as if it wasn't enough just to hear you speak
they had to give you lips like that
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
My review of the good-but-frustratingly-not-great Autechre album is up at Resident Advisor today. There are parts - big chunks, actually - of the album that I love, and I kind of adore the way it's almost the equivalent of a back-to-basics kind of record, but those guys need to get over the idea that CD albums need to take up most of a CD. I suspect they would have done very well working under the temporal restraints of vinyl.
If you're not a maker/consumer of criticism, then this post by Glenn Kenny on Scott Eaton's 33 1/3 book on Big Star and this post by Keith Phipps on Kevin Smith being a jerk might not seem to be about the same thing. But they really are. And wonderfully, because both Kenny and Phipps are good critics as well as good writers, they're not only a spirited defense against people who don't "get" the critical impulse - they're good evocations of why people would want to engage in the stuff (by either writing or reading it), both in terms of personal pleasure (the title of this post comes from one of the comments on Kenny's post) and artistic merit.
Which is to say that while they share some of the same insights, those posts are the polar opposite of Armond White's typically sour-minded, high-toned speech on a similar subject. The problem with White, always, is that while he may say true and wise things some of the time, he says them in such an aggrieved, superior way that it's hard to want to listen to him. I'm sure he takes the "stony silence" he received as proof that he is espousing hard, unpopular truths. But the truth is, people hate White not because he upsets their comfortable truths and mores, but because he writes like an hectoring asshole.
I don't care what films he likes or dislikes, or what sort of moral or political stance he adduces from them; like the serious critic that he is, he's always able to back up his contrarianism. And I certainly don't care whether he's a jerk in person or not - I've never met him and probably won't, and I'm a firm believer than you can't judge art by judging artists. What I care about is the way White writes as if it's a moral failing to have tastes that differ from his. Sure, White engages, deeply and perceptively, with the movies, but he never does so with the people he's writing at (and it always seems like at, never to or for). He does, in fact, write like he's trying to kill our buzz, and that's fatal for a critic.
Between my twin brother getting married (it was great) and getting sick afterwards (it was not, unless you're a big fan of fevers) I'm even more behind on things than usual, and it's already too late in the night for my own good, so you get a bunch of things that deserve full posts with good writing about them thrown into one post. With shitty writing. But mark my words, everything I mention in this post I highly, highly recommend to you and urge you to take the time to read/watch them.
Well, except for the first thing, I guess. Since the actual thing is my review of the great new Silent League record. What you should take as highly recommended is the album itself, which is amazing. Many thanks to my friend Shannon Fields from the League (and the immortally great Stars Like Fleas) who didn't hold my past work against me and passed me this one.
Speaking of friends, here's my good friend Rachel playing in a band called Semi-Formal on St. Patrick's Day down in North Carolina:
The song is Rachel's own, and one I've loved for years. That show looks like it was a hell of a lot of fun. The band's MySpace is here.
Speaking of videos, this makes four songs from the new National record that I've heard (the other three I heard live in Toronto). Am I very excited for the new album and for the excellent seats I have to see them in Toronto in June? Yes, yes I am.
I may or may not like Los Campesinos! incredibly good Romance Is Boring more than this guy. But I will be hard pressed to write a review half as good as he did - this is seriously the best/most personally inspiring (in the sense of not wanting to embarrass myself) album review I've read in a long time. Lots of stuff to respond to, to think about, there.
Phonogram was the best comic book I've ever read. There, I said it. Better than Planetary, better than... okay, maybe it was tied with The Invisibles. In any case, there almost certainly won't be a third series. And here's why. Again, lots to chew on here. I can't and don't blame Kieron and Jamie in the slightest. Remember folks, for now if you like comic books you have to keep buying them physically. Or they go away. Were I to, say, win a truly obscene amount of money in one of the lotteries I don't play, I'd have to seriously considering funding another series all on my own.
And last but far from least, there's a ton I want to say about this, but the boiler plate is: Science confirms what I've been saying about music (or rather what Jeff Mitscherling taught me about music, or rather what Ingarden taught Jeff about music) since my undergrad days. It's not a new idea - it wasn't when Ingarden was writing - but this is some further proof and some elegant writing on the subject.
I try not to post a bunch of videos in a row, but this cheerfully insane Hot Chip video (for one of my favourite songs from the new album!) really has to be seen. I've liked Look Around You and the other stuff I've seen from Peter Serafinowicz (you might know him as Shaun's housemate in Shaun of the Dead, if nothing else), but he clearly needs to direct more music videos.
I'm aware everyone from Fluxblog to Popjustice is posting this video, and that's fine. I'm not trying to give you an exclusive, I just want to make sure you watch it.
(Edit, since I just noticed the video above might not be viewable in Canada: Serafinowicz has the video on YouTube here.)
My review of the really, really, really good "new" Picastro album is up today at PopMatters. I say "new" because it came out digitally and on vinyl last year, but didn't hit CD until now. I'm happy to have the excuse to put it on my best of 2010 list, in any case.
I'm always going to have time for Chris Olley. He'll probably never quite top the first four Six By Seven records for me (for reasons that have more to do with me than his music), but I'm glad he's still out there, and this interview has some interestin stuff to say about bands, their life spans, and their fans.
My review of the new, very good Eluvium album is up at Resident Advisor. I was a bit worried when I heard that Matthew Cooper was including vocals in his music for the first time, but it wound up working for me.
John Darnielle's latest post over at Last Plane to Jakarta is a very interesting beginning; I hope he expands on what he's talking about there with regards to what an artifact is and the issues surrounding that. The really important bit:
We think artifacts aren't necessarily physical-world things, but that physical-world things are still the most convenient way of asserting that there's an artifact somewhere. Above all, we're more convinced than ever that good music is the substance of: its content, its image (I'd prefer "spectre," but sometimes you just have to give yourself a break), and the things people remember collectively about these two: and importantly, the struggle that takes place -- that always takes place -- in reconciling these.
This is making me hope I can find the time to re-read Ingarden's book about music in the near future, and maybe Davies' Art As Performance as well.
Every year I say I'm not going to watch the Oscars, and every year like a good little pop culture junkie I get sucked in. This year was fine - I was happy with most of the major awards (and while like a lot of people online I'm a little dubious about Bullock winning, she at least had a nice speech!), and Martin and Baldwin were entertaining. Personally my favourite three things were the speeches for best score and costuming (both of which did a bit more good than most Oscar speeches), Kathryn Bigelow getting long-overdue acknowledgment for Point Break, and Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. presenting (someone get them a movie or something).
This is the worst, most contemptibly stupid and patronizingly wrong-headed thing I've seen written about music in a long time. Roger Scruton is absolutely the worst caricature of an academic; all that erudition squandered on a man who refuses to actually engage with the things he wants to demonize; demonizing them because he doesn't understand. It's a pathetic vicious circle, made worse because he does (for example) do an awfully good job of explaining why one particular type of beauty is valuable and how it works; like all aesthetic demagogues, however, he then makes the critical error of assuming that his preferred type of beauty and art is the ONLY valid kind.
To take just one minor example, how dare Scruton try to make phenomenological points about dancing when he's clearly never danced to modern music? At one point, yes, he does point out that it's pathetic for an older person to join, say, a mosh pit; but to claim the modern dance floor is full of people dancing alone, dancing "at" other people rather than "with" them, is to display a deep, profound ignorance of how a modern dance floor actually works for the people on it. Scruton's writing about music, and about art in general, never gets any better than that; it's a sad example of why expressivism is bad philosophy. Scruton dresses up his opinions with, again, erudition and a laudably clear and precise writing style, but his actual argument can be summed up as "I don't like it, I don't understand it, and you shouldn't like it."
Feel good hits of... I don't know, the last few weeks. Special "I moved for the first time in five years, and it nearly killed me" edition. Still unpacking. Will be for at least a few weeks. I'm feeling rather overwhelmed these days.