26 May 2006
AM I YAYO?
He Can't Even Afford His Own Domain Name
This is awesome because Rick A. Ross is an "anti-cult lecturer," and even more awesome because, if you're not paying attention, "Rick A. Ross" sorta sounds like "Ricky Ross," a thing the rapper Rick Ross says a lot. Most awesome: This website is a database of destructive cults, which means if this Rick Ross rapper guy's career pops off big, like really really big, David Koresh-style, Rick Ross might finally feel comfortable admitting he's doing this anti-cult stuff on the side. 2nd best beard in rap... 1st best face?
25 May 2006
Ten seconds ago, walking out of Falafel Star on 7th St (best falafel in East Village), I realized Van Morrison's "Moondance" is indisputably the worst song ever written. Yes I've heard "St. James Infirmary" or St. Johns or Zekes or whatever it's called and that's pretty bad too. But it doesn't make people go out of their way to look like complete tools like Van's "'Dance."
I'm eating. "Moondance" comes on the radio and this guy walks in and he instantly recognizes it because among other things it's fucking Van Morrison's "Moondance." He starts snapping his fingers on the ones and threes, kinda-sorta bopping, and between ordering his sandwich he belts out the first half of a verse and then mumbles the rest because he clearly doesn't know all the lyrics. My guess is he probably said to himself he should google the lyrics when he gets back to his apartment, just in case this ever happens again. During the flute solo the guy starts full-on flitting about the place; I think I saw him miming the flute positions on his thighs too, which admittedly looked pretty awesome but still. He paid, left, and went back to not losing his shit to the worst song ever.
Beyond that I hate the song's needless identity crisis. It swings, so people think it's jazz, but it has a singer, so people think it's pop, but it also has a flute, so people think it's Jethro Tull. You might not think that's hate-worthy, or even annoying, but hear me out. In my Matt Turowski Jazz Explosion days, we played a lot of gigs at Glenside's Keswick Cafe, right next to the Keswick Theatre. We'd be jamming it out, waiting for the Chick Corea show next door to get out so we could make some tips. A typical conversation with one of these sophisticated Chick Corea showgoers would go something like this (it happens while we are playing jazz):
-You guys play the jazz music?
-Oh that's so awesome do you know any Van Morrison??!
-But "Moondance" is the best jazz song ever written!
-OK we'll play "Moondance."
-After that can you play "Low Rider"?
And then we'd have to play fucking "Moondance," and whoever asked us to play it would come up to us afterwards and say thanks but she likes the original better--"you guys were just too jazzy." Everybody always loved my solo during "Low Rider."
In my quest to turn things I hate ("Moondance") into things I love (snakes; spiders), I've decided that "Moondance" is my new "Who Let the Dogs Out." It's the song I can't stand more than anything else, but I like it as a form of outright masochism. Friends of Riff Market will remember the second annual Jews and Gents holiday roast, when I zinged a friend of mine for dating a girl "two years and thirty pounds after I did." Cue "Who Let the Dogs Out." Cue me doing windmills on my air guitar while everybody looks horrified. Cue more windmills.
And so with "Moondance." This Sunday I plan on waiting some tables at this restaurant I know. The restaurant has these two local jazz guys come in to play a "jazz brunch," woo the tourists into the restaurant all "authentic West Village experience" and all. It's 3pm. The jazz guys runs out of jazz songs to play, so they decide to tell the manager they're done for the day, see you later, etc. But the manager gets really angry at the jazz guys and tells them they need to take requests. "Get back to your axes, cats!" he says to the cats. He's picked up their slang, so in my eyes he deserves their respect.
Then, at that very moment, I'm going to speak up. "Hey motherfucking jazz guys," I'll say. "Why don't you play some real jazz music." They're thinking I mean "Freedom Jazz Dance" but I actually mean something else. "No, not 'Freedom Jazz Dance'--real jazz music." They start playing "Moondance." All the sudden I've got the whole restaurant snapping on the ones and threes and doing the moondance dance (it's a hybrid electric slide/macarena). My manager's fake scat singing, just making the shit up. The jazz guys get the joke but are still pretty angry. Nobody is doing jazz hands.
24 May 2006
It's Not Like He Died Or Anything But Still
Chris Cohen gave Deerhoof his notice. His new (old) band is the Curtains. Again this is not worth a eulogy or anything but Chris is pretty damn stand-up and this is a huge loss for the Best Band Ever. The band's three best records (Reveille, Apple O, The Runners Four) relied pretty heavily on intricate dueling guitar passages, made possible by rare and freakish Dieterich-Cohen telepathy. Since the Radiohead gigs are soon, I'm wondering how the band's gonna pull off that material with only three in the pen. Etc etc etc.
Deerhoof Download: "Lose My Breath" (My Bloody Valentine cover)
Curtains Download: "World's Most Dangerous Woman"
23 May 2006
I'M A BUSINESSMAN
Download: "St. Elsewhere"
Obviously we expected hijinks--the question was what and who and what would the rap blog community have to say about it. But Gnarls Barkley played it surprisingly simple: Technically, Gnarls Barkley cancelled last minute; Brush Fire, a Gnarls Barkley cover band, filled in for them. So 13 people came out to do the work of two--80s hair band flash and big wigs, three backup singers, four strings, some dudes on guitar and keyboards, a drummer, another guy with a cape, and then an enormous black man also wearing a cape. Those last two guys came out to "Final Countdown," more hijinks, and you know that got the mostly late-20s crowd throwing up the guns for "I didn't know Gnarls Barkley wrote that song for Arrested Development..." I hope you can imagine the hijinks when Brush Fire did the song about needing "some real good head." Can you? The answer is guns.
The goof felt tossed off, very superficial, until the band actually started playing. Webster's mix was off--keyboards pushed all the way up, strings and singers back, the drums mic'd such that you could only hear the bass and snare and no cymbals and all show, like when Digweed brings a turntable for the crowd but secretly has a five hour mp3 of thumping trance playing off a nano (you can find it yourself by googling thumping-trance-digweezy.mp3). But the mix was off because Brush Fire was a cover band--I mean right? The masquerade explains away the bad mix, the no momentum show, Cee-lo saying he wants to see "titties... and crowdsurfing," the general non-experience that was the Gnarls Barkley live show. More than explains, the masquerade almost demands imperfection, no?
Additionally: A bunch of times Cee-lo said "we just fucking" or "we're gonna fuck around, let's do it" etc. Weird to me to see an artist so anxiously denying ownership over his own songs, or at least renouncing responsibility for them by throwing his arms up with a shrug and and a smiley face, "here's a trifle!" as Hardly says. Even "Transformer," which is mostly just thinly-veiled navel-gazing and preemptive self-defense against people saying he jumped ship on rap and you just don't pull that shit, not around here on the internets--"I'm just being myself," he says and if you don't like it, internets, it's your fault not his.
But people love Gnarls so no worries right? Except that the new thing is not complaining about the glorious Gnarls hype but pointing out that all the Gnarls criticism hasn't really met the music head on--not given it the credit it deserves. "Crazy" is #1 in the UK but apparently that doesn't matter--that's not why this album is a classic. All the people who say this should really check out this guy/artist named Prince--get his worst records and chances are you'll find a "Smiley Faces" on each of those too, maybe a "St. Elsewhere" on the same platter if you're lucky.
Me, I like a few songs fine. But after the show I wonder whether Cee-lo/Danger Mouse think Gnarls Barkley is really all about the music, having fun with some sweet soul brothers and cutting some tracks for kicks and all. I don't mean to say there's a big get rich quick conspiracy involved here with CL/DM at the helm--there are much better ways to make money than the pop music. But I do mean to say they've found themselves or been forced into one of the more fascinating instances of the publicists and publicity engines becoming more "artistic" than the albums and artists themselves. These are the people leaking the untitled tracks, mobilizing myspace and the blogs, signing off on bizarre press photos and so on to create the facade of "totally tossed off pop that hits the spot ya dig!" when in fact it's their very very serious commercial art project, and they're not taking the piss.
Look at all these poorman's fluxblog mp3 bloggers fighting each other over hit counts and stupid-ass blurbs about their indie rock promos piling up and yeah, you start feeling like all the Gnarls hype feels a little slimy. My guess is a lot of people who got in on GB early on don't have the first clue they're clowning themselves by needing to post everyday--a promo and a concert ticket is nothing to a publicist-artist trying to generate grassroots buzz for bands that are way less interesting than the mechanisms by which they become popular. Voxtrot? Come on. When Wart Hardkavy swings by my apartment next January to pick up my Pazz and Jop ballot, chances are good my number one album will be Magnum PR, my number one single Sioux Z.
P. Diddy showed up last night, so did T.I. and this one guy who looked like a hybrid Nitsuh Abebe-Albert Einstein. All of these guys were not at Webster to hear Cee-lo sing about how he likes fucking dead people. They came to see Cee-lo ask "you guys having fun?" and a bunch of white people throw up their guns, then 30 seconds later watch Cee-lo ask "when's the last time you guys had this much fun?"--not a single person in the room knew that the answer was 30 seconds ago.
22 May 2006
WITH ALL DUE RESPECT TO EW
Riff Market Got Crizzed
EW put together a Best Music Websites list. Here are a few they missed:
Peanut Butter Words and Ha-ha Breath
This is that guy Mike Powell who said he didn't like Gang Gang Dance via a brilliant recourse to architecture theory, and suddenly found himself the target of the internet's biggest anti-academic squeams--the kind who go anti-academic only after they realize they're incapable of going the opposite. Smart, highly readable rants and extended thoughts on pretty much all things music and crit.
Chris Ott scours eBay and elsewhere looking for obscene music memorabilia/rare vinyl/etc auctions, explains the history and context of the auction item, then in something of a fuck-you to collector culture, posts a song from the auction item as an MP3. The posts are always well-linked, well-researched, and as much as Shallow Rewards is a slam on music fetishization, I always feel like there's an understood respect for the collectors--at least they're not blowing through bands, idolless, etc.
This might be the MP3 blog parody out there--something like an MP3 Tantalus. Every day William Bowers posts not one or two but often 30 or 40 different MP3s, no descriptions except covers, mash-ups, originals--dispensing with the formality of "justify the download with a description," as if most people go to MP3 blogs for anything but the wares. It's information overload, and you can't get through all the MP3s each day let alone decide whether you like some and dislike others, but that's the point.
Kris Ex, Noz, and Byron Crawford all post daily about hip-hop--Crawford does (has been doing) the reverence in irreverence thing, really uncomfortable "rap needs more misogyny" type posts that work more times than not.
Robert Christgau's Podcast
Each week Christgau picks the best and worst music events in NYC. If you like his writing, wait till you hear his voice.
Tim Sweeney's Beats in Space Podcast
Still something of a secret, Beats in Space is easily the best way to find out about new disco/house/electro/techno tracks, often months before they come out. Lots of old, more obscure stuff too. Sweeney DJs live, with special guests pretty much every week, and then posts the tracklists to the shows.