So we went to the Aragon to see The National, Wye Oak, and – one of our favorites – Local Natives on Tuesday. The whole thing was incredible, but really, Local Natives just tore up the house. Here’s a sample of the show. I’d have to say that 12:00-on really blew everyone away. It was one of those weird live music experiences where everyone around you is either going crazy or looking around at each other thinking “Am I really seeing this?” When the bass player started banging on the drum set from the other side (at about 12:55) everyone in the place just went nuts. Now, we’ve had Local Natives’ album (Gorilla Manor) since just after it came out, and it’s been a staple in our house. The kids know it, and Ellie sings “Airplanes” (4:50-8:30) when it comes on. But the rendition of Sun Hands here really had me looking at it in a completely different way. Great stuff.
Like this. This lady can shred.
Perhaps the only legitimate rock anthem of the last 15 years. she and I got the live version last Friday.
1) When you fuck up the opening of a Cling Wrap box, you have to live with that fuck up for two months. When you fuck it up three consecutive times, it follows that you have six months of Cling Wrap hell on your hands. How does this happen? You know that last bit of Cling Wrap is limp, and goes nowhere, so you’re smart enough to anticipate and buy some Cling Wrap at the store, probably opting for the Glad brand because you watch Top Chef, even though the store brand does exactly the same thing, there being only one way of making Cling Wrap, really, even if it’s called Stick-To Plastic Wrap, or whatever. But you reach the end of that old Cling Wrap, and pump your fist triumphantly because you knew enough to anticipate, but then you’re all excited and the damn packaging doesn’t tell you fuck all about how to open it, so you start pulling on tabs and other loose cardboard, only to realize that you’ve fucked up the opening of the Cling Wrap box yet again. They should have a big goddamn red star on the packaging warning you not to fuck up the opening of the Cling Wrap. This is basic technical writing that any sophomore would be able to tell you.
2) The best two moments on Girl Talk’s All Day are Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya over Radiohead’s Creep (roughly 20:30-21:45) and Fabolous’ (Holla Back) Young’n over INXS’s I Need You Tonight (28:45-29:40). There are a lot of other good moments, but these are the most surprising and well-executed, I think. Ending with Imagine was, however, lame. I mean that in the most high-schoolish way. At some point, I’m going to have to admit that my preference for East Coast and specifically New York hip hop over all other varieties is mere provincialism.Two points here: a) An easy experiment: Put any “old school” hip hop song (defined here, as something produced between 1987 and 1995) up on YouTube. Let’s say, EPMD’s Crossover, for example. Within two days, you will get a comment stating that EPMD was a’ight, but Li’l Wayne is a better lyricist, followed by about 300 comments stating that Li’l Wayne is total shit, and commercialized crap, and can’t even hold a candle to the lyrics of X Old School hip hop, in this case Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon. In the first place, this is strictly speaking true: EPMD is objectively better than Li’l Wayne. But the real issue is that hip hop spoke to these commenters more when they were 15 or 16 or 20, back in 1992. Today’s hip hop doesn’t speak to me not because it’s bad (I really wouldn’t know), but because I’m not hanging out in parks, drinking beer, a twenty sack in one pocket and a can of Rusto in my coat, NYPD rolling by slow with the dash flashlight, EPMD banging out of somebody’s trunk. Funk mode, yeah kid, that’s how the squad rolls. Maybe Li’l Wayne would be just as good if that’s what I was doing now. Instead, I get a small rush from having correctly timed the running out of Cling Wrap. b) And on a related note, whenever I see something advertised at the supermarket as 2 for $5, I secretly mouth the dialogue intro to Wu Tang’s C.R.E.A.M. It’s an embarrassing admission, but that’s what blogs are for.
3) Political Axiom: Talking to the public about deficit spending during the middle of the holiday season is inherently stupid. Deficits only make sense in January.
Here’s one from American Slang, which will probably have to compete for my top ten records of the year. (Isn’t December the time for Top Tens?). The Gaslight Anthem is, to my mind, this really interesting phenomenon, since their overriding theme seems to be the overt nostalgia for some working class youth, but it meshes perfectly with nostalgia for something like a collapsing industrial society. Indeed, Arcade Fire talks the talk on this, but The Gaslight Anthem really works it in formally, a kind of yearning for Springsteen’s 70′s, and their links with Springsteen are, of course, well-known by now (I think there’s probably something wrong with people who don’t like “The ’59 Sound” the first time they hear it). I guess the whole nostalgia thing is strange cuz these dudes are in their twenties.
Digression: This reminds me that I really want to pick up Jefferson Cowie’s Stayin’ Alive: The 70′s and the Last Days of the Working Class, which I was tempted to just buy and read the other day (along with Francois Dosse’s mammoth biography of Deleuze and Guattari – I really liked Dosse’s History of Structuralism). Then I thought, why buy either of these when certain blog readers might be agonizing again over what in the world to get me for Christmas, and not wanting me to look at the book they’ve presented me, only to have me say “You really have no idea what I do, right?” See? I make things easy.
Anyway, here’s “Orphans” from American Slang, followed by “Boxer” at Bonnaroo
So the book goes like this: if you’re into anything Indie music-wise, you must go out and buy the Arcade Fire’s new album The Suburbs. It’s like a requirement, the analogy being if you’re into contemporary fiction, you have to go out and buy Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom (the review in the New York Times this morning was syrupy, to say the least). So I dutifully did that. Now, don’t get me wrong. I think Funeral is a great album, and I think Neon Bible is a good album, despite moments of painful and pedantic preciousness (see, for example, “Antichrist Television Blues”). But I thought I’d listen to The Suburbs with a kind of grimace. In my business, we call this a “mildly hostile audience.”
I also had to buy the album because of the in-your-face nostalgia with which the band promoted it. In this New York Times story, they essentially give the old fuck you to the flailing and smug nonsense promoted by New Media peoples about the fate of the album itself. True, they fall back into the other nonsense promoted by so many leftists, that if only we made “real things” anymore, we wouldn’t have all these problems:
“We recorded it on tape, we press it to vinyl, and the digital is the archive of this physical thing that exists in the world,” Mr. Butler said. “We’re preserving it and using digital as a mode of distribution, but ultimately there was something real that was made.”
I’ve about had it with both positions. On the one hand, you have these purveyors of the New, who hawk neoliberal claptrap as if it’s radical philosophy. On the other, you have wacked out old Labor hands pretending that the production of physical commodities was some kind of Utopian exercise. That said, as I noted in this post, I’m well ready to see a little push-back on the now prevalent position that the mode of distribution automatically transforms the genre of the LP, even if it’s a rearguard action, ultimately. So off I trundled to iTunes to make my stand for commodity production in the old style. Summary: mildly hostile audience.
I’m ready to admit it. I’ve listened to The Suburbs for two weeks now. It is a brilliant album. A desert island album, really. It’s The Queen is Dead, which suggests we’ll still have something like a Strangeways Here We Come out of Arcade Fire, and that’s no mean feat. The tempos great. There are at least 8 great songs, and the rest are at good to very good. “Empty Room,” “City with No Children” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” are revelations. They return to a theme (a fucking theme!). There’s a moment in the middle of the record, in “Half Light II,” where the lyric goes something like “pray to God I won’t live to see the death of everything that’s wild,” and then we get this utterly unexpected “Woo!” And it’s the moment that crystallizes the record for me. It’s fucking smart. And good. And it’s an album, cohesive as an LP without being a concept record. And I want to punch myself for saying it, because I want to drop snide remarks and say, “Oh, fucking Arcade Fire, whatever.” But I can’t, because they made a brilliant record.
You just knew that The Roots new album would be excellent, and it is. As a bonus, the first single remixes a song from the Monsters of Folk album, and features Jim James in the video. Plus, reworking Nas throughout. Nice. Enjoy.
Dang. Missed a whole month. What will the archive think?
Looked at the page a few times over the last month or so. No energy for it. So I’m forcing myself to rev up the engine again with something easy here, as I’ll do from time to time. As is well known in Seven Red Land, I’m a complete fanboy of The National, so I just wanted to post a little about High Violet. Needless to say, I’ve given it more than a few listens since its release a couple of weeks ago, and of course I love it. I also loved the review on Pitchfork that says it’s a good album, even if you’re not an “upwardly mobile stiff with minor social anxiety,” a pretty hilarious description of what might be presumed to be The National’s fanbase. The Pitchfork review also notes that Matt Berninger sometimes seems to be auditioning to replace the current Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World,” which made me laugh. Yeah, dude.
Yeah, but even so. I remember having Alligator on a loop when I was first working up the diss – and Boxer on a loop as I was finishing, so there’s just a history there for me. I can’t hear “Daughters of the Soho Riots” without that sinking feeling I had when I basically trashed most of the first version – haven’t told many people about that yet, either. Now, High Violet, and I think most of the reviews bear this out, is a very different record than Boxer, even if it plays out a consistent trajectory. I guess it’s a cliche to say it’s darker, but it is – slower, driven by repetition in a way even Boxer wasn’t, where the delayed adolescence that really drives Boxer thematically hits the wall, maybe. But maybe that’s it. If I was right there with Boxer, I’m probably right there with High Violet, too, as much as I hate the identification model. I wouldn’t, like the Pitchfork snark (hey, it’s good snark) call Berninger’s lyrics cryptic so much as aphoristic. You have to follow them out: “I defend my family, with my orange umbrella.” What a comedy of contemporary middle class fatherhood! And I think there’s refreshing honesty in even saying “I’m Afraid of Everyone” in a culture that promotes fearlessness as if it is some kind of trump virtue.
Part of the hype around High Violet has gone something like this: here’s a band that still makes albums in the age of the download, and by albums, they mean a kind of coherent aesthetic product at the larger unit level, supposedly a by-gone product tied to vinyl and then CD distribution models. I’m so-so on this claim, mainly because a lot bands still make “albums,” just like a lot of people still write novels, despite the various kvetching, celebration, and other New Media fetishism that sees them as a “print-age form,” or some other such gun-jumping declarations. So, I don’t think it’s anything remarkable as a formal matter to have crafted a well-ordered and arranged album – but High Violet certainly is one. Anyway, here are two off High Violet, both of which I’d rank pretty high, though I can pretty much listen to the whole record without interruption. Enjoy your upwardly mobile stiffdom. And your minor social anxiety.
This live version of Sorrow from Berlin is great.
Forgot how much I liked this until my brother posted it the other day.Grew up with some dogmatic hate of country, but Old Time and alt-country is alright now.
Supposing a fella wanted to make a playlist of 15 or so songs, the only selection criterion of which would be that every song in the list had to contain the word “lemonade” somewhere in the lyrics. What 15 songs might that fella use?