i would rather be eaten by dick cheney than listen to elaine stritch sing sondheim, so the last few days have been difficult ones for me.
who were the most important artists of the 20th century, and what were the most important art forms? oh you can advocate for, maybe, james joyce, or picasso, or pollock, or henry moore, or mies van der rohe, or something. here are my candidates: louis armstrong, muddy waters, hank williams, grandmaster flash, bill monroe, bob marley, fela kuti, thomas dorsey, eminem, aretha. popular music was the dominant art form of the century: the one with the biggest audiences and the actual effects. also, it was the source of century's greatest beauties and most pointed challenges to various conceptions of beauty. you can pretend that novels re-articulate lives, but i bet you and your friends could almost tell the story of your lives in songs. maybe it's hard to compare hank williams to schoenberg, much less picasso, but hank's music was so very much better, so very much more important to so many more people, so comparatively human, so democratic, so vastly more beautiful, moving, and challenging. so more true.
if you want to get the origin of hip hop, lee perry and the upsetters' 'jungle lion' of 1969 is a good window.
kind of an unimaginably radical pomo production. alright here's why it's proto-hip hop: samples galore (this is early for that); it's a sonic collage, achieved by hook or by crook. vocals are chanted or interjected rather than sung. there's even that early kind of beatboxing, invented by prince buster in the ska era. and the artist is the dj/producer, ok? on turntables and mixing board.
the biggest difference in what herc and flash brought to new york almost a decade later is the beat: perry works with layers of rock steady recordings, and they work with disco and funk: a much more foursquare beat as opposed to the rock steady-reggae lilt. but even here, perry starts the song on the square soul sample, then drops in the rock steady beat. i have to say that the jamaicans at their best created a richer sonic landscape than early hip hop.
then of course, the traditions just waver into each other again as hip hop comes to infuse jamaican music in turn by the 80s. it's a good example of how real popular music genres occur. later black nationalist themes emerge in hip hop, but that's there in perry too, of course.
i'm re-obsessed with chrissie hynde. sasha frere-jones's piece in the new yorker about her and the new album is excellent, and i feel that chrissie is finally being appreciated at the rate she deserves. the one thing i'd quibble with frere-jones about for a second is portraying her as some kind of pure classic rocker. that is there, no doubt. but it is always bent. she definitely sounds nothing like the kinks, who aren't twisted enough.
i've been listening back through to try to generate a more definitive best of. in my own 2008 entry (linked second above) i was realy wrong about viva el amor! i think, a mistake rectified in the list below. like i say, one of great catalogues in pop music since 1980. in some ways one might compare her to her contemporary lucinda williams .
i go to sleep
message of love
i hurt you
i'm a mother
how do i miss you?
stop your sobbing
middle of the road
birds of paradise
back on the chain gang
never do that
night in my veins
sense of purpose
brass in pocket
you're the one
boots of chinese plastic
can't help falling in love
the last ride
nails in the road
one more time
speaking of brassy, i am definitely feeling miranda lambert's album platinum. she is a very distinctive and more or less wholly admirable artist. she is not one of the great voices in country history, but she can really sing in her very own way. not to be too negative, but replacing faith hill with miranda as the queen of country music is an extreme upgrade. oh man she radiates attitude like a girlish sun. and i feel the material is very worthwhile. actually, she's about as bluesy as it is possible to be in pop music today: basically the accompaniment is blues rock as only them nashville cats can kill it. also i think she's building up a whole account of what it is to be a youngish american woman now, with both good humor and genuine emotion. on the title cut she re-works nietzsche: "what doesn't kill you only makes you blonder", which is far more plausible than the original ("what doesn't kill you puts you an asylum, signing your letters 'god'").
one of my favorite handful of pop artists, chrissie hynde, is very back. (i tried to say in the linked entry why i love the music, insofar as one can say such a thing, so i won't repeat it all.) this is her "first solo album" (well, the last was attributed to "chrissie and the fairground boys"), but though i'm sure that collaboration has been important to her, chrissie hynde has always been a solo act.
the fairground boys album (fidelity) was interesting in various ways, more rootsrock than her usual mode. actually, that's true of break up the concrete (the last album attributed to the pretenders) as well. but i guess after living with it for awhile i kind of let it go with a bit of diappointment; i wasn't necessarily completely feeling her man of that moment, 'jp', with whom she dueted on fidelity, the only real non-solo moment in the recording career). the new one, stockholm, is extremely good. "you're the one", e.g., started running chronically through my head after i previewed it for 30 seconds on itunes. the album has all the strengths of her best work, i think, and several songs that stand up well within her repertoire, which is one of the great collections of songs and recordings in the pop music of the last several decades.
oooh that one is good. nice tribute to austin, too, including mw's old gym.
janie is always puzzled by the way i use 'pop', which she uses to mean hyper-commercial teen-oriented dancy stuff, "pure pop", like katy perry, say. in other words 'pop' is a particular genre, as opposed to hip hop or country, for example (though there can be 'pop country' or 'pop hip hop' in this sense of 'pop'.) i basically mean 'popular' or all non-high-art music, so more or less everything but "classical" and maybe post-bop jazz. art music should be repressed, with mortar shells or napalm if that's what it takes.
there have been some conspicuous absences in the history of hip hop, such as out gay artists and also white women. now white men have been extremely present in hip hop since the beasties/rick rubin in the early '80s, and black women have mc'ed from close to the get-go (get ahold of mc lyte, e.g.: i'm not going to do the whole history, starting with the real roxanne etc). and there have been occasional rapping white girls (oh, princess superstar, for example). but iggy azalea is the breakthrough. she's everywhere. she's good. she makes her own whitegirlness a theme, even as she sounds blacker than chuck d. it's like we elected a black president, only without the severe let-down.
ok i say the one below will be an extremely #1 pop hit.
(it helps to have a 13-year-old daughter!) ok a couple of slices of the early history of the female mc.
the main difference between black women and white women is that black women are sassy, whereas white women are brassy.
continuing lp excavations: one of my favorite acts of the 80s was the bellamy brothers. if you are me, you hesitate on that a bit: you want to say you were listening to george jones or whatever it may be. the bellamy brothers are no hardass country act, but represent one of the basic pop modes of the era. there are many gimmicks, jokes, etc. ("if i said you had a beautiful body", "lovers live longer".) it's a sort of guilty pleasure.
and yet i'm not guilty at all. they had a bunch of great songs. the arrangements and vocals are extremely straightforward and have aged well. some of these songs have been running through my head intermittently since 1985; these are some of the songs i find myself humming, whistling, etc. most often. one move they made was to try to integrate reggae into country, sometimes rather primitively ("get into reggae, cowboy"). still they actually play it well for good ole boys.
it's not always the case that greatest hits packages are the best representations of their artists, of course, but i do think that's the case here. if i'm recalling correctly, "greatest hits, volume 2" was one of the last lp's i bought before switching to cd's. or maybe it was among the last lp's that record labels sent me in my capacity as a critic, before they all switched to cd's.
that is a very beautiful song, i think.
you can't kill country music, i believe, and let's take the stunning new album by sturgill simpson, metamodern themes in country music, as yet another wave of evidence. first off, the name and story are, er, almost too good to be true. as i get it, that's kentucky coal-mining people (his grandfather "from way back up in the holler" introduces the album), navy, drifting and drinking, saved by the love of a good woman.
as in jamey johnson, waylon has to be the basic influence, and perhaps johnson writes somewhat better songs. but sturgill is an even better singer: maybe as good a country singer as there is alive. he is still emerging, if you ask me, and metamodern sounds is transcendently better than his good debut, high top mountain. but to the jamey/waylon thing he adds here touches of keith whitley, vern gosdin, george, randy travis, alan jackson; he's got the whole history of male country vocals right there. it is derivative, but at its most riveting moments more than that: he blows like a howling storm, baby. "it ain't all flowers" - which doesn't seem to be up on youtube, will show you what i mean. (i'd also like to give you "the promise")
he could still emerge more in the whitley hyper-supple emotive sector, but it's remarkable what he can do with that voice all the way round .
he can play some guitar. as to the "metamodern" thing; there are samply and phase-shifty touches, but i wouldn't make too much of that. "a picture's worth a thousand words, but a word ain't worth a dime": the writing's maturing too. he does steer away from country outlaw cliches, which come so easy for people who work in this style.
so here's a somewhat better, or at least more seamless, version of the current mating of hip hop and country, currently top five on the country chart. one would think that this would be pretty controversial among country fans, but if so i haven't hear about it. it really is a version of the origin of all american popular music styles, which is not to endorse this particular song. it could be worse, though.
one possible goal from here would be to use this vocabulary to mean something.
somehow i sort of missed pistol annies (angeleena presley, miranda lambert, and ashley monroe), like when i did my 2013 top five country albums. i had them vaguely in mind as a bit of fun commercial exploitation, a kind of country spice girls. nothing could be wronger, or - looking at it the other way round - less right. instead, for lambert, it is a shelter from the demands of being the queen of country music. the music is extremely traditionalist, the arrangements sparse and direct. the harmonies are very lovely.
[left to right: monroe, presley handling the low end, lambert]
one reason i missed them is that it took me awhile to catch up with monroe and realize that she is the great whitegirl hope, one of the very best singers and writers working in any genre today. pistol annies is to a large degree a vehicle for monroe; she's all over the writing, and perhaps also the dominant vocal presence. miranda lambert is actually quite a wonderful singer, which shows here even more clearly than on her solo records, and she writes up a storm too.
the material is part of the current revival of a great country tradition: the realistic, detailed representation of the lives and emotions of working-class women, as in the work of brandy clark and kacey musgraves. the whole country chart right now is filled with "get drunk and fuck" party songs; pistol annies gives you the various dark sides, which again is a return to the tradition, with various new flavors. the whole thing would sound great on the radio, but it is definitely not in the mode of the moment. lambert has to compromise with that if she wants to win a fifth acm best female vocalist award, but she also wants to do other things. that is admirable.
the closest analogy might be the 'trio' albums from the 80s: emmylou harris, linda ronstadt, and dolly parton.
god that is an incredible performance, and if i had to choose, i would choose dolly, emmylou, and linda as singers. no one needs to be embarassed about losing that competition, though i am beginning to hear ashley monroe as a singer getting to that level. but if i had to choose between the repertoires, i'd take the annies': they write their own songs (unlike DEL), and i actually didn't much listen to the DEL albums because of the songs. you know 'sandman' was just a gimmick, etc.
all forms of american popular music are syncretic, and often consititute aesthetic miscegenation, the best response to taboos on interracial marriage. that pretentious sentence is an intro to this: country music is full of hip hop these days. this is not that surprising because (a) hip hop is in every form of popular music in the world now, and (b) country music is an interracial form. jimmie rodgers and hank williams were blues artists, and you really can't get to country without black gospel either. but however, jimmie and hank were very great blues artists, and i would say that even though many country songs now feature rapped verses, vocal effects, etc., country needs much better mc's. it was rational for florida-georgia line to use nelly, because even though they often rap themselves, they really don't rap very well. the only country-specialist rapper i know is cowboy troy, who hasn't necessarily solved the problem. i really think you need rick rubin or someone sitting down and figuring out how the synthesis should be realized.
frigging tim mcgraw is mutating into a drawlin will.i.am. also the extreme spray tan almost edges into blackface. through a variety of cosmetic processes, tim and beyonce have achieved the same skin-tone. they ought to mate and create a new master-race: the golden people.
You know, Carol King wrote this. What the hell, ehh...
The oddest things make you get all philosophic...which I suppose is why philosophers and those of us who are kinda, sorta like that, the modern Philosophe's or Philosopotasters (if you're not sure what that means, ask Crispin) lead such odd lives. Anyway, I saw a piece in American Songwriter this morning and it got me thinking about, of all things, rock and roll as Apollo's chariot, so to speak. The fact that a truly great rock and roll band has to be able to cover other people's stuff exceptionally well while finding their own way. And, some people you might not expect to have any patience with anyone can handle spoiled prima donnas better than most. But, mainly the fact that lots of us had our lives and sanity saved by rock and roll...
Full piece at the Defeatists. Lots of music. Maybe even some good thinking. Maybe not. Figure it out. Since Typepad has a problem with comments at the Defeatists for some reason, feel free to post here or just email me at FenianSOB@gmail.com.
back to my rummaging among lp's, in revival on a new turntable. i was a completist on the stones through the 90s; i bought everything. i really love the early albums. actually i really...like the early beatles albums too; it's only later that they slipped into mind-numbing hooha. in the comparison, the beatles circa, say '64, are a much more competent band, but the stones had an incomparable energy.
jagger isn't a great soul singer, like don covay or whomever it may be, but there's something amazingly present and compelling about his voice and approach: it cuts through the recording quality: quite the little knife. the recordings have an immediacy that sounds great from here, especialy on vinyl, enhanced by their particular kind of quasi-competent roughness. the boys were punks in the then-contemporary acceptation of the term, and it would also not be wrong to think of their first few records as proto-punk in the later meaning of 'punk'.
despite the gigantic hugeness of the stones, these recordings are a bit lost; they've been re-processed and selected on greatest hits packages (starting with hot rocks) so many times that the overall effect and many great songs have been kind of misplaced.
england's newest hitmakers: the rolling stones is quite barely-competent, which has its charms, but also does not quite make it. so let's start with 12x5 (1964). it's covers of r&b, r 'n r, and soul songs, with three originals ("good times, bad times", "grown up wrong", and "congradulations", which really is mis-spelled on the album cover). those aren't the best moments, though they hold up relatively well. jagger's limitations show as he struggles through "under the boardwalk", for example. it leads off with chuck berry's "around and around", which the stones used as an early signature. the guitars show exactly how you get from the 50s to "satisfaction", and the remarkable liveness of jagger is matched by the super-presence of richard's rhythm guitar. jagger plays a fair amount of harp on the album, and plays it fairly well, again with ineffable compelling presence.
up and down, but also a coherent suite and sound, lost when one listens to selected cuts on mp3's. the two cuts that get picked out for play most often are "time is on my side" (by jerry ragavoy; the stones heard it in the irma thomas version) and the bobby womack thing "it's all over now". the former is one of my favorite moments in the history of recorded music.
the rolling stones, now! (1964) is the first album of any sort i really really loved (though i was introduced to it later, being 7 when it was released, by my bro jim). i think they hit a perfect point here: they'd cleaned up a bit and gotten more competent as performers and writers, but they had not lost the slighly shambolic quality that signified reality and distinguished them from the cutesiness of the beatles. i still have jim's copy: disintegrating cover and a massively scumbled up surface. i think it's one of the best ten albums of the rock era (and i'm going to make sticky fingers #1). oh man the covers kill: "down home girl", e.g., or "mona" (the bo diddley tune). but now, just a few months later, it's the originals that really lay waste to the terrain, and they stack up extremely well to the jerry butler and the solomon burke. "heart of stone" and "surprise, surprise", for example, could be soul classics if we counted white folks as soul artists then.
and then out of our heads, and again the cover/original mix. and we can leave it there, because now they crystallize into what they became: the very definition of rock: "satisfaction". still they're working directly and with complete comprehension in the black american tradition, as on blow-away construals of "that's how strong my love is" (the great o.v. wright) or "play with fire".
there seems to be a gender oscillation in country music: 2013 was women, now the whole chart is dudes. i liked the female phase better. country music by boys is pitifully formulaic and predictable right now, for one thing in the lyric themes: if it's not her amazing ass in those tight jeans, the glory that is beer, and country boys and girls getting down down by the river, it's not saleable. unlike conway, though, these guys wear tighter jeans than "she" does. it's beginning to seem like they have computers in nashville generating lyrics in a mix-and-match process. the reductio ad absurdum is the oeuvre of the repellant luke bryan, and specifically the recent #1 hit "drink a beer", which, unbelievably, is supposed to be a highly evocatve tear-jerker. no matter how much one loves country music, the thought intrudes that maybe the whole thing was a terrible mistake, if this is where it led.
oy the emotion! the beeyar!
so all the guys below often work within the pop country cliches, some to better effect than others.
first eric church. i have liked him on and off; among other things i have been a bit obsessed by the perverse gospel love song "like jesus does". however, the outsiders rings false to me; i do not believe the countrier-than-thou redneckesque persona, and even though i can see some of the moves, like working into a zztopy hard blues rock on the title cut, i don't find the whole thing very interesting or convincing. sometimes a dude is out there trying too hard to be a badass to really work on the melodies. his dark side has a dark side, see. something like "that's damn rock 'n roll" is just silly. well, i do ultimately like the voice, especially when it quiets down a bit. like i'll take "a man who was gonna die young".
alright now we go to a pair, working in something like the same style (as one another): dierks bentley and david nail. these are rather odd names, i admit. they are traditional in themes and song structure, but the emphasis is definitely not fiddle and pedal steel; they create a smooth, mid-tempo overall effect in which it is somewhat difficult to recall one song rather than another. but the songwriting at its best in both cases is good. i do think bentley's "i hold on" is a thing they'll be constantly refinding on country stations for the next twenty years. but it's also the best song on riser. the album's consistently pretty good, though.
nail's #1 "whatever she's got" hits all the themes mentioned above like they are, um, roofing tacks. now, on the other hand, i heard it a couple of times on the radio and then found myself whistling it around the house, bellowing it in the shower, etc. so you can do even this if you do it in an extremely hooked-up way. i do like i'm a fire (er) best of these three. there are number of good songs, notably "broke my heart", and nail often deploys very simple three or five-note figures that are memorable, a contribution to the country arsenal. as the album goes on, he favors a constant harmony with a female voice, including lee ann womack on a fine cover of "galveston".
let me say this about the mood-ring girl who's never the same, makes her mind up just to change it, keeps you waiting around while she paints her toenails bright red, and do's whatever she wants etc: (a) she better be really really pretty, and (b) even if she is, it's going to wear off pretty quick.
Heidigger wrote someplace "Let being be..." I think most of us agree that after the first few chapters of Being and Time, Heidigger is basically useless, impossible to translate meaningfully into German from Heidiggerdido let alone to English...anyway, moments of clarity come from odd places. And, what serves me as clarity may obscure for another...so, when you find it, enjoy...
in my lp renaissance, i want to talk about blondie.
i consider blondie (1976), parallel lines (1978), and eat to the beat (1979) to be classic albums (plastic letters (1977) is not as strong), and i make parallel lines one of the top ten rock albums of all time. boy they did sort of disintegrate after that: even autoamerican (1980), which featured "the tide is high" and "rapture", is not nearly as good as their best. they were dealing with a lot, chris stein's illness for one. but what they did at the end and debbie's solo albums early on were adventurous and interesting.
the hunter (1982) is sort of a horrendous album, and what debbie is doing in an absurd fright wig on the cover is anyone's guess.
but guess what? two great songs: "island of lost souls" and "for your eyes only".
one thing i want to bring your attention to is clem burke's drumming, which actually carries many of blondie's best songs; he's as good a rock drummer as i've ever heard. like listen to this extremely excellent rock song and really concentrate on the drumming:
i know they were sort of original cbgb punks, but i do not really hear them as a punk band, though there are punky moments; it's pop rock with many eclectic influences, including reggae, surf, spy themes, disco, hip hop, etc. before they got to the hunter, the last blondie gasp until much later, she did the solo album kookoo (1981) with nile rogers, where among other things she tried to take advantage of the momentum of "rapture". it's a pretty interesting - though not really great - album, not least because of the cover by h.r. giger.
the second solo outing, rockbird (1986), produced by seth justman, the keyboard player for the j. geils band (he plays keys here, too),represented a typically dramatic change of direction. it sounds quite a bit like the last couple of j. geils albums, which appeared around the same time or shortly before. again a mixed bag, but again with really good moments.
i just want to point out to all the broadway producers reading my blog that blondie: the musical (other title approaches: heart of glass, of course, or my candidate, 11:59) is the best idea ever. the songs are actually extremely theatrical and could easily be woven into a coherent story; the setting, the lower east side, hollywood, paris. cbgb and studio 54. diva as punk goddess and gay icon. who you gonna cast as david byrne, joey ramone, grandmaster flash? unbelievable personal trials, but rock 'n roll always wins in the end, baby. you could make the shit up and try to write some songs a la rent, or you could use the far better music that was actually there. one thing about that music: it's melodic, giving it an extreme advantage over sondheim, say. tell me you can't see this one as a show tune:
one whole category of my vinyl is david allan coe albums of the '70s, such as david allan coe rides again and longhaired redneck. this was after his initial bloom with "you never even call me". i bought each album as it came out, but sometimes you hop off someone after awhile. few could sing a trad country waltz any better than coe, but he was way way too desperate; he always had six new strategies for self-mythologization running at once ("the mysterious rhinestone cowboy rides again as the longhaired redneck etc etc"), and for some reason he thought that he was going to become a legend by singing songs like "willie, waylon, and me " and also "willie, waylon, and me (reprise)" on rides again, or "hank williams, junior, junior". eventually it got really bad, to the the tune of "divers do it deeper". plus i saw him here and there all along; let's say there was a sad decline.
however, there were great moments and here's one: side two of rides again; it's a suite of simple country songs, joined by guitar figures and related melodically; a kind of opera; actually there is a lot of good writing on it, as well as some not so good. it ends with a model anthem: "if that ain't country".
this concept, i believe, is the basis of jamey johnson's classic album of 2008, that lonesome song, which weaves a similar whole-album spell, but which is overall better than the coe. johnson relies on a very basic waylon-style thump to underpin everything and unfolds a series of really excellent songs. but really it's a tribute to coe and even has a song in precisely his manner, "somewhere between jennings and jones".
johnson is also, like coe, a songwriter of great gimmickry, though he's no doubt laying in bed right now in some hotel regretting like always that coe already wrote "take this job and shove it". but for god's sake, johnson wrote "honky-tonk badononkadonk": truly an or the epic of our time.
[i've got something to say is probably the worst title for an album ever (but cf. elton, "sad songs say so much"), and also it might actually be the worst album.]
continuing vinyl exhumation: a major way i consumed blues in the '70s was the chess "blues masters" series, one-artist, two-lp sets which i played to over and over on harmonica, of muddy waters, howlin' wolf, sonny boy williamson, little walter, and others, from the 50s and 60s. they were beautifully selected, like perfect; i'm not sure who was doing the assembling; for all i know it was willie dixon.
the one i'm listening to right now is lowell fulson: "took a long time" or hung down head' or the whole thing, really these recordings lurk in the background of many waves of hip west coast and texas blues down the generations, but are still underheard. he has some of the swingingest little jump bands you can imagine: just great rhythm sections, hot little r&b horns, etc. it's not like the chicago stuff, which is still an electrification of an acoustic form: it's fully glitter tuxedoes and electric gitfiddles. lowell isn't some kind of virtuoso on the guitar: he just swings the fuck out of the blues.
sorry for slow bloggin, been doin this and that. i recently hooked up a turntable, and am turning back to my ancient lps. allow me to say that i am actually in favor of digital sound, alright? surface sounds on vinyl might have a retro charm or whatever, but they also grew worse on your favorite albums until they were distracting. i actually think that the average mp3 sounds much better - clearer and more transparent - than the average lp. of course vinyl can have irremediable skips and pops; many of my old things do. now, when people describe vinyl as a richer or a warmer sound, when they describe all the lost microtones or whatever they do, i do not dismiss what they say. however, i must also remark that these are somewhat elusive in my actual audible experience.
at any rate i am digging through. one resuscitation: toots and the maytals' knock out!, which i beieve was my record of the year for the baltimore city paper in '81. however, it's not on itunes and it's not all on youtube. everyone listens to funky kingston and reggae got soul, of course, and many people know that he goes back all the way to the dawn of jamaican recorded music. all the ska and rock steady stuff is amazing and fundamental, and he is a figure comparable to marley. toots hibbert is a very great singer. (also he is a christian anti-rasta, which he prosecutes on "careless ethiopians" on knock out!.)
obviously toots himself as well as anybody who ever wrote about him places him at the intersection of reggae and soul, but reggae has always been intertwined with soul; well, especially rock steady. but toots is an otis redding/wilson pickett-type, paradigmatic, baptist-church shouter. better recognize, though: he started recording before they did, but obviously he also listened to them when they came.
so there are a bunch of good songs on knock out!; it's a fully coherent record by a master at the height of his abilities. and i'm going to say that "missing you", which i really can't find to show you here, may be the single greatest recorded performance of his career: it is transcendent. it's a full-on soul arrangement, with black-girl back-up singers, full horn chart, etc.; he's definitely taken on al green or that hi records thing by '81. it's also a great composition, building in quite a complex structure, and he doesn't sound like anyone other than himself, finally. i say 'recorded performance' because as anyone who saw toots in the '70s will tell you, he killed live every damn night. ok ok! he sounds good on vinyl.
that one, which is on knock out!, as you might notice, has a pedal steel going, and actually when i was going to jamaica, jamaican christaians were always asking me to bring down country cds; they love that shit. for that matter, the man can yodel.
the only interesting thing about jay-z and beyonce's performance at the grammys was her butt, which i admit is the very center of american culture.
the state of our union is stupid, vicious, and over.
here's what i propose to do with the common core curriculum: flay it with a razor knife and peel off its skin, dangle it from a noose and dip it in a vat of vinegar, pull it back up and club it like pinata to see what's inside, soak it in kerosene and set it on fire, and, in the process of putting it out, drown it, then insert sticks of dynamite in each of its orifices in a rape-like manner and light the fuses. after that, we will step back and re-assess.
every value that barack obama ever espoused, every ideal, every hunk of sort-of inspiring bullshit that he has muttered in his entire career, is given the lie by the nsa. democracy, freedom, equality, justice, america, etc: in his mouth, they are nothing. he yaps like king, but he is j. edgar hoover.
if you think that the democratic party has any way to reduce inequality, or that it wants to, you have not been watching. who is telling them how to ameliorate poverty? oh, you know, bill and melinda gates. as the cult of bill gates shows, we are a people who believe that wealth is equivalent to goodness, wisdom, and truth, no matter how bad the software sucks. a society like that loves and wants and deserves its extreme inequalities. on whose behalf do obamas or clintons administer the country? goldman-sachs. this technocracy they've created of harvard j.d.'s and wharton mba's is as hierarchical a caste system as could be imagined.
who wrote the common core? the bill and melinda gates foundation. obama wants the richest man in the country running absolutely everything, for he is the very best among us: provable in $$$. that's how we're going to get more equal. perhaps we should ask poor people, like people who actually know something about the situtaiton, how to address inequality. wait. poor people? those ignorant hilarious fools, those rednecks, black folks, and meth addicts? if they were smart, they'd have the cash/credibility. only billionaires and harvard professors know anything about poverty, bro.
i'll prove to you that poor people know nothing about poverty: where are their ted talks? the state of our union is gates.
wow i am in a nasty mood, i guess. i need to find some aspect of the news or our culture that i can affirm.
oh dang i'm all obsessed with the amazing jamey johnson. probably after i've spent a couple of days marinating in the ouevre i'll do a long thing. here's why, if they still existed, occupy and tea party should be as one, a nice connection of hardcore redneck outlaws to david graeber.
and here's the greatest song ever, by a good long way:
normative heterosexuality and gender as a dichtomomy really were often very fun and funny, i tell you! perhaps not invariably...
i'd probably prefer to listen to the everly brothers than any other 'mainstream' pop act of their period (well, i'm also very partial to dion and the belmonts). i think the basic thrust was country, and they updated the 'brother harmonies' of people like the louvin brothers. but boy did they have great songs and great voices: the shit is just so so sweet.
one response i get when i rag on, say, springsteen, bowie, the beatles, or, especially, dylan, is you can't say that. (no one has tried that on eyeofthestorm, however.) it's almost like it's totally incomprehensible: people have gone whole lifetimes without hearing bob dylan criticized. they don't believe i'm serious, and once they see that i am, they are personally deeply offended. actually, i think this is a very bad sign, and i think that one reason dylan has been put above criticism is precisely because he so palpably sucks so bad. his cultists have to make it impossible even to hear the music in order to defend it, because it is indefensible.
if someone really regards 'the times they are a?changin' or 'blowin in the wind' as objects that transformed whole generations etc, i am puzzled, because i think they're just woolly and boring. but say they did. that could have had nothing to do with the profundity of the lyrics, the quality of the melodies, the quality of the singing or playing. it had to do only with the response, or the moment, or the effectiveness of his promotional team, or something. i think even as an emblem of that moment, there were twenty better choices. but for god's sake let that recede into history: 'mr. tambourine man' sucks, dude: all day every day, and it really doesn't mean anything about liberation or peace or equality (or, indeed, anything else), does it? it very nearly sucks so hard that it comes out the other end as humor or self-parody. waitin only for my bootheels to be wanderin indeed. patti page and the bee gees were emblems of their eras too: that doesn't mean you should listen to their records all day.
Though you might hear laughin', spinnin', swingin' madly across the sun
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're seein'
That he's chasing
whatever, dude. wait! i thought you were ready for to fade. any time you're ready for to. suppose that the answer to the question of how many roads a man must walk down before you can call him a man really were blowin in the wind; and suppose further that the wind, when not sighing 'mary', informed you in its windy way that a man must walk down 3.735 roads before you can call him a man. what then? finding the moments that are not just random pretentious nonsense is really very difficult, and the idea that you'd treat dylan as a literary figure refutes you because it can't improve him. so stop writing 500-page books on the man and find something else. you'd be better off having the very essence of your generation expressed by robert goulet.
crispy hates folk music, even or especially the early sixties in greenwich village. but why? well, partly for the same reason that a lot of people despised the thing back then; i was too young but soon i would be an even a bigger authenticity brat than they were. i think anyone choosing to hear some nyu student play the blues was making a terrible mistake when actual masters of the blues were everywhere, for example. the nyu student might have been semi-competent, but his blues were at best a simulation without the oomph, without the context, without the knowledge that gave the music urgency, without the thirty years of intense playing. the folkies simulated passion and they hardly even bothered at times to simulate competence: in fact, they were advocates and avatars of ineptitude. they eventually learned to simulate incompetence, which is why dylan still sounds the way he does. they understood the blues or country music as rough-hewn spontaneous outpourings of the uneducated: blues or country artists were allegedly naive, unspoiled by the corrrupt civilization that produced the folkies; the folkies yearned to recover a sort of innocence or ignorance that they associated with american traditonal musics. that is the precise way that they were 'counter-cultural'. the theme wasn't black music or rural music; it was a critique of growing up in suburban jersey or whatever, and that is the only level on which it still works.
but actually the blues was a decades-long tradition of extremely excellent and sophisticated professional musicians. so, you could listen to the great virtuoso blind blake, say, or you could listen to van ronk or whomever struggle like a very white dork through material that blake nailed perfectly. if you viewed jimmie rodgers or robert johnson or the louvin brothers or flatt and scruggs as naive hicks - american primitives, noble savage natural phenomena - and loved them because of precisely that, you were making multiple fundamental errors, including horrendous political/racial/class errors. not to grind this axe again, but allen ginsberg thought that charlie parker was a sheer spontaneous genius who never had to practice or whatever; it just came out of his tribal negro head. it is a mistake literally impossible to make if you can hear the music at all. thank god ginsberg never released an album of bop saxophone: it'd have been to jazz what dylan was to country: nothing at all, really, but nevertheless entirely unlistenable and greeted among kids who grew up just off the sixth hole at the golf club as the work of a god. either way, our god is a jealous god, a loutish god, a fuckwad god, a god who never quite rose to mediocrity.
(i am personally offended by the approach to the harmonica; it's as though he's ridiculing my instrument. little walter and sonny boy were still around at the time, and i hope they just rolled their eyes. maybe dylan can't play the harmonica. maybe he's pretending he can't. either way he has no business playing out.)
now i described myself as an 'authenticity brat' earlier. but say you look at dylan's outfit, his woody guthrie demeanor, the black and white, and listen to the simulated rural grittiness, and think that that's very much more authentic than big lapels, electric guitars, etc. (and cf. george and tammy or buck owens, making the actual music of the actual volk of that period). you have got the whole thing obviously reversed, and you are responding to little signs that are intentionally constructed to convey the impression of authenticity - like dylan ran a focus group on what sorts of gestures make people think a person is honest - as opposed to watching a living musical form being actually inhabited from the inside at a certain moment of its development. it's embarassing even to ask who is the better musician between zimmerman and king, but in case you watched those and are still confused, it's freddie, exponentially. (oh and just to throw the jab: freddie's got better lyrics). when dylan electrified, everyone was all upset because he'd compromised his enactment of pseudo-authenticity. but muddy waters' incomparable band had electrified the living blues fifteen years before. the authentic blues sounded like bobby bland by the time dylan betrayed the folkies etc. it all had to do with privileged northern white people's simultaneous romanticizartion of and complete incomprehension about rural or african-american communities.
so: here's my actual objection: due to all these circumstances and others, the music sucked, specifically compared to the music that the figures themselves venerated. the urgency and passion were essentially simulated by people who needed to borrow and reflect other people's actual passion. they misconstrued the power of their sources. some were better than others; joan baez could sing or whatever: always it was a deracinated, dare i say back at them, extremely bourgeois music. they took the approach of lou reed or john waters or allen ginsberg or willem de kooning: the worse this sucks, the more authentic and important it is: look how technically incompetent we are; that is a sign of our moral and emotional urgency. to say that is an insult to mississippi john hurt is an understatement. i assume hurt was thrilled to get some recognition and some money, to make records and have large audiences. i would like to have overheard his actual assessment of the quality of the musicians he was playing with on the folk circuit.
the idea that you'd pick up a dave van ronk or bob dylan album of real and simulated incompetence in preference to a fun and amazingly proficient and also urgent and eloquent hurt is a colossal failure of taste.
on the other hand, they did venerate a lot of good artists and revived careers at folk festivals, and got old blues guys making records again before it was too late. they did bring many people to the heart of american music eventually. but insofar as they themselves played gigs and recorded albums: you always had better choices, and rarely had worse ones.
if you want to pay tribute to these sources, you should do what, say, eric clapton or paul butterfield or duane allman or bonnie raitt tried to do: master the thing technically and then find a voice within it.