Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
So another half-psycho folk singer in the tradition of John Darnielle and Deer Tick, Paul Baribeau, is from my home town, and just released this CD as an ode to Grand Ledge. You can order it from Plan-It-X.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Of course it was ludicrous that charges were even brought against the St. Patrick's Day Seven. It was ludicrous that an acquittal was not reached in 35 nanoseconds. As defense attorney Greg Walta said in the Colorado Springs Gazette article, if safety from bottle throwers was an issue, in any other town, police would arrest the bottle thrower. Only in Colorado Springs would police arrest the marcher. And in an ignorant, bigoted town like Colorado Springs, we'll take a mistrial as the best we can get for now.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Aug. 21 represented a direct facedown of two red-headed chanteuses: Neko Case and New Pornographers (with fellow male redhead A.C. Newman) released a new CD the same day as Jenny Lewis and her band Rilo Kiley. NPs gets bonus points for this Letterman appearance Aug. 20, and the new "Challengers" album has lots of luscious high harmonies. Jenny, meanwhile, has filled RK's new "Black Light" CD with references to porn, maybe a bow to New Pornographers? Haven't heard her new Rilo Kiley outing, though it will be hard to beat 2005's stunning "More Adventurous" CD. All right, Neko and Jenny, come out of your respective corners, but watch out for that veteran red-head chanteuse -- Tori Amos may take you both on. Great times for a lover of glamorous redheads, in any event.
AUG. 22 CONCLUSION
Memo: New Pornographers w/Neko Case competes in Aug. 21 CD release date for BestBuy display space with Rilo Kiley w/Jenny Lewis. New Porns gets the best TV attention with a Letterman appearance, Rilo Kiley gets best photo spread in Blender and Filter. But Jenny Lewis may be disqualified for appearing as a brunette. Meanwhile, Architecture in Helsinki wishes they could exploit the redhead trump card.
TAKEAWAY: OK, New Porns takes the award for most advances, with some careful caveats. In particular, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley gets points for sheer audacity of style.
NEW PORNS - HEAVY THUMBS UP. I don't downgrade NPs' "Challengers" for being softer and folkier than "Twin Cinema," nor do I think it's a Carl Newman showcase. Hooks seem to be as plentiful in the new one as in the first three NP albums, and there's definitely some heavy Neko Case and Dan Bejar influence, and even some Kathryn Calder influence. Still, Carl is front and center on the vocals. It will take a couple more listens to decide my favorites, but it doesn't seem like the CD has any throwaway cuts. Now, I got the "Executive Edition" with B-sides, and the first two B-sides online sound a little throwaway, so maybe that's where the less-impressive songs ended up.
RILO KILEY -- THUMBS UP WITH AN ACQUIRED TASTE. Now, for Rilo Kiley's "Under the Black Light": Folks that don't like this CD were probably expecting a follow-on to 2005's "More Adventurous." Let's face it, that album had such complexity of lyrics and song arrangements, trying to outdo it directly would sound forced and strange. So Jenny and Blake didn't even try. Instead, this album sounds like an adoption of a variety of late-1970s styles, particularly disco and Fleetwood Mac, for a 21st century consciousness. Lyrics are not multi-dimensional ponderous in the "More Adventurous" style, if anything they're direct and simple and repetitive in classic 3-minute radio hooks. But this album is more adventurous in experimenting with styles, including vocal styles. Jenny tries these octave jumps in "Close Call," for example, that sound almost like yodeling. The song "15" sounds like country with Memphis horns thrown in, "Moneymaker" and a couple others are classic disco and funk, while the title track sounds like Aimee Mann or Susan Cowsill doing a Beatles-esque ballad. And as you've probably heard, Blake tries for a Fleetwood Mac sound in "Dream World." The end result is like a mini-version of "69 Love Songs", song styles are tried on like clothing. Some Rilo Kiley fans may rebel, but I think Jenny Lewis gets to become the female equivalent of Neil Young or David Bowie - shocking fans with conceptual style albums that sound nothing like the classic style.
And as far as 70s retro sounds go, Rilo Kiley is a lot more adventurous than Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Here's why you should care: the Denver Police Intelligence Bureau's scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s for reviving Red Squad-era dissident intelligence files, actually constituted precisely what former Attorney General John Ashcroft wanted local intelligence bureaus to do. And since Ashcroft asked the Joint Terrorism Task Forces to serve as liaisons for putting intelligence of questionable veracity into law-enforcement files, well, we can be sure this will escalate by a factor of ten now that Department of Homeland Security can gain access to intelligence from space. Don't look for FISA restrictions -- Congress has given Bush everything he wanted in FISA bypass, and then some. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Gin can make you do strange things, as elaborated in Stephen Merritt's wonderful song, 'Love is like a bottle of gin.' (69 Love Songs, Magnetic Fields). Ask Christopher Hitchens. He used to be the drunkard's favorite Trotskyist. In 2002, he suddenly decided he loved George Bush and neoconservatism, and became a leading spokeswhore for the Iraq invasion, still imbibing just as freely. Neocons did not return the favor, since his latest book says mean things about God. Anyway, the New York Times in its infinite wisdom (or maybe irony) chose Hitchens to review the last Harry Potter book, and the results are on the cover of the Aug. 12 New York Times Book Review.
Stay away from that Tanqueray 'n' Tonic, it'll kill ya.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
It's been five years since Dave Carter, America's Buddhist psychedelic-folk-music hero. died. I can't go to the Birthday Tribute scheduled for Jamaica Plain (Boston) on Aug. 11. But at least I just found a 2001 video performance from the Kennedy Center (crappy image, decent audio) which we can use to invoke friendly ghosts.
A close friend was upset with my characterization of the U.S. auto industry, particularly since I blamed its problems on both a bottom-up and top-down malaise. I pointed out that my former boss, Brian Fuller, does the same with the journalism industry in his excellent blog, Greeley's Ghost. This represents neither masochism nor a suicidal death wish for one's chosen profession. It's called tough love in the face of unprecedented change.
In the popular musical Fiddler on the Roof, protagonist Tevye must face each of his daughters' demands that he break with the Jewish tradition to accommodate changes in the "new" Russia. He bends and bends until he gets to Chava, telling her if she marries outside the faith, he cannot bend or he will break. She elopes.
In the 21st century, whether we are employed in auto manufacturing, chip manufacturing, or media and information services, we are being asked to bend and bend and bend again. Some would say this means "bend over," and would characterize each adaptation as submission. The problem is, typical bifurcations between boss and employee, or between ruling, middle, and working class, no longer apply. This is why the DailyKos' call for a blogger's union sounds so silly. There's so much self-employment in the new society, we end up oppressing ourselves.
Within a matter of years or even months, the industries we have spent our lives with may no longer exist. Just this week, a survey from Veronis Suhler Stevenson indicated online news advertising will eclipse newsprint advertising by 2011. This could mean that printed newspapers are gone before 2020, not by 2035 as pundits were saying only a few years ago. Those on manufacturing lines, whether in production of SUVs or DSPs, may find all available jobs moved to Asia before 2010. And in this case, fighting globalization is like the proverbial King Canute trying to hold back the ocean.
The grimmest aspect to the new reality harks back to the famous quote from Vietnam about having to "destroy the village in order to save it." Old models on manufacturing, information dissemination, etc. were clung to for so long, the old world may have to be utterly destroyed before a new one can take its place. Sure, that sounds Jacobin or even Pol-Potist, but let's look at journalism. No one wants to support serious information-gathering any more, everyone wants infotainment, so the sources of legitimate news may have to vanish before society swings back to seeking good information. You can make a similar argument for David Ricardo notions of "comparative advantage." If the society wants Wal-Mart-like lowest possible prices on everything, manufacturing goods that are safe to use may be impossible, even in China. But the manufacturing industry may have to utterly collapse before people decide that lower prices are not always best.
Kafka alluded in The Metamorphosis to maintaining the adaptability to cope with suddenly finding you were only an insect, dreaming you had been a human. That's where we're standing today. In our national affiliations, in our employment, in our personal relationships, we will have to bend and bend and bend again in adapting to the 21st century, kicking over traditions and assumptions one by one. If we choose, like Tevye, to say that we cannot bend any more or we will break, we will be left for dead in the snow. Of course, there's always the option of withdrawing completely from the society now in gestation. But involvement is always more fun. And that requires an adaptability that must become close to infinite.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Meanwhile, latest polls show that Hillary Clinton has moved far ahead of her contenders in the Democratic race. Hillary, the one whose "changes" of opinion on the war have all been superficial. Hillary, who is even better than her husband at triangulating every possible position, since she carries no deep-seated opinions of her own. Hillary, who thinks Rahm Emanuel is a great asset to the Democratic Party.
It's only August 2007, and I already could care less about the 2008 elections, even if it means the end of the Bush era. This country is run by two shades of the imperial class, and nothing can be done to change that.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I grew up in Michigan, and friends in the UAW kept asking me to be somewhat empathetic with a struggling, brain-dead industry. When Detroit failed to move into CAD software and environmentally-friendly cars in the 1980s, I lost hope. Sorry Flint, sorry Michael Moore, but screw the U.S. car industry. Nardelli will make sure that Chrysler goes down in as ugly a fashion as possible.
Over the Aug. 4 weekend, I was wondering if any media source was going to acknowledge the death of that strange and wonderful composer Lee Hazlewood. Good ol' Pitchfork Media came through with a really nice memorial. Shame on all you slowpokes!
Saturday, August 4, 2007
The State Department made an unusual demand for presidential candidates to avoid talking about foreign-policy hypotheticals, after Tancredo talked of bombing Muslim holy sites. Admittedly, State also was upset with Barack Obama for two reasons - his willingness to override Pakistan's borders in chasing al-Qaeda, and his willingness to go on the record about the non-use of nuclear weapons in pursuing terrorists. (Unlike Clinton, Edwards, and most other candidates, I agree wholeheartedly with Obama's decision to take nuclear weapons off the agenda from the get-go, and think other candidates should remove the ambiguities.) But what really raised State's ire was Tancredo.
This is the acid test for Coloradans in his district. It's time to speak out loud and clear against this Neanderthal racist turkey. Failure to do so means you acquiesce in all his statements, including his latest claptrap about bombing Mecca, Medina, and Qom.