Saturday, January 31, 2009

I realized that I haven't posted my year-end reissues mix tracklist--I'd planned to make it for Idolator's year-end, but that didn't pan out the way I'd planned. Anyway, this is, I think, the best mix CD I've ever made. Rules for inclusion are simple: a song had to be reissued in 2008, and I either had to not know it beforehand or it had to have horned itself into my life during '08 in such an obviously intrusive way that I couldn't ignore it (the latter is the reason for the Bellamy Brothers' inclusion--that, and it was a hit again in the U.K. on the back of a TV ad).

1. Steel An' Skin, "Reggae Is Here Once Again," from Reggae Is Here Once Again (Honest Jon's; 1978)
2. Skibadee, "Tika Toc," from An England Story (Soul Jazz; 2006)
3. Adriano Celentano, "Prisencolinensinainciusol," from Poplife Presents Poplife Sucks (N.E.W.S.; 1973)
4. Gold Coast Police Band, "Rocking in Rhythm," from Delta Dandies: Dance Bands In Nigeria 1936-1941 (Honest Jon's; c. 1937)
5. Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra, "Central Avenue Breakdown," from The History of Rhythm and Blues Part One 1925-1942 (Rhythm and Blues Records import; 1940)
6. Dr. Feelgood, "Back in the Night," from Rock On (Ace; 1975)
7. Margo, "The Spark That Lights the Flame," from She's a Heartbreaker: 20 Blue Eyed Soul Stings UK Floor Fillers, Vol. 4 (Psychic Circle; c. 1969)
8. Billy Eckstine, "Ask the Lonely," from The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 9: 1969 (Hip-O Select)
9. Gene Pitney, "She's a Heartbreaker," from Blame It on the Dogg: The Swamp Dogg Anthology 1968-78 (Ace; 1969)
10. Willie Nelson, "I'm a Memory," from One Hell of a Ride (Columbia/Legacy; 1970)
11. The Bellamy Brothers, "Let Your Love Flow" (reissued single; 1976)
12. Los Jaivas, "Foto De Primera Comunion," from Love, Peace & Poetry: Chilean Psychedelic Music (QDK; c. 1972)
13. Karen Dalton, "Something on Your Mind," from Optimo, Sleepwalk (Domino; 1969)
14. Grand Kalle & L'African Jazz, "Parafifi," from The Rough Guide to Congo Gold (World Music Network; 1957)
15. Franco, "Fifi Nazali Innocent," from African Classics (Sheer; c. 1971)
16. George Akaeze & His Augmented Hits, "Business Before Pleasure," from Nigerian Special (Soundway; c. 1973)
17. The Elcados, "Ku Mi Da Hankan," from Nigerian Rock Special (Soundway; c. 1974)
18. R. Tyme, "R-Theme," from Network: The Box Set (Network; 1989)
19. Jay J & Devious D, "Time of Our Lives," from Awesome Records Classics Part 1 (Can You Feel It; 1992)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

As good as "Digital Love." Maybe better.

Right, Pazz & Jop. Not much that hasn't been said a zillion times. Good luck to it, and them. I have zero interest in its consensus, even as I share it to a certain degree. Andy Kellman, as always, has the most dynamite ballot.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This is a few days old, but someone in the endless comments section did point out that Jody Rosen beat Rosenbaum to the same argument, in the same outlet no less, just over three years ago, right? And that the chance we'll see another of those "'career re-evaluation' essays that places like the New York Times Sunday 'Arts & Leisure' section are fond of running about the Barry Manilows of the world" actually occurred back in 2002, authored by Chuck Klosterman. Please?

I've never particularly cared about Scott Walker (Mike Daddino put it best with the immortal "He sounds like a horse"), but this remembrance of his BBC show (and then some) by Tom Sutpen is sharp, particularly:
The stories virtually wrote themselves; transforming Scott Walker into the first true emblem of a relatively new cultural cliche: the beloved-but-misunderstood pop star, yearning for transcendence and a less public life (a cliche that would reach a terrible apotheosis of sorts with the 1994 suicide of Kurt Cobain). As a journalistic impulse this was utterly reflexive . . . the only thing journalists love more than a bad loser is a bad winner . . .and they could let no moment of the spectacle, even those they had to make up, go unrecorded.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Last night I saw The Sicilian Clan, part of SIFF Theater's French Crime Wave series. (My mom got me a series pass, for which I thank her again.) Its best feature: the Ennio Morricone score.

I have a kind of basic distaste for Hollywood caper films of the '60s This was French, but the version we saw wasn't the original French, it was the English-dubbed one released to U.S. theaters in 1960 (earlier than I'd taken it for--I was guessing '68 or '69--but it shouldn't surprise me since the clothing was still very suit-and-dress). It's well made, the acting is fine--but hearing those barking American voices, as if Alain Delon were Lee Marvin, made it seem really boringly American, in the pre-New Hollywood style. (Though I have to say, the dubbing was probably the best I've ever seen, not that this is in itself a recommendation.) Re-reading Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (I keep almost calling it Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and especially reading Pictures at a Revolution, I realized why I had never been that into movies: most of what my mom watched and hence I grew up on were of that era, the weird everything's-pink part of time when Doris Day ruled. (Rod Smith, weirdly enough, is enthusiastic about Please Don't Eat the Daisies.) This movie didn't help--felt like ticking a box, not experiencing art. (I should use that metric somewhere else.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

I played the living hell out of Herbert's "Harmonise" in 2006, but for some reason by year's end I didn't want to even think about it. That might have to do with the circumstances during which I played it most--enduring a lot of NYC-based difficulty--but in any case I screwed up by not putting it in my Top 10. On the same album is a song called "Moving Like a Train," but "Harmonise" is the chug I go back for. It never stops building, never stops cresting, coming on like a mystery unraveling, every swirling tunelet buttressing the others, building toward the out-of-nowhere "You are the world/I am your people" like a white rainbow spreading over a city. And the lyrics are basically a mockery of I'm-lost-without-you love songwriting, the tune isn't complete without you, she's describing a self-absorbed dick that may or may not be Matthew Herbert himself (he wrote 'em, right?), all your back-story and Steely Dan echoes fulfilled. The used 12-inch I found recently will likely get played every week at Havana.

Fuck do I wish I'd heard this a month before I actually did. Ah well, I love it now, which is what counts.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"So this coworker of mine made me a mix-CD."

"What's on it?"

"Oh my god it's the worst CD I've ever heard in my life."

"Well, it's not that bad."

"Oh, it is too."

"Wait, this is reminding me of the night I went to a movie with some friends and then around the corner to a bar for drinks and heard the worst DJ ever. You've never seen a guy so into being a DJ at a bar. What bomb would he drop on us now? That's right: 'London Calling.' Oh fuck no, he is not gonna play 'I Will Dare' next. Holy shit, he just did, and he hi-fived himself."

"That sounds far, far, far superior to this CD he made her."

"There's a lot of Jets to Brazil on it."

"What was that one line? Fuck, the one I had the violent reaction to in the car."

"I think it was about being in love . . ."

"Emo? The whole thing is emo?"

"And of course, what are all the songs about? Love."

"'Jesus Christ, she has a pretty face,' 'You're lovely when you're on the ground.' They're all pretty misogynistic. Daily affirmations by the straightedge pop-punk douche bags. I wish I could quote you verbatim the two lines I was thinking of--something like, 'If I were cigarette, I could seduce the nation with my smoke.' That's pretty close."

"That's his favorite song ever."

"This reminds me of an article I read years ago in Vice . . ."

"Oh god no . . ."

"It was an advice column saying, 'Don't ever make a mix-CD for a woman you've never had sex with [that you want to], because she'll ride around in her car listening to it with the guy she's fucking and laugh at it."

Addendum: the other thing that really intrigues me about McKenna's list is that it isn't a Top 10--there are only nine items on it. So I totally want to know at least what No. 10 is!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lately I've found myself curious about what music writing in L.A. was like during punk and after. I remember seeing Kristine McKenna, both of whose Fantagraphics-published Q&A books are among my favorites, putting a note on about no one ever talking about West Coast music writers, and it stayed with me. I have some idea about Seattle's history, and obviously the Bay Area would have a giant footprint on the beast if only for Rolling Stone. I once came across an early-'80s issue of Wet, an L.A. rock/lifestyle mag McKenna helped run; it looked really good, a very hip, no bullshit variant on the template of, say, Interview, only with a meatiness closer to Trouser Press. And McKenna's really good singles list in 1981 was printed in that year's P&J, as was her line about it being "An amazing year for singles--easily came up with a list of 30 that totally killed me." If nothing else I'd love to know which were the others.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

"But who cares? He's only written 19 books."

Friday, January 02, 2009

I'd been considering getting Tom Moon's 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die even before reading Christgau's essay on it, but man is this thing rich. It's the kind of record guide that I have no trouble imagining anyone who might be interested in it being prompted to investigate at least a couple of selections. Moon is a damn good writer (he's basically the Jon Pareles of Philly, and has a background as a jazz saxophonist), though there are a lot of minor errors (wrong years attributed a few times, and a wincer in attributing James Brown calling out for Robert McCullough to "play some 'Trane, brother," which he did in "Super Bad," to "Sex Machine") and he can be a little starry-eyed, cf. his Dark Side of the Moon write-up. Still, that's not a bad thing at all--his enthusiasm for prog and fusion mark him as a '70s kid who unashamedly still digs his old favorites but isn't remotely trapped by them. He's got big-tent ears, even if they don't entirely line up with yours or mine, and the fact that they don't is part of what I like about the book. I haven't even started any of the 150 classical selections, outside of modernists like Reich and Glass, though I expect to sometime. But goddamn is this thing lively and varied. Despite a half-dozen Beatles inclusions and three Dylans, etc., not to mention "Good Vibrations" (buncha singles, not just albums) as "the highest expression of the art of the pop single," this never feels remotely like a rote canon dust-off. It's readily apparent that a ton of work went into it, which alone makes it trustworthy. I am tempted to try to get everything in it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Joe Keyes, genius.