Zoilus by Carl Wilson

Archive for August, 2005

O Kinsella, Where Is Thy Sting?

August 29th, 2005

I have no desire to get into a nerd-war, but a couple of simple and amusing points about Kinsella’s attack. (Again, see his Aug. 27 entry.) J. Kelly Nestruck actually did a nice job of dealing with WK’s dismissal of the article. (Thank you.) Which leaves it up to me to parry the personalized part. [... keep reading ...]

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The Big Punk Rock Lie (and/or Warren Kinsella)

August 29th, 2005

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Warren Kinsella: running scared, on empty.

It figures: I go out of town one weekend, and Zoilus readers carry on the liveliest debate on the site all summer in my absence. I hope to come back to the pop music vs. pop lit conversation soon, but first, there’s the matter of Saturday’s column.

It deals with something I’ve wanted to write about for a long while - as somebody whose views owe so much to the post-punk culture scene, I wanted to grant some equal time to the bullshit of punk, the reasons why its influence is as bothersome as it is beneficial. I had a golden opportunity handed to me with the recent publication of Warren Kinsella’s Fury’s Hour, a book on punk by a former special political adviser to Jean Chretien. While there’s a lot of pretty rhetoric in Kinsella’s book (including some quite good stuff) he dodges all the contradictions at his own convenience. Just like punk always has. More to say about what’s been lost that way, and also about Kinsella’s hilariously hysterical (and disappointingly substanceless and homophobic and anti-intellectual) response (check the Aug. 27 entry), but first, the column itself.

The short neocon trip between punk and Karl Rove

OVERTONES
By CARL WILSON
The Globe & Mail
Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005

The most intriguing aspect of Warren Kinsella’s new book, Fury’s Hour: A (Sort-Of) Punk Manifesto, barely makes an appearance between its covers. Which is both rather punk and very self-serving, if that’s not the same thing.

It’s a lively goulash of potted music history, analysis, semi-memoir and motivational speech. But the people who buy this book don’t really need his mini-bio of the Ramones. They want an account of how this prominent late-1970s Calgary punk, a member of The Hot Nasties and proprietor of Blemish Records, ended up a notorious strategist in the Liberal regime of Jean ChrÈtien. Does he credit punk for the “attack dog” tactics that made him the Karl Rove of the Canadian middle of the road? [...]

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Don’t Lose That Feeling

August 26th, 2005

Two from me in today’s Globe: A review of the excellent Jon-Rae and the River album Old Songs for the New Town in time for this weekend’s launch, and a smattering of “Essential Tracks” (Amy Rigby, North American Hallowe’en Prevention, The Tenement Halls, Bjork w/Will Oldham).

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Flowers of Romance?

August 25th, 2005

John S. at Utopian Turtletop poses a good question: “Pop music critics posit that pop music is as worthy of study as classical or jazz or any other music. Some pin that worthiness on sociological grounds, some on aesthetic. Some say that pop is more worthy of study than music of the past, on grounds of contemporaneity and anti-elitism … My question is, do the pop partisans (and I’m one) believe the same of literature?”

He specifically asks “why not romance novels?” That’s a bit restrictive - it’s kind of like saying, “why not novelty songs,” which get some critical attention but not much, and more on the sociological end, just like romance writing (a massive subject in feminist criticism, by the way).

Pop lit. gets more respect than you may think - crime and science fiction have cred, and Stephen King gets namechecked by everybody as a good writer now. But John’s right that drugstore tomes, the thrillers and family epics and Jackie Collinses, generally go begging when it comes to critical respect. I have a handful of ideas. [ ... yes, yes, go on?...]

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Thursday Reading (Slight Return)

August 25th, 2005

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Sun Ra Band, as painted by Nancy Ostrovsky.

I’m surprised that neither of the Toronto alt-weeklies’ concert announcements today caught wind of the Sun Ra Arkestra (Oct 18-21) and John Cale (Nov 13-15) runs at the Lula Lounge, lipsmacking chances to feast on historic-scale music in a close-quarters context. (Tho’ note, dear readers, that Sun Ra himself no longer resides on this planet.) Today also brought the first fall-programming news from the Music Gallery; Zoilusians will probably be most interested in the season’s first show in the Pop Avant series, Thurs. Sept. 22, featuring Larval, “an avant/progressive rock ensemble led by composer/guitarist Bill Brovold, a one-time collaborator of Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca.” I’m not hep to Brovold, but John Zorn calls ‘em “the shit.” So there. Ever-lovin’ percusso-droney-noisematic Torontopians Awesome open up.

Gravity’s Rainbow as a contemporary opera for solo banjo, probably not composed by Laurie Anderson? Make it happen - or else face one mother of a paternity suit, Mr. Pynchon!

Now coverboy this week? Chuck Klosterman. Zoilus has said his piece on Chuck, and to each her own, but hoo-boy, “America’s smartest pop journalist”? There are a dozen smarter on the Zoilus links page, and those are just the ones with blogs.

For instance there’s Dave Morris, who makes some interesting points in today’s eye (the one with his Kardinal Offishal cover, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet) about hip-hop bloggers (second item, after the Ricky Gervais fun): Namely, that they are starting to look like a force in the actual hip-hop music industry, in a way that other musicbloggers, for the most part, have yet to be. It’s noticeable partly because (for obvious socioeconomic reasons) the hip-hop blogs are relative newcomers to the scene; but it only makes sense, given the genre’s dominance in North American pop now, that they’d eventually become the heavy-duty batteries of musicblogging, whose Everready Rabbit ears have been getting floppy for a year or so. (So say some of the veterans, those who haven’t already quit - sometimes making me feel like I showed up to a party at 3 a.m. after the smart old guys had already left, the diehards were slumped on the sofas and there was only Thunderbird left to drink.) The hip-hop blogs’ success could bring more professionalization in the music blog community the way it’s already happened in the political-blog and pictures-of-Lindsay-Lohan-nipple-slips-blog communities - no doubt followed by a creative backlash and reconstituted in-group, resentment and resistance to that, etc. etc. Should be stimulating to watch/listen/read and, I hope, participate in.

Very very sad to hear of the passing of Ninjalicious (whose real first name was Jeff) at only 32. He was the guiding headlamp of Infiltration, the internationally influential Toronto zine/site about “going places you’re not supposed to go.” An abandoned subway tunnel should be named in his honour. Here’s hoping his urban-pioneer spirit lives on forever. Your mourning can begin here and continue through the next locked door, physical or metaphysical, along your own pathway.

Also, RIP Luc Ferrari. Ferrari and Moog, a few days apart; what a gloomy week for musical machines.

Finally, I’ve heard second-hand about a potentially excellent Toronto gig for a female violinist who can act, or an actress who can fiddle. (She should also be able to pass for Lebanese, but if you think about it, that is a pretty big tent.) If this is you or someone you know, email me and I’ll pass along the contact info.

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‘Mark Mothersbaugh’s Body
Lies A-Moulderin’ in the Grave’

August 23rd, 2005

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With the mostly welcome news of a potential Devo reunion - they were a band whose overarching “thing” extended beyond punk ephemerality, and Mark Mothersbaugh continues to do the occasional bit of good work, so I think they can do it without humilitating themelves (that is, better than they did in the final years before their breakup) - I give you this terrific Cat and Girl comic on teaching devolution in the schools. (In a similar spirit: Flying Spaghetti Monsterism and “Intelligent Falling.”)

And yes, I am geek enough that this looked like fun.

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I Hate to Say It, but… D’ohh!

August 22nd, 2005

So much to talk about. First things first: If you’ve posted a comment in the past week or so, you might notice it’s vanished. Somebody in the Zoilusian Central Nervous System had a Homer Simpsonesque moment and pushed the big red button. He sends his apologies from the pit of hounds! (No, seriously, he does; his name is Bill and he is my web-design guru guy.) We’re working to reconstruct them. This was a casualty of Bill’s tireless work to delete comment spam on Zoilus; with the new redesign in (mid?) September, we’ll have a better security system in place! We really value your comments and contributions.

Please note in the live guide that Wed.’s Percy Sledge gig in Toronto has, damn damn damn, been cancelled. Let’s hope it gets re-skedded. True love travels on a gravel road.

Amazing find over on Said the Gramophone (where, by the way, Zoilus will be guestposting next week): Possibly the best charidee single of ever, though that’s not saying much of anything: Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en, orchestrated by Nicholas Diamonds (ex-Unicorns, now Islands), and featuring corny indie fuxx such as members of the Arcade Fire, Beck, Sonic Youth, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sloan, Peaches, Feist, Devendra Banhart, Wolf Parade, Postal Service, Buck 65, Sparks, Elvira, Gino Washington, Roky Erickson, Tagaq and even David Cross.

Speaking of David Cross, he also appears in the new New Pornographers video for Use It, directed by the NPs’ own Blaine Thurier, which I caught previewed on MuchMusic last night. It’s at least as good, in the same rough-hewn way, as the All For Swinging You Around clip and the FUBAR-based Your Daddy Don’t Know video (a 1982 hit by the band Toronto, by the way). … Cross is one of several figures who use the NPs as human marionettes throughout the clip, each of them unable to move of their own volition. This motif of menacing black-clad figures physically manipulating band members into performing is something this clip shares with the Mountain Goats’ video, which suggests not-so-subtle themes of corny-indie-fuxx ambivalence about being “put into the position” of having to do a video, alienation from inner self as a performer, etc. Thoughts on this theme may be submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a PhD. from Zoilus U. Also note Carl Newman is wearing a Chris Ware WFMU t-shirt.

In the news: Bob Moog dies, of a brain tumour at 71; Steve Earle has married for the sixth or seventh! time (counting is complicated by the fact that he married one ex-wife twice), to the fine singer, songwriter and foxxx Allison Moorer; Mos Def has reportedly also married, and in Toronto!; Kanye West also kickin’ up T-dot dust (and his album doesn’t suck) (both those last via Del); there will be a Spike (of Buffy fame) TV movie but, sadly, tragically, criminally, no Ripper series; and a breakthrough deal on downloading that might finally bring some sanity to this whole overblown mess… which, frankly, sounds too good to be true. It’s no accident this has happened in the U.K., not the U.S., where shit counts.

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Remember When?

August 20th, 2005

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1. Remember when I was complaining about the term “outsider music”? Further evidence in this week’s SF Weekly: “For the uninitiated, outsider music is created by unknown, isolated individuals - often emotionally volatile and/or stridently weird - who exist totally outside of all culture, mainstream and underground.”

Take a memo: There is no such thing as “individuals… who exist totally outside of all culture.” (With the possible exception of feral children. Even extreme schizophrenics exist within a culture, which is often the source material for their delusions - a family culture at least, if they are sufficiently odd to be cut off from a popular culture.) (For instance: Where did they find out about music?) This is exactly the breed of nonsense that makes me think the term should be trashed and replaced with absolutely nothing except precise case-by-case descriptions such as “music by eccentric amateurs,” or “music by the mentally ill.” In that first category, by the way, the Shaggs musical is opening next month. I don’t know whether to cheer or cringe. No clear news on the long-rumoured Shaggs movie, written and directed by Katherine Dieckmann, based on the Susan Orlean New Yorker article linked above.

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2. Remember when we mourned the death of Kevin Coyne? Last night in Chicago, I find out a little late, Jon Langford (of the Mekons, Waco Bros. and sometimes [Toronto content] the Sadies) hosted a show honouring Coyne that was also the launch of their collaborative album One Day in Chicago. Jon-boy also has plans for more Coyne tributes to come. (Songwriter duo discs seem to be Langford’s new hobby, given his recent collaboration with Richard Buckner. Who will be next? I nominate Dizzee Rascal!)

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3. Remember when Jon Caramanica wrote a great piece in the Sunday Times about the sparkly-promising undiscovered-Jewish-archival-music label Reboot Stereophonic? Well, no, you wouldn’t, because it doesn’t happen till tomorrow morning. But look for it. The label is the project of a bunch of savvy Ashkenazi tuneheadz including critic-academic-blogger Josh Kun and writer Jody Rosen, and what they have coming will make you plotz (I want to the be the first of a thousand writers to make that joke), including the current Bagels and Bongos collection of 1950s Jewish mambo, the upcoming God is a Moog (the Shabbat service as a moog rock opera, circa 1968), a brand new version of Fiddler on the Roof done as Latino music, and other projects on African-American/Jewish crossover music (in more specific form than just “all American pop music post-1929″) and the ultimate “Jewface” collection. (I’ll let you just wonder what that is.)

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4. Remember when we loved the Mountain Goats? Here’s one more reason, the first ever (!?) tMGs music video, for This Year. Simple but killer.

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5. Remember when I missed the Murdered City Music Festival all this week at the fantabulous Ford Plant in my hometown of Brantford? Fill the gap in my life and tell me all about it! If you are in the area and can still make it there, the festival continues till Sunday night. Sunday programming includes a “secret location” (but find out by going to the club) 1 pm show with Jon Rae Fletcher and Neil Haverty, and then in the evening, Silent Film Soundtrack, Magneta Lange, From Fiction, Controller Controller and Wolf Parade, all starting at 7:30 pm.

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6. And remember this afternoon, when we went to the Three Gut Records Anniversary and Farewell show this afternoon at the Tranzac? It was a tearjerkin’ but festive occasion with short acoustic sets by various Three Gut alumni (I think Bry Webb of the Constantines’ set was my favourite, but I was impressed with the two members of Oneida offshoot Oakley Hall as well, including their acoustic two-part harmony’d Constantines cover!, and of course all the usual suspects), plus full sets by Jim Guthrie and Gentleman Reg, and probably an all-star-jam rouser at the end but I couldn’t stay quite that long. And cake! I am also missing the climactic Cons/Oneida blowout tonight, but I’m sure it is at this very moment overstimulating many people’s pineal glands.

4 Comments

The Only Pornographers are
the Pornographers of Ice Cream

August 19th, 2005

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First a note that The Wire, the smart CBC radio show on “the effect of electricity on music” that I’ve pimped to you in the past is, just in time for the CBC labour lockout, being featured on the Third Coast International Audio Festival’s cool-radio site. You can listen to excerpts and read a terrific “behind the scenes” interview with host Jowi Taylor.

Our main bizness this morning, though, is my review of the new New Pornographers album, Twin Cinema, today in The Globe and Mail. I’ve revised my initial impression of the disc, as I suspected I would. At first I thought it sounded rushed - now I think much of it works well, but it still suffers from a muchness, from too many mixed intentions, with the parts out of balance. This has always been an inherent problem with the band but three albums in, you wish it would be resolved, and I’m not sure the way to do it is for the band to get artier - I’ve got Destroyer albums for that, but Carl Newman’s strengths are pop strengths - clever, left-field pop, but pop nonetheless. I’m led back to The Trouble With Indie Rock (insofar as there is an indie rock). It’s a subcultural tendency in which pop bands are led (by whatever cultural habitus and category errors you care to name) to consider themselves in a sense above the form, and therefore miss their opportunity to explore and exploit said form fully. (Not that I think this problem is simple.) In the case of the NPs, that’s complicated by the disparateness of the band members and particularly Neko Case’s limited availability. And still, with all those caveats, I think the album has a great deal to offer (especially, to reiterate a particular peeve of mine, when the arrangements afford the vocals enough space for legibility).

Whether that justifies my extended ice-cream analogy is up for debate. [...]

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the Pornographers of Ice Cream">6 Comments

Go To Sleep, Little Babies

August 18th, 2005

For Monday’s terrific Trampoline Hall special show about sleep and sleep disorders, I made a four-CD soundtrack set of songs about circadian rhythms and their discontents. As host Misha Glouberman said, it turns out all the best songs actually aren’t about love, heartbreak, the way rock’n'roll will never die and which rapper is the baddest - they’re about sleeping. The tunes on the mix represent about half the ones I found - I emphasized the more familiar and funny choices, since more obscure ones would slip by too easily if you were in the audience of a show, drinking and chatting with friends.

The Trampoline Hall ‘Sleep and Sleeplessness’ Show

PRESHOW
torontonightair (anonymous field recording found on the ‘net)
Crickets & Water (Wilderness River: The Natural Sounds Of The Wilderness)
I’m So Tired (The Beatles)
Enter Sandman (Metallica)
Wake Up Little Susie (Everly Brothers)
Dreaming (Blondie)
I Woke Up In Love This Morning (Partridge Family)
I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night (Electric Prunes)

FIRST INTERMISSION
Good Morning Good Morning (The Beatles)
Wake Up (Cordelia’s Dad)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (The Tokens)
Enter Sandman (Pat Boone)
Sleep On The Left Side (Cornershop)
Go To Work (Revolution Compared To What [The Funky 16 Corners])
Pissed Off 2 A.M. (Alejandro Escovedo)
Sleepwalking (Lyle Lovett)
My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me (Geto Boys)

SECOND INTERMISSION
I’m Only Sleeping (The Beatles)
Wake Me Up Before You Go Go (Wham)
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Leadbelly)
Up All Night (Slaughter)
Dream A Little Dream Of Me (Jim Jones of My Morning Jacket, on an obscure comp called From Iceland To Kentucky)
No Sleep Blues (Incredible String Band)
I Dreamed I Had to Take a TestÖ (Laurie Anderson)
Color In Your Cheeks (The Mountain Goats)
Tossin’ and Turnin’ (Bobby Lewis)
Tired of Waking Up Tired (Diodes)
Go To Sleep Little Baby (Gillian Welch et al, O Brother Where Art Thou?)
Stay Up Late (Talking Heads)

POST-SHOW
Good Night (The Beatles)
Wake Up (The Arcade Fire)
Sleeping Is the Only Love (Silver Jews)
Lullaby (Tom Waits)
Up At Night (SS Cardiacs)
Good Night Sweetheart (Al Bowlly - Ray Nobel)
Asleep and Dreaming (Magnetic Fields)
When I Wake Up To Sleep No More (Ralph Stanley and Friends)
Palmcorder Yajna (The Mountain Goats)
The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Eek-A-Mouse)
2:45 A.M. (Elliott Smith)
4 a.m. (Richard Buckner)
Walking After Midnight (Patsy Cline)
The Big Light (Elvis Costello)
Heaps of Sheeps (Robert Wyatt)
Hyperballad (Bjork)
Insomniac Trance (Brian Eno)
True Patriot Love (Joel Plaskett Emergency )
Rocks Off (Rolling Stones)


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