So much wine, so little time. I'll skip on the Featured Wine this week and instead act like one of those "geeks" that posts on "the boards," detailing his copious recent consumption and making no apologies for what must look to outsiders like alcoholism.
(Reminder to those outsiders: we spit, we don't swallow. Well, actually, we do a bit of both. It depends what we're drinking.)
Hooked up with a couple of old friends/iJamming! Pub regulars just before one of them had his second son. At which, let's pause to offer CONGRATULATIONS TO JJHACK AND WIFE ALISON ON THE DELIVERY OF THEIR NEW BABY WESLEY: THESE NOTES ARE DEDICATED TO THEM.
3) NINTH ISLAND PINOT NOIR 2003, TASMANIA
As always, Ivo & Lulu was convenient (close to the Holland Tunnel), cheap (especially as it's BYO) and cheerful (tables are pressed so close together that diners share only good news). Heres what we had...
1) TRAMIN SAUVIGNON 2002 SUDTIROL/ALTO ADIGE, ITALY
Tramin is supposedly the home village of the Gewürztraminer grape, so it was only appropriately we drank a
Sauvignon Blanc, this particular example made by a busy active local co-op and labeled simply Sauvignon. The nose gave off strong gooseberry and grassy aromas; after the initial acid attack receded, there were typical SB flavors on the palate, too: gooseberry, asparagus, nettles and the sense of spring in the air. A solid core of something impressively solid 'slate' was suggested followed onto the mid palate. It could well have passed for a Loire wine; it could not have been confused for anything but Sauvignon Blanc.
2) WEINGUT H.J. DOLI 2002 GEWÜRZTRAMINER SPATLESE, PFALZ, GERMANY
And now, appropriately, to the actual Gewürztraminer grape, gifted one of us by his German mother-in-law on a recent visit to America. It was a golden yellow in the glass, and gave off a powerful smell of orange, lychees and pink grapefruits alongside a bouquet of romantic flowers - an aphrodisiac of an aroma that could be bottled and sold across the counter of any Parisian parfumerie. Lingering behind that come-hither perfume was a beautiful body with soft curves and tender flesh, gently rounded in all the right places and almost deliriously sensual to the tongue. Low in acid, ripe in fruit and with a creamy finish that exuded character, it was oral sex in a glass. And when the experience is that good, you don't spit: you swallow. The bottle was emptied in no time.
Australia is simply too hot to handle Pinot Noir, but its off-coast island of Tasmania is far enough south to grow cool climate varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir. Still, this bottle of Pinot, from the second label of Tasmania's leading winery, Piper's Brook, could hardly be confused with a Burgundy. An initially harsh nose quickly blew off to reveal earthy aromas and plenty dark fruit black cherries rather than the bing cherries associated with truly cool climate Pinots. Warm and fuzzy on the palate, it was a proper mouth-filler of a wine, lacking the refined delicacy by which this grape likes to claim global superiority. In short, every bit the brutish Australian wine industry's idea of femininity - something or somewine that can go ten rounds with a kangaroo. No surprise to hear it's Australia's top-selling Pinot.
From dinner at Counter, the organic, vegetarian food and wine restaurant in the East Village.
WIMMER-CZERNY 2003 GRÜNER VELTLINER, DONAULAND, AUSTRIA
Grüner Veltliner shares with Gewürztraminer more than the same first letters, five syllables and Austro-Italian roots: it's the kind of wine some people swear by, and some swear at. It's high in acidity and can be redolent of green vegetables, and not of the kind that makes Sauvignon Blanc so attractive. Built well, however, like this one, it proves a good match for all manner of food. A deep yellow color, this wine from the Donauland region had lovely aromas of ripe honeydew melon and golden delicious apples. On the palate, it was almost sharply acidic and vaguely sweet to the touch, suggesting that in Austria, as in Germany, the heatwave of 2003 was so devastating to the harvest that that some wines were falsely acidified. Quite full-bodied, and vaguely spicy at the back, it was what you might call a wine-drinker's wine an acquired taste not to be passed off on a beginner. I'm still undecided.
From the Inaugural Dinner of The Wine Century Club Dinner at La Scalco on Church Street. (The Wine Century Club is for those who've tried more than 100 different grape varietals: not quite as hard as you might think, but not too easy either. The Inaugural Dinner was as much of a press launch as it was a private membership gathering. And it was a lot of fun, too. Wines 2 through 5 were served blind, with the menu listing four choices for each. We quickly gathered that, being an Italian restaurant, these were likely to be Italian wines on the table, which narrowed down our choices considerably. I got three of the four right by good fortune and a process of elimination: I hadn't knowingly tasted any of them before.)
1) CHIDAINE NV MONTLOUIS SUR LOIRE BRUT METHODE TRADITIONELLE
Sparkling wine from the Loire, made in the Champagne 'methode traditionelle' style. 100% Chenin Blanc, a grape you don't find in the Champagne region, it was a gorgeous, toasty, balanced zesty sparkler. The ideal aperitif and ample proof that Champagne does not have a lock on French champagne except by name, of course.
2) OCONE 2003 FALANGHINA DEL TABURNO
A vibrant yellow in the glass, giving off both mineral and floral aromas. Low acidity, with good body and balance, likeable but well short of lovable. Falanghina is from the Campania region in central Italy
3) FERRANDO 2003 ERBALUCE DI CALUSO CARIOLA
Similar to the first wine in color and floral aromas, but with far more acidity and considerably more white fruit. I'd never heard of the Erbaluce grape before, but I would absolutely come back for more even though, at $19 a bottle, it's pricy for an Italian white.
4) NUSSERHOF 2000 LAGREIN RISERVA SüDTIROLER
I've had several white wines from the mountainous Südtirol/Alto Adige region of northern Italy, but this may be the first time I've tasted a local red. And it won't be the last at least not based on this delightful Lagrein, which had a funky nose, a slightly bitter approach (typical of Italian reds) and then lots of earthy fruits, including what I noted as stewed plums. A long hearty finish and some redolent tannins added to its allure. On sale at Chambers Street Wines for $17, the price is right, too.
5) SCACCIADIAVOLI 2000 SAGRANTINO DI MONTEFALCO
The Sagrantino grape has its own DOGC in the Montefalco area of Umbria, from where this wine provides a wonderful example of the grape's attributes. Spicy on the nose in the way of good Zinfandel, it then gave way to a well-rounded body with softening tannins, bright fruits ranging from cherry to raspberry and a deep, satisfying finish. It was hard not to just throw the glass back and drink the lot. Sagrantino does not appear to come cheap this one is retailing at almost $30 but you can understand its appeal. Word has it that word is out on this grape, which means you may see it cropping up in the new world, and prices coming down from from the old. Let's hope so. It's discoveries like this grape that make the adventuring worthwhile.
6) DE BARTOLI MARSALA SUPERIORE
Dessert wine from Sicily, this could have been made from all manner of indigineous and otherwise unknown grapes. Let's just settle for saying that while I rarely venture into fortified territory, the esteemed De Bartoli Superiore suggested that my loss is, indeed, my loss. It was a dark brown color, with the aroma of toffee, the texture of caramel and the taste of walnuts and raisins a satisfyingly sticky way to end a highly entertaining evening of wine adventuring.
The first four wines that follow were from a dinner shared with the family of my oldest nephew (32), who likes wines that match his character: big, bold, not afraid to voice ther opinion and very much American. The remainder were tasted over recent months in the ongoing pursuit of quality Californian wine at a decent price. None of those (5-8) passed the grade to be chosen as an iJamming! Featured Wine.
1) ALISON CABERNET FRANC, NEW YORK STATE, 2002
First up, from New York, Alison is the newest addition to the increasingly impressive crop of Hudson Valley Wineries, bravely launching its line a couple of years back with the finicky Pinot Noir grape. This may well be the winery's first Cabernet Franc, given that I could see no previous vintages listed on its web site, and I'm uncertain whether the grapes are estate grown or brought in from around the state.
Any which way, it's a nice little wine. The color was an attractive purple ruby. The nose gave off all the right aromas bell peppers, that distinctive leafy tobacco nature, and a slightly herbaceous nose. Unquestionably light (there's no alcohol percentage printed on the label), it didn't have the tannin to warrant cellaring and was somewhat one-dimensional, but it was absolutely redolent of the varietal. And that's what I want from my new world wines.
2) ZACA MESA VIOGNIER, SANTA YNEZ VALLEY 2002
I expected great things from this wine: I like Zaca Mesa, I'm fond of the Santa Ynez Valley, and I absolutely adore Viognier. But to my palate, this was repeat evidence that Viognier should be drunk as soon as possible: the nose gave up the appropriate ripe peach and apricot aromas readily enough, but it also gave out on them before we could finish the bottle. What was left was a heavy wine devoid of finesse. A shame, because I sense that there would have been much more to this Viognier had it been savored a year earlier.
3) EBERLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON PASO ROBLES 1997
In the Napa Valley, 1997 was considered possibly the greatest red wine year of a truly epic decade. Which means, of course, that the wines were big - really big. Down in Paso Robles, where Zinfandels regularly reach astronomical alcoholic heights themselves, Eberle kept this Cabernet Sauvignon impressively in check. There was tell-tale mint on the nose, a hefty dose of dark chocolate, some sage aromas and a little dark pepper too. A hearty wine and no mistake. But the oak was well integrated, the tannins had softened to velvet, the mouth-feel was ripe without being overly so, and the finish was delicate, at least by Californian standards. It felt, in all the right terms of the word, like a warm wine a cozy way to combat a stormy night. And it was pleasing proof that it often pays to cellar a big Californian wine.
The great and the good. The mid-price Eberle from the stellar 1997 vintage had been cellared for several years and rewarded the patience. The comparatively low-price BV from the "superlative" 2001 vintage was all up-front fruit.
4) CLINE MOURVÈDRE ANCIENT VINES CONTRA COSTA COUNTY 1999
This, on the other hand, was frustrating evidence that it often does NOT pay to cellar a big red Californian wine. I like so much about Cline, but I've come to the depressing conclusion that their Rhône reds the high-end Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan all taste the same. There's a minty-eucalyptus feel I get across right across the board, a familiar taste of oaky chocolate, and a lack of varietal definition. It's perfectly good stuff in its own way and the Ancient Vines Zinfandels have been a constant winner in our household, especially with a few years on them but when I think of the Bandols of which I've recently been raving, I realize this Mourvèdre is but a poor imitation.
5) BOGLE 2002 PETITE SIRAH, CALIFORNIA
Bogle has a good rep for inexpensive wines of core quality. Not this one. I got a nose that included plums and blackberries, but it was 'candied' - like it had been artificially sweetened - and the hefty tannins were awkward, delivering a solid mouthful of forward fruit with little texture or dimension. All in all, it was sweet enough and unsubtle enough to conclude that low-end Californian wineries are trying to imitate low-end Australian Shiraz. That's not a good thing.
6) SEGHESIO 2002 ZINFANDEL, SONOMA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA
One of the first wines I featured at iJamming!, this has long been our "house" Zinfandel in the "decent" price bracket. And the 2002 received special acclaim from the highly influential Wine Spectator. Which raises the question: is it coincidence that a wine gains its biggest points the year it's highest in alcohol? For while this delightfully aromatic and warmly spicy wine routinely clocks in at over 14.5%, the 2002 came in at a record 15.2%, and for an everyday dinner wine, that's simply too high for comfort especially when the alcohol is as obtrusive as in this bottle. I love Seghesio's Zinfandels, really I do read these notes for prior proof but even hard core tasters have their limits. And mine was one glass.
7) CUVAISON 2002 PINOT NOIR CARNEROS, NAPA, CALIFORNIA
Seems like ever since Sideways came out, the whole world is after Califonian Pinot Noir. But there's a vast difference between the cool Santa Barbara County of the movie's setting and the Napa Valley which is so hot that only its southernmost corner, Carneros, can successfully contain Pinot Noir. This one from Cuvaison offered up a very, very silky and sexy black cherry nose with all manner of enticing accompanying aromas. Soft and alluring on the front palate, there were some earthy flavors on the mid-palate and a good concentration of core red fruits on the back. That said, I still found it a little abrasive. I felt much the same way a second night, and then a third night too (there was certainly enough stuffing in the wine to keep it open that long). But by that point I'd figured out that the black cherry fruit was also redolent of chocolate and when I paired it with some dark orange chocolate it came alive. I've enjoyed some other Pinots from Carneros in the weeks since, but none of them, it should be said, were noted for their delicacy.
8) BEAULIEU VINEYARDS 2001 NAPA VALLEY RUTHERFORD CABERNET SAUVIGNON, CALIFORNIA
I'm always on the look-out for an inexpensive Californian Cab I can recommend with confidence as a Featured Wine. This came close
but not close enough. The price is right under $20 for a wine not merely from Napa, but from the famously 'dusty' microclimate of Rutherford, made by one of California's most esteemed old wineries to boot, and from a vintage being described in superlative terms. The color was an almost impenetrable purple-black. Some swirling opened up the anticipated blackcurrant and mint aromas, while my palate was quickly assaulted by a combination of mocha, blackcurrent, blueberries and what seemed like sage. A broad-shouldered wine, it was slightly sweet in an insincere manner and boldly up front. Like a drunk body-builder hitting on girls in a crowded bar, it's surely going to score with someone, but still, I was left asking: whatever happened to grace and character?
Alright, so I relentlessly rag on Williamsburg. But just because I'm not pre-disposed to the place doesn't mean I'm pre-judgmental. Prior to the Fischerspooner do, I meet an old friend early in the evening at a bar on Wythe Street called Zebulon, which has live jazz for free every night of the week. You can't go wrong with that. In the process I make a new friend, too. He's a real smart guy and he lives in Williamsburg. Clearly the two are not mutually exclusive.
But the Williamsburg hipsters and their sense of what constitutes hipness? As Americans are wont to say, 'Oh my God!' And 'Get a life!' As we sidle up to the entrance at FS Studios (Fischerspooner smartly converted their massive record company advance into real estate), we hear the DJ playing
Christopher Cross. Quick quiz, is this:
b) a joke?
c) just crap?
We go inside and join the long line for free drinks as the DJ switches to a Missy Elliott track and then to
'One Night In Bangkok.'
(The answer was: c).)
On the walls of this impressively vast space, Fischerspooner have erected vast presentations of iconic book covers by Arthur Rimbaud and Carl Jung, and a blown-up chromalyn of the hand-written lyrics to 'We Need A War' from their new album Odyssey. These words were written by Susan Sontag, and they're by far and away the most interesting on the album. They merit further discussion, but a bunch of drugged-up tattoo-boy hipsters lying around on the floor are preventing us from closely reading them while they act all silly buggers.
Loungin around at FS Studios. Susan Sontag's lyrics are bottom right.
The (altered) words to 'We Need A War,' up close
And there's your dichotomy. Fischerspooner have been hosting regular events at this space and in other cities, which they define as follows:
"This Salon project was created to encourage participation and experimentation in the creative process that surrounds Fischerspooner, and has been a breeding ground of ideas and references for their new bodies of work in music and art.
By drawing a shifting and expanding group of people to the space every week, the "Excellent Workshop" project aims to explore ideas of art in community and the development of creative partnerships across all artistic media."
Noble words, absolutely. But what counts in life are actual deeds. And what we have here is not a breeding ground of ideas but a bunch of industry types, club kids and trust fund hipsters standing round making the most of an open bar and bitching about how The Bravery are hype.
Meantime, the bearded DJ gets over his ironic presentation of shit music and ups the tempo. Two scruffy white kids start dancing. One of them is so bad at it, so utterly formless and without rhythm (see right) that I take his picture, several times. He's oblivious. The drugged-up club kid types start raising themselves off the floor to jump on each other's shoulders. A scantily clad girl with very big protrusions at front and rear and who is surely part of the FS official entourage starts dancing too and cameras follow her for lack of anything better to film. Meantime, the DJ lets each record fade out before bringing the next. In other words, he can't mix.
Now, excuse me for being old-fashioned, but I always thought dance DJs were meant to have three talents: 1) the ability to choose the right music for the right occasion, 2) the ability to play that music in the right order for the occasion, 3) the ability to mix those records together where possible to improve the flow of 1) and 2). My new friend comments that "This is where dance music ended up in New York," and I don't want to admit that he's right because I know too many people still fully immersed in the culture who wouldn't dream of stepping foot in this charade. Still, he's got a point.
All the above is rendered personally far more painful by the prevalence of smoking on the premises. This, I suppose, I can't complain about: since smoking was banned in New York bars and clubs (a law strongly enforced at gigs, less so late at night in the bars), I've shown no sympathy for those forced outside to feed their nicotine addiction. Therefore, I don't expect any sympathy back if they find a party at which they can freely exhale. However, in turn they shouldn't expect me to suffer their second-hand smoke in an unventilated room anymore than I would expect them to let me inject them with drugs against their free will. The moment I start coughing, I make my exit. Frankly, I need the excuse.
It would be reassuring to report that, later in the evening, the Fischerspooner duo themselves stopped the music short, and demanded everyone present involve themselves in something that would justify the term 'Salon' a discussion about Susan Sontag's lyrics perhaps, or a simple pop poll on to find who in the room has actually read Rimbaud or Jung. Maybe a speech by club veteran/Williamsburg fashionability founder Larry Tee in which he eulogizes all those friends we lost in the 90s to excessive pharmaceutical abuse. You know, something that properly pushes the envelope, the way Consolidated used to engage their audience in a Q&A session for 30 minutes after every dogmatic performance. I e-mail my friends Friday morning in the hope that I missed something of this sort and they say that no, it carried on just as it had begun.
The day Park Slope feels like Williamsburg, I'm out of here.
I drive over the Williamsburg Bridge to the relative sanctity of Manhattan, just too late to catch my friend Madina's DJ set on behalf of KEXP at The Cellar Bar on 14th Street. The KEXP story is a phenomenon of which I'm only briefly becoming aware. But it goes something like this
Cool self-financed Seattle radio station KCMU struggles financially. In steps Microsoft/Experience Music Project co-founder Paul Allen, who hires the key staff members, and relaunches the station as KEXP - i.e. after the Experience Music Project. It's positioned not as a local, left-of-the-dial station of old, but as an Internet station for (my term) "good music" lovers everywhere. Supposedly, after Seattle, its biggest two markets are Brooklyn and Manhattan. The New York contingent have even set up a UseNet group to communicate their love of the station, leading to this visit by the programmers and key DJs for a week of co-promoted gigs, small parties and live broadcasts. Rather than hog the turntables for themselves, the station has allowed those who've spread the word in New York like Madina to play at this particular party.
Unfortunately I've missed a set that included Kasabian, Leftfield and Badmarsh/Shri, but when I walk in, one of the station's programmers is busy buying Madina beers and telling me "Everyone in the room could tell when the DJ's switched over" which is about the highest compliment a DJ can be paid. (Unless it's intended as an insult, of course!) The new DJ is playing indie schmindie music, including a cover of The Undertones' 'Get Over You' by The Baby Shakes that I can't quite determine if I love or hate. But the room itself is alive, full of visually unfashionable people happily discussing music alongside the DJs to whom they listen to every day from a continent away. Call them geeks if you like. What matters is that they're passionate music fans, not poseurs.
KEXP's trip to New York is evidently working in that it's turned at least one more person on to the station. I'm listening online to KEXP as I type: Tori Amos is performing live in front of an invited audience at the Museum of Television and Radio in Manhattan and discussing babies with the host. The last thirty minute's music the station's Playlist is constantly updated online - has included Bobby Bare Jr, I Am Kloot, Low, The Jayhawks, and Iron And Wine. Those of you with Broadband have no excuse not to tune in.
Down at Belly on Rivington Street, the "Spacerock, Shoegaze and Psychedelia night" Loveless is warming up. However, promoter/DJ (and Step On bartender) Paul Dillon himself is absent. He shows up a few minutes later, toilet plunger in hand. In Williamsburg this would be a fashion accessory. Here though, it's purely utilitarian. He notes that there's only one bartender at work and if he, Paul, doesn't unblock the toilet, then who else will take responsibility? With that kind of attention to detail, is it any wonder that so many people brave the storm to support the night?
The wine list at Belly includes Viognier and Malbec. Sadly, they don't come cheap.
Toilet successfully flowing once more, Paul plays the perfect host, buying me a drink and introducing me to everyone in sight. Those who aren't in active bands (Hopewell, Mercury Rev, Goldrush) are Park Slope natives and regular Royale drinkers. They want to know why I stopped DJing Step On and I tell them about the new baby. I even show some of them pictures. In doing so, I pull out my phone and realize I've just been making a 20-minute phone call. I don't dare look at the call log to see who I may have woken. Come the morning, the wife tells me she listened in to a 20-minute phone call I made to the house last night and who was the woman I was talking to? Paul's fiancée, I tell her truthfully. (And next time I'll remember to lock the phone keys!)
I ask Posie whether she could hear the music in the background of the call and she says she tried, but it just sounded like noise. Sadly, it was much the same inside Belly. The sound was not as bad as the first time I attended Loveless back in January, but the addition of a new mixer hasn't fixed the small bar's inherent problems: it's not been designed with music in mind. The DJ's instinct is to turn up the volume, at which the bartender, himself a psych-rock musician, says he can't hear a single word from his customers and turns it back down. The music of My Bloody Valentine can sound muffled enough on a good system: on a bad one, it's near a lost cause.
But listen (if you can): the music at Loveless is superb. The opening DJ plays Ulrich Schnauss, Kasabian, Stone Roses, and MBV. Paul plays Ride, The Kinks and Secret Machines. Grasshopper from My Mercury Rev comes on, plays a few choice cuts of his own and though my instinct tells me this is not the sort of night to cut out early on, my watch tells me it's 1am and I'm on the morning school run.
On the way out, I run into Mark Gardner. From Ride. Let's face it, if you're going to host a shoegaze night in New York, you can't do much better than have Mark Gardner in the room. (Or out front, having a smoke in the rain without complaining about it.) Despite being a mega Ride fan back in the day, I don't know Mark that well: the few times I met him (usually at the Limelight) he seemed to be out of it. We actually get talking about this, and Mark tells me that after witnessing too many UK friends lose it completely, he moved to rural France for a couple of years to find himself anew. Now he's back making music, sorting out a record deal and contemplating a move to New York; he says he's feeling an energy here that's missing in London. And I don't discourage him. As long as he doesn't move to Williamsburg where too many people have lost the plot completely - he should fit in just fine.
(Mark Gardner is playing the Mercury Lounge tonight with Goldrush, at 8pm.)
I NEED HELP. I'm actively looking for someone who has ongoing experience with web design and could assist in converting iJamming! from its old Adobe Go! Live format into Movable Type or something similar. Web templates have changed dramatically in the five years since I started the site and I need iJamming! to get up to date. In particular, I want people to be able to access it using an RSS feed and I also want to get cross-references going. (E.g., a daily post could be immediately filed under 'music,' 'Brooklyn,' 'wine' headers - or all three.)
There's no money in this. But if you're New York-based and can spare a few hours in the very near future to help out I would gladly reward you with some good music and maybe share some good wine when we're done with it. My needs are probably not that difficult for anyone with the expertise and I could figure it out myself over time if necessary; but I want to clear up and clear out the site now, not next month or next year.
My direct e-mail is at the very bottom of this page for anyone interested. Thanks.
You ever had a period of overload in your life? Sure you have. And I'm having one right now. Most of it I can handle: the new baby, the sleepless nights, the early mornings getting Campbell off to school (my job for the time being), a book and an album coming out in the same month as I sign a new book deal, a sudden splurge of dinner dates and wine tastings, a busy web site, spending seven hours in the car almost every weekend, participating in too many sports. What I'm finding difficult is the knowledge that these are seriously exciting times for new music and I'm no longer able to keep up with it. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't live in New York, but I do, and there are simply so many good shows on right now that the only way I seem to be able to treat them equally is not to attend any of them.
I'm consoling myself for my lack of gig-going in two different ways:
1) By telling myself that I've lived through many previous eras that seemed just as thrilling to me as the current period must be to all the 22-years olds snapping up every concert ticket in town the moment it goes on sale. (I mean, surely I've seen Kasabian, Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs already? Like, 20 years ago?)
2) By living vicariously through the lives of others - those younger, active boys-and-girls around the music scene whose rise from gig-goer to scene-setter can usually be spotted several months away.
For instance, last week I wrote how Ultragrrrl had been selected as among the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers by the New York Press but noted that "It's unlikely that (she) will take this as anything but vindication of her uniquity." (I wrote uniquity? I meant to say ubiquity
Why does nobody pick up on these things? Though actually, the word uniquity is pretty cool now I type it out consciously.) Sure enough, in this week's Village Voice, Tricia Romano writes about Ultragrrrl's newest venture - a record company, called Stolen Transmission in honor of Joy Division:
"I can do whatever the hell I want," she says of her major-label subsidized venture. "If I want to sign the dude playing guitar in a subway, I can
On a major label's watch, she can? Ah, the blind optimism of youth
Likely to make most rock fans' Most Loathsome list if he carries on like this
You may have seen the recent post in the iJamming! Pub concerning The Killers' singer Brandon Flowers. He told mtv.com:
"Look at a band like The Bravery. They're signed because we're a band,"
which, when you think about it, is one of the most stupid quotes you could ever hope to see in print. But Flowers goes on
"I've heard rumours about [members of] that band (The Bravery) being in a different kind of band, and how do you defend that? If you say, 'My heart really belongs to what I'm doing now,' but you used to be in a ska band."
Kudos to centralvillage.com which reprinted that quote with a picture of Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci in his former band, Attaboy Skip. (He's the one on the left.) If you can't tell from the picture, they're a
(And what's wrong with ska anyway? I'm always impressed by people in ska bands! Playing that music takes some serious skill.)
Another quote from Flowers, dating back to last September.
"Bands like The Stills bother me because they're all style and no substance. It's totally obvious that these kids don't love the classics like we love them. They're just in it for the now."
What should The Stills be in it for, if not the now? The past? And what's one's definition of the classics anyway? Duran Duran, as so beloved by The Killers? Or The Stills' inspiration Echo & The Bunnymen? You know which one I'll listen to when I'm bored of all the new bands and their big egos. Can anyone hear Flowers' fifteen minutes ticking down?
Anyway, this week's buzz is nothing to do with either The Killers or The Bravery, it's French music, n'est-ce pas? No sooner have I finished reading last week's NYTimes magazine story about how Benjamin Biolay is spearheading a new generation of chanson artistes, than I read this week's Village Voice, which dedicates an entire page to the new generation of
you guessed it, chanson artistes. Naturally, the same acts are name-checked in both features - and a cynic might come away thinking that the entire movement revolves around Biolay, his former partner Keren Ann, his younger sister Coralie Clement and Mick Jagger's former girlfiend Carla Bruni, whom I always thought was Italian anyway. The Voice therefore stretches the movement to include Nouvelle Vague, the bossa nova covers album of punk and new wave classics. IJamming! readers take a bow: we've been raving about this record for a year already.
(Strange quote in that Voice piece from Dan Cohen, formerly a publicist at Astralwerks , now at V2, promoting Nouvelle Vague. "Six years ago, everyone thought French music was horrible," he says. But surely, six years ago is precisely when France was top of the world. Not only did it have the World Cup freshly under its belt after successfully hosting the world's most popular sports tournament, but people across the globe were going ape about French music, with Air and Daft Punk leading a pack that also included Cassis, Laurent Garnier, Dmitry from Paris and all those Respect Is Burning compilations that you now can't give away.)
The Voice is right about one thing though: French music is definitely in vogue in New York. Last week when I checked out McCutcheon's French set at 12" Bar (turns out he worked in a Parisian wine store for four years, so he's got the credentials), we were both surprised to see another French night - Le One Night Stand taking place at Bar Eleven round the corner. You can see from this coincidence that not only do club promoters double up on one-night trends in this town, but that most bars follow the grid system and choose numbers over actual names for their watering holes.
The Nouvelle Vague album was reviewed in full here.
The latest M83 album was reviewed in full here.
Staying on the French theme hey, I'm warming up after a week of erratic blogging next week in New York you get the chance to check out the extremes of that country's 'new' music. Nouvelle Vague are at Joe's Pub on April 12. M83 play with Ulrich Schnauss at Bowery Ballroom on the 13th and 14th.
I love France. The architecture. The countryside. The wine, of course. And even, and seriously, the people. (At times.) But the French government is full of shit even by the standard of other governments being full of shit. Witness the recent arrest of "members of the Bulgarian Orchestra for illegally "importing" eastern musicians." What was the Bulgarian Orchestra meant to use? French musicians? Mais bien sur.
This newly absurd level of 'cultural protectionism' was the topic of John Schaefer's Soundcheck program on WNYC yesterday, during which it was also revealed that the French have now outlawed the word "e-mail" from all official literature and replaced it with something of their own invention that sounds more
But that Nouvelle Vague record excuses everything... Even the fact that there's not a single French song on it.
"From the punk fury of their 1977 debut The Clash to the sprawling global extravaganza of the 1980 triple album Sandinista!, The Clash traveled a greater musical distance in a shorter period of time than any rock band since (and maybe even including) The Beatles. Given the unparalleled speed of this musical (r)evolution, and allowing for the band's confrontational (and contradictory) attitudes, it was perhaps no surprise that their most successful album, 1982's Combat Rock, also proved to be their swan-song. Another album under a different line-up belatedly followed, but Cut The Crap has since been excised from 'official' Clash history as an aberration.
Five albums then, spanning some sixteen sides of vinyl, in barely five years. Of those albums, The Clash is rightly revered as the Great British punk statement, while the double album London Calling is widely considered among the best releases of the decade. Sandinista!, which caused considerable confusion at the time, grows ever more alluring with age, and Combat Rock, though inconsistent, contains the group's biggest hit singles. Even 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope, buried in bad production, has more than its share of moments. Add in a series of groundbreaking singles released in isolation from these albums, a number of noteworthy B-sides, and a penchant for dub versions and extended remixes, and you're looking at one of the most prolific and impressive catalogues in modern musical history."
These are the opening paragraphs to my new book, The Clash: The Complete Guide To Their Music, published this week by Omnibus Press. It's a short piece of work, just 35,000 words and 128 paperback size pages, and it's purely about the music. No exclusive interviews, no childhood biographies, no psychological profiles, just a highly thorough and hopefully engaging song-by-song, album-by-album review of their work. I'm not saying it's any Clash fan's essential purchase but I think it makes a fine companion to their music; I took enormous pleasure in writing it and I believes that shows in the text. The book costs all of £4.95 and is in a number of UK book stores as of now.
It's a slightly spoiled celebration, proving that, however much you check on things in life, they can still go wrong. The book was delayed to improve the front cover: as a result, when it came into the publisher's warehouse, it already had extensive back orders and, rather than sitting around for a couple of weeks until publication date as is usually the case, was rushed out to the stores. Only when I got my copies from the UK at the weekend did I notice that, due to a computer error such as Omnibus have never suffered before, any apostrophes printed in bold text (including song titles) have been replaced by strange symbols. These errors were not on any proofs anywhere down the line: it's a completely bizarre, freak accident. Though the book is undergoing a hasty reprint, the error was caught too late to stop initial orders going out to the UK stores. (I already have an e-mail from someone who's bought it!)
This makes for a complicated situation: the books with the glitches will need to be sold before the new books can come in and replace them. To be fair, the error is not one such as detracts from the text itself: it just makes some of the song titles look weird. Back in the fanzine days, such idiosyncracies were commonplace. (I used to handwrite whole chunks of Jamming! on the bus to the printers!) But when you're trying to publish a definitive discography of a definitive group, it's frustrating.
Suggestions? You could speed up our redistribution process by buying the book as is, then taking it back to the store, pointing out the glitches and asking for an exchange. Alternately, you could hang on to the original as a collector's item. (I have a Marilyn Manson CD that was accidentally serviced with gospel music! Shit happens to everyone.) Finally, you're free to wait until you see a copy in your local store that doesn't have the error. (Look at the song titles on pages 12 and 13 as proof.) American readers need not worry: the delay in export means that copies that come here will be the perfected reprint.
Sorry to bore you all with this. I want to be able to just hype up the book itself. The Clash: The Complete Guide To Their Music is available online from amazon.co.uk, and should be in all good UK book stores.
Call it coincidence, but Bob Gruen's superb book of Clash photographs is published this week in the USA. There's an opening night reception at the Apple Store in Soho (on Prince Street) on Friday, starting at 7pm, at which Bob will present a digital slideshow presentation of his works. See you there?
Call it coincidence, or just use the old cliché that it never rains, it pours. I've had nothing new out for two years and then there's two projects hitting the stores in the same month. The Apocalypse CD came in from the pressing plant yesterday on schedule for its April 18 release; you can imagine that I'm just keeping my fingers crossed there are no unforeseen errors on this one. After all, there were enough of them on the original recordings!
"I always figured the Apocalypse boys would tap me to write these sleeve notes. I just didn't think it would take them twenty years to do so. See, there was a moment back there when the songs were taking shape and the confidence was starting to build - that you'd have bet good money on the South London boys making the big time. Instead, Apocalypse fell apart as its key members turned twenty, in 1984, with just two singles behind them, and still one gig short of a century. But here we are, two decades later, and the boys - middle-aged men, now, like me have finally compiled the album they might have released in 1983, had anyone offered them the opportunity to do so. You ought to be glad."
GOING UP IN THE WORLD includes:
The 1982 Jamming! single 'Teddy'/'Release' produced by Paul Weller
The 1983 Jamming! 12" recording of 'Teddy' and 'Home Of The Brave' produced by Dale Griffin/Overend Watts
Demo recordings of 'Going Up In The World,' 'The Other Side Of Midnight,' 'Nobody But Me,' 'Alice,' 'For You,' 'Open Your Eyes' and 'Sorry Mate.'
The Mad Professor mixes of 'People' and 'Dolcie.'
'Don't Stop 2005' a new recording set to a retrospective video.
Four-page sleeve notes
Three-page full colour timeline
15 songs, over one hour of music, just £9.95
Apocalypse: Tony Fletcher, Jeff Carrigan, Chris Boyle, Tony Page, Kevin Bagnall
Pre-order from Cherry Red Records here, or from amazon.co.uk here
- Finally getting my Clash book in from the publisher after a delay to improve the front cover.
- iJamming! gets a record volume of traffic last week.
- The NME.com spoof site (see below)
- Going wireless so I can update iJamming! in bed.
- Great shows every night in New York City
- Going out for dinnner and refreshments with iJamming! Pub regulars (New Jersey chapter).
- Attending the T Edward Spring Tasting and talking with artisanal wine makers from round the world while drinking their new releases. This is the equivalent of attending an event where the world's coolest bands fly in from around the world to talk one-and-one about their new album while personally playing it for you.
- Our local Saturn dealer not arguing about whether they caused the enormous scratch on our car or it came in that way (neither of us were certain) and cleaning it off free of charge regardless.
- Running in the rain.
- Tartan Week in New York bringing us the best new music from Scotland: Bugz In The Attic, Dogs Die In Hot Cars and
- The upcoming Brooklyn Underground Film Festival at the Lyceum.
- A wine store opening at the top of my street
- Having a baby with no concept of Daylight Savings Time (or lack thereof: which is it anyway?).
- The Too Cool for Shul festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music
- Playing blackjack with your son. For fun.
- People think I'm a wine writer.
- The Premiership title coming to South London.
- Making new friends.
- Being self-employed.
Just another day at nme.com....
- Finding really strange symbols in place of apostrophes throughout The Clash book - that were not there on the final proof. Back to the printers we go!
- iJamming! gets a record volume of traffic the one week I take a break from posting.
- Going wireless the week my DSL goes slow as molasses
- Great shows every night in New York City: there's no way to see them all.
- Not being able to go out for dinner and refreshments with iJamming! Pub regulars (UK chapter.)
- Non-stop rain for 36 hours. Goodbye ski season.
- Seeing a trailer park flooded by the rains outside Kingston. Ever notice how it's the poorest people live in the worst locations?
- A wine store opening at the top of my street
- Having a near-hyper nine-year old kept in all weekend by the torrential rains when he's used to going snowboarding: welcome to 9pm wrestling sessions to tire him out!
- Having a nine-year old who thinks that by getting up at 6am the Monday morning after the clocks go forward that he's actually getting up at 7. Wrong, he's actually getting up at 5!
- Dodgy British independent dance labels who ask to hire you - and then give you the run-around for weeks on end as if it was you pestering them in the first place.
- Playing blackjack with your son. For money.
- People think I'm a wine writer.
- It's April and the bottom three teams in the Premiership are the same three that came up from the 1st Division last year.
- And one of them is Crystal Palace.
- Sunday evening Midtown traffic jammed by the
Auto Show. And they're going to build a stadium on the West Side?
- Car companies who bill your credit card before you even take the journey. Legends, you are now officially scum.Finding out what the New York Times pays for an Op-Ed. (And that they don't guarantee to print it.)
- Being self-employed.