there will no doubt be more on george later. for now i just want to say he was the greatest male country singer, by a way. so people who i'd point to as great or paradigm country singers, such as keith whitley and vern gosdin, owed him plenty. he was better than his great contemporaries johnny cash or willie nelson or merle haggard or buck owens, as a singer, in a variety of ways. he had more emotional range and intensity (he was incomparable in that, as everyone who knows anything about this will acknowledge). and also his singing is more central or basic or exemplary of country music than is that of any of the others. the whole idea of what a man does in a country ballad, owes everything to him. it's remarkable that he was teamed with tammy, who of course i think was the greatest female country singer. well conway and loretta were close, but dolly and porter was asymmetrical. he made some great records late, as below. he made some horrendous records like in the 80s, i'm assuming under the influence of coke.
that song's by jamie o'hara.
so i've been rummaging around for new female country singers. i don't know how i left out kimberly perry of the band perry, who's as good and interesting as any of these artists. unlike some of the people in that previous entry, the band perry is not a nostalgia act or a tribute to traditional country music; like taylor, they're recognizably country, but they also have a very contemporary pop sound. a good example might be the first single from their fine second album, pioneer.
that song has the little bit of morbidity that people have come to associate with the band perry since their breakthrough single 'if i die young.' and it also has characteristic shifts of mood from gentle to intense, both musically and emotionally. it reminds me perhaps of bobbie gentry's "ballad of billie joe" from back in the day; it's very theatrical.
my 12-year-old daughter jane loves this stuff, and i think the morbid/country-goth streak is part of the attraction, kind of like pretty little liars. but death is by no means the theme of all of tbp's songs, which run the gamut. check, for example, the title track of the new album. it has an unusual and timely theme for a country song, but also makes contact with the tradition at all points.
it's hard to tell from recordings anymore whether someone can really sing. but were i guessing, i'd say kimberley can sing like hell. here's one of their strongest lyrics (and their lyrics are often a bit better than they need to be).
and really kimberly can go into many different modes, from rowdy to sultry to heartbroken. here's the rowdy mode, which is dominant among nashville women right now.
if you can't sell a hundred thousand copies of that to country fans, you can't sell anything to anyone. one thing that i do like about taylor and kimberly is that they're connected to the tradition without constantly emphasizing that fact by mentioning hank williams or loretta lynn. they show country as a living tradition in a compelling way.
also even though tbp and taylor swift are recognizably of the same genre, kimberly is definitely not in any way a taylor imitator; i think she has a very fine country voice: strong with a soaring upper register.
watcha listenin to, little crispy? you'll probably be relieved to hear that i'm taking a hip hop break from country. (i'm proud to speculate that i'm the only person in america equally devoted to biggie and tammy; i recommend miscegenaton of taste.) so, turned on by this piece from the guardian, i've been checking out the wave of hip hop from mississippi; i love that whole idea, actually. i like at least some of big k.r.i.t.'s songs, but i'm completely grooved on pyinfamous (jason thompson), who's originally from clarksdale, ground zero of delta blues. the stuff is mellow and positive but real; i maybe have gotten too old for hos and blow. (all that's left is bitches and blunts, harhar.) the beats by sam.i.am are crunchy organic, baby. in fact, i'm teaching a sixth-grade writing class next week at roland park middle school in baltimore, and i'm going to have them write about this song:
this sun dula person is fascinating. is the stuff blues, jazz, soul, gospel, hip hop? kind of makes you realize that that's not necessarily the best question.
oh while i'm at it:
i've been in a renewed country phase, obviously, partly under the inspiration of the amazing nashville. so i've been on a hopeful quest for younger female neo-neo-trad singers. i've had some misses, so to speak, but also some hits. one stunning change: girl singers now have names like 'ashton' and 'ashley.' i'll talk about three artists, all more or less at sophomore stage.
first: ashton shepherd, who works in a strongly traditionalist vein. she's compared here and there to patty loveless, which is apt because of the vocal range, low for the female side, and the style. but i say she needs some seasoning. start with dynamics: she hits hard and in vibrato on almost every note of every song. it sounds sort of intense moment by moment but the effect over several songs is incessant and numbing, though listening to almost any one song is impressive, because she can really, really sing. also a lot of the material is good. alright ash, start by thinking about three different levels: an intimate thing just above a whisper, an almost conversational tone with some ornament for verses, and then a volcanic intensity for fairly rare occasions. listen to those tammy wynette records over and over.
In which Crusader AXE muses on the positive aspects of moonshining, rumrunning, beer brewing , and marijauna over Chrystal METH and tobacco; and, on being a craft brewer, craft distiller, moonshiner or herbal remedy distributor as opposed to a regular job...and advocates bounties for METH COOKERS and Hookah lounge operators, both on aesthetic grounds.
greetings from nola. here's a column i wrote last time i was down here, the mardi gras after katrina. with regard to the writer who declared that this is where she forgot the best moments of her life, i said that 'forgetting must always make you wonder whether regret is in order': that was perhaps too optimistic, because some folks are incapable of regret. one drawback of such people is that they are dangerous to themselves and others, because they will never undergo any moral development, or be better than they are now, which i would say it's obvious that they need to be. regret is a necessary condition of conscience, and not having any is really a kind or symptom or a mild case of psychopathy; the whole idea is to release yourself to do wrong or be disgusting or stupid, forever. i was negotiating my way back to the hotel through such people last night as they stumbled about swallowing ever-more alcohol and bellowing, or passed out in the alley puking, or tried to make out with strangers. these are, no doubt, the best moments of their lives.
on the other hand i had an amazing meal yesterday, and passed dr. john moving around with a cane on the outskirts of the quarter. everybody calls you 'baby' and makes you feel good just for being alive. the art that came and comes out of this place has changed the world. there is no doubt that these things are connected in certain ways, but not, i would say, by logical necessity or something, and even if the art is in part a transcendence of the degradation, it is also a self-reflection and something more than any particular source or experience can explain. honestly, the vice tourism isn't helping the quality of the art now, even if louis played the brothels in 1915 or whatever. it just freezes it into a kind of parody of itself and peddles it to these amazingly gross people from elsewhere.
if i sound puritanical, it's because puritanism is more or less the way i stay alive. i fail by its standards of course. but i am definitely opposed to these zones of moral impunity or moral vacation, and there is a catholic/protestant kind of split on this: mardi gras or the rio carnival are excellent examples, and occasionally people assert that these things are archetypal and necessary. but one problem is that these zones expand. every city has such zones. pretty soon, every saturday night is such a zone. but i do aspire to some sort of moral consistency. you have priests exempting themselves here or there from the values they profess, for example, and maybe confessing it later. that's a good way to become a monster.
ask yourself: you just married someone. they pledged monogamy. do you think as you pledge the same that they mean: except in vegas, except in new orleans, except saturday night, unless i'm really drunk? i've known people who actually became two people by this technique: the values they profess with total passion they violate in special zones or special occasions, when they have a completely different and incompatible set of values; they're like two moral agents, neither of whom appears even to know what the other is doing; personality b's acts don't count against personality c. it's a moral derangement, a form of dissociative personality disorder.
and then think about what actually happens to so many people in your zones of impunity. the hot young call girls, strippers, trade, who slowly decline into blank-eyed, broke, and broken victims. the addicts strewn around right there, under your very feet, leading lives of complete tortured misery and then dying. i guess the corpses stay in vegas. the people losing everything, including every shred of pride or decency, at the casinos. it seems like a happy harmless celebration. only if you are fucking blind, which is of course what you're trying to be.
beyonce's halftime show has been garnering universal ecstasy, or literal idolatry. i have to say i hate framing musical performances in these insane-scale spectacles, which beyonce's show is, even not at the super bowl. but it just invites the response that the hugeness is inversely proportional to the truth at the heart. anyone that intent on distracting attention from her music probably has very good reasons to do so. anyway, i'm just gonna stare at something like that and go: wow that cost millions. what bullshit. i don't think even the sheer spectacle had any real visual unity or a great deal of panache or anything; it was just supposed to bludgeon you into obedience.
ok beyonce can dance, but the style is still paula abdul and the laker girls with a little more stripper. the whole performance worked best as softcore porn or like one of those victoria's secret shows. i'm supposing that beyonce can sing, though i'm not as clear as everyone seems to be that she actually was. but even her voice was buried in audio sludge, and that's pretty true on the records too. i don't think the music means anything. seriously. the best riff by far was that horn thing on 'crazy in love,' which is a sample (of course there were models sort of pretending to be a horn section behind her). now i have less than no problem with sampling as a compositional and production technique; still there were no comparable musical accomplishments in her set.
the lyrics are just today's empty pop things, with the occasional pause for the 'believe in yourself' power ballad where one pretends to emote with unparalleled intensity. she does that no better than miley cyrus, and if you think that people can perform songs like that sincerely, you're not understanding that they don't engage or reflect any particular experience: they're like the self-esteem posters at the middle school. they might be aimed at your demographic, but not at you; in a way there's nothing it could mean for something like that to be sincere or even insincere. the pepsi jingle has more content, and really it might have some connection with what's inside you, or will be if you pop the top and tip it over into your mouth.
in short, that's just the kind of show caligula would have ordered up if he'd had the technology.
were i booking next year's super bowl halftime show for a useful contrast, here'd be my first brainstorm: what if we could get a reunion of the fugees instead of destiny's child? how would lauryn hill frame her voice and material? well, it would be personal. it would have dignity - she would have dignity - and believe it or not i think that is sexier. let wyclef do 'stayin alive.' wait, that's nas! maybe lauryn isn't as good a singer as beyonce (i'm not sure because no one knows what beyonce really sounds like singing in the shower or whatever). but that doesn't matter. lauryn sings great and she wants you to know what she's singing and she has a real connection to it. she might, even in this bloated context, move you, and not just her moneymaker.
i've been on this various times before, as in this, which ran in the latimes.
nashville is roughly my favorite tv show ever (well also i'm into justified right now). one of the many great aspects: the attempt really is to make a television equivalent of a country song, or country music in general. this gives the thing a kind of postmodern hyper-self-awareness even as it also works as a sheer soap. now this may surprise you a bit coming from a philosophy professor, but my own life has been filled with many of these themes, as well as basted in country music. i am a devotee of rural america. one character's brother just did 8 for armed robbery; my bro jim only pulled 5, though. the depiction of addiction and recovery (12-step variety) is the best and most real i've seen on television; it's a constant theme. in many ways, addiction has been the theme of my life: my father's, my brothers', my ex-wife marion's, my own. i sobered up (the first time, which lasted for 13 years) in nashville, as it happens, among many musicians, songwriters, and country stars. the more-or-less main male character deacon is right now on a 'dry-drunk', sell-the-house-and-go-live-in-the-cabin moment after 12 years sober. his real problem: he's spent much of his life helplessly loving a terribly wrong person, who's also 'the queen of country music.' i am going to speculate that such a thing is...possible. the relationships are absurdly rocky: the lies, the betrayals, the crazy fights, the d-i-v-o-r-c-e. um, yeah.
i wonder if all this happened to me because i love tammy wynette. well, no. but it has all made me love tammy wynette even more. everyone thinks that the hayden panetierre character is a 'pre-fab pop princess.' but they depict her as being, sort of secretly, an overwhelming songwriting talent. she bought some land out along the cumberland that used to belong to tammy; that's where she wants to build her house. meanwhile she's dealing - again i would say quite realistically - with her mother's meth addiction. (my ma is a non-addict, though. mama tried.) now, the palatial homes in belle meade, the rival divas, etc: that's a bit more outside my experience, but i dig it anyway. and it's a show where people really care about music and are really good at it: that's what actually matters most to these characters. i remember robert altman's unforgivable nashville: a completely ignorant hatchet job in which country musicians and others in the industry are pictured as talentless hicks, buffoons, and con men. perhaps that was the autobiographical element in altman's film, but it had nothing to do with nashville, which has its problems, but where the real talent and commitment are overwhelming. you might just stroll into a bar and hear someone singing like an angel, perhaps someone like the astounding clare bowen, who plays a nashville type: you know, just down from the hills: even she has no idea that she's a transcendent country singer, which is slowly dawning on the cast and the nation. this nashville is a very loving depiction, even as it also explores in its soapy way many problematic dimensions of the entertainment industry.
lately i have been listening to everything lucinda williams ever recorded, from the girlish first forays around 1979 to the latest shattering expressions of age and regret, as in the masterpiece "kiss like your kiss." i sort of hate to love lucinda, because she is relatively popular in my demographic. nevertheless i love her music inordinately and also i have a crush, though obviously she is a handful. i see that some people find that hoarse thing and also the wandering pitch to be unlistenable: kind of the way i feel about neil young. but i love every frigging burr on that voice; every time she wanders off-key it sounds right to me. sometimes someone just brings you along; i regard even her clumsy lyric moments (with some exceptions) as a kind of charming directness or a signifier of sincerity.
i think one thing is the variety and the coherence: everything she has ever recorded takes place in relation to american roots traditions, but looking at the oeuvre, she works with and from very many forms: cajun, country, folk, tex-mex, blues, gospel. she ranges vocally from an almost dolly-like pure soprano to a marianne faithfull croak. she loves to rock out, but no one can write a more unbelievably gorgeous extremely slow song and just frame it in crystal, as in 'i envy the wind' or 'blue.' and no one could possibly sing those songs as well as she does. she has essentially one theme: the dusky fatal romanticism of loving junkie poets who play the guitar in filthy bars. but never has desperate fucked-up love been explored in so many registers, from ecstatic to enraged to melancholic. wait two themes: she romanticizes the american south in every aspect, its every cricket and puddle, particularly east texas and lousiana: she's practically written a map of the towns in that region. i love this about her and it connects her writing fundamentally to both the blues and country traditions.
my honey judith bradford introduced me to her stuff in the early 90s; no doubt she 'knew' the bass player. anyway, that was the era of lucinda williams (1988) and sweet old world (1992). these albums feature some of the best country and rock writing of that era; of course 'sweet old world' is the most beautiful thing ever written; the playing and production by gurf morlix is exemplary; poppy in a way but not fully nashville commercial. surely one purpose of these discs was to demo the songs in nashville, and she scored for mary-chapin carpenter ('passionate kisses') and patty loveless (a wonderful performance of 'the night's too long'). still these albums have many eccentric moments or suddenly break into acoustic blues straight from the howling heart of the delta. maybe someone thought she could be a country star, but obviously not. but she is a great great country singer and writer. to me her four strongest albums are those two, car wheels on a gravel road (1998), and essence (2001). lucinda williams is hard to get ahold of; it must be in some stupid copyright limbo.
judith also adored those first forays, happy woman blues (1980) and ramblin (1979). these give a lovely rough acoustic frame to a series of covers/bent versions of classic country, gospel, and blues songs, with some originals. she almost sounds like mac wiseman with an extreme showy old-time vibrato at times, but listen to her kill something like "great speckled bird," one of the great curiosities in american song. obviously she is not trying to sing on-key, but i wouldn't say the roughness is affected: lucinda always sounds authentic to me, even if her dad was a prof. it wells from the heart and from a complete internalization of american roots music.
i hate to agree with all the critics, but car wheels on a gravel road is a masterpiece, and i say the same about its successor essence. they add a fierce rock element at times, and she has continued occasionally in that vein on subsequent albums, as in 'seeing black' or 'come on.' but really her normal mode is slow and simple or beautiful or at its worst, dirge-like. world without tears (2003) is weak and depressive, i think, and it's not insane to skip west (2007) and little honey (2008), though there are great moments. but blessed (2011) has some extremely strong writing, and she recapitulates the album to a recorder in her kitchen all alone; some of these performances are really shattering, as in, again, 'kiss like your kiss.' at this point her work constitutes an autobiography, and i don't think any recording artist or songwriter has ever faced up more squarely to ageing; she's about 60 now; she can't write about boys the way she did when she was 40. but this material is so honest, even with very clumsy or too-explicit moments, that it is a worthy inheritor of the earlier phases.
ok here's a 40-song best of, very carefully considered. this is surely, for one thing, one of the great bodies of songwriting in this era.
Those Three Days
I Envy The Wind
Am I Too Blue
Sweet Old World
Sharp Cutting Wings (Song to a Poet)
Right In Time
Kiss Like Your Kiss
Great Speckled Bird
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Learning How to Live
Six Blocks Away
One Night Stand
I Just Wanted To See You So Bad
Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor
Prove My Love
Sweet Old World
The Night's Too Long
Circles and X's
Side Of The Road [Live]
Kiss Like Your Kiss (The Kitchen Tapes)
I Lost It
I Asked For Water He Gave Me Gasoline
Greenville (with Emmylou Harris)
Still I Long For Your Kiss
I Don't Know How You're Livin'
Buttercup (The Kitchen Tapes)
Howlin' at Midnight
Big Red Sun Blues
Gurf Morlix, "Center Of The Universe" (in my head anyway this is about lucinda)
Mary-Chapin Carpenter, "Passionate Kisses"
Patty Loveless, "The Night's Too Long"
reviving the tribute to tammy i put down in 'songs about kissing' (below). (that tammy wynette is fucking incredible: my candidate for the greatest pop singer of the twentieth century. her timing is so extreme and devastatingly expressive, playing so far behind and then on the band as though waiting for and then trying to seize the cure or just describing the shape of yearning. that timing is of the essence of country music, and it corresponds to the similarly extreme, the unmatched, dynamics. she's always threatening to unleash a new level of intensity. i don't think the recording equipment of the era could really capture or even survive what she's doing there. it's thermobaric. i will be your vietnam.)
you have to be very early on tammy's recordings. i hate to sound condescending especially to my favorite singer but few artists have more badly misunderstood the source of their own power; she made so many pseudo-sophisticated horseshit songs, starting early, so random downloads is a very bad approach. never, however, has suffering been so intensely expressed in popular music (i'll give you billie, though), but then also transcendence of suffering, or transcendence through immanence. really tammy is being crucified. i would call the cross 'heterosexuality,' or being female in a heterosexual couple circa 1967, and i have no idea why she doesn't play the cultural role played by judy garland; dude it's super-intense, super-tragic, in sequins, and the music is better. it's the campiest thing ever and yet within that tammy is completely emotionally exposed, absolutely vulnerable and devastated. she embodies a perfect submission, but she gropes for modes and moments of resistance or understanding. (if you want to hear systematic resistance, though, you'll have to listen to loretta.) anyway here's a twenty-cut list. i'm just going to say this: these are the best country recordings.
(1) The Ways to Love a Man
(2) Enough of a Woman
(3) Yearning (To Kiss You)
(4) I'm Not Mine to Give
(5) I Wound Easy (But I Heal Fast)
(6) Two Story House (George and Tammy)
(7) Too Far Gone
(9) Apartment #9
(10) You Can Steal Me [Album Verson]
(11) Golden Ring (George and Tammy)
(12) I Don't Wanna Play House
(13) Stand by Your Man
(14) Don't Touch Me
(15) I'll Share My World With You
(16) Almost Persuaded
(17) He'll Never Take the Place of You
(18) I Know
(19) My Daddy Doll
(20) These Two
(21) Where Could You Go (But to Her)
(22) Lighter Shade of Blue
(23) The Ceremony (George and Tammy)
it's possible that i'm blogging to avoid having to face that last leeettle bit of the free will problem. so i do propose this idea that heterosexuality could be better if it could lose its normative status and just be one of the things you might...choose haha! and also if we could allow ourselves not to take the stuff too seriously and just say words without worrying obsessively about who could possibly be offended under what circumstances. only the thing is if someone says we live in a rape culture or starts figuring out what most pornography means, she is not wrong, and what a terrible weight that is. but i think the situation was always more complicated than this indicates and also that the taxonomy and status of sexual identities is shifting very quickly, in a way that could itself begin to life some of that weight. i think if you just reject or repress all indications of even the problems of heterosexuality, you are in danger of getting twisted up and subject also to the lure of the forbidden, the eroticization specifically of real male dominance, a la fifty shades of grey. oops wait a sec, that's a novel, not real male dominance. there certainly can be forms of heterosexual love, even some that definitely put into play the conceptions of masculinity and femininity, or play with power, that are wildly more equal or power-reversed than the tradition would suggest: they've always boiled beneath the patrarchy, because really you can't deal with these folks (women) very much without it dawning on you that they're fundamentally your equals, or are just kicking your ass. anyway: here's how to play: somehow bonnie raitt and people like that sort of released themselves from the legacy of heterosexism without de-romanticizing heterosexuality long about 1971. well all us little boys had an unbelievable crush!
tell me that's not sexy. or tell me bonnie's not fully the agent of her erotic. i would think its sexiness would be palpable almost no matter what your orientation. if you're a certain sort of gay guy, imagine yourself singing it. if you're a lesbian, imagine yourself...oh never mind. this might show you how widely compelling these little hetero tropes are, how much everybody's erotic configuration owes to...us! we rock. well it helps that this is an old sippie wallace song, because you never know what the gender relations might be in some particular sub-cultural space. oh that is her drinking buddy the awe-inspiring junior wells on harp.
anyway, it's not my fault. i went het because women are so cute and men are so gross. surely anyone can see that. it had nothing to do with me at all. maybe i had that deep insight into reality right at that bonnie raitt show in 1971, and came out right there. bonnie still looks great.
how many classic country songs have appeared in 2012? i have a count: at least one.
i do propose taylor swift's red as a seriously good thing. don't hold it against her that she looks like that lancome girl or whatever. don't even hold it against her that she sells billions of whatever it is they sell these days. it's easy to go 'britney, avril, taylor,' but she is a completely different sort of thing. sometimes the right person gets appointed superstar. let's run through a few of the songs; i'll leave you some surprises.
first off, here's what you get when you actually make a pop princess out of a writer. i believe part of it is about patti smith. just possibly it is a good thing for our girls to be listening to songs about patti smith.
and here is a songwriting lesson for whoever formulated 'firework' for katy perry:
that *voice* is made of starlight. "we could get married, have ten kids and teach 'em how to dream." i like this as an antithesis to the entire lifestyle portrayed now as the ideal in pop music, namely drunkenness and promiscuity. that one features a typical taylor inversion: she uses a stepped-down version of the chorus as an intro before she launches the persona.
or sometimes she just builds a song steadily to a climax (as in "all too well" or 'i almost do': "every time i don't, i almost do.") not the sort of thing you're going to get from katy or gaga. it reminds me more of chrissie hynde or joan armatrading.
even on something that seems as slight as "treacherous," she throws in things like "i can't decide if it's a choice, getting swept away," which i'll be working into my book on free will. or: "nothing safe is worth the drive." and when she finally pays off with the chorus (or is the bridge? it only comes once (wait, twice)), it is a choiring of angels, i.e. many taylor swifts.
even i will grow weary of the title track after nothing else has been on any radio station or target ad for a couple of years. but it is something like a perfect pop song: contagious as an apocalyptic plague.
"forgetting him is like trying to know somebody you never met"; everywhere the lyrics are better and more interesting than they need to be. the vocal arrangement is incredibly lush. taylor has a lovely touch with a bridge or with the end of a song, which she often treats as a second bridge or just an opportunity to vamp and soar in her inimitable fashion; the transitions and resolutions always come exactly at the right moment, with the right structure, in an intrinsic relation to the narrative (because she essentially sings stories or ballads). the real use of these robotic vocal effects was never going to emerge until they were humanized or combined with some real emotion; an analogy would be what annie lennox did over dave stewart's synth-pop on the early eurythmics records.
i don't want to hear any more crap about auto-tune; her pitch is delightfully eccentric.
and then for god's sake she gives you an extremely simple, pure, naive country waltz, but with a completely characteristic taylor melody so perfectly identical to the lyric that it'll make your heart stop:
and if the light-as-air '22' (below) doesn't make you feel happy and free and melancholy, put it on again until it does. it's going to be ok!
watcha watchin, crispy? well as you might imagine or not, the abc seres nashville. i am a sucker for a soap, and i love nashville the city, where i lived for some years. the city is lovingly portrayed, with such real places as the bluebird cafe and the loveless hotel, where you might have found little crispy playing the open mic or chowing down on the biscuits long about 1991. i had sort of read the ingenue character played by hayden pannetierre as a stand-in for taylor swift, but not really. the plot is essentially itself the subject of many a country song: "catch a falling star." and son, t-bone burnett is the musical supervisor.
the music is interesting. first of all there are versions of every nashville sub-genre: pop country, hotel band, superstar, opry, alt, almost down to the buskers, but it is all originals. these are not exactly parodies, but re-enactments, rather bravura 'i could do a song like that' throwdowns. but i am so far rather disappointed with the songs that are proposed as serious music or great or pure country songs. they just have not particularly moved me, and i'll tell you this: they can do better. there are, quite as depicted in the series, hundreds of amazing songwriters in nashville; they are your server tonight or they are 40-year vets.
just one more element to put me in the tank, the thing features one of those people who grew up in the cast of general hospital: jonathan jackson aka lucky spencer. he plays in a band analogous to, say, jason and nashville scorchers.
apologizing to rik in advance, i'm going to do to the velvet underground what lately i've done to springsteen and michelangelo. let me make a few methodological remarks. if you really like the music of springsteen, let's say, you might actually feel personally insulted when i leave it at 'sucks.' however, he is not you. maybe i sound angry, and in some ways universal adoration for stuff i think is bad does rather irritate me. but i just say: let's play! i'm gonna formulate my attack in the sharpest or even most extreme way i can; ok come back at me! dude i listen to country music. attack! this is more or less what art is for, so we can all yell at each other. i definitely grew up in a high fidelity world. my brothers were all complete pop music fanatics, archivists, etc. we'd spend whole nights just wrangling about the the or whatever. so i just think this kind of thing is fun.
plus, note the sort of people that i'm always emperorsnewpantsing. it's people whose gigantical hugeness actually puts them above criticism. (i should make a list: oh you know beatles, wittgenstein, dylan, picasso, michelangelo.) now i think that these sorts of reputations do not necessarily arise by genius standing the test of time, but rather by (a) stampede of the usual human sort, and (b) the fact that a big enough reputation stupefies and intimidates people; only an idiot would say ulysses was jive, so if you do not want to appear to be an idiot, you don't say it. but it would take thousands of me working for decades even to corrode the solid-gold plating slightly. so i don't see as saying what i actually think could harm anyone or anything, while it might interrupt our annoying worship of others of our own species.
to vu, certainly one of the most idolized groups in rock history. now, what exactly was good about them? maybe lou reed or nico could really sing? oops lou wasn't exacty otis redding. maybe they played the shit out of those instruments, like the yardbirds or something. not exactly. they were opposed to melody in all its pernicious forms, preferring extreme monotony, which i guess could be an aesthetic, as long as i am not required to listen to it. no one who has available a martha reeves and vandellas song and a velvet underground cover of that song could rationally put the velvets' version on the turntable.
let me put it like this: the point simply could not have been the music, which is incompetently performed and extremely boring. the point is the cultural liberation they represented, and then their influence on punk. i can see how it might be important for many kids of the era to suddenly see gayish people onstage, so i'll give them that. but in my opinion, the aspects of 60s/70s culture they represented were precisely those that made the whole social transformation of the era essentially meaningless: mindless hedonism pursued to the point of total annihilation. you thought you were helping to liberate humanity from its narrow strictures and doing something important. i say you just fucked everybody and did all the drugs because you wanted to, in a total commitment to narcissistic self-indulgence and the destruction of oneself and others. really i would say that the notion that having anal sex with everybody was going to redeem the world was probably not the most plausible political philosophy in western intellectual history, inspiring though it is. it's all heroin and lou reed taking a dump on someone during an eightball orgy (see please kill me). millions of people all over the world reacted like that was what freedom meant, though one might with as much plausibilty say it is what unfreedom means. thousands of people are dead because they thought this sounded like a good idea. i don't blame the velvet underground; i blame the bad taste of the deceased. it doesn't help that i kept having to see lou reed in the '80s and writing it up. these may have been the very worst gigs i ever witnessed; he fucking despised the audiences for adoring him, which i admit is rational. you think he's deep and changed everything. i think he's a completely uninteresting lout, and that that is exactly what every one of his records represents.
typical tuneless, meaningless, interminable crap:
i'd say that bruce springsteen has devolved into self-parody with stuff like 'land of hope and dreams,' currently the baseball playoff theme song. but actually i never really didn't hear the stuff that way. here he just bellows in his overwrought, quasi-operatic, extremely mannered manner: really he could skip the lyric and just emote pseudo-hysterically. he hits basically one tone in all his rock-type songs: humorless, grandiose, converting 'ordinary american lives' into huge symbolic clouds of hooha: every fucking beer another tragedy, every verse another bludgeon. the melodies are extremely samey, liltless, charmless, monotonous, profoundly unimaginative. the lyrics could have been generated by a simple turing machine; he's written so many of these anthems to america that i think it's time for the country to disband, just to shut the man up.