Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I knew right away that I had to get my hooks in you

Iggy & The Stooges - Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell (from Raw Power, mixed by David Bowie)
The White Stripes - Cannon (from The White Stripes, co-produced by Jim Diamond)
The Blanks - I'm Feeling Bad (from Love You Too, co-produced by Jim Diamond)

This article raises numerous questions, out of which the obvious legal ones I will strictly avoid.

1. Of the numerous relationships played out between producer and musician, is not one of the roles of the producer to accentuate the natural strength of the musican(s) in the studio? Or even, in some cases, to capture the naked talents of the performer? British glam-rocker David Bowie once famously, and sloppily, gave this treatment to a Detroit band known as the Stooges. I don't hear him complaining now that James Osterberg has given that record a heavy-duty remixing in recent years.

2. The Blanks recorded with Jim Diamond. Suspiciously, we were never asked to sign a contract. When asked whether he would mind receiving "co-producer" status on Love You Too, Diamond shrugged and said that it would be fine. In fact, he seemed so uninterested by the prospect that we probably could have titled the album "Jim Diamond and The Blanks Present... Love You Too" and photoshopped his image onto our cover, and he still would have been fine with it. We will see who laughs last, Jim Diamond. We will see who laughs last.

3. By the way, does anyone else notice the East Lansing connection? I think we all know where the real talent lies...

4. Did Jim Diamond have anything to do with this?

5. You say I'm your lover, baby, then why you lovin' Dan?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

All I want to do is bugaloo

My neighbors must be very impressed. For the past hour and a half I have been working myself into a furor over James Brown. Dancing, by myself, until my feet ached and my brows carried big, salty dollops that blurred my vision.

Drivers on interstate 71 must be equally bewildered; watching cautiously as a well-groomed white boy emerges suddenly from their blind spot, pounding his hood until his knuckles purple and spitting rapturously to some inaudible rhymes.

Admittedly, this situation I have put myself in is more than a little absurd. (But don't most addictions begin in private? Who knows, I can't be bothered to follow up on that assertion.) Still, this obsession is nothing to be embarrassed about. Although my discriminating readers may have greeted my repeated offerings of black American music with mute disapproval, perhaps they mistook the brevity with which I introduced soul brother number one, James Brown, as a lack of enthusiasm. How little they realize that sometimes the matters of the heart can't be expressed by words, and only by grunts and squeals. You think I'm finished? I'm only previewing it. This ain't the show I'm only EQ'ing it.

Just to be clear, you're not getting any James Brown tonight. But I have introduced myself to soul singer Don Covay and I thought I would introduce him to you as well. Covay started his career opening for Little Richard, went on to record this little number with an unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix, and was later imitated successfully by a Brit named Mick Jagger.

Don Covay - Mercy, Mercy (from Mercy/See-Saw)

I can't explain my recent obsession with '50s R&B, '60s soul, and '70s funk. Maybe the southern heat of this spring is just loosening my joints. Maybe the recent string of drug-related murders and assassination of an outspoken local activist, with the resultant police crackdown in my neighborhood, is causing me to seek an appropriate outlet. Listening to the music is a good start. Shuffling and singing along with the music can be an even better release. Lately I've been getting the itch to get back into performing again. Since I've moved down here my poor bass has been neglected. Nothing's sadder than a solo bassist plucking quietly out of tune. Now I'd give anything for a patient drummer to pound out some simple rhythms - "Give the bass a taste, give the drummer some." Two weeks ago I nabbed a free six-string, minus a few strings. It's still out of tune. I feel like I've been attacking it with clay hands.

I really ought to abandon any notion of playing R&B, soul, or funk, because nothing's worse than white R&B, white soul, and white funk. At work I've been toying around with Pandora and surprised myself with some of the gems you'll now find in the margins of my blog. You can offer suggestions for the type of music you want to listen to, rate it, pause and fast-forward it. The only tune I gave the big thumb's down to was some white gent singing soul. It's unnatural, innit?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Count Basie just sat there, staring at me."

The Thelonious Monk Quartet - Body and Soul (Re-take 2) (from Monk's Dream)
The Thelonious Monk Quartet - Bye-Ya (from Monk's Dream)
The Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - Bye-Ya (from the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall)

"He [Thelonious Monk] paints gigantic, colorful pictures with sometimes very few notes, then again with many. His improvised melodic lines remind one of Picasso's paintings: flowing movement, rich textures, striking contrasts. His rhythms are perhaps the most unusual of any jazz player. Sometimes they are jagged, but they are always pulsating and full of rhythmic drive."
-Teo Macero

"I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public want - you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing - even if does take them fifteen, twenty years."
-Thelonious Monk

The documentary Straight, No Chaser opens with a bizarre scene, which, for lack of better words, features the "High Priest of Bebop" dancing during a live performance of the Monk original "Evidence." While the rest of the band keeps the rhythm steady, Thelonious Monk moves awkwardly around an invisible axis down the length of his spine, sweating and spinning. As much as you are tempted to write this behavior off as an isolated incident, it turns out to be his signature move, one which he pulls off enthusiastically and at other times mechanically in a variety of settings: night clubs, kitchens, European airport lobbies.

Watching him at the piano - loafers scuffling arrhythmically on the floor, sustaining notes long enough to reach one hand into his pocket to grab a kercheif for his damp brow and drag on his cigatette with the other, only to resume by pecking at the ivory with a crooked claw - is an altogether other sort of mesmerizing experience. While I won't claim to know much about jazz music, it is a project I have unwittingly taken on by means of slow immersion. It would seem that Monk was more concerned with the personal, meditative aspects of his music than what the audience would understand anyway. When I first listened to Monk's Dream, I thought my speakers were so damaged from blasting Jay-Z and Liars on my commute that they were rattling with the lightest of bass touches. It turns out that what I thought sounded like a track of distorted kazoo mixed way down was actually Monk murmuring the melody to himself, which was being picked up in the bleed.

Also, it occurred to me while watching John Ore that I would love to own a double bass. If anyone knows of someone who is selling one for dirt cheap, or who is willing to take an apprentice, please let me know.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Now that's what I call holy writ

Loose Fur - The Ruling Class (from Born Again in the U.S.A.)
Loose Fur - Thou Shalt Wilt (from Born Again in the U.S.A.)

First, consider the evidence, here and here.

Now, as you read these articles, gnashing your teeth and recoiling more from the shame of self-recognition rather than from the fear of improbability, becalm yourself. Breathe, think, look around - everything's the same as it always was. Before you kick this poor, emotionally wrangled creature from your doorstep, please be so kind as to break the subject down into its parts before you renounce it in its entirety. To begin, ask yourself if there is anything new and/or unusual about adults exhibiting persistent traits of childlike behavior. Surely, if you have ever spent any time in the bleachers of a Little League game, it should come as no surprise to you that growing old has less to do with grace and wisdom than with back aches and body spasms.

To be fair to this new, and evidently comfortably affluent, demographic, there is no written rule that states that in growing older one must renounce their better taste and cling steadfastly to the moral code of a bygone era. Perhaps, to a generation raised on New Wave and post-punk, this is a form of rebellion. The best revenge, it is said, is to live well.

Well, whatever the case may be, it is suffice to say that this brand of armchair sociology is of little import. There has always been a noted resistance against the docile assimilation of the iconography of cultural movements. To be sure, at least since Malcolm McLaren it has become something of a sport, much like pheasant hunting. The much more intruiging question, ripe with possibilities of heady, stout hypotheses, boils down to this: what about me? I've always considered myself a far more interesting specimen for examination than your typical, modern researcher has given credit, as far as my unbiased opinion will hold. Yet, time and again, the subject of me is often overlooked in favor of the Tiktaalik rosea or the gossipy rumors about the Gospel of Judas. So you say that your typical "yupster" or "grup" wears designer jeans and listens to Bloc Party in a feigned effort to pass as a person half their age; so what. The subject of me is 24 years old, and he prefers to labor under the illusion that he is twice his actual age. While executives at his company are wearing jeans to important meetings, he prefers to iron his shirt, stiffen his collar, and present a crisp crease in his slacks on the way to his cramped cubicle. Rather than calling sick from long nights of bourbon hounding and tail chasing, he prefers to calculate his monthtly 401(k) contributions and learn about the current state of affairs from his local news anchors. When asked about his latest musical fascinations, he regales his increasingly disinterested friends with stories of Lord Kitchener and other post-Roosevelt-era calypsonians.

I can see that I'm not entirely convincing you. Perhaps some examples from my days in the University might shed some light on my subject's place in the universe.

Scene 1, me, walking. Enter a group of meaty fraternity brothers, exhibiting their curious courtship behavior.
Them, to me, "Hey! Emo faggot!"
Me, to them, "Me? I'm not 'emo.' Do you even know what that means? Faggots."

Scene 2, me, at a party with long-hairs.
Generic partier, eyeing me suspiciously as a narc, "We get it. You like Bowie. Can you please pass that shit to the left?"
Me, sheepishly coughing, "Sorry."

"But," I can imagine your increasingly frustrated voice whimpering, "aren't you basically just a junior yupster? A cadet grup?"

"What?" I would retort. "I can't understand what you're saying. You really ought to work on e-nun-ci-a-ting your con-so-nants and vo-wel-s. By the way, have you heard the new Loose Fur record? It's that new side project between the versatile Jim O'Rourke, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame, and some other guy, Kotche, I think." I would then go on to explain how you can never get old of Jim O'Rourke side projects. Did you know that he did work on the Grizzly Man soundtrack, I would inquire. He played the prepared piano. Neat, huh? Of course I would casually drop the bombshell that I was one of the few and the proud who received more sheer listening enjoyment out of O'Rourke's Insignificance than Wilco's critically acclaimed (and yupster approved, wink) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and how it sure is nice to hear ol' Jim writing traditional song arrangements again.

But if you had the audacity to corner me into a "serious" discussion about the religious overtones of Loose Fur's Born Again in the U.S.A. I would curtly instruct you to visit this instructional website about southwest Ohio's most remarkable landmark, that of the giant sinking Jeeebus.