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12/16/2005

Friday Zenith, Three Flowers

ACID IN EACH BUD, TOM ZE


1. I almost didn't know that Tom Ze had a new record out, and I wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for S F/J. It won't grace the unforgiving ears of North America for a little while (Luaka Bop, eventually), but The Internet has helped me out for the time being. Honestly, I was only half-crazy about Fabrication Defect, but after four or five listenes, I can honestly say I'm really digging Estudando o Pagode. Ze gets tossed off as a hungover Tropicalist; he was undoubtedly a part of the Tropicalia movement, but I've always felt that not only did he stretch a lot farther musically than the other likely suspects (Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, early Milton Nascimento, etc.), but that his career trajectory has left him in an avant-lonely realm after a lot of his compatriots veered off into more MOR territory at the dawn of the 70's/Tropicalia's metamorphosis into "MPB". I mean, I got to see Caetano in Buenos Aires last year; the theater was packed with 50-year old women singing along to their husbands; while my girlfriend was in Brazil, she asked people about Tom Ze, and they snapped with contempt. It makes sense; while Tropicalia's idiosyncracies got smoothed out, Ze retained the quirks that had always made him a tough fit anyway: the meshing of several consonant harmonic elements to form an overall dissonance, the incisive wordplay (which is diminished a little by having to sit in front of the speakers with a lyric, sheet, but I'm willing); stumbling onto the feeling of everything about to giggle-burst, but not sure whether the pinata's filled with candy or daggers, i.e. something wicked lurking there. At least something suspect. Not sure yet. Will be more soon. And seriously, someone tell Beck to hang it the fuck up or get a new gig; Estudando isn't what Guero could/should've been, but if you're going to make rough-edged postmodern, latin-flavored music, let's keep it out of Urban Outfitters. Grrr.

2. In other tangentially excting news, I've done three Stycasts in the past week or so, which helps explain the slightly meek postage around here. Go listen! More Cambodian pop! A stunted obituary/tribute to Richard Pryor! More hott psychedelic microhouse! John Fahey brushes his fingers on steel strings and immediately, I weep!

3. Confession: I have listened to Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender once a day since Thanksgiving. The album took a bad rap for being precious, but I think that there's a lot revealed here lyrically, a lot of great, intense lines hidden in the elfin warrior voice:

Bitter romance! "Even when you touch my face, you know your place."

The dark curse of Spartan aesthetes! "But what's it mean when suddenly we're spent, tell me true? Ambition came and reared its head and went far from you/Even mollusks have weddings, though solemn and leaden, but you dirge for the dead and take no jam on your bread/Just a supper of salt and a waltz through your empty bed."

The walloping cleverness of synaesthetes! "And the signifieds butt heads with the signifiers/And we all fall down slack-jawed to marvel at words/When across the sky sheet the impossible birds/In the steady alliterate movement homewards."

Durable loves blossom slowly.

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