Archive for September, 2005
September 30th, 2005
Best of the week:
The Van Morrison improvised contractual obligation album of 1967, featuring such anti-hits as Ring Worm, Blowin’ Your Nose, Nose in Your Blow and You Say France, and I’ll Whistle.
The Shining recut as the trailer to a family-friendly romantic comedy.
This New Orleans audioblog. Tom Waits said at a benefit last week, “There’s so much music in New Orleans, you can hold a trumpet above your head and it will play itself.”
Update: All right, a little more, just because I’ve just found the best low-budget DIY video concept of the year: Ex-Toronto homeboy Mocky’s video constructed wholly out of Google Image Search. (Makin’ the process the object, yo.)
And the best Stillepost post maybe ever: Bill Cosby Explains The Arcade Fire.
(And now I am going on an Internet diet.)
September 30th, 2005
Today in The Globe & Mail, I have a profile of Alejandro Escovedo, on the mend from Hepatitis C thanks to an extraordinary series of tribute concerts and albums put together in his aid by other musicians, after he had a brush with death without benefit of health insurance. The U.S. health-care situation is madness to me, the main reason I would find it forbidding ever to live there, but the jeopardy in which it places artists really arrests me, since you can be a reputable and quite successful artist like Escovedo and still be royally fucked when it comes to health care - with a large family, he says, he couldn’t even afford the reduced-cost health packages offered by the Musicians’ Union. The fact that the Democrats haven’t addressed this problem effectively is disgraceful (and yes, I remember what happened in the first year of the Clinton admin., but why was that able to happen except a failure of political will/strategy?). I think Americans in some ways don’t even know what they’re missing. A U.S. visitor came to a party in Toronto with me a couple of years ago and was shocked by the fact that almost everyone there was some kind of freelancer. That couldn’t happen in Chicago, she said - most people hold onto a job for the health insurance. The foreshortening of options that represents is severe.
All that said, what Alejandro’s been able to make of his plight is inspiring. His work deals so bravely and lyrically with hardship in general that it’s not wholly a surprise that he is able to illuminate his own suffering in his art. But it’s a real model, somebody who doesn’t find easy epiphanies in pain but something much flintier, an earned transcendence.
If you’ve never seen him, you owe it to yourself to catch him on this tour (he’s in Toronto at the El Mo on Oct. 4, as listed in the updated Zoilus gig guide) or whenever possible.
If you have seen him, you already know that. [ ... here's the piece ... ]
September 29th, 2005
Sorry for the multi-multi-posts, but am I the last one to find out that Robert Christgau has a podcast?! Sadly it’s on the dullish subject of what’s on in New York this week, but. Still.
I’ve listened to half and, so far, no disquieting glimpses of vulva.
September 29th, 2005
Read Wayne’s piece on hip-hop’s “Jamaican accent” and his notes on the antipathy he encountered to his observations. Now for extra, extra credit, relate this to the “where you’re from”/”where you’re at” dialectic (I use that word pointedly) as discussed by Simon and Michelangelo with ref. to (warning, warning) M.I.A.
Once I’ve carried out that assignment my own self, we’ll get back with some notes.
September 29th, 2005
You don’t care if I do any more of those Thursday Reading roundups, do you? They’re labour intensive, and rather listy as posts go. The upcoming redesign will feature a fresh-links sidebar that should fulfill some of the same urges. Unless you just adore Thursday Reading. Let me know.
I listed some favourite Toronto-and-environs blogs for this on-line sidebar in Toronto Life. I can only offer my regrets that it is related to a Robert Fulford article.
And now some silly love songs: Sasha on Kanye in The New Yorker, awhile back, has now been annotated and updated with some bloggendums. Dave Morris on high-school-band-geek chic in Eye, which also has a tear-dowsing interview with Bettye Lavette and an intriguing one with South Africa’s Tumi & the Volume. NOW thinks Architecture in Helsinki are wannabe Canadians (and they do at least seem to wish they’d gone to Degrassi High). And, hey!, four shiny NNNN’s for the Foggy Hogtown Boys.
I imagine people like Alex will have things to say about this Nation piece on classical music’s perpetual crisis. Is this the best stereo component ever? The trouble with cracking down on “kiddie porn” is of course the usual crackdown problem - they just go after anybody “weird” instead, such as the Suicide Girls. (I think there’s a coherent critique to be made of SGs, but not this one!) Harvey Danger joins the free-album-download revolution - so is this the brilliant music marketing coup it dresses up as, or the felo de se of the business? And what is pop surrealism? (Those last four all via Boing Boing.)
This is old but Matthew Fluxblog’s P-fork interview with Carl Newman of the New Pornographers is a truly enjoyable, intelligent conversation.
K-Punk says: “Jessica Rylan is the future of noise, in the way that men are the past of machines.” Look back in dismay: Tom Ewing revisits his best of the 1990s. And this just in: The Clap Your Hands Say Yeah conspiracy.
The Ben Marcus versus Jonathan Franzen lit-war that is kicked off in Harper’s this month is a Big ‘Un, that rare worthwhile bookish bunfight, but it’s also a deadlock since neither side really even recognizes the legitimacy of the other. It’s a literary Gaza Strip. If you’ve read any commentary that gets us to Camp David - or escalates the confrontation entertainingly - I’d love to hear about it. (PS: I heart Ben Marcus, but he doesn’t quite nail it here.)
ILM jumps the shark again, and this time, it may not make it back.
September 29th, 2005
I’m as primed to go wilding on the baby boomers as any member of the cheated generation formerly known as X, but this David Greenberg piece in Slate on the sixties-centrism of Dylanology is a case of firing the right arrow at the wrong target. (Thanks to Aaron for pointing the story out.) As Greenberg says in the piece, Dylan’s output from 1965 to 1967 (I’d actually say 1964, and include Another Side of Bob Dylan) is his strongest. What he doesn’t say is that those three or four years arguably constitute one of the strongest runs in all of pop-music history. Most of the pantheon of Greats consists of people who had various peaks and valleys through their careers, but Dylan had this comet-hot streak of brilliance and productivity that is almost difficult to believe: The triple-shot of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde took place in 1965 and 1966 alone! It’s fucking ridiculous. And while I too would defend Dylan’s later work, it’s simply the case that from 1970 to 2000 he barely created as many good songs altogether as he did in those two years in the mid-sixties (when, just for the record, I was not yet born).
In addition, frankly, while the sixties are getting to the ancient-history level after 40 years, we are still wading through their cultural effluent, as the people now in power are individuals whose ideological lives were shaped by the conflicts of that decade and in reaction against it. The official self-congratulatory mythos is crap (the sixties weren’t the death knell of the establishment but the renaissance of a consumer-media-complex establishment that anyone who listens to rock, for instance, has to cope with politically) - but the deeper history still reverberates, especially in the circa-sixties remodeling of gender relations and the family in the western world.
Anyway, what I really wanted to tell you about was the Scorsese-spinoff Scrapbook, which I received yesterday. While Greenberg’s right that it would be nice if it covered his later years, and it certainly is not the place to go for counter-readings of the standard history (no doubt like Scorsese’s doc), what is there is sumptuous. If I had a scanner, I’d scan ‘em in the morning, I’d scan ‘em in the evening … Extraordinary care’s gone into the reproductions of rare early photos, manuscript pages of lyrics, concert programs, ticket stubs, even Dylan’s high-school yearbook-photo page. (Which says he was a member of the Latin and Social Studies clubs - geek!)
Among its less spectacular offerings, I was particularly taken with a Top 40 chart from Reviewer magazine in 1965 that’s informative for those of us who weren’t there, about just how Dylan’s influence insinuated itself in musical culture. There’s only one Dylan single on the chart, Like A Rolling Stone at No. 4, but a cover of It Ain’t Me Babe by the Turtles is at No. 8 and versions of All I Really Want to Do by Cher and by the Byrds share the No. 40 spot. “So-and-so Sings Dylan” albums were everywhere. (Towards the end of the scrapbook there’s an ad for Rainy Day Women Nos. 12 & 35 headlined “Nobody sings DYLAN like DYLAN.”) More tellingly still, Dylan-alikes are all over the chart: Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction at No. 12, the Animals’ rocked-up folk at No. 18, folk-revival-gone-pop group We Five is at No. 2 with You Were on My Mind (by Sylvia Tyson), Joan Baez is up there, Sonny & Cher are ubiq’ (Sonny Bono was a bigger Dylanhead than you think), the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Donovan’s version of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Universal Soldier is just hitting the chart at No. 71 with a bullet… well, not a bullet, I guess - a daisy?
The most amusing folk-rock artifact on the chart, though, is Dawn of Correction by the Spokesmen, perhaps the most goody-two-shoes answer song of all time. It was a soft-right-wing rebuttal to the Eve of Destruction, of course, which was in its turn kind of a Cold War/Vietnam-minded ripoff of Dylan’s protest songs (”The eastern world, it is explodiní/ Violence flariní, bullets loadiní/ Youíre old enough to kill, but not for votiní … “). The lyrics are outrageous: “The western world has a common dedication/ To keep free people from Red domination/ And maybe you can’t vote, boy, but man your battle stations …” But it gets better:
You missed all the good in your evaluation
What about the things that deserve commendation?
Where there once was no cure, there’s vaccination
Where there once was a desert, there’s vegetation
Self-government’s replacing colonization
What about the Peace Corp. organization?
Don’t forget the work of the United Nations
It’s not the eve of destruction! It’s the dawn of correction! And then comes the end of history! What about the things that deserve commendation?! In an early case of fake-fair-and-balanced, some stations actually required DJs to play this song if they played McGuire’s hit. (Apparently Dawn’s highest chart position was No. 36.) The Spokesmen were a one-off group, I think, related somehow to Danny and the Juniors, who did At the Hop. You can hear Dawn here. The over-the-top attempts by the squeaky-clean singer to sound “edgy” (”the buttons are theah to ensure ne-go-shee-eyy-shun!”) are like ice cream on pie.
The writer of Eve of Destruction, PF Sloan (who also wrote, bizarrely, Secret Agent Man), tried several times to peddle sequels updated to new world crises such as the environment. The Spokesmen, as far as I know, let those go unanswered.
Of course, the real answer song to Eve of Destruction and to the Dylan-inspired mood in general was The Ballad of the Green Berets.
Personally, I really hope some right-wing pseudo-rap act records an answer song to George Bush Don’t Like Black People. (Like, um, He Do, George Bush Do Like Black People or maybe Everybody Knows It’s Liberals Who Don’t Like Black People Because They Give Them Those Vicious Handouts!)
After all, if we’re going to counter boomer nostalgic hegemony, we have to generate our own batshit-stupid pop history.
September 28th, 2005
The World’s Last Day
Seen! Fred Durst and Germaine Greer making love!
noticed! Since studies showed the anti-malarial drug
quinine causes short-term sterility, stars ≠ including a
recent Oscar grabber ≠ have been lining up for quinine
smoothies and quinine bubble tea along Roh-day-oh
Hey, long-time vegetarian david duchovny!
What are you doing drinking blood from an ox’s jugular
with the Masai?
Ski instructors everywhere, beware!
Claudine Longet is still alive!
Life’s rich pathogens! A certain talk show host has
received so many Botox treatments that he is banned
from all a&p and most Farmer Jack grocery stores for
fear of contaminating the canned goods as he walks past
them. Sounds like Maury Povich.
Ouch! Is there an arcane religious practice that the
celebs won’t endorse? Kevin Spacey recently participated
in the Sioux ritual of the sun wherein he was
suspended for hours on long rawhide strands hooked
into his chest.
Some good questions and debate a-stirrin’ at Mark’s place with regard to Brian Joseph Davis’ (see Zoiluses past) Ian Svenonius-approved Portable Altamont (as well as Jason Anderson’s Showbiz): 1. Is there something inherently elitist (youth culture correlated) about the use of pop-culture shorthand as intense semiotic game? 2. Won’t such a book go totally out of date more or less instantly?
The first question is kind of silly - sure, but a helluva lot less so than references to philosophers or Glenn Gould and Schoenberg, for instance. The second one is exactly what I like about Brian’s book - it has no pretensions to timelessness, it doesn’t use exclusively nostalgia-approved reference points, so it risks being a literature only enjoyable right now, which flies in the face of the official “for posterity” line, which doesn’t actually relate to the fates of most books published or what we desire in reading. In this thanatic plunge it actually sips deep of another kind of realism - and not cynically but so very joyfully: Why not a genre of serious but disposable literature? (This is of course a repetition of old-as-JFK’s-skull-wound “is-Warhol-art?” debates.)
(By the way does the title have anything to do with this? I take it for kinda the flipside of “A movable feast.”)
September 27th, 2005
The October concert schedule in this city is so insane - seriously, there’s barely a night in the next month that there aren’t battles for your love goin’ on - that compiling the calendar has taken up all my spare time the past couple of days. Leavin’ zis heah blawg bohh-rinnng, je sais je sais. Enjoy the above picture of Dan Destroyer Bejar singing in Vancouver meanwhile and jot over to Artblot for more of the same from the New Pornographers’ show out there (they’re due in Hogtown - does anyone still call this city that? - a week from Sunday). (Thanks to For The Records for the link.)
With the avalanche of (mostly) third albums this week from various highly hyped Toronto-based bands - Broken Social Scene, Constantines, Metric, Deadly Snakes, Tangiers - as well as the disbanding of Three Gut Records, it seems like a good moment for taking stock, and I hope to give the matter some consideration in the next couple of days. I’d be interested to hear your own theories.
Meanwhile I’m writing up an interview with the gentle and thoughtful Alejandro Escovedo for this Friday’s 7 - the weekly entertainment tabloid in the Globe. I’m going to be doing mid-length show previews for them most weeks from here in, a less-stressful substitute for ye olde columnal duties. Links, comme d’habitude, will be posted here. (Sorry for the franglais introjections - i just finished that Godard biography at long last … far from a definitive book, I’m afraid - worthwhile for fans, but not enough of either new information or new insight, just dribs and drabs of each, and certainly its treatments of the various films seem fitful.)
Last evening I attended night 2 of the fall Interface series with Achim Kauffman, Michael Moore, Dylan van der Schyff, and Wolter Wierbos at Arraymusic. (I believe my colleague Mark Miller will have a review of night 1 in Wednesday’s Globe.) The Monday program featured a generous evening of five sets - three planned improvs followed by unannounced sets by the trio and the trio with Wierbos - happily, since I thought I wasn’t going to get to see those combos this week. In fact I was too Monday-night bleary to give it proper attention, but Wierbos’s solo trombone set certainly woke me up for awhile, a tremendously energetic and varied performance in which he often vamped a little to set up a pulse and then solo’d “over” himself - quite a trick for a single brass instrument. Not profound, but with great robust humanity. The first and third sets didn’t really ‘get’ me. The drumming in each case was too busy/overbearing (Joe Sorbara’s impulses were solid, but the dynamics evaded him) and I didn’t find myself in love with Michael Moore as an improvisor - I enjoy his work in compositional form (especially his Bob Dylan cover albums) but didn’t feel much spark from him on this particular Monday evening. On the other hand, Achim Kauffman was a beautifully liquid and assured pianist previously unfamiliar to me, reminding me how I am missing my piano while we are in our temporary digs. (Not that I can play remotely like that - he just spread the 88-fingered love.) Eric Chenaux was the ingenious burdock as always. I was pleased to see Matt Brubeck for the first time since witnessing his Oranj Symphonette in the nineties, though he seemed a bit out-of-water in that set. And Vancouver’s Dylan van der Schiff is just a stupendous drummer, who had the volume issue totally under control and whose blows always fell gracefully (almost too gracefully?) on the ear. So there was plenty to enjoy, and no doubt I could have taken in more if my own spirit had been more willing - but the “interface” between locals and guests this particular night wasn’t at its strongest. There’s plenty of promise in the climax of the series tonight, so if you are in town and free, treat yourself.
September 25th, 2005
Left to right, top to bottom: Oct. 29, Oct. 22, Oct 9;
Oct. 18-21, Oct. 4, Oct. 16, Oct. 27;
Oct. 10, Oct. 17.
[... to continue, click ...]
September 25th, 2005
Just a reminder to locals of this bloggerati panel this afternoon at Word on the Street at 4:15. … In less self-centred news remember that the exciting Interface improv series with Achim Kauffman, Michael Moore, Dylan van der Schyff, and Wolter Wierbos begins today. Wish I’d known sooner about Martin Arnold’s noon lecture - I may harass him for notes that I can share with you. Speaking of sharing, a refreshed late-September and October calendar will pop up on the site later today.
Edited to add: Pictures and reports on the blog panel at Daily Dose of Imagery, I Am Chris Nolan and this Flickr page. Addenda to their remarks: 1. The time shortage was really severe due to screen-set-up delay and a tendency on some parts (such as yours truly’s) to exposition too much at the top. 2. The dog stank.