[Before shutting down for the weekend, I've responded to a bunch of questions and threads on the Forum...Don't forget to check the new Featured Album, Featured Mix CD review, Featured wine and the February Playlist if you haven't already been there.]
Tradition has it that after playing a sweaty club gig, especially in a rocking town like New York City, you go out on the town and celebrate. Not so Orange Park, who had visited the iJamming! forum and thanked me for attending their show at Luna Lounge last night before I even made it home. This is rendered all the more curious by the fact that I wasn't introduced to any of the band; perhaps it was my Eddie Izzard costume that gave my presence away!
In all seriousness though, with several close friends championing them, I've been trying to see a full set by Orange Park for over a year now and all the more so since receiving their alarmingly impressive debut EP called, with the kind of brute honesty that seems to be their trademark, 'The Extended Play.'
Orange Park are very much part of a New York scene that has its roots in the weekly Shout! and Tiswas parties, the never-a-cover Luna Lounge, and the timeless obsession with mod chic, rhythm & blues and power pop from across the Atlantic (i.e. the UK). But at a time when the vast majority of breaking New York bands are mining a post-punk funk of experimental rhythms and independent singles, Orange Park's devotion to the mainstream music of that same late 70s era sets them apart. So yes, a cursory introduction indicates an infatuation with The Who, Oasis and The Kinks, but further inspection reveals that Orange Park's brand of power-pop is descended directly from a Cheap Trick-like celebration of big choruses, three-part harmonies, loud guitar solos, and syncopated finales. It's a music short on subtlety, which means it needs to be performed with a certain amount of panache to avoid coming across as hokey. Fortunately, Orange Park do exactly that.
Justin, Harv and Jeff of Orange Park: the volume of the Who and the melodies of Cheap Trick.
In concert, twin vocalist-guitarists Jeff and Justin (whose full heads of curly hair and apparent sideburns could place them in any American band from the Lovin' Spoonful to the Flamin' Groovies and the Strokes) line up at opposite sides of the stage, which provides for natural symmetry though it does leave the non-singing, more overtly mod-ish bassist Harv as a reluctant and unnecessary focus of attention; drummer Jaye, whose flowing blonde hair helps enforce the Cheap Trick comparison, completes the three-part harmonies. Together, the group perform at a piercing volume and with impressive precision.
But because they're aiming straight for the commercial jugular, they have to be judged on their pop appeal as much as their power presentation: the EP's opening tracks 'Make Up Your Mind' and 'Glass' (which you can hear at their web site) both deliver on this score, as does the ballad 'For Once In My Life', while the drawn-out conclusion to the set is delivered with classic Who-like excess (though without the destruction of any instruments). I'd like to hear a couple more obvious airplay hits before banking on a band that's swimming so stubbornly against the current tide of disheveled funk; but more importantly, I'd like to hear those that they have replacing some of the standards that clog up American rock radio. Orange Park are good enough, and they dress a damn sight better too.
Back home in Brooklyn, undaunted by Wednesday's disappointments, I risked switching on the television again. And to my pleasant surprise, I found myself engaged by a couple of witty political shows. The first, the Daily Show on Comedy Central starring the highly likable Jon Stewart (one of the few MTV-era hosts to merit a lasting career in his own right) made some good humor out of North Korea's renewed nuclear ambition; the other, Phil Donahue's show over at MSNBC, pitted the "left-wing" Donahue against self-confessed conservative comedian Dennis Miller in an impassioned but polite argument over war with Iraq.
I was having fun switching back and forth until I heard Jon Stewart announce something about how it was "almost Valentine's Day" and Donahue then say something about the United Nations that similarly dated his own broadcast. Strange. And perhaps the strangest thing about it was that everything about both subjects be it North Korea or Iraq seemed so familiar that I hadn't notice anything dated about either until the hosts made their own announcements. (Which suggests that our discussions are going round in circles.) I've learned today that Donahue's show has been canned a noble but unsuccessful experiment in placing a left-wing talk show host on a medium (cable TV news) that attracts an inherently conservative audience though I have no idea why Jon Stewart was also on a re-run. Isn't the idea of nightly news shows that they're new? But while I'm on this subject, the previous night, after the Dan Rather-Saddam lovefest and the Ali G re-run, I also watched a little bit of the new HBO show Real Time With Bill Maher. The host of Politically Incorrect had lined up a wide range of politically motivated guests for his own debate about Iraq, including the exceedingly dislikable conservative columnist Ann Coulter who, naturally, gave as good as she got.
Maher, like Donahue, is clearly against any military action, while Jon Stewart spends so much time ragging on the Administration that one can scarcely imagine that he supports an attack either. I mention all this to emphasize, particularly to overseas readers, that the state of (at least late-night) debate is extremely healthy in the American democracy, where strong opinions can be freely exchanged and the viewer can come away much better informed by exposure to all sides of the argument. I hope that similarly open and intelligent debates are taking place across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America too. It's palpably clear that American public opinion is split right down the middle regarding a war with Iraq, and I readily announce myself as being bang in the middle of that middle, with a natural, instinctive aversion to military aggression countered by an increasingly short-fused frustration with dictators and appeasers.
Rather than write any more on the subject myself, I'm going to hand over to my new favorite columnist, Johann Hari of the (primarily left-wing) British paper the Independent, who has that increasingly rare ability to counter his easy criticism of the Bush Administration's more odious traits with clear-headed support for proper democratic principles and a refusal to be drawn into the lazy anti-Americanism that fuels too many of the opinion pieces these days (on both sides of the pond). Those who read Thomas Friedman's twice-weekly New York Times column for a common-sense perspective on our increasingly upside-down world should start making a point of checking in on Hari every couple of days for the same reason. In Hari's words, which I support (and you can read the full column here),
My position is that the best route to a democratic Iraq is to support the Iraqi democrats and the wishes of the Iraqi people. And their message has always been clear: overthrow Saddam by war if he refuses to go into exile and rebuild the country. The 5 million-strong Iraqi exile community overwhelmingly supports this route, and the evidence we have from within Iraq suggests that the people there agree. Such anti-war campaigners as George Galloway have tried to write off the exiles, who have fled their country in fear of their lives (and often endured torture), as "CIA stooges". The implication that the entire exile community has effectively sold its families (almost all of them still have relatives in Iraq), friends and country for a few dollars is so offensive that I can scarcely bring myself to respond.
Messrs Bush and Blair are lying and Iraqi democracy does not emerge in the next few years, I will still be on the side of the Iraqi democrats and will still argue for Iraqi democracy. I find it hard to believe that many of the anti-war campaigners who are even now crusading to prevent the removal of the biggest obstacle to Iraqi democracy, Saddam Hussein will care enough to keep up the fight.
The democratisation of Arab and Middle East countries is one of the most exciting progressive causes in the world. It is sad that so many of us, living in comfortable democracies, seem to have forgotten the great promise that democracy offers to oppressed peoples.
Stayed home last night and watched Dan Rather's kid gloves interview with Saddam Hussein, followed by (a repeat) of Ali G's HBO debut. Both were a disappointment.
Dan Rather has a long-standing reputation as an intelligent and fearless journalist, which made his overly polite questioning of the Iraqi dictator all the more frustrating. Why such focus on Hussein's diversionary proposal for a television debate with Bush? (Probably because this was a CBS special trying to drum up support for a future CBS special, despite Rather's protestations that he didn't want the task of moderating any such debate.) Why did Dan Rather, who interviewed Hussein before the first Gulf War, waste time asking the dictator if he thought they might meet a third time? Where were the pointed questions about Iraq's chemical weapons programs, the subjugation of the Kurds, the torture tactics of the secret police, the destruction of the Iraqi marsh lands, the assassination attempt on Bush Senior, the two prior invasions of neighboring countries, the unprovoked missile attacks on Israel during the last Gulf War, the environmental damage caused by setting Kuwaiti oil fields alight, the $25,000 pay-offs to families of Palestinian suicide bombers, and so on?
The interview we should have seen:
Ali G take on Saddam Hussein
It wouldnt have mattered if even one such question would have provoked Saddam to end the interview; it would at least have made for more interesting viewing than the sight of the journalist and dictator taking coffee together. I just hope no one watched the interview and believed Saddam's claim that his army was "not defeated" back in 1991 and that he was "unanimously re-elected" as President last year. Without anyone around to criticize them (those who dared are usually dead), these despots have a habit of coming to believe their own lies, and that was one aspect of Saddam's personality we did not get an answer to last night and perhaps never will.
Likewise, watching Ali G prancing round a Philadelphia Police Academy parade ground in pretend training to become a cop was a major let-down for anyone who's seen the Cambridge-educated Sacha Baron Cohen's Staines-based home boy take on the Irish sectarians, Welsh coal miners and Rhodes Boysons of this world. It would surely have made more sense for the producers at HBO who have the most educated and adventurous viewing audience in the States to play to Ali G's prime strength: his interviewing technique. Instead, we had to wait for the last few minutes of the thirty-minute show before Ali got to sit down with former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, who then proved surprisingly sympathetic to Ali's suggestion that if "someone calls your mum a ho" it's sufficient ground for murder. (And seemed genuinely, albeit naively, interested in G's description of a fake porno movie Barely Legal 3.)
At least Cohen had the sense to invent a couple of new television journalists for his American introduction: "Bruno, an effeminate Austrian fashion reporter" (as HBO describes him) was particularly realistic. Still, I find myself agreeing with Duncan Campbell at the Guardian that Cohen would be best served by getting this HBO series shown back in the UK though I hold out hope that Ali G will find an American following. After all, who'd have thought a transvestite Crystal Palace fan would ever find a cult audience in the States? And no, I'm not talking about myself, but Eddie Izzard.
Ultimately, I came away from my rare evening watching television believing that a major opportunity had been missed. If Ali G is so unknown outside the UK that he can still snag interviews with major player politicians like Newt Gingrich, Brent Scowcroft and Ed Meese, why couldn't he be sent to interview Saddam Hussein on the premise that he's the leading young British Muslim television host? Can you imagine the Hilfiger-clad Cohen sat before a be-suited, smiling, and unsuspecting dictator asking the questions that really matter in his English b-boy banter: "Saddam, me main man: 'ow many people u's actually killed wiv your own 'ands?" "So what's de best method of torture, den? Is it 'anging people upside down by dem toe nails? Raping theirs sisters in front of them? Or slicing off them's nuts?"
And if you find the above parody offensive, you obviously haven't seen Ali G (at his British best) for yourself, nor read up on your Mid East dictators.
On a similar subject, the Independent newspaper's search engine is back up and the column by Johann Hari that I referred to the other day can be found here.
Staying in the news, but returning to our preferred subject of music, I receive dozens of e-mail press releases every single day. By no means are they even a significant percentage of those that emanate from record companies and publicists every day of the week, but they represent a reasonable cross-section, including a fair amount of hip-hop and hard-rock announcements that don't usually concern me.
Which is why I find it surprising that it took until yesterday, almost a full week after the event, for anyone to acknowledge the victims of the fire at The Station club in West Warwick, Rhode Island. And even that was from an up-and-coming power-punk band, Leah Stargazing, from Rhode Island itself, who are in a position to offer nothing more than to dedicate their upcoming gigs to the victims? I already wrote about this on Monday, following the surprise silence at the Grammys. It's not as if you necessarily expect musicians to flock together and propose charity concerts for the victims' families, although the question does beg
well why not? After all, there usually isn't a tragedy, conflict or cause in this world that some musician doesn't manage to dedicate themselves to.
Why then does the death of nearly 100 rock fans seem to carry so little weight? These people died, remember, going to see music the same way most visitors to this web site like to see it: at low cost, in a small venue, up close and personal. The people who perished represent represent the very backbone of American audiences; they are, in slightly different shape and form, the bread and butter that feeds every major American rock band. Why then, have they been ignored by the industry they supported? Because they lived in the backwoods? Because they weren't fashionable? Because they weren't wealthy or fabulous? Or simply because they had bad taste in music?
Be honest: if 100 people had died at, say the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday night, the entire New York music industry would have rallied together and benefits for victims' families would be up and happening by the weekend. Then again, the chance of such a tragedy occurring in the Big Apple seems highly unlikely according to this week's Village Voice, which examines the fire restrictions in New York clubs and concludes that they're among the strictest in the country. Let's hope so.
Though it's rarely as glamorous as it looks from a distance. Posie and I decided to make the most of having a willing child-sitter at home (i.e. Campbell's granny) and went out on the town last night. First stop was the Tribeca Grand Hotel where Capitol Records was hosting a two-legged party for its hip dance-floor acts. Between 8 and 10pm, it was in honor of French act Télépopmusik, whose single 'Breathe' is currently being used in an Mitsubushi SUV commercial proving once again that where there is easy money to be made, political correctness (i.e. the general opposition to SUVs as gas-guzzlers dependent on middle eastern oil and therefore in some minds the lead reason for Bush and Cheney's determination to invade Iraq) goes right out the window.
Télépopmusik were apparently DJing, and due to perform with their Scottish vocalist Angela McCluskey too, but for the short time we were in the hotel's basement party room, the crowd on the dance floor was too sparse to encourage any one of note onto the small stage. We spent the time conversing with a couple of publicist friends: with one, from Capitol, we reminisced about the Communion tour of 1992 that featured Meat Beat Manifesto, Orbital and Ultramarine; with the other, from Girlie Action, we enthused about the brilliant Nada Surf album, the equally exciting impending Stratford 4 release, and our mixed opinions on the Coral. (The latter band I didn't see Monday night as I was finishing off my book edit, but I admit I have not been as bowled over by their album as I expected to be.)
The crowd was much thicker on the ground at the Mercury Lounge, where Stellastarr* were performing along with the 22-20s (described by one friend as a cross between the White Stripes and the Strokes, as if that's really what we need right now) and a couple of other local acts. Regular iJamming! readers will know that I've been championing Stellastarr* since seeing them open for Joe Strummer last year; what's been most rewarding about following them since has been observing several long-term friends discovering and falling for - the band for themselves. (At right, Stellastarr*'s Shawn Christenson and Arthur Kremer from last night's show.) Sometimes in a media-driven city like New York, it does occur to you that the reason you keep bumping into the same people at all the same events is because you're simply all following (each other around) the latest fashionable trends. Stellastarr* have helped prove that my friendships in this city are, as I hoped all along, based on (hopefully high-quality) shared tastes.
So while it was wonderful just to watch Stellastarr* deliver an exceedingly energetic show to a proper local following, it was particularly pleasurable to look around the room and see enthusiastic expression on the faces of friends from the Luna Lounge, Formula PR, Evolution Talent, Tiswas, and a handful of record label A&R people, almost all of whom I have known for a decade or more and only some of whom have a vested interest in the band's future. (Perhaps the best indicator of that future is that even my A&R friends who can't, for whatever reason, sign the band right now, are still going to see them live for the fun of it.)
Stellastarr* have been holding off introducing new songs into their set this past few months while finding a home for their ready-to-be-released debut album. Hopefully, that will be decided upon soon, as Id love to hear where they're going from here. In the meantime, the EP Somewhere Across Forever serves as a splendid introduction, the recent piece in the Village Voice will help explain their appeal, and a download of the song Jenny from their web-site is just a mouse-click away. Oh, and set finale 'Pulp Song' (with its cynical though certainly not personal "we've lied to you, we've lied to make our point of view" chorus) sounds better with every performance. In fact one A&R man last night described it as "the kind of song that starts movements". That's hyperbole worthy of the NME, but the song does inspire movement on the dancefloor and that's good enough for now.
After our close friend Sam showed off her sparkling engagement ring (the second marriage announcement we heard in one day and it's not even spring!) it was back to the Tribeca Grand for the second part of Capitol's party, this for the release of the Fischerspooner album #1. (You know, the one that flopped in the UK.) Forgive my advance cynicism but when, like Fischerspooner, you present yourself as totally fabulous, you raise the bar of anticipation not just for your music, but for everything about you; in other words, we expected a party of unrivaled glamour, glitz and decadence. What we got was meticulously-clad Tribeca security telling us the party was "beyond capacity", and once we talked our way downstairs despite them, we understood their desire to keep people away. The atmosphere was little different than it had been there hours earlier, except that now there were many more people milling around rather aimlessly, complaining about the price of drinks (I saw a couple of tipsy girls do a champagne runner from the bar, which takes balls or whatever girls have in place of them) while looking vainly at the stage hoping something exciting would happen. Fabulosity it most certainly wasn't.
Shortly after midnight, however, James Murphy (shown left), one half of the DFA duo, took to the decks, and the moment he replaced the generic, if not exactly offensive electro techno with some mad middle-eastern big beat hip hop (I don't know how else to describe it), people who hadn't even been watching the changeover gravitated to the dance floor. We stuck around for the next half hour, just long enough for Murphy to play something I actually recognized (a dub of 'Rock the Casbah', demonstrating that he understands which part of the word electro-clash rocks the dancefloor) and to send us home feeling the Tribeca party had not been an entire waste. Murphy, by the way (who I've never met though he's co-produced my friends in Radio 4 and The Rapture too), is also responsible, as LCD Soundsystem, for the hipster-digging single 'Losing My Edge.' A shame he didn't play it last night for the very audience it refers to.
Just to show that I am not overtly biased against the electro-clash scene, today I'm happy to post my latest Mix CD review: Montreal maestro Tiga's contribution to the DJ Kicks series. It's an album which proves that electro has soul, and it's especially laudable for championing underground artists at a time when the same few names keep being rotated round the scene. And given how many people at the Tribeca were drinking sparkling wine last night - but the cheap stuff from Washington rather than the genuine Veuve Cliquot on offer at twice the price - I feel all the more justified for recommending, to drink alongside Tiga, the Gruet Brut Non Vintage Methode Champenoise from New Mexico. Yes, New Mexico. Haven't you heard? It's the new Williamsburg.
Excuse me a moment of personal pride. Late last night (or was it early this morning?) I sent off a final edit of my novel HEDONISM to my editor at Omnibus Press in London. Of course nothing is ever completely finished (ask all those bands who remix and remaster their old tracks every opportunity they get), but I'm at the point now where only the most minor of revisions will be possible, and that's fine by me. Over the last month, throwing myself back into a project I first began a full five years ago, I've trimmed 10% off the previous, supposedly final draft, making the book considerably leaner and much tighter. To use a metaphor appropriate to the content, it's been beaten into shape. Hedonism has been a long, gradual, sometimes difficult process for me, and has involved undoubtedly the most work I've ever put into a project. (And yes, that includes the Keith Moon biography.) As such, and given that it's finally being published, I really did want the final draft to be as sharp as humanly possible. I believe I've achieved that. As a result of that belief, you may note some increased buoyancy in my postings for the next few days
Make the most of it.
While I was upstate earlier this month working on this final revision, living like a hermit amidst the ice and snow, I alternated my bedtime reading between British magazines with Pink pin-ups (hey, I told you I was on my own!) and serious political publications. In particular, I tried to devour the newly published, much talked about book Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe In The New World Order, by Robert Kagan, an American foreign policy expert based in Brussels. I have to state, very strongly, that as a European currently living in America, I find the verbal antagonism currently being exchanged between the continents both painful and tiring. Like many, I want to focus on what we all have in common and have generally assumed that we as people, and our national leaders too, are ultimately looking for the same results by similar methods.
Not so, says Kagan. The whole premise of his brief but complex essay can be boiled down to this: Europeans are from Venus, Americans are from Mars. (Or, if you understand the comparisons, and I have to admit that I don't, Europeans live in a Kantian world, Americans in a Hobbesian world.) Still, what makes Kagan's study rewarding, though ultimately and frustratingly inconclusive, is his reluctance to take sides. While you could read much of it as a defense of American foreign policy (and its frequent use of the military) he is careful not to blatantly criticize the European desire for peace at all costs (even though such desire often leads to war at even greater cost). Here's a sample even-handed paragraph:
"One British critic of American propensity to American military action recalls the old saw: "When you have a hammer, all problems start to look like nails." This is true. But nations without great military power face the opposite danger: when you don't have a hammer, you don't want anything to look like a nail. The perspectives and psychologies of power and weakness explain much, though certainly not all, of what divides the United States and Europe today."
I'm going to re-read the essay now I can focus on it a little more and may drop in a few more choice quotations over coming days. In the meantime, I've been reading a handful of British newspapers that my mother brought over for her visit. It's easy to access newspapers online these days, and I do so almost every morning, but the advantage of a real paper is that you inevitably end up reading items you weren't specifically looking for, which is all part of the educational process. As such, I found myself coming across a truly excellent overview of Kagan's book, by Johann Hari in The Independent newspaper of February 12. Yes, it's two weeks old already, but worthy words don't lose their relevance overnight, and Kagan's essay, I should state, is also alarmingly up to date. As I write this, Tuesday morning, the Independent web-site has its search engine down, so I'll link to the piece later. [HERE IT IS.] But Hari appears to be one of the few British columnists whose criticisms of America are stated without intent to inflame Americans. Likewise his defence of the US is made minus any attempt to rile the British left. Here are his closing paragraphs, which I think are well worth your reading:
"70 per cent of the American people support the International Criminal Court having jurisdiction over the US, and it is US public opinion, along with the prompting of Blair and Colin Powell, that is forcing the current administration to go as far down the UN route as possible (the UN route will probably be halted only by a French veto.) Most Americans want to be part of the civilized world, although we may have to sit out the current unelected hard-right administration to experience this.
But it would be wrong, in the meantime, to oppose democracy for the Iraqi people (and the war that is the only means to achieve it, unless Saddam goes into exile) because of the flaws of the military power bringing it into place. If European want more say in projects like this, they will have to do three things: develop a far more substantial military; reject the quasi-pacificism coming from the German government that would condemn the Arab peoples to autocracy for ever; and, most importantly, if they want eventually to live on Venus, support the Martians when they constructively rebuild the world around us."
Talking of excellent essays, regular iJamming! forum contributor Brendan Yates took time to vent about the commercialization he sees as destroying British football, especially his beloved M**chester United. He took the time to write it: please take the time to read it.
A duet we'd like to see every day: Bruce and Elvis singing the Clash.
Am I getting soft in my old age? Or were segments of last night's Grammys actually quite watchable? Yes, as always, the presentations were corny and some of the awards themselves quite dubious, but it was hard not to be impressed and entertained by several of the performances. I'm thinking specifically of Coldplay performing with the New York Philharmonic (they may have been 'bedwetters' when they started out, but more and more Coldplay look like the band Radiohead could, perhaps should have become); Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Steve van Zandt and Dave Grohl delivering a frighteningly intense 'London Calling' as a tribute to the dearly departed Joe Strummer (perhaps some poetic justice given that Rolling Stone magazine marked Strummer's passing by putting Justin Timberlake on their cover); and Eminem performing 'Lose Yourself' with The Roots. Even Avril Lavigne, who didn't quite bring the house down with 'Sk8er Boi' was more engaging a teenager in front of her raucous rock band than any number of choreographed Britneys or Christinas could ever hope to be. (A pity my personal new pin-up Pink didn't get to strut her stuff, but hey, you can't have everything.)
I could observe, like probably most Monday morning centre halves, that Bruce Springsteen's The Rising is surely a better record than Norah Jones' Come Away With Me (at least Bruce writes all his own songs) and that, in fact, the 23-year old Jones' final triumph of the night for Record of The Year was visibly anti-climactic given how many people thought the award would go to the Boss. But I don't place too much importance in awards themselves, which come and go with the seasons, and I doubt that Bruce, who picked up three Grammys anyways, cares either. And let's look on the bright side: the Grammys have clearly woken up from their stupor of the 80s and 90s. For much though I dislike pigeonholing, it's hard to feel too offended when Coldplay win Best Alternative Album and the Foo Fighters Best Hard Rock Performance. It's even better when real talent is recognized beneath the glitz and glamour of the high profile awards, and I'm thrilled that Don Letts won the Best Long-Form Music Video for his brilliant Clash documentary Westway to the World, partly because it was genuinely deserved and also because it must make him the first Old Tenisonian to have ever won a Grammy. (I will probably not be the second!)
Perhaps the most important aspects of last night's telecast, though, were those left out of it. If you recall, last year Michael Greene, then President of Grammy governing body the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) delivered an appallingly one-sided attack on the apparent scourge of downloading and file-sharing. (I wrote a two-page essay about this after the event: you can read it here.) Greene was subsequently sacked not officially because of the negative reaction to his speech though you can be sure it played a part. This year the new President of NARAS, Neil Portnow, delivered a short, concise speech which completely avoided the frightening downturn in music sales and instead concentrated on the positive: the power of music to provide comfort and succour in times of distress.
It occurred to me this morning that this was something vitally important. For what we witnessed in last year's speech was the bitter outpourings of a greedy music industry that, following years of record earnings throughout the 1990s, was furious to find the gravy train had suddenly stopped - and lashed out at anyone and everyone it could think of to blame. (Except, of course, itself.) What we then witnessed last night was a humbled music industry which recognizes that just about all of us are suffering from the financial downturn and that in such times of uncertainty the threat of war hung heavily over many speeches and performances we take our succor where we can. Music especially mainstream music - is an imperfect art form, but thank your God that we have it.
The other notable absence at least from the parts that I watched (though I've checked the morning papers and don't see that I missed it) - was collective or individual references to the recent disasters, at the E2 club in Chicago and, specifically, at The Station club in Rhode Island, where at least 96 people died after the band Great White used pyrotechnics that set fire to the club. What's the connection? Well, Great White used to be a multi-platinum act too, and in 1990 were nominated for a Grammy. Raised on the notion that bigger is better, and that flash is cool as the Grammys, MTV and other entertainment outlets have long encouraged - they spent the last decade attempting to relive their heyday in ever smaller venues, while stubbornly refusing to reign in the pyrotechnics they'd once proudly used in large halls and arenas. The people that died Thursday night at the Station were, similarly, pretending to the greatness that they witness on the Grammys: unable to get close to this year's sensations (literally and perhaps metaphorically too), they were hoping merely to relive their own past glories in a small suburban setting.
No fireworks, plenty heat.
Radiohead Coldplay jam with the New York Philharmonic.
Of course, truly great music doesn't need physical fireworks to create emotional heat, and most of last night's awards (dominated by back-to-basics recordings from Bruce, Norah, the Dixie Chicks, Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Alan Jackson) and performances recognized as much. Still there were exceptions. Nelly emphasized the title of 'Hot In Here' with pyrotechnics: in the cavernous Madison Square Garden for the meticulously co-ordinated Grammys, such a display was guaranteed to be safe, but can you really blame the has-been bands and never-were punters for aspiring to similarly explosive entertainment in the only venues they have access to?
Fortunately, it seems that the pendulum has already swung back to purity of recordings and performances alike, and hopefully that change will soon be felt in the smallest of clubs and even by the oldest and lamest of metal rockers. But would it have been too much for the performers last night, hip-hoppers and rockers alike, those who understandably found time to criticize an impending war, to have recognized that the people who died in Chicago and West Warwick nightclubs were very much a part of their audience? And that these victims ultimately died seeking their entertainment in a way that's been sold to them by the glamour of videos and awards shows? Or do none of the artists up there want to even admit that they might ever be caught (dead) performing in ramshackle barns on suburban strip malls? I'm sure the year that Great White were nominated for a Grammy, the thought didn't occur to them either.
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE