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You Are (And Pretty Much Always Have Been) My Sunshine

Tanglewood Numbers, the new Silver Jews album, doesn't come out until October (weird, I reflexively started to write "Cocktober," a word that has never occurred to me before). Even so, I will go slightly and unncessarily nuts in my desk chair if I don't get my thoughts out on "How Can I Love You If You Won't Lie Down?"

For me (and probably just about everyone who partakes), the richness of previous Jews effors has come from the lyrics. Let's not kid ourselves about the music- it's fine, but its strong suit is utility, it doesn't really make its own statement (prove me wrong, please). This is to differentiate it from other conspicuous indie reverse-trojan horse lyricists like the Mountain Goats, whose style seems to have some sort of important, discernable impact/relation to the music (but on first listen, the music comes off as a fragile shell).

Anyhow, TN is style, for miles and miles, in all its faults (which there are many), but "How Can I Love You..." explodes like some gorgeous refutation of just about everything he's done. A two-step on the edge of Columbus' map, Berman drops his guns in just-preapocalyptic bliss; the music is like Beat Happening covering Big & Rich, if the latter followed through on the "everyone's invited thing" and climaxxxed at Zappa's "there will come a time when you can even take your clothes off when you dance" utopianism. "Time is a game only children play well, how can I love you if you won't lie down?" Vocally, motherfucker's itching like I've heard few itch, the quake in his voice that once seemed like angelic sensitivity has turned into cracker insanity; de-robed, smearing his chest with butter, and brandishing a machete, this could be Bill Murray in Rushmore somewhere between stuffing the kid playing basketball on the playground and shoving airplane bottles of liquor into hospital bedsheets. Makes me want to leave work, run down to the park, and start barking at dogs.


Titularly Oriented, I Promise

I came back from Virginia and proceeded to watch no less than three movies: Rockers, Boyz n the Hood, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The first two I hadn't seen, and thought that Rockers was probably cooler than The Harder They Come as far as stylized and basically plotless movies seemingly designed for viewers to watch hip Jamaican people in the 70's simply exist go; the strength of the patois alone was almost enough (there were subtitles!). Also, great cameos/appearances by Gregory Isaacs, Burning Spear, Jack Ruby, and a bunch of others in that crowd. Actually, a very beautiful scene of Burning Spear singing a capella on the beach, too.

Boyz n the Hood was good, but I probably should've seen it before the whole narrative and every type was irrevocably assimilated and subsumed into the general cultural conversation about "The Hood." Maybe its familiarity is just a testament to its quality, I dunno. The fall guy with the pacifier almost seemed to anticipate parodies like Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, whose particular brand of cheeky, relaxed racism is one of those phases of american cinema that has passed on to bigger, better, more subliminal things. (Sadly, cheeky, relaxed racism isn't the only variety there is to deal with. Case in point, the recent oh-my-god "tribal dance" visual analogy in the otherwise decent Rize.)

Fire Walk With Me is a distaster (and I knew that), but I love Twin Peaks too much to have resisted watching it. I won't bore you with my thoughts otherwise.

Not much in the way of words around the hut today. About to watch another movie (I need a break from music, but not a break from cultural consumption), but HERE>>> is the part where I say "listen to 'The Boy With Bosoms' by Harvey Milk." It is yawning and wonderful: 7 inch Black Sabbath played at 33 RPM (for real), mixed with Bach counterpoint drowning in cough syrup, a stumbling baroque-core. Bedhead's Transaction De Novo is the only other thing I can think of that does what this song does, all sinewy bass pings and ridiculously skeletal harmonics, but Bedhead didn't really do the fuzz thing all that convincingly. "The Boy With Bosoms" just does it, a monolithic quasi-yuletide colossus. Thanks to Robbie Mackey for the initial exposure and the recent reminder.

Also, big up to Brad Shoup for a really nice personal history (I guess?) about Contemporary Christian Music on Stylus.


When Two Days Become One

Last night, Caleb and I went to see Andrew Bird + Keren Ann at Bowery Ballroom. Andrew Bird was good, but too precious or something. Few things feel worse going down than forced whimsy. I hate to sound condescending, but at worst, it felt like the kind of thing a young college male would listen to and think was totally crazy and wild because he was weaned exclusively on Simon & Garfunkel and his apex of contemporary music is Sufjan Stevens. Those moments aside, it was actually super-decent, beautiful whistling and violin playing; the looser it was, the better.

Once I went to the doctor's office and there was a temporary female substitute in place of my normal practitioner. At one point early on in the meeting, she actually said "now, I just want to tell you that you're going to have to take your pants off," and all I could think was is that really necessary to say? Keren Ann's performance was like that; sort of shattering and awkward. It was like (and forgive me for probably sounding sexist), being in 10th grade and crushing on this girl who seems pure and wonderful, but you find out that her quiet and alluring demeanor are actually deeply linked to sexual promiscuity resulting in a passive maturity. You know? On record, it sounds purposeful, driven, and magical; live, it was kinda hog-wild, sultry, and discomforting. It didn't help that her drummer was too loud, and her keyboard player and guitarist were showboats passing in opposite directions. Imagine, say, G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band supporting Bjork. Okay, maybe not quite as heretical/fucked, but close.

Anyway, I've been trying to put it out of my head. After the show, we drove all night down the coast. I'm in Charlottesville, Virginia, and will later meet fellow Stylus-er Justin Cober-Lake. I've found that Charlottesville usually holds enough beer, friends, and milkshakes to make anything disappear.


Dear Adam Green, If You Have a Back, I've Got It

I'm not really down with the dissclub surrounding the Adam Green album, which I keep coming back to and am only slowly realizing why. Dom Passantino, whose review on Stylus of the album got me into it, is a character I take pretty seriously (when he chooses to be serious). Granted, not that many people care about the album to begin with, but when reviews have come up, they're usually colored by words like "juvenile," "smart-assed," etc., which seems both reductive and innacurate (shocka). Does anyone else besides me see him as some tangential heir to the sorely empty throne of numbered-album-era Scott Walker, at least sometimes?

I can't escape "Carolina," which, after several listens, started to just give me goosebumps every time. The "Carolina"/"vagina" rhyme, fine, pick at it, but don't make the idiodic mistake of reading the "red bricks" as anything else than an aborted fetus. The whole thing is incredibly grisly, Green singing the chorus from the perspective of the canned babe: "give us back our lives, leave him, Carolina."

What you've got in the end is an ambiguous and upsetting look at the youthful attitude towards post-pill free sex; Green didn't have to go and say shit like "goodnight sweetheart flying high on birth control, she knows rejection's in her bones." (Incidentally, the Scott Walker I'm talking about is, say, the harrowing child-sex-abuse narrative of "Next" from Scott 2.) The twirling cocktail shlock soundtrack to Green's tale only supports the sickening tone of the song, rather than demean it. My current addiction.


Avant Composition + Sizzurp, Pretense + Purpose

Robert Ashley and Slim Thug: Guided By Voices (sorry, that's really bad, I know)

This really should happen. Slim Thug = not particularly comforting. Ashley = sometimes transcendentally comforting, esp. Private Parts. Lyric: "I am a city of habits" still gets me every time. So hear every bit of flicking saliva and ultra-sibilant drawl through some harmonium drones. Houston meets the heavenly, the southern-smoke and spoken Palestrina.


In response to J.T.'s comment below on my post re: Lady Sov., I'm not really sure where the backlash is coming from. Gosh, it reminds me of being in middle school again. The cool kids go to the show and everyone's showing off t-shirts the next morning. So what? I don't really know the NYC bloggerati all that well (I have met a few, and they're all basically wonderful). I was busy dancing up front, backpack and all. The exposure's doing her well, and it wasn't like it's all hipinion; my Dad called the other day:

"The NY Times reviewed that Sister Sovereign... Lady Sovereign show you went to the other night. They said it was 'fab.'"

"Dad, did they really say 'fab.'"

"No, well, that was my word, but..."

On another note, my nearly always wise friend Caleb said: "What do you get out of blogging about music? I find that once you take a small step back from stuff like that, you realize how it's kinda trivial." Well, I don't necessarily agree, but I do wonder what we get out of this whole editor-less universe (at worst, it's internet friends). I stumbled and said, "well sometimes people pose open questions and then other bloggers write emails and it's kind of like sustaining a dialogue or open-ended forum of ideas between a bunch of people with a similar focus, i.e. music." Can we do this more? Who's in? All four of you?

Has there ever been some serious, defining, championing literature on Steely Dan? I'm not kidding, let me know.


Live and Direct From a Motorcycle Guarded Stoop

Yesterday I re-upped my interest in 80’s British ska, a period I hadn’t thought about in a long time, but used to mean the world and then some to my 15 year-old self. (Though when I was 15, it was 1997, long past the idyllic miscegenation Jerry Dammers and Terry Hall dreamt about, and into the tepid cruise-ship skank of Today’s Specials.) Yes, SFJ, someone does need to give UB40 some credit where credit’s deserved.

I read Generation Ecstacy for the first time. I can’t say that I loved it all, but as someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of “electronic dance music,” my perspectives were slightly illuminated re: what people are hearing when they listen to that music, in an abstract sense. I only took ecstasy once: I was 16 and spent a good chunk of time riding up and down in an elevator and spilling my soul all over the floor. I’ve never been much of a social drug-taker anyhow, and I came away from the book still feeling really skeptical about the whole role of MDMA as some collective enlightener. Most hilarious/comforting passage: when Reynolds talks about how football hooligans started taking E and stopped brawling, and then when they stopped taking E and started brawling again a year later. Humans love a good habit.


And My God, Her "Trousers"

Lady Sovereign at the Knitting Factory last night. Firstly, realized that KF were kinda breaking this whole U.K. thing NY-side, with a back-to-back Kano/Roll Deep bill in August, whoa.

Anyway, it was all there: the curfew-breaking shit-talking kid sister routine, poise, swagger, side pony tail (and this weird interruption of cornrows sliding towards it), Sex Pistols shirt, pants just falling off.

She was visibly weak, and the whole "I'm not feelin awwright, I'm iww" thing was reliable confirmation. Whether it was McDonalds or just the fact that she is 18 years old and packing rooms in New York and therefore probably getting really drunk while she's around, the important thing is:

She is devastatingly charming.

Skipping CDs? Okay. Promises/threats of vomiting onstage? Fine. Nothing really seemed to matter. Her presence = opiate. At one point, she said something to the effect of "this whole thing's going to turn into a comedy show." Well, the whole thing was funny, but also kinda touching. I don't know, she had that kid-human "I'm sick and I want my mum and my couch" thing going on, which was plain honest. She didn't whine and didn't overapologize; she got going when she could and she seemed really pretty happy to be there. I hope she never gets old.


Nightmares Piling Up

Spent Friday night deeply drugged and watching bird documentaries from midnight until 7 am. Most of the time thought birds, huh. Saturday night I went down to Savalas to see Lemon-Red and Caps & Jones jockey discs. Three blocks from the border between White Brooklyn and Puerto Rico, Lemon-Red was asked by the owner to nix the reggaeton, presumably for fear of a dark-skinned invasion. "But," I thought, "transgressive kids love race music! Did you forget? What's hipper than cultural miscegenation?" Deeply fucking ugly, anyway. I was a zombie and hit home on my bicycle, freshly fixed and a total mutant, blue and brown and of varying degrees of shininess. I love it in its nameless glory.


Curled Stripes and A Scrabble Victory

Firstly, from me to Peanut Butter Words: I have to be better about harnessing you, little foxes. You come to me in daydreams and float away as the sun sets. Something villainous, I'll get you next time.

There has been a lot of pilfered grime (of the Brit-beat variety) both in and between the ears lately. Most good, some not as good. "Singalong" by Crazy Titch is the best klezmer song I've heard in ages, enough bastardized Hebrew bomp and harmonic minor scales to last me until my sister's bat mitzvah in September. On the whole, what's happening in London seems to be outrunning most everything I've heard lately, innovation-wise.

Speaking of homophonics, my girlfriend recently shared her thoughts on the Futureheads' cover of "Hounds of Love":

"It sounds like braids."
"What do you mean braids?"
"Like braided hair; it sounds like braiding and braided hair."

You think music sounds like braids. Where the fuck is my imagination?