iJAMMING! is a music and lifestyle web site hosted by
author, journalist and dee jay Tony Fletcher.
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STEP ON STEPS DOWN!
FRIDAY DECEMBER 3

The final Step On monthly party takes place on FRIDAY DECEMBER 3. Yes, we're sad about it too.

But we're waving goodbye to our Madchester revival night in style. Joining Tony Fletcher and (hopefully, considering her advanced state of pregnancy), Ms. Posie on the decks will be Jeff Smith, flying in from Manchester itself, where he's a core DJ at the Poptastic night among others.

We're also thrilled to host the return of New York's own Dan Selzer, who has a perfect collection of Factory Funk classics and knows how to spin them. Desko 2000 will be opening the night. Other friends will be dropping by begging to play. We hope to open the downstairs room to accommodate everyone. We will have an open beer bar at 9pm – so Joe has promised me. And we will be raffling off at least a couple of our beloved Madchester posters as our way of saying thanks for your support these past 18 months.

Step On down to The Royale, Friday December 3, 506 5th Avenue, between 12th and 13th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn. Music and bar specials kick in at 9pm. This final night, we rock till you drop.

Want to know what makes Step On special? Click on these pictures from our previous parties for more pictures from more previous parties.

SATURDAY DECEMBER 4

THE SATURDAY REVIEW: OLD CODGERS DO IT BETTER

LEONARD COHEN – DEAR HEATHER (Columbia)

Proof positive, not only why old men can lay claim to sexuality (the title track positively drips with lust), but why the rest of us still find Leonard Cohen so damn soulful at 70. Whether re-visiting the country-western classic 'Tennessee Waltz' on stage, setting poetry by Frank Scott ('Villanelle For Our Time') and Lord Byron ('Go No More A-Roving') to music, adapting a Québecian folk song ('The Faith'), or merely crooning one of his own self-composed works of subtle majesty, Cohen is the standard by which we should all set our Septuagenarian standards.
Lyric: "Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mystery, women have been exceptionally kind to my old age." ('Because Of')
Highlight: The shortest is also the sweetest. 'On That Day' pays a sentimental, earnest visit to New York, 9/11.
A-

JOHN CALE – HOBOSAPIENS (Or Music)

Next to Leonard Cohen, John Cale is a relatively sprightly 62, and acts as if he's yet younger: on Hobosapiens, his first album in almost a decade, the former Velvet Underground founder delves into the world of contemporary chill-out-'tronica with the aid of Lemon Jelly's Nick Franglen. But while this collaboration brings a distinctly modernist bent to tracks like 'Zen' and 'Archimedes,' Cale never loses his avant-garde touch: 'Magritte' finds him rattling his viola as intently as ever, and on 'Letter From Abroad,' his avant-garde instincts alternately jar and gel with the electronically arranged foundation. For some unfathomable reason that seems like an insult to the admittedly crusty Welsh-born New York resident, Hobosapiens only just saw American release a full year after its British unveiling.
Lyric: "They give you a host of reasons to go/You come back marked, Address Unknown." ('Caravan.')
Highlight: 'Caravan' is a beautiful ballad that balances Cale's signature viola drone, a few ambient sheens, a series of majestic chord changes, and a heartfelt vocal delivery.
B+

TOM WAITS – REAL GONE (Anti)

A mere 55 years old this December 3, Tom Waits is virtually a baby next to such esteemed company as Cohen and Cale. But having built a career on sounding ancient before his time, what with that gnarly, twisted, fake alcoholic backwoods redneck growl of his, he deserves his place in this old codgers hall of fame. On 'The Day After Tomorrow,' he even stares death in the mirror, penning a love letter from the war front in which his protagonist longs for the simple things back home ("shoveling snow and raking leaves") while pondering "how does God choose" which of His believers should die in battle. This, admittedly, is a subject that has vexed war poets since time immemorial, which means that some listeners might find more originality in the ten-minute epic, 'Sins Of The Father,' with its allusion to the current President and barely veiled suggestion that the Supreme Court rigged the 2000 Election. (Though Waits is too poetic to ever names names.) Those who would sooner focus on the music will take immediate note that Waits' trademark piano accompaniment is entirely absent on Real Gone, with drums also kept at a premium. Instead, Waits relies primarily on the distinguished and often minimalist guitarist Marc Ribot, the equally pedigreed and more typically jazzy bass of Primus' Les Claypool, and his own son's turntablism. These arrangements are so claustrophobic that they sounds like theyweremixed in a biscuit tin in a coal mine, which can be good or bad depending on your mood. Certainly Real Gone goes on far too long – in the pre-CD age, it would have been a double album by necessity – but when it's good, it's very good, and when it's great, it's superb.
Lyric: "I am not fighting for justice/I am not fighting for freedom/I am fighting for my life and/another day in the world here." ('The Day After Tomorrow.')
Highlight: 'Sins Of The Father' is clearly the centerpiece. But at half its length (a mere 5 minutes), I prefer 'Don't Go into That Barn,' a more typically twisted Waits tale of mystery and potential murder set to a restrained backing track that could honor any horror movie.
B+


FRIDAY DECEMBER 3

IN MEMORIAM

We bade goodbye yesterday to John David Strenz, Posie's brother and, for most of these last 14 years, my brother too. A little over a year ago, he was in the prime of his life, a healthy, happy father with a gorgeous wife and three beautiful young girls. Then a series of painful headaches were diagnosed as an anaplastic astro cytoma – a brain tumor in an advanced stage of growth – and he underwent several months' radiation and chemotherapy treatment. We all tried to stay positive through the early part of this year, but sadly, the doctors announced at the end of this summer that their efforts were not having the desired result.

He was given less than two months. Being John, he almost doubled that time, and made it through to Thanksgiving, which his family hosted and which was, understandably, a bitter-sweet occasion. Having achieved this one final goal, he then passed away at home on Monday night, aged 46, his wife and three young girls (12 and under) at his bedside as he had desired. A Memorial Mass was held for him in his home town of Montclair, New Jersey, yesterday, followed by a celebration of his life at a nearby hall. This morning, he is being interned, as he also desired, alongside his father.

John as I will remember him.

Many of our close friends have known about John's fatal illness and given us strong support over these terrible last few months. We're extremely grateful. To the general public here, I simply alluded occasionally to "difficult times." You don't have to hang around long on this planet to know that life is unfair and good people die young, and we're not suggesting we've got it better or worse than anyone else; bereavement is an unfortunate part of being here. My wife's family is large, it's tightly knit, it's very strong. We got through these last few months together and we will pull through into the future together. None of this is a discussion for the Pub and I'll do my best to resume normal writing activity next week. Still, those of you who know her, please spare some thoughts for Posie, who was John's only younger sibling; as the last two of eight kids, they were extremely close. Her pain is understandably acute - though it's been rendered somewhat poetic by the fact that she became pregnant, with a boy, no less, halfway through John's illness. Yes, it's the cycle of life. What else can I say?

Actually, I said plenty more, yesterday, in Church. I was asked by the family to offer a tribute to John at the Memorial Mass. I was honored, and just tried to live up to John's magnificent farewell speech to his father, only a few years earlier. Unlike most of my In-Laws, I am accustomed to public speaking (cue the smiley face); however, I've never spoken in church before and I've never had to face an audience – of several hundred, testament to John's popularity - that was in tears before I even started. I was able to hold on to my own emotions by focusing on the loving faces in the front row of John's wife and kids, who seemed to be enjoying the memories I'd compiled on behalf of the family. Somehow, I even got people to laugh a few times. I know John would have wanted that.

John was just an amazing person, as everyone who knew him will testify. He was incredibly pro-active - someone who, when he set his mind to a task, would not rest until it was completed. He was also fully accepting of life's curve balls. Not once, throughout the course of this fatal illness, did anyone ever hear him complain. He didn't bemoan his poor luck, he didn't ask for sympathy, he kept his pain to himself, he didn't question his God, and he even tried to insist that we didn't wear black yesterday. As his poor mother put it – and no mother should have to bury a child – "he taught us all how to die with dignity."


At that, I'll move on. I am looking forward to getting Lost In Music tonight at Step On. Hopefully, many of you in Brooklyn will be able to join us for this final party before Posie and I move on to another chapter of our lives with the arrival of our new baby, fingers crossed and all being well, at some point in the next month. And for those of you further afield and otherwise engaged, have a great weekend and thanks for letting me vent.


THURSDAY DECEMBER 2

A CERTAIN SOMETHING

As you may have surmised, this is a long and difficult week. I hope to post more substantially tomorrow. If you're looking to get in the mood for tomorrow's final Step On, then you could do worse than attend the One Year Anniversary of the Pop Your Funk party at Apt. tonight over in the Meatpacking district. Martin Moscrop from A Certain Ratio has flown in for the occasion and will be delivering some funk straight from the Factory (memory). I won't be able to attend but if anyone makes it out there and meets Martin, please invite him down for tomorrow. See you then.


WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 1

INSPIRATION parts 1 & 2

First things first: Step On is going ahead on Friday as planned. You may find Posie and myself somewhat less upbeat than we'd like to be, but I know the event will prove a necessary release at the end of an extremely difficult week. And we couldn't cancel it, regardless: it's going to be such a splendid farewell to such a magnificent monthly party. I may elaborate on our bereavement after tomorrow's funeral; for now let me keep the postings more communal than personal.



Nick Cave ponders the prospect of another day at the office...

An interview with Nick Cave in last week's Onion produced a couple of magnificent quotes. This one is so perfect that I may even start using it as a sign-off on my e-mails:

"I don't rely on inspiration. It's unreliable. I just get up in the morning and go to work."

He also expresses the following sentiment, which I can echo from personal experience!

"I wrote a novel, and you don't do that on a lark. You have to fuckin' sit down at the typewriter day after day just to get it done, just to get the words down."

If this appears to jar with the image of Cave as a free-wheeling drug fiend, he elaborates a little on this aspect straight after the above quote. Judging by the quality of his recent work, getting up and going to work in the morning clearly has its creative rewards.

Read my review of Nick Cave's new twin albums, Abattoir Blues and The Lyre Of Orpheus, here.


TUESDAY NOVEMBER 30

CLOSED DUE TO BEREAVEMENT


MONDAY NOVEMBER 29

2004: TOPS? OR TURKEY?

So, for us here in the States, following the long Thanksgiving weekend, the holiday season is officially upon us. And I imagine that over in Europe, then moment the calendar kicks into December, the Christmas spirit will likewise descend in style. For those of us anoraks who obsess about music and the other finer aspects of life, it's time then to start compiling our end-of-year lists.

As I've mentioned several times before at this site, I'm enjoying music more right now than maybe any time since the mid-nineties. Part of this is due to the sheer fun of hosting iJamming!, communicating with actual music lovers around the globe rather than being confined to the inner circle of those In The Biz. This pleasure has been furthered by, for the most part, avoiding the charts. I pay remarkably little attention these days to what's selling, and far more attention to what's worth playing. It's been a liberating process. I have little sympathy for the major labels, whose financial woes the rest of us saw coming several years ago. And it definitely appears to me that the "independent underground," for want of a better term, has been thriving as the Web opens up the possibility for any artist on the planet to be heard by any listener on the planet. Creatively, these are golden times.

But all the same, I have to ask: Where are the great albums? I don't mean the good ones, of which there's clearly no shortage, I'm talking about the classics. When it comes to adding up the Best of 2004, I've a dread feeling that we're going to be staring at the weakest year of the current decade – and maybe the weakest of the entire preceding decade. Check the handful of recommendations in the iJamming! Pub under the thread 'Contender for Album of The Year Already': Badly Drawn Boy, Grant Lee Phillips, Morrissey. Fine artists, all, but note of them newcomers to the scene actively reinventing the wheel. I look at those that have graced my own Hitlists over the last ten months, and while I stand by all my choices, I know that some of my beloved New York acts (Radio 4, The Mooney Suzuki, Ambulance Ltd., Secret Machines, !!!, and Interpol) are still falling short of classic status and that many of those who have given me (and others) enormous short-term satisfaction this year (Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, The Killers, The Go! Team) will likely lose their allure in years, if not months, to come.

Morrissey (reviewed here) came back from the grave for possibly the best album of his career. The Go! Team (reviewed here) came out of nowhere to release one of the most enjoyable.

On the dance side, The Streets' album A Grand Don't Come For Free is a work of genius, but it's not better than 2002's debut album, Original Pirate Material. And it probably only shines so bright because so many other artists in the genre fell flat on their face this year, from Orbital (who called it quits with their weakest album) to The Prodigy (who scored a British number 1 but no long-term satisfaction) to, most visibly, Fatboy Slim. I've still got faith in Basement Jaxx and Chemical Brothers, and many of the new artists in this wide-ranging field are trying their damndest to do good work but, Skinner's Streets aside, there's no one breaking truly new ground.

Over in the world of guitars and (real) drums, Green Day's American Idiot is potentially the best protest/punk/power-pop/rock album of the year, and it gives me considerable faith, but then again, it was released the same month that my beloved R.E.M. unleashed the weakest album of their career. For every survivor, there's a new casualty. Besides, for every Green Day, there's a dozen rote imitations and far too many commercially popular but creatively uninspired Sum 41s. British rock music has proven barely more demanding: neither Hope Of The States, The Music, nor The Coral, to name but three, have lived up to great expectations on album.

The Streets (reviewed here) and Green Day (reviewed here): Best Of Class?


I'm not the world's biggest hip-hop connoisseur. I don't listen to a vast number of singer-songwriters. I can't find much time for country. I've yet to even sit down with the new U2. And of course, for all that I've listened to hundreds of records, I've missed many more. I know that when I look at some of the polls, I'll need to get my credit card out, top up my collection and start next year's Hitlist with another Ten That Got Away.

And I'm sure that when I come to compile my annual Top 10, it will still look mighty fine (to my eyes, of course). But I'm concerned that it will not look as fine as it has in the past. I'm concerned that it will be dominated either by older artists of a different era who barely have the right to keep demanding such attention (I'm trying to find time to review the excellent recent albums by Tom Waits, John Cale, and Leonard Cohen to join that of the somewhat younger Nick Cave); by Mancunians who have rediscovered their hunger more than a decade after their heyday (Morrissey and Ian Brown have surely made the best albums of their solo career, Tim Booth's is up their with James' many peaks); and by a handful of younger acts who are either shamelessly anachronistic (The Futureheads), purposefully frivolous (The Go! Team) or otherwise still short of long-term assertion (Kevin Tihista, The Fiery Furnaces).

The Fiery Furnaces and Kevin Tihista made two of the best albums that flew under the radar in 2004


My list will hardly be in step with the wider clique of rock critics. (For which I'm grateful). But still, I think I can offer a prediction: than when they add up the votes at the various magazines and newspapers over the next few weeks, the album that tops most lists will be thirty-seven years old. Yes, I'm thinking of Brian Wilson's Smile. And for all that I agree that it's brilliant, if the best we can do in 2004 is to wish it were 1997, we're in trouble.


Still, I'm willing to stand corrected. So let's get the discussion going. 2004? Tops? Or turkey? Pop on down The Pub for a Monday afternoon cordial and have your say.

2004 MUSINGS
NOV 22-28: Nick Cave album review, U2 in Brooklyn, Thanksgiving Wine Reviews
NOV 15-21: Album reviews of Freq Nasty, DFA, The Scumfrog, Plus Gentrified Brooklyn, post-Marathon work-outs, First Gigs....
NOV 8-14: Post-Marathon Musings, Post Election Stress, Songs of Hate, NOV 1-7: The Futureheads live, The Election, Bono Vox, Step On, The Marathon,
OCT 25-31: John Peel tribute, Park Slope update, Expat Commentators for Kerry, The Libertines/Golden Republic/Sondre Lerche/VHS Or Beta/Concretes live
OCT 18-24: R.E.M., Kevin Tihista, Brian Wilson, Atomique. Anglo-American Angle, Jon Stewart,
OCT 11-17: Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Bowling For Soup, Paul Weller, The Go! Team, Fatboy Slim, New York Wines and Dines, Dick Is A Killer,
OCT 4-10: Best of Best Of New York, Keep iJamming! Thriving, WebFriends, October Hitlist
SEP 26-OCT 3: This Sporting Life Parts 1 & 2 (football and Olympics), Full Court Music Press, Rudi, The Clash, Apocalypse
SEP 19-25: The Zutons/Thrills live, Brian Clough RIP, Iraq, Hunting, Virgin Trains, Punk Voters, Step On Steps Down
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: Pixies, Charlatans, Scissor Sisters, Fountains Of Wayne. Basement Jaxx, Audio Bullys, Freestyler, The Killers, Pink - and camp cameraderie.
SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,

2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE:


iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2004




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WHAT'S NEW IN iJAMMING!...

HOLIDAY WINE REPORT:
Six all-Americans for the Season

JOHN PEEL: A Tribute

THE OCTOBER HITLIST:
Fiery Furnaces, Green Day, Bowling For Soup, Paul Weller, The Go! Team, Fatboy Slim, R.E.M., Kevin Tihista, Brian Wilson

FESTIVE MEMORIES:
A report from THE V FESTIVAL, Stafford, England, Aug 21-23

FEATURED WINE:
Leitz 'Dragonstone' Riesling, Rüdesheim, Rheingau, Germany, 2003

ABSOLUTE AFFIRMATION:
A NEW YORK HITLIST
(10 new Albums)

FEATURED WINE:
DOMAINE VALLET
SAINT JOSEPH BLANC 2001
Rhône, France

The SUMMER HITLIST:
More culture than makes sense

From the Jamming! Archives
THE HOMOSEXUALS, 1979

DVD REVIEW:
JEFF MILLS - EXHIBITIONIST

BOOK REVIEW:
SONGBOOK by NICK HORNBY

HIGHWAY TO UNHEALTHY:
Why Fast Food depends on Cheap Oil

THE JUNE HITLIST:
12 featured albums, 15 more in rotation, three 12" singles and a handful of books.

FEATURED OREGON WHITE WINES:
Foris Vineyards Gewürztraminer and Witness Tree Pinot Blanc.

THE APRIL HITLIST:
MUSIC, BOOKS, FILMS, TV, BEER, WINE AND FOOD-JUICE

FEATURED WINE:
Aziano Chianti Classico 2001 .

THE UNDERTONES
Live in New York

THE MARCH HITLIST:
REISSUES REVISITED

STELLASTARR*
Live at Tiswas
Live at Bowery Ballroom
Live at Mercury Lounge
Live on the Hudson River
With Joe Strummer
Stellastarr* album review

SUICIDE GIRLS just wanna have fun

FEATURED WINE:
DOMAINE ROGER PERRIN
CHÂTEAUNEUF DU PAPE 2001
Rhône, France,

THE FEBRUARY HITLIST:
Ten That Got Away

NEW YORK W(H)INES Part 2

THE BEST OF 2003
Tony's Top Tens

FEATURED WINE REGION:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES
updated and re-designed

The DECEMBER HITLIST
Bruce, Bowie, Iggy, Joe and Jodie...

From the Jamming! Archives
TONY PARSONS on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, 1984

THE IJAMMING! HITLIST:
Global Techtronica

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 2
TRIPPED OUT BRITS: Nine albums of vaguely psychedelic bliss

FEATURED ALBUM:
Eargasm by Plump DJs

FEATURED WINE:
Paul Durdilly Les Grandes Coasses Beaujolais Nouveau 2003

THE DECEMBER HITLIST Part 1
BRITISH DANCE MUSIC:
Down But Not Out

THE OTHER NEW YORK MARATHON: 10 Live Reviews from the CMJ Music Marathon, October 2003

THE OCTOBER HITLIST:
Albums from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Denmark, New York and New Jersey.

NEW YORK W(H)INES:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

DANCING IN THE DARK:
Bruce Springsteen at Shea Stadium

The biggest night out that you'll ever have in." Jockey Slut
"Hedonism will have you gripped from start to finish, guaranteed." International DJ


Tony Fletcher's debut novel HEDONISM is out now. For more information and to read excerpts, click here.

HEDONISM is available mail order in the USA from Barnes&Noble.com. It's available mail order in the UK from amazon.co.uk or musicroom.com.

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