Monday, February 23, 2009 

And we all went down in a little row boat

Another fortnight, another Memories Can't Wait - this one about a friend.

Friday, February 20, 2009 


My short review of Dave Aju's newish record, created using no sound sources other than his own mouth, is up today at PopMatters.

Thursday, February 19, 2009 

Take off your t-shirt

My review of the not terribly great new album by It's a Musical is up at PopMatters today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 

It's an honour just to be nominated

I'm still feeling pretty hopeful, or positive (depending on what ebb my confidence is at when you ask me) about my 33 1/3 submission, but in any case I made the shortlist, which is awesome in and of itself. There are still 170 of us, but that's down from 600 or so. Now if only I could find out who's the other Remain in Light proposal still in contention...


Tuesday's gray

Feel good hits of the 13th-16th of February 2008 (special omnibus "every song that got stuck in my head while I was in New York City, in order" edition; there are contextual reasons for most of them):

The Cure - "Friday I'm in Love"
Spoon - "Don't You Evah"
Matt & Kim - "I'll Take Us Home"
Steve Reich - "Music for 18 Musicians"*
The Twilight Sad - "Last Year's Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard"
Talking Heads - "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"
Al Green - "Tired of Being Alone"
Galaxie 500 - "Ceremony"
Shellac - "Prayer to God"
Los Campesinos! - "Ways to Make It Through the Wall"
The Cure - "Gone!"
Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"
U2 - "Some Days Are Better Than Others"
Matt & Kim - "I Wanna"
Los Campesinos! - "All Your Kayfabe Friends"
Los Campesinos! - "Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks"
Divisible - "Living With a Ghost"

*(I think this was the disc/composition Tal was playing - if not, then whatever Reich piece it was. Incredible music, in any case.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009 

I would like a place I could call my own

My rather large essay covering all five Factory-era New Order albums in their reissued form has gone up today at PopMatters. It is, I modestly suggest, pretty good stuff.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 

Anywhere feels like home

Feel good hits of the 11th of February, 2009:

Matt & Kim - "Daylight"
Brilliant Fanzine - "One in 10,000"
Broken Social Scene - "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl"
Maximo Park - "Apply Some Pressure"
Augie March - "One Crowded Hour"
The Wedding Present - "Dare"
Vampire Weekend - "I Stand Corrected"
Elbow - "Starlings"
Wheat - "Can't Wash It Off"
Six By Seven - "So Close"


Wrapped round my ways

It's been in the pipe for a bit, but today sees the publication of my review of Milosh's quite fine iii album. Easily his best effort yet.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 

This is how bad it is going to get

I've always been someone who, broadly speaking, is in favour of (intelligent, responsible) government spending, so it should be no surprise that I agree with the opening part of this post from the always-crucial Slacktivist. But however you feel about Keynesian economics, read the rest of the post and see what Delaware is having to contemplate cutting just to break even, if they don't get any help.

I'm in Canada, and things that are bad in the States are usually not as bad here. But we have a government that believes our government spending is 'bloated' too, and as long as Harper is in power I will remain terrified that this is what we're headed towards.


McDonalds and pornography

I certainly don't agree with all (or even most) of her conclusions, but Mary Eberstadt's definitely on to something in this essay about the way moral taboos and attitudes about food and sex have kind of switched places in the modern Western world. It's worth thinking about.

Monday, February 09, 2009 

So we achieve nothing, love

The Memories Can't Wait series over at the Art of Noise have, unexpectedly, wound up in pretty much the most personal writing I've done about music in some time. This week's installment, about school (however interpreted), is no different. I'm really happy with how these have been turning out so far.

Saturday, February 07, 2009 

"That was more than ten lies!"

It's been years since I've seen this, and the part about the hot dickings still makes me laugh.

Thursday, February 05, 2009 

Odds and ends

I feel kind of bad, because I'm not doing two of these links justice, but I have been incredibly busy (and sleep deprived) this week. So presented mostly without comment, here's my short review of the Hallam Foe OST.

Much more importantly, the New York Times has a compelling and fairly far reaching article up about what's going on with research into female sexual desire. There are so many good parts I'm not even sure what I'd quote if I was going to excerpt something.

Shorter but still ripe for discussion is a recent post at Carl Wilson's blog on judgment and distance. I'm just going to quote Wilson quoting Orwell:

When you meet anyone in the flesh you realize immediately that he is a human being and not a sort of caricature embodying certain ideas. It is partly for that reason that I don't mix much in literary circles, because I know from experience that once I have met and spoken to anyone I shall never again be able to show any intellectual brutality towards him, even when I feel that I ought to.

Wilson asks whether we should be 'public enemies,' or just not associate with people we disagree with, as Orwell suggests. I know that "can we just be less mean?" isn't really a legitimate or fair response, but my knee is jerking.

Monday, February 02, 2009 

Looking back 2008: The Twilight Singers

(In which Ian mostly avoids writing about any sort of 2008 best-of list in favour of writing up, in no particular order, ten (or so) albums from past years he spent time listening to, thinking about or discovering during 2008. An occasional series, but one which will hopefully be finished over the next few weeks rather than abandoned.)

The Twilight Singers - Blackberry Belle (2003)

Greg Dulli really is an asshole. Or at least that's what his songs make you think, but it's kind of a double bind. Part of the reason we know he's an asshole is because he sneers and wails it all over his music, because he so proudly and openly damns himself as the worst of men. I'm not actually suggesting he's wrong (between his take on relationships and his admitted drug problems, I'm sure he's a barrel of laughs to date, or even just sleep with), but even if there's no mitigation in being your own harshest critic, there is an element of uncertainty in it.

I tend to think of the Six By Seven* song "Bad Man," whose fury is so apocalyptic that the lyrics alone don't do it justice. Chris Olley howls "I have a soul to change" with such desperate heat that you get the impression he suspects and fears that he's lying. Dulli's genius is to do the same but in reverse - he insists so starkly, even arrogantly, that he doesn't have a soul to save you can't help but wonder. And that's what makes him interesting - you can understand why the Olley of "Bad Man" would have a stake in denying he's soulless, but what frightens Dulli about not being a total shit?

If there's an answer to be found in his spotty but intermittantly brilliant career with the Afghan Whigs, the Twilight Singers and now the Gutter Twins (I haven't heard the latter, but among what I have heard only Black Love, 1965, and this album truly reach the heights Dulli ought to be capable of), I think it's probably nestled in the depths of "The Killer" off of Blackberry Belle.

I'm not totally sure why the song references Jerry Lee Lewis (god knows Dulli loves the history of rock badasses enough it's deliberate), but the narrator is the same kind of guy as on every other song of the album, hell, of the career, except he's a little more honest. He's still candid about his desire to possess and exploit, his ravenous hunger, and during the gentle pulses of the verse sections he's got the same kind of casual, sad-eyed menace Dulli conjures up effortlessly. But when "The Killer" explodes into chorus something else entirely happens. That chorus is proceeded by the resigned "your driver's waiting for you," but instead of something about leaving or faithlessness or resentment we get suddenly


Dulli's usual metier is lust, sure, but he so nakedly craves not just sex but transcendance in "The Killer" that it's kind of painful. The second time through he tells her "that's why I need you to catch on fire / I want you to burn me 'til I feel it" but it's not a callback to a million songs where heat=sex. He admits, "I know you know which way to go/I want you to show me, so I can steal it." He's lost, directionless, miserable, looking for someone to tell him what to do. Having a soul, being a man instead of a lothario, means a kind of hunger that can't be assuaged by fucking or shooting up.

It'd be wrong to suggest that Blackberry Belle is Dulli's human album (there's humanity cousing throughout 1965 and some of the songs here are as magnificently sleazy as anything he's ever done), but even as he's singing about all night encounters on "Teenage Wristband" and "Martin Eden" (named for, err, the Jack London novel) or the kind of alluring personal desolation he always channels on "St. Gregory" and "Follow You Down" there's a broken desperation to the album that feels real. Dulli's schtick has always been both a put-on and sincere, a way to get laid (that horny little "I got the devil in me, girl" on 1965's "John the Baptist") and a way to pre-empt criticism and also just the way the poor bastard is. Here he sounds more aware of it, and more in thrall to it, than ever before.

And then there's the moderately stunning "Fat City (Slight Return)," where a fatigued-beyond-caring Dulli sets out his personal ethos of "Kali nichta" apathetic self destruction (and like a lot of self-destructive romantics, he's doing it half because he knows one way or another you'll stop caring, might as well be on his terms):

"Why you take from a giver?
Why you gotta get high?
Why you watch a carwreck, motherfucker?
Cause it looks fun to die"

That "Fat City (Slight Return)" is only succeeded by the closing, Mark Lanegan-as-Satan (or Satan's victim) ballad "Number Nine" (wherein Lanegan crawls on the floor in lovelorn despair and Dulli tells him not to be such a baby - maybe I should check out the Gutter Twins) just renders Blackberry Belle even bleaker. Even though the music here is both inventive by Dulli's classicist standards (the answering machine tone-as-beat atmospherics of "Esta Noche" and "Teenage Wristband"'s thick grind are fantastic) and fantastically catchy as always, this is the album where Dulli bottoms out. And both because we're only experiencing it vicariously and because music has always been the place for us to blow up our own experiences and emotions to king or killer-sized, that makes it one of his best.

*(And there's a band who have been shit on by bad luck and history, eh? The run of albums from The Things We Make to The Way I Feel Today is still bruisingly intense after all these years, and 04 is just about as great. One of the great, and forgotten, UK rock bands of the 90s and 00s.)

Previously on looking back 2008:


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About me

Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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