Thursday, December 21, 2006

Awkward, stilted, and quasi-articulated reviews of various forms of media. . .

not quite finished, part 2 coming soon also. . .

Will Oldham and Rian Murphy: ALL MOST HEAVEN. 2000. This album is both very ridiculous and very good, so in a sense it’s ridiculously good. Here’s how I got into this album: Lee sends me some mpa’s, says “listen to this EP it’s good.” I throw it into itunes and go out. The next day I wake up and sit down for an afternoon session of grinding. I listened to this EP, no joke, 22 times in a row! Usually when multi-tabling it is easy to get lost and let the music go until you get to a song you hate, then you switch up. Since I had the Ricky Gervais show right after Rian, I immediately went back to the beginning. Seth Tisue, noted discographer of Jim O’Rourke, feels that the first song is the weakest of the four. When I reminded him of its existence, he noted its lukewarm reception to the masses, then agreed that the album was excellent – pinpointing the fact that it challenges one’s comprehension of the English language (ok, he didn’t say that – he just said “have you seen the lyrics?”). At first, you hear the lyrics and Oldham’s voice, which cracks and breaks in an extremely melodic way (think Alanis’s “All I Really Want” from Jagged Little Pill, but the total opposite) Then after the fifth or sixth listen, you realize you can’t piece together any meaning, as sentences trail off and words sound like real words, but you can’t understand them (I have been told I talk in my sleep in a similar manner – gibberish that sounds like my own personal, yet incomprehensible, language). When I looked up the lyrics, it turns out that a lot of words are not actually words, but they make the songs sound dramatic and extremely coherent. The back of the EP has a picture of Will and Rian in Baroque garb leg-wrestling. That sums it up more or less.

Yo La Tengo: And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-out. 2000. I am very close to giving up on this band. The first time I heard the album I thought it was a snooze, even the rock songs make me want to drift off. I can’t stop thinking, and this is probably semi-stupid from a critical standpoint, that I am listening to goofy They Might be Giants songs when I listen to this album. I just don’t like this group’s general vibe. I am not going to Frisbee it out my window Cranberries To the Faithful Departed style, but I just don’t get why everyone loves this band. If you feel passionate about Yo La Tengo, please leave a comment and help me understand. . .

“Road Hustler”: Jerry Forsythe. This book is essentially the memoirs of expert pool player, and one could say storyteller, Danny Diliberto. Here is what I got out of this book, besides a lot of entertainment: Hustling of any kind used to be a very dangerous and shady, and extremely difficult endeavor. It’s not like today where one can just play poker whenever and find some game one knows they can beat. There were guns, fights, narrow escapes, cons, etc. Once his friend heard a guy say if he won the next game he was going to shoot Danny, so after a five minute headstart by the friend to get the car, Danny excused himself to use the restroom, running right into the car and forfeiting profit. Danny hung out at a bar FOR A WEEK, just because he knew some guy was going to give him action on whether he could throw a golfball over a 110 yard-wide canal. Anyone that read my Eurotrip blog would realize I would lose a lot there. If that canal were in Amsterdam I might lose everything I owned. What seemed to characterize pool players was their collective casino degeneracy. It didn’t matter how smart or hard one was as a pool hustler – they all lost in casinos - could not resist house games – and that was ok. It was like a fact of life. Also, they were broke more than one would think. Even the best players/hustlers always seemed to be going broke (Lol, I just realized that it’s not that different from a lot of “famous” poker players.) I have yet to figure out the hierarchy of the nobility of the manner in which one loses money these days. I think I would honestly be happier about losing 30k if, say, someone hacked one of my accounts and chip-dumped than if I lost 30k playing high limit slots John Daly-style. . . I could easier rationalize a loss if I played with champs after having a few jack and cokes than if I just woke up sat down in a super-tough high-limit game. Gamblers are weird like that – not just poker players, but all gamblers. So, ultimately, this book would appeal as much to a poker player as it would a pool player, just as some say “The Hustler” is the best movie ever made about poker, even though it has about 4 seconds of poker footage.

Akron/Family: Meek Warrior. 2006. This is a tough album. It starts out like this: Remember the scene in the Royal Tenenbaums when Chas (Ben Stiller) stages a fire drill for his kids Uzi and Ari? The drums kick in and Chas is trying to lead the way. The drums kick in the same way at the beginning of this album, but they don’t stop – the guitar just keeps getting louder and louder and the drums keep going. . . . then the guys (who are very neo-hippyish, despite living in NYC and using lots of technology to produce their music) all start yelling “Blessing force!” over and over like a bunch of neo-hippies. That is the first half of the nine minute song. Then second half is formless noise that I skipped at some point for my first five listens. What made the first album so great was the acoustic guitar combined with mysteriously trippy/freaky/deep vocals. Fortunately, that form comes back into the seven song mini-album – particularly in “Meek Warrior” and “Lightning Bolt of Compassion,” but neither song approaches the excellence of “Lumen,” “Sorrow Boy” or “I’ll be on the Water” from the self-titled debut. “The Rider (Dolphin song)” sounded just like an early 90s tune that I couldn’t quite recall for about two weeks (I finally did and it was “Birdbrain” by Buffalo Tom). Anyways, it’s uncomfortably noisy, yet subtly melodic in a listenable way. Brian couldn’t get through a song on this album. When I started to warm up to it, I said, “Guess what? I’m starting to dig the new Akron album.” He said, “Oh, well I’m sorry because that is the biggest piece of shit ever recorded ever. . .” It’ true, though. It grew on me. I prefer to listen to it with headphones and at a high volume. Sure it seems like they steal a lot from other bands (end of dolphin song horn section = Radiohead “national athem”), but as a whole the album works – the drifting cacophony and moments of order. I might even try to see them at the Middle East in February. (It will be hard to find someone to go with me, but it’s interesting to think that they have won me over – someone who would have bet large sums of money he would never in his life buy a ticket to see a band that photographs themselves in a canoe with no shirts on for their liner notes.)

The Pipettes: We are the Pipettes, 2006. I knew they were bringing back the Supremes-esque formula of girl band, but with a modern flavor. I knew they were popular in England and a top seller on insound. So I buy the CD (part of a full-blown tilt 8 cd order.) It gets backordered despite being the one I was most interested in – bah. Ok, I get it throw it in at work. Some of the songs seem very accessible, but the problem with accessibility in music is that (for me, at least) most groups I immediately like I get bored with in a few days. One of the first things I think about is how their general audience could be – it could be 30ish indie hipster, or it could be the spice girls crowd. It could start as indie hipsters and get taken over by the Spice Girls crowd. Construction administration Chris walked into my office, threw me a puzzled glance, and hesitantly said, “GP, are you listening to the fucking spice girls? ABC. . 123. . . are you learning your ABCs GP?” In any case, it seems the indie crowd has prevailed, and I still like this album a lot. They sing innocent sounding 50’s songs that have racier, sexier, lyrics – girls in I would guess their mid-20s singing about high school drama and one night stands, etc. My friend Alex saw them in Paris and said they weren’t very good, which I can see, but their studio album is very produced and makes the songs sound tight. (They made pitchfork’s top 100 singles of 2006 at #21 with “pull shapes”:

The Best of Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen. 1975. I asked a Leonard Cohen fan which of his CDs to buy. I was told to get the single disc greatest hits. I thought I bought greatest hits, but I bought “the best of.” In any case, I was wrong about this guy. I figured I would like his music based on who he has influenced, etc. I thought he was going to be very poetic and very dorky; instead, he’s very poetic and very cool. The first few times I listened to the album, I would hear a verse and think “BOOM! THAT VERSE WAS AWESOME!” From Chelsea Hotel no. 2, for example:

You told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you would make an exception. And clenching your fist for the ones like us who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music."

I brought the CD to work, and it was well-received by my co-worker Brian, who rushed into my office after an hour or so and said, “Wow! Did you read the liner notes? This guy is like J. Peterman.” He handed over the inside cover and I perused his song descriptions with Peterman’s voice in my head, and I had to agree. Here’s an example:

"Hey That's no Way to Say Goodbye:"

This song arises from an over-used bed in the Penn Terminal Hotel in 1966. The room is too hot. I can't open the windows. I am in the midst of a bitter quarrel with a blonde woman. The song is half-written in pencil but it protects us as we maneuver, each of us, for unconditional victory. I am in the worng room. I am with the wrong woman.

Soon after, I asked Glenn if he had heard Leonard Cohen. He said, "I've been pushing him for years. No one listens to me. I told you. . . " I guess I'll have to start listening to him more, but then again, he likes emo crap too, so. . .

The Wire (Through 1.5 seasons): This was on the netflix backburner for me for a while. There was a waiting list for the first season. During my last homegame, Smaz and Anthony were making fun of me for not doing everything necessary to watch The Wire, i.e. just buy seasons on amazon. For the record, SMAZ AND ANTHONY LOVE THIS SHOW MORE THAN ANY OTHER SHOW EVER! Smaz actually seemed visibly agitated that I was willing to let netflix dictate the scheduling of a small portion of my life. In the middle of a pot-limit omaha hand, I was on the button and heads-up with Anthony when he bet the pot, which I think was around $300. I called (after I call Matt mumbles “Stupid, no way you win” or something, Anthony showed, I mucked, and Smaz glared at me and said, “Next time, why don’t you stop being such a fish, save that $300 and go buy every season of the Wire.” Shortly after that Season one disc one shipped. It took a while, but I started to get into it. At first, it just seemed like another cop/drugs show with a bunch of Oz’s B-grade actors. Anthony, I believe, took about a week off from life to watch every episode of every season. I find that pace unreasonable for this show. When I first watched the Sopranos, nothing else was going to go into my dvd player until all five seasons were done. I don’t think the Wire merits that, and as such I have been watching Arrested Development (great show, very funny) and Alias (very mediocre by last season so far). I told my friend Sam to watch it, and she said, “Really? It just looks like a generic show where I’m gonna think that everyone is acting, and there will just be generic drug situations over and over. ..” I had to say, based on that comment, that she probably wouldn’t like it and took back my recommendation. This is a B+/A- show. Supposedly season three is the best, however, and I am only at the halfway mark of season two.

Cat Power: Moon Pix: 1998.

Chan Marshall drinking. . . mmmmmmmm

Many years ago, I decided I would not like Cat Power because I figured I would not like a group (I thought it was a band name and not an alias for a singer) named “Cat Power.” I asked Lee for some recommendations, and he told to get Moon Pix. I looked her up on and browsed the albums and found that she had a covers album too, which included the Stone’s “Satisfaction” and Velevt Underground’s “Found a Reason.” I listened to these songs first, then the other covers, then “Moon Pix,” and then I got “What Would the Community Think” shortly afterwards. Here’s the bizarre paradox that developed – I didn’t care at all for any of her covers of songs with which I had been familiar. “Moonshiner” on Moon Pix may be the exception, but anyways. My two favorite songs on WWtCT turned out to be covers of Smog and some other dude. “You may know him” and “the Colors and the Kids” were the first originals I heard where I immediately decided I was a fan, and now I have all of her albums. She had a reputation for messing up and crying, both excessively, during her live shows. Apparently, she has cleaned up, which will probably lead to increasingly boring music (see every singer/band that gets off alcohol/drugs). Maybe she will compensate by losing the “Cat Power” alias and going by her real name Chan Marshall. (Lived in Bars got #30 on pitchfork’s top 100 singles of 2006 list:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with you on yo la tengo.
soooo-hoooo boring...although i don't mind a few songs on their latest record.

i love love love cat power.
my fav record is you are free.

5:38 PM  
Blogger SinisterPurpose said...

In regards to "The Wire", season 2 maybe the weakest, but it is most definitely worth getting through. "The Wire" wants more than anything to paint a picture of Baltimore the same way that "Homocide" did. The docks are part of that picture. All that said, both Nick and Ziggy are kind of annoying. But you are getting to know Prop Joe and he will be integral to the plotlines of later seasons.

I wish I had your stamina for posting.

2:39 AM  
Blogger Fudgy the Whale said...

opinionated to follow:

if you like "all most heaven" you should pick up "ode music" (all instrumentals) and "black/rich music" - i can listen to those two on repeat for hours as well.

the wire is in fact the best show ever (sorry twin peaks) and season 2 is my personal favorite.

glad you like the cohen, "songs from a room" would by the next one to get.

chan marshall sobered up to better contemplate my marriage proposals. her art may suffer, but i will provide the best i can.


12:48 PM  
Blogger G.P. said...


I just ordered those other Oldhams. Thanks for recommending them. I am on season three of the wire now. I liked season two more than season one (sinisterpurpose: I thought Ziggy was a great character. For those who have seen Rounders, he is like Worm on permanent life tilt but without the street smarts), but it seems season three is everyone's unanimous critical favorite. I am three episodes in, and I'm starting to feel the overall brilliance start to kick in. Check out Shane's blog, as he just wrote something about seasons three and four. I haven't read it myself (trying to avoid spoilers), but I'm sure it's quality. . .

1:35 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home