Friday, July 31, 2009

Tropical Hot Dog Day Day

Everything’s all moldy. We got ourselves an airborne toxic event up here in New England, wet wise. A white-nose fungal situation. Trench foot, on a spiritual level. But with the high spore count comes a kind of equatorial mush-mind, a humid/tumid world-view. Tropical hot-dog night. We mostly like to keep our eyes cast behind us, against all the best ancient advice. But the dust blows forward and the dust blows back. And, though it is not now as it hath been of yore, same is true of how it will be. I’ve had a few ear-glimpses that make me less forlorn. The apiary, the aviary, the binary barber shop. People turning the melt on, full-force; people working their face-painted shaman thrum; people letting/getting the brittle post-punk get cross-contaminated with/by the polyrhythmic call-and-response aural-quilt patternings.

“Apology to Pollinateurs” – Karl Blau

“Sunlight” – tUnE-yArDs

“Digital Haircut” – dd/mm/yyyy

Monday, July 20, 2009

More Midlifery

The crush of middle age is upon me, folks. Full bore! And I've got blogger's block something fierce too. Bad combo. But I'm giving it a go here, attempting to snatch victory from the jaws of spiritual defeat. Look at me: buying some real estate and adding another social security number to the rolls during an economic depression. Dicey! [Breaking News: Actually TWO new SS #'s!!].

Remember when your whole M.O. was to avoid living a life of "quiet desperation"? Books and music were going to save us. By the time you realize your liberal arts education was designed to fulfill the self-indulgent solipsism of youth, you've become a "content provider" scraping for a shred of dignity in the digital age. How poetic! Then one day you wake up and find yourself on your knees on the sidewalk flipping through boxes of crappy $1 vinyl like some vagrant off his meds: Hey, maybe this Strawbs album will be good. Pathetic. (Btw, it's horrible.) Can't remember who said it, but life is

just one

I Don't Believe in Miracles - Colin Blunstone


Goin' Down to Laurel - Steve Forbert


Oh Yes My Lord - Voices of Conquest


Calico Silver - Write Me Down (Don't Forget My Name) - Kenny Rogers & the New Edition

Well, it'll do in a pinch.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two-Fold Spooge

Back when I traveled around playing music, we were once staying in Huntsville. Alabama (northern Alabama in general, and The Tip Top CafĂ© in particular, is where I had some of my most anarchic, rowdy and most “rock-and-roll” rock-and-roll experiences.) We had friends there who would put us up. The husband was a scientist – a cryonics expert – at NASA. And one night he took us to the lab to fuck around with some liquid nitrogen, flash-freezing bananas and turning them into brittle things that would shatter on the floor – shit like that. Back at their house I remember reading an essay – maybe in a Robert Anton Wilson book or something – about an optics experiment in which subjects are shown a series of letters displayed on a wall just at the outer limits of what they can decipher. So the subjects basically can only see a hazy blur of unreadable text. But researchers found that once the subjects were told what the letters spelled out, they could then somehow “read” the letters. The point being that what was once beyond their ability to process and read would somehow become readable, even though all that had changed was that they were told what the letters were. The experiment demonstrated something that was maybe obvious to a lot of people: basically that your brain does a big part of the work of making sense of the data that your sense organs take in. So if you know what you’re looking at, you can then understand it. I think the same is sometimes true of music and desire; if you know what you’re wanting to hear, your mind will spooge in the mortar between the bricks. In this case, the spooging was two-fold. My mind wanted to like this Chris Darrow record in part because of his having been on sessions with people like Leonard Cohen, Gram Parsons and others. I also learned coincidentally a few months back that Darrow was an early guitar teacher (maybe the first?) for Stan Ridgway, of Wall of Voodoo. The cover art on this re-issue of Darrow’s early solo stuff is awesome – the country-hippie existentialist “I advance masked” element. (I’m still not sure if it’s “good”.) There was also a mondegreen situation at work. My copy of this disc didn’t have any song titles on the CD sleeve, and I kept hearing the chorus of the first track as something like “there’s a crooked rainbow shining in my eyes,” which just seemed like a pleasantly absurd image in a kind of country-fried soft-rock scenario. There’s lots of endearingly questionable production on this record – pillowy toms are rolled on in sleepy tribal elaborations, cymbals seem to have been in short supply at times (thankfully), at one point a Moog-ish synth provides out-of-place futuristic robot-swamp bass lines to a booze-boogie jam. There are strange dueling fiddles. Nasally bag-pipe-type things drone in places. “Take Good Care of Yourself” sounds like “The Harder They Come” transmuted on an ethanol-powered Nitty Gritty Dirt Band quantum molecule swap.

“Albuquerque Rainbow” – Chris Darrow

“Take Good Care of Yourself”- Chris Darrow

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Ballad of Benji Hughes

There are a plethora of conflicts of interest and quasi-ethical issues in telling our dear readers they should check out a story in THE BELIEVER magazine this month. One of us may have written it, another was probably the source for it and possibly the drummer in a rock band mentioned therein. But what the hell, we've never billed ourselves as objective. So: It's a profile of Charlotte, NC-based singer-songwriter Benji Hughes, who is, besides being a gorgeous chunk of hirsute humanity, a pop savant of the criminally unsung variety. If Randy Newman and Prince were put into a particle accelerator built on a NASCAR speedway you'd probably end up with Benji. There are music samples in the story, but here's a download of "So Much Better," the song that tipped me into a full-on rabid fan.

"So Much Better" - BENJI HUGHES