Friday, May 31, 2013

Dispatches From The Pre-Internet Internet

The above image of a post-it note album review attached to a Graham Parker The Real Macaw LP was shared, unleashed really, from the Dusty Groove Facebook page today, and it’s been sticking like a splinter in my frontal lobe ever since.

Doug at Dusty Groove, which is a great record store and general knowledge repository resource for music along the soul/funk/jazz/hip hop/sample hunting spectrum, theorizes that this may have been an old radio station copy and the note functioned as banter fodder and guidance for DJs from a friendly and engaged program director. Using my eyeballs and my brain and scanning for context clues, his story checks out.

The idea of a “radio” station with a physical library of physical LP’s and a physical human program director providing physical human DJ’s with actual information via physically written notes is hopelessly quaint. I imagine visiting a radio station now is like walking inside a giant iPod. You’re greeted warmly by a hologram of Steve Jobs, and just after his friendly message of welcome creepily glitches into repetition, heretofore unseen robotic clamp arms surge through the hologram’s forehead and rip your guts out to see what genre you are and how many beats per minute you provide. Is what I imagine happens. That’s just the feeling I get from occasionally listening to commercial radio.

Anyhow, as nice and as sweet and as old-fashioned and cutely ineffectual as it is to imagine a radio station programming director once upon a time warning his or her employees about the inherent unevenness of post-Squeezing Out Sparks Graham Parker (with the exception of “Anniversary”—how frightfully early-80’s AOR), it’s better to imagine the above capsule review as having been written by an aspiring critic for unintentionally personal use. Some grump in a basement who is tired of shelling out dough for Graham Parker's latest LP and wants the world to know it, except he also hates the world and doesn't want to interact with it ever. So he just writes reviews on his own LP's so people will know how he felt on the subject after he dies and Dusty Groove is bidding on his old collection. That's my preferred fantasy about this Graham Parker The Real Macaw LP.

My first reaction to seeing it was, “Hey! That’s what I do sometimes.”

And it’s true. I do that. I write down my thoughts about an album because I like having them. They’re my little thought-babies and I just love them oh so much. Sure, I don’t write my thoughts on post-it notes and then scotch tape them to a Graham Parker The Real Macaw LP, but hey. Different stokes for different obsessive weirdos. I have the internet now. I’m writing this instead, and I get to pretend there’s such a thing as a “you” at the end of it, and hopefully “you” are not Doug at Dusty Groove in 30 years saying, “That’s hilarious, let’s put it on Facebook.”

I’m paraphrasing Doug. That’s what I would have said if I was Doug.

Man. Graham Parker The Real Macaw.

Nobody ever respects the power pop guys. If you’re an ambitious songwriter who wants to be taken seriously as a craftsman and an artist, do yourself a favor and never ever do a power pop single. Graham Parker. Joe Jackson. Warren Zevon. Man, those guys. They drove themselves half crazy in a bid for legitimacy that nobody except for a certain hardcore base of people with songwriting chops hangups ever wanted to give them. Making a name for yourself with a big fun power pop single and then trying to switch gears to goopy sentimental ballads for the grown-up set is like Steve Urkel trying to be a serious actor. Maybe you could do Summer Stock, but forget about going bigtime with it. Only Elvis Costello made it out alive, and only because he distanced himself from his early material as if it was some horrific collision of accidental timeliness rather than the best thing he’s ever done.

This is as it should be, by the way. Power pop and “I am an artist” do not and should not mix. You can’t blend the two concepts into one career without being disingenuous about one of them. Is what I think. Often. Sometimes.


I had that thought.

Maybe you’ll find it later in the internet-content bargain bin. Not some of my best work, but the Steve Jobs hologram was pretty funny.

Talented 14-Year-Old Girl Doing a Van Halen Cover Looks Like a Bitch and Should Be Someone's Girlfriend.

I have my own apartment in Brooklyn, NY. By "my own" I mean, It's mine. I'm the only one who lives here, aside from my cat, who is my friend. I'm so obsessed with how wonderful and rare of a thing this is that I clean my apartment, and everything in it, daily. You could deliver a baby in here. You could dust for fingerprints in here and find maybe three. Sometimes I sit at my desk chair and stare over to the baseboard on my right hand side where there's this flap of molding coming loose and think "I bet there's a bug in there." In my mind, this one little flap, this one minor imperfection, is a catch all for anything bad that could possibly ever find its way into my home. Sort of like how the Internet, in and of itself, is a flap in the universe where, if peeled back, every single horrible monster of a thing or person you could possibly imagine, ever is revealed. All just buzzing around, waiting to tell you that you look like a bitch slut French freak liar.

What you see up there is a home video of a 14-year-old girl awkwardly slaughtering a rendition of Van Halen's "Eruption." She looks just as comfortable playing guitar in this video as she would be taking a shit in front of her home room class, but she is without question very, very talented for her age, or any other age. From her Kohls jeans, to her cap-sleeve t-shirt, to her My Little Pony hairdo, to her friendship bracelet that she probably cares way more about that the person who gave it to her would have intended, she is a teenage girl. Watching this video almost has a smell. And that smell is of eight-hour old maxi pad. There is nothing wrong with this. She is perfect. She is exactly how she should be. She is better than you. She looks like a bitch.

That was the first comment that caught my eye after breaking the #1 golden rule of the Internet: Don't read the comments. Someone out there in the flap watched this video of a young girl playing a guitar very well, and then signed into their Youtube account to leave the comment "Girl looks like a bitch." The process of doing this probably took longer than the minute and some odd seconds it took to watch the video itself. Why would someone do this? There's a simple answer, and it's the same answer that can be given to many of life's other questions, and it's: "Because 99% of the world's population is both physically and mentally retarded." But not this girl. Not Tina. And that makes her, obviously, a fat fucking ugly slut.

Another person lower down in the flap said that Tina here should be his girlfriend. Well that's very nice. That's nice that you want Tina to be your girlfriend. I'm sure she'd love to be the girlfriend of a physically and mentally retarded 42-year-old Walmart employee who lives in a basement apartment and sells pot at the college campus. Who wouldn't want that? And it was nice of you to compliment her by saying she should be your girlfriend. This means she's pretty enough to be your girlfriend. I bet she was daydreaming about this possibility, the possibility of being your girlfriend, while playing guitar for this video. 

When I was 14 I was listening to The Cure and daydreaming about being a werewolf or a vampire. When I was 14 I ate my first vagina, and it belonged to a red head. Can you imagine how scary that was for me? Well it wasn't. Because I was disgusting. When I was 14 I rubbed baby oil in my poofy, curly hair to try to make it straighter, even though it could never, will never, should never be. I was weird and gross and loud and you wouldn't have wanted me to be your girlfriend. I wouldn't have given a fuck. Tina doesn't give a fuck either. She doesn't have to perform for you. She's busy. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ten Things That Aren't Bill Simmons

10. WIND




6. "TUMP"

5. SUN





Revisionist History: Gap Dream

Gap Dream Gap Dream (2012, Burger Records)

One corner of my brain is a pretend laboratory bustling with a dedicated team of imaginary scientists, and they are hard at work trying to explain the bizarre staying power of Gap Dream’s debut album. “It is totally inexplicable by all measurable values we’ve come to understand about music,” say the scientists. They are distressed about this. They’re working overtime. The atmosphere is tense. It’s like CERN in there.

The album, sonically, is derivative. All the songs sound the same, amounting to a repetition of meter and minor riff variants and similar overdubs, a landscape painted in monotone. There aren’t many hooks. The lyrics are neither especially evocative nor particularly relatable. The vocal delivery is distant and unemotional and reedy. The overall effect is of a horribly out-of-vogue pleasant bittersweetness that was last fashionable back before The Shins were a punchline. It has a hazy shuffled-off quality without being charmingly shambolic. It is neither professional nor amateurish. It is an immovable lump of warm sound.

And, logistically, worse than all of that: a January release. Releasing an album in January is unfairly a death knell to credibility. Nobody plans to release an album in January. It just comes out then because somebody somewhere fucked up. Somebody was unreliable. Somebody’s on drugs. Somebody’s a clown. Somebody flaked. Maybe it was somebody at the recording studio or the record label or in the design process or in the pressing plant, or anybody along the line who might fuck up an album’s release date.

But really: the artist. If they were unable to get things the way they wanted it in time to get the album out before Christmas shopping and best-of list season, then the least a gives-a-shit artist could do is wait until February or March for the release. If for no better reason than to avoid the stink of January. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s just psychology. January releases are for flakes and weirdos and hobbyists.

And the cover. “Oops we need a cover.”

By all outward signs, this album is not to be taken seriously.

When you hear something like this, the natural best case scenario is bemused appreciation. Oh, good for him. This is nice. I’ll put the name “Gap Dream” in the back of my brain somewhere with the other musical acts that I don’t currently love but might some day. File in the “has potential” bin. Worst case scenario is the “nice try” bin. The “it’s generally good that we’re doing so much reverb these days” bin. The summarily dismissed bin. The “this will never be anybody’s favorite anything” bin.

But I have failed to stop listening to this album and it’s been over a year. It’s gone from “has potential” to “is good” to “staple.” I listened to it three times this morning because I needed to. That’s where it is with me right now. It’s been upgraded slowly and steadily from feather duster to ton of bricks. In the common parlance of the music-addled, it’s a grower. A monstrous grower. Like “we forgot to mow this section of lawn and now we have an oak tree.” From a completely unassuming beginning. Against all odds. In a world without justice one man stands alone. That whole thing.

And now it has a narrative of its own. Not only do I like this album, I LOVE to like it. Every time I put it on, I feel like I’m putting a stick in the eye of focus-grouped careerists everywhere. The very obvious above-stated reasons not to care about Gap Dream have become little war banners to pick up and gallantly run with towards the onrushing death of Pitchfork-targeted Best Coasts and Dirty Beaches.

I say NO to marketing budgets and youth fashions. I say NO to getting your shit together and taking anything seriously. I say YES to album covers which communicate NOTHING. And I say YES to hazy druggy unfocused bittersweet music, even when it sounds almost exactly like everything else, and I especially say YES when it’s as contented as this album is to merely exist without really asking me for anything.

That might be the number one reason why this album stays in rotation. It’s not going to bother me with anything. It’s no muss no fuss. In other words, it's not FOR scientists.

Listen for yourself. But be careful. You won’t not like it. That’s how it starts.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beyonce Will Literally Slap You Back Until You Die.

If you were to Google the words "Beyonce Ass Slap" you would learn, if you haven't already, that some guy thought it would be a good idea to smack Beyonce's ass (her holy, holy, sacred ass of the Lord, Amen) during her show in Denmark on Monday. She was in the middle of singing "Irreplaceable," bending down to touch the hands of the audience, when a man who I can only assume is 100% made of dried semen, bloated worms, and the tears of orphans dying of AIDS, had a fart bubble explode in his head, causing him to reach over and slap Beyonce's butt. There's a video of it and everything, which I have watched 50 times, each time with my hand over my face because it makes me want to kill myself.

The worst part about all of this, aside from everything, is that I didn't even know about it until my Total Bozo co-worker, Ben Johnson, emailed me about it this morning. Looking now, I can see that many major news sites/blogs have covered it, but why there wasn't a massive hot air balloon with the news painted on the side of it, or the releasing of missiles/bombs/doves into the sky outside of my apartment, alerting me to what had happened, is boggling to my mind.

Have you ever touched someone at a concert? Like, the performer I mean? I remember being at a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert with my parents when I was around 16, and my Mom begging me to reach my hand out to get a guitar pick from Stephen Stills and it was like she was asking me to shove my arm into a volcano. There was literally NO way. At present, I've interviewed almost every musician I would have ever wanted to, and the times in which we hugged or shook hands before or after the interview filled me with such nervous energy that I can still barely think about it. Can you imagine what manner of serial killer would slap a performer's ass? Let alone THE ass???

Just yesterday I was having a conversation about who was closest to the truest definition of "feminist," Beyonce or Rihanna. The conclusion was unanimous that while Rihanna is a strong, "bad ass" woman in her own right, Beyonce would just literally have a person killed if they wronged her. For instance: let's say Jay-Z were to ever pull a Chris Brown on Beyonce, I'm guessing that he would just never be seen or heard from again. Like the very force of the earth, the energy and molecules and unicorn dust that make all of us, and everything else, would just gather together and make him disappear.

Moral of the story: I guess you can just slap a woman's ass, regardless of how famous she is or isn't, and not much will happen to you. Because everything sucks and is horrible.

Moral of the story #2: I hope the Beyonce gropper knows that if he lived to be a million years old, he will never be anywhere near an ass that perfect again.



The #CratesAreEmpty hashtag, tweeted from the Numero Group twitter earlier today, got my juices flowing. It’s appropriate. All crates in every Thrift Store and Antique Mall have been dug. America’s gold rush of record hunting is over. I can tell you this. I’ve been out there. I just spent a long weekend in Iowa of all paces. The Crates Are Empty. #CratesAreEmpty.

Well, not empty. Full, still, really. Full of junk. Montovani. Guy Lombardo. Golden goodies of gentle strings for people who hate music only a little less than they hate silence. Theme From A Summer Place Where Korean War PTSD Cannot Touch Us. The millions and millions and billions of records that somebody made once upon a time back when a record was the only way to hear anything. The crates will never actually be empty. Only bereft of value. Forever. #CratesAreEmpty.

The internet killed the moth-ridden weirdo with bad teeth who will give you that pristine original pressing of Relatively Clean Rivers for “prolly fifty cents” after a squinting appraisal you have to pokerface your way through as your heart kicks like a rodeo bull in your chest. Gone is the thrill of the hunt. The acres of Boring Strings Of The World LPs are now punctuated, find-wise, with occasional scratched-to-shit 70’s re-pressings of  Meet The Beatles with $30 price tags even though they’re in a mildewed cardboard box sitting in a 19th century oven in a barn full of antiques in Buttfucknowhere, Nebraska. You pull them out and check the condition and your inner monologue screams "who is this FOR?!" while doing the Platoon pose, and then you get back into the car, empty-handed, and you tell yourself Never Again. #CratesAreEmpty.

The best you can hope for these days is a decent record in horrible condition with a ludicrous price tag. It’s as if Paul Revere himself (of Paul Revere & the Raiders) rode through the countryside declaring that The City Idiots would from now on and forever be buying any record in any condition for twenty bucks minimum, and run go get your pricing gun. “That copy of Led Zeppelin II your son used as a microwavable burrito plate might be worth something! Look it up on eBay!” The word is out about records. In a major way. The mothy toothies are getting their revenge. #CratesAreEmpty.

Now it’s “Give me $20, and I don’t care that you can’t actually listen to the thing, and I don’t care that you came out all this way, and I don’t care about you and your stupid City Idiot feelings. By the way, if you want something to eat, I recommend you go across the street and pay $7 for the worst salad ever constructed by man. Or, you know, instead you can drop dead where you stand for all I care, you slimy hustler.” It’s a much more human arrangement. #CratesAreEmpty.

Many, many people have asked recently if cassettes are the new vinyl. If by “the new vinyl” you mean “an analog format to buy an album in that’s cheap because nobody gives or ever will give a shit about it,” then yes. Vinyl used to be like that. Everything was a dollar, tops. The good old days. They are gone. #CratesAreEmpty.

If by “the new vinyl” you mean “an analog format which will make a huge resurgence, with rare and collectible titles becoming insanely valuable and tapes become the en vogue way to listen to music,” probably not. I don’t know. I mean, I buy cassette tapes. I have a tape player in my shitty ass car. And I bought a tape player for my stereo so I could make tapes for my shitty ass car. So I can also listen to tapes in the house. And: I’m the fucking coolest. So maybe tapes will have a big resurgence. But probably not. They’re tapes. Tapes suck. Except for that Zig Zags tape. And all the other Burger Records tapes. And the Pussy Galore “Exile on Main Street” tape. And... oh shit. Now I have to go back to all the places I've ever been and look for tapes. This is a sickness. #CratesAreEmptyEvenForTapesInFiveYears.

I recommend you don’t go out there. Just go to your local record store and pay the $20 for whatever deluxe reissue they’re getting that week. I repeat: do not go out there. Please. I plan on going out there, so please do me a favor and don’t. You’re in my way. You’re being loudly nostalgic about Pat Benetar because you’re bored and idly flipping through the LP’s in this Salvation Army, and when you "can't believe it," that is my LIFE you're talking about so flippantly, and you’re in my way. Move. You’re standing in front of my crates. I don’t plan on finding anything in them, but I’m going to take a look just in case. #CratesAreEmpty.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Roaring Plenties by Katie Heindl

We jammed beer cans down on the ends of branches, dead pines, young spruces, spread them in a wide arc in front of her old tree fort. There was deer shit everywhere coming down here through the woods, easy to spot on the electric green moss spreading crazy over each small slope, covering the rotting wood that crumbled underfoot, sponging down around my shoes and springing back up, even greener. The night before we took the ferry across the harbour, fog like an open mouth, to a basement country blowout and danced hopping circles ducking under low ceilings, choked on twang. The little rifle’s up over my shoulder when we jump the creek. “Aim high,” she tells me, “like one circle above the scope.” The cans spin when we shoot clean through, cracking the barrel down again and again braced on our hips, fingers going black at the tips from reloading. Smoke curls out of the nozzle and goes off in the wind. The platform shifts along with the narrow pines it’s jammed between, half of it is scavenged plywood the other birch branches. The thick nail points, driven through at all angles, worn smooth from feet and hands and legs for years. Out in the home-woods of a near perfect stranger, our territories get so fluid the farther from our fixed points. The echoes of these places call back the quick yelps and short, wild bursts of your own kid-shadow tearing through low branches, slapping them aside, howling after the friends you’ve marked as it, howling after chase. 

Four baby raccoons fell out of the ceiling into mounds of old insulation piled on the floor while the mother yowled from the newly bared beams and the swells of the Atlantic grew huge behind us. I wasn’t dressed for a demo but still, I held a sledgehammer. Punching out support beams at their base so they swung, like those narrow padded punching bags in a funhouse, from the ceiling. We yanked them down and threw them from the second storey deck, sawed them, hauled them down to the cliff with the tractor and set them on fire. The sky the kind of overcast that goes out for hours your eyes can’t differentiate. He was so proud, his chest stuck out amidst the rubble we were making. Smile under his dust mask so big it made the edges ride up to his eyes, the blue of them showing in slits, the blue of them the same colour as the barn he now owned, so lopsided we had to stay out of the one side of it or it’d tip. Your heart rate slows near the ocean, there’s proof. It sits back on it’s haunches and gets humbled, same as you. It’s roar-turned-tremor and moors of the moans it lashes tight cast off into the swell. I took an axe, I drove the tractor, I pumped the keg and ripped out walls with my bare hands and thought here, to own land at the very edge of all east, at least there was one place we could all wash up. The barn stood shoddy and I knew we stood the same and like everything, our foundation was shifting into the sea. 

Wandering their house like a love sick ghost, trailing the cats, pacing the painted wood floors. Meeting every morning square on at 6am on the wrong side of having slept yet. Fog comes through the window with the fog horns from the harbour trailing. Low slow notes that amble and bump their way around the dense vapoured air. I coil low in the blankets and feel the start of their lives together spreading out around me from every corner in this old house. Too big to take in my lungs. Noting how the room on the plank wood shelf within arm’s length from the shower fits a beer perfect and how many times I knocked the fucking cactus over off the night-table. How their clothes go together on the rack 7ft above the floor cause they are both giants, pulling them down and wearing them all at once, rolling around on the living room floor. The sense of your loyalty taking a rest under this roof and a deep breath instead. After these months it seems the hardest thing to do but you feel your body settle and your teeth part to a slowed pulse, your flag that’s been snapping for so long folds and you get your colours back from the wind. You wake in the dark from dreams where you’re there, snores from the body beside you, awake and asleep to the same sounds and the safety net of this place wraps the ragged tight out of you. There are times you need to feel your own power as hectic and loose as it can get, slamming the boat to all sides, hard to asunder. If you’ve lost the sense of what it means to go out at all angles and breathe jagged you lose the assurances of a feral capacity rooted down, shaking in your center, coiled and ready to spring at the word. We’re all teeth in the dark. 

The promise here, your friends and how they are. Thinking of all the nights our last words ended up in the Atlantic. Howling through the fog, the space between piers, time between beers, all the ways we’ve broken down and come back to the Citadel, it’s prodding soft slope lurching over the city. Our bold soft hearts like sponges in this dense wet air, salt rimmed and reeling. True to each other’s forms, tangled around and haunting these bright clapboard houses. All the blood we’ve left smeared mixing with the salt in the air, grey days we took for fortitude or just learning to make our own fun. Not many cities slope so sharp you can roll through downtown and end up in the ocean but then not many cities are like this one. I loved them all here first, gape-jawed and understanding the type of burn that takes up through you for good. Flinging their finally warm August bodies into Tea Lake, lagging behind to watch as they hopped rocks at low tide out to the ocean, the setting sun pummeling around their soft bodies and clear through your own back to the Crab Shack and thinking we are so young we are so goddamn young, while they feint the light getting burned in your brain as shadows you’ll remember well past when some looming dark scraps what good sense of memory you rattled around with as long as you could. We took blood here, we were all together. You can talk of coasts as defining but this one is ours.