Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Whew. Sad, sad fucking day. Molly Ivins died. And, honestly, it makes me depressed. It makes all of us who can't stand to watch this war go by another day and see our Dumbass Dubya (I FIRST learned that name for him from Molly, you gotta know) stammer, stutter and stumble his way through it. Ivins was the best watchdog we had.
A wealth of humor, wit and righteousness just left the building.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Why are the Beatles the fucking best band ever?
One of the hundreds of reasons has to be the John song, "Tomorrow Never Knows" (yes, I think that way. Even though it may say "Lennon/McCartney," that was a contractual thing. I always think of *who* *really* wrote the songs, cuz John and Paul were usually competitive and not collaborative. BUT, there would be no Beatles without their drive to outshine each other...in my humble opinion, that is...)
heh, and even after that lil' rant, I have to contradict myself. Paul, George and Ringo ALL have their hands in this one, and that is apparent when you hear it. At first, when I was experiencing the Beatles as a young kid, I always thought the "Indian-sounding" songs were George's and I didn't really get them. Now, I realize I was dead-wrong about it just being George who was so into Eastern culture and religion (they all got something out of it, it seemed. George was just the most affected). Also, I hear these songs now and think that they might be the most innovative, the most influential (well, just as much as everything they experimented with) of all their sounds and musical ideas. I always think that Chemical Brothers-style mainstream dance music owes a great deal to these early (1966, remember!) experiments that the Liverpudlians were giving to the world.
So, on Friday I was out with Fitzy and a good friend of his wanted to see the band, Gypsyfoot. I wasn't aware of them or their sound at all, but was up for whatevah. Their set was extremely varied, style and quality-wise, but they had me lovin' a spot-on version of the Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place." (I have been in a new-discovery-in-love phase with the Talking Heads for the last year or so. I went from not caring for them much at all, to LOVING them. It's fun!)
Then they came in for the kill: a showstopping, two-song stunner: "Tomorrow Never Knows," (complete with a didgeridoo!) followed by a "Taxman" bass intro. I, of course, thought they were gonna play the George song, right? Oh, but no! What's this? It's "The New Pollution" by Beck!! wtf. How goddamn cool is that? Breaking into the abstract, arty Beckian lyrics, the crowd goes wild. *Everyone* knows it, and they're all diggin' it. Dancing go-go dancer-style (cuz you must) singing the lyrics and grooving to the fantastic sax riffs, the kids at the show were grinning as foolishly as me! What a blast and what a fucking po-mo moment, man! Forgive the CSCL-ism, but it is what it is. I have NEVER heard a Beck cover at a show. Not til Friday night. I reckon it won't be the last (it better not be). But to see a Beck get covered at a show like that was a trip. Beck is someone I have been seeing in concert, consistently, since 1996. He was always the *most* modern, now thing you could see live (to me, at least). So, when you figure, yeah, the songs off Odelay *are* over 10 years old, and yeah, it's (awesome) fair game for covering, it's kind of a revelation. Almost a lil' sad (maybe cuz, yes, it does make me feel kinda old) but, overall makes me feel really proud of Beck and his influence and popularity. I always wanted the kids to shake their asses to that lil', scrawny, blues-lovin' Californian white boy.
I leave you with fun facts about My Favorite Song of the Moment:
Songfacts: "Tomorrow Never Knows"
The title came from an expression Ringo used. They chose it to take the edge off the heavy philosophical lyrics.
John Lennon: "My first psychedelic song."
This was inspired by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's book The Psychedelic Experience, which Lennon would read while tripping on LSD.
Lennon recorded himself reading from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, played it back while tripping on LSD, and wrote the song.
Each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. McCartney had the idea for using tape loops to create effects.
This was the first track recorded for the album yet the last on record.
This used 16 tape loops. Several people remember standing around the room holding pencils for the tape to loop around and back into the recording machine as the various sound effects and instrumentation were faded in and out.
The vocals were forced through a Leslie (revolving) speaker. Lennon desired the effect that the listener could hear the words but not hear him, like a group of Tibetan monks chanting on a mountain top.
Working titles were "Mark I" and "The Void."
There are 2 guitar solos on this - both were heavily processed.
Lennon asked producer George Martin to make his vocal sound like the Dali Lama.
Oasis gives a tribute to this in their song "Morning Glory" with the line "Walking to the sound of my favorite tune Tomorrow Never Knows what it doesn't know too soon." Oasis is well know for their similarity to the Beatles.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
FINALLY saw "Dreamgirls" today and it did me right. Beyonce is a stunner, people are giving her shit, but the casting is spot on (there are times when she looks and sounds a helluva lot like Miss Diana--albeit much more beautiful and talented).
And Jennifer Hudson NAILS it. She really deserves the awards and the praise because she has the talent and she is a fucking *natural* (American Idol "reject"!?) She is sassy, magnetic and spectacular on the big screen and she brings the goods: singing the powerhouse "And I Am Telling You" she gave me chills and made me (and my papa) blubber like lil' babes. Whew. Hard shoes to fill...Jennifer Holiday's legendary performance of it (if you have 6 minutes, it's worth looking up on YouTube) is usually thought to be untouchable, but Hudson makes it her own and *delivers*. I never knew the story of "Dreamgirls" (very close to the real story of the Supremes) and seeing the Jennifer number in its context-- a crazy mix of desperation and assertion of strength and control-- really made it that much more powerful and affecting. That is some heavy, raw, emotive shit for the big screen...I am telling you.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
but, I've been listening to the Smiths a fair amount. Usually incongruous, right?
(maybe it's cuz I'm *supposed* to be blue. see blog entry from exactly a year ago.)
At times, with those lyrics of depression and longing, I feel like I must have the sensibilities of a dour adolescent boy (specifically of the 1980s and British--let's get specific....ok, let's get re-dick: a young, gay boy from bloody MANCHESTAH. there. I said it.)
It's those infectious, haunting melodies. It's Johnny Marr's brilliant, killer, challenging (to the lyrics, at times) guitar sound. It's that sound that can change from almost rock-a-billy (I wanna dance like I'm at the fucking sock hop) to slow, down-tempo stories of yearning). And of course, it's the persona and mystery of Morrissey that draws me in. His utterly unique vocal delivery, the smoothness and effortlessness of it all--it's languid. And the songs are just so strong... That crazy upbeat tempo and perfect melody in "William, It Was Really Nothing" slays me every time I hear it.
Ah, those lyrics. The dark themes from the Smiths that once prompted me to say, "I hate Morrissey because he's responsible for emo." (And no, I didn't even know of the Ween song at the time). I've always had a mixed relationship with the Smiths' music. One minute it sounds divine: perfectly constructed pop. The next, I'm fixated on the moroseness of Morrissey and wonder when he will let up with the doom and gloom.
(I know very little about him, but the random things I do know paint an enigmatic portrait. I know he's super pro animal rights and has been a vegetarian for FOREVER. I always resented this a bit, cuz I thought it was also he who had a hand in the whole pasty-white-boy-vegan-shoe-gazer lot that I wanna smash up). And I know that he always avoided the gay question...telling the press that he was either asexual or celibate or both. I always thought this is why Michael Stipe was the way he was...)
I can feel moved and turned off in the same fucking song. A well-known example is their (almost 7-minute) single "How Soon Is Now?" The reverberating guitar is bold and ominous, and then you have the pompadoured singer crying out, "I am human and I need to be loved/ Just like everyone else does." Going to the club, because there might be someone there who "really loves you" but then "you leave on your own and you go home and cry and you want to die." THIS is what people can find laughable...and I do, sometimes. And then, at other times I can hear it and it's just brutally honest and matter-of-fact. And I love that.
Morrissey has a strange way of addressing love and desire...there's psychosexual themes of relationships (or imagined ones)he explores so well...(I always assumed were from a gay man's POV)...Gotta love the lyrics in "Handsome Devil":
I crack the whip
and you skip
but you deserve it
The Smiths' music is the basis of a lot of music I adore...but it also spawned the emo ilk. Ah, such is the harsh mistress of pop music.
“24” has its hooks in me. Thanks to Fitzy’s love for it, he is primarily responsible for getting me into this season. That, and the evil/wonderful DVR he has at his place. It’s no wonder such popular and critical sensation! It’s riveting, unpredictable, and frighteningly real (in the sense of what *could* happen…someday).
Politically, it’s a doozey, too. It’s on Fox, and of course the monitors in the background of CTU are switched on Fox news—which we see exploiting images of bloody victims of acts of terror. (imagine what Fox news would do if the 9/11 horrors parlayed into nuclear bombs exploding in Los Angeles. That’s right—see as the mushroom cloud blossoms in the fucking Valley.)
I’m tot addicted and I have a feeling I am going to become a loyal watcher from now on. This shit excites! It’s so well executed and the concept makes it feel like a 24-hour FILM, not a television show.
Oh, and Wayne Palmer (actor DB Woodside plays it perfectly, with gravitas that our Dubya couldn’t muster in his dreams) has a mighty *desirable* presence. And there's a total RFK vibe, too. Very inspiring. Very sexy man. It works for me.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Arctic Monkeys record in haunted studio
Alex Turner says recording sessions feature 'Elsie'
The London studio where Arctic Monkeys are recording their new album is haunted, according to the band.Alex Turner told Rolling Stone that Miloco Studios is inhabited by the spirit of a girl.Turner said: "It's said that a young girl, 'Elsie', haunts the chamber, and unexplained faint whispers have appeared on recordings in the past."'D Is For Dangerous' and 'Fluorescent Adolescent' are among the the new songs the band have recorded for the follow up to their 2006 LP 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'.The as-yet-untitled album is set to be released in May, and Turner says it will not be a huge stylistic departure from their debut.He explained: "There's also a bit of organ on there, but nothing to worry about."
And, gotta dig this headline:
Arctic Monekys to play biggest ever gig
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Is there any relevance to knowing that the brilliant and beautiful frontman, Kele Okereke, of Bloc Party is gay? (J Mo gave me the scoop, and I just read the fantastically written UK Guardian's interview with him, where he reveals more about himself than evr before.)
The answer is yes!
It was so intriguing to read about Kele, and learn some of his story, finally. He's 25 (!...I always get off a little more when public figures are exactly my age. I feel that I can understand where they're coming from, I can relate to at least that one thing). Kele "grew up in Essex but was born in Liverpool, to Nigerians who came to the city in the late-Seventies to study. Mum is a midwife, Dad a molecular biologist." .........no words..........just stunning. What a fucking unique perspective for the songwriter of a rock band. I mean, really: Liverpool by way of Nigeria!? But, as he says, he doesn't seem to claim anywhere as "home," really. There's also intelligent, thoughtful talk of race, drugs, religion and of course, his sexuality, which he wisely chose not to discuss until he felt ready. Since he more specifically discusses sex on the most recent Bloc Party record, "A Weekend in the City" (*this is the album, along with "Village Green" that I just can't stop listening to, of late... it's raw, yet carefully constructed intensely emotive-but so not emo-rock and the killer riffs, manic drumming and brilliant build-ups are addictive...let alone the deep, layered lyrics...*) he thought it was *relevant* to discuss it now. I think he's right.
I absolutely love this bit and what he has to say:
"... just as he hated being reduced to 'black guy in indie band', he refused to be drawn either way on his sexuality.
'I didn't talk about it when I did interviews for the last record because it wasn't an area really reflected in the music; I didn't talk about race for the same reason. Why was that still a discussion point? The only reason it was a discussion point was because of the racial prejudice that exists in the mainstream media.'
But A Weekend in the City is a record full of intriguing lyrics and scenarios. Two songs, 'I Still Remember' and 'Kreuzberg', seem to explicitly explore homosexuality. The former is about a crush between two schoolboys ('We left our trousers by the canal'). The latter is about gay promiscuity. So has Okereke decided to talk about his sexuality?
'I think I'm going to have to. With the first album I didn't think it was essential to the experience. I didn't want to have to talk about it in a tabloid way. It wasn't there in the songs, so why did people need to know? But yeah, there are songs on this record that do feel like they're about desire, longing. So yeah,' he concludes, 'I am gonna talk about that.'"
Their website featured a manifesto ('Bloc Party is an autonomous unit of un-extraordinary kids reared on pop culture between the years of 1976 and the present day ...') and quoted from Bertrand Russell. They wore their pretension heavily, and in their interviews often came across as intense and glum. As Liam Gallagher hilariously observed, they looked like a University Challenge team.
They are the "clever ones;" and I love them for it. (I equally love Oasis for being non-clever and full of swagger, tot.) After reading the interview, I realized why I wanted to put The Smiths' records on (he did too!)...there's a connection, an inspiration: he says, "There's no worse sin as an artist than hiding behind cliches and abstraction. If you have something to say, it should be able to be understood by everyone. So I wanted to make sure this album had a real centre."...that just hits me so hard. This is why I love pop music with intelligible, story-telling lyrics so much. I think that it really reaches people, touches them.
I feel so lucky that I get to put this record on everyday, because it doesn't even hit British audiences until Feb. 5th...legally...yeah. [the writer giggles mischievously] It feels like an important record...a timepiece, for sure. There's "Hunting for Witches," which is, of course, applicable to the the paranoia the world is experiencing in war time. This different kind of war time, one where "enemies" may be among us. (Just *listen to Dumbass Dubya, or simply watch "24," dude.) But, the phrase "hunting for witches" is as ancient as the Salem acts of religious, cultural sexism, and just as applicable for reference to McCarthyism and the Cold War-era...which gives a much broader scope to what Kele is addressing. And, clearly, the "City" that the quasi-concept album is about is London, yes, but virtually everything he sings about is relevant to urban living in modern times...(and it's a helluva lot more urgent and germane than Bob Dylan's record--of the same name-- that's getting so drooled over...)
Damn, I love this guy.
Monday, January 08, 2007
The Kinks have been extremely comforting and I'm reading like the dickens. These are the pluses of missing numerous days of work and wallowing in my pad like the sicky I am. I finished Diablo Cody's tales of taking her clothes off in Minneapolis quickly and it was a fantastic read. Now I'm re-reading (for the first time, it seems. do you know what I mean?) The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and a book of Charles Bukowski's poems.
A few weeks ago, James and I got sucker-punched by the documentary about Bukowski, "Born Into This." It was phenomenal. Really well done, incorporating oodles of words and poems from the man himself and paints the picture of what a sad, complicated fucked up individual he was. A brilliant, tough, deeply flawed alcoholic, he comes across as acutely aware of his faults. And he is a total inspiration to me, as a writer.
His brutal and candid portrayals of his illness, his joy, his women, his despair...it's so rough and beautiful at the same time. It's like he strips away all pretense and bullshit and gets "right to the bone, to the marrow of the bone" as Bono says (amazing interview with the U2 frontman in the doc). Bukowski talks about how his father's beatings made him a good writer and it's not a syrupy answer, it's plain: after you gotten beaten that much, you learn to say what you mean. Whew.
Thanks to my co-worker, Tim, and the doc I am more rabid for a writer's work than I have been in a long time. I definitely think that I was made to discover him at this point in my life, cuz I don't think I was ready for him until now.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
...forgive the weirdness and out of time-ness of it...
This morning was one of the most difficult times getting myself motivated to get up and go to work in recent memory. Obviously due to the reality-hangover of the post New Year's Eve three-day-weekend, but also due to the freezing cold winter we actually have to face now and the fact that I knew I could be late to work today (no one else would be here, I predicted. I was right, hence me writing at this hour.)
(it was 9 am, then)
what saved me... iPod on shuffle:
"Boys of Summer"- Don Henley. I fucking loved this song when I was wee. And I mean wee--I was four (damn) when that black and white video hit my eyes... before I knew I didn't like the Eagles. Before I knew what a prick Don Henley was, before I even knew what the hell a "Deadhead sticker" was even doing on a Cadillac.
"My Flash On You" - Love. I (again) marveled at how raw and garage they sounded for naming themselves Love and coming from the Bay Area. When Jeremy first tried to turn me on to them, I blurted out: it sounds like a Broadway musical! Poor Jeremy had to endure mocking from Ronan cuz of me, I was just told. Apparently every time Jeremy played or talked about Love, Ronan would belt out, "Guys and Dolls! We're just a buncha crazy Guys and Dolls!" Sorry bout that, J Dog. Now, I really don't think that holds...but sometimes Mr Lee goes for the melodrama...
Speaking of the muthafuckin', blessed, mythical Bay Area (my fam is from there and I have always idealized the hell out of it) the next song that officially changed my mood was "Radio," by Rancid. I got chills and a silly grin on my face and felt all fuzzy and nostalgic. I realized that I when I first got into Rancid, I was 14 years old and didn't even know what Clash song "Magnificent Seven" was, let alone get the reference that Tim Armstrong (Clash fan #1) made in the song. The song is one of many about being a Berkeley street kid, living at the Salvation Army and having music as a savior: "when I got the music/ I got a place to go," he slurs and he means it. Rancid meant the world to me when I was 14. My intro to punk, my release, my connection to something raw and simple and youthful. (it wasn't Bruce Springsteen; my dad didn't really dig it--although he took me to see 'em at First Ave, cuz no one I knew would go with me... and he really enjoyed himself!)
Next, came Dylan's story of the "Hurricane." My first thought was: I can never get enough of this song. Ever. I love it. My second thought was: I hope I get to work by the time this song ends, because if I don't, I will be really fucking late. It's a long one.
Then, a super-summer song to counter today's chill: "Girl" off Guero, by Beck. All about a serial killer (summer fun!) it's eerie in a crazy catchy surf, 60s slick pop way. Y'know, like *only* Beck can get away with.
A new one (for me) Lily Allen, "Alfie," talkin' bout how her bro won't get laid cuz he's holed up in his room, smokin' weed and playing computer games. OK, why didn't anyone tell me that she was the solo, female version of the Arctic Monkeys?? That said, their music has nothing in common (except bits and hints of reggae and dance hall)...but it's her delivery (the female Alex Turner) with a white-Brit hip hop flow and narrative, novel lyrics about being 19 or 21 years old.
I first read about her in the NME, but finally heard her on the Current and that disarming, brilliant chorus of the break-up song, "Smile," ("At first, when I see you cry, it makes me smile/At worst, I feel bad for a while/but then I just smile") It was both "Knock 'Em Out," and "Not Big" that sealed the deal about the Arctic connection. The songs are about young-adult-disillusionment..about how she never came with an ex who was "rubbish in bed"...about the "pimp and his crack whore" that punctuate her tour by bike throughout the underbelly of her city. "Friday Night" exposes the angst and bitchiness of women to women at the club: "Look me up and down, I don't make a sound/ There's a lesson to be learned, if you're gonna play with fire, you're gonna get burned." You get the idea. Good for the kids. And the 25-year-old chick that laps it up in Minneapolis...
Her voice has a sweetness (at times sounding like Nina from the Cardigans) that slaps you with swears and cynical thoughts about her neurosis--actually perfectly common feelings of frustration and anger that us young ladies experience all the time... I'm into her.