Monday, November 29, 2004

Could someone please start informing folks that rockism has fuckall to do with musical taste and everything to do with letting the perception of how it's made, and who makes it, and "authenticity" so-called, guide whether you'll allow yourself to like it or not? Could we also have a moratorium on deciding that once you dislike an album that K. Sanneh must automatically like it because he is against all that is Good and True about Art*? (I like how before the article Kelefa was frequently automatically dismissed because the Times is institutionally stodgy and now he's become a strawman for wanton irreverence. My hunch is that he's enjoying all of this thoroughly.) Please? K thx bye.

Addendum: I wrote that in a tired, pissy mood, and it is to Rex's eternal credit that he responded via email very cogently and with good humor:

The best thing about Sanneh's piece is that everyone tries to keep telling each other what is was really about, often in contradictory ways. But his argument is surely more about just production values and critiquing authenticity. There's implicit and explicit references to actual taste.

Rex's examples, from Sanneh: "When did we all agree that Nirvana's neo-punk was more respectable than Ms. Carey's neo-disco?" and "You can argue that the shape-shifting feminist hip hop of Christina Aguilera is every bit as radical as the punk rock of the 1970s [and it is].")

Rex goes on:

In this case, there's not a bone of irreverence in me. I read and love The Times more than any human being you know. In fact, every single rock critic I know adores some aspect of Sanneh's diatribe. . . . If Sanneh's point is simply 'you can't judge a book by its cover' (substance over style, or whatever), that's fine. But he really does more than that -- he has to take it one step further into praxis, and that's where he stumbles.

My response, in part:

I'd vote for it too if I hadn't already been arguing about the same shit for the past three years, usually on ILM. which means I should leave it alone completely, except I can't . . . anyway, I'm not trying to explain what Kelefa means, I'm trying to explain what *I* mean.


People who support this whole rockism meme typically say something like this: "Just give Gwen Stefani a fair shake, that's all I ask." I find that so silly -- that ethos has already been completely ingrained in music criticism (and music appreciation) for at least 10 years! Like you think that I'm predisposed not to like pop, or something? It's an absolute given you have to view music as a societal consequence, as a form of entertainment, as a part of the cultcha machine. Of course everything has potential value. Absolutely. Who would argue that?

My only point is that this rockism concept is such a straw man. The rockists are long, long gone. Every one of my music crit friends (Melissa, Chuck, Dolan, Laura, Keith) is more populist than me -- or probably even the average rock music fan. The major magazines -- Blender, EW -- are 100% anti-rockists. (Spin has maybe one rockist left; Rolling Stone has a few.)

To which I respond: In a way, popism-not-rockism is anathema to the ingrained auteurism of most arts criticism. People who love pop music are looking for kicks and aren't necessarily worried about the lasting value/impact of what they're listening to--it's what attracts us to the music to begin with. It goes against academic ideas of the canon and the auteur, though those things often intersect; I prefer the early Beatles to the later Beatles because the songs kick harder, feel freer and less self-conscious, are more fun and frisky--and anyone can tell you the Beatles are the very model of the rockist ideal.

To me, the examples aren't even things like Rolling Stone's top 500 songs--it's silly and boring, yes (not because it's a list--this is ME talking here--but because it is So Fucking Deadly Predictable and Not-Fun), but it's an easy distraction. It's things like Joe Queenan reviewing According to the Rolling Stones in the Times Book Review with all the preening know-nothing-ism he can muster, talking about how the Stones never went disco (except you know for four-five albums plus getting Armand Van Helden to remix them a few years back, cough cough). It's Alex Ross doubting whether Justin Timberlake owns a pen. It's New Order fans making fun of post-rave dance music even though the major difference between them are BPM (sometimes), guitars (sometimes), and the fact that Bernard Sumner is a lousier singer than most sampled divas.

Anyway, it's only fair to let Rex have the last, best word: "I've had more conversations about this article than I've had about any album this year. It gets my vote for Album of the Year."

Friday, November 26, 2004

Dude, Papa Wemba is gangsta! (Thanks to Keith.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Me on Bob Dylan. Stayed up all night last week to finish the fucker, so I hope it was worth it. On the other hand, I really do hope nobody stayed up any amount of time to write this piece of shit; in fact, I'm hoping nobody was awake for any part of its creation. That'd be something like an excuse, at least--though there never is with this guy, is there?

Monday, November 15, 2004

1966 (cdr-700 go!)

1. Bob Dylan: “Visions of Johanna”
2. Them: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
3. Elvis Presley: “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”
4. Ennio Morricone: “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Main Title)”
5. The Four Tops: “Reach Out I’ll Be There”
6. The Supremes: “You Can’t Hurry Love”
7. Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston: “It Takes Two”
8. Otis Redding: “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)”
9. Lee Dorsey: “Get Out of My Life, Woman”
10. Phyllis Dillon: “Don’t Stay Away”

11. Alton Ellis: “Girl I’ve Got a Date”
12. The Skatalites & Don Drummond: “Chinatown”
13. Wayne Shorter: “Footprints”
14. Sun Ra: “The Idea of It All”
15. John Coltrane & Don Cherry: “Focus on Sanity”
16. Cecil Taylor Unit: “Enter Evening”
17. Albert Ayler: “Our Prayer-Spirits Rejoice (Live in Paris)”
18. Grateful Dead: “I Know You Rider (Live in San Francisco)”
19. The Leaves: “Hey Joe”
20. The Monks: “Complication”

21. Count Five: “Psychotic Reaction”
22. Davie Allan & the Arrows: “The Unknown Rider”
23. The Creation: “Making Time”
24. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Stone Free”
25. Les Fleur De Lys: “Mud in Your Eye”
26. Kenny & the Kasuals: “Journey to Tyme”
27. The Sonics: “You Got Your Head on Backwards”
28. Napoleon XIV: “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!”
29. Gary Roberts & the Satellites: “Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush”
30. Raymond Scott ft. Jim Henson: “Limbo: the Organized Mind”

31. “Space Ghost (Main Title)”
32. Henry Mancini: “Arabesque”
33. The Byrds: “Eight Miles High”
34. The Electric Prunes: “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”
35. Masters Apprentices: “War or Hands of Time”
36. Love: “7 and 7 Is”
37. Major Lance: “It’s the Beat”
38. The Monitors: “Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam)”
39. Carla Thomas: “B-A-B-Y”
40. James and Bobby Purify: “I’m Your Puppet”

41. Vicki Anderson: “Wide Awake in a Dream”
42. Aaron Neville: “Tell It Like It Is”
43. Ray Charles: “Let’s Go Get Stoned”
44. The Young-Holt Trio: “Wack Wack”
45. Albert King: “Crosscut Saw”
46. John Lee Hooker: “One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer”
47. Charlie Musselwhite’s South Side Band: “Help Me”
48. Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band: “Diddy Wah Diddy”
49. The Wheels: “Bad Little Woman”
50. The Rolling Stones: “19th Nervous Breakdown”

51. The Eyes: “When the Night Falls”
52. The Red Squares: “You Can Be My Baby”
53. The Music Machine: “Talk Talk”
54. The Outsiders: “Time Won’t Let Me”
55. The Rascals: “Good Lovin’”
56. Eddie Floyd: “Knock on Wood”
57. Sam & Dave: “Hold On! I’m a Comin’”
58. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: “(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need”
59. James Brown: “Money Won’t Change You”
60. Junior Walker & the Allstars: “(I’m a) Road Runner”

61. Shorty Long: “Function at the Junction”
62. Ramsey Lewis Trio: “Wade in the Water”
63. Billy Butler & the Enchanters: “The Right”
64. The Isley Brothers: “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)”
65. Edwin Starr: “Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.)”
66. Dusty Springfield: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”
67. Ike & Tina Turner: “River Deep--Mountain High”
68. The Beach Boys: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
69. Dean Martin: “Jingle Bells”
70. Joe Henderson: “A Mode For Joe”

71. Donald Byrd: “Black Jack”
72. Dave Brubeck: “I Get a Kick Out of You”
73. Mose Allison: “Wild Man on the Loose”
74. Sonny Rollins: “Alfie’s Theme Differently”
75. Dionne Warwick: “Alfie”
76. The Shangri-Las: “Past, Present and Future”
77. The Sandpipers: “Louie Louie”
78. The Marvelettes: “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”
79. Hopeton Lewis: “Take It Easy”
80. Lee Perry & the Soulettes: “Rub & Squeeze”

81. The Paragons: “Happy Go Lucky Girl”
82. Count Alert with Lyn Taitt & the Baba Brooks Band: “In the Park”
83. Count Lasher & Williams with Lyn Taitt & the Baba Brooks Band: “’Mufridite”
84. Lord Kitchener: “Law and Order”
85. Mighty Sparrow: “Obeah Wedding”
86. Mighty Terror: “Steelband Jamboree”
87. Rio 65 Trio: “Upa, Neguinho”
88. Roberto Menescal e seu Conjunto: “Surfboard”
89. Frimpong: “Nkonkohweree Mmienu”
90. Eddie Okonta & His Top Aces: “Ikilo”

91. Charles Iwegbue & His Archibogs: “Okibo”
92. Franco: “Finga Mama Munu”
93. Big Four: “Mr. Music”
94. George Jones: “I’m a People”
95. Johnny Cash: “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog”
96. David Houston: “Almost Persuaded”
97. Merle Haggard: “The Fugitive”
98. The Barbarians: “Moulty”
99. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators: “You’re Gonna Miss Me”
100. The Woolies: “Who Do You Love”

101. The Shadows of Knight: “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”
102. The Slaves: “Slaves Time”
103. The Smoke: “My Friend Jack”
104. 006: “Like What, Me Worry”
105. The La De Das: “How Is the Air Up There?”
106. The Olivers: “Beeker Street”
107. The Kinks: “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”
108. The Monkees: “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
109. The Seeds: “Pushin’ Too Hard”
110. Los Shakers: “Break It All”

111. The Knickerbockers: “One Track Mind”
112. The Spiders [Japan]: “Seshun a Go-Go”
113. Zipps: “Kicks & Chicks”
114. The “In”: “Just Give Me Time”
115. The Remains: “Don’t Look Back”
116. The Motions: “Everything (That’s Mine)”
117. The Other Half: “Mr. Pharmacist”
118. Los Bravos: “Going Nowhere”
119. The Craig: “I Must Be Mad”
120. The Downliners Sect: “Why Don’t You Smile Now”

121. The Blizzards: “Your Body Not Your Soul”
122. The Action: “I’ll Keep Holding On”
123. The Bold: “Gotta Get Some”
124. The Kreeg: “Impressin’”
125. The Easybeats: “Friday on My Mind”
126. The Executioners: “I Want the Rain”
127. The Mascots: “Words Enough to Tell You”
128. The Cryan’ Shames: “Sugar and Spice”
129. The Turtles: “Outside Chance”
130. The Blues Magoos: “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”

131. Wimple Witch: “Save My Soul”
132. The Birds: “Say Those Magic Words”
133. Chants R&B: “I’m Your Witchdoctor”
134. The Bees: “Voices Green and Purple”
135. The Bluestars: “Social End Product”
136. The Rattles: “It’s My Fault”
137. Thor’s Hammer: “My Life”
138. The Zakary Thaks: “Bad Girl”
139. Harbinger Complex: “I Think I’m Down”
140. The Jury: “Who Dat?”

141. Richard and the Young Lions: “Open Up Your Door”
142. The Savage: “Space Express”
143. We the People: “You Burn Me Up and Down”
144. ? & the Mysterians: “96 Tears”
145. The Ban: “Bye Bye”
146. Marvin Gaye: “One More Heartache”
147. The Capitols: “Cool Jerk”
148. Lou Courtney: “Skate Now”
149. The Mar-Keys: “Philly Dog”
150. Rex Garvin: “Sock It to ‘Em J.B. Pt. 1”

151. Panic Buttons: “O Wow”
152. Bob Kuban and the In-Men: “The Cheater”
153. J.J. Jackson: “But It’s Alright”
154. Ugly Ducklings: “Nothin’”
155. The Troggs: “Lost Girl”
156. Lost Souls: “This Life of Mine”
157. The Voice: “The Train to Disaster”
158. Pauline Oliveros: “I (Excerpt)”
159. Lata Mangeshkar: “Kuchh Dil Ne Kaha”
160. Asha Bhosle & R.D. Burman: “O Mera Sona”

161. Pedro Laza y Sus Pelayeros: “Cumbia Del Monte”
162. Los Satelites: “Ocaso Marino”
163. Monteria Swing: “La Samaria”
164. The Heptones: “Gun Man Coming to Town”
165. Aston & Yen: “Skillamy”
166. Sir Lord Comic & His Cowboys: “Skaing West”
167. Desmond Dekker & the Aces: “007 (Shanty Town)”
168. The Clarendonians: “Rude Boy Gone a Jail”
169. The Soul Brothers: “Lawless Street”
170. Roland and the Soul Brothers: “Phoenix City”

171. Prince Buster: “Cincinnati Kid”
172. The Maytals: “Bam Bam”
173. Delroy Wilson: “Dancing Mood”
174. Ken Boothe: “The Train Is Coming”
175. The Dingles: “This Is Thunder”
176. Justin Hinds & the Dominos: “Try Me”
177. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics: “Out of Space”
178. TJ & the Group: “Blues For the B’s”
179. The Temptations: “(I Know) I’m Losing You”
180. Martha & the Vandellas: “My Baby Loves Me”

181. Jimmy Ruffin: “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted”
182. Deon Jackson: “Love Makes the World Go Round”
183. The Elgins: “Heaven Must Have Sent You”
184. James Carr: “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man”
185. Percy Sledge: “It Tears Me Up”
186. Willie Tee: “Walkin’ Up a One-Way Street”
187. Etta James: “In the Basement Pt. 1”
188. Rufus Thomas: “Sister’s Got a Boyfriend”
189. Joe Tex: “Papa Was Too”
190. Lorraine Ellison: “Stay with Me”

191. Gene Pitney: “Backstage (I’m Lonely)”
192. The Beatles: “Tomorrow Never Knows”

Number of songs lasting four minutes or more: 17
Total running time: just shy of ten hours

Friday, November 12, 2004


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It's nice to kid yourself that you don't get somewhat jaded doing any kind of work after a while, but it's easy to do when writing about music, simply because there is so much of it. I love getting records in the mail, but even when I get something I love or have been waiting for it's hard to get as excited as I used to. (Plus I'm, you know, old--30 in three months, gah.) So I didn't figure anything out of the ordinary when I was going through the weekend's packages. Then I opened a small box containing this, and damn if it didn't feel like--you guessed it--a gift. That's partly because it contained a beautiful little gift card in a red envelope thanking me for my support, and the conveniently placed "To" and "From" spaces on the front cover had been addressed to me from the label in calligraphic marker, but it was just as much the fact that the record was just so instantly mouthwatering, and so unexpected--I wasn't aware Dust-to-Digital were going to release anything new before the mooted sacred harp box. On my second play now, and there'll be lots more--it's brilliant, I'd wager the best holiday collection in ages, which I wish were higher praise. But given the past week (First Avenue closing, recovery from cyst surgery, the goddamned election, other personal stuff not meant for this space), it felt and feels like an act of grace.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Visual of the goddamn month, c/o the almighty AG.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

My hours have gotten weird again lately--too much time off does things to my body clock that makes it difficult to adjust to worker-bee time, though thankfully my job grants me incredible lassitude in re coming-in hours. So I'm writing this on basically no sleep (I'm trying to readjust myself by going to bed early tonight after not going to bed the night before after not waking up till mid-afternoon yesterday), but I'm seized with the idea anyway.

A few minutes ago, I went to a newsstand and passed an indie rock magazine I can't recall the name of. The point isn't the title; the point is the headline, which was, "The Postal Service: The Band That Wasn't There." Harmless enough, sorta descriptive, a mild joke on their status as a by-mail duo, fine. But when I glanced at that headline, one of the first things I thought was, "This is very, very rockist."

Let's pause a second so I can make something clear: I didn't, and don't, mean that as a pejorative statement, or a negative judgment, or a call-to-arms of the anti-rockist brigade (which, as Ben Williams pointed out in Slate, is quite a few of the better known critics right now anyway, and ergo pointless to call into service over the cover of a small magazine, not that I could "call them into service" in the first place anyhow). I like the Postal Service--I voted for their album in the Voice poll, though I probably wouldn't now--so there's nothing negative going on there. I don't know the magazine and have no negative feelings toward it, but even if I did, it would be beside the point. I'm talking about a commonplace mindset here, and I'm not attacking it. I just think the headline delineates what it is in a way that's cleaner and easier to discuss than, say, Ashlee Simpson has been lately, though I still think Kelefa did a fine job with it.

So, what's rockist about it? Simple: the idea of casting the Postal Service, who are in essence an old-fashioned synth duo (Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Eurythmics), as a band--a rock band, we can believe, given the magazine's bent and the fact that the model for "band" as we think of it tends to be the rock variety. It certainly isn't the jazz variety; usually those get dubbed "combos" or something. "Band" is a rock word--not exclusively, of course, but I think in this case it's fair to say that's how it's meant. The joke of the headline is that because Gibbard, who lives in Seattle, and Dntel, who lives in L.A., work through email and sending tapes back and forth, they are operating like a certain kind of band but at a remove--which is different from the other synth duos I mention above, who mostly work in close quarters and live near each other (at least while they're creating music). If they were to call the Pet Shop Boys a band, though, I'd think it was rockist, too (with all the same caveats about it not being a negative judgment outlined above). Not damaging or even wrong--just operating under a dominant paradigm that a "band" is a group of people who ideally operate in real time in real space playing non-prerecorded music (or integrating live playing on top of prerecorded playing).

I think this way myself a lot of the time; I don't always think rockism is "wrong," per se, because the reasons that paradigm got large is that the music produced by its practitioners was, to my ears certainly, often better than a lot of whatever else was around--not always and not exclusively, but frequently enough that I'm not puzzled people accepted it as a or the center of popular music, though I don't think it's a very useful way to look at or hear things anymore, given that rock no longer holds a premium on interest or excitement the way it once seemed to--and given that, again to my ears, it's become more questionable just how firm its grip on those things was to begin with. Not as in, "All rock sucks"; as in, "It turns out that rock wasn't always everything." Not as in burn down the academy, as in expand it and maybe remove some of the stuff that's gotten fustier with age.

Back to the magazine cover. Here's a thought experiment: Imagine if the dominant paradigm for what we think of as pop was the synth duo (some of you probably do already, but bear with me), and that the magazine I saw took that as its subject. In fact, let's get ambitious. Let's give the magazine a name: Synth Duo. And let's figure the magazine incorporates into its coverage not just synth duos but synth trios (Le Tigre), synth quartets (Kraftwerk), duos who don't use synths per se but have the same basic idea going on--the Handsome Family don't play what we think of as "synth music," but they use laptops to create what amounts to alt-country, so they'd get thrown in there too. And rock bands that use a lot of electronics in a way that draws attention to them as electronics (as opposed to the synths being meant to evoke or buttress acoustic/electric instruments, not act as purely electronic ones)--U2 might qualify, Radiohead certainly would. In short, it would be like many mainstream rock-centered magazines, concentrating on what the editors/readers qualify as "rock" and throwing in likely-seeming outsiders as well. (The Synth Duo equivalent of the avalanche of Loretta Lynn-produced-by-Jack White rockmag coverage in 2004 might be a bunch of stories on Liza Minnelli in 1989, when the PSB-helmed Results came out.) And let's say they put Radiohead on the cover, with the headline, "The synth duo that wasn't." You would pass it on the newsstand, read the cover, and think, "This is very, very synth-duoist."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

It takes a nation of chuckleheads to hold us back.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

"Let's hope democracy fares better"--Will Hermes

(and you're fucking right I've got some shit to say about it--not democracy, I mean--but that's gonna wait till after the ballots are all counted)

Monday, November 01, 2004

Fuck my lists--I wanna vote for these records in Pazz & Jop. Please, can I?

A wonderful ILM thread and an Observer story detailing some of John Peel's greatest bon mots.