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The Triumph Circuit

Daft Punk's publicist meets guest vocalist

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" on Daft Punk's Discovery is a song that has had me so thoroughly knocked-out lately, that I feel compelled to document it. I've always been a Kraftwerk fan; it seems like die mensch-machine mythology that made songs like "Showroom Dummies" so incredibly moving and problematic never really got smoothed out properly. I still get pretty tearful when I watch Blade Runner, seriously.

Anyway, the thing I love so much about "Harder, Better..." is that I feel like it capitulates all the tensions of Kraftwerk, but concludes the narrative (or just complicates it) in a way I had never expected. Here's the scene: so, these two French guys are wrestling this robot. Not really wrestling it, which would be a waste of money unless it was direct to DVD or some pay-per-view event on Adult Swim or something, but they're like, wrestling it on a spiritual plane. The robot doesn't give up, though, it only gets harder, better, faster, and stronger with the work it has to do upholding its own robot-dignity. With each mortal multi-filter and knob-twiddle the duo attempts, they only reinforce its power. Each round, the vocal gets more dazzling and more fractured. So who wins? I don't know, because it's only the human challenge that precipitates the robot's ascention to triumph. Symbiosis! And to think that the robot has soul; now we're learning. If only Karl Marx could hear the joy in this song, he'd weep into his facial hair and start all over.


No God, Only Religion and probably the Boredoms

I got to see the Boredoms a few nights ago. I can't really count how long I've been looking forward to seeing them. Five years? Maybe more. At any rate, it's pointless to try to poeticize their magic; they're one of those bands that leaves me completely intrigued but almost totally inarticulate as to why. Some kind of holistic unity/communion/gorgeous telepathy aspect, completely spellbinding, almost transcendent.

One thing I was struck by in a live context is how much musical ground the band covers/evokes with their three drummer/one Eye + electronics setup, and how much they've superimposed so many styles' topographical idiosyncracies. Aside from the futuro-Krautrock temple grooves, there were all these organicized club jams, reggae breaks, sprayed jazz, flashes of samba. Drum & bass was an especially interesting color, a rhythm that grew out of technological capability getting turned back into a hands and feet extravaganza, totally dazzling. Eye reminded me of a cross between an orchestral conductor and a Jamaican toaster/deejay; even though he seemed weirdly out of the drummers' circle, his presence and occasional direction seemed so crucial, like the head of a Voltronic bliss machine. Did I just say that? Shit, shit carries me away.


Two studies in city street rhetoric

The crowbar, what is it?

I saw the Hold Steady again last night, before which I had a viciously cheap sesame roast beef sandwich and some dumplings (thanks Nick).

The band was good, great even, though I probably liked them better at the totally unself-conscious April show. In a way, though, it was perfect; watching a front-and-center contigent of swooning people buckling under intractable happiness and slapping sweaty palms with Craig Finn reminded me of the lyric from Almost Killed Me: "When I dream I always dream about the scene; all these kids, they look like little lambs looking up at me." It was a little like role-playing the rock god on his part, but last night it felt like everyone earned the experience. Spent part of the evening battling lumps in my throat.

Got some raspberry seltzer after the show and caught the new slang with N. I probably shouldn't even bring this into the cruel digital world. Apparently the question on the lips of late night bodega-lurkers swilling Crunk!!! is what's the crowbar? After considerable deliberation, we were stumped. It's possible that the question is rhetorical. Maybe just a variant of "hello." Also possible that it means, metaphorically speaking, what is the thing that is going to pry open that box that we want to get into?, which presupposes answers to the more intriguing question of what the hell is in the box?


Everybody loves a letdown

Facing 10am with a couple.

Last night I went to Lincoln Center to see Yo La Tengo perform The Sounds of Science to the playful surrealism of Jean Painlevé's marine life documentaries. I wondered why I had felt so let down by the event; perhaps my taste buds just aren't developed to appreciate the particular dynamics of incidental music, but I have a suspicion that it just didn't suit the films as well as I expected. Would've preferred Sun Ra. Also could've gone for Manitoba with a valium drip, Luomo, or some bright-eyed Double Leopards dirges (if they blanked out the punchy subtitles). Alas.

Also, R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet, Chapter 2." *This will spoil.* The first chapter had me geniuinely excited, like play it for all your friends on repeat while they're clearly trying to get some rest excited. Hearing R.'s wail of "I tried my best to quickly put it on vi-ah-ah-brate" on Ch. 1 was shaping up to be the best 5 seconds of 2005, the kind of lyric that is completely in its era, unbelievably ridiculous, but so perfect in its cultural near-and-dear approachability. Ch. 2 plays out the phone-ring thing, recycles the same beat, and turns the great harmonic/structural tentions of the first chapter into a Thanatonic mess of clumsy and successive ejaculations. By the end, it's not really awesome-exhausted, just kinda crippled and boring. Oh, and the woman's husband is a priest. Oh, and he's got a lover. "I'll be goddamned, it's a man." And who the hell says things like "In time, you shall both know the shocking truth"? I dunno, let's see if he can pick up the pieces on this one. The Christian thing is ever-intriguing in the R. profile; let's not forget that this suite is still poised to reconcile the studied/flippant immorality of "Ignition" with "I Believe I can Fly," though I'd be on-my-back in love if the short film to accompany the songs feels anything like Space Jam.


V.A., Best Dinner Non-Music, Vol. 2

I just came from a new Indian restaurant in my neighborhood. The sign outside read


Come upstairs, we are wailing for you.

During dinner, the "DJ," or whoever was in charge- I think he was 12- kept fluxing; volume, style, whatever. At one point, a tape came on:

"This is Side A of your subliminal tape on how to pick up women."


Incidental rock bands found in Saturday night Scrabble

Trite Yeoman- Punchy retro-vaudeville British troupe with a quick wit and class-consciousness to go with their short shelf life.

Suspended Haze- Totally unself-conscious drone-rock about spliffs, Ra.

Rigid Wig- Spectacle rock determined but unsuccessful to exhume exquisite corpse of dada, instead resorts to banging on things; cassette only.

Mop Ox- Anonymous, arty rock sheparded by older brothers into bulletproof nostalgia; aesthetic marked by un-discernable but well-documented obsessions with fidelity and home-made tube amplifiers.


They wore people's skin, what have you ever done?

My name's Tlaloc, but you can call me Nuhualpilli

Finally started in on Aztec history after years of love for John Darnielle. Beautiful, brutal, more so than even Whitehouse. Unfair, though; the Aztecs A) were an empire and B) lack clip distortion. It's good either way; knowledge is power I guess, which is a corny catch because knowledge is difficult to market, superhero-speaking. Still less exhausting and more coffee-talk appropriate than the more titillating reference points of Current 93 (fans of cosmic despair only, pls).


Inaguration with ring of chrysanthemum around my feet

I have been meaning to do this for quite some time. No telling how it will turn out, though like all things vaulted from the present, I'm excited about it. Everyone loves a proper introduction: hello.