Jesse Jarnow

Archive for February, 2006

“in another land” – the rolling stones

“In Another Land” – The Rolling Stones
from Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
released by ABKCO (buy)

(file expires March 6th)

While backing up files recently, I discovered a cache of mp3s I’d totally forgotten about — bits and bobs snagged mostly from the OG Napster, including lots of B-sides and random live cuts. “In Another Land” by the Rolling Stones is neither of these, though it is an obscurity. In fact, perusing the tracklist, nearly all of Their Satanic Majesties Request could be considered as such. The Stones’ sloppy-ass answer to Sgt. Pepper, it yielded virtually no songs that have entered the classic rock canon — pretty bizarre for an album by one of rock’s most legendary bands released at the peak of the psychedelic ’60s.

The only song in the Stones’ catalogue to be penned and sung by bassist Bill Wyman, “In Another Land” sounds a bit like the Pink Floyd then being piloted across town (and the cosmos) by Syd Barrett. In other words, it’s charming and cute and utterly blokey. The melody is simple and awesome. I love the childlike jump on “I stood and held your hand,” both the notes sung and the way Wyman sings ’em. Run through (what I suspect is) a Leslie rotating cabinet, Wyman’s voice shimmers, and the whole cut feels as if it were conceived and recorded underwater. This is no grand statement. From what I remember, it’s mostly just Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts fucking around on a day when none of the other Stones bothered to show up. Perhaps this isn’t what Mick and Keef’s great demonic overlord wanted to groove on, but maybe they should’ve let Wyman take calls from the listeners every now and again.

the museum of jurassic technology, 2/06

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California is a most peculiar institution, dedicated to the preservation of knowledge equally wondrous and arcane, simultaneously authentic and dubious. As is pointed out in their opening presentation, a museum is a “spot dedicated to the muses,” and the MJT’s darkened halls — which seem to get more convoluted with each visit — are an improbable sanctuary in deepest Los Angeles.

Exhibits chronicle convergences, such as between opera singer Madelena Delani (below) and neurophysiologist Geoffrey Sonnabend.

One room (“The World is Bound With Secret Knots“) celebrates 17th century polymath Athanasius Kircher, who — among other things — believed that Nimrod’s construction of the Tower of Babel, whose size brushed the heavens, could have altered the Earth’s axis and caused a literal, geophysical catastrophe that, in turn, may have been the cause of the lingual chaos of the Bible story.

Elsewhere, there are three-dimensional X-rays of flowers (glasses required).

Next door, the institutionally related Center For Land Use Interpretation applies the MJT’s sense of wonder to the contemporary American landscape, maintaining a detailed database of high weirdness. On a touch screen, I traced our path across I-15 from the Nevada border onto the Los Angeles freeway (including an entry for the World’s Tallest Thermometer).


baker, california, 2/06

We missed our connecting flight to Los Angeles, and would’ve had to wait it out a while for the next one, so we rented a car and headed out across the desert, stopping in Baker — a strip of abandoned and less-abandoned restaurants and gas stations — for improbably delicious gyros. The world’s tallest thermometer (bottom pic) — or so they claim — didn’t seem to be working, though sure was weird lookin’.

merrily we upload

Thanks to the good folks at BitPim, I’m now able to merrily wire myself pictures via USB cable, despite Verizon’s desire for me to pay them for the privilege. It’s a bit evil that they sell a USB cable and software and all, though still don’t let you officially upload your own pictures directly to your own computer. Fuck ’em.

With that, some pictures that have lived on my phone for some moons…

1. Macca on the monitors, 9/05.

2. A floating two, Las Vegas, 1/06.

3. The back of some dude’s camera, random member of Broken Social Scene on the right, NYC, 1/06.

4. Times Square, 2/06.

frow show, episode 6

Grand Poobah Andy just posted the newest installment of the Frow Show. Thanks, Andy!

Listen here.

1. “Royal Crown Hairdressing Ad” – Little Richard (from Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues, 1945-1970)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Zero Point” – Rogers Sisters (from Yes New York)
4. “Big Day Coming” (fast version) – Yo La Tengo (from Painful)
5. “Crushed Bones” – Why? (from Elephant Eyelash)
6. “Johnny Too Bad” – The Slickers (from The Harder They Come OST)
7. “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” – The Chi-Lites (from I Like Your Lovin’ (Do You Like Mine?))
8. “Coquelicot, Claude and Lechithin Dance Aboard the Ocean Liner” – Of Montreal (from Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse))
9. “I Live in the Springtime” – The Lemon Drops (from Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era)
10. “Space Suit” – They Might Be Giants (from Apollo 18)
11. “Great Day (Four Tet remix)” – Madvillain (from Madvillain Remixes: Four Tet EP)
12. “Pull Up the People” – M.I.A. (from Arular)
13. “Twilight Time” – John Fahey (from Return of the Repressed: the John Fahey Anthology)
14. “My Grandfather’s Clock” – Howe Gelb (from I am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey)
15. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Hank Williams (single)
16. “Mutineer” – Bob Dylan (from Enjoy Every Sandwich)
17. “Going, Going, Gone” – Jerry Garcia (from April 10, 1982, late show, Capitol Theater, Passaic, NJ)
18. “Find the River” – R.E.M. (from Automatic For the People)

stopwatch recordings & postcards: consumer electronics show

I finally organized an official page for Stopwatch Recordings. There, you can download the three previous discs I’ve put up: Postcards: Atlantic City (an EP of modified field recordings), On A Clear Night, You Can Smell For Miles (an album of songs), Running at the Sunshine (a theater piece), and — as of now — Postcards: Consumer Electronics Show.

Postcards: Consumer Electronics Show is comprised of unaltered, binaural field recordings made at the 2006 edition of the country’s largest trade show. Over 150,000 non-consumers — vendors, buyers, celebrities, quasi-celebrities, execs — filled 1.6 million miles of floor space of the Las Vegas Convention Center, fussing over the latest and greatest in all things beepy.

1. Microcosmicomics
So large it required its own sub-map, but still only requiring three-and-a-half minutes to traverse, the Sony pavilion was a microcosm for all of CES. Ambient music blares from demonstration speakers, hawkers hawk absurdly overblown home entertainment systems and digital books, conventioneers schmooze, and Sony product provides a titillating soundtrack.

2. Authorized Mash-Up
The rear end of Sony’s space was filled with a circular 150 (?)-person capacity movie theater, screening an eight-minute corporate mash-up hype film. Between hyperspeed CGI-enhanced edits, celebrities ho themselves for new gizmos, hot movies get previewed, and an authoritative Hollywood voice booms a World of Tomorrow fantasia narrative. No mention of Sony’s innovative Digital Rights Management program, though.

3. The Full Tramp
The full tramp — well over a mile — from the two-level South Hall, across the massive Central Hall (where the Sony pavilion was), through the bass-booming North Hall (where bikinied booth babes demonstrated the hottest backseat subwoofers), into the Hilton next door (where modest stalls sported clever Asian miniaturizations), and through their casino (where Google’s Larry Page was about to give a keynote address at the theater normally occupied by Barry Manilow). Hear attendees chatter in a variety of tongues, whizzing golf carts, and even Robin Williams, who walks by at the 17:41 mark (you can hear one of has handlers say “you are a quick study today” and Williams responding indistinctly) as he exits the Hilton just before his appearance at the Google keynote.

4. Flamingo Soundwalk
Later, back at the Flamingo, the elevator counts down and opens on the casino floor, where a lush world of bleeping slot machines (all tuned to the key of C), drunken bachelorettes, clinking poker chips, and distant pop songs fans open like a lotus flower. After a walk around the floor, we return to the elevator, an endless Borgesian hallway, and the hotel room. Another Friday night in Vegas, just after midnight, circa January 2006.

static, 2/06

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled weirdness…

With the innovations of digital feeds, and televisions, VCRs, and DVD players that magically go blue at the first sign of interference, static is gradually disappearing. It’s beautiful stuff, both visually and metaphorically.

“Electricity comes from other planets.” – Lou Reed

looky looky, wookie! phish outtakes!

“Birthday Boys,” “Bubble Wrap,” and “Running Scared” – Phish
(zipped file of the three songs)
outtakes from Round Room (2002)

(file expires on February 24th)

How bad could the outtakes be from a Phish album that was basically comprised of demos to begin with? The answer, if you have any wookie blood in you at all, is relative. (And, if you don’t, you’ll come away hating Phish even more than you already do.)

Yes, yes, relative. That is: the three “new” songs circulating from Phish’s 2002 Round Room sessions are very much like their officially released brethren in that they’re half-conceived and far less than they should be. Being outtakes, this less-than-whole-assedness is also perfectly excusable. That doesn’t make them good (or of interest to anybody not already curious about Phish’s creative process).

“Birthday Boys” had already been recorded by Oysterhead, one of the bands Trey Anastasio played with during the two years previous to this session, while Phish was figuring out if they wanted to be a band or not (they didn’t, as they determined later). It’s nifty, heavy on the same impressionistic twang that defined “Pebbles and Marbles,” which led off Round Room. Playful and intricate, it would’ve made an ace Phish tune — especially the cleverly modulating ending. The version here borders on trainwreck, especially as it goes, but — hey — it’s a rehearsal. It coulda been a contenda.

The all-improv (and largely abstract) “Bubble Wrap” is — I assume — one of the band’s first jams after getting back together. They feel disconnected, their parts moving against each other and trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to lock in. It’s kind of uncomfortable to hear Phish, who were rarely less than psychic communicators with big ears, playing like this. A historical curiosity, perhaps. The last song, “Running Scared,” most likely isn’t Phish at all, but Anastasio demoing with songwriting/drinking chum Tom Marshall. Finding the song in the midst of the sloppiness is like trying to find the marble in the proverbial oatmeal (or maybe just figuring out a magic eye). Either way, it’s hard to imagine a way that Phish could’ve made it all too interesting. So it went.

“she shot a hole in my soul” – clifford curry

“She Shot a Hole in My Soul” – Clifford Curry
single (1967)
reissued on Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues, 1945-1970 (2004)
released by CMF Records (buy)

I know shitall about Clifford Curry. This tune is on the Night Train to Nashville anthology. It turned up on my shuffle many months after I ripped the album. I’m a big believer in the power of an opening statement, be it the first line of a story or the top of a song, and “She Shot a Hole in My Soul” is one of my favorites. The horn intro establishes an instant momentum, and all the verses and arrangements unfold perfectly from there. It’s so good that the first time I really heard the song, I distinctly remember wanting the horn part to come back, and soon. It only did so twice.

Unless somebody’s done it and I haven’t heard it, it’s also waiting to be sampled and made the basis of a huge hit. That is, I know I personally would greatly enjoy a new version of this song where that horn part is repeated endlessly for two or three minutes, like “Crazy In Love” did with the horn part from the Chi-Lites’ “Are You Woman (Tell Me So)” (which only repeated once in the original version). Awesome morning music.

“any way the wind blows” – the mothers of invention

“Any Way the Wind Blows” – the Mothers of Invention
1965 demo
from Joe’s Corsage (2004)
released by Vaulternative Records (buy)

Here’s some post-Valentine’s Day contrast to Monday’s Beach Boys. It’s hard to call anything having to do with Frank Zappa “innocent,” but the teen-lust cynicism of Freak Out is just so durned precious. “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder” sums it up well. “I’m somewhat wiser now and one whole year older,” sings Ray Collins from a time in life where one whole year was actually a perceptible and meaningful unit of time in one’s own emotional development. That’s the key to the whole album, I think.

Freak Out in general and “Any Way the Wind Blows” specifically have been hitting the spot lately, making increased sense with the years. This early demo (from the yummy Joe’s Corsage compilation) lacks the rhythmic sophistication of the officially released version, but that’s part of the charm. It sounds like music made by the characters singing. “Now that I am free from the troubles of the past,” Mother Ray croons. What past? Freak Out is music sung by people who’ve got nothing but future, and — being an album most appropriate for disaffected high school-age males — listened to by the same. Can it be nostalgia if you’re not remembering the good parts? And what if the good parts entailed the discovery of music like Freak Out that effectively shielded the bad parts? Can it be nostalgia then?

things i have found

1. A ripped up photograph of a couple.

Found at the corner of Broadway and Bleecker Street. I actually found one-and-a-half photos. I have an extra copy of the right side, ripped in the same exact place, as if both pictures were torn at once.

2. A dinosaur.

Found at a filling station in the northeastern Colorado desert en route to Boulder to make shadow puppets.

3. A postcard from Matt.

Found in my mailbox in Ohio many moons ago.

4. Aloha Moods

Found on the kitchen table the morning after a party, during which a drunken roommate discovered Aloha Moods and other fine vinyl selections in the stairwell of our building.

endless summer

“The Warmth of the Sun” – The Beach Boys
from Shut Down, vol. 2 (1964)
also on Endless Summer (1974)
released by Capitol Records (buy)

(file expires on February 20th)

Here at the Bourgwick cabana it was a snow day, and — while savoring the falling whiteness — my mind naturally wandered to warmer climes. And I got to considering Endless Summer — the 1974 greatest hits collection that put the Beach Boys back on top of the charts — as a concept album. Why not? Why shouldn’t it be thought of as a continuous series of abstract scenes and innocent (and not-so-innocent) encounters shot on sunbleached stock, like French New Wavers on the lam in Los Angeles?

Why shouldn’t the mysterious Rhonda help the main character rid his memory of another woman, named Wendy (who he went together with for so long)? Can we take him seriously as he proclaims his love to a series of nameless women? After several of these, it begins to seem like slapstick: a joke repeated over and over and over.

Why shouldn’t he be offered riddle-like information from a stranger? “The girls on the beach are all within reach, if you know what to do,” he is told. No, he replies, as a matter of fact, he doesn’t know what to do. But no matter, the girls are still on the beach. He interacts with grotesque boardwalk caricatures that offer their own geographies, evaluating the quality of the land by the quality of women (“the east coast girls are hip,” he is assured) and the oceanic conditions.

(And, if it’s not, it’s at least a great docudramatic proto-Google map of the white southern Californian teenage gestalt circa 1963. In the real world, “The Warmth of the Sun” was the immediate reaction of two early-20something cousins to the Kennedy assassination.)

ylt round-up & barnaby’s anatomy

“Barnaby, Hardly Working” – Yo La Tengo
27 December 2005 :: Maxwell’s – Hoboken, NJ

(file expires on February 16th)

It’s a good week (for me, anyway) when there are announcements of new projects from Bob Dylan, David Byrne, and — now — Yo La Tengo. Over on, Ira reports that the band is working on a new album in Nashville (presumably once again with producer Roger Moutenot). Beauty, eh? Ira also mentions a bunch of movie soundtracks. It’d sure be nice to see some EPs come outta those. And, while we’re on the topic, Brooklyn Vegan posted a few weeks back that YLT will be returning to the Prospect Park Bandshell on July 13th.

Above is “Barnaby, Hardly Working” from the third night of the 2005 Hanukah run. I’ve dorked about it elsewhere, and it’s worth a listen, totally different from the versions on Fakebook and the President Yo La Tengo EP. The band really milks the transitions, stretching out via a long Ira solo in the middle and turning the ending into two separate sections — a reprise of the verse, and finally a dreamy glide through the “face down beside the water” coda. There are all kinds of nifty arrangement touches throughout, too: Tortoise drummer John Herndon’s just-right shaker entrance (around the three minute mark), his drum-off with Georgia coming out of Ira’s solo, James’ sudden organ (pun only slightly intended) during the ending. For all I know, this is how they’ve been playing the song for years, but I’d sure never heard it. For BitTorrenters, the whole show is (hopefully) still available here. Thanks to yltfan for taping.

“think small” – tall dwarfs

“Think Small” – Tall Dwarfs
from Fork Songs (1992)
reissued by Cloud Recordings as twofer with Dogma EP (buy)

(file expires on February 15th)

It took me a while to get the Tall Dwarfs, New Zealand’s lo-fi giants. I can’t remember if “Think Small” — the closing number from 1992’s Fork Songs — was a late night discovery, but that’s definitely where I listen to it most often. Along with George Harrison’s “Behind That Locked Door,” this has been in high rotation this week. It’s a nice bit of comfort, a simple and direct evocation of pulling the covers over your head, and — for a very real moment — giving up totally and completely on everything.

a modest proposal about google books

The best of all possible worlds includes a free, perfectly indexed database containing the complete text of every book ever published. There is no way to argue that this would be anything but good.

On one hand, from a legal point of view, we are a long way from figuring out how to make that work. On the other hand, from a technical perspective, it’s already been done, though — owing to, y’know, reality — one can only use a few pages at a time.

Why not allow users to get a few sample pages, and then modify the Google database to give them the option to buy further pages at five cents a pop? The standardized pricing seems to be working just fine over at the iTunes Store, and a nickel a sheet seems quite reasonable. Users would end up with basically the same hard copy as if they’d gone to the library, found books, and xeroxed them.

Sure, that would open up oodles of new issues (and royally screw-up any opt-out plan), but it seems like it could solve more problems than it’d cause. Who knows? If Google can figure out how to make the database to begin with, they should be able to lick this one, too.

here lies love

Today, David Byrne formally announced Here Lies Love, his musical about Imelda Marcos. It will debut in Australia next month. As the page says, this production is a “first sketch” of a “performance [that] will be set in clubs, with non-stop music by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim.”

Oh word? Word.

return of the bobhead (part 42)

Dylan rehearses new album in Poughkeepsie.

We take our good news where we can get it.

times square, 2/06

I’m in the minority of my friends in that I think that Times Square is actually quite nifty. It’s nicer empty, of course, late at night. When I started taking cell photos, Times Square was at the back of my mind. After discovering how cool bright light looks crammed into 1.3 megapixels, I figured Times Square would be a cinch.

I made my first stab last week, and I was utterly, entirely wrong. Making light distort requires that the lens be reallllly close to the source. Shots of buildings tend to look massively insubstantial on a cell cam. The scale of Times Square is gigantic, and its beauty is as much about its residual glow than the specifics of any one display. The light is in waves, visible only when they crash into each other or lap at the sides of buildings or windows. Photographing Times Square, I think, is like painting pictures of the ocean.

The first batch I took was uniformly bad, save one shot (the last below). The second batch was slightly better (I think) though still doesn’t capture it entirely. More next time I have an excuse to go to Times Square…

“toc” – tom zé

“Toc” – Tom Zé
from Estudando O Samba (1976)
released by WEA International as twofer with Correio da Estação do Brás (1978) as Serie Dois Momentos, vol. 15 (2000) (buy)

(file expires on February 13th)

Welcome to the working week. Here’s a Monday morning freak-out to clear your head before you get back to sticking it to your local incarnation of the Man. Though Tom Zé is the Brazilian equivalent of David Byrne or Beck, “Toc” — from 1976’s Estudando O Samba — finds him on the more experimental end of his spectrum. Practically a proto-minimalist exercise (the whole song rests on one looping guitar part), nearly every single second is tailor-made for sampling. That is, one could grab just about any chunk and build a song around it, from the lovely rhythmic grid that makes up the first minute to the James Barry-like horn fills that glide in to the torrent of chattering voices and the clangs of typewriters to the whirs of electric drills (samples in 1976?)

I’m still learning my way around the Zé catalogue, but (at the moment) “Toc” seems like a good key to understanding it, containing a representative palette of Zé’s tricks from which to make sense of everything else. The whole track is utterly groovy, too, and — well — Brazilian. He’ll supposedly be touring later this year, behind his new album Estudando O Pagode (which is pretty rad). Hope he does.

frow show, episode 5

Brother Andy just posted the newest installment of the Frow Show. Thanks, Andy!

Listen here.

1. “Pot Ads” – Eugene Mirman (from The Absurd Nightclub Comedy of Eugene Mirman)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “Going to Tennessee” – The Mountain Goats (from Protein Source of the Future… Now!)
4. “Blue Bayou” – Roy Orbison (single)
5. “Private Idaho” – The B-52s (from Wild Planet)
6. “Bubble Gum Independence” – various (from Sublime Frequencies’ Radio Phnom Penh)
7. “Have A Banana!” – The Beatles (from Live at the BBC)
8. “A Hard Day’s Night” – The Beatles (from A Hard Day’s Night)
9. “Happy Colored Marbles” – Ween (from Quebec)
10. “ABC” – Jackson 5 (single)
11. “I’m a Believer” – Robert Wyatt (from Solar Flares Burn For You)
12. “Let’s Spend the Night Together” – Jerry Garcia (from Compliments of…)
13. “How Much I’ve Lied” – Yo La Tengo (from Little Honda EP)
14. “Snail Shell” – They Might Be Giants (from John Henry)
15. “Walking With the Beggar Boys” – Elf Power (from Walking With the Beggar Boys)
16. “Sometimes A Pony Gets Depressed” – Silver Jews (from Tanglewood Numbers)
17. “Hard Times” – Bob Dylan (from Good As I Been To You)
18. “Trampin'” – Patti Smith (from Trampin’)

weekend reading

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sports guy. But I love me some Chuck Klosterman. He’s blogging from the Super Bowl all week for, and it’s glorious stuff. He began on Sunday night. Here is his most recent posting.

from the penthouse, you’ll be able to see the high water mark

Jann Wenner is (possibly) opening a Rolling Stone-themed casino in Las Vegas. “Will there be a ‘New Dylan Album’ slot machine,” Gabriel Sherman wonders, “where every pull comes up five stars?”

Hunter Thompson would be rolling over in his grave if he hadn’t been shot out of a fucking cannon.

pazz & jop 2005

The Village Voice posted the results of their annual Pazz and Jop poll. My ballot is here. I made the comments section this year, however blandly, under the “Earphone Heads” category.

Here are the full comments I submitted with my ballot, which I am going to indent because I think it looks nifty:

Since one can only take small planes off the island, I opted to take the ferry back. It was choppy as fuck, and I tried to listen to my iPod and watch the horizon. The boat was a jungle of sounds, all leaking queasily through my headphones: deep rumbling engines, calypso-tinged Christmas muzak piped through the cabin’s tinny speakers, chattering families, and emerald Caribbean waters slapping against the window.

Halfway across, I noticed that one noise — beats — had grown more distinct than the others. I turned, and studied the skinny island kid on the bench seat next to me. He scrolled through ringtones and detonated them one after another, a hit parade of instantly gratifying hooks. He noticed me watching and I took my headphones off.

“You like hip-hop?” he asked, studying me back. “Probably not, huh?”

“Sure,” I said. “I like all kinds of stuff. Who do you like?”

“Mike Jones,” he replied.

“Who?” I asked.

“Mike Jones,” he repeated, unimpressed.


Mike Joooooones,” he sang and laughed. “You like that shit?”

“Meh,” I shrugged. “I like the screwed and chopped stuff more than his regular stuff.”

“That shit’s weird,” the kid declared.

“Yep,” I nodded happily, and somehow found myself in another conversation about Houston hip-hop, some quarter way across the hemisphere from Brooklyn’s indie-dork enclaves (let alone Houston itself).

He went back to his ringtones, 50 Cent thugging out in the background picture on his cell, as the ferry pulled into the harbor.


Despite making for retarded hard copy, Mike Jones’ shtick made for a hell of a meme: news vessel as pop hit, doesn’t even matter what the song is (hell, sing it in every song), and doesn’t even matter if that news is merely the arrival of Jones himself.

R. Kelly did it, too, in his boggling serialization “Trapped in the Closet.” Then there are the mash-ups, like the Notorious K.O.’s “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People.” Give or take the Texas robo-trippers — who are truly psychedelic and have added a cool new tool to the pop kit — it’s all just the latest iteration of novelty, except these novelties have concepts that somehow play with the technology of the moment, and that’s sorta nifty. Sorta.

“It disappeared up its own fundamental aperture,” Tom Wolfe snarked in The Painted Word, his 1975 treatise on contemporary art, “and came out the other side Art Theory! … a vision ineffable as the Angels and the Universal Souls.”

Lord knows, Mike Jones (who?) ain’t, um, a Universal Soul, but his meme-pop is the very definition of ineffable, the place where music — that self-contained world of melodies and performances — takes steps towards a broader universe of breathing things.

And, of course, if Jones’ endlessly circulating mp3s are steps, then the ringtones are crowbarred intrusions — sudden infections that come unannounced from somebody’s pocket, and disappear just as suddenly. And if you don’t have ’em on your phone, you can’t play ’em again.

Which is exactly why ringtones are music and not just sound: if done right, you want to hear them again. I’ve seen it on the subway, too: kids clicking through ringtones because it makes them happy.

When The Residents recorded their Commercial Album in 1980, cramming 40 60-second “pop” songs into 40 minutes (with instructions to play each thrice), they were operating on the assumption that the entirety of a pop song could be condensed into a minute. As Mike Jones has proved, they were off by about 50 seconds.

While ineffable, it’s hard to think of Jones’ hook as particularly transcendent in and of itself. But it points towards the new — or, more accurately, the old. Like every new medium, it will be used to reassess and repackage the past.

As of this writing, a half-dozen old tracks — call them proto-meme-pop — are scattered across Billboard’s top 50 Hot Ringtones chart: “Jingle Bells,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the “Super Mario Brothers” theme, the “Pink Panther” theme, and — blessed art thou, oh Lord, our “Bob” — “Sweet Home Alabama.” Like all truly classic folk works, each can be boiled down to one central idea that pretty much anybody reading this can almost surely remember.

If the advent of mp3s returned us to the New Golden Age of the Single, then ringtones may well introduce an even more primitive age, one that never really existed outside the head of people who thought ’70s rock was a good idea: the Age of the Riff, where the popcraft of Skynyrd will meet the genius Japanese techno-artisans who code the sound of chirping crickets.

And what a challenge! Who can create something magnificently short? Who will be the first to cram meaning into a 10 second statement? It’ll be like building ships in bottles, or carving micro-sculptures in the heads of needles. When will the ringtone mash-ups start to drop? Will “Smells Like Teen Spirit” come ricocheting rudely up the ringtone charts during 2006’s inevitable grunge revival? Will it still rock? Can it?

recent articles

Forty Years Upon Our Heads: A Recent Rap with Jerry Garcia on Perfect Sound Forever (an interview from late last year about the Grateful Dead, life after death, the Deadheads, and copyright, among other digressions)

Album reviews:
Feels – Animal Collective, published in Paste #19
Lookaftering – Vashti Bunyan, published in Paste #19
Omnibus – Tarkio, published in January/February Hear/Say
Slow Rewind – Sam Champion, published in Paste #19
Nice Talking to Me – the Spin Doctors, published in Paste #19
Thumbsucker Original Score – Tim DeLaughter and the Polyphonic Spree, published in December Hear/Say
self-titled – No Use For Humans

Live reviews:
Iron and Wine/Calexico at Webster Hall, 5 December 2005
Come On Falcon/Bustle In Your Hedgerow/Danjaboots at the Tribeca Rocking Club, 7 December 2005
Yo La Tengo at Maxwell’s, 27 December 2005
Freaks Ball (Metzgerville and Coxygen) at Coda, 21 January 2006

Columns and misc.:
BRAIN TUBA: How I Spent My Christmas Break

Only in print:
o February/March Relix (Bob Weir cover): album reviews of Derek Trucks Band, Robert Fripp, Wilco, and Robert Wyatt; book reviews of Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons and The Language of the Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu
o December Hear/Say: albums reviews of Lightning Bolt and the Grateful Dead

war on war dept.

A helpful way to observe the State of the Union was to pretend that I was just watching the tail end of a shitty (and vaguely hilarious) prequel to the really dope trilogy where the good guys save the galaxy. I fully expect that the loose ends will be tied up shortly: hands and heads lopped off, faces melted, children born and exiled to desert planets, etc..