Jesse Jarnow

Archive for March, 2005

a tip of the hat

We at, as duly named representatives for the Friends of the Center for Anthropological Computing, would like to offer a tip o’ the hat to Rob and his fine work in reconstructing the narrative of “Alicia.” She is a true Ordovician!

“disco inferno” – 50 cent

week of March 26, 2005
#3 this week, #5 last week, 16 weeks on chart

More sex as seductive boredom from 50. There’s comedy, too, but it’s the kind I can’t put my finger on; the kinda resigned bleakness of Waiting for Godot that doesn’t make any particular sense as humor, but can’t really be recognized as anything else Like in “Candy Shop,” 50 laughs midway through, and — again — it’s a totally secret laugh, closed. And I guess there’s an allure to that — the private joke — and, as an audience member, I should wanna get in on it.

The groove — an ethereal theremin keyboard melody, handclaps, a tinny orchestra hit, a few synths — is subterranean: low and mean and slinky. There’s a little moment of transcendence that I almost like. The song drops out in some indefinable way (backing tracks just dimmed slightly?) and 50’s boredom, for a minute, blurs and refocuses into a dreamier fantasy: “See me shining, lit up with diamonds,” he sings. “Catch me swooping, gently couping (?), switching lanes…” And that’s where the laugh is. The “switching lanes” line — nestled atop this music — makes me imagine a late night driver, switching lanes for no other reason than that there’s nobody else on the road, and he can ’cause he wants to. I don’t imagine that it was intended, though lethargy as transcendence is kinda dreamy.

Still, not enough to carry the tune. So it goes. Long weekend. I’m taking a damn bath.


Finally finished/posted my Hunter S. Thompson rememberence.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. — Raoul Duke

new wilco tunes

Last night, I downloaded the three newest Wilco tunes: “Just A Kid,” from the SpongeBob Squarepants soundtrack, and “Panthers” and “Kicking Television” from their online EP. I even paid for some of them. I’d used the iTunes store before, but never to purchase new material from a band I really like. There was something really fun about it, and it wasn’t just the guilt-free feeling of buying instead of downloading from a p2p network. There was an aethethic legitmacy to the act. I searched for what I wanted, and got it instantly, by itself, without a whole rash of ugly file names that — even if I could successfully download all of them them — might be mislabeled or corrupted anyway. Yes, yes.

“Panthers” and “Kicking Television” are A ghost is born outtakes. Of the three songs, “Panthers” is the first one that jumped out at me. It’s Wilco in quiet mode, all quiet parts flown around the gravitational center of Glenn Kotche’s metronomic tick. In places, it feels elegantly like Hail to the Thief-era Radiohead, stripped of their electronic bells and whistles. Still, I can see why it was an outtake. The song sorta ambles on in the same groove for a bit too long — like a less funky, less interesting version of “Spiders” — and just generally seems to be missing that extra oomph. “Kicking Television,” on the other hand, is perfectly serviceable Wilco punk, sorta in the vein of “I’m A Wheel” and “The Late Greats.” No use in splitting hairs over it, but those had a place on Ghost, and this didn’t. A nice footnote, and probably a good late-set/early encore number.

I think “Spiders” is going to end up being an important touchstone for Wilco, as they become (it seems) more of a band. If they continue on the sparse course they set with Ghost, the stripped Krautrock grooves of “Spiders” might easily become the template for the way Wilco play together. If “Just A Kid” — the first song recorded by the band’s current touring lineup — is any indication, that just might be the case. The song is driven by an insistent tock, established right away. The band never falls below this starting tempo, but accelerate beyond it with riffs and rhythmic inserts, and then fall back perfectly. They groove effortlessly — like a band that has been playing “Spiders” for 15 minutes on stage every night.

“Just A Kid” is a children’s song for adults in the same way as “In My Room,” though more self-aware of that fact. “I don’t wanna go to bed, there’s so much going on in my head,” Jeff Tweedy sings, in a great power pop evocation of childhood (made all the cuter by the fact that his son sings during the song’s bridge). “Everybody’s gotta do something they don’t wanna do,” runs the chorus — innocent advice for kids, weirdly comforting for adults. Most of all, it sounds like a song on the soundtrack to a children’s movie: big hooks, almost syrupy production, and undeniable bounce. It sounds mainstream (which makes it a more legitimate children’s song; what kid in his right mind would be turned on by “Radio Cure” or “Hell Is Chrome”?)

In short: New Wilco songs. Yay.

“candy shop” – 50 cent featuring olivia

week of March 19, 2005
#1 this week, #1 last week, 7 weeks on chart

So, there’s all this backstory to 50 Cent and — while I guess I’ve read it through a few times — I don’t instinctively connect it to “Candy Shop.” No matter how much I listen to it, the music that tends to penetrate the Top 10 often sounds positively exotic to my ears. Or at least it does so in this context, sitting at my desk late at night. Hearing pop in public makes perfect sense to me. “How obvious!” I’ll think if I hear one of these tunes coming out of the speakers of a passing car, its sonics blending with the natural audio environment of Brooklyn or Manhattan, circa 2005. But here, in my private space, amidst poctcards and Polaroids tacked to the walls, it feels very foreign.

A history of drugs and violence notwithstanding, the voice that sings “Candy Shop” sounds — to me — either bored or real baked. Either way, I don’t believe it when he intones “so seductive” during the song’s lead-in. (But, then again, I already admitted that I’m basically a tourist, so I’m willing to concede that maybe it’s a part of some local mating ritual.) But, to me, 50 sounds apathetic about the whole process of seduction — possibly even disdainful, if one allows the ominous orchestral loop to be some kind of mirror of the singer’s emotional state. I heard somebody say that this song was tailor-made to be played in strip joints, and I think that about nails it. That is not sex as a treat; this is sex as an inevitability, a reality as desperate and weirded out as other parts of the human psyche.

What makes the song unique — and creepy — is its lack of humor (well underscored by the mechanical deep thump/finger snap groove). It’s not that the lyrics aren’t funny. Because they could be. Sex as candy ain’t exactly a new conceit, but it’s a reliable one. “I’m trying to explain, baby, the best way I can / I melt in your mouth, girl, not in your hand,” 50 sings, and then laughs. It’s a satisfied laugh, not a shared one. The punchline serves nobody but the teller. It’s amazing how much the backing track defines this. It could be remixed into something way happier, but it would likely lose all of its peculiar sexuality.

Pop music is often so positively dumb that surrendering to it becomes a compact between two people dancing with each other, both willing to overlook (or just not care about) how silly it is, such that they might get it on. “Candy Shop” inspires a similar effect, except — instead of its mindlessness — our potential couple must jointly forget about the song’s pimples-and-all pathos. Together. Isn’t that sweet?

some recent stories

BRAIN TUBA: Entropicalia (Five Semi-Connected Thoughts About the Future)

Love’s A Real Thing: The Funky, Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa (World Psychedelic Classics, v. 3) – various artists

moe. and friends at Roseland, 10 February 2005

Jim O’Rourke at Tonic, 23 February 2005

David Byrne at Eisner-Lubin Auditorium, 2 March 2005

hullo dear bloglings

It’s been a wooly-ass three weeks, which included (but certainly wasn’t limited to): the meltdown of my computer’s harddrive, the collapse of a proposed trip to the Himalayan foothills to assist a friend in building a recording studio at a monastery, the departure of my roommate of the past three-and-a-half years, the death of Dr. Thompson, the spiffy (albeit messy) construction of ceilings and stairways and bookshelves and such in my loft, the occasional non-delivery of pieces of snail mail I would very much like to receive (new contact lenses, money), the consumption of small chocolate hamburgers from the pan-Asian convenience store on Third Avenue, the unplanned viewing of Wes Anderson’s first three films on consecutive evenings, the discovery of David Byrne’s totally fucking awesome blog/tour journal, an accidental usurpation of this site by the Biscuits Internet Project, a seemingly Kafkaesque pursuit of my missing computer with the folks at TekServe and the eventual resolution of its problems with a simple conclusion (loose wire), the subsequent non-loss of any data whatsoever, and much dancing in victory. So it went. I’m back now. More posts to follow.