30 October 2006

Power of the 45

I hadn't realized it had been quite this long since I posted here. I think I'll be back this week with post-show postings from the James Hunter/Big Sandy and the Cramps shows. In the meantime...

Sales of 7" vinyl singles are up 500% from 5 years ago. What a warm fuzzy feeling that gives me.

Big Sandy & His Fly-Right Boys - Power of the 45

11 May 2006

Instant Replay

I was one of the unfortunates who didn't discover the Go-Betweens until sometime in 2003. I stumbled across some tracks from Bright Yellow Bright Orange on the now-defunct site epitonic.com* and fell in love with McLennan and Forster's honest song writing and delivery. Since then, I've wanted to see them live, and regret that I didn't do so during the last tour promoting the much-praised Oceans Apart. I can't remember why I didn't. With the sad news that Grant McLennan died this past Saturday, I'm wishing for my own instant replay...

With the Jetset issued version of Bright Yellow Bright Orange, apparently available only in some US stores and which I was fortunate to pick up, came a bonus disc with four tracks, including Instant Replay by Grant and Girl Lying on a Beach by Robert Forster, two of my favorite Go-Betweens songs of any. This is why I've discontinued my e-music.com subscription; I am unwilling to miss these wonderful surprises, and unwilling to forgo album art. The cover of Bright Yellow Bright Orange is so perfectly reflective of the content...light, sweet, direct (see "Listening" column to the right; it reminds me of one work by the copy shop artist modasfolk).

When I heard of Grant's passing on Monday, I felt as I did when I heard that Joe Strummer had gone. By all reports, Grant, like Joe, was a fantastic human being. Grant died suddenly and much too young, like Joe, both at a time when they were, in my opinion, producing some of their most interesting work. While Grant's songs were much more personal on the whole than Joe's social commentary, they moved me in a very similar way...there was something of Grant and Joe in their songs, something more intimate that reached me in a way that a lot of songwriters fail to achieve. The Brisbane gallery Inkahoots has posted a tribute on their website that includes the following passage, summing up Grant more beautifully than I could hope to:

Rarely his sentimentality would over-ripen a song, but mostly he could stun you with crystallised buried truth, deeper and more direct than nostalgia. He was a romantic in all the best senses of the word. And he could rock and he could roll with equal conviction.

Go-Betweens.net has posted a tribute to Grant, and the discussion board has more than 1000 personal memorials now, some from recognizable music names. Robert Forster has posted a lovely reply to these. As for me, Bright Yellow Bright Orange and Oceans Apart have been in constant rotation, and I've been doing something that I often do when thinking about Joe...wondering what Grant would approve of and mixing it in, or mixing in albums that have a sometimes unidentifiable similar quality. Today it's the Magnetic Fields' I and Edwyn Collins' Gorgeous George (on hometown label fave, BarNone)...

Post-script: Justin Cober-Lake, another recent fan and music writer at Popmatters, has posted a memorial worth visiting.

Post-post-script: The sad details emerge in a Village Voice piece by one of my favorite music writers, Robert Christgau.

*epitonic.com was one of my favorite sites for discovering new music; I loved it's "if you like this, you might like this" feature, and the streaming 'radio' was excellent. It is still online and you can still stream some good, obscure stuff, but the site hasn't been updated since sometime in 2004, when it was bought by Palm Pictures. Palm doesn't not response to any inquiries regarding epitonic's status, nor inquiries from those wanting to invest labor to resurrect it.

28 April 2006

Growin' Up

Grups: the moniker given by New York Magazine writer Adam Sternbergh to 30, 40, and (gasp!) 50-somethings who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old. From this "obituary for the generation gap": Being a Grup is about rejecting a hand-me-down model of adulthood that asks, or even necessitates, that you let go of everything that you ever felt passionate about. It's about reimagining adulthood as a period defined by promise, rather than compromise. Maybe there's hope for the parents that Ed Hamell (see post below) thinks are quick to put aside their passions. I, in part, find the labeling of this phenomenon kind of absurd. On the other hand, I feel like much less of a freak for introducing my kid to The National and being the oldest person at the Cordero show the other night...

Growin' Up, Bruce Springsteen

Coulter's Snatch

Ten reasons I love "string-punishing punk minstrel" Ed Hamell (aka Hamell on Trial):

  • Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs, his latest album, about which Ed says "I've seen a lot of resentful parents who put aside their passions" more here

  • The track Coulter's Snatch, which, according to Ed, must stink

  • "I love Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, the MC5" [so much so that he named his son Detroit]. "Folk singers bore me. Insincerity incites me."

  • "I'm trying to make the point that us left-wingers have to breed. There's too much breeding going on with the right."

  • "Eventually, Bush will be eating a child's heart on TV, and the Democrats will say, "Well, at least he won't eat two." So, I really don't have to care about the facts. I'm just enraged at this point."

  • Hamell says [the song Inquiring Minds] was inspired by the question that tortures every parent: How much about your youthful indiscretions should you share with your children, when they inevitably ask? "That was the conversation my wife and I had," Hamell says. "She said, 'I'm going to tell the truth. I made mistakes. This was not a good thing to do.' And I thought, 'I'm just going to lie.'"

  • The song "John Lennon", about a 1971 encounter with his hero ("Fuck off!" Lennon snapped). I can't help wonder what John would think of Ed at 51...

  • "I realized that the sonic structure of the acoustic guitar was broader than that of the electric guitar, so I could fill in where the bass and drums would be, all by myself." And then some...

  • When I saw Hamell on Trial for the first time live at the Joe Strummer tribute show at Irving Plaza in 2003, only he and Eugene Hutz approached the intensity worthy of Joe. Ed has not disappointed the two times I've seen him since. I can't believe I just missed him on the west coast...

  • Ed's one-man show is put together around a theme common in his songs. "The message," Hamell said, "is 'Love, and don't be a fucking dick."

  • Listen to Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs (including Coulter's Snatch) in its entirety

    Record Store

    Following a few weeks of mayhem, I've been spending a lot of time this week catching up on news and blogs and such. I ran across an homage to real record stores in the LA Times last month, which only partly laments the decline of indie shops but recognizes that the author, like me, may be part of a last generation who found our musical educations in these alternative bricks and mortar contexts. There are still a few left from my past - St. Mark's Place in Kearny, NJ; Tunes, Hoboken, NJ; Crazy Rhythm Records, Montclair, NJ; Bleeker Bob's, NYC. I was also surprised to find a number of good record shops left in Pittsburgh a few years ago. By contrast, I found a Wired interview in which indie store owners say that they are doing okay. In reading these pieces, I realized that since moving to Phoenix almost nine months ago, all of my purchases have been through the web, delivered either by mail or by download. I'm going to rectify that this weekend...I miss liner notes and album art.

    Record Store, Darren Hanlon
    Record Collector,
    The Planet Smashers
    Record Lady,
    Lyle Lovett

    Hmm, I was about to link to mp3s and online buying sites for these... Here are a few directories of indie record stores (they all return different results) instead:
    Coalition of Independent Music Stores
    Independent Record Store Directory
    Groove Guide

    27 April 2006

    I Wanna Hold Your Hand

    Recently, Jimmy posted a piece about a Jackie Leven-Ian Rankin collaboration. Today from the Guardian, another bit about "musician-author hookups." In particular, this is a fun and sweet piece about British DJs embracing the work of the English poet laureate John Betjeman, and Betjeman's own recording career with the Charisma label. Nick Cave is a huge fan and there are some sweet quotes by DJ John Lycett Green, Betjeman's grandson. The article closes with a list of mucisian-author hookups, from the Clash and Ginsberg (with a note about Ginsberg dancing to I Wanna Hold Your Hand), to Cobain and Burroughs.

    26 April 2006

    Helter Skelter

    Saw a great film this week about the record collector and fantastic character Joe Bussard. Desperate Man Blues documents Joe's unparalleled collection of 78s, amassed by knocking on doors and scouring basements in southwestern Virginia and neighboring areas. Joe, who hated Elvis and thinks the Beatles were crap, has some pretty strong opinions about what constitutes "real" jazz and blues (more or less nothing after 1940 is "real"). Still, he now has a myspace page...

    You can listen to the non-crap version of Helter Skelter by the Welch Brothers (and a bunch of other samples from Bussard's collection) on the Fonotone Records website, Joe's company and "the last 78 rpm record label in the land." Tivo caught Desperate Man Blues for me on one of the Encore channels, but I haven't seen it on any upcoming schedule, nor is it available through Netflix. If you're not up for buying a copy, this article is great read and you can listen to an All Things Considered piece on Joe.

    Bussard only half jokes about marrying his wife for her record collection, and he harbors a lot of disdain for the Library of Congress. The archivist in me couldn't help but wonder what will become of the priceless collection he's created, and through whom and how access will continue to be made available as Joe has done (not that he appears to be going anywhere anytime soon)...

    Come On Dear

    En Este Momento, the latest release by Cordero, has been in constant rotation in my CD players for a couple of weeks now. I caught them last night at the Rhythm Room after forcing myself to leave the house and I'm so glad I did. Sadly for the band but very good for me, the place was empty (which meant smoke-free), save for some underage kids there to see Koufax, in addition to me and another small group of fans who could shout out requests, which seemed to make Ani (Cordero) feel pretty good. The live show was a little rough around the edges, but in a good way...the way that makes you feel like you're in hangin' out in someone's living room with the band. Cordero, for me, is the perfect fusion of garage and punk with Latin rhythms...what Ani calls Georgiarican (she grew up in Atlanta and the band is based in Brooklyn). At the same time, they have something of a southwest sound a la Calexico and the Sadies. In addition to Ani's guitar, two of my favorite things about En Este Momento are the percussion and the trumpet. Live, the drummer was fantastic, playing at times with his maracas instead of sticks. The kid playing trumpet on tour turns out to be Frankie Lymon's nephew (man, my parents played a lot of the Teenagers when I was growing up)...he substituted keyboards for the trumpet in places where I think he just didn't have the range and that was a little disappointing. Still, I have no idea what this band is doing opening up for Koufax when they've been touring with Calexico, Ozomatli, Neko Case, and others (maybe I'm underestimating Koufax, but I tried to stick around only to take off two songs into their set). En Este Momento is infectious and one of my favorite purchases in a while.

    Come On Dear

    03 April 2006

    Color is a Beautiful Thing

    But is it ever reliable? "Colors are promiscuous...colors confound memory...colors resist systems...colors defeat language." The Washington Post has a wonderful but short piece on the unreliability of color, something that most take for shared reality. For anyone who has dealt with reproducing color for any purpose, the article summarizes the problems of perception and reproduction as they are confronted by both left-brained and right-brained individuals.

    Color is a Beautiful Thing, Nina Simone
    "Color is an I Ching chang/Fo' sho'/Ding dang!"

    30 March 2006


    or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Parse Error

    Regular readers (all three of you) will know that I uncreatively attempt to label each post with a song title. The above is, in fact, the title of a composition by PLOrk, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. Made up of fifteen laptop'ers, or laptopists, the group also features "PLOrkified" cellos, synthesizers, tablas, accordians, and various percussion in their performances. All of the pieces are written in a new music programming language called Chuck, created by a Princeton graduate student.

    You can listen here; I really liked Conflict, On the Floor, Non-Specific Gamelan Taiko Fusion Band, and Thunderbird Suite in Eb Minor. I found the abstracts of the individual pieces amsuing and the PLOrk biography is interesting, as are the photos of the assembly of and performances by the ensemble. Also follow the link to cool stuff about the soundlab at Princeton, which includes software and sound downloads.

    Here's a Guardian piece about PLOrk as well.