European tour announced, with North America to follow. They played a John Peel tribute show last week on the BBC, and a single is already out. So far as I know, TWP leader David Gedge’s sexed-up-orchestral-pop band Cinerama still continues on as well.

Er, and Ющенко, Ющенко! Це наш президент. Так! Так! Так!


“Era todo un descanso, hasta para los sentidos m·s embotados, ver cÛmo ese animal salvaje se revolvÌa en esa jaula tan triste. No le faltaba de nada.”

December 21st, 2004

I’ve been insanely prolix today but the news that Jace Clayton-aka-Dj/rupture, who’s made a couple of the mixes of the past couple years, has a room of his own, is pretty huge to me. So go read a voice you need to hear more of, as opposed to this one you maybe need to hear less of. (It’s in English, incidentally - the above is him quoting Kafka’s The Hunger Artist in Spanish. Which gets some of us wet.)

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