Sunday, June 28, 2009

Too Hot To Come Up With A Clever Title



It's hot.  Blisteringly, mind-numbingly, hallucinatingly hot.  This morning my wife said, "The high today is supposed to be 91."  "Oh, good", I responded, "it's cooling off."  That's how hot it is--I can't even think of a good joke to make about it.  I'm reading Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer (thanks Mr. P), the first part of which takes place in Venice, and it's incredibly hot there.  So it's kind of nice how that's jibing with the actual weather here.  Also too, it provides a good excuse to stay inside and read, listen to music, paint, which is what I prefer to do most of the time anyway.  So don't get the wrong idea--I'm not complaining.  Heaven forbid.
     So what does that have to do with the subject of this post?  Nothing really, just a way to kick things off I guess.  It's just my favorite song of the moment.  It's got some clever lyrics, some of which refer to the CBC and hockey (yes, she's Canadian, bless 'er), and it sounds like the Jayhawks are backing her up, though I don't think any of them play on the cd.  I like the languid pedal steel lines.  Her voice reminds me of someone, I can't quite pin it down, and the way she sings makes it seem like she isn't trying too hard, which I tend to like in a singer.  Maybe she is but she hides it well.  This is from Asking for Flowers, which came out last year.  I haven't figured out whatever in hell she's saying in this song, but it sure stimulates the pleasure center in my little brain.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Metal Buffoonery

Welp, just watched the Anvil documentary last night. Devastating. I know everyone keeps talking about how Spinal Tap it is, but you can't even begin to grasp it until you start soaking it in. There's riffage, there's tour retardation, there's lots of wasted time, energy and talent. But there's also some redemption -- just enough -- and some real emotional spots: family coming through; reckoning with parents; trying to maintain dignity when there's little to allow it.

It made me think of this Manowar documentary that a friend had worked on years ago. He gave me a VHS copy back in the 90s, which I mistakenly loaned to a former co-worker who never returned it. This is metal buffoonery Phase VIII, where it's all headed. Trying to decode whether the band is being ridiculed by the film-makers they hired to celebrate them is half the fun. When they visit Wagner's estate you know it's for real.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thoughts on MJ

When I saw him do the moonwalk for the first time on TV in 1983, sitting in my living room with my parents in Ohio, I gasped. We all did. Everybody tried it at school the next day, EVERYBODY.

Now it's over and one of the big iconic American storylines of our lifetimes is officially written. So much like the Elvis story it's almost a Joseph Campbell archetype at this point. Uncanny talent. Innocence lost. The self-made prison. Money, high walls, the weirdness, then the curdling darkness. Marries Elvis's daughter! Multiple personas, story lines, periods, myths, rumors, faces, all constantly at odds till the images of the man escape the man entirely, leaving a wretch, a ghost, a bad dream. Felt like he died before he actually died. What remains are his songs, which are like pure charisma captured in sound. They're cultural bedrock now. Feels like a cord to the past was cut today.

The New York Times has a poll asking readers to pick their favorite of MJ's No. 1 hits. In the comments section I said this: "'Rock With You' splits the difference between the innocent years and the evolving adult incarnation of MJ. There's a sweetness to it, pre-weird, romantic, yet still has the sharp, ultra-tight Quincy Jones production that let's MJ's quirky funk angles poke through. Makes me miss him."

Rock With You - Michael Jackson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Washed Away By Magnitude

JP and the kids and I just got back from a week at the beach in NC. Kure Beach, near Wilmington. We had a duplex with loads of family – moms, in-laws, nieces and nephews, siblings. We just drank and watched the little ones pretend they were super heroes, spies, or nurses during a catastrophe. I love how people just set up chairs and blankets and shady structures and just hang out facing the ocean. The sun and wind, the sound, the salt breeze, the sting and stupor of the heat, the powerful push and pull of the water, the grinding going round, the drop-off expanse of horizon – there’s plenty of reason to stand vigil there, but I just appreciate the air of spiritual pilgrimage to the whole affair. It’s not Varanasi or Canterbury, but it works. It helps if you’re sozzled from bloody marys or sleep-deprivation or just in a baked stupor. I always thought of going to hear loud music as being kind of the urban, dark, smoky, night-time, electric version of a day at the beach. You face the noise, and soak it up. It can hurt you, but it feels good. It’s a doom aesthetic. But everything is, as Lefty has noted.

I’ve recently had a mid-life return to criminal file-sharing. I guess I have pangs of guilt. Anyway, one thing I had been looking for forever and finally "found" was this tune by Don Covay. If you’ve never heard Covay, listen to just how much he sounds like a famous big-lipped singer from England. Mick has spelled out his debt to Covay in places, I think, but once you know to look for it, the connection is almost distracting at times. But beyond that, this tune operates with the one of the mystical core values of musical greatness: the slowness. It’s got an elemental, glacial, unperturbability. It’s really meant for surprise exposure in the Driftatron, a stealth sonic attack, spring it on a muddled friend, stump the host, but this will have to do.

The absurdist deconstructed horn accents. The warped reverb guitar filigree. The ghostly choir. I had hoped to have this tune handy when I did my wind-themed (it recurs with me) post a while back, but here it is now.

"It's in the Wind" -- Don Covay

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Speaking of Bert Jansch

And speaking of getting your roots of Led Zeppelin on, and speaking of infinite revival, and speaking of great band names, and speaking of folks who look like the ecstatic crowd shots (floppy felt hats) from the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, and speaking of potent Scottish situations, here’s a track from Trembling Bells. Listening to the vocalist, it drives home just how few people sing without affect these days. The drumming – a bit like Pentangle – is heroically jazzy and brawny, not something one expects from thoughtful folk revivalists. Even the repurposed Dylan Thomas-ism of the chorus points to some fruitful throwback. I understand that the lead singer is also a student of medieval and Renaissance music, so the band is clearly ready to dredge where they need to. The record, Carbeth, is leavened nicely, with bits of festive madness, filtered through a free jazz perspective, to keep the museumy aspect in check.

“When I Was Young” – Trembling Bells