Jesse Jarnow

Archive for March, 2007

links of dubious usefulness, no. 12

Yo, happy spring everybody. I’m getting hell out of Dodge until early April. Posting will sporadic ’til I get back… xoxo, jj.

o Update on The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson’s latest, which recently wrapped two months of shooting in India. Sounds potentially epic. (via Kottke.)

o Interesting Associated Press report about the Iraqi music industry. (see also: Sublime Frequencies’ ear-opening Choubi Choubi compilation of folk & pop from Saddam-era Iraq)

o A circa 2000 email roundtable between Haruki Murakami’s editor and translators.

o The blogobattalions have been all over this, but still worth passing along: a short Chris Ware animation from the forthcoming This American Life television show. I love the way his style translates to this medium. Hope he does more. (Thx, Sea of Sound.)

o Mutant Sounds blog, dedicated to uploading insanely obscure weirdo albums. (Werd, Boomy.)

o This whole episode is nutty, but fast-forward to 4:10 for the ridiculous Star Wars dorkiness:

“destination imagination” – spacefuzz

“Destination Imagination” – Spacefuzz (download here)

(file expires April 4th)

Lester Bangs called “Flying” “McCartney’s first venture into FM musak.” While there’s a ring of truth to that, even bad genres occasionally start off with good intentions (see: the appropriation of Brian Eno’s ambient explorations into New Age). Me? I dig the vibe. A few years back, my dear comrade Spacefuzz dubbed “Flying” into “Destination Imagination” with his theramin and a solid collection of bleeps, and floated outwards. I like the way it holds out on the initial beat ’til — just after my ear has convinced itself it’s not the Beatles — it finally resolves to the main melody halfway through. It’s like when I used to repeat a word so many times it became nonsense. Here, meaning returns.

see also: Kiss the Frog

baseball & gentrification

On Friday, listening to the Mets/Marlins broadcast on WFAN. I heard (for me) one of the first positive uses the word “gentrification.” Though I imagine that’s most likely because I’m a sheltered Brooklyn liberal. One of the announcers was commenting on the positives of adding a retractable roof to Dolphin Stadium, where the Marlins play, and suggested that it would gentrify the surrounding area, thus revitalizing it. The neighborhood — a slum, maybe, I’m admittedly not sure — happens to be Little Havana, heavily populated by Cuban exiles, with all their attendant culture.

It’s nothing new for baseball. A few years back, Ry Cooder recorded Chavez Ravine, paying tribute to the Los Angeles neighborhood cleared in 1950s to make way for Dodger Stadium. And in another year or two, the horribly named CitiField will probably wipe away Willets Point, the primeval shantytown of chop shops and tire repair joints that abuts Shea Stadium. Strange that baseball should be so linked to the displacement of indigenous urban cultures. I suppose anything the magnitude of a ballpark is necessarily a municipal project, and therefore big business. It seems natural, in a horrible way.

But was it always like that? Fenway Park and other old stadiums were built to fit inside their respective city grids, and a lot of the stories I heard about Ebbets Field seem to indicate that it was integrated into Flatbush. In this day and age, is there any way for something as mammoth as a stadium to be assimilated organically into the surrounding area? Certainly, shitstorms brew in Brooklyn whenever new stadiums are mentioned. But was there ever a time when they didn’t?

get ahead, 3/07

“Mississippi Half-Step” – the Grateful Dead (download here)
recorded 20 October 1974
Winterland Arena – San Francisco, CA
from The Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack (2005)
released by Grateful Dead Records (buy)

Even in deepest Williamsburg, Deadheads survive, here leaving their mark on the Brooklyn-bound platform of the Lorimer Street L-train station. Definitely a WTF?, but I’m glad the Deadheads are taking back the streetz. Or, as Boomy reminds: Dead Freaks Unite!

“stick your tail in the wind” – summer hymns

“Stick Your Tail in the Wind” – Summer Hymns (download here)
from Voice Brother and Sister (2000)
released by Absolutely Kosher (buy)

Y’know, I don’t even know if I like this song. That’s not to say anything bad about it, either. We just met. But we definitely had a moment, there, in the subway. It was damp there, and cold, while I was waiting for the train in Greenpoint. Then, this song came on, and brought me somewhere, briefly, completely. Florida, maybe, or someplace like it. It didn’t keep me there, though. It was a flash, followed by three perfectly lovely minutes, that — as I was saying — I may or may not like. To be honest, I don’t even know its name yet. Ah, yes. Nice to know you.

“1999” – dump

“1999” – Dump (download here)
from That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice? (1998)
released by Shrimper

(file expires March 29th)

Yo La Tengo’s James McNew reimagines “1999” as an oddly grooved drum machine chill-out. It works, too, mostly thanks to McNew’s boyishly sweet voice. His album of Prince covers, That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice? (note the question mark) was sued out of existence by the Purple One himself. I wonder if he ever listened to it. I hope so, if only because I dig the idea of Prince feeling threatened by James McNew. Apparently, Amazon Japan has copies.

(Oh, yeah: and YLT will be on WFMU tomorrow night doing their annual request-a-thon/benefit, though it probably won’t be as good as this.)

frow show, episode 15

Episode 15: Oh, It Was Not Lima-Time For Keith
…& winter clothes, half-off!

Listen here.

1. “I Love How You Love Me” – The Paris Sisters (from Back to Mono box set)
2. “Frow Show Theme” – MVB
3. “River Deep-Mountain High” – Ike & Tina Turner (from Back to Mono box set)
4. “The Crystal Cat” – Dan Deacon (from Spiderman of the Rings)
5. “Portofino” – Raymond Scott (from Manhattan Research, Inc.)
6. “Tropical-Iceland” – The Fiery Furnaces (from EP)
7. “Going to Acapulco” – Bonnie “Prince” Billy (from Lay & Love EP)
8. “Sky Blue Sky” – Wilco (from Sky Blue Sky)
9. “Niburu” – Sun City Girls (from Carnival Folklore Resurrection, v. 11)
10. “1…” – Lorkakar (from Bell Notations)
11. “See No Evil (alternate version)” – Television (from Marquee Moon)
12. “Just Another Day” – Brian Eno (from Another Day on Earth)
13. “Flying” – The Beatles (from Magical Mystery Tour)

page 123 (the work in progress meme)

(via Edward Champion’s Return of the Reluctant…)

Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven’t gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.

“I will gather the rain and the moon and I’m gone,” I heard myself sing, my voice practically one with the background music. I broke for the surface of the pool, took a quick gulp, and plunged down again. “I will gather the rain and the moon and you’re gone.” Another breath. “I will gather the moon and the stars and we’re gone.” The song was buoyant, harder to stay underwater while it was playing. I was filled with joy, which I had not expected.

“cleo’s back” – jr. walker & the all-stars

“Cleo’s Back” – Jr. Walker and the All-Stars (download here)
from Shotgun (1965)
released by TML (buy)

(file expires March 26th)

Jerry Garcia on Jr. Walker’s “Cleo’s Back,” via Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip:

There was something about the way the instruments entered into it in a kind of free-for-all way, and there were little holes and these neat details in it — we studied that motherfucker. We might have even played it for a while, but that wasn’t the point — it was the conversational approach, the way the band worked, that really influenced us.

links of dubious usefulness, no. 11

o Wired’s cover feature on so-called Snack Culture (“movies, TV, songs, games… packaged like cookies or chips, in bite-size bits for high-speed munching”) is a clever trend piece, even if it seems sorta token. Stephen Johnson’s contrarian rebuttal, on the other hand, is more incisive, arguing that, based on our collective love of insanely long television serials like 24 and The Sopranos, our attention spans are actually getting longer.

o In regards to the latter, I quite enjoyed David Denby’s overview of the recent spate of avant-narrative play in movies. “In the past, mainstream audiences notoriously resisted being jolted,” he writes. “Are moviegoers bringing some new sensibility to these riddling movies?” Definitely, I think, though I’m sad that Denby didn’t chase his idea even deeper into the mainstream, where movies like Stranger Than Fiction are channeling Charlie Kaufman’s meta-narratives into ultimately cutesy and traditional romantic comedies.

o In regards to the former, I also recently landed back on the perennial Ronald & Nancy Reagan pro-drug mash-up, which circulated extensively via bootleg video back in the day. I vaguely remember my Dad having a copy. It’s sometimes easy to forget that videos like this not only existed before YouTube but that there was a fairly established underground network that existed to distribute them. This is how the original South Park episode, “The Spirit of Christmas,” circulated, too.

o In regards to all of it, if only the molecular sense, I’m fascinated by Lowe’s recent campaign to “try to inject a new ’emoticon’ into teens’ text messaging vernacular in an effort to keep teens drinking milk.” Or, if you will: :-{). I’m sure the international moustache lobby & various facial hair advocacy groups are pleased that the milk people are saving their first-quarter propaganda budgets.
o In regards to none of the above, Richard Gehr is blogging. It’s one thing to expose the kidz to good music. It’s another to do the same for the adultz.

grapefruit observations

At first, the lack of coverage of spring training pissed me off: even with cable (not that I have it) only a few games on television, even fewer on radio, and no Gameday play-by-play on I think I like it, though. The lack of constant information feels like a connection to the old ballgame, and that’s always welcome: getting information in spots from informed beatmen like Adam Rubin and Mike Delcos (in their modern guise as bloggers, of course), and occasionally updated linescores.
Much of spring training feels like that. With all the teams in the Grapefruit League a busride away, it is nothing but a regional baseballing association. (That is, it feels like the way all non-major league baseball still operates.) Plus, the very ritual of Florida to begin with: going some place where there’s warmer weather in the spring, instead of holing up climate-controlled bunker/complexes in their respective hometown.

Baseball respects the seasons, and not in some meatheaded “we’re gonna prove ourselves by playing the m’fucking snow” way, so much as the “I’m gonna figure out how to position ourselves by gently tossing this here clump of dirt into the air and seeing how the breeze is, but if it rains I’m going inside like a sensible human” kinda way.

As my life began to de-blah itself from the winter, I noticed it was the same day exhibition games began. I was reminded of this quote Russ comforted me with in the days after the Mets lost the NLCS, from the late, sage commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti:

It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, you rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then, just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

In the spring — or, rather in these weeks before spring — hearts are whole and pure.

“this is why i’m hot” – mims

“This Is Why I’m Hot” – Mims (download here)
from M.I.M.S. (Music is My Savior) (2007)
released by Capitol (buy)

week of March 10, 2007
#1 this week, #32 last week, 6 weeks on chart

(file expires March 21st)

I appreciate the Zen/pop logic of the line “this is why I’m hot/I’m hot ’cause I’m fly/you ain’t ’cause you not,” I really do. And I certainly appreciate any song that employs a theremin, as “This is Why I’m Hot” does occasionally.
But Mim’s #1-with-a-bullet feels completely rudimentary, all but ignoring the symphonic beats that occasionally crest and distort behind it, instead using them to frame a bland, linear melody. There’s a simplicity to it that I like in theory, no particular tongue-twisters, or even trickery, just a beat and a vocal. The regional shout-outs are kinda curious and, likewise, there’s probably something to be said about the fact that (per Wikipedia) it samples Kanye West, Mobb Deep, and Dr. Dre, possibly about the boring recursiveness of hip-hop sampling itself, but I didn’t pick up the samples. Mostly, reduced to its hook, the song still feels like a placeholder. Nothing about it makes me want to put it on, and it feels too sluggish to dance to.

More Zen: if a bullet misses its target, and there’s no force to stop it, is it still a bullet?

“i love how you love me” – the paris sisters & he’s a rebel

“I Love How You Love Me” – The Paris Sisters (download here)
from Back To Mono, 1958-1969 (1991)
released by Abkco (buy)

(file expires March 20th)

The murder trial repackaging/revision of Mark Ribowsky’s Phil Spector bio, He’s a Rebel, has been a good subway companion this week. On Spector’s arrival at Manhattan’s Brill Building:

Implying that he couldn’t afford to go elsewhere, Phil was allowed to crash that night on the couch at the rear of the office, and would do the same in following days. The truth was, Spector had money in his pocket, but part of his New York music assimilation was to assume the guise of bohemian deprivation.

…Hanging around at the restaurants and other haunts where the music crowd congregated, he ran into many of the working and aspiring songwriters who covered the canyons of Broadway like locusts…

Getting to town just months before Dylan, Spector worked the same game, albeit uptown and across a cultural divide. The differences are legion, mainly in their methods of distribution, but the Village folk scene where Dylan came up and the Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the Brill Building had a lot in common, despite the latter becoming a strawman enemy of the former. Besides, they were both kinda corny. Likewise, they both matured: Dylan made Blood on the Tracks, Spector produced All Things Must Pass.

Spector’s 1961 production of the Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me” sure remains pretty, though. With no disrespect to Phil Ochs, I’ll take that most days.

useful things, no. 7

The seventh in an ongoing collection of functional webpages and dork tools (excluding any/all Google programs)

o Should you be using Entourage ’01 for your email, and should you reach the 2 GB storage limit they take no measures to warn you about, and should your whole email database proceed to meltthefuckdown and corrupt your archives and cause you three days of freakation and frustardedness, I would then whole-heartedly endorse paying $18 for EntourAid.

o Handbrake allows you to easily rip mpegs from DVDs. Sadly, my laptop is way too slow to run it effectively. Someday I’ll get the whole ’86 series on my iPod and watch the innings in shuffle.

o iConcertCal searches your iTunes library and tells you what bands are coming to town.

o Haven’t f’ed with it yet, but Peel seems like a good utility to organize blog listening.

o The iTunes linkmaker allows you to generate URLs that pop right into the iTunes store.

sonic curfew & “rats” – sonic youth

“Rats” – Sonic Youth (download here)
from Rather Ripped (2006)
released by Interscope (buy)

(file expires March 14th)

Yeah, it’s gauche to cross-post, but it’s pretty gauche to be reviewing for to begin with, so wtf. Mostly, I just wanted to enter this one into the blogologue…

NYC ROLL-TOP: Sonic Curfew

It’s too bad Webster Hall is killing rock music in Manhattan, ’cause (in theory) it’s kind of a cool place to see shows. “It’s good to be back at the Ritz,” Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore cracked not long after his 26-year old band hit the stage on Friday, February 16th. Known by that name during the glitzy glitzy ’80s (when Sonic Youth were making their name in dingier quarters a bit down Broadway in SoHo), the club is currently where Bowery Presents, the city’s largest indie promoter, puts on their big rock shows. It’s got beautiful marble floors and cool reliefs on the walls, and — on good nights — almost feels grand.

For Sonic Youth, it was a homecoming. Besides a night at the soon-to-be-defunct CBGB last summer, it was their first major gig in Manhattan proper in two years, and they were their usual art-punk selves: the 6’6″ Moore careening around his side of the stage, bassist Kim Gordon in the middle like a displaced gallery goddess, and grey-haired Lee Ranaldo gracefully attacking his guitars like an avant-statesman. Moore addressed the entire crowd as “man.” As in, “thanks for coming, man.” Laconically jovial, he sounded like he was happy to be home. But what home were Sonic Youth coming back to?

It was city officials who banned smoking in bars a few years back. In one fell swoop they removed the proverbial (and fairly literal) vaseline on the lens of the rock experience, as well as a convenient mask for pot smoking, eliminating both social and ritualistic elements of live music’s allure. But it was Bowery Presents who started booking major weekend shows that had to be over by 10 pm so the place could be cleared out for a dance club, even more tightly regulating the idea of a rock show. What hopes of transcendent chaos could one possibly have at that time of night?

Sonic Youth were great. They did their best. Focusing mainly on 2006’s Rather Ripped, in places, they were even majestic. On Moore’s “Do You Believe in Rapture,” the band moved at a silken, relaxed clip. “Do you believe in sweet sensation? Do you believe in second chance?” Moore sang, almost tenderly, over the noise. “City streets so freezing cold,” Ranaldo exclaimed (quite accurately) on “Rats,” working from his usual fantastic formula: half-spoken poetry erupting into full-blown melody. Moore played “Or,” his ode to DIY-era fanzine life, for comedy. It worked, though missed the sublimity of its closing slot on Rather Ripped.

With former Pavement bassist and touring SYer Mark Ibold playing along with Gordon, and holding it down when she took off her instrument to front the band, the quintet sounded lean, if never exactly gnarly. Beginning and ending with older numbers (1988’s “Candle” and 1986’s “Expressway To Yr Skull”) and sprinkling a few others throughout, everything ran like a polished road show. Perhaps too tight at times, the occasionally jam-happy Sonics’ improvisation was limited to one song, and only at the tail end of the final encore.

When Sonic Youth closed a show at Brooklyn’s Northsix with “Expressway To Yr Skull” in 2005, it stretched for a half-hour, Gordon leaving the stage while Moore, Ranaldo, drummer Steve Shelley, and Jim O’Rourke, urged out quieter and quieter spirals of noise. That the same segment at Webster Hall was a quarter of the length, the band dutifully filing offstage at 10:07, would seem to be a result of the environment.

As I do after most Sonic Youth shows, I do believe in rapture, but almost definitely not at Webster Hall, where the dance beats start pounding up from the lower floors as the shows run to their end. Music isn’t dying in New York City. After all, at least at Webster Hall, the indie crowds are just being replaced by different kinds of music fans. But, for heaven’s sake, there’s gotta be a better place to do it. I also believe in rapture and unpredictability being closely related. Subsequently forced to go find alternative means of chaos for my Friday night, and having plenty of time to do it, the Sonic Youth show lingers like something less than the real deal. Which is too bad. Because it probably was.