by carl wilson

Zoilus Miscellany, Sunday Edition

nonesuch.jpg

1. I flaked out on the Dave Holland show due to Jason Moran's cancellation. Sorry, jazz fans. Instead, my concert-going this weekend came last night, when I took in some of the Magnolia Electric Co. (formerly Songs:Ohia) show at the Horseshoe. It was crammed - when the hell did he get fashionable? - but ultimately disappointing, as to suck out the melancholic marrow of each of Jason Molina's beautifully crafted Neil Young-meets-Will Oldham anthems, you had to stand through four or five, well, adequate guitar solos between verses. The Drive-By Truckers can get away with that, but when the mopey types try it you just risk a nosedive down Deadhead Alley. Powerful lap-steel hooks saved some songs, but others sank in the wank.

I ran into Helen, who said that she thought she'd gotten the perfect balance when she'd seen him in a three-piece group awhile ago. I played my indie-one-upmanship card by recalling his solo NXNE set about five years back at the El Mocambo: near-empty room, baseball cap yanked down over his brow as he laid into these ballads like some medieval troubador beset by visions. So I walked out last night, because I realized that I was kind of spoiling that memory for myself, tho without the contrast I might never have realized just how galldarn great that solo set was. Meanwhile I did enjoy hearing live takes on a couple of the best cuts from that last Magnolia disc - Just Be Simple ("Everything you hated me for/ Honey, there was so much more/ I just didn't get busted") and Almost Was Good Enough, which has a line worth the price of admission: "It didn't used to be so hard... It used to be impossible."

(Tangent I: He looks oddly like Neil Sedaka, or maybe Paul Anka.)

(Tangent II: Which women seem to dig. I dunno when I last saw so many beautiful gals at an indie-rock thingy. It's almost as if he's pulled out ahead of the Old 97s' Rhett Miller in the hangdog-fuckability sweeps.)

(Tangent III: Why would you change your name from Songs:Ohia to Magnolia Electric Co.? It's a marginal improvement, sure, but only about as much as changing from, say, Poindexter to Herman, instead of something kicky like Jasper. Pretty lame for a guy who's good with words. By the way, Zoilus offers a cash prize to the first band that just goes ahead and calls itself Sasha Frere-Jones. You can't beat that fucking name. Extra cash for having a side project called Tobias.)

2. While all blogland (etc.) is talking about the NYT arts and books section redesigns (my verdict: clean, nice, whatever), I'll break from the pack to leap on today's NYT-magazine profile of Nonesuch records, not so recognizably portrayed as the future of music. No slight on N'Such, which has a very cool roster and all, but the article was on the blindered side. Not just for predictable anti-pop kneejerking, but more so: for implicitly writing off all the indie labels that sell the same numbers as N'Such as not the future of music, not to mention the, erm, Internet; for amusingly defending the label's diversity after its discussion of the Magnetic Fields by citing the "two Chinese operas" it has in the works - are these actually not the two Chinese operas written by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, but two other Chinese operas? just curious; and for totally overlooking the very white elephant in the room, euphemistically called an "adult" elephant. (See pic above.) The washed-out pallor extends even to the name. Now, of course, N'Such was a pioneer of musical globalization - albeit under the not-so-slightly colonial monicker of "Explorer" - but the redirection hailed in the piece, with the important exception of Buena Vista Social Club, does not do much to expand upon that history. So the feast the writer was making of N'Such here felt like he was uncorking the white wine and pouring Hollandaise over the white asparagus and whitefish. (Question being why I should be surprised.)

3. While we slept, the classical blogsters seem to have turned their pince-nezzes toward Toronto. (Okay, I know they wear normal glasses like the rest of us nerds. Kill me, I liked the image.) The reason is the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's decision to stop mainstreaming its contemporary content with the "normal" kids (you know, Billy Mozart and Larry Beethoven) and put it in a Special Class, as der Globe reported last week. Like protective parents, the contemporary-composer brigades bristle at the ghetto treatment. So maybe it falls to me to say that differently-abled compositions aren't like differently-abled kids, and they don't need exposure to their more socially integrated peers to thrive. In fact, I would go to a special series of 20th and 21st-century music and I never go to regular program concerts, and I think I might not be completely alone among younger music fans. If the TSO does its contemporary series right, it really might be a way of pulling us avant-minded pop fans into the hallowed halls. Alex compares it to past failed attempts at orchestral hipness like "Boulez’s pseudo-psychedelic Rug Concerts" - but c'mon, that was more than 30 years ago - I think generational dynamics have changed just a tetch. Not, I hasten to add, that I've got such deep faith in the TSO doing its contemporary series right.

4. I hear tell that Dave Eggers has written about all things lit-rock (also see Zoiluses passim) in his "And Now For A Less Informed Opinion" column in Spin. (Eggers has a column in Spin?) It's not online, so I'll hit a newsstand sometime soon & maybe it'll take us on a magic carpet ride back to some things that got left unsaid during the summer's contretemps.

News | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, October 03 at 06:16 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (3)

 

COMMENTS

interesting to hear about changes at the NY times. I may have to check it out.

I am tiring of the weekend globe. I have written letters to the editor complaining about the large number of purhcased american articles as well as the increasing slant towards corporate art, big organisations, shows etc..

btw, Now magazine has sponsored our festival in the past but has changed its policy to no longer offer ads to help with sponsorship....now they will just give a 30% discount, leaving out any chance for smaller groups, avant garde events etc.

Now, also aligning with the big arts oranizations.

tim

Posted by tim posgate on October 4, 2004 10:14 PM

 

 

What I mean is more that what N'Such is getting praise for is its "new direction," which is nothing more than picking up some very safe, very white "adult" pop acts. But okay, maybe I've overstated my case - I meant to criticize what the article chose to focus on and make a big deal out of, not so much what N'Such is actually doing, but I got a tad overzealous.

Posted by zoilus on October 4, 2004 03:46 PM

 

 

Youssou N'Dour, Omara Portuondo, Rokia Traore, Orchestra Baobab, Ali Farka Toure, Don Byron, Oumou Sangare... I think you're selling Nonesuch a little short in the diversity department. Even if Audra McDonald "doesn't count" and Caetano Veloso is considered lilywhite.

Posted by Alex Ross on October 4, 2004 02:14 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson