Saturday, August 13, 2022

On The Guardian: "‘Better late than never’: how Brian Eno and David Byrne finally laid a musical ghost to rest"

Check this out, on the eternally-relevant My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, from my favorite liberal British news -site.

Not as interesting as if, say, they had reinstated "Qu'ran," but OK, cool.

What's funny though is that every time this album comes again to the attention of the musical moment (and it seems to return every decade or so, like cicadas or the Sunspot Maximum), the terms "cultural imperialism," or "cultural appropriation" seem to come up as well, with Byrne and Eno all too willing to play the cheerful but guilty pilferers for whichever journalist it is rolling the tape this time around.

And good for Dunya Younes, I'm glad she's pleased with the way it turned out, and I sure as fuck want to see her get paid, but for me, as a white American dude living at the ass end of a subtropical peninsula, at the ass end of a period of global domination, I have to say that the only reason I even care about the music being stolen is the identity of the thieves.

Again, I want artists to get paid, but for me, as a fan of whiteboys like myself but with guitars, to pretend that Lebanese "mountain singing" as they called it but really Beirut pop, matters at all to me would be fairly disingenuous. I care about the sounds because they were selected by Eno (and to a lesser extent, Byrne). They are important to me not because they were recorded in 1972 Lebanon, but because they were appropriated in 1979 London.

And I seriously don't think there's anything wrong in admitting that.

So I sure as fuck don't feel guilty about it, and I don't think Eno or Byrne should, either.

Associated with a post on the same album I wrote in 2012

Friday, May 27, 2022

RIP Alan White, drummer for Yes, I couldn't possibly not say. He wasn't the most iconic drummer in the band's history, or the best, or the most famous, or the most eloquent, or . . . . if you know what I mean. But unlike the guy who fills in the blank on those other categories, Alan White most definitely, at all times, wanted to be in Yes.

And there's sure the fuck nothing wrong with that.

Plus Plastic Ono Band as the discography padder, who else in prog played on something like it?

You know what I wish I had right now? That $1.99 cutout of Ramshackled I bought at Specs 40 years ago.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Godspeed You! Black Emperor at The Beacham, Orlando, FL April 28, 2022

Powerful show, if only an hour and 48 minutes long. Not a word was spoken by the band to the audience, speaking of pretense.

The finale was a half-hour version of "Blaise Bailey Finnegan III," of which I've written in these pages previously.

I guess they still haven't figured out they'd been punked. Or--and I should mention the possibility--they knew the guns and the poem was all bullshit.

Anyway, it was a fucking orchestral treat, eight part toccatas and fugues, people, and I was glad I didn't have to hear them ask me to support Hamas, or anything.

Jack White in Mojo, on Pretense

"People say That I can't do anything without pretense. No arguing with you there, but I would say everything we experience is pretentious. Some would say The Ramones are the most incredible authentic punk band there was. Some others would say they wore uniforms. They had clever stage names that weren't their real names. I love The Ramones to death. Just saying . . . 'Let's not pretend that's not a pretense.' But when [they] pick on something for being pretentious, they don't like it to begin with."

--- Jack White, interviewed in the May 2022 Mojo

Hear hear. It's not a big thing these days, because not as many music writers have a stick up their ass anymore, but back in the 70's or 80's when I'd see some mention in Rolling Stone of Yes, and it was tiresomely connected as it always was to the word 'pretentious,' I'd be thinking, 'OK. "The Gates of Delirium" is pretentious, but "The Murder Mystery" is not. Got it.'

File under: Power Speaks Truth

Monday, March 28, 2022

Some Favorite Album Covers

Well, I saw that big-low-t just came up with a post with some of his favorite album artwork, and as far as I'm concerned, there's no idea so good that it's not worth ripping off, you know what I mean?.

So, then, like big-low-t said, these are just ten that I came up with quickly; I could be missing some, and I would probably come up with a different list tomorrow. But the real issue, for me, anyway, is separating the cover from the music. Just reviewing, I considered Pink Flag, and it's a good cover, even better than good, but am I overrating the cover some, just because I happen to think it's, like, the-second greatest album of all time? Should I not be surprised that I like the cover to Soft Machine's Third, the music attached to which I think is probably the only thing better than Pink Flag?. Or, moving down the line a bit, is the cover to Let it Bleed really that good, or am I letting the ace music influence my graphic judgement?

These are a bunch of rhetorical questions, I know.

So what I ended up with is a list of some really good albums, but with maybe none among my absolute favorites, just because I wanted to try and focus on the art.

Sepultura - Arise: Michael Whelan is here to tell you that if you're an artist and you've captured the respect of the sci-fi paperback people, well, then, you're *definitely* good enough to do album covers. After Sepultura used Whelan's "Nightmare In Red" second hand, after at least two science fiction/fantasy books had already done so, for Beneath the Remains, Roadrunner commissioned the cover for Arise directly from the artist. It's Sepultura's best album, and their best cover, too, which is to be expected given Whelan's involvement.

Paul McCartney & Wings - Back to the Egg: This album definitely doesn't get the respect it deserves, but even the people who (wrongly) dislike the music recognize that the cover is great. It was the famed design studio Hipgnosis who were behind it, and the reason it's great is the juxtaposition of the warm, rich, comfortable Scottish castle with the cold, metallic, blinking spaceship porthole hidden under that tartan weave carpet. The interior of Lympne Castle would have been good; a view of Earth from space just as good; but the combination is jarring enough to stick in the memory forever, pretty much.

Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising: This is another cover that derives its strikingness from a dichotomy. This one's not tradition vs. technology, but rather rural vs. urban. Really, it's the Led Zeppelin IV gatefold, done American style. A scarecrow against the New York skyline. Plus, you know, fire, which should really never hurt an album cover.

Elton John - Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy: I am of an age such that this record was my first experience with a great album cover; I just so happened to be ten years old during the year when Elton John outsold the rest of the music industry combined. And what a package he and his people put together for his hundred million fans: count them, two, booklets, a poster, and that gatefold cover that made my pre-teen jaw drop; not only the glimpse of a well-proportioned bird-woman's pubic hair, but a roly-poly record player taking a dump. Amazing stuff associated with this rock 'n' roll stuff, huh?

Fuzz: Ooooh, stars and bright colors and that space-monster looks fuckin' *stoned*, man. There's a vibe to this that reminds me of the series of Samorost games from Amanita Design. Yes, the music totally reminds me of fuckin' Blue Cheer, but in this case I am sure that I'm not being unduly swayed by that: the art, by Tatiana Kartomten Compton, so you know, is that good.

Free - Heartbreaker: Tremendous title track that you need to hear if you haven't, by the way, but if you thought that the cover image is a little boring, I might almost understand. This was the last of Free's studio albums, and the band had seen the end coming, too, so the front image (done by an Island Records midlevel functionary named John Glover) was probably fashioned deliberately to suggest an evaporation, a vanishing-in-progress, as the band transitioned from something that existed to something that did not. As their guitarist moved towards death, it must be said. But the idea of gradual reality extinguishment my own sci-fi brain brings to it from there may not be there for everyone else, I realize.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is another one about disintegration. I like the album okay -- "Two Headed Boy" is good, and so is "Holland, 1945" and the use of theremin will always get some respect from me --but it's not the music that may be influencing my appreciation of the artwork. What may be influencing it is this idea that used to float around, and still does to a lesser extent, that bandleader Jeff Mangum is crazy. I once read a long, horrifying, account of Mangum's many encounters with ghosts, and one, OK, but many I gotta say sorta equals crazy to me. So when I see that fin-de-siecle image they dug out, but with the gal empty where her head should be, I just think of the disintegration of self that comes with insanity.

Gong - Radio Gnome Invisible Part One: Flying Teapot The ultra-hippy thing with Gong kind of obscures the fact that they were as outsider-art as it gets. Daevid Allen was like Grandma Moses or Daniel Johnston or Jandek, knowwhatImean? Yes, perpetually toasted, but he did whatever the fuck he wanted, and it didn't sound or look like anything else, and that meant the album covers, too.

The Beach Boys - Surf's Up This is a weird one for me, because I've never heard the album. But the title is so Beach Boys, and the art is so clearly not. The cover painting is based on a sculpture called End of the Trail by someone named James Earle Fraser, and it is so evocative of defeat, of simply having had all your lifeblood sucked out, it creates an amazing contrast with the former sunshiny image of the band. And makes me, frankly, a little afraid to listen to the record.

Arab Strap - The Week Never Starts Round Here: I first became aware of this Scottish mopecore band when they backed up Jason Molina on The Lioness, and dug this out, their debut, for the People song "Kate Moss." Yet the album is not a favorite of mine. But I think you'll have to agree the cover is beautiful. It reminds me of the paintings Clive Barker did for his Abarat series.

Already, I can think of one I missed, or would put in next time, or whatever, which is Slayer's Reign In Blood. But this is long enough for now, don't you think?

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Dear Mr. Pavement*

So, I'm on Third Man's mailing list and I get an email Friday saying that Jack White is the cover for the new Mojo and did I want to buy the Collector's edition "[a]vailable exclusively at Third Man London, Third Man Nashville, Third Man Cass Corridor, and online at ThirdManStore.com on March 15th"?

Well, actually, no, I don't. I'll get the plebe version in a couple months, whenever it's traversed the pond via the Covid-slow international mail, thanks. But I'll definitely be looking forward to it!

And then I read through the email and below the blurb for Mojo, and the blurb for Jack's new single with Q-Tip(?), I learned that Third Man has a quarterly magazine themselves, called Maggot Brain. And that sounded cool to me. I still mourn the print version of Spin to which I subscribed for many years. I tried Rolling Stone for a year or two once Spin went out, but let's face it, they've been kind of lame since the '80's (which is why I started reading Spin in the first place). And I do subscribe to Mojo, and they're great, but always being 45 days behind current with them is a little weird, seeing gig ads for shows at the O2 Manchester I could never attend but also are already over is always a little sad for me.

I could maybe subscribe to this Maggot Brain thing! And be current, reading gig ads for shows I also couldn't attend, but *haven't* already happened! So I click through for that, but immediately get waylaid when I start reading about the interview the mag did with Pavement in advance of their reunion tour.

What's this? Pavement dates? So for a second I get excited, and I leave the Maggot Brain page and head over to https://pavementband.com/#tour and sure enough, US tour starting in September.

But my cautious excitement was dashed as I read through the dates, as once again, Pavement is not coming to South Florida, or even Central Florida.

And I sighed.

Because Pavement not coming to South Florida is a long tradition with me. And, you know, with them.

It's funny, 'cause at the bottom of the page, it actually had a link for "Request a Show," and I was like, "OK, I will," and I even had an inchoate letter written up in my head, went something like this:

Dear Mr. Pavement:

Read with the usual disappointment your reunion tour US tour dates, because once again you've decided not to come to South Florida. Living here all my life, I've long since known that being at the geographical and cultural ass-end of America means that I'm often not going to have he opportunity to see my favorite bands play in town. Not like in Austin, or Atlanta, there's a window you have to squeeze yourelf through, here, I understand. It's got to be the band you know, of course, and before they break up, of course, or maybe during their one-off reunion, and during a tour where it's practical for the band to travel the 700 miles. Like some bands end their tours in Miami, and just begin their vacations here the next day. Think Sonic Youth did that one time. Or I saw High on Fire this other time, Pike and the rest of 'em were departing on some Metal Cruise the next day. So, such a long drive, it's gotta make sense, I get it. Not every tour is gonna work out right.

But with Pavement, it has *never* worked out, to the point where I wonder whether y'all just have something personal against South Florida. I've followed you, basically your entire mid-major career. It's true I wasn't a fan of the band when you were on Drag City, but you weren't doing national tours then anyway. But I read the glowing review in Spin for Slanted, and bought the Matador CD right away. Liked it so much I wrote you, commending your vision. Spiral Stairs even wrote back to me! So I'm right with you from your breakout. Should count for something, right? And since I got that short note, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for a date I could check out.

But never; not then, and not, sadly, disappointingly, not now.

Maybe you'd reconsider? Other bands, do, evidently. Hell, Godspeed You! Black Emperor is coming to Florida for the first time ever next month. You should do the same in October.

(Signed) rastro etc.

It would have been a good letter. But when I clicked the "Request a Show" link,it just gave me the Bandsintown page and you couldn't personalize your request.

Just as well, I suppose, as it puts me in mind of the time I wrote Sweep the Leg Johnny asking them to play Churchill's, and instead, they cancelled their tour. Or the time I *couldn't* talk Parquet Courts out of watching the Super Bowl and playing Churchill's instead.

______________
* Extra credit if you caught the "Young Ones" reference.