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Wednesday, July 31, 2002
 
Mercury Prize Nominations

ROOTS MANUVA __Run Come Save Me
DOVES __The Last Broadcast
BEVERLEY KNIGHT __Who I Am
GEMMA HAYES __Night On My Side
THE STREETS __Original Pirate Material
THE CORAL __The Coral
JOANNA MACGREGOR __Play
ELECTRIC SOFT PARADE __Holes In The Wall
THE BEES __Sunshine Hit Me
GUY BARKER __Soundtrack
DAVID BOWIE __Heathen
MS. DYNAMITE __A Little Deeper

Who should win, who will win?

The Streets should win, but the Doves might edge them out if the judges are being stupid, in my opinion. This list seems to be a lot better (to me) than previous years where it seemed like I had very intimate knowledge of each artist nominated. I kind of relish the fact that I haven't heard a lot from most of these people.

Monday, July 29, 2002
 
Speaking of mail-order must haves.......

But I'm not sure about the logistics of ordering it. "All prices are in Spanish pesetas...."


 
This can't arrive in the mail soon enough.

(thanks to Michealangelo Matos for the link.)
Saturday, July 27, 2002
 
For the record, the term "IDM" originated in the UK following Warp's "Artificial Intelligence" releases in the early-to-mid 90s. So the term is not entirely US-centric; rather, it basically defined, at one point, electronic music made by people like Autechre, Black Dog, and others. The term is a misnomer and entirely out of date, but it's no worse than other labels like "lowercase." Actually, the one term that I've found to work best is Electronic Listening Music, or ELM. At least that term is accurate.
 
For those of you suffering from malaise or ennui or whatever the fuck you want to call it, listen to Mastodon. That will be all.
Friday, July 26, 2002
 
Music Writing and Ennui and Other Stuff

Man oh man is Jess' entry of 7.18.02 -- sorry that I can't figure out how to link directly to it -- on point. And that other one, too, was very thought-provoking. Like Todd posted on here a short while ago, I have to confess to feeling fairly enervated when it comes to current music. I'd unwittingly stayed away from ILM for some time, and browsed about for a while two days ago being puzzled and frightened, in some clueless-old-guy way, by references to electroclash and micro-house and Xiu Xiu and many other things that it doesn't seem, at least right now, that I can get excited enough about to investigate and probably receive an all-too-brief hey-this-is-cool-isn't-it fix before feeling that I should move on to something else. I don't know. It does sound awfully rockist or stodgy-luddite-ish to assume that there isn't any good music being made anymore, and it's not what I want to do, of course, but right now... well. Meh. If any of you disdainful-of-current-stuff types have anything to recommend, feel free to toss it my way.

Maybe I just need summer to hurry up and end, so I can move to my new residence (it'll certainly be nice to have easier access to seeing shows in Philly that a friend-with-car may not necessarily be interested enough in to drive up to from Newark, albeit the fact that the live music situation there is currently pretty, well, dire) and get settled in at my new school and hopefully start to feel sort of like I'm alive again.

This is definitely a Closer night, but I want to listen to some Brownstone Bobby Byrd 45s right now to cheer myself up.
 
I think we have to consider the context of what the music were trying to describe - instead of this blatant labelling. whats previously been described as 'IDM' has to be one of the widest and least defined forms of music yet derrived. What I hear is basically glitch, glitch-pop, ambient-glitch-pop, soundscape-electronica, chamber-electronica..etc - names we can give that rely more on well-defined markers (i think its pretty obvious what glitch or soundscape defines, isn't it?). correct me if im off-course on this suggestion, maybe im just skimming the top of todd's/nick's discussion..
Thursday, July 25, 2002
 
IDM

Todd and I have spoken briefly about this, and were broadly in agreement, although he found it much less of a stumbling block than I did.

Firstly. IDM is not a term I have come across in the UK. I've only really found it used on this site and a few other (mainly US-centric) sites. In the UK it's largely unused, and because of this I took about two weeks to figure out what the fuck it meant on this site. Mainly because it's an acronym rather than a word/expression and therefore is un-impressionistic / undescriptive / un-explanatory. And because it's a relatively new term it hasn't yet passed into common parlance like, say r'n'b or r'n'r (or, indeed G'n'R) and therefore doens't have, for most people, the immediate explanatory association.

Secondly. As a phrase it is a lie. Intelligent Dance Music? What is meant by this phrase is Dance Music You Can't Dance Too, ergo, Not Actually Dance Music At All, seeing as the primary function of dance music is to Make You Shake Your Ass.

Don't get me wrong, I love Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, BoC, etcetera. I'm currently writing a review of the last Four Tet album, which I am head-over-heels in love with. But which I Do Not Dance To, because it Is Not Dance Music.

Sly & The Family Stone are Dance Music. The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy are Dance Music. James Brown is Dance Music (or Fuck Music if you're lucky). Aphex Twin et al are Not Dance Music, Not Even If You Prefix It With 'Intelligent'.

Now, I understand and agree with Todd's point that for him IDM is no longer important as a semiological signifier, becasue he no longer considers what it means linguistically, he sees the term IDM and knows that it is a signifier for Autechre, Two Lone Swordsmen, Some Weird Japanse Guy Who Makes Music You Can't Hear etcetera, etcetera. I know that r'n'b signifies R Kelly rather than The Verve, who fulfill the original semiotic meaning of the term rhythm & blues more fully than R Kelly because they have both rhythm and blues whereas he just has rhythm and Bad Songs About Sex, and I appreciate that my recognistion of this makes me hypocritical to an extent.

BUT...

I still think IDM is a silly term, and I henceforth implore people on bended knee to use far more descriptive and (to my mind) appropriate terms like Electronica, etcetera, which (again to my mind) more fully encapsulate what is really the key unifying characteristics of what some people may term IDM. i.e; weird electronic music that you can't dance too.

I have written this while pissed, so it may not make sense...

xxx
 
An epiphany...

In Sides by Orbital recieved rave pre-release reviews back in March 1996. I particularly remember one reviewer saying that there was no reason for the Hartnoll brothers not to mean as much to our generation as Beethoven had done to our elders, saying that they were less making dance music than modern symphonic electronica. I was intrigued. I'd just got Screamadelica a few months before, I was thrilling to the sound of Fools Gold by The Stone Roses, and my musical world was opening right up. I wanted to know what I was missing.

The last straw was on the day before release, when I was at my brother's flat, and he mentioned that he liked Orbital and had got hold of a pre-release copy of their new album. He said I ought to do myself a favour and buy it.

The next day I skived off a free-period, as I was regularly doing in the sixth form, and I went down to Woolworths, the only shop in town that sold CDs. I saw In Sides sitting on the shelf, in it's weird, organic sleeve. It was about £16, cos it came in a limited sleeve. I happened to have £16 in my pocket, dinner money I'd saved up by always skiving off afternoon lectures in favour of going home to listen to records.

I've never fucking heard this band and I used to hate dance music vehemently because it wasn't 'real', or something. But everyone says it's great. Do I buy it?

Fuck yes.

I skived off English that afternoon, took it home, stuck it on my shitty little ghetto-blaster, and settled down to read a magazine with this fucking fake dance music shite I was trying to convince myself I liked on in the background.

After two minutes the magazine was discarded. After 15 minutes I was transfixed.

Spiralling sounds, layer upon layer of melodies and sweet sounds and unnerving weirdness, this oddly affecting electronic noise that has more in common with Mozart than chart dance, that was so far removed from what I thought I hated that it was opening up my horizons to an astonishing degree.

After 70 minutes I was in love.

Orbital are one my favourite bands, In Sides is one of my favourite albums. I'm so glad I risked £16 on that dull April morning.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
 
Joe,

I noticed that you are listening to the Improvised Music from Japan set. Thoughts\impressions? I've had it for a few months now, and have been largely impressed by the artists who contributed. I'm currently trying to compile my thoughts into a longish review (a la the Nuggets article), so I'd like to hear anything you have to add.

The people who have heard it are few enough that we need to band together for discussion purposes.
 
Good writing, and intriguing points.

I was particularly sympathetic to the discussion of the lack of "revolution" in today's music. I find that I spend very little of my time listening to music that has been recorded recently (notable exceptions: Thirsty Ear, Interpol, Hot Snakes, Notwist), spending most of my time exploring deeper into older records, especially from those aforementioned eras of invention and revolution: post-punk, 60s pop\rock\soul, and jazz. It strikes me that very few artists today are making music that truly sounds "new", or "revolutionary" (this is a generalization, of course); even the more interesting bands of late tend to be revisiting the achievements of earlier times (cf. post-punk\garage revival in rock, 70s funk\soul or 80s electro in hip-hop).

All that doesn't mean that I think that the past needs to be discarded for music to move forward; the sounds of the past are just as valuable a source for reinvention as the sounds of the future. Nevertheless, it's hard to see where music can find space to redefine itself in such an epochal manner as before. It will happen, of course, but I have no idea where it will come from.
 
re: jess harvell

That blog entry, Todd, only served to remind me how much I miss the Boston branch of Other Music (which closed earlier this year). Regardless of how many odoriferous hipsters crammed into the store to get their avant-hop-jazz-core fix, they really had the best selection of new music in town.
Monday, July 22, 2002
 
Jess Harvell

An OHJ writer, of a very short time (3 damn good reviews), has a new blog.

Sorry, Jess. You can't keep your amazing writing to yourself all the time.

I'd be especially interested on thoughts on Jess' post here.
 
Hipsters, or... I Went To Coney Island, and All I Got Was This Lousy Ennui

Being a generally bored college kid with nothing to fill my weekends with but beer and smoke, I decided to waste a few tanks of gas to check out Siren Fest, the (second) annual indie-rock extravaganza at Coney Island. The all-day, two-stage event was sponsored/hosted by the uber-hip Villiage Voice, and though I'm certainly no expert on the New York underground, I think I can make the valid assumption that Saturday's fest-attenders were a microcosm of (first) New York's indie scene, and (second) the country's.

The crowd consisted mainly of A) the fashion hipsters, B) the aging punks, C) the others. Most of the folks in attendence were of flavor A, girls and boys alike in tight thrift-store t-shirts (more often than not emblazoned with a slogan from an obscure construction company, or a humorously-named summercamp), sunglasses, dark jeans, workpants, or printed skirts, and of course the obligatory retro sneakers. These are the "outsiders" from ever teen movie, attractive freaks who listen to this strange music not because it's good, but because it's fashionable - the ones who give more lip to Karen O's (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) ripped party dress than to her sax-on-Funhouse yelping over "Art Star." Crowd A would be content, I think, to drink themselves attractive, throw the band-of-the-week on the stereo and smile smugly in realization of just how cutting-edge their tastes are.

Everyone in my category B went (or tried) to see Mission Of Burma back in January. These are the 35-year-olds trying to relive their youth (or maybe they never grew up). They still make it to shows, and their priority is more careening guitar lines than $4 Bud. They're in it for the music, mostly, but only because the music is the only non-fleeting aspect of their ancient lost scene. A subcategory of B, the punks who lost faith after Blink-totally-sold-out-maaan, are searching for the same grail.

The last group, well, I think there was just one member - a guitar-toting, dreadlocked rasta who asked me i) can you spare a cigarette [yes], and ii) who's this band? [the mooney suzuki]. He stood absorbing for the entire set, then left. He was in it for the music.

Saturday, July 20, 2002
 
Re; Ging through the motions.

All the time, Todd, all the time. One of the best ways to get out of it, like putting out a flaming oil-rig, is to pour fuel on it and watch it spectacularly burn out so you can start again. My personal way of doing this is, when stricken by periods of musical lethargy, to revisit all the stuff I used to listen to when I was 16-17-18 for a few days or so, and listen to nothing but old favourites. Force yourself to sit all the way through records you used to love, intensely, and three things may happen.

1; You realise a record blows. i.e; "Fucking hell, why did I ever listen to this drivel? I wasted hours and hours convinced that this was the greatest thing ever, and now it's so apparent that it's shocking shite I feel embarassed."

2; You realise just how much you love a record in comparison to other, newer stuff you thought you loved. i.e; "Jesus, [old favourite] X pisses on [recent favourite] Y from such a great height, why did I ever stop listening to it?"

3; You inadvertently re-establish your appetite for new music by re-calibrating your own idiosyncratic notions of what licks your balls based on the juxtaposition of your new, this-moment-in-time self with the affections of your old, that-moment-in-time self.

Back in about March this year I had a sudden epiphany that a band I have spent much of the last four or five years following, that I helped make a TV documentary about, that I wrote a fanzine about and wrote their website bio-piece for, and that I got to know pretty well on a personal level, aren't anywhere near as good as I had thought they were, and that, indeed, I hadn't even thought they were that good, I had just hoped they were based on a confluence of circumstances and some things they said years ago when they were young and I was even younger. It was akin to waking up next to your girlfriend of four years and suddenly realising that the relationship had started out with her saying all these great things would happen, and telling you what a fantastic person she was, and outside elements had just intensified this sensation, and NONE OF THESE THINGS SHE SAID HAD EVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED and she wasn't the person she'd said she was. Which was a bit of a headfuck. Anyway, this, coupled with the last Spiritualized record being fucking amazing, inspired me to go back and listen to the stuff I'd been into when I was 16-17-18 (Beastie Boys, Orbital, Spiritualized, The Verve) and re-evaluate what I ahd been listening to now. The result was that I have subsequently made a concerted effort to buy and listen to new music over the last three months, have bought more [new] records [and records by artists new to me] than I did in the previous year, and am having a fucking great time getting into Wilco and Lambchop and Four Tet and Squarepusher and heaven-only-knows-who-else, and re-discovering my affection for The Flaming Lips and Idlewild amongst others.

Right now I'm off to buy 2 records from the following; Uncle Tupelo's best of thing, The Streets album, The Vines album, Happiness by Fridge, or something by The Dismemberment Plan, and it's fucking great.

So, Todd, burn this musical lethargy out of yourself, and start getting excited when you go in record shops again.
 
Going through the motions...

As it happens every once in a while, I'm going through a dry spell with interesting music to listen to. Nothing sounds fresh, new, exciting, and (most of all) interesting. Do any of you guys have periods like this? What do you do when you're in them to get yourself out of the rut? Should I just wait this out?
Sunday, July 14, 2002
 
graceland

I picked the smoking car. The first one on the train, I waited and watched as the others filtered in slowly. I smoked a few cigarettes and read a bit of a Lester Bangs compilation. The train coughed to a start, and we began to rattle and roll through the belgian countryside. I fiddled with my cds and settled on Graceland, which played in its entirety as Brussels' shining governmental glory gave way to industrial wastelands gave way to fields and everntually the lowland lakes of holland, all with paul simon as the soundtrack. Best travel music ever.
 
Graceland

This was the first album I remember listening to. Whenever we would go on trips as children, my mom would play a mix of showtunes and radiohits and then Graceland. It was such a great change from the obnoxious Broadway junk and the ubiquity of the radio (I began my hipster training at a young age). It just felt so wonderful, this pop music performed brilliantly in a completely different context. I feel good knowing that other people out there like this album so much. I have been teased for quite a while by Indie people for liking this album so much. So what if every yuppie during the eighties owned the album? It is a GREAT album! Thanks Colleen.
Friday, July 12, 2002
 
Nicely put, Nick.

I saw that Soft Bulletin tour about six or seven times (the Lips, like Low and GbV, use Chicago as an ATM) in venues and times as varied as a Ribfest parking lot, a VFW Hall (OK, that one was in Milwaukee), and New Year’s Eve 2001 at the Metro, and I never tired of it.

The show was one of a few things that provided a personal epiphany for me, and my approach to music and culture. Gavin sometimes sez, "sincerity is the new irony" and I’m not sure if he believes it or not, but I think it a bit true. I can’t add much to your post except to echo the sentiment and applaud Wayne for being brave enough to wade into an increasingly self-conscious and flippant ironic-indie rock world (that still exists with morons like the Moldy Peaches, whose carnival is sort of the antithesis to the Flaming Lips), and with that album and tour unblinkingly present songs about love and hope and humanity and our barest and most crucial emotions. (Who would have thought in the mid-90s that Indie America would fall for lines like: "Love in our life / Is just too valuable / To feel for even a second / Without it"?)

He celebrated that New Year’s Eve by asking everyone to collectively make noise rather than to watch him as the performer do something special, and that’s really indicative of a man who understands that the great joys of his show (and life?) are our shared experiences. And to see the genuine joy on Wayne’s face when he’s overhwhelmed that something he created has made so many people happy is truly brilliant. ("I know I don’t have a strong voice, and that in another world I shouldn’t be here, but thanks for letting me sing my songs.")

There would have been a time when I sort of chuckled at the notion that "love is the greatest things a heart can ever know" or a cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," (or worry about my old chestnuts of indie ethics, anti-mainstream, blah blah blah), but I guess I don’t have the energy for that anymore. And the emotions and feelings captured in a lot of the rest of indie rock, I just don’t share these days. I don’t whether it’s aging—mine and the performer’s—or what, but the indie rock records that I’ve been attached to in the past few years (Deserter’s Songs, 69 Love Songs) are often the ones that aren’t afraid to be sincere. Even though the Mercury Rev album came first, it was really the Flaming Lips that heralded the change. I don’t know what they’ll do to support Yoshimi, but I’ll be there to find out.


Thursday, July 11, 2002
 
I'm a country boy. I can see the sea from my house. I can cycle for two minutes and be in the middle of lush green fields, far away from infernal combustion engines. I don't like London. It's busy, it's full of idiots, it bustles, it's hot, travelling on the tube I am always aware that I am breathing in the sweat and shit and pain of 6 million other people who only ever feel comfortable reading in public when they're compartmentalised on these subterranean mobile prison cells because looking at a book or a paper is the best way of avoiding making eye-contact with the potential psychopath opposite...

But last night I had just about the best damn night of my young life in the buzzing, humming metropolis that is Ken Livingston's geo-political mandate.

WHY?

Because I went to see The Flaming Lips play live at the Astoria.

Glitterballs. Dozens of balloons filled with glitter. Steve and the other guy with the bald head and the bearddressed as rabbits. Wayne in a suit. Covered in blood. Two other guys, one dressed as a bear, the other as a frog. Smoke machine. Strobe-box strapped to wayne's chest. Glove-puppets. Shouting. Loud-hailers. Sticks with pins on them. Confetti. Madness. Magic.

Why everyone who ever perfoms live doens't try and put on a show like that I do not know, because it was the single most joyously transcendental evening of my life. I've seen Idlewild in a tiny venue, I've seen At The Drive-In in a sweaty basement, I've seen old men play Stax and Motown covers in a pub, but The Flaming Lips throwing confetti and urging the crowd to scream in order to make everyone excited tops the lot.

Total joy, two thousand people united in the sublime understanding that we all knew love, we all had hope, we could all smile like children when confronted with a balloon and a guy dressed as a frog throwing himself into the crowd... This is unification, this is a celebration of the things that humans can do to make other humans feel amazing, it's like the first magic show you ever see when you're a kid at a party and you scream with wonderment that a human being can do something so amazing and wonderful... Wayne Coyne singing a song about peace and holding aloft a wind-up dove, to hold a real dove would be cruel and cruelty doens't exist for this hour and a half, humanity is pure and good and we need no god because we know that all the love inside us comes from the love inside everyone else and if we could only communicate that to each other then there would be no war, no misunderstanding, no hatred, no terrorism, no death... Just pure, simple and everlasting joy and peace and happiness... And all brought about by a 40-year-old man wearing a suit and covered in fake blood, who looks like a magician, and his friends, shrouded in smoke, dressed as animals, smiling, throwing confetti, playing any instrument that comes to hand, worshipping Teletubbies, shouting at rocket ships, laughing, smiling...

The difference between mass culture and popular culture is that mass culture eats our souls, erodes our sense of identity and interpolates us into a system, a conveyor belt, that we do not understand, that we cannot control. Popular culture, by contrast, reasserts who we are, enriches our life experience, helps us transcent the drugderies of everyday life, aids us in the everlasting quest for truth and beauty and love. The Flaming Lips... WOW.

Right now I'm tired an emotional and full of red wine, and yesterday was a stressful and amazing day for many reasons, so I shall write more soon, try and explain more, elucidate...

But right now...

The Flaming Lips.

WOW.
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
 
My personal Greatest Songs Ever Written list, relatively incomplete. This kind of takes a lot of different things into account-- lyrics, production, execution, emotion, and whether the song gets across what it intends. These are the kind of songs that I think will pack the same punch 100 years from now that they did the very first time you heard them. While many aren't necessarily my favorite from that artist, they kind of exemplify the summation of the best things about them. I suppose it's part serious and part fun.

The Minutemen - "History Lesson, Part Two"
The Beatles - "A Day In The Life"
The Beach Boys - "Wouldn't It Be Nice?"
Slint - "Good Morning, Captain"
Bob Dylan - "Visions of Johanna"
John Lennon - "God"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Lodi"
Fugazi - "Shut The Door"
Pavement - "Range Life"
The Velvet Underground - "Pale Blue Eyes"
The Band - "Rockin' Chair"
The Rolling Stones - "Tumblin' Dice"
The Tempations - "Ain't Too Proud To Beg"
The Dismemberment Plan - "The City"
Talking Heads - "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)"
Spoon - "Advance Cassette"
The Wrens "Rest Your Head"
AC/DC - "You Shook Me All Night Long"
Cap'n Jazz - "Planet Shhh"
Big Star - "Thirteen"
Sam Cooke - "A Change Is Gonna Come"
Flying Burrito Brothers - "Hot Burrito #2"
David Bowie - "Sound + Vision"
The Stone Roses - "I Wanna Be Adored"
Elvis Costello - "Radio, Radio"
Television - "Marquee Moon"
Patti Smith - "Gloria"
My Morning Jacket - "Bermuda Highway"
Gang of Four - "To Hell With Poverty"
Blur - "End Of The Century"
Sonic Youth - "Teenage Riot"
Nirvana - "About A Girl"
The Flaming Lips - "The Spark That Bled"
The Ronettes - "Be My Baby"
Jesus & Mary Chain - "Just Like Honey"
Modest Mouse - "Other People's Lives"
Husker Du - "Celebrated Summer"
Ben Folds Five - "Philosophy"
The Zombies - "Hung Up On A Dream"
The Stooges - "No Fun"
Stevie Wonder - "Living For The City"
Buddy Holly - "Maybe Baby"
Jackson Five - "I Want You Back"
Yo La Tengo - "Autumn Sweater"
Van Morrison - "Cyprus Avenue"

That's pretty preliminary............


 
On the topic of modern interpreters, few are as good as Neko Case or Kelly Hogan. Johnny Cash's last three albums have almost all been covers and they've all been spectacular.

On another note, I was driving through Saskatchewan on the weekend. There's nothing to look at on these drives - nothing - so it gives you plenty of time to reflect. I spent most of the drive pondering the greatest songs ever written. This list is neither comprehensive nor complete, so it's also non-debatable, but feel free to add your own.

Bob Marley - "Could You Be Loved"
Archers of Loaf - "Harnessed In Slums"
Slint - "Good Morning, Captain"
Johnny Cash - "The Man In Black"
Beatles - "In My Life"
Metallica - "One"
Bad Brains - "Attitude"
Ol' Dirty Bastard - "You Don't Want to Fuck With Me"
The Clash - "Hateful"
Willie Nelson - "Always on My Mind"
Slayer - "Seasons In the Abyss"

Tuesday, July 09, 2002
 
songwriting.

i think, todd, that the question is impossible to answer. On one hand, you have your Brittany Spearses, completely devoid of "credibility." Any attempt to brand her (for example) an "artist" is shot down when you think about the "i'm a girl coming of age" songs penned by bald 45-year-old men and collapse in fits of giggles.

On the other hand, you've got other bands/artists who can take a cover song and perform it with such emotion that it no longer matters who wrote it.

I guess it comes down to a distinction between songwriting and performing... personally, I tend to like artists who are exceptional at both.

also, to kurt's question... (when's the last time we had a serious popular performer who was devoted to interpreting the songs of others?) I think Jeff Buckley may have been the last to come from this "old-school" way of thinking... how many songs on Grace were covers? Quite a few, if I remember correctly...
 
Songwriters vs. Interpreters

I honestly think one of the things that has been lost, or (at the least) downgraded in respect, in the past few decades has been the role of a talented interpreter of other people's songs.

Take some of the people that we routinely cite as the great voices of pop music: Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Billie Holiday, etc. Almost exclusively, they did not write the songs they sang, but took the source material and "interpreted" it through their talent, filling it with emotion and power.

With the rise of the singer\songwriter, and even of bands writing their own material(post-Beatles, esp.), it came to be seen as less "authentic" to sing songs that other people had written. While much of the music I love has been written by the people performing it, I can't help but feel that this attitude has caused the stagnation of a vital strain of music.

Other than the occasional covers album, when's the last time we had a serious popular performer who was devoted to interpreting the songs of others? *Disclaimer: I am, with some reservations, excluding types such as Britney and N*Sync from this category. Not because I'm arguing against the quality of the end-product, but because that quality comes less from the singer's interpretation than from the producer's creativity. That's a whole 'nother topic.
 
Songwriting

Much has been made of the fact that certain people write and perform their own songs.

Does it matter, in the long run, who has written a song and who performs it? I could care less if a pop group has songs written for them, as long as the information of who wrote the song is readily available to me- so that if I like it I can attempt to find out what else they have written.

Does an artist gain extra credence in your eyes if they write and perform their own songs? Are they "better"?
Monday, July 08, 2002
 
fugazi, fort reno.

I roadtripped to DC last monday, to check out Fugazi in their hometown. The band was much tighter than they were in Boston back in April, but the Fort Reno sound system (donated) sucked all the life out of the perfomance, and I could barely hear the band over the unappreciative banter of locals come out for a free show.

It was a free show, so I shouldn't complain, but I'd rather pay 10 bucks to see Fugazi in a real venue than 5 or nothing to see them play with a shitty soundsystem. I think it's about time Ian backpedals on his ideals a bit, so the fans can get a better live experience.


Friday, July 05, 2002
 
There. Didn't that feel good?
 
That was a bit unfair considering I still haven't heard the new Trans Am album yet.
 
Nobody cares about Trans Am 'cause Adult kicked their asses back to the Thrill Jockey offices. Most of the stuff on Thrill Jockey is shit. Just like 99% of the labels out there.
Thursday, July 04, 2002
 
Trans Stinking Am

Maybe nobody has been able to listen to the whole CD. The album made me physically ill. Every song is the exact same, a faux-replication of the worst synth-pop of the 80s, but worse. There is nothing fun or kitschy about it, it is an aural train wreck. There is no bounce, only poor keyboards being trod upon by un-humans. I could have sworn I've dissed the TA before.
 
Why haven't I seen anyone trashing the new Trans Am. It's been what, two months, and all I've read is the Pitchfork review, which was negative, but nowhere near as savage as it could have been. Why hasn't anyone reviewed it or talked about how awful it is? When the Butthole Surfers put out a piece of shit, everyone says so. I hope Trans Am isn't receiving preferential, tongue-bite treatment because they're on Thrill Jockey.

It's the worst album I've heard all year. Worse and more gay-porno sounding than Bob Mould's, and Bob Mould is gay!
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
 
sonic youth - murray street (vinyl)

so i saw murray street on vinyl the other day, and i was tempted to buy it (you know, so i'd have a companion "home" copy to go with my burned "car" copy...) and I noticed the tracklist was a bit different, with "rain on tin" and "karen revisited" switched. I was thinking about this and decided that this simple swap totally changes the album's flow...

if you think of albums as having sides, as i do, then side one, cd version, is this real pop side, no instrumental noise freakouts, just some solid songs and playing. then side two is this dark, noisy mess, with a weaker set of songs but more experimentation. I think this version is more "classic" in Dylan acoustic-electric vein, showcasing both sides of the band's psyche...

however, on the vinyl version, with these songs switched, both sides are weaker comparatively, but the album flows better as a whole, and has more consistancy, and you don't get too much of each "personality" at once. Odd then that the vinyl version, the one best suited to big differences between halves, is the one with the song sequence that plays down this aspect.

Of course, this is an absurd over-analysis, as I'm sure the decision was simply due to the space/time limitations of a side of vinyl.
Monday, July 01, 2002
 
Where does meaning come from? With words, it comes from looking both outwardly, away from language, into the world beyond the words, the world that words signify, and it comes also from looking inwardly, to other words which can expand and enrich and alter individual words. The meaning of the word 'tiger' relates both to those things in the world - tigers - to which it applies, and to other words with which it can be combined to create a sentence which can be used as an assertion, a question, whatever. "Tigers are magnificent." The linguistic meaning of individual words arises from our ability to recognise the signified realities of those words, and from our ability to use those words as signifiers. The meaning of an expression is the semantic rules which determine its use in discourse. It can be extended, on a simple level, to cover the meanings of sentences and isolable parts of sentences, but how far can it stretch before the multitudinous variations of language begin to produce ambiguous and differing interpretations? Not far.

And what about artistic meaning? From where does the meaning of a painting, or a book, or a song, or a poem come? One could disseminate a book, pull it apart, and analyse the individual meanings of each and every word contained within, and still come no closer to understanding the whole meaning of the book as a complex entity in itself. And even if one could find meaning from a book in this process, how should one approach a painting, or a film, or a song, where there is more presented to the audience than just words?

Structuralism teaches us that there are codes in everything, languages in things beyond linguistics that are understandable and interpretable to the human mind. These sign systems take many forms - road signs, musical notes, body language - but they are all systems of communication, and therefore they can all express meaning. In order to drive safely we must be fluent in the language of road signs, in order to communicate fully with human beings in face-to-face situations we must be able to interpret body language. The suture of camera shots and edits within a film can be interpreted just as well as the subtle harmonic and melodic structures of a pop song, as long as one is fluent in the language of the medium involved.

Roland Barthes, the French structuralist, would have us believe that "the birth of meaning comes at the expense of the death of the author." All meaning, from whichever medium, in this way is subjective, built solely upon the interpretations of individual members of an audience, which in turn are built upon each individual's life experiences, hopes, fears, desires and needs. The author in this case becomes incidental - once the author's work is given over to an audience, it no longer belongs to the author at all, and they can have no claims upon its usage, interpretation, or meaning.

The alternative to this is that all meaning comes exclusively from the author; that the originator of the thing creates all senses and facets of it, its form, its hue, its tone, and also its meaning. All varying interpretations arising from an audience are therefore mistakes, misconstrued inferences leading to false connotations and errant misunderstandings. The meaning cannot be anything other than what the author intended it to be, and any divergent rendering is simply erroneous.

Neither of these theories satisfies. If meaning is purely subjective and relative, then the identity, personality and nature of an author is utterly irrelevant and senseless, and we may as well as a society resort to consuming cultural artefacts produced for us in lifeless machines, as envisaged by Orwell in '1984'. And if all meaning is born solely of the author's intention, then why should we read (for example) at all? Why should we not simply sit back and let an author tell us succinctly and precisely what they mean rather than have us digest their convoluted literary progeny? Neither account takes fully into consideration the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of individual members of the human race, and the diversity and contrariety of the human race as a whole. How can we begin to understand human life, society and culture if we are analysing it in inhuman ways?

It is my belief that the origin of meaning, and artistic and cultural meaning in particular, lays somewhere between these two accounts, in a territory so elaborate, heterogeneous, fluid and mutable, that it cannot be reduced to simple theoretical formulas and paradigms. And yet. This territory is incredibly, wondrously simple at the same time. It is simple in its complexities, and easily misunderstood because it is so elementary, so obvious and so pure.

I believe that the author is the supplier of the raw ingredients of meaning, and that the audience takes these ingredients (the words within a text, the notes within a song, the images within a film) and moulds them into a unique meaning. Each individual member of an audience has their own idiosyncrasies of interpretation, unique tools for extrapolating meaning based upon their personality, experience, soul, whim.

To present a vulgar metaphor by way of an elucidation and illustration - two chefs, presented with the same group of ingredients, are more than able to create different dishes, each with their own flavours and textures. Indeed, one chef presented with the same ingredients on two separate occasions is capable of creating two vastly different dishes, depending upon his or her particular whims and disposition on those separate occasions.

Meaning lays in the transition from author to audience, in the interpretation of the constituent parts of an artefact, be it a text, a painting or a song, by the audience. The constituent parts of an artefact can, during this process, be added to by the audience due to the simple associations that arise within the human consciousness. These associations, influenced by individual personalities, experiences, intellects and consciousness, can therefore vary tremendously from one individual to another, each individual possessing his or her own system of aesthetic and interpretational proficiencies and skills. This diversity in interpretative systems from individual to individual can help us to understand and explain the disparity between different renditions of meaning arising from the same artefact.

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