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Stock Taking and Raking Muck

Let's get simple. Took a few days, watched The Thing, The Brood, and a slew of Jacques Cousteau Odyssey episodes (underwater picnics, even); crafted heartfelt indie pop, hit the town with visiting friends, ran straight into a pole like a cartoon character and busted my face open, took a good long nap, and re-joined the fray.

Did you read the address of this site?


Doo-wop. Jaysus. The ballads more than the bangers, but still, pound-for pound a form that I'd have a hard time getting sick of. I remember reading that Brian Eno called it "martian music" but I didn't get that until recently. I know that I'm wont to project all kinds of nonsense in order to prop up my bonkers musical continua; I got whiffs not only of of other persistent loves (Cocteaus, Animal Collective), but also of throbbing ghost sex bottled up deep in the vocal flutters and bedroom-eye subtlety. Slinking auras move closer but never break the field; in doo-wop I heard fleets of phantoms jangling bodies without letting it out through the hips. Dead can dance, but keep a ruler between you. Triple hot and for spirits only. When I want you I just call for you; it sounds like setting a bird free after stuffing its beak with stars. I'm still tasting the cream of the classics, but still, I think that of all hearts I'm juggling, this is one that won't break for a while.

Moondog. Louis Hardin, Viking outfit and wacky street performance aside, so accurately crafted the feeling I get walking around New York that it's uncanny. The music looks backward and forward: for every shred of "primal" rhythmic takka takka you get, you also have to swim through pentatonia, patchwork modern classical, stretches of speech, and other otherearthlies. It does the distant future/past blend well, but it's more akin to the mystical/innate vibe I get in Sun Ra: incredibly avant-garde music that isn't so much concerned with breaking down new boundaries so much as it is taking the time to go back and re-explore older avenues unapologetically forgotten before they were pushed as far as they could go. What you get is the sound of horses clopping in time with your feet, frogs croaking on Madison Avenue, the cartoon bustle of the city translated into some cheery ruckus; you look up at office buildings long enough to turn them into trees. Psychogeography in action.

Ariel Pink. I knew about him in 2004, but by the time the year closed, I had only heard The Doldrums and Worn Copy; since, I've heard Scared Famous, FF, House Arrest and some other odds and ends found on slsk. I know, he's been called a charlatan, a piss-take, a sham, even a harlequin baby, but seriously, really give yourself a good steep in one of these and just tell me you don't feel swept with a rare melancholy that begs gently to be revisited. I could talk for a long time about where he takes me, but it doesn't seem to be the point. The point is that with every song the degradation becomes clearer; even the jaunty ones are starting to add up for me. It's the world on wholesale rot, up all night and stumbling through its best efforts with a tank scraped empty. I used to feel like I was getting a glimpse into a nightmare, but the longer I spend with him, the more it just feels like an alternate reality. Not even alternate so much; you know those subway ads that say things like "if Hepatitis C attacked your outsides like it did your insides, you'd look like a Cronenberg still, too"? Well, it's sort of like that, except with the secret surge of feeling you get from life's careless squalor amplified to pornographic levels and showing up like boils on your belly. If you can't dig any of this with your slacks on, try quitting showering for a few days, putting on some dirty socks, turning the heat in your house way up, huffing some household cleaner, and masturbating to soap operas with the volume off (just another day around here).

I'm being a windbag. More reflections soon.


Blogger Ian said...


For those of us who have always loved what little doo wop we've heard, any good compilations to get us started on exploring the rest, especially any good one-disc ones?

2:08 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

In less spectral ways than you, Mike, I'm really being taken by doo wop right now to. Stylus review of the new box forthcoming...

2:57 PM  
Blogger blackmail is my life said...

You should see the roundtable discussion that includes Carpenter and Cronenberg. It's an extra on Criterion's version of Videodrome. Carpenter is a pugnacious ass and Cronenberg comes off like a perverse saint. It's great stuff!

9:52 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

it's better with the volume on

i leave the volume off for the thing

6:41 AM  
Blogger Mike Powell said...

JT, I haven't seen Videodrome since the Criterion Collection ed. came out; I was so damn obsessed with watching it on VHS for a while (that and Eraserhead only have room to gain from the grain), so I haven't gotten around to the tricked out DVD. I will; thanks for the tip.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

So, uh, no leads on non-box set doo wop collections?

2:18 PM  
Blogger Mike Powell said...

Ach, almost forgot Ian. And yes! I mean no! No leads. I mean, I've just been working through the Rhino box & then seeking out more tracks by groups I really like. Honestly, it *does* seem like a genre that has done best by the big comps. My favorite groups - as far as groups that had more than one single - have been the Orioles and the Flamingos. I mean, a lot of these groups were at best one-hits, and I think one-offs a lot of times, too... You could probably iTunes track by track if you watnted to. Write over email, I'll hold your hand.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

I'm not sure what "You could probably iTunes track by track if you wanted to" means, but I'll send you an email. I already know I like what I've heard by the Flamingos, so maybe I'll start there...

3:00 PM  

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