Thursday, March 30, 2006

Diamond girl

For a lot of people, blogging seems to be primarily about making wildly inappropriate revelations of key aspects of their personal lives to total strangers who could care less. I'm not really into that, but I hate to disappoint, so I think it is time for me to come out, right here and now, as a Seals and Crofts lover. Not in that way, mind you (I prefer my men a bit less ... rustic), and not since the mid-70s when punk rock changed my life just like it changed yours--but back in the day, I unashamedly owned an S&C album or two. Or three or four. And hearing their hits on an oldies station or grocery store P.A. still takes me back to a less kind, less gentle period in my life. I'm pretty sure I currently have "Summer Breeze" on my iPod, and I dream of adding more of their soft rock favorites.

So naturally I was thrilled to find this image in a tribute to Charlton romance comics on the always-brilliant comics blog, Beaucoup Kevin:

I have no words.

Oh, actually I do, come to think of it. But not about Dash or Jimmy. I've been meaning to write here that:
1. I saw the newly reconstituted, Mercuryless Queen a couple of weekends back, and rather than rehash what I've already written about that surprisingly enjoyable evening, I will simply direct you to the place where I originally posted my recap.

2. The following night, I saw Jonathan Demme's Neil Young concert film, Heart of Gold, which I truly loved and highly recommend to Neilophiles. Not only am I a longtime fan of 80% of his music, I also happen to love his earlier, self-directed concert movie, Rust Never Sleeps and I even enjoyed (if not quite as fondly) his much quirkier recent cinematic experiment, Greendale. (Clicking on that last link will take you to the incredibly detailed official website that is more of a supplement to the film, CD, book, and tour than a mere promotional tool for them.)

3. This seems as good a place as any to plug next week's annual Bob Dylan Imitators' Contest at Nietzsche's here in Buffalo, which I am judging for the umpteenth time. I always find it troublesome that Dylan, like Young, is a true master of irony, one of the most eccentric, enigmatic, shape-shifting musicians/multi-media artists of the pop era, and yet this contest seems to consist largely of one earnest, faithful rendition of a familiar song after another. Lordy, Bob himself has always made a point of transforming/subverting his own songs in all sorts of diabolical ways, sometimes to the point of utter unrecognizability--but give a local folksinger an acoustic guitar and he or she will treat the song like it's sacred. (Though not, usually, doing an actual imitation of Bob--just playing his song in the most straightforward way imaginable.) I am exaggerating, of course; I have seen some truly amazing reinventions of the material, along with some ingenious impersonations, at this event over the years, and there are worse ways to spend a night than listening to some of the most perfect songs of the last five decades. Plus, you can drink. In fact, as a judge, I can even drink for free--and that makes it all the better. If by any chance you read this in time and come up with some clever way to deconstruct Dylan, by all means please please enter the contest--there are several truly fabulous prizes, including cold, hard cash--and you are almost guaranteed to win one if you think outside the box even a teensy bit. Details follow in this latest lovely poster by Diane Meldrum (BTW, happy 10th, Diane and Mike!):

So there's been a lot of classic rock in the air around here lately. And other things, too, but that should hold you for now.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Get your freak on

Forgive me for simply slapping the following info down here re an event I am co-hosting this Friday night, but I'm just trying to spread the last-minute word far and wide as quickly as possible. Hope you can make it to the show if you're anywhere in the area; a wide range of music, plus your chance to speed date the Real Dream Cabaret; what better way could there be to spend a Friday night?

It’s a ...
Benefit Concert/Cabaret for the 2006 Buffalo Infringement Festival!
Friday, March 31, 2006 from 9:30 p.m. till quite late
(got another event to attend that night? Stop by later—we’re goin’ on and on and on...)
At Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen Street, Buffalo, 886-8539
Admission is a teensy $5

Join emcees Ronawanda and Auntie Establishment for an action-packed evening featuring...
MUSIC by the Skiffle Minstrels, Terrible Elephant, Pam Swarts,
Z. Mann Zilla and the World’s Largest Trio, and GreggreG
THEATER & PERFORMANCE by Annette Daniels-Taylor,
the Eclectic Improv Company, and Soundpainting Orchestra
POETRY by Lea Prentiss, Luciano Iacobelli, and a carload o’ writers from Toronto
SPOKEN WORD by Bonita Z and MC Vendetta

PLUS! Speed Dating all night long with the Real Dream Cabaret!
ALSO! Midnight revelation of (some of) the acts for this summer’s festival!!
AND! Surprise guests SO EXCITING we can’t even mention them by name!!!

An event this huge is too big for one stage: we’re takin’ over ALL of Nietzsche’s!
Our guarantee: there will be something interesting happening everywhere you look!
(Disclaimer: the Infringment Festival may not be responsible for 100% of the interesting things you discover.)

The 2006 Buffalo Infringement Festival happens July 27-August 6.
For more info, click here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

To cut a long story short...

A short entry from a sleepy, distracted blogger, and it's really more a reminder to myself than anything else: check out, a nice little Dutch blog about Brazilian music and culture that often looks beyond the obvious American reference points and into stuff like homegrown hiphop. Forget how I found it, so I figure I'd better bookmark it now lest it disappear into the ether.

Oh, and the site contains a 10-track MP3 jukebox worth checking out with selections (as of now, that is) by Zuco 103 and Rosalia de Souza, whom I recognize, and a lot of acts I don't.

Boy, this really is a short entry--a record-breaker in my book! Fear not: I'll go long again, real long, real soon.

Monday, March 13, 2006

You can't do that

Today's musical obsession, boys and girls, was brought to our attention by a recent entry in Johnny Bacardi's blog. It's a website project from 1999 devoted to close musicological readings of every single one of the 219 songs recorded by the Beatles during their career as a group. (Random sample from the essay on "Day Tripper": "the tambourine in its accompaniment of the riff is double tracked only for its first two ostinato frames; with the more familiar offbeat (2 and 4) shots backed there by a unique piece of eighth-note shaking.") (And so on.)

This was evidently years in the making, and it shows.

Naturally, like Mr. Bacardi, I headed immediately to the entry on "Revolution #9," which turns out to be almost totally self-reflexive. ("Friends and lovers have, for years, been preparing for this eventuality; 'Ha, ha! what you gonna do when you get up to "Revolution #9", wise guy?'")

I'm pretty sure I'll never actually make use of this wealth of information, but I'm mighty happy to know it exists. I've always been a fan of the classic-rock-radio staple, the "Beatles A to Z" Weekend, and this takes that idea to its logical extreme. (I'm never been a giant Beatles guy, but for some reason I'd rather hear "Hard Day's Night," "Help," and "Here, There, and Everywhere" in alphabetical order than any other way. Or have someone tell me to listen to the double-tracked tambourine in its first ostinato frame.)

PS. The Beatles project is part of, a Dutch online journal on the history and social significance of media culture. I see there are also academic essays on channel surfing, the music of Commodore 64 games, and pirate radio, along with a 2004 piece deconstructing one of Rumsfeld's speeches as an example of communication which does not communicate. The writing I've skimmed thus far seems to be a curious, sometimes off-putting, mix of critical theory jargon and everyday slang.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bread and Circuses (and Bono and Beefcake)

Just discovered the blog Made in Brazil ("Brazilianizing the World, One Day at a Time"), a quirky mix of cultural coverage, pix of cute, scantily clad boys (and a few girls), and, inexplicably, Project Runway news. Not that I'm complaining about that last one, mind you--but it doesn't strike me as playing a key role in Brazilianizing the world. (Nor do the numerous stories on Bono and that huge free Stones concert in the music section.)

The thing that brought me to the MIB blog in the first place was this item on a billboard campaign featuring a same-sex kiss that was censored in Sao Paulo. I particularly appreciate the amount of gay news on MIB, since I don't really know much about queer life in Brazil.

Oh, and another thing I found out about from the blog was an exhibition called "Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture" at the Barbican in London through May 2006. The show's website has some audio clips, visual images, reviews, and the like, plus links to buy the catalog and the accompanying CD (the soundtrack of the exhibition, if you will). The latter link also contains audio clips from the likes of Tom Ze, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes. and Gal Costa.

I leave you with a sample of the Barbican site's trippy hippie artwork:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Cry Me a River

Given that this is a blog about musical obsessions, I must point out that the episode of This American Life that aired tonight contained a rebroadcast of David Wilcox's tale about his younger sister, obsessed for two decades with "the worst mix tape of all time." This must be the single saddest story I've ever heard on that program--and that's saying a lot. Starts off perfectly witty and amusing and Ira Glass-y and all, but then it just goes deeper and deeper into gut-wrenching territory, and every time you think it's gotten as sad as it can possibly get, it gets sadder. I don't want to give anything away (because the careful, gradual unfolding of the details is a major part of the piece's power), just encourage you to listen to it online if you like first-rate first-person storytelling and don't mind having your tear ducts cleaned out. I didn't even hear the whole thing this time around--it was on the car radio as I drove to an art opening, and the minute I heard Carly Simon and a bunch of children singing this bathetic version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" on the aforementioned mix tape, it all came back to me. I knew I had to get the hell out of the car pronto or I'd be a basket case for the rest of the night.

I admit it: beneath my devil-my-care exterior, I nurse a soft spot of truly embarassing proportions. The proper Red Sovine recitation, like one particular selection on his Christmas album, can have me bawling my eyes out in no time. At least one Dolly Parton composition from her classic era (is it "Daddy, Come and Get Me"? "Down from Dover?") can do it to me, too.

And let's not even mention the Dar Williams song "The Christians and the Pagans," which I don't even think was intended to be a tear-jerker. In fact, I think it's actually supposed to be kind of light and funny. There's just something about the image of this complicated, fragmented family trying to find common ground at the dinner table that gets me every time.

There, I've said too much. If you have a song (or, okay, spoken word piece) that makes you weep uncontrollably, share it with the world by posting it in the comments section below, and we'll all have a good old cry together.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jack U Off

(That subject line is from a Prince song, lest you question my potty mouth.)

Okay, I simply must write something here soon or you will give up on me altogether if you have not done so already. Believe me, I have posts aplenty in mind, but all of them seem to require more time and energy than I've had in a while. So here's an easy one: two links I discovered from folks who have posted comments or e-mailed me about this very blog..:

1. Jacked Tunes (which I have a funny feeling I've already written about here) is a site devoted to "musical plagiarism"--i.e., songs that sound a whole lot like earlier songs. (Example: the debt that Taproot's "Poem" owes to Boston's "Peace of Mind.") This is presented more or less as a consumer guide against ripoffs, but from another perspective that's pretty much the history of popular music: Artist A unwittingly "echoes" Artist B, who knowingly "rips off" Artist C, who consciously "pays hommage to" Artist D, who heard a song by Artist E when he was growing up, who learned a version of it from his mama, and so on, and so on. Isn't it part of the nature of "popular" song that it belongs to "the People"? It's only when royalties come into play that this really starts to matter--and the one getting ripped off is less the listener/consumer than the artist/producer, when you get right down to it. Anyway,if you're intrigued by the complex links between familiar melodies, Jacked Tunes is worth a visit.

2. The Great Plotnik is the blog of a songwriter who wrote me after I mentioned hearing a couple of his (now 20-year-old) songs on internet radio during the holidays. Not so much music writing here, necessarily, as some candid, amusing observations on everyday life as seen through the G.P.'s eyes: food, flowers, the agony of reviewing bad plays featuring people you know. (The last of these is an ethical dilemma I too have faced.)

Chew on those 2 for a while, and I promise you more entries, soon.