Wednesday, May 19, 2010

All the Critics Love U in Columbus

Meet the man who is incapable of culture: the white man, the middle class man, the man man.

Culture is only relevant if it is in opposition to an establishment. <==== Probably won't run into any trouble with Adorno with that one.

Yes, we're certain of it, he's definitely masturbating.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Is By No Means Definitive...

Starting a new section: "This Is By No Means Definitive..." will be dedicated to espousing some pressing concern that may just be a passing thought or something which I will come to regret in the future. Its just a way of saying something.

So to kick it off: This is by no means definitive...

...but I think that the most reactionary high-profiler in the history of punk might have been Patti Smith. A quote: "The masculinity in me gets inspired by the female. I fall in love with men and they take me over. I ain't no women's lib chick. So I can't write about a man, because I'm under his thumb, but a woman I can be male with. I can use her as my muse. I use women." I think her work bears the mark of anti-feminism and traditionalism that seems to run throughout her live show career as well. She proved that later on by becoming a wife and mother to Fred "Sonic" Smith; as James Grauerholz, member of the Patti Smith Group, put it: "Because through all of the revolutionary I AM RIMBAUD, I AM BAUDELAIRE, I AM BURROUGHS, there was a very strong torch-singer type--a Billie Holiday. I mean, the art was there, but in principle she'd give it all up for a good man... All Patti's heroes were usually heroic men, but her women heroes tended not to be the... strong leader women--but the kind of uncredited, passed-over-by-history supporter women."

And then there's the matter of her unspoken live politics during the last leg of her last tour in '78; as Jay Dee Daugherty, drummer of the Patti Smith Group, put it: "... she was very much into making her own statement without much thought of how it would be perceived... In America, we would raise a very large American flag for a backdrop during the last song. I had mentioned previously that I thought that when we were in Europe we might want to eighty-six that. You know, lose the flag. It might be perceived imperialistically perhaps. And what I got back was, "What's the matter? Aren't you a patriot? Don't you like America?" There's the possibility that she was using irony to enhance her "art", but I don't think so. By this period, as Lenny Kaye puts it, "she didn't feel like Jesus died for somebody's sins but not hers anymore". I'm not sure she ever felt that way.

Patti Smith was a lousy poet, always emulating artists without interpretation. She was also an intellectual coward, and a traditionalist that the punks must have overlooked due to her overwhelming ability to perform. The real Patti? Still stuck in the Fifties.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Impossible Question

I think I have, for the first time, found a record that absolutely I can say I would narrow down to a top five the minute I heard it. Like if I had to go to some desert island, or a dessert island, and could only take five albums. Or maybe I was on a really long plane ride, and I could only listen to five albums or they'd skip me on a double pass-by with the snack cart. Or I was locked in an attic with Emily Dickinson or Anne Rice or some other hermetic and I could only have sex with her again and again and listen to five particular albums for the rest of my life and her attic life.

Some ridiculous hypothetical; how could anyone answer that? Five albums? Why only five? I think if I'm at the tribunal, and they're about to exile me to St. Helene for my political/religious crimes, I think the least I could do is negotiate a fairer number than five records for the rest of my days. But I suppose, to follow one hypothetical with another, if I were at a dinner party, and Norman Mailer or Anderson Cooper insisted I answered that question, I think I could definitely have chalked out one of the five as of today.

Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs (1970) would absolutely, at the current moment, make that coveted spot in my frugal castaway listening experience. Rarely have experienced as immediate a recognition of the importance of a record on everything else I cherish in music. It is a gem of eccentric songwriting, wonderful psych-pop creations which sound incredibly fresh even today. I have never been a great Pink Floyd fan, having resisted my father's attempts at drawing me into the fold. The closest I'll get to them is Barrett's output on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967), which is a much harder beast to appreciate than Madcap, and without Barrett, I have found some value in Meddle (1971), especially the breezy alt.-country airs that surround "A Pillow of Winds" and "Fearless". But with Barrett's Madcap, everything just sort of fell into place, and I could see from a very remote distance his importance on the development of the likes of David Bowie and Brian Eno (whom I have been reading about quite extensively), and also on another favorite, Robyn Hitchcock (particularly in I Often Dream of Trains (1984)).

The album has a similar feel to the Velvet's third self-titled record, wherein they decided to play nice and drop some of the nastier proto-punk leanings (with some exceptions); the straight-forward sweetness of "Here I Go" reminds me of the Mo Tucker-fronted "After Hours", the kind of tune written in cloud. I also see a kinship to Ray Davies work skirting the more well-dressed pop psychedelia, with Andy Partridge in XTC and his stylized pop drama, and with that VU reference, the work of Galaxie 500. Dean Wareham couldn't have written the bulk of Galaxie's dream-pop without lazy opener "Terrapin". There's also an obvious connection with Love's Forever Changes, which like Madcap, is a largely acoustic affair. Without these two albums, I probably never would have imagined that psychedelia could be achieved without distortion and dissonance, but they manage to do so very effectively with simple acoustic melody, which is a testament to their lasting power.

I think ultimately, The Madcap Laughs is the perfect album to enjoy by itself; if I ever needed to imagine the work that followed, I could, its influence so clear and crisp, and yet it is not the sort of album that cannot last on its own without its followers. If I were allowed a guitar in that hypothetical, the album would also provide album material to explore in my own work.

Also, its cover art, with its cool linoleum lines and Barrett's menacing/perplexing pose, is also something I could stare at for hours.

Plus, with "Golden Hair", I get some James Joyce as well. Two partridges with one bicycle.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cocaine Psychosis

Swallowed by the early seventies.