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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Oct 23, 2001
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
My immediate reaction to September 11
PART 2: Messages from friends & family overseas
PART 3: Observations & quotes from others.
PART 5: COPING - 2 weeks later
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured albums
(Hub, Slumber Party, DJ Harry, Spearhead, The Who tribute
Albums that sound different since September 11
(Charlatans UK, Arabian Travels, Cafe del Mar, Sugarcult)
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother (DB, Spooky, Jody, RSW, Bad Boy Bill)
FEATURED Wines (Langlois Cremant de Loire, Honig Sauvignon Blanc, Campbell's Muscat, Brumont Gros Manseng, Dr Frank Gewürtztraminer, Daubree CoteRotie, Dry Creek Chenin Blanc, Mas Saint Laurent Picpoul, Quivira Dry Creek)
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
From Homework to the Disco:
grows up and dumbs down
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
From the JAMMING! archives: RAYMONDE in 1985
The full iJamming! Contents


Laptop's User's Guide EP (MCA Records, 1999 -
read my original review here) was one of the most surprising major label releases of recent years.
Five songs of lyrical vitriol and musical insouciance all presented in a deadpan voice, it introduced jaded New York musician Jesse Hartman in his new guise as Laptop, a jaded New York musician. (Formerly of the band Sammy, he's also a busy film-maker and actor - in other words, a jaded New York musician.) The dramatic opener 'End Credits' was presented as the ace card; personally, I was won over by 'I'm So Happy You Failed,' a hilarious tale of envy and revenge in a small town music scene (for which Hartman's native East Village easily qualifies). Sneering at another act's nosediving career on the singalong chorus, he admitted, in verse, that "I'm setting myself up for the same song to get sung right back to me."

There are probably a few similarly embittered New York musicians doing exactly that right now. No way could such an oddball act as Laptop survive the Seagrams/MCA/Universal/ Vivendi merger, and Hartman, who had been signed through Island in the UK, was promptly dropped, his album going unreleased. (With the kind of irony that I hope Hartman appreciates, he was let go the very day 'I'm So Happy You failed' was named single of the week on KROQ.) No matter: somebody this antagonistic and, almost, dare I say it, misanthropic, should be out on his own, plotting an individual course, bowing to no one, suffering the consequences - and eventually, I trust, reaping the rewards. For now Hartman is probably just relieved that Opening Credits, the album originally intended for release on the heels of the EP, has finally seen light of day - albeit on a tiny Norwegian label Trust Me Records, for whom Laptop is first and only signing.

The EP (now unavailable) The debut album The single, with remixes

Opening Credits includes four songs from User's Guide, remixed or re-recorded, along with seven 'new' compositions of similar mindset - pithy, occasionally sarcastic, quite often hilarious anecdotes about girlfriends and the problems thereof. 'Greatest Hits,' prominently placed between the opening 'End Credits' and 'I'm So Happy You Failed' provides a perfect example. In something of a duet, Hartman tells a new squeeze how she reminds him of past girlfriends. "I know that that sounds bad," he offers nonchalantly; "yes it does," she replies bitterly. In the chorus, Hartman tries assuring her that "You're a greatest hits, you're a 'the best of,' you include only the best cuts of the girls I've been out with." The new girl doesn't buy it and walks. "Hey honey come back," we hear him beg between choruses. "What, so you can talk about your skanky ex-girlfriends?" she replies, her bitter tongue an equal match for his. As with 'I'm So Happy You Failed,' female backing vocalists team up in the chorus for gospel effect. Yes it's a 'novelty' track, but as in the manner of Green Velvet's 'Answering Machine' (of which it reminds me) it's also a great song.

Hartman is a master of the wry couplet. "I've got nothing to declare except my loneliness," he sings over the sound of airport announce- ments on 'Nothing to Declare.' "You're bad news, let's make some headlines together," he addresses one of his troublesome females on 'Bad News', and on the opening track, he begs his ex to "stop this teenage movie, I'm ready to roll the end credits." He even addresses his songwriting habits with the oh-so-witty line "I'd rather die than write another verse concerning you" on the ballad 'Another Song.' My favorite, however, is the uptempo 'The Reason,' in which Hartman rejects a girl's claim that "I'm the reason you're screwed up," with the vicious retort that "You were a loon before I even set eyes on you," followed by provocative use of cuckoo clocks. Meeee-ow!

Musically, Laptop is equally dry: processed guitars, drum boxes, synths. You'd expect nothing more. A few tracks rock; most stroll. Other reviewers have honed in on the very '80s nature of this deliberately soulless sound ('Gary Numan alone with a bottle of vodka,' wrote Melody Maker in a 4-star review before it went under); personally, I like to think that this is what Lou Reed might have sounded like with a few more failed love affairs and only a computer for company back in 1967.

Criticisms? But of course; Hartman must be used to them. For one, his delivery is so dry that it was easier to take in an EP's short dose, especially given that three of Opening Credit's best songs ('End Credits,' 'I'm So Happy. . . ' and 'The Reason') were included on User's Guide. Plus, I miss the cover of Wreckless Eric's 'Whole Wide World'; the inclusion of a faked live version of Billy Joel's 'It's Still Rock'n'roll To Me' just doesn't carry the same impact. But anyway you look at it, Opening Credits is an indie-rock gem. And it's unique.

So has Hartman himself failed? Yes and no. One might assume by his far-flung label deal that his acerbic delivery hasn't bought too much loyalty in his New York home town, and he is entering his thirties anything but a star. Then again, he just made the cover of the influential CMJ's New Music Monthly. And press in the UK, where Opening Credits was released in October, has been excellent, if typically hyperbolic, with accolades raining down from the Indepedent, Q, Melody Maker and NME. Anyway, let his misfortune be our reward. A second album The Old Me versus the New You is already in the can and scheduled for worldwide release this June (you can download the first single 'Back Together' for free.) The third album Accentuate The Positive (do we detect a shift in attitude here?) is scheduled for worldwide release in January 2002. If either new album contains a few songs about his major label experience penned with the same sense of wry animosity that he treats ex-lovers and rival musicians, it could just be a classic.

W(H)INE? An album this bitter, acidic, tart, and dry, with a firm impact, plenty of flavor and a lasting impression deserves a wine to match. Sauvignon Blanc is an ideal companion: try the Dashwood 2000 from New Zealand.

(my review as written for SonicNet in 1999)

Jesse Hartman has been around the incestous and back-biting New York City music scene long enough to have felt the jealousy brought on by friends' success, and likewise the guilty euphoria when they fail. Unlike his peers, however, on his debut EP as Laptop, User's Guide, Hartman breaks one of rock's last taboos and admits as much. "Word on the street says your secon d record's dead and you're not doing very well," he half-sings, half-speaks. "Can't say that I'm depressed, still I could never guess just how good that makes me feel." A beatbox clicks underneath him, guitars fuzz and females sing a playground chant as the song builds to the chorus of its title, 'I'm So Happy You Failed.' It's a juvenile attitude and Hartman knows it: "I'm sinking to your level...setting myself up for the same song to get sung right back to me." But still he can't help rejoicing; "the whole world 's happy you failed," he concludes with glee.

Hartman's considerable track record reveals the reasoning behind this song. He experienced NYC punk's first generation, played with Television founder Richard Hell, and has had a secondary career in film making. When his last band, Sammy, inevitably broke up, Hartman began recording on a laptop computer in frustration only to find that, freed of the compromise of collaboration, he had discovered his true voice. Ironically he may be finally about to taste success.

Though 'I'm So Happy You Failed' is the EP's highlight, User's Guide opens with the more sympathetic 'End Credits,' in which Hartman draws on film analogies to tell his girlfriend, hiding behind her answering machine, to "stop this teenage movie." 'Whole Wide World' is an inspired cover of Wreckless Eric's 1977 punk anthem, slowed down to a symphonic ballad with a spoken female voice adding international mystery. 'The Reason' addresses another New York City epidemic - the neurotic girlfriend - and 'A Little Guilt' is almost a neccessary subject matter after everything else that's preceeded it.

Drawbacks? Only that Hartman's half-spoken voice is near enough a constant complaint to suggest annoyance across an entire album, and that the catharsis in these songs could turn to novelty with saturation. For now, however, User's Guide has taken up near permanent residence on my CD player. Despite New York's overwhelming odds, it's never too late to make it.

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iJamming! Site Copyright Tony Fletcher 2001.