06 October 2006
THIS IS WHAT I GOT (RIFFS)
Please Leave Computer On
Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-Stars
In light of the Beirut Man Man Devotchka and now I guess this band O'Death bloglines boner for all things vaguely Balkan / klezmer / gypsy-not-gypsy, the first thing that'll strike you about these Frank London guys is they're actually musicians and they can actually play their instruments. And one thing that actual musicians can do with each other is communicate almost telepathically, like one little head nod or a quick shot of the eyes will mean "let's go to the next section" or "let's cut the trombone solo a little short, trombone player" or "what do you think of my hat? do you like my crazy hat?" and everybody in the band knows exactly how to move their eyes to say "i can't believe you wore that fucking hat again." Frank London, who plays trumpet and wears hats, led the band what would seem very haphazardly, shelling out solo opportunities, playing with the tempos and the dynamics with no real sense of his next move. This is improvised music in the sweet clarinet solo sense, but also insofar as klezmer songs being more like a collection of related riffs, triggered in typically rigorous sequences but the lengths and moods are up to the band. So it's music that's extremely crowd-sensitive too, participatory in this weird passive-aggro feedback loop where the audience determines the song length by their motions, i.e. dancing. The first song was like 20 minutes long, so yeah it went over pretty well.
Now I don't mean to sound all klezmer purist about this stuff. The bands mentioned first sentence are pop bands borrowing a few tricks from some chosen people we don't normally talk about. I know very little about this stuff except for a few horahs I'd play so my jew friends could lift their jew friends in chairs, and my old harddrive has some MIDI versions of songs from Fiddler on the Roof. But seeing every one of these Klezmer Brass All-Stars kill their solos, then go back and work perfectly with the band and know their role ego-less like she's an arm and he's a leg, you realize how little the affects of klezmer/etc-- the modes, the instrumentations, the melodies-- that people call "klezmer" are actually klezmer. This is not news, just a general reminder to stop kidding ourselves.
Trail of Dead: "Naked Sun" [Download]
Especially coming off Wednesday's bit, I was amused to find out that the rock and roll band Trail of Dead completely ripped the melody from jazz standard (by Fake Book standards) "The Work Song" for this new song, "Naked Sun." Naked sun is practically an anagram of Work Song, so it's not like the band doesn't know what they did. In other news Conrad Keely knows how to sing now, and a bunch of songs on this album feel like Madonna songs playing major-label dress-up, masquerading as emo jams but still fine hardhitting 90s indie guitar rock from Austin.
But then I wonder if everybody's just had this band backwards. I remember all the crazy fucked up manifestos the guy would write, Keely, which read like those 60s pop holistic philosophy books that start with a half-baked, vaguely political, quasi-radical, totally unprovable assertion (e.g. "everybody knows") and end 180 pages later, with lots of Tim Leary quotes, lots of anecdotal evidence that reads like two twenty-year-olds listing the drugs they've used and what they thought about them. I remember reading them, and I remember thinking that maybe this band really actually wanted to be famous and write a bunch of tight-assed emo-punk songs they could perform on Conan O'Brien without looking like fucking twits, and I remember loving the fact that they failed at that, and that their quote failures included "Another Morning Stoner" and "Totally Natural," two of the best rock songs in the last ten years. There was a desperation in their music, and it's not there anymore because they're where they want to be today, and maybe it's OK if they don't make songs that I want to wake up to anymore. Bygones.
This Day in Riff Raff
A few days ago Matt Fluxblog posted a song called "Riff Raff" by Pipas, which reminded me that a little while ago I used to write a blog called Riff Raff for New York City's The Village Voice. I haven't read this blog in a while, but today I checked out what I wrote exactly a year ago: an extremely helpful visitors guide to the 2005 Country Music Awards in New York. I have to say I am quite proud of one extremely obscure reference I made to the guy who writes mixtape previews for SOHH.com. If you're that guy, and you're reading this blog, yes, the line "the name says it all" is my hilarious sendup of your hiphop-flavored style. Unfortunately my joke about confusing Dizzee Rascal with Rascal Flatts did not hold up well at all.