Harmonica Alert

The woeful state pop music is in owes a lot to bands like Low Anthem, who owe a lot in turn to the New York Times for its commitment to writing them up. With antique instruments “which the band works on and repairs,” witheringly false lyrics that have their author traveling by train “to Ohio” (the state, one presumes, makes no difference, so long as it says Americana), and a fool’s gold sound made “authentic” by following the formula Dylan + whispery indie vocals + period instruments + closing your eyes, Low Anthem is the real thing alright: authentic bourgeois horse turd.

From the New York Times piece: "They point to the rafters where the bats roamed during late-night recording sessions. “This place was full of creaks and cracks, ghosts and hidden screams,” Ms. Adams said. 

“Part of what is going on is that people are suspicious of sincerity,” says one of the band members. Sincerity comes easily to this band. Apparently they are so sincere that the band members were Dumpster diving a few years ago for cereal boxes to make CD cases out of.” Later, in keeping with the theme of sincerity, the members say they “really have no concept of what a musical career is.” And: the first 7,000 CD and 5,000 LP covers were printed there in a garage jammed with ancient presses.”

Pretending to live in a bygone era isn’t sincere or authentic. In fact, burning cds and making covers with Photoshop is a lot more so, and don’t tell me these guys, after they’ve ridden home from the studio, presumably on horseback, don’t use computers as handily as their parents do.

David Carr, to give him the benefit of the doubt, doesn’t sound completely won over, neither in the article nor on the NYTimes “popcast,” but you would hardly know it from the puffy, complimentary quotes in the article. Mike Mogis, the band’s producer, says of the band, “they record live, and in a kind of haphazard way, ended up coming up with their own sound that is timeless and unpredictable.” And then this: “I wouldn’t say that any of us is a virtuoso, except maybe Jeff on the bass and Jocie on the clarinet,” Mr. Miller said. “We are more interested in the noises that are made and how we can bring them together.” Well, even if two of your four members didn’t fall into that august categorization, you wouldn’t be doing yourself that much of a disservice to swear off virtuosity; we all know in what low esteem it’s held these days, and for a band striving for authenticity, surely it’s almost anathema. And - congratulations - being interested in “noises that are made” is thoroughly banal, even when it’s not coming from retrogressives. You can’t use something John Cage might have said legitimately to shore up the artistic credibility of some corny old folk tunes. You can’t have it both ways.

The music itself is as bland as it comes. Not only does it not seem in any way sincere to me, it seems exactly the opposite: desperately phony, and not just in the lyrics, though that’s the petard by which I’ll be hoisting them here…

from To Ohio

I left Louisiana on the rail line, oo oo
I left Louisiana on the rail line, oo oo

I Lost my love before her time, oo oo
I lost my love before her time, oo oo
On the way to Ohio

Did she die on the train? I guess it is a pretty long trip. That’s probably where the nearest doctor was back then. 

from Champion Angel

We come now to a fracture in the road
Here time has taken her toll
The endless freezing and the thawing of the heart
Will eventually divide us apart

A very tricky verse. An estrangement is being compared to a “fracture in the road,” which is then compared to a heart that is like a road and has cracked. It tries to say that the relationship, because of the way it keeps warming and cooling, can’t last. That’s fine. But, other than the mixed metaphor, there is another weird problem: if the fracturing of their heart is going to divide them apart, it’s strange that they’re on the same side of the fracture (“we come”) in the first line. It’s like they’re meeting their future selves on the road. One of them is going to have to get on the other side of the crack so that they can eventually be “divided apart,” or they were meeting each other coming in opposite directions, which means they were never very close to begin with. Perhaps it was being in a long-distance relationship that caused the crack to appear. It just took their coming together to see it. The fact that it says “time has taken her toll,” though we don’t know whether on the heart or the road, mitigates their individual responsibility for the impending split. It’s a natural thing, this division, particularly if they’re just meeting.

from Ticket Taker

They say the sky’s the limit
But the sky’s about to fall
Down come all them record books cradle and all
They say before he bit it
That the boxer felt no pain
But somewhere there’s a gamblin’ man
With a ticket in the rain

What an atrocious mixture of cliche and non sequitur, not worth trying to parse. I find something grating about their dependence on the word “them” as a rustic substitute for “those” throughout the album (all of these lyrics are from the second to latest one, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin). David Carr thinks there is a “consistency” between what they say and the music they play, but I doubt they talk like cowboys in Providence, Rhode Island these days. Lyrics aren’t meant to be read, I know, least of all those written by twenty-somethings. But there is a big smelly rot in music emanating from bands like this; the lyrics are just symptomatic of the bigger problem, ie, the music. See for yourself…

I’m not going to limit myself entirely to things from this year because a) I cant find that many things I liked, and b) those lists tend to hold the present in dubiously high esteem. Nor am I aiming to be other than piecemeal here. This is just what’s coming to me today. 

1. Two movies (that didn’t come out this year) that I liked:

I find film in particular pretty disappointing these days. Even the buzzy ones by David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky, and Christopher Nolan make me think today’s directors only know how to make one kind of film. They’re like the dancer in Black Swan - rigorously controlled and technically perfect, but without spontaneity, freedom, or surprise. 

But I really liked some older movies I saw for the first time this year, especially…

Zulawski: Possession
Very extreme, high-strung performances from Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. Every scene is pitched at peak intensity. This movie goes for broke and often verges on ecstatic silliness. I was awestruck.

Meyer: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
What I liked was Meyer’s editing. Some scenes, like the nightmarish party sequence near the beginning where everything seems cut too early and too curtly, the soundtrack and the image always at odds, have a randy poetry to them. And there’s a pretty funny script, courtesy Roger Ebert. 


2. Some music I liked, or kind of liked, (from this year) this year:

I can’t claim to have had much of an overview this year; I didn’t go out of my way to listen to stuff like I have in other years, so my listening was spotty at best. Even the stuff I did like, I had reservations about. That being said…

Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
90% homage, but really nice and under-thought-out, compulsively made 4AD action.

James Blake: CMYK EP 
Actually, all of his EPs are pretty good, and not just the three or four from this year. I listened to this one the most, Klavierwerke right behind it. Forward thinking R&B, dance floor compatible but yearning to be headphoned.

Mark Fell: Multistability
I used to listen to a lot of “experimental” music, computer music, including stuff by a group called SND. This is the guy behind that outfit. I couldn’t listen to large doses of this but I thought it was pretty nice in bits. A lot of play with rhythm and timbre, which is lovely; almost none with chords - you get one per piece, which can be grating. I like these albums that do one particular thing and really get in there and dig around in it.

Janelle Monae: Archandroid
Very poppy stuff, nice clean production and album flow, stylistically all over the place - too all over the place. There are a few good dance / easy listening tracks and one song, Make the Bus, that seems to have come straight off an unreleased Of Montreal album (what did Janelle Monae have to do with it? Does she even sing on it? Maybe just a phrase or two?). 

Autechre: Oversteps
Not the best Autechre album, I don’t think. But they’re in a class of their own and everything they do should be given thorough attention. See on See alone is enough of a track to make it worthwhile.


Oneohtrix Point Never: Returnal
There’s nothing particularly wrong with this album. I like having it on, actually. But comparisons to Aphex Twin, Klaus Schulze, and Tangerine Dream overstate the case. On this album, he’s basically layering a bunch of synths into a nice thick carpet. It’s not exactly news from the future. 


3. The books (from any year) I liked most this year:

Milan Kundera: Testaments Betrayed
I read all of Milan Kundera’s essay books this year. This one was my favorite, probably because I read it first. His enthusiasm for the likes of Kafka, Sterne, Musil, Rabelais, Gombrowicz, Diderot, etc, is contagious and propelled my reading for most of the year. 

Witold Gombrowicz: Ferdydurke
See above. I hadn’t heard of Gombrowicz before reading about him in the Kundera books. If you ask him, Gombrowicz is a master on par with other far better known twentieth century writers. The book has a very loose, freewheeling structure. The narrator breaks in every so often to tell you so, and there’s an essay of novelistic form somewhere in the first half of the book. The story - if that’s what you call it - concerns a man whose age is mistaken and who is put into a school with a bunch of younger students where he worries about descending to their level of stupidity. (A lot of the book has to do with people’s stupidity.) It ends with a whirlwind courtship and marriage that seems to take place outside of time and place, ambivalent to say the least, but also fond and lighthearted. It’s not exactly love, it’s more like mutual entrapment, but it’s maybe something close to happiness, who knows. 

Dave Hickey: Air Guitar
A deservedly famous book of essays about art, the art business, and things that fall broadly under the heading of culture (Liberace, Las Vegas, the Rolling Stones, Siegfried & Roy). Reminds you that interest should come first, whether the object be “art” or not, rather than the other way around. In fact, that might be the only way to save art from itself.

Andre Breton: Nadja
A haunting little book from one of the fathers of surrealism about art and a love affair and a woman whose craziness made her, for Breton, special, beautiful.  

Jack Flam: Matisse and Picasso
Jack Flam puts the work at the center of this biography of a friendship, showing how the two artists, radially opposite in character, counted on each other for inspiration, support, and rivalry throughout their careers. Flam’s analysis of individual paintings is excellent but, in the end, the thing I might have liked best about the book was the little snatches of dialogue that reportedly passed between them, or the quotes people took down that show the mutual regard they had for each other. The book is genuinely moving, but in an understated way - more so for that. 

Denis Johnson: Jesus’ Son
Yes, I know I’m the last person to read and applaud this collection of stories but better late than never. These stories are as exciting for their structure as for their gritty content. They are headlong horror stories, very linear, and they often turn abruptly. I went on to read Tree of Smoke, and didn’t like it much at all. 

John Cheever: Journals
I love it when writers I didn’t think I needed to read suddenly become important to me. Not only does Cheever just plain write well at all times, in these journals he says a lot of stuff about aging and disenchantment that cut to the quick. Very affecting. But there’s a lot more than that. I didn’t think it was going to keep me reading as much as it did, but these journals are as writerly as you’re ever going to find journals. 


4. Miscellaneous…

Matthew Collings’s Diary. (See this post.)

Thomas Nozkowski

If anything, besides having a lot of money, could make me an art collector, it would be paintings like those by Thomas Nozkowski. They’re exactly what makes people collect: uniquely different but within a fixed set of parameters. They look good individually but work best, I imagine, in groups. Each is playful in an off-hand way, belying Nozkowski’s way of working:

"It’s very hard to maintain a certain pitch when you have to do a lot of busy work. So when I made that switch to small canvases, I was suddenly able to do anything. To take the most capricious idea and do it in a minute. What about pink? If it doesn’t work, wipe it off and do something else. Serendipitously, I discovered all kinds of stuff that I never would have come to otherwise, that intellectually would have made for a much longer, slower and harder process on the larger canvases."

Looking at paintings like the ones above made me feel less despairing about art, although it’s never been painting that was a source of despair for me. The problem is lack of interest and lack of pleasure. People act like those things aren’t necessary right now, but I like those things, I think they’re important. Anyway, Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings have those things going for them - they’re interesting and they give pleasure. It’s about color, the finding of a thing you didn’t start out with, latent or subverted form. Really noodly and beautiful stuff.


I’m not much of a gamer so my experience is limited, but I don’t think it’s very often that you find yourself admiring the beauty of a land formation or the way the sun rises over the hills in a game, and I did that many times playing Minecraft. I bought it for ten bucks when it was still in alpha (it’s since gone into beta) and, what can I say, that was money very well spent considering all the fun I had playing it. It’s a sandbox game (meaning, you make your own rules) that encourages creativity the way a lego set does. Some people take on massive architectural projects, others use it like a railroad kit, some people just explore the limitless terrain, digging down into underground caves and mining resources, and some people just fight monsters. I was bowled over by the design of this game (the work of one guy) and, as I said, by the randomly generated terrain. I don’t think anything else impressed me as much this year. 

These are probably the best two advertisements for it…

Last lines of Kanye reviews on Tumblr, or: how to stop worrying about what’s better than a masterpiece and just write “masterpiece”

"Kanye West has created a theme of greatness and has given us exactly what we wanted again: The Biggest Star In The Universe."

"The hedonist album for the holidays, as expressed through the ornate gold font dispersed throughout the album behind a crimson backdrop."

"Most of all, though, West has created an album that is truly fantastic and that certainly deserves a listen."

"Kanye created one hell of a masterpiece and truly, truly pushed musical boundaries. Despite his public image, he is unquestionably a musical genius, and this album is clear evidence of that. It’s mainstream hip-hop at its freaking best."

"This is Kanye at his best. This is his masterpiece."

"The master of hip-hop, the voice of a generation, the Black Beatle, Martin Louis the King Jr., The Louis Vuttion Don, Kanye West - whatever you choose to call him, has created a masterpiece."

"I know I’m not qualified to say this, but hands down… this is the best album of the year, NAY…of all time. Atta boy Yeezy.”

"It’s different to his other albums but it definitely moves away from all the autotune of 808’s."

"Also of note as an aside away from the album is that many artists are fighting back for the album as an art-form in this singles obsessed climate. Kanye is the next in line to realise and bring to life his arsenal to the battery of artillery."

Ornette Coleman and Prime Time: Tone Dialing.

Tone Dialing is an album that, more than ten years after it’s release, has come to seem pretty good to me. I bought it when I was in my late teens and, at the time, listened to it more for Ornette’s reputation than because it squared with what I thought jazz, or indeed music, was supposed to sound like. To be honest, it didn’t square at all. And I don’t think jazz critics, even those familiar with Coleman, felt much differently. But what sunk in then, and what’s eased me back into it, was the melodicism of Coleman’s playing, the rubbery keyboard and bass textures, and those high-spirited calypso melodies.

On most of the tracks on this album, the end of the head is like cliff edge: when the players come to the end of it, everybody topples ecstatically into thin air. But there is something tethering everyone together. The much-discussed, never-defined theory of Harmolodics that supposedly governs much of what you hear in a Coleman song might be summarized like this: Here I go, try to keep up. Although a kind of chaos ensues, there is most definitely a leader.

There aren’t many solos other than Ornette’s on this album, unless you count the incessant noodling going on like - I’ll try again - a quilting of elastics beneath his playing - synths, electric guitars, electric basses, and tablas, along with Denardo Coleman’s destabilizing drums. It gets messy, but when tonality breaks down and the everything swirls off the grid, it sounds like no other music in the world. On Street Blues, with each chorus, things get knottier and the band careens toward entropy, but Ornette is the unperturbable logic in it, always at home amidst even the muddiest waters. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t sink down into them himself sometimes. But listen to Capella (from about 2:10 to 2:28), to the way he stretches the cadence of the song for no reason other than to make the rise back to the repeat that much more exuberant - it’s a lesson in freedom and authority. All of this just to say that with Ornette around, one doesn’t really want for other soloists.

An imaginary album: I’ve been entertaining the fantasy that someday, in lieu of the unaccompanied saxophone albums he never made, Ornette’s albums will be re-released minus the other musicians. It’s a little absurd, I realize - on par with discussions of what Hamlet would be like as a father, but Ornette and Miles Davis are the two musicians whose playing, I think, could stand alone and still be something. There’s a kind of organic and autonomous quality in their playing. At their best they seem to be playing with the band and, at the same time, completely independently of it.

A defense: Denardo - Ornette’s son - made his first appearance on record at the age of six on his father’s The Empty Foxhole. He received some pretty harsh treatment at the hands of critics who felt they were being insulted; the unskilled are a bane and blasphemy to the hallowed fortress of the Jazz Establishment, don’t you know. But Ornette was too serious a musician to be playing a prank, even if there is some fun being had. I don’t know how much Denardo’s drumming has advanced since then, truthfully, but I can understand why his father has enjoyed playing with him ever since, this Caliban of the kit, seemingly spared in his formative years that civilizing agent, the metronome, which would have made him just another boring time-keeper. As it is, he is the time bomb in every song he plays on.

A caveat: though so unspeakable, I’m tempted to pass over it in silence, there needs to be a warning issued about one track on this album, Search for Life, a nondescript rap track, directionless and plodding, searching but not finding Life for nearly eight minutes, that wants nothing less than to defeat the whole album. And it’s the second track so it could really threaten your experience of the album before it’s even had a chance to form. It was bad in 1995 and it’s aged about as well as backwards pants.

I mentioned the melodies and I want to end with them since, finally, they’re what one takes most immediately away from the album. They are simple enough to make you feel they’re part of the public domain of collective memory. Hum a few of them and you’ll realize what it is that makes one return to this album; a feeling so pure and simple, to name it is embarrassing.

7. Nirvana: Scentless Apprentice

I’m among the dozen or so people who didn’t really get into Nirvana in a big way when Nevermind came out. I could pick out a little of Come as You Are on my acoustic guitar, as could everyone else in my high school at the time, musical or not, and that was as close as I got to fandom. But by listening to it in cars or on borrowed cassettes, I did listen to In Utero quite a bit over time, and - in another instance of conversion-by-drum set - got into it. One song especially.

Heart-Shaped Box is cool. All Apologies is cool. But I’m partial to Scentless Apprentice, and it’s pretty much all about the snare fills and the screaming. I don’t know if you can call that a hook, but whatever it is, it makes me want to skip school and punch cars. Those heavy Albini drums and Cobain’s screaming are pretty much the track. But the unrooted tonality of the song’s mix-matched parts, exaggerated by the bass being so low in the mix, also has something to do with its blistering weirdness.

Now, for some facts about the sessions and the track, I’ll turn to Wikipedia, more and more the go-to source for interesting rock trivia and myth:

"Albini surrounded Grohl’s drum kit with approximately 30 microphones."

"The song "Scentless Apprentice" was written about Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, ahistorical horror novel about a perfumer’s apprentice born with no body odor of his own but with a highly developed sense of smell, and who attempts to create the “ultimate perfume” by killing virgin women and taking their scent.”

"On occasions when work on a song mix was not producing desired results, the band and Albini took the rest of the day off to watch nature videos, set things on fire, and make prank phone calls for amusement."

"The members of Nirvana and Albini decided on a self-imposed two-week deadline for recording the album. Wary of interference by DGC, Albini suggested the band members pay for the sessions with their own money, which they agreed to. Studio fees totaled US$24,000, while Albini took a flat fee of $100,000 for his services. Despite the suggestions of Nirvana’s management company Gold Mountain, Albini refused to take percentage points on record sales, even though he stood to earn approximately $500,000 in royalties. While a common practice among producers in the music industry, Albini refused to take royalties because he considered it to be immoral and "an insult to the artist"."

"To prevent the group’s managers and label from interfering, Albini instituted a strict policy of ignoring everyone except for the band members; the producer explained that everyone associated with the group aside from the musicians themselves were "the biggest pieces of shit I ever met"."

"The band members began to have doubts about the record’s sound. During this time Cobain admitted, "The first time I played it at home, I knew there was something wrong. The whole first week I wasn’t really interested in listening to it at all, and that usually doesn’t happen. I got no emotion from it, I was just numb." The group concluded that the bass and lyrics were inaudible and approached Albini to remix the album. The producer declined; as he recalled, "[Cobain] wanted to make a record that he could slam down on the table and say, ‘Listen, I know this is good, and I know your concerns about it are meaningless, so go with it.’ And I don’t think he felt he had that yet […] My problem was that I feared a slippery slope." The band attempted to fix its concerns with the record during the mastering process with Bob Ludwig at his studio in Portland, Maine. Novoselic was pleased with the results, but Cobain still did not feel the sound was perfect.

If you’re keeping score, that’s Novoselic: 1 / Cobain: nil, in the Better Judgement Cup. Like Bob Dylan’s off-putting disappointment with Daniel Lanois’ production on Time Out of Mind, it just goes to show that good albums are not necessarily the product of mastermind auteurs.

6. Gowan: Moonlight Desires

Moonlight Desires was an afterschool video favorite of mine, though for the music, not especially the video, the imagery of which I remember being of the pianos and pyramids variety. More precisely: the slow-motion owl, ancient ruins rock-mystic, windswept-hair-and-loose-white-garments, sunspots-not-“moonlight”, helicopter fly-over, multiple-overlay-montage, four-elements-represented, tug-on-invisible-binding-cords, full-on high-80s video treatment. A pungent cocktail.

All that and it was the music that got me! I confess to still liking it a lot, particularly the transition to the chorus and just the repeated chorus chord progression at the end, the only sore spots being the obligatory prog bridge in the middle, all two seconds of it, and the way the noodling electric guitar in the verse is so faintly, orthodoxly present. But I love that cluster of melody and counter-melodies at the end, even now that I’m a little less intoxicated by it, a little more able to see a certain clumsiness in it. It’s like one bar of hook and three bars of hanging in there with the harmony, right in the melody’s range; the other line is four descending tones, the last one momentarily a non-chord tone (you might expect more rigorous counterpoint from a guy with a Royal Conservatory badge). But anyway, it came out nice. At least, the idea of lots gets through. And it’s the kind of thing that always haunted me long after I’d listened to it - melodic variations that multiplied in the imagination over a simple chord figure, as repeatable, as predestined, as the image of a Steinway amid Aztec stonemasonry.

Ben Ratliff and Nik Cohn on the White Album

Here’s an interesting little debate about the merits and demerits of the Beatles’ White Album, excerpted from a New York Times “popcast” (which means it’s audio) on the occasion of its re-release. Ben Ratliff interviews Nik Cohn, who panned the album in the Times when it came out. His criticisms make sense, from one point of view, but it’s Ratliff who says the most interesting things here - about Paul and about what the album meant to him as a kid growing up listening to it.

Broadcast News

Broadcast’s new “mini-album” with The Focus Group, Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age, is fantastic. And close behind is this almost too-hip interview in Wire in which they describe the album as ”a Hammer horror dream collage where Broadcast play the role of the guest band at the mansion drug party by night, and a science worshipping Eloi possessed by 3/4 rhythms by day, all headed by the Focus Group leader who lays down sonic laws that break through the corrective systems of timing and keys.” Partly, I just like this interview because their interests agree on several fronts with my own, and because I like that they seem to take their music fairly seriously, but it also confirms for me something I sense when I listen to their music: that they’re carrying on a certain strain of utopianism-through-sound that was inherent in the early electronic experiments of the 50s and 60s, something exactly contrary to “the dark/heavy/technical/masculine and lighter/pop/marketed stuff” that threatens its existence. That’s just a feeling I have; it doesn’t make me any more a fan of the above band photo (which should come with a works cited; I think I’m calling them on it, even if it’s tongue in cheek).

Here are a few little bits that I liked…

“I’m not interested in the bubble poster trip, ‘remember Woodstock’ idea of the sixties. What carries over for me is the idea of psychedelia as a door through to another way of thinking about sound and song. Not a world only reachable by hallucinogens but obtainable by questioning what we think is real and right, by challenging the conventions of form and temper. Bands like The United States Of America, White Noise, A To Austr and a recently discovered album for me, The Mesmerizing Eye, all use audio collage, clashes of sound that work more in the way the mind works, the way life works, extreme juxtapositions of memories and heavy traffic noise say, or reading emails and wasps coming through the window. But as well, I feel that in my own small way I am part of that psych band continuum, but in a make believe reality stemmed off to exist outside of the canon.”

“When I listen to, say, the Fading Yellow compilations I notice instantly there is very little in the way of female vocalists exploring the wonderland of words or nonsense with deeper meaning. That’s what makes these bands special, they represent for me a better sixties one without sexism or racism. It always seems as though music is ahead of political correctness or social thought. In the late eighties I was obsessed with the kitchen sink idea of the 60s, I felt umbilically connected with it because of my upbringing, it was the Britain I was born into, a Cathy Come Home England. I discovered psychedelia and it seemed to have self help properties that allowed me to let go of an immobilizing working class pride that was cementing a false identity into my psyche, stopping me from transforming.”

“Who is making those decisions?. Suddenly you’re not yourself, as though you’ve created another you, in the same way a cell divides, it’s like a creative biology or something. I wonder if when there are fewer people around you feel the need to divide more? It’s more of a compulsion than an artist decision.”

5. Eric’s Trip: My Chest Is Empty

I had two Eric’s Trip albums - Forever Again and Love Tara. I prefer Forever Again because it was the first one I had so I listened to it most, and because it’s a little more subdued than the other. They were pretty much my first brush with the lo-fi rock aesthetic (ah, the joy of whispery vocals over noisy guitar!), and this track, recorded “outside in Ron’s back yard at 4:30 in the morning”, struck me as having, calculated or not, all the romance that that kind of music was supposed to have. Papery drums, diegetic birds achirp, coarse panning, somebody’s sister up at the mic - the romance of making cheap albums. Plus, someone’s playing an incredibly ambitious (for 4:30) “walking” bass line here.

4. The Fall: Couldn’t Get Ahead

You don’t have to know anything about The Fall, its extensive back catalogue, and its everlasting frontman, Mark E. Smith, to love this song - their most popular song, I think. It sounds pretty furious but the lyrics are about some rather quotidian hardships - trying to get a beer, trying to pay rent, trying to get into the bathroom, trying to catch a bus. When I finally figured that out, I liked the song even more. There’s something really comical - and maybe, in a weird punk way, holy - about being so easily and disproportionately frustrated, so unequal to even the petty vexations life puts in your path.

New Aphex Twin album this year?

This is not new news (it’s from March) but with about four months left in 2009, it’s exciting that, as the founder of Warp records says in this BBC story, “We’re definitely going to be putting out a new album by [Aphex Twin]. Hopefully it will be this year, if I can prise it out of his hands. It’s definitely on its way.” He might be getting ahead of himself there a little, trying to anticipate a known eccentric. Unless he’s doing it precisely to give the guy a kick in the ass. Who knows? But I can’t wait to hear whatever it is he’s been working on. No clues from the Warp guy:

“I don’t know a single note or anything about it. It will be as much of a surprise to me as anyone else. Basically I find out what it sounds like when we go into the mastering room and he puts it - well how it used to be, he’ll put the DAT player in and there it’ll be - so that’s the first time I’ll hear it.”

I like that detail about the DAT. Mind you, he could bring it in on a wax cylinder and I’d believe there must be something he knows that the rest of us don’t about that medium’s fidelity.

Saint Passionate


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