Sunday, April 30, 2006

Let the Product Sell Itself...

Eirik asked me last week if I've seen the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, and I haven't, because it hasn't been screened anywhere near here yet. But at least I may get to see it soon; Earlier this week, an announcement on the film's official website says that the DVD-version is ready and will be released on June 27th, but you can pre-order it from them and maybe get it before the official release date. The DVD will have extensive bonus material, including 62 songs live and four promotional videos. Oh joy! Did I mention I just had my birthday?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

EMP Pop Conference

The fifth - I guess you can call it annual by now - Experience Music Project Pop Conference kicks off tomorrow. If you are unfamiliar with it, the goal is, in their own words "to bring academics, writers, artists, fans, and other participants into an all-too-rare common discussion".

Discussion about pop music, that is. I think it's a brilliant idea, and something we'd benefit from having here in Norway as well (though, I guess they've made attempts at a some of the by:Larm-events). But you see, Norwegian music journos don't like to think too seriously about music, let alone pop music. Their idea of a discussion elevates to whether or not Idol is good or bad for pop. And that's about it. (Swedes are a bit better. Note, for example, the superior quality of SVT's Musikbyrån over it's Norwegian version Lydverket).

One of the sub-themes to be discussed at this year's EMP Conference, has to do with the awkward notion of "guilty pleasures", as if such a thing really exists. Christgau puts it well in his introduction:

"It's a pain that the idea of guilty pleasure has entered rock-critical discourse at all, much less taken a prominent role. The concept reeks of the notion that rock-versus-pop is some sort of paradox--the dim-bulbed theory that meaningful longforms with a rhythm section preclude three-minute trifles with a hook, and vice versa. In fact, as all good critics should understand, the satisfactions of these polar caricatures (most beat-based popular music, of course, falls somewhere in between) often bleed into each other, and figuring out how they interact is a continuing challenge."

But their aim is broader than merely discussing "guilty pleasures". One of the more interesting aspects of "liking something you're not "supposed" to" is when you end up enjoying a piece of music despite its politics, i.e. you don't agree with it's politics, as is the case regarding my relationship with Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" (if you don't understand why, listen to it once more). Looks like the Dean is going to talk about something similar to that.

Drew Daniel's paper, excellently titled "How to Sing Along with "Sweet Home Alabama"", looks like it will tackle the issue of invoked versus taken meaning, which may be especially significant in the case of that Skynyrd classic. Rob Wallace's paper "Angels and Demons at Play: Some Case Studies in Free Jazz and Race" should be very interesting. And the title of Tim Lawrence's alone is intriguing: "Go Bang: Some Queer Songs About Masturbation and Orgasm".

I'm not invited, of course, and wouldn't have been able to go if I was, but Zoilus has promised daily blogging from the conference.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Phoenix 'n' Eddy

I went to see Phoenix play a closed gig this Thursday. With me in the audience were mostly hairdressers, jeans shop clerks, bartenders and scenesters. Well, ok, there were a few musicians, who'd only come for the free drinks, and some music "journos", who seem to be under the misconception that Phoenix is the best thing since burnt toast. They do have a certain je ne sais qua (!) which goes down well over here. But while their music is often clever with its 70's soft rock reference, it's seldom very good. Since they begun to up the tempo on the few new songs I've heard, though, they may be on to something. That something may be Spoon-like, only Spoon write better songs. And I'm still pretty sure no English speaking person on Earth would say "everythin'" without the g-sound twice in succession.

The Village Voice are in the midst of a major overhaul, which among other things has resulted in music editor Chuck Eddy getting the can. Says Robert Christgau: "There have been many good music editors, but Chuck Eddy was the most efficient, most professional I worked with". I've personally always enjoyed his Eddytor's Dozen-column, in which he has often championed music deemed "uncool" (or just plain bad. Take your pick) by the consensus. Just have a look at his Top Ten-list from the SPIN Alternative Record Guide:

1. Guns N' Roses, Appetite for Destruction
2. Various Artists, Electric Salsa: Hot Latin Dance Hits
3. Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols
4. Various Artists, The Great Rap Hits
5. Quarterflash, Quarterflash
6. Boney M, The Best of Boney M Volume 2
7. Rose Tattoo, Assault and Battery
8. Skatt Bros., Strange Spirits
9. Loverboy, Loverboy
10. Stacey Q, Hard Medicine

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Norwegian Jazz, for a change

Just so you know, in my opinion ECM Records have produced some of the most overrated, self important jazz ever. But they have a few gems too. Still, I'm positively surprised after the first few listens to The Source's new record The Source released on said label. Trygve Seim has failed to leave a good impression on me before, coming across as a second rate Jan Garbarek, which is far from good. This time, he has conjured up melodies that remind me of latter day Air, which is very good. But where Air upped the tempo frequently, both for juxtaposition, thrill and effect, The Source prefer the slow tempos tytpical of much ECM output. They do have a playfulness that is rare in those parts though, and Mats Eilertsen, who replaced Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten on bass, impresses. A promising effort.

Also, Thelonious Monk was honored with a posthumous Pulitzer Prize recently. More here and here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bob the Builder

I enjoyed this. Stylus has a feature this week where writer Dom Passantino has taken the task to listen to and review every British number one single of the new millennium. Judging from his ratings so far, he seems to have a penchant for Handbag House and soft Dance-tracks; both Fragma and Spiller receive good ratings. I'm not sure any track deserves a 0 out of 10, though, no matter how bad, stupid or mean spirited it is.

An unsung favorite if mine popped up on the list too. I never did know that Bob the Builder's "Can We Fix It" spent three weeks as Britain's number one single. But it's a great track. A solid stomper that preaches the idea that nothing is impossible:

"Bob the Builder, CAN WE FIX IT?, Bob the Builder, YES, WE CAN!"

Exactly what I would like to teach the kids. And a good few adults too. That's the spirit.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Busy Bee

Tom Verlaine is about to release two albums on Thrill Jockey in short succession. The aptly titled Songs and Other Things will be out on the 25th of April. It will contain songs, obviously, and other things (?!?). You can stream "Orbit" and "The Day of You" from that album courtesy of the Thrill Jockey web site. Both are songs, and probably other things (ok, stop it!). Couldn't find the release date for Around, which will be his second of the year. Rumor has it Around will be an instrumental record. Mr. Verlaine is also the main feature in the latest WIRE. They also have an exclusive mp3 on their web site, which you can find here.

Also, Slate had a beautiful picture special of Jazz musicians yesterday.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Will you Please be Quiet, Please!

In my humble opinion, Kenny Drew has never made a good album. Not truly good, anyway. Of course that doesn't exclude him from the right to have an opinion. After all, I've yet to make my mark musically (or in any other way, to be honest), yet here I am spewing my guts left and right for your (dis-) pleasure. But his recent column for All About Jazz, titled "What the F**k Happened to Black Popular Music?", just plain smacks of jealousy and ignorance, and his arguments are not far from what Classical musicians said of Jazz in its early days. Arguments that were bollocks then, and are bollocks now. Learn your history, mate!

In the article, he attacks current Afro-Am. Pop music, meaning Rap, for the "the stupidity and negativity in the lyrics and the video images that accompany this so-called 'music'". Well honestly, dumb lyrics have existed for a long long time, and I'm not sure Earth, Wind & Fire is the best example of the contrary. Secondly, the style of rap you attack has existed since the 80's, and if your taste in music was really that varied you'd have known that your arguments fall some ten years short of being relevant. Also, not all rap is gangsta rap.

Now I want to argue that although I for various reasons have problems with much of what is labeled "gangsta" myself, is the imagery and style really all that different from movies such as Scarface and The Godfather, both of which are considered classics? I think people have to start to realize that music can be, and often is, fiction too.

Another argument Mr. Drew drops, is that rap can not be called music at all, 'cause when he started playing he learned that music should consist of such-n-such. I myself am sick and tired of hearing arguments about what music should be. I'm not saying he's not entitled to say this and that is bad music, but to say it's not music for the reasons he lists, is close to saying that unless you have a plate of fruit in a painting, its not art. Grow up!

The last thing he argues, is the lack of instrumental skill of today's pop musicians. It's a common argument from older musicians, and it's been around for as long as potatoes. My view is that as long as a musician is able to use their instrument sufficiently in order to get a given song to work, they've done their job. Sometimes they don't have enough of what it takes, sometimes they do. Skill as such does not equal a good musician to me. Yngwie Malmsten has got skills in buckets, but he's a terrible musician.

Stop being a jealous old twat, Drew. Unless you have some valid arguments the next time, I suggest you play your music instead. It's much more admirable than the sobbing you've produced here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Jackie

A great tribute by Tom Hull to Jackie McClean, where he goes through some of his highlights on record.

(Note: It took a while for me to open the page. It may have just been my connection, though.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jackie McClean

I missed this over the weekend: Jackie McClean passed away last Friday. Jackie grew up in Harlem and was lucky enough to jam with his idol, Charlie Parker, while still at a tender age. He had stints with Miles Davis and Art Blakey, but really found his style after meeting and playing with Charles Mingus, and listening to Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. He recorded for Prestige in the mid to late 50's, and then made several strong albums for Blue Note in the 60's, among them Let Freedom Ring!, One Step Beyond, and Destination Out!. R.I.P.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rolling Crispies

I'm not going to make a habit out of posting YouTube-videos here, but this one was too good to pass up. A song for a Rice Crispies commercial recorded by the Rolling Stones ca. 1964. Pretty good.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

She's not Dead

When I first read the tracklisting for Pink's new album I'm not Dead, I thought "Ur Hand" (short sample) would be a tribute to some great lover. You know, kind of like Shakira's "Underneath Your Clothes". I underestimated her, of course. Sonically, the refrain sounds almost exactly like the Veronicas' great "4ever", but this is no "hey! c'mon! let's make out!". No, sir-ee. Pink wants nothing to do with you, you creepy bastard. Which is why you'll end up all by yourself tonight. Just you and...
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