right now on axs: highlights from the year's new orleans jazz and heritage festival, featuring billy joel, maroon 5, and john mayer.
right now on axs: highlights from the year's new orleans jazz and heritage festival, featuring billy joel, maroon 5, and john mayer.
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.
as per usual, critics etc were blown away this year by kanye west, who's on everyone's top ten. i say no matter what's on that album he is a net moral, spiritual, and aesthetic loss to the universe, and i propose to go on ignoring him forever. p.s. beyonce is boring.
In which Crusader AXE discusses totally unrelated yet congruent articles in the NY Times, discovers a new philosopher and links J.J. Cale with The Seventh Seal and Costicas Bradantan with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals...what else do you want for a Monday?
for many years i was always doing my 'top album of the year', 'best country (or even hip hop) albums of 1988', etc: for the rs critics' polls; or i remember i did it every year for awhile for some military magazine, or in the balt city paper or the nypress. anyway, maybe i can't stop thinking this way, and actually i have tried to get caught back up with commercial country this year pretty systematically. so maybe i'll give you a top five or something.
but at the moment i'm thinking that the best country album of 2013 was brandy clark's 12 stories. clark - born in 1977 and from morton, washington - is a songwriter above all, and i would endorse kacey musgrave's follow your arrow, by clark, musgraves, and shane mcanally as the song of the year. brandy had a hit this year, among others, with 'better dig two' by band perry, also one of my favorite acts in current country.
clark is also a very fine country singer; someone like cassadee pope or ashton shepherd or carrie underwood should listen carefully to her dynamics, her emotional sincerity, her lightness of touch that makes the intensity more intense, her way of shaping a whole story. there are some truly great country songs on this album, squarely within or ingeniously re-interpreting traditional country themes. obviously, these would include d-i-v-o-r-c-e. below, please find a really brilliant reconstrual. why is it brilliant? because it's fucking true.
and here's a completely trad cheating song. i figure jeannie kendall might be out there somewhere looking for material. clark's publishing company should pay her to record this. but on the other hand clark's own rendition is pretty definitive.
[ladies and gentlemen, jeannie and royce. the kendalls!]
below is the single. see this is kind of a test for the country music industry. can you recognize a great singer/writer who is not also very young and extremely modely?
yipes she is good. plus that dude on guitar and harmony is kicking my ass. [there is one clunker on 12 stories: 'illegitimate children' doesn't scan.]
anyway i guess here's my top five; very female for me this year. i'm trying to think what else has to be on here...
brandy clark, '12 stories'
brad paisley, 'wheelhouse': well, i have some reservations. but there's no denying paisley's excellence as a musician. and he's much more interesting than average. i say 'accidental racist' is a good start. we have got to stop being so uptight about saying stuff. there are a bunch of pretty good songs on this. plus i needed a guy. this one isn't from that album:
one thing to take away from all these live vids and thousands of others: these people can really sing. these people can really play. before you dismiss country music as bullshit, ask yourself this: can the artists in your chosen genre sit alone or with an accompanist in a small room and blow you the fuck away? got a bunch of guitarists who are better than brad? this is where the actual musicians are, son.
in bluegrass right now i'm listening all the time to junior sisk, who has a lot of material out there under various group names etc (blueridge, rambler's choice). the recent record with joe mullins is wonderful, and i'll take the story of the day i died as the best bluegrass album of the last five years. (that's unfair to audie blaylock and redline, whose cryin' heart blues and eponymous album i feel almost as strongly about.) sisk is really an amazingly tuneful singer, beautifully poised between the trad and the contemporary.
i was a bit obsesed with the television series nashville this year. oh, the 13-year-sober deacon falling off as the queen of country music crushes his heart once more; gunnar losing his felon brother in a hale of gunfire: really, they need to pay me royalties. guess what, they actually use nashville witers, and just speculating now, maybe not always the voices of the actors, but good voices.
that one ran through my head for months, and it is my sacred vow, my current marriage.
other developments worth watching in 2014: country is now the home of blues-based hard rock. eric church's 'outsiders' is only one expression, and it'll be interesting to watch the album drop. taylor swift is certainly becoming a genre, and i expect to hear more and more echoes of her themes and melodic habits in the next few years. overall, i approve of this development, and everyone should be clear that she is a transcendent talent who has revitalized country music and pushed it forward.
y'all have got to check out this hilarious parody of david bowie. with extreme precision it shows everything that was ever wrong: the tuneless dreck; the preening and self-obsession; the unmeaning lyrics; the ridiculous outfits; the cheesy personae; the basic inability to sing; the yawning void at the heart of his values and his art: it's all there and more. the dude even sort of looks like bowie. a devastating takedown.
we are really two nations, or two continents. this is an example of what is now a whole genre: new yorky journalist tries to calm his nerves and drive into rural/small town america. really for years he's only read, you know, michael tomasky, jill lepore, and thomas frank or whatever: the people out here, these teabaggers, etc, are insane, stupid, and evil. other than that, though: the salt of the earth. they are entirely manipulated and have no idea what their own interests are. maybe eric lutz figures he can slip somebody a hint down at the diner.
it is very much like british explorers penetrating the dark continent in the 1830s, let's say. the savages are so fascinating and incredibly stupid. don't they understand anything? why aren't they working in textile mills? do they want to live like that? we'll have to re-educate them, under compulsion if necessary, which it definitely is. so it's odd that we speak more or less the same language with more or less the same accent, are all familiar with the same television ads and stuff. we sort of share a culture. but insofar as eric lutz shares a culture with the assholes driving trucks out here, he's no doubt consumed by self-loathing.
so really, speaking on behalf of, say, rural country fans, i want to say: you obviously do not want us in the same nation as yourselves. you despise us. you don't listen to a word we say under any circumstances. all you do is dehumanize and patrionize and insult us. cut us loose, for we are to you mere filth, and take a long warm bath in obamacare to clean yourself up. but here's what i'd like to tell you, eric lutz, and i direct this at your whole ilk: you are an elitist. you are a classist (and also, dear god, a leftist: spend the next two years engaged in withering self-reflection. then do another piece like that.) you are so full of self-righteous ignorance that you have become unmoored from reality. so i hope next time you head out here, we'll have worked out the border fencing and attack dogs.
one very possibly good effect that country music could have in a less polarized culture: it could represent something of the experience of rural americans to urban and suburban americans. (believe it or not, i think hip hop had an effect in making suburbanites sort of understand something about black ghetto-type experience. think about what it was like for a kid from the burbs to take in public enemy during the crack epidemic etc.) i think we are in a golden moment of country artists doing that in a compelling way. i would adduce kacey musgraves and her sometimes collaborator, the very fine brandy clark (about whom more later). (musgraves and clark co-wrote follow your arrow.)
they are very critical of the experience of, say, growing up and living as a female person in economically depressed small-town america. but they represent that experience in a compelling way, in a way that might have the potential to make eric lutz see something about what it's like from inside, and register the people who have it as human beings with experiences that are comprehensible to other human beings, even across our berlin-like barrier. see, his empathy machine is broke. art is a good mechanic that way. but then he'd have to listen to the country station for a half hour, whcih would be against his religion. and i do mean religion: his sheer, wholly irrational faith.
funny but when i travel or live in rural america (whiteford, md; york springs and seven valleys, pa; batesville, va; cottondale, al, for some of the residences) people are by and large amazingly nice. i look a little off, i'm sure, and true i am myself a somewhat educated person. and yet they don't shoot me at all. i was talking to a slovenian prof at a conference in poland this summer, and he was saying, with real fear in his voice, that he was going to be spending time in rural texas. he said 'tea party' and 'guns' in a heavy accent. i'm like: dude, i'm telling you if you have never been in rural texas, you're gonna love it. amazing food. great music. and the world's friendliest people everywhere wanting to help in any way they can. and so on. chill, it's ok!
remember obama's 'clinging to their guns and religion' thing? that might actually be the moment the tea party started (or perhaps it was the point where the man who said that actually became president). it's like romney and the 47%, only obama meant a different 47. they highly overlap, however. now: here is somebody who knows, to help explain it to highly-educated sophisticates everywhere.
this here is an anthem.
I really don't like that bloody thing. Upworthy -- what the hell does it even mean? It's kind like RL Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse which some people find poetic but I always found it to be saccharine, maudlin "why the hell did they give me this instead of the book about Vikings I wanted" even when I was a kid. But, in the words of the old Russian proverb, Даже слепая свинья находит желудь иногда, or as we say in Dusquesne, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON WITH THIS SCREWY INTERFACE?
Ok, it's ok now. Actually, it translates like this...
And if you're taking a course in Aesthetics and Politics with Herr Professor Doktor Sartwell, compare and contrast values based on this contrasting versions of the Clash piece by Mr. Yoakum and Ms. McColl with extra credit if you can describe the similarity in the personal sitations of Ms. McColl and Mr. Strummer in 2012. Guaranteed C-, I tell you. Trust me. I used to be in govenment...
as you know the main instrument of women's oppression is the word 'bitch'. it makes me open my mouth in an o and touch the flat four fingers of my tiny right hand to it in apparent shock. i deeply admire the sort of feminist who fears and loathes phonemes, and attributes patriarchal oppression to them. christ, at least they're not holding me responsible for my actual misogyny, which is a big relief, because it's been a struggle. what people don't understand - even though everyone says it all the time and even though it could not more obviously be false - is that words create reality. why are so many women struggling in poverty, sexual exploitation, abusive relationships? the root cause is 'bitch'. i do think it works particularly well applied by men to men, however. at any rate, to avoid saying or writing 'bitch', i refer to it as 'the bitch word'.
lily allen must be banned, because she's using intrinsically bad-for-women sounds.
if that means we must leave the grotesque idiocy and exploitation of hip hop and r&b videos without a response or critique, then so be it. we're too scared of the words to be able to respond at all. now you might think that it takes a bit of courage to do what lily alen did: it's like, faced with an actually oppressive musical world, she stood up to fight. you might think that, if lily allen were properly scared and intimidated by the word 'bitch' and couldn't use it at all, she would be frozen in capitulation in a world she despises. but at least she wouldn't be impolite. the coincidence of magic-of-words feminism with, say, the etiquette of the bourgeoisie circa 1956, is remarkable, and of course speaks to the origin of this sort of feminism. it's going to be amazingly difficult to eradicate the bitch word, of course. we need a sort of logocide that does to words what round-up does to weeds.
alright let me come off my conceit (which i sustained a bit too long. sorry). this whole thing goes for images too. consider, for example, leni riefenstahl's triumph of the will. it was intended to glorify the nazi regime. those images, though, are central in almost every visual presentation of nazism: they don't come pre-interpreted, and now we look with a horrified amazement. those same evil images help us understand, if nothing else, how the nazis wanted to present themselves. if you repressed those images, say under your austrian anti-nazi-propaganda laws, you're just depriving yourself of understanding, achieving a willful blindness. i think that makes the rise of neo-nazism more, not less likely.
now, lily allen's feminism on body image etc is well-(and extremely pointedly)expressed in that song, but it is pretty predictable. what is most interesting is the likewise-pointed critique of the way black women's bodies are depicted, for example, in music videos. now, that there is a bold and questionable move for a white artist. but if you think the nature of the images themselves is inherently exploitative, you really don't understand the way images work. lily has to be able to do that. we have to be able to watch it. and so, i say, the male r&b artist who produces the sort of images that allen is parodying has to be allowed to do it too, because there is no way to distinguish them by the nature of the images themselves. indeed, lily could have made almost as good a video by using actual clips from the sort of thing she is attacking, right? so if those images were repressed, lily's critique would be repressed too. the whole transaction of repression and silence, whether performed by an active censorship regime backed by force or by extreme social sanctions, if you ask me, leaves the culture untransformed or freezes it in place.
but the free circulation of images and words cuts in all sorts of dirrections, makes possible all sorts of critiques, parodies, ridicule, rejection, appropriation, redeployment. see, that video uses the oppressor's own images as a weapon to attack him. in the realm of images and words, that is the most effective weapon, the weapon actually most dangerous to the oppressive use of images etc: she shows you what these images actually mean. but you cannot do that if the images themselves are verboten. they use those images to lie. she uses them to comnfront us with the truth about our culture. this is absolutely typical, with both words and images, and you cannot tell who is going to make what creative re-interpretation. the last thing you want to do is make that impossible in a regime that silences or blinds people.
so the right response to that barrage on bet that so harms our daughters and so on, is not to shut down '106 and park', but to make videos like lily allen makes them. i showed that video to jane last night. and here's why: lily allen makes girls aware of what they're really watching, arms them with knowledge that they need to negotiate this world, gives them a new kind of critical distance, with a good beat. jane was absorbed by it.
now how serious is our situation, really? well thank god for youtube right now, and anything that displays lax enforcement of copyright law. obviously, you will not be seeing anything like that video (i mean the actual video, the words and images as she produced them) on television, which is insanely ironic. not on the radio. i would like to adapt this thing i'm writing right now into a column and pitch it, say, to the new york times. but my column about this in the times would be a complete enactment of mindless, pointless hypocrisy. i couldn't tell you what words i'm talking about. i couldn't link to the video i was writing about. i'd compose an absurd structure of euphemisms, evasions, and jive. i'd have to observe precisely the taboos i'm trying to expose as superstitious nonsense. go to a public school classroom and see if you can pull that thing up on one of the computers. no, extremely safe search is extremely on, like it is in china. by and large, we are trying to protect our daughters from lily allen's message, correct? we are repressing that mesage. not entirely, of course, and what we should do is watch for further encroachments while drawing attention to the braying asininity of basic media unfreedoms we all take for granted.
what sort of woman do i want my daughter to turn out to be? actually, i want her to be whatever she wants to be. but if i were saying, i'd say i want her to be a woman like lily allen: a woman with the guts and the vocabulary to say exactly what she means and to represent herself with truth, and to express that in whatever way seems most effective, most amusing, most creative, or most real.
Crispin and I disagree about a number of things, people, trends and so on. I thought his advocacy of argyle underwear matching your socks was a bit off, and he has always mocked my preference for Gibson guitars over Silvertone instruments made and marketed by Sears in the 60s. Anyway, one of those things that we disagree on is Bob Dylan.Crispy admits he doesn't get Dylan and he doesn't like Dylan and he doesn't get people who like Dylan and he wishes Dylan would just go away and die. I have a different perspective.
I'm a few years older than Crispin and I remember discovering him as a road to something else...he doesn't really want to be an anything to anybody, but he is still best summed up with his line in Don't Look Back. "They called me an anarchist, man...give the anarchist a cigarette..."
The Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” Interactive Video showcases a patented technology platform, created by the digital media company Interlude, which allows viewers to play an active role in the story of the music video. The experience begins when users press play and have the ability to surf 16 different “TV channels” within the video in real-time. These channels are comprised of American TV formats in which, no matter what channel you are on, the hosts and actors are all lip-syncing the lyrics to "Like a Rolling Stone" as the song continues to play seamlessly. No two people will engage with the video in the same way twice. The full interactive video can also be experienced on iPhones and iPads and is easily shared across social media platforms.
I get why Dylan makes people like Crispin crazy. At his base, Crispin is a very grounded type of thinker and human being. Fundamentally, Dylan calls into question the entire purpose of being grounded. This new official video of "Like a Rolling Stone" seems based in that. If you don't like the video you're looking at or are curious about other views, well, change the channel. But ultimately, it's all the same...ungrounded, full of angst, confusion and possibility. (Although Drew Carey lipsyncing along while doing The Price is Right is a shattering metaphor in some ways...and bizarre in others.)
Dylan obviously didn't do this project by himself. But, he's been pretty fierce about artistic control of his music and his vision. (The way Al Cooper's organ got into the original was based on Dylan's demand to turn up the organ, saying "I'll say who's a keyboard player" to an apologetic and slightly irritated producer.) So, he had a lot of control of the vision and I'm sure had to approve the execution. This is what Dylan is at his best -- challenging us to push through the doors of perception not to ecstasy but to acceptance and maybe a bit of tea and sympathy...he makes other musicians better, he makes other writers better and he makes other thinkers better. Him, he's still on the road, headed toward another choice, challengng us to feel the same but see it from some other point of view...
i think pop music is very gay. but both hip hop and country have been among the last cultural bastions of homophobia; we live in a rather complex cultural landscape, don't we? the tv series nashville has a sub-plot involving a closeted male performer who is a sex symbol for women. one theorizes that this may have happened to randy travis, for example. back in the 90s, you could still say things like: travis has been accused of being gay. i speculate that that very great country singer may have been having a very difficult life ever since. on the other hand, i don't think you could say that country music is infested with actual anti-gay rants, routine insults and so on like hip hop is. what it's full of is normative heterosexuality. but on either racial end, it is only now even becoming vaguely conceivable for, say, a major artist to come out. (there have been attempts. chely wright came out, but maybe only after her commercial possibilities had petered out. at any rate she was never heard from again.)
i do think the macklemore song 'same love' and his performance at the vma's was a moment. now let's see kanye do something like that. and, in parallel, though without the star-studded mega-spectacle, the first anti-homophobic country song that i've ever heard from a major commercial artist was performed at the cma's: 'follow your arrow' by the really amazing kacey musgraves, who is also, at age 12 or whatever she is, one of the best and most important songwriters in nashville. anyway, i think that the thing below was a bit of a turning point. maybe country music doesn't much matter, but you might contemplate the possible effects of the expression of a completely changed attitude in the places where country is dominant.
the line she's dropping under the usual meaningless censorship constraints is 'roll up a joint...or don't.' really, we don't give a damn how your song sounds. only we can't let you make the noise 'joint'. reallym though, you can't blame anybody, because your little censors, whether at the fcc or wtihin a network, are not in control of the extent of their own intelligence. you know? no one decides to be stupid. it's all inadvertent, really.
that song is by far the most optimistic thing on kacey's 'same trailer, different park'. as many have remarked, kacey's is essentially a very bleak vision, and, i would add, also a very traditional realist project (courbet's, e.g.), which is also a project of hip hop (or was until there was nothing left except brand-name consumer products): representing the experience of, say, shattered working-class or impoverished families and neighborhoods (try 'merry go round') .
a ritual enactment of heterosexuality and a great country song:
one way to think about kacey would be as a melancholic taylor swift, natural because they're both about the same age, they're both astonishingly good writers, they both are kind of modely-looking. but that would unfair to kacey, who is an original figure. also they each have a very distinctive melodic sense, and they are very different. still, it's pretty cool to sort of have the light and the dark side of of girlish genius; they're a nice yinyang.
you know, it is kind of annoying how much easier it seems to be for pretty than for non-pretty people to make it as musicians. it's kind of irrelevant. but on the other hand, one shouldn't infer from the fact that someone is pretty that they're not good. if the looks helped in these particular cases to get the music out there, the looks did us all a favor.
as to the death of lou reed: it would be imprudent simply to declare that i am entirely opposed to it. tomorrow ran out of parties when lou ran out of liver.
i'm listening obsessively to the records of 'joey + rory' = (him and her) feek. feek? feek. it's hyper-trad country, sounding like the more homemade side of keith stegall, i.e. like alan jackson. the songs are sort of faith and family-oriented, but get over the reaction to them as reactionaries (ask yourself, can you really do without such things in some form?). i say that joey feek is about as good a country singer as it is possible to be; on some of these performances i would't edit a single note. and there are some flat-out killer country songs (where are they coming from?) (though it's a bit inconsistent), with also a line in cheating. they really wear the hyper-traditional thing easily. and their daughter heidi feek makes kind of chris isaacsy atmospheric hipster country.
she's one of the few singers who could stand up to the, um, demands of a song called 'sweet emmylou'. she's definitely not imitating her. but she's emulating her, and she can. she really kind of rings more like the open-voiced linda ronstandt, who i've been thinking a lot about lately, and in relation to emmylou of course as well. but honestly she is her own thing, and where she rings and where she catches, for example, or the dynamics, are very distinctive. she can shape a whole song as a very coherent performnce. anyway, just sayin.
i guess they came from the of-course doofy cmt show 'let's duet,' where blake shelton, currently on the country charts with brand-new dreck, was a judge. speculating, the people who beat them were like thompson square or lady antebellum. bad, in other words. at any rate, you can't think less of unknown artists for being in those competitions; you'd try anything, like a magazine writer pitching the new yorker for decades. any way you cut it, that there is a country star.
alan jackson is doing the circuit, promoting the bluegrass album, even showing up on npr and so on. well, what you should understand is that he's a figure comparable to, say, johnny cash or merle haggard. this will be slowly dawning on people, and eventually he'll mutate into a kennedy-center honoree etc. he's got a quarter century of pure country, as a writer and recording artist. look every album cut isn't amazing; neither was it for johnny. but there are at least a couple of dozen songs that could reasonably be regarded as classics, and many other great moments. it's definitely one of the strongest songwriting portfolios in the history of the form. as a singer, he's unassuming, but he sneaks up on you in a big way. maybe he's always a quarter-tone sharp or something? one of these people who makes wrong sound right, another thing we could say about cash, for example.
also the period of, say, 1988 to 1995 might be my favorite era of country music, a golden age comparable to the late 60s. jackson was one of its great spearheads, along with people like patty loveless and the now-so-sad randy travis.
the bluegrass album is good, and unusually for this sort of project, consists mostly of originals. i'd particularly draw your attention to "blacktop", which is a sly reversal of rural romanticism from inside ("i was glad to see the blacktop/when they laid it down in '65/i was glad to see the blacktop/no more dust in my eyes"). he covers one of my favorite songs ever: "wild and blue". also the album features the great mandolin virtuoso adam steffey (i'm trying to learn the mandolin). jackson's baritone makes everything country again, though. well, that baritone, for me, just is the sound of country over the last quarter century. actually i think he should have hired one of the great bluegrass high tenors - jamie dailey or russell moore, say - to sing harmonies throughout, and de-emphasized his own voice a bit (that would be in keeping with the ensemble ethos of bluegrass).
heterosexual romance is difficult for all of us, even billionaires, repulsive mayors of san diego, and dictators. admittedly therapy, anti-depressants, sad country songs, and changing my identity and moving to the yukon have not worked for me. apparently, kim jong-un just takes the direct approach: having his gf and her whole pop group "machine-gunned". how you like me now, baby?
i'm sure eugene allen, the white house butler, buttled excellently, and was a dignified person and a sort-of friend to presidents, in that 'help' kind of way the races used to interact. he was also a jockey on the white house lawn. i wouldn't blame him for that, but i wouldn't make a movie about it either. you might imagine to yourself what malcolm x might say about this project.
i forgot how great that song is.
In which Crusader AXE insults Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Academy of Country Music, and people who don't get country music while insulting the current gang of people supposedly singing it...and confesses dreaming of a Nudie suit and talking about them without showing a picture or mentioning Porter Waggoner, due probably to penis envy. (Long before Randy Johnson, Porter was known around Nashville as the"Big Unit" and it had nothing to do with his slider/fastball combination.)