This week's Critic's Notebook, "Dude Raunch," which suggests that you see Devin the Dude this Wednesday at Rothko.
This incredible New York weather is free, and so is "Galang," at iTunes, for now. (Track not co-produced by Diplo, though. This track was way pre-Diplo.)
Keith Harris points out another assed-out aspect of the copy-protected, chintzy advance scheme: "The one that really pissed me off was when Showtime was copy-protected. I mean, the ONLY reason anyone knew Dizzee in the U.S. was because of filesharing."
Interesting thread over at the equally free ILM on my EMP comments. Some solid objections to my schema (good comment far down about the difference between a collective black response to minstrelsy in 1830 and the same in 2005), but I want to make two points, one weak and one not: 1) This piece was designed to spur roundtable discussion (which I wasn't there for), not as a stand-alone essay (which is not a bid for a get-out-of-thinking card, just a frame); and 2) the biggest internet dud of all time is "This shit has been covered." Maybe for you and your three friends, but not for a whole lot of intelligent people who are busy thinking about other things. And—please put this on your refrigerator if you give a shit about these things–I am not writing for your three interfriends, nor will I ever. These ideas want to circulate in the big, bad bloodstream and will, I think, read as news to many people. Ned Sublette's infinitely superior paper on New Orleans is a perfect example—it would literally start fistifghts in public schools. Turn your computer off, get in a car, drive across the country and tell me, when you reach the opposite coast, what you think is and isn't "old news." Civil War isn't even over, for heck's sake. Ask David Banner.
As for Ui sucking, have you listened to Answers recently? Jesus, we wuz robbed. Put up the reunion and we'll take on any baby band of choice: name the time and place. We killed ourselves by not touring but Christ I love that record.
Unless something logistical intervenes—and it may well—I will be one of the "guests" at this event next Tuesday, a celebration of a new issue of The Hat. (Awkward way of dealing with two "the"s.)
That's a bit overheated. I'm just giving you the new Fab and Julez track, which was probably on Lemon-Red in 1995. I've got things to do. I can't check everything. But it's good, though it certainly doesn't tweak my romance bone. "Yup, yup"—it's great, but still. I've got the Boredoms in my head still and that was the sound of love. No joke.
Ha ha, earthling, you think you "jam." Bow down. OK. Just shut it and lay supine before the sunburst of the Boredoms and do not ever bring up magick, drum & bass, "tribal music" or church bass pedals again, because these topics have beeen COVERED.
Some solidarity from Eric Steuer at Wired, who says "Wired will no longer review records that we don't have actual copies of." He sends a link to more reporting on the real e-paths, and why labels need to get off critics' backs. Like we even have the time to think up this Blade Runner shit. Please—we're on the phone, waiting for you tell us if Cam'ron said "smokey nosey" or "smoke of nosegay."
My plenary comments from EMP 2005 are up. (I did not deliver them. Alaska Airways is the worst airline ever, and my plane from San Diego to Seattle left three hours late. I made it to Seattle about ten minutes after the opening plenary ended; Eric Weisbard kindly delivered an earlier, shorter draft of these comments in my stead.)
PS: Let me be clear—if this piece feels like some kind of "calling people out" routine, you've got the wrong end of the stick. I would gladly include myself or Ui in the representative sample I am using Shadow and Diplo to outline, except for two things: 1) I've DJ'd less than ten times in my life; and 2) not very many people bought Ui records. We weren't part of the popular conversation, so it would be silly to insert me or Ui just to sound "honest." But if you insist on reading guilt into this formulation (which is not its intent in any way, shape or form—pop isn't like that), then please make me more guilty than anyone.
We like to think we do not lack perspective. So now that we have confirmed that the author of the below is not stalking us or going secretly postal, we can admit publicly that this is both wicked funny and almost entirely accurate. Erratum: I have ten desks. The last one is for signing baseballs.
Piotr Orlov sent us the link to this Mastermix website, which is orgasmically great and self-explanatory.
Jin is retiring, which is weird enough that we like it. So while you're making your Best of Jin CDR, and getting nostalgic for, like, three months ago, don't forget to include "Jin The MC Freestyle," his take on Nas's "Bridging The Gap," from E.Nyce's Nothing But Freestyles. Jin's Dad rhymes on it, and his life is more interesting than Olu Dara's, at least for the length of this song: "I was born in China, moved to the USA, opened up a restaurant. I worked there every day. Then I had a son, Jin in his name. Now he's an MC, one of the best in the game."
I was going to say this in some assy, overheated way, but I dropped that idea. (Re-reading it, I see that I do get a bit assy. Well.) Many of the people involved in the procedure I am about to rail against are only acting at the retarded behest of retards who pay them; the different players are working with differing levels of agency. This is not to say that anyone in this story is innocent; that this is a lemming-like movement, where the many are unwittingly reinforcing one bad idea by simply not dissenting, is no excuse. What will you say when they come for your friend, etc?
So I represent nobody but myself when I say this: I will not write about any piece of music unless I have unlimited access to a portable version of it, renderered in either the CD, MP3 or vinyl format. I have broken this private rule a few times, when I cared especially for the artist, and I think those were stupid, weak lapses. No more.
Artists spend a lot of time making albums, and in most cases, critics get advances copies of these albums months or weeks before they become commercially available. This lead time gives critics time to think and write and file their pieces for publication. It's a system that, give or take some postal delinquency, works, because it helps a critic to mimic the experience most consumers have with popular music: listening to it repeatedly, wherever and whenever, figuring it out and filtering it through other music and the shit in one's life, over time. Advances are good, and every critic who gets them should be thankful that publicists and labels send them out.
But there are some albums, including almost all hip-hop releases, that don't go through this advance process. In these cases, even though the artist in question has usually spent months working on the album, the label of issue will demand that music critics—most of whom get paid poorly and have to write lots of reviews at once—sit in a room with other critics and listen to the album, once or at most twice, usually at a time not of the critic's choosing (and not at a volume of their choosing either). The fear driving this arrangement is that critics in possesion of advance CDs will light the bonfire of MP3 bootlegging. "Give these bastards the goods and the music will be all over Kazaa and Acquisition in minutes!" Driven by this faulty logic, labels create a situation which does not resemble ANYBODY'S experience of listening to recordings and forces the people constructing the historical record to accept this situation in order to do their jobs.
No cigar. 50 Cent was all over the P2P networks for weeks before The Massacre dropped and he's already done five million. Coldplay will move their four million with or without P2P. Why? Because people want the record. The marginal loss of sales to downloading—already disproven by one study—would not even kick in for in-demand artists, because the fans and curious tourists will want the CD no matter what's on the web (sometimes because the web is simply not their thing [see: age curve]). With another kind of album—those that nobody wants or knows they want yet—the "harm" of downloading is equally irrelevant, though for a different reason: any barriers to a less-desired album's dissemination only further dissolves an already shallow bond between the artist and their potential audience. Listening session for Frou Frou? Fuck that, says the editor. (I happen to love Frou Frou/I. Heap, but I don't know a single editor who would go to the wall for them/her.)
And do you know who leaks records? Artists, usually, and engineers and young publicists and all kinds of people who will be in the supply chain no matter what happens with critics. Blaming critics and accusing them of disloyal file-trading and pinning the decline in sales on their overworked asses is like blaming the declining economy on auto workers who are being paid to make cars nobody wants. And, the day after release, the music will be all over the internet anyway. The critic's potential threat disappears at that moment. Again, 50 Cent: still barrelled ahead, as did Norah and Three Doors Down and Conor Oberst.
This "listening session" nonsense hurts everybody—readers, critics and artists. Don't do it. Tell Memphis Bleek and Coldplay and everyone to shove their listening sessions and send out proper advances. If every publication did it, the labels would drop the practice in a week. The critic simply wants to think hard and do justice to the music and the reader.
So just say no. The Oxford Collapse will happily send you an advance today. And that album is worth writing about.
[Group toothbrushing, modeling hygiene for men.]
"Dad, cool. Your toothbrush comes apart."
"Do you know that we are just God's dreams? God is dreaming of you brushing your teeth and God is dreaming of me looking in the mirror. That's just it. He is dreaming of a lot of other people brushing their teeth, too."
I don't mention pieces other people have published in The New Yorker and that's fucked up. I have to get over whatever that hang-up is. In that spirit, I recommend a poem by Sharon Olds on page 77 of this week's issue called "Her Creed." It isn't as metrically tight or sonic as I like my poetry, but I love how it deals with parenthood and death with a minimum of sentiment and without a single predictable sentence. What preferences I've heard from my poet friends lead to me to believe I am not "supposed to" like Olds, but fuck that shit. I think she rules (when she rules, which is very often when her kids are involved). There was also a great poem by Galway Kinnell, about his son, a few weeks ago. Maybe these things are linkable. I don't know.
The magazine has introduced a weekly feature called "Critic's Notebook" in the Goings On About Town section. This week, I use my slot to encourage everyone in the area to go see We Jam Econo at Lincoln Center tomorrow night. The first five minutes are the saddest five minutes of any music movie I've ever seen.
And in the category of getting over things, or not acting cool, I cannot lie: Being one of the three or four people who "played" during "Anthrax" at the Gang of Four's Tribeca Grand show (Gill held the guitar out to us during the second noise break, democratically) was one of those Chewbacca's-phone-number/Prince-teaches-me-"Let's Work"/seeing-Reggie-Jackson-style dream moments. I don't care if he was tired and did it out of exhaustion, or if there is something inherently icky about thinking you have something to do with something you have nothing to do with—I am never washing those fingertips. (Note to self: Find other way to remember this moment.)
Incredibly sorry to hear about Kylie. May she beat this disease as swiftly and decisively as she beats her competition.
A weekend quote from our junior in-house staff writer. (This one was extreme enough that we had to ask, "Where did this come from?" "It was just in my head," he said.)
"Henri Matisse is dead, but thank goodness the UPS man isn't."
I don't dream often, and if I do, I can't remember the details. Last night was different. I was living on an island where the ambient light was entirely dark but still illuminated everything. I was standing in a house with framed moustaches hanging on the walls. Someone said "Bush has invaded Cuba." I looked out at the window and saw planes heading across the bay, which was moonlit—I suppose that's what the whole island was. A few seconds later, I saw the power station on the horizon go up in a mushroom cloud. Cuba had retaliated. (It was a fast-paced dream.) The whole island shook and all of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I went outside and people without handbags were turning into ash. Anyone who could wave money in the air had a big red flower growing out of their head. A huge limousine full of Asian kids in prom gear swooped down the street, unharmed, full of laughs and raised glasses.
When I woke up, I actually checked Google News to make sure it hadn't happened.
I didn't expect to see my favoritest band ever, twice, and to get physically involved in "Anthrax" once. Nothing much to say, except I started casting the biopic:
Clive Owen: Jon King
Edward Norton, Jr: Dave Allen
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Hugo Burnham.
I can't really figure out Gill. Comeback role for William Hurt? Dunno.
Here's Jack Alou on Megadeth:
"Yeah, Mustaine's voice is a mosquito chainsaw. But the first two deth albums (underrepresented on the greatest-hits you've got) are packed with riffs and moshable beats, which were what counted back then - not caring about the singer was what set the street-level stuff apart from the people who followed Metallica; eventually, death & black metal decided that actually we oughta have vocals that immediately set up a barrier between the music & broader acclaim. This strategy wasn't entirely effective, as the emo/metalcore yowl has made signifigant inroads into the mainstream, but it bought the subculture - whose subcultural identity was (I say this without derision; I think this is a valid thing, not a "caught you!" thing) a big part of its appeal - some time.
Also, they fucking shredded live, which counted for a great deal in the heady days of thrash; people bought the records to learn the words, the show was the thing."
Megadeth's Back To The Start greatest hits record: I am late to this party and no kind of expert, but isn't the singing the problem? A completely insurmountable problem? There are some moments of half-time-with-riff action that almost stand up to the Hetfield Corporation, but good God. When someone eventually asks "Who do you find it actually, empirically hard to listen to?" I will say "Dave Mustaine" with no hesitation.
The Concretes' Layourbattleaxedown: a minor record that uses the minor concept of B-sides and leftovers to expose some heft I didn't know the band had. As Nordically sun-deprived as these slow songs are, their aggregation somehow improves everyone's game. I was NOT in the mood for this record, which promptly ignored me and proceeded to put me into the mood to hear it again, right away.
Son Volt's forthcoming Okemah and the Melody of Riot: Again, not an expert, though I am more familiar with Son Volt than with Megadeth. But I don't know enough: have Son Volt records always sounded so much like R.E.M.'s Reckoning? Whether or not the the answer is yes, I don't think I've ever heard a record that sounds, in a very good way, so much like a sequel to Reckoning.
Up now, "Singles Going Steady," a Pop Note feature that will appear irregularly. This time: Missy, Annie and Kelly Clarkson.
Some friends, inter-friends and fellow critics have been dismissive about both this song and Conor's decision to play it. Having watched it twice, I think a) this song is better than I originally thought it was; and b) it is not weak beer to go on TV right now and sing this song. Note also that the crowd is, at least audibly, unanimous. I expected isolated boos. I was also surprised that Leno seems comfortable after Conor's played the song. It didn't feel culturally minor.
"What is an improvisation?"
"When you sort of make up what you are doing as you go."
"Is my life an improvisation?"
[Days, nights, meals, trips. Sunshine.]
"Does money cost money?"
Can't do anything but direct traffic on this one. Ben sent me an MP3, and, after my head had been re-assembled, I asked where it came from. He said, "Here." Man oh man, do I wish I'd gotten there first.
Oliver Braun (and your mob)—you need to speak to your volks and get them to wagen like you.
(This is a photo of an untitled relief print from 1999 by Christian Marclay, currently hanging at MoMA. You are sensing, by now, that I took a trip to the museum with my camera. I did. It was months ago. I don't know why I left them sitting there so long.)
Out goes "Slow Fade," a piece about Slint, and in comes "The Declaimers," a piece about The Mountain Goats and The Hold Steady. The print version of the magazine is always easier on the eyes than the online version, what with the Caslon Light and the pretty pictures. This axiom is more axiomatic than ever today. In fact, if you can lay your hands on the thing itself, I'd rather you didn't click on the link until you've seen a hard copy and the four photos that represent, in my admittedly compromised view, a minor but significant triumph.
Japanese maniacs imitating New York maniacs. Life has always been grand. It just used to take more time, and lots of tiny pieces of tape.
From the Complex and Complicit Department: Through iTunes, the Gang of Four have released the first of their upcoming re-recordings for V2, "To Hell With Poverty 2005." We couldn't object LESS to the cash-in: all you fucking PBR-swilling babymen with your eBay MP3s and nuthuggers owe these ninjas half your paycheck. And this, in America, is a perfect time to be hearing this song. What is the problem, then? At the end of the day, this whole racket will just get our boys more attention, more money and the original catalog will get another chance to spread its seed and receive its due. (Only a youngster could call them under-rated; everybody knew, just a few forgot, and everybody else got born or got older.) We like all that. So what is it?
This: The recordings were a perfect bridge between an historical moment and the physical world. What iTunes is selling now is just a really good song. (We think maybe King's voice is deeper than the song wants, but we're old and what do we know?) Really good songs were not on my mind when I heard Entertainment! and read, over and over, "The Indian smiles, he thinks that the cowboy is his friend. The cowboy smiles, he is glad the Indian is fooled. Now he can exploit him." I was thinking, "Who broke my brain?"
Out: "Mixed Blessings," about a mixtape called Got That Purp.
In: "Drablands," about Bruce Springsteen.
(Sung to the tune of the chorus of The Bee Gees' "Tragedy"):
"When the morning's up and the morning's up, you barbecue."
The tune needs drums, so I am practicing. I even have the right sticks now, and play as often as I can. But when, inevitably, I realize that I am just bringing the band down, I am not going to despair. I am going to hire this keyboard and this guy, and we will take it to the next level.