Sunday, May 25, 2008

Silver Jews, Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

The new Silver Jews—

First song, Sound Poem Anthology

Second song, CONVOY

He makes me wonder about my own age, which, God, I hoped I'd never get to that point. Goddamned Nudie suits, do they even fit?

I'm not sure if, as someone who's been accused of anti-Semitism in the past, I can even listen to "Suffering Jew Boy." Oh, wait, Jesus, that's "Suffering Jukebox." Oh, man, I'm sorry. I was just off on some train of thought about how my father used to point out Jews, like Chevy Chase on that Law and Order rerun (Chevy Chase now even kind of looks like a fat version of my father), and thinking about how Jewishness was always pointed out as kind of a neat somewhat obscure factoid, like "That guy? Racecar driver." "Oh, really? Never would have guessed."

Anyway, man, Berman loves reverb and reverb loves Berman—he sounds like what you'd like all poets to sound like, instead of the stuttering, weedy voices pregnant with pause of all the poets that I had to sit through at school assemblies.

I tried to interview Berman once, for his last album. I was counting on him getting back to me and I got too close to the deadline and only got back a one-line answer to all of the stuff I'd emailed him about because he couldn't commit to a regular phone call time. It was all pissy, like he was going through a perfunctory "I'm difficult with interviewers" character sketch. At least half of it was my fault, since I wanted to just get a basic sense of him before I interviewed him, so that I could ask questions about his answers, and I realize now that all of the questions that I sent looked clumsy and oafish.

Back to poets and their voices: I do understand that Berman regards his poetry and his songwriting as separate, while connected. But he's too clever and too verbal for his songs to ever really be evaluated separately, at least for me. That brings me back to a regular problem I have with the Silver Jews and Pavement and a certain faction of indie rock in general, in that I tend to enjoy the music more than I enjoy the words, which I like to think of as just kind of an endless stream of things that sound good. I have a hard time listening to Ted Leo anymore, after my girlfriend's brother-in-law (God, I need a Masai word for that or something) started trying to explain to me what each of the songs meant.

And the problem is that Berman's words are the only thing that distinguish his music anymore—the rest could be Nashville music from any time after Warren Zevon. At least that sort of vague one-man timelessness (though his wife is on there, I doubt she gets annoyed when it's constantly assumed to be Berman's show) makes it easy to just listen to the album without needing it or loving it or keeping it close, and hard to imagine that Berman won't keep on making this album or ones like it in the future.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pissy rant on gay marriage

I realize this is probably better served by posting it on a livejournal, but the recent gay marriage foofaraw led to this guy posting this on Metafilter:

This is a regrettable decision. I oppose gay marriage as flying in the face of four or five thousand years of civilization and religion. If Californians want to be that arrogant and create gay marriage, so be it. The thing is, Californians referendum-ed against it, but several judges don't give a shit.That's unacceptable.

And this was my response:
Aw, BrooklynCouch, that's just gonna leave me with a rant…

I mean, let's start off with the argument from tradition, or "The world's always been flat." Then the implicit assumptions that gay marriage has been "created" by California, and that constructed things are somehow less valid than scare-quoted "traditional" things. And let's cap it off with the argument from the masses, that unjust laws that reflect the will of the people should stand—did you fail 10th grade civics? (We're in a Republic … Checks and balances … Majoritarianism … Federalist papers etc.)

Why don't you want gays to get married? Where is the harm to you, personally?

I mean, look, people do all sorts of shit that I disagree with (though I don't happen to disagree with gay marriage). People watch NASCAR, people listen to Rush Limbaugh (and weirder Christian craziness), people believe that the government caused the 9/11 attacks, people believe that other people's rights should be restricted based on superstitious biases and foolish half-logic.

But it doesn't harm me, not enough to justify taking away their right to do it. And I tend to believe that when it comes to expanding freedom, the place to do it is here in America and not in Iraq. We can expand the understanding and protection of people's inherent right to do what makes them happy.

And that's not a good idea because we haven't already recognized that right? I mean, that's all an argument from tradition is—a circle where we do things because that's the way we've done things. Or it's not a good idea because a lot of other people don't think it's a good idea? Well, frankly, I've never heard a good argument against gay marriage. I mean, what legitimate objection could there be? It'll lower tax revenues?

There really isn't one. People will repeat the talking points without taking that single goddamned moment to think, "Really?"

What pisses me off isn't just how dumb that is, and how instantly it marks anyone I'm talking to as politically retarded, but that this should be a source of pride. Instead of the technology race of the 20th Century, we could be in a race to make America the best country in the world, the country that has the most respect for human rights and freedoms. But no, we're behind fucking Canada and the Netherlands when it comes to this. I hope we elect a minority president and spread legal recognition for gay marriage across the country and across the globe.

Where's your pride, man? Why do you want the country to keep doing things the way it has been when that way is fundamentally unfair? Don't you want to be an American and stand up for somebody who's been treated unjustly?

I'm going to try to rewrite this into something soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


When I was driving Amy out to LA, we stopped at a gas station in the middle of goddamned nowhere. When we went up to pay, behind the counter was a fat, ruddy girl of 19 or 20, and her name-tag read "Magon."

"So, I gotta ask, how'dya say your name?" I venture.
"Megan. When I was born, my dad didn't know how to spell Megan."

For the next day and a half, Amy and I recounted the adventures of GON and MAGON.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I went to the Epic Yung Berg preview Thursday (I can't be the only one who subconsciously wants to yid-ify him, calling him Youngberg mentally).

Here are my notes (since we weren't allowed to record anything, all I've got is ugly short-hand):

Berg gives brief intro. Berg believes that he is "Empowering young people to take it to the next level … keep God and all things are possible," etc.

He produced the entire album except for two tracks, and he calls this "new sound" "the Spaceship." It's all auto-tuned with a lot of echo, chime-y synth arpeggios. He's got the system up way too loud, so it sounds like shit. "The Business" is booty-call track with silly metaphor, good radio sound. Lots of compression, no dynamics. More radio than club track. He's partial to the DMX-ish shout "Hey!"

His label didn't understand "what I'm all about." "If I come from Sexy Can I to Sexy Lady, I'm gonna be the sexiest dude alive."

Do Dat There video: Big cold jam, lots of black and white, hey—those are the street drummers in front of the Art Institute! Warm, sustained bass. Sure does like that plinking toy piano. I like the instructions re: wad. Makes it officially dance track. "It was important that this came out with no co-signer. I got no co-signer, no, like Fiddy says he's cool. I'm New Wave."

"One Night" has toy piano again. Sharp bass, but mixed for shit. Supercompressed. Sure likes the posturing, spoken word interludes.

"This is the track I'm most proud of." Called "Outer Space." Phase shifting, more auto-tune. He stops the track to tell us he really sang it. It's apparent—his voice is really thin. Should have doubled it. Falls back on "Hey!", more tinkly piano. Bridge is tight. Nice spacey sound. Makes me want to get him to listen to Charles Earland.

"Manager" has more chime washes, better hook than "One Night," lots of string sweeps. Weird pimp metaphor—doesn't want to be boyfriend, just take 20% of proceeds (wonder if he knows that managers usually get 10). "They don't coordinate your do with your shoes/like I do." Way too long on bridge.

That's pretty much it, we were only there pretty briefly. For some reason, he came up to me an initiated a complicated dap-tap. He has a lot of lotion on his hands.