July 2004 Archives
Bird Nest Roys' "Jaffa Boy" (removed), from 1986, was one of the greatest singles ever to come out of Auckland, New Zealand. (Thanks to guitarist "Big Ross" Williams for permission to post it--there was also a Little Ross in the band.) If you ever see a copy, grab it--the other side is a splendid cover of the Hollies' "Bus Stop," a song with a similar kind of longing sensibility. I think I remember Tim Adams writing years ago in the Ajax Records catalogue that if he had to pick one song to have on continuous repeat for the rest of his life, it'd be this one, or something along those lines. This is another one of those songs where I'm not entirely clear on what it's about--is the Jaffa boy a boy from Jaffa, or one who's been eating Jaffa cakes (for the uninitiated: sponge cookie topped with orange jam and chocolate, hence "a little kid with orange lips and chocolate on his mind")? And what's the narrator's relationship to him? Whatever. It's beautiful. Listen to it.
We went to look at more houses today. Two had already been bought up by the time we made it over to them. Another one, though, was perhaps the... um... quirkiest of the houses we've looked at so far. A '50s ranch with immaculate topiary bushes, its outside entirely hot pink, each of its rooms saturated with a single L.A.-in-the-'60s-type color. Plus a huge bathroom that featured a black three-person-size Jacuzzi, a shower that looks like some kind of retrofuturistic capsule-size time machine, and what a sign described as "expensive cream carpeting." Yes. Wall-to-wall shag carpeting in the bathroom. And a basement that appeared to be done up in gray brick--until you noticed that the bricks and mortar were painted on. And two waterfalls and a koi pond in the back yard. I loved its eccentricity, but feared that I'd have to strip a lot of it away if we were ever going to be able to impose our own eccentricities on it, and what fun would that be?
Five times as many hits as I've ever had in a day--wow! And no feedback at all on the song! (Yes, I know the comment system is sorta broken if you're not already registered, but dropping me a line if you like a song is always welcome.) Today's song is something special--a song that I think should've been a 7" single, but was never officially released (although it was a very popular radio tape in Boston 13 or 14 years ago). Fertile Virgin's "Tefnut" (removed) has stuck with me for many years; it is, I believe, simultaneously about the Egyptian goddess of water and clouds and about a band member's cat. Simple but splendid riff, ditto for the harmonies. I've been known to sing the chorus of it to our own cat, mangled: "E--die, finest of cats..." (Thanks to Julie Kantner for permission to post it, and for providing the MP3 itself!) Fertile Virgin only ever released one single, "Lucky Day" on the magnificent Harriet label; they wanted to re-record "Tefnut" as a single, but broke up before that happened. Kantner went on to Twig, by whom I might post something in the next couple of days, too.
Another call for addresses: anybody out there in lacunaeland know how to get in touch with the members of Girls At Our Best, Flap or Busytoby?
Tonight I played Dysfunctional Family Feud down at Dante's--a Burning Man team vs. an Oregon Country Fair team, questions a little different from the regular Family Feud type, but not very ("things you buy outdoors," "things you do when you get lost"). OCF won thanks to some fairly dubious math on the judges' part; the half-time show was the Burning Man team's captain getting his head shaved into a mohawk by a half-dressed babe with an electric razor while the club's sound system blasted Trio's "Da Da Da."
Oh! Um! Hi, Salon people! How nice to see you! I wasn't expecting you! Here, sorry, the place is a mess, won't you come in? Oh, uh, whoops, can you hold on a moment while I get myself decent? Do you want something to read? There's a bunch over in the sidebar. Oh, man. Here we go. I'm afraid there's a bunch of inside baseball about a comic book convention down there, but if you go spelunking a little there are a few more excellent MP3s that haven't expired yet.
There. Much better. So here's Strawberry Story's "Twenty Six" (removed), from their Small & Slightly Rounded EP--dating from that 1991 moment when sha-la-la came yay-close to conquering the planet. (Thanks to the band's James Petersen and Paulo Stinson for permission to post it.) I've spent a lot of time with bitterly disaffected mid-20s types in the last few weeks, and this song's an apt talking-to for them. Of course, when I was 26, my then-girlfriend told me one morning that she'd had a nightmare that I was leaving her for the singer from Strawberry Story, despite the fact that neither of us knew her name... (UPDATE: Paulo's informed me that she was Hayley Greenberg, and then Hayley Stinson. And that the song was named after its number on the drum machine--nothing to do with being 26 at all. So much for my bright ideas.)
Spent 26 hours getting to, being in, and returning from Denver. Sadly, since it took upwards of two hours to get where I was going in the city from the airport, my experience of the city consisted of a rock show, a hotel room, a spectacular mountain view, a couple of shuttle-van and taxi trips, and a room service omelet eaten with bleary alarm-clock eyes. Next time I'll make plans to at least cross the street more than once, yes?
No music for a few more days, I'm afraid--my travels are going on longer than I thought they would. (As I write this, I'm on a plane to Denver, where I'll be seeing a Modest Mouse show for Blender tonight.) And I can't talk here about some of the stuff I saw at Comic-Con, because I'll be writing about it for PW for real. But here are a few more casual notes:
*Comic-Con is huge. I mean, gigantic. Supposedly something on the order of 100,000 people were present this year at one time or another--it's four days, plus Wednesday evening, and it's held in San Diego's Convention Center, which is the size of... something really, really big. San Diego's carrying capacity is maxed; I heard that motels 25 miles away from downtown were charging $500 a night by the time the event started. Motels.
*It's the biggest annual get-together for the pop-culture-fan community; it's also the biggest annual get-together for the comics industry, and for a certain sector of Hollywood, and for comics retailers, and for pretty much anyone trying to buy into the fantasy factory. Which means that there are business people in three-piece suits, booth babes in next to nothing, enthusiastic young Goths in full regalia, and the occasional middle-aged schlub in chainmail all next to each other. There was a problem with people trying to get in on Wednesday night--way too many, poorly planned--and my friend H. and I noticed one particular guy arguing with a guard at a door: maybe 50 years old, deep voice w/ lisp that sounded like Snagglepuss, facial tattoos/piercings/surgical alterations and claws that actually made him look more than a little like Snagglepuss too, enormous breasts. We raced for the nearest pillar we could hide behind and fell over laughing.
*The convention center gets very hot by about 3:30 in the afternoon, and the natural odors of all the above begin to rise.
*Every year, I go to San Diego with one particular comic book in mind that I can look for--something that's not too expensive, but old/obscure enough that it'll be a little bit of a challenge to find, and give me a chance to look at a bunch of back-issue dealers' booths. (The dealers are generally near the west end of the hall, after the T-shirt-and-bootleg-anime people.) This year, it was Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane #106, whose cover looks like this:
So well-intentioned! So wrong! So, so, so wrong! Anyway, I found it for six bucks. Also located "The Komplete Kolor Krazy Kat," vol. 2, which I'd been seeking for about ten years, plus two volumes of Krazy Kat dailies I didn't even know existed, and while I was in the mood bought an original Roger Langridge page that I think he'd done for Nickelodeon magazine: Spongebob Squarepants, written and drawn in the style of Krazy Kat. This is why I love Comic-Con.
*There appeared to be a whole lot of Star Wars-related action this year--among other things, Lucasfilm announced the title of the next SW movie ("Revenge of the Sith"), and then spent the rest of the weekend selling $20 "Revenge of the Sith" T-shirts. I didn't buy one. (I did manage to get a couple of T-shirts for Lisa--one really nice one with an Anders Nilsen drawing of a pile of TVs, in particular.)
*Most of my meals were pitiful things: protein drink and bagel for breakfast, pretzel or power bar for lunch, veggies and rice from Wok 'n' Roll in the mall for dinner--add on a 40-pound backpack and it was no wonder I was droopy by the last couple of days. (The Scholastic party would've helped if it hadn't been all meat and crackers on the steam tables...) I did get to dine at Maya and Ben's place in San Diego on Saturday night, though, which was wonderful for food reasons and much more wonderful for company reasons, esp. since Maya's old roommates Liz and Meredith were there. Some of my favorite people anywhere, all in one room.
*Went to the infamous beach party, sponsored in years past by Highwater Press and Fantagraphics. This year, Global Hobo and Jesse Reklaw took over, and printed up a clever flyer with directions to the party on the front, and a bunch of tiny little doodle-y comics about how much the beach party sucks on the back. Unfortunately, the directions were somewhat faulty, so lots of people (including Mer and Robyn and I) got there pretty late. The weather was nice, and the vibe was friendly at first, and there was the usual mass skinny-dipping in the ocean, and then things grew increasingly sketchy--when the people none of the cartoonists knew started setting off fireworks, we figured it was time to hightail it back downtown.
*Favorite new cartooning discovery: Hope Larson--I don't think she's done anything exactly like a conventional comic or even minicomic yet, but her "Put On a Brave Face" and "Sex Rainbow" are wonderful, and so's her web site's name (think Emily Dickinson). She was selling stuff at the "Flight" table, which was the unexpected hit of the show. (The first day, I asked Carla Speed McNeil what I needed to see, and she pointed me at their table. On my way there, Scott McCloud grabbed me by the wrist and more or less dragged me there. I figured that was a good sign, and I was right.) I'll probably write more about the Flight crew in PW, but I'll just say that Clio Chiang's story "The Bowl" is going straight into the hit parade...
*Longest lines for an actual comics-related thing (i.e. not Sarah Michelle Gellar, who was there) were probably to get a signed copy of the single-volume edition of Jeff Smith's "Bone." I was pleased to note that it has a quote from my ten-year-old review on its back cover... and less pleased to note that it adds an apostrophe to a possessive "its."
*Eisner Awards were long, as usual, and the people I thought would win, the people I hoped would win, and the people who actually did win were different in too many cases. But Derek Kirk Kim won "talent deserving of wider recognition," happily, although the frilly panties a few of his pals were talking about throwing at him if he won didn't materialize. (They'd bought them--they just didn't make it to the Eisners in time.) And how often do you get to see Will Eisner accepting the award named after himself, on behalf of his former assistant Jules Feiffer?
*Didn't get to too many panels, but I did see half of the annual fans vs. pros trivia challenge. For which the questioner didn't show up for half an hour, so they fielded trivia questions from the audience--basically ALL of which they knew. "Which character introduced in a Hostess ad eventually became part of Marvel continuity proper?" (That would be Icemaster.) I thought about asking mine--"what was the first Comics Code-approved comic book to use the word 'orgasm'?"--but thought better of it, as there were kids present...
*Metatrend: people asking me if people at Comic-Con were talking about the Chip McGrath article in the NY Times Magazine. Without getting into my complicated response to the article: Yes. Yes, they were.
I'm off to San Diego for Comic-Con International, so no more music (and probably no more updates of any kind) until next week, but here's one to hold you until then. Honeybunch's "Mine Your Own Business" (removed) is one of the catchiest songs to have come out of the early-'90s la-la moment, specifically 1992. (Thanks to Jeffrey Underhill for permission to post it.) It's also one of those songs where, as Christopher Ricks notes of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," you'd have to have something seriously wrong with you to think you could correctly guess the title from the lyrics--but the title also complements it very nicely. ("Yes, your life is closely tied enough to mine that we're going to have to talk about this, but the situation is not as simple as you're making it out to be, so either get more empathetic or buzz off.") I've always thought that it started very abruptly--as if there was some kind of intro that had been sliced off--but that also suggests something blurted out, a demand to back off, or to be a little less harsh. All of which would be one thing if there were only one vocal part, but there are two, alternating lines and harmonizing: mine, yours, there's no way to get away from this dialogue.
Honeybunch are still around; here's their current home page.
Obsessive playing and re-playing of the Fiery Furnaces' "Chris Michaels," more biking, a nice long talk with Julianne (who's leaving town, sadly, but with whom I'll finally get to work at her new gig in NYC) in the course of which I left my bike helmet at the restaurant where we met, and Margaret Cho's Notorious C.H.O. in the evening. (Verdict on the latter: she's very, very funny--I mean, I had tears of laughter rolling down my face a couple of times--and she can do more with her face than any other comedian I know, but the hagiographical interviews with her fans at the beginning and end of the movie have GOT to go. As does the feel-good pep speech at the end of her main set. No difference between that and the "heartwarming" chapter that Erma Bombeck used to put at the end of her books.) Any lacunae readers going to be at Comic-Con that I don't already know about? Email me. Or else I'll just have to spend five days singing "how bad does she seee-ee-ee-eem, she makes me wanna scream" to myself.
Today's song is Andrew Beaujon's "Packaging Deduction" (removed), a very bitter song about the music business by a guy who's seen plenty of its gruesome inner workings--and a song that sounds like it's an extended metaphor for a collapsing romance, but is not actually all that metaphorical. (For those who haven't encountered the term before: a "packaging deduction" is the 25% or so that gets taken out of the nominal royalty rate for most big-label artists' CDs on the grounds that, um, they come in packages.) Andrew (thanks to whom for permission to post this!) was, through the early '90s, the main songwriter in Eggs, a band very near and dear to my heart (their singles comp How Do You Like Your Lobster?, in particular, will someday be more widely recognized for its wonderful strangeness and range). This song came out, if I'm remembering correctly, a year or so after Eggs folded, on a compilation single handed out to attendees of the second Indie-Rock Flea Market. (I have relatively few memories of that day, besides meeting one of the few other people I'd ever encountered at that point who knew about Family Fodder--who was also named Douglas!--and seeing Trans Am play a 20-minute version of ESG's "UFO." I have relatively few memories of anything before 2001 or so, actually. This is not Eggs' problem.)
Fed up with my recent inactivity, I spent a good chunk of today bicycling from our apartment to Hawthorne & 40th and back again. I intercepted some sort of Seattle-to-Portland collective bicycle trip, whose lean trim participants weren't even breathing hard as they glided up the uphill slopes and I huffed in the easiest gear. But I did get to experience the gorgous bike-and-pedestrian path along the east side of the Willamette River; how did I miss this until now? Also in the "how did I miss this until now?" dept.: Lovely Hula Hands (awesome restaurant in North Portland, clearly the work of a single chef with big ideas and a small room) and Alibi (ridiculous tiki bar/karaoke spot).
Music updates will be slim this week--probably there won't be anything Thursday or Friday. But here's a great/ridiculous one for you: Masters of the Obvious' "Crystallize My Penis" (removed). M.O.T.O. (that site's got some more MP3s), as they're also known, used to hang out in Harvard Square and play their incredibly catchy/angry/vulgar songs in front of the Store 24; they're located in Chicago these days, I think, and they're still at it. This song is only very slightly out of print on CD; it was originally their first appearance on vinyl (on the Footprints of God 7" compilation), and later on the Single File retrospective of M.O.T.O.'s singles, which has been out of print for a bit but is due to be reissued any second now. It is, as you might guess from the title, very, very, very dumb. But it also rocks with full-on commitment, and it's stuck with me for more than 15 years now--I think the breakdown where Paul Caporino starts quoting Captain Beefheart is what really makes the song. (Thanks to Paul for permission to post it.)
Mecca Normal ripped it up last night at Disjecta in front of an audience that consisted of me, Lisa, our friend Jen, maybe one or two other paying customers, and the people who were working there. This was their playing-music-and-talking performance (with their visual art displayed on all the walls), "How Art and Music Can Change the World." (Yes, well: can you change the world if nobody notices? How about if you've been doing this for 20 years, come to a decent-sized city with an ambitious project, even get a bit of print publicity for it, and five people show up? Am I on the wrong team?) Right, making art is something one does whether the rest of the world catches on or not, and I think MN were disappointed-but-okay with the sound of crickets (and warmed up to full-on putting-on-a-show), but I felt bad and self-conscious esp. at first--my problem, not theirs.
They had a couple of new songs, including a very long (15-20 min.?), amusing new one called "Fallen Skier" about a terrible date with somebody Jean met through an Internet dating service. ("Warning! Warning! Warning! No one moves to Skid Row to get clean!"--you have to imagine this in Jean's voice, the "cl" in "clean" overarticulated and the vowel piercing like a needle). Closed with an awesome "Ice Floes Aweigh" (that's an MP3 on Salon's site, go play it), with extensive windmilling from David.
I wanted to ask them, since they talked a bit about the relationship between their politics & their art, 1) if they think there's such a thing as non-political (or mostly non-political) art and if anything they do, or had on display, fits into that category, and 2) what David, especially, has to say about the visual content of his series of posters about inspirational political & artistic figures--he talked about them in the context of their subjects' lives inspiring him to create work, but he could've said the same things if the posters had been text-only, and they all had his drawings on them, which aren't value-neutral.
Relatedly: Very happy to see the creation of Involver, a new site devoted to "politically motivated cultural events" (edited by the awesome Windy Chien). Scratching my head, though, at the idea that "political" here means, in all cases, lefty politics. I mean, that's my ideology, but I don't think it has a lock on political thought, or even on motivation for cultural events. (On the other hand, it is sort of a relief that the biggest cultural name Rick Santorum could get for the anti-gay-marriage amendment was Pat Boone.)
There are lots of singles I'd love to post here by bands I can't track down, but I'm serious about the artists'-permission-only thing, and now that I'm getting upwards of 400 hits a day (thank you, kind linkers!), it occurs to me that my readers might know where to find bands I don't. So: please drop me an email if you happen to be able to get me in touch with the members of Father, Weenie Roast, King of the Slums, Bird Nest Roys, the Cyclones, Salem 66, Sockeye, Venom P. Stinger, Twig, Kleenex Girl Wonder, the Fun Things, Bagpipe Operation, Thug, the Avocados, Happy Flowers, the Yummy Fur, Feedtime, or Teen Anthems...
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282's "2x4's" (removed) was later recorded for their Lovelyville album, but this is the original single version (thanks to Anne Eickelberg for permission to post it): five minutes that pass like two or thirty, an amazing three-line lyric, and an arrangement that buzzbombs the scenic route to get to every line. TFU never formally broke up--they're just not terribly active these days, but they did play a memorable show here in Portland last month. (Here's their site.)
I finally biked down to that weird little used record/book store at 3532 NE MLK today--it's technically called Below Zero, but the sign out front only says RECORDS BOOKS VIDEOS, or something like that. Discovered an enormous selection of good, unusual LPs and books for very reasonable prices (plus a ton of hardcore punk 7"s that I don't know enough about to be able to tell what I want), and brought home a backpack full of finds: a box of four B. Kliban books, a British book about the history of million-selling records, an Anni-Frid Lyngstad album from 1970 (sure enough, one of the songs that jumps out is by Andersson-Ulvaeus; the other one is "Där du Går Lämnar Kärleken Spår," which I knew as "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)"), a Suzi Quatro best-of, and the kind of novelty I wish I didn't live for but do: a 12-inch single by Barbara Markay from 1979, on what I'm guessing is her own Hot Box Records, whose cover has bad Letraset type over a not-as-flattering-as-she-probably-thinks portrait of the artist's head (w/ straw hat) and bare shoulders. Title of A-side: "It's Allrite to Fuck All Nite." B-side: "It's Allrite to Truck All Nite." Record itself has an unusual calypso-disco arrangement--not quite what I'd expected.
So: Never let it be said I don't give the people what they want. Alex Ross requested Ex Faced Hermans' 1990 setting of a Kurt Tucholsky poem, "Lied der Steinklopfer," and... well, he almost gets what he wants, anyway (same song, half of the same band, same single, opposite side): The Ex's "Stonestampers' Song" (removed). (Thanks to Jos from the Ex for permission to post it; he notes that there'll be an Ex singles compilation coming out next year.) This version's got English lyrics and one Godalmighty monomaniacal seeker-destroyer of a riff.
The Ex have their own site here, and it explains a lot about their 25-year history; they also have a generous selection of MP3s here. Start with "Kokend Asfalt" (a Dutch-language remake of their earlier "State of Shock," featuring the huge all-star Ex Orkest), "Hidegen fujnak a szelek" (a Muzsikas cover, with cellist Tom Cora) and "Everything & Me."
Bog-Shed's "Morning Sir!" (removed) was an early single by this fine, galumphing Northern English band (a history of them is here), to which I was introduced about 15 years ago by the mighty Tim Alborn. Not much time to say much else about it, other than that it's one of those things that could not possibly have been recorded outside the British Isles. Thanks to Mike Bryson (now a professional cartoonist, then their bassist and cover artist) for permission to post this.
So, as a number of people have pointed out, TypePad commenting is totally screwed up right now. If you'd like to say something to me, there's always the address in the "Write To Me" link, directly above the calendar (hint: you need to remove the "ANTISPAM" to get it to work). And welcome, too, to the new readers coming from Metafilter and Monkeyfilter; I'm curious to know what you think!
We went to the Oregon Country Fair yesterday. I'd been told by a number of people "oh you HAVE to go to the Fair, you'll love it," but the three most enthusiastic endorsers (as I suggested a few days ago) gave me totally different reasons why I should go. Some were more right than others. What I had demonstrated to me, basically: a) I am really, truly not a hippie, and b) I have a very, very high tolerance for hippies.
Endorser #1 said " it's just a big fun scene, and the food is really good." She was right about that: the food was really good. Not the same sorts of vendors one sees at a county fair--I think only one or two even offered anything deep-fried. Complicated Indian thalis, excellent rich carrot cake, slices of fresh yellow watermelon, Peruvian tamals, raw-foodie juices, hibiscus lemonade, fantastically flavorful handmade artichoke-tofu ravioli... for most of the day I took care just to graze, but right before we left Lisa and I both got big meals we could share, just because it was all so good.
Endorser #2 said "it's a total back-to-nature experience--wilderness, trees, naked people everywhere sitting around fire pits, swimming in the rivers," etc. Well, yes and no. Trees all around, yes (I put on sunblock but don't think I needed it, since there was near-continuous tree cover), and beautiful scenery, but the nature part is extremely managed: the paths are broad and flat (although not quite broad enough to move at a decent clip once the real tourist congestion starts in early afternoon), and then to the sides of them are vendors' booths and such, and then beyond that there's usually a tall fence, and past THAT are the campgrounds for the "fair family" (the people who work/perform/have booths there, who are the only ones allowed to camp over or to stay on the Fair premises beyond 8 PM). I mean, there are a bunch of drinking fountains. (Note that I am not complaining about this at all; just noting that the presence of nature is not unmediated.) Not exactly naked people everywhere (beyond a bunch of topless-and-ornately-painted women & occasionally men), aside from the Ritz Sauna, which was pretty great. One huge and moderately toasty sauna (maybe 50 people in it at any given time, aged roughly 3 to 75, occasionally singing songs that I'm guessing were of fairly recent vintage and Wicca-related); one smaller and very very hot/dry sauna (could fit up to perhaps nine people at once; when there were fewer, people tended to do yoga in it); a bank of cold and adjustable-temperature showers; and the fire pit my friend mentioned, which had a jazz trio playing next to it and 30 or so people lounging around it.
Endorser #3 said "you're a big Burning Man buff, right? I bet it's a lot like that." As I'd suspected, they're very very different, despite certain surface similarities. Burning Man is about what's possible when commerce is taken out of day-to-day interactions, and when it's forbidden to be only a consumer of culture, and secondarily about pulling off really stylish stuff in a very challenging physical environment. The OCF is very much about commerce and spectation--really nice, non-mass-produced commerce and spectation, but still--and the glorious-ridiculousness factor is a lot lower. This ultimately becomes part of almost EVERY kind of interaction people have. (The OCF is also a lot more kid- and family-oriented: there were children and babies and teenagers everywhere, as well as a healthy number of gray-haired folks, and a lot of the people I talked to said "this is your first Fair? Wow, I've been coming since I was two.") Everyone with the holographic wristband that indicated they were among the elect said "it's different after dark"/"it's way better after dark, when all the tourists leave"/""it's all, you know, family then--you can trust everyone"/"you have to camp here to see what it's really like"/"after dark is when all the real action happens," etc. I bet they're right, and next year I really want to see if I can participate/camp there--it sounds like my kind of thing. But there's still the insider/outsider issue: the participants who spend eight hours a day interacting with the spectators.
I'd been advised to dress up, so I wore Lisa's silvery-pastel wig, the spangly shirt I'd worn at the 801 shows, and a pair of weird black vinyl pants I'd gotten a couple of days ago. Which were fine and not inappropriate and all, but a lot of people were wearing serious hippie chic--not really tie-dyes/jeans, but clothes whose main characteristics were bright color, rich texture and general flowingness. Brought a Polaroid camera, a bunch of film and some razor-point Sharpies to do my "imaginary tattoos" routine (i.e. I take a Polaroid of wherever you'd like your tattoo to be, draw the tattoo on the Polaroid, and give you the result; a good way to strike up conversations with people). About half the people I did it for asked me how much it'd cost; a few couldn't believe I was doing it for free. Second-saddest response: a woman for whom I'd just drawn some kind of rosebush-type thing on the Polaroid of her her upper arm & was having a nice conversation with, once I handed it to her, tried to give me a five-dollar bill. (No! Put it away!) Saddest response: guy who'd asked me to draw a mushroom being visibly alarmed when I actually started to draw one--he'd thought he was going to get, you know, actual mushrooms.
I passed a lot of nice-sounding entertainment--string bands, fiddlers, a marimba ensemble, etc.--and had wanted to see the Black Peppercorns, who cancelled--but only really sat down to see one thing: the "girls' circus," which was really sort of a semi-pro variety show with a little more acrobatics than usual. There were a few men (in drag) in the cast, but it was mostly women and girls--some of them very very little. A dozen or so of the smallest ones came out near the beginning dressed as ravioli, and another one (on stilts), dressed as a chef, came out to "stir" them in the middle of their tumbling act. It was the sort of circus where the synchronized six-person juggling act can go about 10 seconds at a time before someone drops a pin or two, and the sort of crowd where that's totally okay.
Anyway. After all that, you still want some music? Okay. Soft Pleasing Light's "adinfinitum" (removed) is a pretty simple song--mostly just a single time-altering chord, and some decorative voice and a few other instruments hung on it to keep it interesting--but I always liked how it gets that huge floating effect with very low-tech means. The story of Soft Pleasing Light appears here; this version of this song was originally on a split single with Rob Christiansen, packaged in somebody's curtain that had been cut up and silkscreened. Thanks to Bill Fantegrossi for permission to post it.
On deadline tonight, so even though there are potentially colorful househunting stories, let's just jump to the music. Alec Bathgate's "Pet Hates" (removed) is the first and, to date, only solo single by a terrific songwriter (and visual artist) who's sometimes known as "the other guy in Chris Knox's bands"--he was in The Enemy (the first great punk band in New Zealand, by all reports, although only a few live recordings exist), and later Toy Love, and for the last 23 years or so he's been half of Tall Dwarfs. This fuzzy buzzy complaint's organ part is what pushes it from "very very good" to "awesome"; it also appeared his album Gold Lamé. (Thanks to Alec for permission to post it here.) Alec's second solo album, The Indifferent Velvet Void, will be coming out later this year in New Zealand on Lil' Chief Records.
More stuff tomorrow, when I'm recovered.
Welcome to all the Willamette Week readers who've been turning up here. Take your bag off! Would you like something cold to drink? We don't really have any alcohol on hand, I'm afraid, but we do have Emergen-C. Or would you maybe like a smoothie? I think we have some crackers and hummus too, let me see. Might you like to sign up for ROBOT EYE, my weekly mailing list about Portland arts and culture? You can do it from the sidebar, right over there.
Too late in the evening to go into the A.C. Newman show I saw tonight, except to note with approval that his band has an Extra Guy. You know: the one who stands at the back for at least half the time the band's playing, but comes out to add a little extra percussion or a trumpet part or (in this E.G.'s case) recorder and sampler parts. David Newgarden's role in Run On was an excellent example of an Extra Guy. The ultimate example was the E.G. in a lineup of Dymaxion I saw open for Stereolab a few years ago: he sat at a desk, reading a magazine, for the first 2/3 of their set, picked up I think a trumpet and played a 20-second part in one song, then put it down and went back to his desk and magazine for the rest of the show. It was great.
Today's song is probably now better known in a cover than in this original version. Linda Hirst & Ivor Cutler's "Women of the World" (removed) was memorably reworked by Jim O'Rourke on his album Eureka a few years back. The original single was written by Cutler--who's way too much of an interesting character to explain here, but this site (MP3s ahoy!) or this one should give you some starting points--and sung by Hirst, a mezzo-soprano who also co-founded Electric Phoenix and is now the head of vocal studies at Trinity College of Music. (Thanks to her for permission to post this song.) Cutler has a sense of humor so dry you can use his records as a desiccant, but I've never been entirely sure who "you-know-who" might be. Suggestions are, of course, welcome.
Strongly considering going to the Oregon Country Fair this weekend. I have now heard three of my friends say that I really ought to visit it; what's odd is that all three of them described it in entirely different terms, and praised it on entirely different grounds. Anyone who's reading this and has been there should tell me what you thought, and what you suspect I might think.
I've caught the StatCounter bug--my new timekiller is to see where all my hits are coming from, and who's referring them. I seem to have a lot more regular readers than I thought I did. Yet almost nobody comments! How about this: I'll send a mix CD to whoever suggests (via comment, or email) the best question I can ask lacunae's readers--"best" here means "likely to generate the greatest number of interesting responses."
Today's song is slightly outside our usual parameters--it came out in 1979, but I won't tell if you won't. Fish Tuned Human's "24 Hour Shop" (removed) appeared on their odd, charming EP Turkeys in China, and bears a certain familial resemblance to Dylan's "Million Dollar Bash," but it's pretty damn entertaining in its own right. FTH's singer/songwriter "Philip Furei" is now better known as film journalist Jonathan Romney; thanks to him for permission to post this. (He points out that "the original 24 Hour Shop was a vending machine at Paddington Station.") Note also the rather Robyn Hitchcock-ish monologue near the end--Andy Metcalfe is listed as playing bass on the record "courtesy of the Soft Boys."
Downtown for First Thursday last week, I saw a restaurant whose sign, hanging out front, said "LITTLE WING CAFÉ"--and read it as "LITTLE WINO CAFÉ." How sweet!, I thought. I seem to have been doing poorly with identifying things as who and what they are this week--maybe I ate a bad piece of stone-fruit and temporarily lost command of the proper-noun area of my brain. We've been gorging ourselves on cherries, nectarines and peaches at lacunae headquarters.
I bought a bag of oily toovar dal last week--not that it tastes all that different from regular toovar dal (which are split pigeon peas; the "oily" ones are soaked in oil before they're stored, which was a way to protect them from infestation in the pre-Ziploc days, apparently), but I love their bright shiny salmon/orange look. Last night, to distract myself from writing I should've been doing instead, I cooked a batch, very simply: washed a zillion times until the foam that came off them stopped being tangible, simmered for an hour and a half with some turmeric and a lot of water, and topped off with a dozen cloves and a cinnamon stick that had been dropped into a couple of tablespoons of hot oil until the cloves puffed up. The finished dal was aromatic in a way that suggested the spicing had been a lot more complicated and subtle than it actually was.
On to the music. Franklin Bruno's "The Irony Engine" (removed), in a rather "Imperial Bedroom"/"Almost Blue"-ish move, appeared not on his EP of the same name but on the I Like Walt 7-inch compilation in 1994. No idea what a lot of the words are about, other than "isn't this an incredibly good melody we're attached to?," but I've liked this song more and more over the past 10 years. And, having not listened to the original recording in a while, I was surprised to find that it wasn't a full-band recording with a prominent piano part, which is the way I'd been hearing it in my head for a while. Pretty great piece of home recording, though. Franklin (to whom thanks for permission to post this), besides having recorded a number of swell records (a couple of which I've released) solo and with Nothing Painted Blue, plays with Jenny Toomey and the Extra Glenns, and of course has a blog too.
(While I'm at it: if you want to hear some more Bruno, this show I hosted on WFMU a few years ago includes an excellent set by him, as well as Jenny Toomey and Destroyer.)
Lisa's old roommate Christina is in town, so it's been a relatively low-impact couple of days around here, although I did make a quick to-do list that filled two pages. But mostly I haven't been doing much more exciting than assembling a new CD rack, which has cleared a lot of floor space around here. (The two of them have gone out to watch the fireworks; realizing that I've got some deadlines tomorrow, and that fireworks every other year or so is enough for me, I'm listening to the one-night fake warzone outside while I work.) And I've started going through some of the books I picked up at Book Expo. Every year, I try to find the most ridiculous edition of the Bible anyone's offering. The runner-up this year is "Refuel," a version of the New Testament packaged to look like a teenage boy's magazine, with lots of sidebars and pictures. (The music reviews the cover promises are neither here nor there, but I just opened it up to a gloss of Thessalonians that begins "Everyone was stoked when Jesus walked the earth." I think John S. Hall had something similar to say.)
The winner, though, is "The Word on the Street," a translation/rewrite of the entire Bible that "talks today's language--gritty, earthy, witty." As in: "Second off, God says the word and WHAP! Stuff everywhere!" As in: the epistles are e-mails. As in: Revelation 22:20 comes out as "The one who makes these statements says, 'Yes, I'm on my way. My ETA's not far off!' Absolutely! Make it quick, Jesus the Boss!" Oh my.
So continuing the theological theme: today's song. Kreviss's "Going to Hell" (removed) was one of very few songs released by this eight-piece band--most of the references I've found to them call them riot grrrl types, but really the neat thing about them was that they had, I think, six guitar players--the Superconductor effect. There's nothing like hearing a gigantic army of guitars all playing one big dumb riff like this one; it originally appeared on a split single with Mecca Normal. Bandleader Sara Lapsley was subsequently in Vancouver Nights (with Dan Bejar et al.) and is now in The Gay. Thanks to her for permission to post this song.
I've seen Jeffrey Dvorkin's rant about "hip, but inscrutable" NPR music reviews cited in a handful of places, and a few people have asked me what I think about it, which makes me wonder if I'm wearing a beret or something. On the other hand, I was wearing my "NOTHING IS ANY GOOD IF OTHER PEOPLE LIKE IT" T-shirt when I first got the link, so I sort of have it coming.
The problem with the reviews Dvorkin cites here isn't that they're inscrutable-flavored hipness. (Well, the Morrissey one seems to assume prior knowledge of his work, which is potentially a problem, but the others don't.) The actual problem is twofold. First, they're reviews of artists with whom Dvorkin is not already familiar, and address those artists' work directly instead of attempting to relate it to something (anything! Tolkien!) that Dvorkin already knows about. His Timbaland/Timberlake confusion is his problem, not the reviewer's, and it's symptomatic of the general know-nothing-ism that certain defenders of the highbrow faith assume when it comes to popular arts. I bet that if the Magnetic Fields review had been about Sondheim it wouldn't have been a big deal, and as a friend points out via email, if the Morrissey review had been about, say, David Hockney, nobody would have raised a peep about inscrutability. That joke about how many indie-rockers it takes to change a lightbulb ("you don't know?!") goes triple for black-tie-opening culture.
But the legitimate objection to these reviews--which Dvorkin doesn't actually raise--is that they're bad radio. Phrasing that would be redundant or bland in print is sometimes necessary for a piece that's meant to be heard rather than read. "These extended explorations and others, like the five minutes of abrasive dental-drill feedback drone near the end of the disc, give Wilco's music an entirely new dimension" works okay on the page, but say it out loud and you begin to see what's wrong. You can't say "extended explorations" aloud without hitting a thicket of consonants; you can't use "dental-drill" as an adjective on the radio, because listeners won't see the hyphen and will take a few precious seconds to realize what's meant by it; you can't have a subject and predicate separated by a long-ass subordinate clause if you want to have a listener (as opposed to a reader) follow your meaning. The Magnetic Fields piece seems a bit more innocent than the other two, although I can see some poor commuter trying to parse what a "caustic coffee shop" is supposed to be and sideswiping the boss's SUV.
Dog Faced Hermans' "Time Bomb" (removed) is a great single by one of the two or three best live bands I've ever seen, and inexplicably never appeared anywhere else. (The tension in the middle part's breakdown is wonderful; note that "our lives are wired like our gardenias" is a quote from Mark-André Raffalovich's 1886 poem "The World Well Lost.") DFH started in Edinburgh in 1986, and moved to Amsterdam at the end of the decade (I'm guessing the lyric of "Time Bomb", which seems to be about abandoning one's former life, might have something to do with that); they toured the U.S. a few times in the early '90s, and made a pretty huge impression on everyone I know who saw them. Singer/trumpeter Marion Coutts is now a sculptor and installation artist, living in the U.K.; guitarist Andy Moor (thank you, Andy, for permission to post this song!) joined the Ex around 1990, and still plays with them, and in several improv-based projects. (One of these days I'll also be putting up something special from the Ex.)
Sorry no entry yesterday--I was in the middle of pre-leaving-NYC chaos. And am in post-arriving-in-PDX chaos right now, so won't have much actual content for a bit. (I came up with a couple of new ones for the limerick file, but one involves privileged information, and the other has a vocabulary issue--yeah, well, you try rhyming "Vanessa" without cheating--so they're not showing up there yet.)
But a song, you say, give us a song! Okay, then: Fire in the Kitchen's "Simple English" (removed), from their first single, is a tight, dense, fleet power-pop song that shifts gears smoothly but very abruptly a couple of times--I like how it suddenly gets much heavier for a few seconds at the end of the chorus. FITK later released a few more singles (I also really like "The Fog") and an album, Thrillsville; several members of the band were (and are) also in the rather more improv-oriented Tono-Bungay. (Curiously, there appears to be an Appalachian/Celtic band that's also called Fire in the Kitchen. No relation.) Thanks to singer/guitarist Bob Bannister for letting me post this; Bob also notes that (his) FITK has recently started rehearsing again, which is very good news.