|FRIDAY NOVEMBER 15
WHINE! WINE! TECHNO!
There's construction work going on opposite my office that involves driving 100ft piles into the ground with a 100 ft crane. I can't work. I'm out of here. If your week's ending in similar disarray, here's a way to unwind, courtesy of these two new iJamming! reviews: the Carl Cox Mixed Live: 2nd Sessions CD and, to accompany it, the Château d'Oupia Minervois 20001 white blend from France. You'll feel a lot better afterwards. I know I will!
THURSDAY NOVEMBER 14
THE OTHER NEW YORK MARATHON
I usually look forward to the annual CMJ Music Marathon not because I want to attend panels on the music business, swap business cards with young hopefuls or even, as many do, use the copious open bars and private parties as opportunity to spend four sleepless nights in an alcoholic stupor, but for the prospect of seeing so many new/up-and-coming acts in one concentrated period of time. With a free badge in hand, I can jump from one gig to another without bothering a publicist or promising to write about a band, I can hook up with friends from out of town and, in the worst case scenario that a venue I choose to attend is already packed to capacity with free-loading badge holders then I can just stroll down the street to the next place on my list. At a good CMJ, I see half the year's buzz bands in the space of four nights.
This was not a good year. Because the CMJ Music Marathon bumped up right against the real New York Marathon the one year I got accepted to run in the latter, I stayed home on the Friday and Saturday, the two busiest nights for shows. And Thursday was Halloween, with its own distractions. So I saw a lot less music than usual. And nothing I saw sent me running to the record store. Still, the time was not wasted.
Wednesday October 29, I used my free badge to finally check out a neighborhood venue of sorts: the Brooklyn Lyceum. Stepping inside this renovated old bath house was like stepping back to a gig in London's Notting Hill circa 1979. From the rastas and hippies on the door to the makeshift stage, bar and toilets, through to the proliferation of political leaflets, the dub reggae between sets and the ska band (the rather one-dimensional Rudy Crew) on stage, it was a total time-warp. That I also saw former Slits' singer Ari Up (who had just performed) talking to button badge guru Joly, he who was Jamming! Magazine's Portobello Road-based printer from issues 7-14, only accentuated the rather odd sensation that I'd gone 500 yards down the street to go 23 years back in time. With a Rock Against Racism poster behind the stage, the experience would have been complete.
Don't take any of this the wrong way. The Brooklyn Lyceum's a friendly place keen to try out new ideas and push creative buttons, and its stained glass windows provide a beautiful backdrop at interesting odds with its rundown interior. Saturday nights through December the Lyceum is even hosting its own rock'n'roll musical called Project: Ground Control, based on Bowie's 'Space Oddity.' Prices are good and there's a subway stop all of 20 feet away. You have no excuse. Given that it's in walking distance from my house, neither do I.
New York comes to Brooklyn. The Rudy Crew in front of the stained glass backdrop of the Brooklyn Lyceum. My Favorite resurrect 80s synth pop opening for The Ocean Blue at Southpaw
Even closer to (my) home, of course, is Southpaw, and I stopped in on my walk back from the Lyceum to, inadvertently but happily, see a friend's friend's band. My Favorite are a Long Island quintet who grew up listening to OMD, the Smiths, New Order, the Sundays and the like (there's a good band name!), who've built up a nice buzz by releasing three EPs all loosely based on the story of Joan Of Arc albeit "in the modern day". And if that sounds to you like another recipe for a time warp, you're onto something. On the song 'Homeless Club Kids,' for example, Andrea Vaughn sings wistfully how "when the dancefloor's full, all the kids look indivisible," and I get the sense that she and the band are referring to themselves, in their youth, dancing to music very much like that which they're now playing. Likewise, 'The Suburbs Are Killing Us' could be written off for its tired subject matter (Morrissey's Mancunian misery) and recycled musical arrangements (Electronic's bright synth pop), unless we consider whether the band is deliberately aping this style to make a conceptual point. Why else, I wonder, would second vocalist, Michael Grace Jr, go so far as to quote the very familiar Smiths lyric "back to the old house" (what song is that from?) in a tune so similar to 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out?' In conclusion then, I can't figure out whether My Favorite are setting themselves up as prime candidates to write and perform the inevitable musical about American suburban infatuation with British indie pop of the 1980s; or whether they're a promising band buried under the weight of their teen influences. Time, etc., will tell.
As often happens in these circumstances, especially now I have a venue so close to home, I found myself sticking around at Southpaw long enough to see the headliners in this apt case the Ocean Blue, who themselves filled suburban dance floors in the very late 80s with hits like 'Between Something and Nothing' and 'Drifting, Falling.' Quite why the Hershey, Pennsylvania natives have chosen to persist with their pretty pop music despite such an obviously declining lack of interest from their now fully grown audience escapes me; they're a pleasant band, they've written their share of good songs, and they've persisted through a new record deal with March Records (also home to Lloyd Cole's wonderful album with the Negatives), but at a sparsely attended Southpaw on an opening night of CMJ in the year 2002, they looked and sounded spectacularly irrelevant.
Of course, everything old becomes new again, as was proven Thursday night at the Bowery Ballroom by the heroic reception given New Zealand's horrendously over-hyped Datsuns. I've read enough reviews and ran into enough bright-eyed people at the venue to know that there are many Datsuns fans out there, and that I'm likely in the minority on this once. That's fine. I felt exactly the same way when the masses jumped on board Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice In Chains and all those other third-rate grunge bands that turned 1992-94 into some horrible repeat of the pre-punk hard rock hey-day. That those acts sold millions of albums never changed my negative opinion of them one iota: they sounded shit then and they sound shit now, and to add to it, at least two of them glamorized heroin abuse. I'm glad they're behind us now and I'm not ready to accept their successors.
Not that the Datsuns are out to resurrect grunge. They're dumber than that. As song titles like 'Motherfucker from Hell,' 'Freeze, Sucker,' 'Fink For The Man' and 'Lady' might suggest, they're out to revive a period of mid-70s rock'n'roll that was as hedonistic as it was simplistic. And if you are one of those who does indeed pine for an era when AC/DC were considered the epitome of musical entertainment, then there's no point my arguing with you. But still, watching the Datsuns prance the stage at the Bowery, pulling poses even Primal Scream steered clear of during that band's infatuation with cock-rock, with their sing along (and clap along!) choruses and complete lack of irony, I couldn't help but think this: that if you dressed The Datsuns up as Ratt-Poison, you wouldn't be able to tell them apart from Ratt-Poison.
New Zealand comes to Manhattan. At left, The Datsuns revive an era when AC/DC were considered the epitome of musical entertainment. At right, Garageland's Dave Goodison and Jeremy Eade play traditionally-structured songs in an even more traditional manner: acoustically
There are those who will read the above and assume that I have it in for the garage rock revival. Not at all. (And not least because I didn't hear much 'garage rock' in the Datsuns.) I stayed around for the Von Bondies and what I got from the highly-hailed, equal-sex Detroit quartet was a similar sense of irony or at least a contextual understanding of history that I'd gotten the night before from My Favorite and, especially, a week earlier from the Mooney Suzuki. The Datsuns sport the guitars of the metal gods and the kind of long hair that went out of fashion with punk rock and unfortunately came back in with grunge. The Von Bondies, however, have the most intriguingly-shaped guitars I've seen in years (I couldn't get close enough to identify their manufacturers) and, with their modish clothes and cuts, clearly studied themselves in the mirror before stepping on stage. The Datsuns pull poses; the Von Bondies seem happy to be themselves. The Datsuns scream and shout; the Von Bondies find melodies and use harmonies. And perhaps most importantly, the Datsuns are rooted in metal, that bastard ruination of the blues; the Von Bondies are rooted in the real roots - of the blues itself.
As it happens, the two bands are best of friends and won't like my trying to play them off against each other (assuming they ever find out), but I can only call these things like I see them. I'm happy that the pendulum is swinging back to energetic guitar bands, but if the new rock'n'roll has is merely going to ape the past, it's doing us no favors at all. Bands like The Strokes and the White Stripes succeeded because they update, or at least put a fresh face, on old formulas; acts like the Datsuns and Sahara Hotnights have yet to give indication that they know what year it is.
The Datsuns were not the only New Zealand band at CMJ, though you could be forgiven for thinking as much: the one opportunity to see fellow South Sea natives Garageland play was on Wednesday afternoon, at the 'day stage' in the convention's Hilton Hotel headquarters, and even that involved just the two band members (Jeremy Eade and Dave Goodison) who could afford the trans-global air fare. And so a band that named itself after a Clash song played its traditionally-structured songs in an even more traditional manner: acoustically. Still, this is always a good test of great music, and the timeless quality of 'Trashcans,' 'Fingerpops,' and 'Get Some' shone through perfectly well in this quiet, sit-down format.
It's hard to imagine though that Eade and Goodison felt happy about such a lowly CMJ slot (and non-existent attention) compared to the Datsuns especially considering that Garageland have been big news in New Zealand for several years now. (Originally signed to the islands' influential label Flying Nun, they've just released a third album, Scorpio Righting, on foodchainrecords in the States) Still, Garageland have toured internationally, they've had their share of critical acclaim, and so you'd have to say that they've had the opportunity to stake their claim to fame. And while I can accuse the Datsuns of plagiarism, Garageland are themselves hardly a model of innovation: from band name through to titles like 'Love Song,' 'Rock'n'Roll Heart' and 'Superstars,' Eade and his pals clearly have their own issues with (non) originality. Under the circumstances, it's hardly surprising that the media is all over the band whose love of tradition is also trendy that being the Datsuns than the band that I consider to have the better songs that being Garageland. The reason is fashion, and one of the salient points these music conventions drive home, year after year, is how dependent upon it even the most avowedly independent of tastemakers really are.
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 13
CALL ME AN EAGLE. . .
. . .And for once, I'm not talking about being a Crystal Palace fan. Those who've followed this web site over the last year or know me personally are fully aware of my disenchantment with politics-as-usual, particularly the left-wing's failed (or rather, non-) response to the 9/11 attacks and the changed world we live in. As such, I've tried avoiding the easy old tags of 'right' and 'left' and become far more concerned instead with what's simply 'right' and 'wrong.' In doing so, I've praised those writers, pundits and critics who've stepped outside of their boxes and who have argued intelligently for a new way of thinking, one that deals with the truly apocalyptic threats against our way of life, yet which remains inclusive and multi-cultural.
And I'm not unwilling to take to task those who momentarily forget right vs wrong and resort to right vs left for cheap points. So when, the other day, on his highly influential and extremely popular web site, Andrew Sullivan quoted a truly abhorrent piece of genocidal rhetoric from an Oxford University professor, Tom Paulin, noted how even the Guardian had been "shocked" by it, printed some of the quote (read how the Guardian first reported it here) and then labeled it "typical leftist anti-Semitism" I wrote to him for the first time.
I pointed out to Sullivan that, historically, anti-Semitism was not exactly the property of the left wing, that it was certainly not typical of the left (despite a nasty growing shift in that direction among otherwise well-educated people), that Jewish voters, given their experiences with very physical anti-semitism among fascists in the past century, generally support and vote for leftist parties (in the States, despite all ludicrous claims of Zionist control of the Republicans, it's statistically proven that Jewish voters are overwhelmingly Democrat), and besides, that if that most leftist of left-wing British papers, the Guardian, claimed to be shocked by such a quote, it could hardly be 'typical' of the 'leftists', could it? Most importantly though, I asked Sullivan to drop the cheap insults, both because he has more 'left-wing'/'liberal-leaning' readers than he may realize and he's only serving to alienate us, and besides, being that he's a gay, right wing Catholic, he should know better than to stereotype political persuasions. (I.e it wouldn't be hard for me to find an anti-homosexual quotation from a Republican Senator, possibly anti-Catholic in the process, but that Sullivan surely wouldn't like it if I then claimed it was "typical rightist anti-catholicism/homophobia.")
I got a quick reply from Andrew admitting that he could have been clearer, and judging by his posting today, I feel like I'm not the only one to have complained about the name-calling and the need to move forward. "We all know how tired left and right are as useful labels," Sullivan writes today, (confessing in brackets "I use them, but sometimes, you gotta.") He goes on to admit that "There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11," and then, after describing a section of the public that I definitely don't count myself among, writes the following. "Others are just Generation X and Y, who simply accept the social diversity of modern culture and want to see it defended against theocratic barbarians. These people are not comfortable with the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right, or their prosecution of the drug war or mixing of church and state; and they're not impressed by the Democrats' lack of seriousness in foreign policy or enmeshment with public sector interest groups. They're politically homeless, these people - but were probably key swing voters in the last election. Instead of hawks and doves, call these people "eagles." I think they'll play a key part in shaping the politics and culture of the next few years. Are you one?"
As a Palace fan, I've always been an Eagle. As someone desperately determined to avoid being pigeon-holed by bird references, I don't like the idea of Sullivan inventing new political groups any more than I like Simon Reynolds inventing a new musical sub-genre every time he puts pen to paper. And as someone who still doesn't have American citizenship, I didn't have the opportunity to be a "swing voter" last week. But I think, two days after brandishing the whole left wing with a very broad and tarred brush, Sullivan just did a very good job of describing a major new section of the politically attuned public. And I doubt that it's confined to the USA, either.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 11
THE HITLIST IS HERE
Don't ask me where the weekend went. But I know I was pleased not to have to put a whole day aside for running, and I know I went running anyway, and I know I went to see The Divine Comedy at Southpaw, and out to dinner (twice! that's a real rarity), to Shout! once (and that's a rarity too) and to a friend's for cocktails, and stopped in at my favorite local record store (Somethin' Else), my favorite cafe-cum-dance-store (Halcyon) and both my favorite wine stores (Red White and Bubbly and Big Nose, Full Body), and called my mother like a good son should, and even watched some of the Middlesborough-Liverpool match . . .So Ok, THAT'S where the weekend went!
And I've finally got the November Hitlist up. This, in case you're new to the site, is where I round up all the records I'm currently listening to. Most of them are accompanied by capsule reviews and a few of them link to longer (or live) reviews. I figure that I'm lucky enough to get most of my music for free, I should at least share some recommendations with you. And as anybody who knows me knows, I have an extremely wide and varied taste in music. So don't be surprised when you find Mark Knopfler sandwiched between Jurassic 5 and Lemon Jelly.
By the way, I was listening to Brian Lehrer on WNYC this morning, whose shows are usually obsessed with current affairs. He had as his last guest a British author who's written a book about the odd sex life of certain animals. I learned that the male honey bee frequently explodes during copulation, leaving his genitals behind inside the female; and that slugs, which are hermaphrodites by nature (as opposed to by hormone treatment), grow penises up to 85 centimeters long. And no, that's not a misprint. My world will never be the same again.
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