A plea for the gatekeepers of yore.
It’s more than a bit dismissive of some of his points to declare this conservative reactionary nonsense, but it’s about as far removed from my lived experience with music that it might as well be in Russian. Then again, I’m not a music writer trying to live in a world where bands “hustle” in a multivariate mediaverse because of the 800lb elephant he ignores – people don’t buy music like they used to, and the barriers to entry have fallen or split into dozens of tiny pieces.
I’ve seen a similar notion pop up about the creation of a trans-national musical monoculture (the favorite term of the nattering nabobs of the fearful future) or some such rot, simply because the world we live in is different than the one most of us (meaning post 25-year-olds) grew up in. I am convinced that this is a kind of romanticism, and not just the old cultural cachet of being in the know (the “firsties” of the end of the 20th century), but of a slower media environment. When finding things was more deliberate, perhaps, or at least more easily digested.
That said, a slower pace is not unavoidable. All it requires is a little bit of effort. And more to the point, Robert Christgau invented Twitter-snark decades before the kids who made Twitter existed.
Richard D. James Album [Elektra, 1996]
Jungle sure has livelied up this prematurely ambient postdance snoozemeister. His latest synth tunes are infested with hypertime electrobeats that compel the tunes themselves to get a move on. And where once he settled for austere classical aura, now he cuts big whiffs of 19th-century cheese. He even sings. Hey, fella–I hear Martha Wash needs work. B+
The highlight of this evening was a deeply intimate version of “Blood Embrace” for which Matt Sweeney came out to play some guitar and sing a bit. Mr. Oldham paced, gestured, scowled and delivered in full a deeply moving performance, looking like a cross between a street preacher touched by the hand of god and a cro-magnon, what with his prominent brow and less prominent hairline. It almost felt like the audience was intruding upon a very private conversation of betrayal and bafflement, despite the spoken word portion being a performed excerpt from the film Rolling Thunder.
Mr. Oldham was fully possessed by each song, and in turn the audience was captive to his every move. The seven piece backing band – two drummers, keyboardist, violinist, upright bass, guitar and occassional sax – was incredibly fluid. The violinist – Jennifer Butt? – added her very light vocals to songs when required, but largely played a heavily countrified fiddle that fit well at this well-lit crossroads of country and indie rock. The lead drummer in particular (I wasn’t taking notes, obviously, but my wife says it was Jim White) pounded and deftly flailed, and was a joy to watch. Their version of “Easy Does It” hit all the right notes, being the most uplifting and joyful song he’s ever released; “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise” was appropriately somber and mocking.
And so for two hours they played mostly newer material, a mixture of the sedate and the downright honky-tonk, ending with an endearing improv sing-along featuring the entire band with the members of Lightning Dust, the opening act whose performance we largely missed due to late arrival. There was one brief encore after that, followed by yet another standing ovation.
The Apollo is a great venue, and far smaller than it appears on television; unlike Town Hall it features seats where people over 5′ tall can put their legs forward a bit.
There was the usual contingent of shouted requests, all of which were ignored. All was truly right in the world.
Some of the more interesting current music fads include MBV reconfigurations, usually with several ladies in the mix; the emergence of “hipster metal”; and lo-fi quirk-rock, of which there has been a steady underground that is righteously pissed at the success of johnny-fuzz-lately types like Wavves.
Sour fuzzy grapes aside, the cultural current that interests me most is the pastoral retreat, and not just because pretty girls in peasant dresses lends sensual surreality to any concert experience. It seemed to bubble and rumble in the wake of the beginnings of the Iraq War and no doubt will continue percolate through this whole temporary recession/destruction of everything and everyone period.* One response to having no discernible power is to withdraw from the culture and its trappings, and to look back at what was imagined to have been.
A kind of conservatism, even, which is the closest thing to a slur that you can bust out during these days of hope und change, and so I don’t engage in such madness lightly. Continue reading
Band recommendations, like deaths, are rumored to come in threes. Obviously that’s just selection bias, like a lot of what we’d call “folk wisdom” or “making shit up”. Oral traditions are a tangled web, and say what the Zerzanites and the back to the land types will, but I’m all for indexed Google searches and WYSIWYG interfaces. And antibiotics. Continue reading
For the longest time I’ve described Will Oldham’s music as the sound of a bewildered encounter with the eternal feminine. I don’t know if that fully stands anymore, but it does accurately describe obvious classics like I See a Darkness.
But Lie Down in the Light is far more celebratory than baffled, which is a nice change of pace. I fully agree that women are a deeply confusing species, but the duets with Ashley Webber are a nice way to move past that heavy feeling of being sledgehammered by life and love. Continue reading