Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mix tape for Jessamyn

Amy and I went totally analog for this, after it was a pain in the ass to switch cables (our vinyl ins are totally crusty, so everything came through the regular amp), and it was all hot recorded, so there's a little bit of levels fuckery.

Here's the track list—

Side A:
Justo Mi Gusto—Los Yorks
Hard Coming Love—United States of America
Honeymoon with B Troop—10cc
Street Life—Roxy Music
Poison Arrow—ABC
Supersonic—JJ Fad
Moody (Spaced out)—ESG
Nu Tones—Nomo
Sunshowers—Dr. Buzzards Original Savanna Band
This is not a Love Song—Public Image LTD
No. 1 Song in Heaven—The Sparks

Side B:
Looking For Clues—Robert Palmer
Dayschool—The Rants
Radio Sweetheart—Elvis Costello
I'm an Agent—Gary Numan
Automatic—The Pointer Sisters
Golden Years—David Bowie
Quicksand—Martha and the Vandellas
Bad Reputation—Joan Jett
Tonight—The Go Gos
Totally Nude—Talking Heads
The Ladder—The Clash

I think if you look closely, you can tell who made which side. I'm also curious about how this will be received, because a lot of it is stuff that was probably top 40 hits when she was a young adult, meaning she lived through it rather than just stumbling on it later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead In Rainbows

Radiohead—In Rainbows

This is the first time in years I can remember a widely-anticipated release date. Radiohead, despite a couple of (y’know, my opinion, man) boring-ass albums, has succeeded in creating a gold-rush amongst the blog polloi and weenies that I consort with.

And so far, it’s pretty good. The first track, “15 Steps,” has disjointed, grimy percussion and only starts to suffer when it hits the middling bridge of Yorkish mush-mouthery.

Next up, “Bodysnatchers,” an ebullient (well, as much as Radiohead can be) first single (if they release singles) with a catchy, compressed riff borrowed from the Toadies circa ’97. They play with stereo well on this track, and within two weeks this will be everywhere. Within three, probably in an ad for Nissans or something.

“Nudes” reminds me of being told that every Poison album had to have a ballad so that young dudes could put it on and ball their girlfriends in the backs of their Malibus. This is that quintessential falsetto-laden weepy for a new generation.

It’s a bit moot for me, because my girlfriend won’t have sex while Thom Yorke is singing. Anywhere. We schedule our coitus around his tours, that’s how much she finds his voice unsexy.

Anyway, “Nudes” sounds the same to me as any number of other sensitive Radiohead songs, which all blend together so I’ve forgotten all their names. It coulda been on The Bends, if they’d needed another gentle song.

Wait, what was I saying? The album lost me somewhere in there. I looked up and I was on the next to last track.

Back to “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.” Which is, as may be inferred, about fish and composed with a couple arpeggios. It’s another gentle song of alienation, vaguely reminiscent of John Martyn, only with the sort of shimmering modern-rock production that ultimately strips the song of anything but a sense of montage, like suddenly driving somewhere in a mid-sized import sedan with Zach Braff.

It’s too early, obviously, to tell whether I’ll come back to this album. But so far, signs aren’t good. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that it’s too easy to glibly mock and then forget.

“All I Need” is more dour Blighty murmurs, sounding like it was composed in a raincoat and fog. Still, nice resonant bass and by the time it hits the requisite crescendo at the end, it feels like there was some emotional heft.

“Faust Arp.” Oh, I had such high krautrock hopes for “Faust Arp,” but instead it’s more plectrums and pastoral string-laden pop. I can’t place the melody, but I’m sure I’ve heard it before, probably in some Pentangle song or Fairport Convention tune or something.

And then… “Reckoner,” which is more upper-register melismatics and tamborine bullshit. Keith, the music editor, still hasn’t gotten his copy, so I burned him a copy of my download. About twenty minutes later he came by my desk and just said, “Fuckin’ sucks.” Why? Well, Keith wants to rock, and, especially as the album winds into its third act, signs point to “Bodysnatchers” being the most rockin’ moment. Or interesting moment. Which kind of makes this feel like a bit of a slog, pretty strings and tambourines aside.

Oh no! The file freaked out! Radiohead, ever attuned to emotional states, can tell when I’m making fun of them and become petulant! Too bad that “House of Cards” sounds like the most slack-ass dorm ballad since “Yellow.” Get ready for a legion of earnest knit-cap wearing goatee-jockeys to perform this at your campus’s next open mike night. I like the crazy echo on it, but goddamn, shame they couldn’t come up with a better song to put their production tricks on.

Back to at least a bouncing semi-acoustic number in “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” but we’re almost out of album. Maybe it’s time to admit that this is just what Radiohead sounds like now, and that any excitement over their novel release and distribution has been totally submarined by the fact that they’re just a boring band now. They’ve always had these strands of boring bullshit, and if I was smart I’d have realized that since I thought the last two albums were crap, this one wasn’t likely to be much better.

But I liked getting excited about hearing a new album from a band who used to break boundaries, and I’d like to get that excited again about someone else. I remember camping out all night to get to Tuesday new releases, and the anticipation of In Rainbows reminded me of that. But instead of Atom Heart Mother or even Wish You Were Here, I got Division Bell.

Break my heart again, Radiohead. From listening to the music, that’s what you were after all along, right? No Terrence Reilly rainbows, this is all a meta-statement on disappointment and ennui.

Thank God I didn’t pay for this.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Strangely Hypnotic

This movie is of Dictyostelium sorting cells.

The cells, sorted in waves, form "slugs" and migrate.

Once they arrive somewhere with a food source, they form stalks, and fruit like mushrooms.

Papers and more movies here, more movies here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

OxAm, I love you

The music issue of the Oxford American, which I forgot to buy this year, is perhaps the single best place to read about music. Because they're not in the regular business of hyping and slagging, and because they're so damned cultured and genteel, all of their coverage is top notch.

In fact, t' contradict myself a little, I kinda wish there were an Oxford American music mag year round.

Anyway, see Bill Wasik limn the zeitgeist here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Tube

Aww. The Tube is gone.

Though, I only watched it for maybe an hour or two total for its broadcast life.

But c'mon, Fuse is still around and only Canadian retards watch that.

That Crazy Internet

In this episode, That Crazy Internet, sick of New Orleans food critic Tom Fitzmorris's lack of pure gastronomical focus, creates a blog simply to hector him, including over a rather minor criticism of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper.
When That Crazy Internet is mocked in turn, everyone learns a valuable lesson.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Life with ADD

Things I’m thinking about:

1) I’ve almost finished Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman’s 2003 collection of essays. It’s largely entertaining, though the basic formula goes like this: Most people think something A about some pop culture or philosophical dilemma B. But it’s the contrarian position C which is really true.

You can apply this, and here I’m consciously aping his breezy conversational style, to his essays on Saved By The Bell, The Real World or Pamela Anderson. It’s fun to read, because he doesn’t get bogged down with supporting his points, or the self-realization that often he’s simply ascribing an underdog position to one that most people share with him simply because it’s a rhetorical technique to make his positions more sympathetic.

Roll in a lot of clichés, which are all true (he repeats this about a thousand times, a post-modern exercise in asserting the truth to make it the truth [in an especially recursive way]), but he gains gravitas through the use of the trappings of literary theory and the use of footnotes.

That I, and I suspect many people, unconsciously mimic the style of whatever we’ve last read, makes Klosterman a dangerous read—it’s like watching one of those “I Love the Decade” shows on VH-1, entertaining and facile—if I bite his style, I fear coming to the same facile conclusions. He once astutely labels his writing as “philosophy for shallow people,” which is just exactly true.

Luckily, easy doesn’t always mean wrong, and he’s got enough interesting insights and enough of a voice that it’s hard not to enjoy the act of reading whatever he’s put down on paper. It’s like a pub buddy who you think is utterly full of shit with his grand theories of existence, but whom you can listen to good-naturedly.

2) Red beans and rice. Ok, so I put on the first disc of The Atlantic New Orleans Sessions, which is (as far as I can tell, I got it off the internet because it had the Eureka Brass Band, a band I’d had recommended to me on ILX) a great big sampler of New Orleans jazz, and which turns my apartment into a Zatarains commercial.

And it made me think about the recent rumors over Condoleezza’s lesbianism, because Condoleezza’s living with a woman named Randy Bean. Bean and Rice.

I had never imagined Rice having much of a sex life—that she was single didn’t necessarily mean that she was gay, and neither did having a same-sex roommate. I mean, I had a same-sex roommate for years, and we only made constant jokes about being gay and sucking each other’s cocks and buggery, because that let our friends know that either we were straight, or they weren’t going to get a straight answer if they asked (you know, just like Mick Jagger).

Anyway, I never imagined Condoleezza’s sex life because a) it was none of my business, and b) she was ugly.

I don’t believe that point b is sexist, just to deflect the criticism that I reflexively think of. I think that Rice looks like a glaring Romulan who crushes walnuts with her forehead, but I mean that in the same way that John McCain looks like he’s half-melted and stuffed with spray-insulation.

Besides, there’s no way that a woman of her intelligence (which I believe she uses for evil, but I’ve always had a grudging appreciation for the mad scientists) would hook up with a woman named Bean. There are just too many jokes there, from racist to sexual (Randy Bean pretty much equals Aroused Clitoris, right?), and you can tell that Condi’s a woman who has been made fun of her entire life. Everyone who was a nerd in high school knows the one friend who’s gone round the conservative twist, unable to deal with being an outcast and desperate for some sort of punitive and powerful moral force that will teach a lesson to everyone who thought they were better than them. I imagine that Rice is like that, in her private moments.

If it is true, if Beans and Rice are an item, it’ll do two things—It will be another blow for the Bush Administration, because the conservatives will freak out, and it will be a blow to support for gay marriage, because otherwise liberal Democrats will suddenly associate lesbianism with Condoleezza Rice and her glowering. The fence-sitters, the people who voted in Michigan against Bush and also against gay marriage, they’re the ones who this will affect the most.

What I’d like to see happen, but won’t, will be the ultimate realization by the populace of the utter humanity of gay people—that there are evil ones who aren’t child molesters or prison rapists, people too far from the American conception of normality, and who aren’t good archetypes of evil homosexuals for a variety of reasons (most child molesters are straight and most prison rapists don’t identify as gay). But Condi? She’s an evil we all understand, the sour-faced bureaucrat who uses her smarts to advance dumb and venal causes. Her evil would have nothing to do with her homosexuality.

That, and a growing acceptance of homosexuality among black people, which won’t happen because Condi is only grudgingly accepted as black, working as she does for the most cracker-ass president we’ve had since Andrew Jackson. In some ways, the black people I know relate to her as an anti-Tiger Woods. Woods is always affirming his identity as multi-racial and not primarily black, which is at odds with how he’s perceived in America: the best golfer comma black. And how he’s perceived by my black neighbors: black, best golfer.

Mostly because the black people I know are mostly right-thinking about sports, in that they realize that golf is deadly dull to watch.

So, if everything worked out and Beans and Rice were, shall we say, “on the menu,” being a black, gay, evil smart woman would become one of our accepted cultural archetypes, and everyone would be able to say, “Yeah we had one of those, now it’s not a big deal.”

3) Amy asked me how the Smashing Pumpkins became a major cultural force, or at least a “huge band” for a while in the ‘90s, especially vis-à-vis Pavement.

I came up with a couple things, briefly sketching the narrative: Gish was a well-respected indie rock album in a time when indie needed more rockin’. Siamese Dream was a huge major-label debut, and had a couple of good videos. “Disarm” made them a household name, because it was a totally emo song about Billy Corgan’s parents hating him.

Then they put out Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which was a pretentious, muddled, overlong mess that had great videos and was thus exactly the right thing to do at the time. In thinking about Klosterman’s theory that regular people make the lyrics the primary focus of listening, I think “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” proves him wrong because it was so stupid. I think the song was good because it had a killer riff, despite having retarded lyrics that make me never want to listen to it (I don’t own the album anymore).

Amy thinks that Klosterman’s still right (she read the book first and faster) because while the lyrics were brain-crushingly stupid, most people could relate to the sentiment of, despite all their rage, being a rat in a cage.

But that’s about it, right? The Smashing Pumpkins kind of disappeared, Billy Corgan became a big fat bald weirdo who dressed in sacks, then he fired the rest of the band (including their awesome drummer Jimmy Chamberlain) and released a terrible Nine-Inch-Nails knock-off album.

He’s then spent years trying to figure out exactly what did make them so popular and then do it again, when what made them so popular was being in the right place at the right time with the right videos. (This is where Klosterman would insist that there’s some deeper sociological meaning to why those videos were the right ones at the right time, but I disagree.)

In fact, let’s expand on that parenthetical—I don’t believe that there’s really any greater reason for bands becoming popular or that there’s any discernable insights from focusing on what resonated when. There are interesting moments, and there are some broad theses to be advanced, but for me, the interesting part is always the music, and not using that music to advance a meaning. I don’t really believe there are large meanings or narratives in life, and I kind of resent talking to people who do. I believe that we have the power (and the responsibility) to create our own meanings and associations, so anything Klosterman believes and states quite fiercely and discursively as true may not be true beyond his front door, and many of his most broadly true arguments are the ones that are least interesting.

But deeply subjective insights lack the broad appeal that makes them either easy to write about or easy to market; they lack authority. If you can say, well, everyone knows this, and phrase it in a way that most people will agree, you can count on the authority of the reader. If I read that the Arcade Fire were a decent band that’s been over-rated, I’ll agree and instantly give more credence to the author. If I read that all women are like this, and it jibes with my limited experience with a couple of them, or with what I’ve seen on television or in a movie, I’m likely to think, “Well, that seems right. He’s probably right about all women preferring a fantasy of fake love,” or whatever other stereotypical half-thought is endorsed tacitly (most galling is his repeated belief that friendship between men and women is impossible, which doesn’t match my experience at all).

But my experiences don’t bear this out, because I tend to notice when things don’t match up with patterns, and, frankly, get annoyed when people posit their identities toward me as, say, the Real World characters that Klosterman believes we all know.

Gosh, I’m back on him, aren’t I? That’s what makes him fun to read, for me, is that he’s so wrong about so many things, usually through a shallow reading of some broader phenomenon and the misuse of “deconstruction,” which he assumes just means a brief examination of any given pop phenomenon.

Back to the Smashing Pumpkins, as I’m halfway through revisiting Siamese Dream, in order to see whether it has any songs that I could put on a mix for an iPod challenge (another 1200 words coming on that sometime soon). Man, there are a lot more emo-whiny ballads on here than I remember.

I remember being told at a Poison concert that my pal Amber took me to that they reason why Poison worked was that they had enough balls-out rockers so that guys could buy their albums without being called homos, and enough ballads that those same guys could play it for girls and get laid.

The same formula would seem to work with Smashing Pumpkins and a certain type of girl who lived in the mid-‘90s. One of the most depressing things that happened due to the late-‘90s boom in indie rock is that albums no longer have to have a certifiable rock tune in order to be something a self-respecting heterosexual guy can buy. I realize that if people want to buy Wilco, and it’s OK to buy Wilco, that they should buy Wilco. I just cling to the vaguely impolitic position that it shouldn’t be OK to buy Wilco, and that quirky smarts shouldn’t have replaced rocking as something that is a guy’s birthright.

Radiohead hurt the cause too. No longer did you have to have ballads for your “deep” sensitivity, but were at least able to escape into the “Geek USA” after “Soma.” Now it’s all middling bullshit all the time (not really, I like some of it, but often I feel this way).

Sunday, August 19, 2007


So, I've been working on a metal mix for Jessamyn from MetaFilter for a while, long enough that she probably just thinks I flaked. But it's totally been an excuse to explore stoner metal for me again (well, and for a while, I was gonna make her a giant cheese metal mix and present it seriously, which I may still do— I found some terrible airbrushed picture of a turtle fucking a girl on a beach that seems like it would be the ultimate alternate universe van decal).

And in there, one of those Ur-sources of stoner metal: Atomic Rooster's "Death Walks Behind You." It's right at that junction where blues+drugs=metal, and has this awesome, plodding groove behind it. Maybe the album's available over at Cousin's Vinyl.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Drone factor 8!

This Friday, caught a couple of bands over at the Echo Park Curio (where they're just as dilettante about being an art gallery as they are about web design). I was really there for my pal James Ilgenfritz, who had been drafted by some dude named Preston to play bass (while Preston rocked the mellotron). They were tuned nearly exactly to each other, but were off by less than a half-step, which created some amazing dissonance. Both James and Preston were sharp enough to a) really exploit that, and b) move well together. Their first piece was like listening to the tide come in, that slow and almost imperceptible change in rhythm and sonic texture that comes from the water getting deeper and deeper. Then, just as they were cresting, they stopped. I really enjoyed how they managed to essentially resolve the narrative of the piece just by implying an extension of their climax.

Unfortunately, to get to them (as the middle band), it meant sitting through someone called, I think, KxPxC. Or something that whenever anyone said it made me think of the Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. There, it was some noodler on guitar, some dandy on keyboards, harmonica and accordion, all played with a basic contempt for the instruments— any attempt to use them musically was subsumed by the desire to just wheeze one note and then change one finger for, like, a totally different experience, man— and all bounded by a fat guy with a ring modulator and a bunch of effects pedals. On the whole, they hit some interesting textures, I assume accidently, and came across as Wolf Eyes on Prozac.

We bolted during the final band, as they had promised to be some sweet Japanoise, all the members looking like Asiatic Mansons, but though they were the only band with a drum, they were just totally enthralled with swirling brushes on it.

My back was killing me the whole time, and it was like a hipster TGIFridays with all the goddamned ironic flair that people were sporting. The guy next to us kept calling out Freebird, apparently having decided that Lynyrd Skynryd jokes have gone through their natural cycle of death and ascendence again, but he was making out with one chick while giving another a salacious backrub (and had on a designer screenprinted button-down shirt), so who knows— maybe that's ironically cool again.

In the car, I forced Amy to listen to Renegade Soundwave (Greatest Hits) and Bad Religion (Recipe for Hate) just to see if I still liked those album as much as I did in high school. I think I like 'em 30% less.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mailbag #1

Dear Barely Legal MagaZine

I was looking at your magazine
and I would love to have
Marie panties and her bra I
love to dress like a girl I love
her bra and panties do you thank
you can help me with this
or Shelly panties and bra please
and Alexis panties and bra
They are beautiful
and Stacee panties and bra
I would love to have them
Thank you
Very much
I will put them


On the up and up—

Coming soon:

-Poetry sent to porno mags
-Reviews of music and movies (and maybe a book, if I learn to read)
-Local focus on the Palms neighborhood of LA, plus LA vegetarian living, maps and reviews.

Friday, May 04, 2007

18-carat love affair

When I first heard the Associates about a year ago, I think that I dismissed them as Bowie-meets-The-Sparks. Maybe I've developed a taste for melodrama since then, but I love the operatic vocals, the "serious" strings, the post-punk dolor... Anyway, they're an underrated band from a murky point in music history, and God bless Associatestracks for the rare and unreleased bounty they're putting up.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I feel woozy

I'd like to commend BP on their new, bold, pro-huffing campaign:

I mean, the swirling green apparitions are classic hallmarks of an ether binge, the high-class huffer's drug, and the gentle indie rock should sooth those post-binge tremors. (Maybe I'm just feeling vindictive toward what I feel is a particularly vicious co-option of green iconography in order to sell more gas, which is, y'know, pretty fucking toxic shit. Or maybe I'm just bugged by the goddamned song stuck in my head.)

Send more braaaaaains...

The scary thing about zombies is their creeping inevitability, like the slow descent of old age or the metastasizing Starbucks invasion.

Deanimator emphasized the slow march of death by putting you behind the gun of a never-harried nebbish, standing off an endless army of newly risen silhouettes. The play is simple, with one upgrade (a shotgun) that's ultimately unsatisfying. A cruel mediation on the nature of living?

Boxhead slapped the player into a Lego-meets-Robotron endless killing spree. Unlike Deanimator, the upgrades are plentiful, but ultimately extend the game too far. After, what, the 100th level or so, killing the zombies just lacks any sort of sense of accomplishment. That, and frankly, the shotgun is the best weapon by far, making all the other upgrades largely irrelevant (aside from maybe the fake walls, which are handy for reshaping the field).

The Last Stand deals with the zombie hoard in a broad, "castle defense" sort of way, and largely overcomes the deficits of the other two games— it has enough upgrades that the gameplay is varied, and differing zombies keep the difficulty a bit more in line. It still ultimately becomes too easy (assuming that you get lucky— one complaint is that chance can make the game way too hard or way too easy, depending on how your scavenging runs go), but it has the good sense to end the game. Sure, that undermines the hard determinism that makes zombies thrilling, but it works in terms of fun.

I want my money back, give me my money back...

Fiber optics? What fiber optics?

Baby Bells ripped us off. Wonder what SBC's Michigan promises looked like. Maybe I'll get the book, now that I'm done with school and looking to read...

Friday, April 27, 2007

These are the breaks

Need a history of hip hop? Year by year breakdowns. Just did a paper on hip hop's concept of ownership being tied to its development as an oral culture, and these would have been priceless. It's fucking sweet, chiefs.
via ILX.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Popular Songs reimagined as Murder She Wrote episodes

Black Eyed Peas, My Humps.

Jessica Fletcher's nephew Will.I.Am (Robert Goulet) has become involved with Fergie (Dinah Shore), a materialistic woman; he buys her all these ices, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi and NaDonna. He is accused of killing her after she is found battered. Jessica discovers that Fergie had been faking cancer and defrauding, who bludgeoned her to death.

The Arcade Fire, Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).

The body of a local doctor is found in the Cabot Cove snow, and Win (Jerry Orbach) is suspected of the murder. He explains to Jessica that no one had seen him because he had been visiting Regine Cassagne (Lynnn Redgrave) by way of a tunnel dug through drifts. Jessica traps Cassagne by prompting her to sing a hymn that the doctor had hummed while performing her abortion, which she attempted to cover up.

Eric B and Rakim, Microphone Fiend.

A karaoke competition turns deadly when Jessica's old student Rakim (LeVar Burton) is forced out for rapping "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Accused of killing contest impresario (played by Don Ameche) by lacing the mic with Drano, Rakim is exonerated through the efforts of Eric B (Yaphet Koto), and the revelation that Big Daddy Kane's "Set It Off" was a declaration of murderous intent.

Everything is everything

Through a handy slab of link hopping (ILX to Detroit Techno Militia to Detroit Radio Flashbacks), I'm diggin' the ancient station IDs of old Ohm 88.7 and Electrifying Mojo.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I ran into a couple of people who complained that I hadn't updated this in, well, forever, frankly.

So, now I'm dicking around with the formatting, and that means that the old Haloscan comments are gone. They were a pain in the ass that was only instituted to provide some deterant to the massive amount of blogspam... Ugh.

Hopefully, I can get this up and going a little more smoothly. If anyone who IS a programmer (or can make CSS not stand for Consistently Shitty Screwups) wants to plane off the ugly edges, lemme know.

Now I just need to cajole the Cousins Vinyl guys to let me use their file hosting, so I can put music up quickly.

Anyway, I won't get too attached. Longterm plans include a dedicated domain, ideally administered by someone else, where I can stick up archives of writing and portfolio stuff. But who knows? Maybe by then I won't want to taint my professional prospects with this blog.