Just saw this, and felt an immediate compulsion to share. Warning: NSFW, and you will never be able to return to world you inhabited before viewing…
Just saw this, and felt an immediate compulsion to share. Warning: NSFW, and you will never be able to return to world you inhabited before viewing…
Earlier tonight, I read an article in the literary journal n+1 by John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions of Oneida) about his life as a drummer in an experimental rock band, entitled “Heads Ain’t Ready.” The article is title after the name that the band gave to their first tour, which lasted two and a half months, a truly insane amount of time for an underground band on their first time out.
Throughout the essay, Colpitts takes this tone, of questioning whether anything has changed in the last 15 years, for a band that started out with no fans and no prospects and barely seems to have anything more today. The essay begins with a withering and indispensable account of a disastrous show in rural California, at which the band played at 1 AM for 6 minutes to impatient hotel staff. This show happened in 2010, when the band had been together for 14 years.
The guys in Oneida were probably right that “heads weren’t ready” for what they were doing in 1997. But I think one has to conclude that, at some point around the turn of the century, they came around, at least to the point where they could engage with the music on something like its own terms. Here’s what a young college radio DJ wrote about the band’s fourth album in 2003:
Although it seems that the pummeling, apparently endless exploration “Double Lock Your Mind” was something that I was not prepared for, I’m living proof of a ready head’s existence.
And it’s not like I was the most clued-in, far-out dude at KTRU in 2003 either. My impression at the time was that Oneida was one of those bands that were fundamental to college radio of the day- that they were one of those bands that everybody knew. I’m guessing that there are lots more people out there like me who get what Oneida’s doing and respect it. However it may look to Colpitts from a day-to-day perspective, there are people out there being spoken to by his music.
Perhaps he can take some comfort in that; no doubt he remembers it from time to time, such as when his solo project Man Forever is profiled in the New York Times (on page C7 of the New York edition), or when his autobiographical musings are published by a well-regarded literary journal (in an edition that’s not available online and is probably read by a couple hundred people outside NYC at most).
Here’s the thing though: I have been a terrible fan of Oneida. I own two of their twelve records, and I haven’t bought or even listened to any of their material since 2009. I’ve never paid to see an Oneida show; the only time I’ve ever seen them at all was in 2005 when the Jonx opened for them, and I’m ashamed to admit I barely even remember that show. I’m a huge fan of Oneida-adjacent artists, including Parts and Labor (friends of the band, whom I’ve written about three times for the Houston Press and Chronicle), Marnie Stern (Kid Millions plays drums on her most recent record; I don’t have that one yet, but I wore out that first three, and I’ve written about her multiple times), and Pterodactyl (Colpitts released some of their records on his label Brah; I’ve written about them for the Austin and Houston Chronicles, I have every piece of vinyl they’ve ever released, except one EP that I have seriously considered mail-ordering from Europe, and I flog them to friends every chance I get). By rights, Oneida should be one of my favorite bands.
Yet somehow, though my head might have been ready, my heart never was. I think part of it is that their music is just a lot more challenging than that of any of the bands that are associated with them- and if you’ve ever heard Pterodactyl, that is really saying something. Experimental music (which is how I would describe Oneida, and if you want to argue about that please go jump in a lake instead) has always been something to which I felt as if I didn’t have complete emotional access, like it was something that I listened to less because I enjoyed it than because I wanted to understand it. The problem is that you can’t be a good fan out of intellectual curiosity. That’s just not how it works.
Maybe there are other people out there like me. Maybe that’s why Kid Millions seems to feel like he’s still out there in the middle of nowhere at 1 AM playing to nobody- those of us who are watching don’t bother getting close enough for him to notice.
Writing this now, I feel as if something has changed. I’m going to make a pledge, here and now. I’m going to be a better fan of this unique and enriching music. I’m going to start by going out and buying that new Marnie Stern record that Kid Millions is on and at least one Oneida record, on vinyl. Even if I have to spend $35 for a 3xLP copy of Rated O.
My heart is ready. I hope that counts for something.
Rick Moody is fucking up.
The novelist, best known for The Ice Storm1, has been moonlighting the last couple of years as a music critic for the pop-culture website The Rumpus, in a column called Swinging Modern Sounds. It’s an exercise in critical self-indulgence, in which Moody gives himself free rein to discuss whatever he likes, at whatever length that he cares to go.
As Moody himself tells it in SMS #40 from January 15, he “normally only write[s] about things [he[ like[s],” but in this particular column, he chose to “experiment” with talking about something he doesn’t like at all: the music of Taylor Swift.
I think it’s kind of bizarre to spend your entire column talking about things you like and then choose to shit on something just to see how it feels. I also think that Moody says a lot of silly things: claiming Los Lobos will be “elder statesmen” in 5 to 10 years when some of them are already over 60; saying the NYC duo the Books lasted “as long as” the Clash, when they lasted considerably longer; referring to Americana artist Jolie Holland as “indie rock.” He is prone to ridiculously broad statements like “[t]here is no . . . singer [other than Holland] in the ‘indie rock’ world who is an effective interpreter of songs” and “the word “noise” when applied to music is incredibly stupid.” He fetishizes “analog” and “acoustic” methods over “digital” in the manner of people who don’t really understand how the recording process works: “I further believe that digital recording . . . makes vocals that were beautiful in a natural way sound as processed and auto-tuned as anything you might here on the ‘radio’ these days.” His writing is imprecise, hyperbolic, and long-winded.
In short, though he seems to have good taste, I don’t think all that much of Rick Moody as a music critic. But I also don’t think he has anything to apologize for as far as his comments about music go, because I don’t particularly think that critics should apologize for their opinions, even ones such as Moody’s comically intense dislike of Taylor Swift (“She makes me want to die”) or his fawning praise of everything else he writes about.
However, I do think that Moody has something to apologize for as a critic, which is that he says a bunch of sexist shit in his discussion of Swift, starting with his irrelevant reference to artists from the post-grunge era who are not very much like Swift or each other except that they happen to be women:
and continuing into his assertion that Swift will “marry up,” a phrase whose meaning is incomprehensible when applied to a rich, famous, and beautiful seven-time Grammy winner. Who’s she going to “marry up” to, Prince fucking Harry? And why does her marital status have anything at all to do with her music?
On Friday, Moody published a piece in Salon that was, if not exactly an apology, an apologia if you will, written in the face of what he describes as “assault that lay in wait,” entitled “I dared criticize Taylor Swift.”3 First of all, let me congratulate Rick Moody on his bravery in “daring” to say some bad things about a popular singer, which is something that certainly doesn’t happen on the internet thousands of times every fucking day.
The Black Keys Drummer Patrick Carney — Justin Bieber’s Rich … He Doesn’t Deserve Grammys
– Watch More
Sarcasm aside, the argument of this simultaneously self-pitying and self-congratulatory piece of work is mostly a repetition of Moody’s original complaints about Swift, just longer.
It’s hard to understand who Moody saw this winning over, if anyone. Faced with disagreement, there’s little a critic can do to respond besides repeat him or herself. That’s why, unless one has changed one’s mind, or feels that the original piece was inadequate, there’s little point in writing justifications like this one, which inevitably conclude with pretentious claptrap like “it’s the job of the critic to sort through the collision of contemporary music with the history of the form and to assess music based on more enduring values” etc. etc. I happen to agree with this particular bit of pretentious claptrap, but expressing it about yourself in the face of critique is awfully high-handed.
Maddeningly, what Moody doesn’t do in this essay that he should have done is engage in a little self-reflection, realize that he allowed his negative feelings about Swift’s record influence him to degrade her as a woman, and apologize for it. Instead, he equivocates, embarrassing himself with cliches4 such as “I’m not a misogynist because I also praised women” and “what I said wasn’t sexist because I can also say it about men, see? Tim McGraw and some other guys nobody’s ever heard of ‘married up!’ And fuck Kid Rock and Toby Keith, amirite?”5
Moody has misunderstood a very important aspect of the criticism of his comments about Taylor Swift. The point isn’t that Moody is a misogynist who hates Swift’s music because it was made by a woman. It’s that he made degrading, sexist comments in his original essay. You can’t undo something like that by proving that you don’t hate women, because the complaint isn’t about you as a person, even though some people might express it that way because they’re mad; it’s about what you said. The only thing you can do is take back what you said and apologize.
This is a hard distinction to understand and accept when you feel like you’re under attack, and even once you understand it, taking responsibility and apologizing for what you said, publicly no less, are also very difficult. But recognizing when you are wrong is an essential part of accountability, and accountability is an essential part of being a mature adult, to say nothing of being a credible music critic.
In order to gain some credibility myself, I’m going to take this opportunity to try to set an example by accepting responsibility for a mistake that I made as a critic that was not very different from Moody’s. Back in 2005, I reviewed a record by a singer from New York named Maggie Kim for Space City Rock. I had many of the same complaints about it that Moody has about Taylor Swift: the record was too slick and commercial and not original enough. I find the review myopic and snide in retrospect, but those issues aren’t really the problem. The review opened with this sentence:
Here’s the problem; it’s twofold. First, I’ve lumped Kim and Christina Aguilera together by virtue of nothing more than the fact that they are both women who wear funny clothes sometimes. Second, I’ve referred to Aguilera as “marginally talented,” which is simply incorrect: Christina Aguilera is a remarkably gifted singer whose music I do not favor.
When I wrote this review, I allowed my distaste for Maggie Kim’s music to compromise my judgment, and I took the opportunity of the platform I was provided to make unfair and sexist comments about her and about another woman. I deeply regret having made those comments, and I extend my sincere apologies- however little notice may be taken by the wounded parties- to Ms. Kim, who deserves to have her work evaluated without bias or animus; to Ms. Aguilera, who deserves to have her talent recognized even by people who don’t enjoy her work; to Jeremy Hart of Space City Rock, who deserves uncompromised work from his writers; and to SCR’s readers, who deserve to read fair and level-headed writing. I also have to apologize to my wife Angela, who had to bring this issue up with me repeatedly before I was willing to understand and accept what she was talking about.
The personal struggle to overcome privilege and prejudice isn’t about trying to be a certain type of person, and it isn’t about being an “equal-opportunity offender.” It’s about recognizing the imbalances in society, being mindful of how they affect your thoughts and actions, and taking responsibility for the ways in which you take part in them. In order to do that, you have to recognize that you won’t always be in the right, and you won’t always be able to stand by what you did. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just means that sometimes, you have to quit fucking up and say you’re sorry.
Your turn, Rick Moody.
1. Love the movie, never read the book
2. “Post-menopausal?!” Imbruglia and Alanis Morissette are both still under 40 well over a decade later! Morissette has a freaking two-year-old!!
3. Thanks to Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle for sharing the Salon article.
4. These are exaggerated representations of Moody’s lines of reasoning, not direct quotes.
5. What are you talking about dude!
Former Ron Paul acolyte and current Republi-tarian Eric Dondero has decided to fully eliminate all Obama supporters, left-leaners and democrats from his life. He’s excommunicating every Obama voter and shutting them down from even the smallest interaction with his personal economy. He’s encouraging others to do the same. Only by an extreme boycott of all democratic voters, he supposes, can one force others to finally see how they’re destroying the country.
Unfortunately for him, and others who hope to follow the same path, this extends to his music tastes:
God save the poor libertarian / Republican who tries to remain pure in his music listening. There aren’t many options available. And when you expand the pool of options beyond Rush or Ted Nugent :(, you end up grasping at any remotely plausible anecdote or sliver of justification just so you can listen to the Beatles.
Yes, all the Beatles hated Britain’s aggressively progressive tax system, so they moved to the U.S. But Lennon was probably not a closet Republican. And I have a feeling Elton John’s detente with Rush Limbaugh was related to the $1 million he was paid for the wedding gig. Still, all is not lost for the principled libertarian music fan. You may not be able to indulge Rage Against The Machine. But you can probably enjoy some Green Day or Dwight Yoakam.
On Friday I knocked off work juuuuust a little early so that I could catch Napalm Death. The awesome thing about watching Napalm Death is that you are literally watching the oldest grindcore band in existence. It’s not possible to watch an older grindcore band, because Napalm Death are the oldest one! Even if not one of the guys onstage was in the band in 1981. Napalm Death are one of the most in-sync grind bands I’ve ever seen (and the only one from England). You know what? Their music still sounds like gibberish. That’s what I like about grind- if you go watch an extreme metal band who have been playing for 15 or 20 years, it will be the most precise, cleanest-sounding show you’ve ever been to. That’s how it was when I saw Marduk and Nachtmystium a couple of years ago. But grindcore isn’t like that. It’s loose; chaotic. Somehow it’s more “free” than metal. Obviously grind comes as much from punk rock as it does from metal, so maybe that’s part of it.
The shitty thing about watching Napalm Death is that a bunch of beefy slam-dancing dipshits are going to smack into you when you least expect it. Grown fucking men too!
Napalm Death played the longest grindcore set I’ve ever seen, by a mile. They were still at it when I left to catch Bob Mould playing Sugar’s Copper Blue. Jon Wurster from Superchunk was playing drums for Mould, which was neat. I hadn’t been able to see him well enough at the Mohawk the night before to notice that he holds his drumsticks using traditional grip, which puts him in a rarefied group that includes, most notably Stewart Copeland of the Police, along with John Wright of Nomeansno. . . probably some other guys that I can’t think of right now, and almost everyone from the ‘60s. And me! So that’s cool. The set was competent, but I just don’t think Sugar’s music has aged all that well, especially in comparison to Husker Du’s “New Day Rising,” with which Mould and his band closed the set, powerfully. I’m glad I got to see Bob Mould playing Sugar songs, but I’m REALLY glad I got to see that.
Tomahawk are a funny-looking band. From a distance it looks like Ray Wise (aka Laura Palmer’s dad) is playing the drums, with Jeff Tweedy on bass and David Bowie dressed like a high school chemistry teacher wearing a fedora on guitar. The frontman is the guy who played Vinnie on Veronica Mars. When I get closer, now I can see that the band is actually the dudes from Helmet, the Melvins, the Jesus Lizard and Mr. Bungle. And the world makes sense again.
At this point I have to admit to myself that I like the idea of Tomahawk more than I like the reality. I find a lot of their songs lacking in coherent musical ideas, which now that I think of it is an opinion I have about Mr. Bungle as well, and sometimes even (apostasy warning!) the Jesus Lizard. However, on the Tomahawk songs that I do like, hearing all of the elements of the band come together is a major adrenaline rush. The muscular performances of “Mayday” and especially the chilling “Birdsong” may have justified my attendance at the festival all on their own. Also, not that this will surprise anyone, but Duane Denison’s guitar sounds GREAT. I did, however, tire of him sarcastically asking if anyone knew who the Big Boys were. Yes! We know about the Big Boys, Duane! Play “We Got Your Money” or get off the pot! You know, Mission of Burma did “Dicks Hate the Police” when they were here. Just sayin’.
I had no expectations for Earth, with whom I was mostly familiar by way of their reputation as a cult stoner/doom band and as elder statesman of sorts for the post-metal world. When I arrived at the stage, leader Dylan Carlson was fulfilling the latter role in Cranky Old Man mode, admonishing the audience- quite politely!- to refrain from flash photography in consideration of “a medical issue.” Then they played their music: languid instrumental stoner rock comprised of ambling guitar lines, repeated hypnotically with variations, underlaid by quiet, restrained drums. The song went on for seven or eight minutes; when it ended, Carlson got back on the mic and, much less politely this time, demanded that the audience refrain from flash photography.
The set went on like this, with the band playing these long, elegant, unhurried songs- they sounded beautiful- and Carlson rapidly losing patience with people taking flash photos. At one point he even offered “$400 to anyone who stabs the next person who uses a flash.” I do not believe anyone capitalized on this offer, fortunately for him. As the end of Earth’s allotted time slot came and went, a stage manager in a top hat (seriously) gestured frantically and in abject futility from the wings for the band to stop. Lady, I thought, I know you have a job to do, they went over their time and I don’t envy your position. But there is probably nobody at this festival who gives less of a fuck what you think he should do than Dylan Carlson. And everyone can see you losing this battle.
Earth may have been one of the best things I saw at Fun Fun Fun this year, because it sounded so good, but also because it was so different from anything else. As an observer, the tension between the band, the audience and the stage manager, while not Fun for anyone involved, only enhanced the “specialness” of the experience. I’ll have to add Adrienne Davies to the list of my favorite drummers; I’ve rarely seen anyone play so aggressively but with such a light touch at the same time. She is what I wish Jim White of the Dirty Three was.
I wanted to see whether Against Me! had improved since I last saw them at ACL in 2008, where I found their performance problematic. Sadly, as I arrived (from the complete opposite side of the park), they were playing their last note. I did see that they have a new drummer, which is probably a good thing.
UGK’s socially irredeemable “country rap” has been a guilty pleasure of mine since 2007’s Underground Kingz, but I’ve never felt inclined to investigate the solo work of surviving member Bun B, who has released three albums on his own since the untimely death of Pimp C. Seeing Bun B onstage only confirmed this gut-level decision. Bun remains a technically gifted rapper with an enormous voice, but without Pimp, his music feels colorless and one-dimensional. Pimp produced most of UGK’s music; I couldn’t hear the beats very well underneath Bun’s thunder, but they didn’t sound like much. Pimp sang virtually all of UGK’s hooks; Bun simply yells the choruses of his songs. He doesn’t sing at all. I’m not sure he can. I respect Bun’s art, and in a way, because it’s so stripped-down, it seems more elemental, more pure. But it’s so limited that I can’t enjoy it. It just makes me sad.
So I left and went to check out Santigold, who had something no other act that I saw had: backup dancers! Including a couple that briefly wore a horse costume and pretended to be lassoed by another pair dressed as cowboys? Santigold’s music was vaguely exotic dance-pop, which I found inoffensive but otherwise was not sure how to evaluate. Mostly her set made me think that I’d really like to see Janelle Monae at this festival next year. She’s probably too famous though. Well, I can dream.
I’m not terribly familiar with Run-DMC, and I don’t like to party, dance or wave my hands in the air. To be frank, I do care and I have trouble acting as if I do not. Also my legs hurt like hell. But goddamn if it didn’t bring a smile to my face when the first chorus of “It’s Tricky” rolled around and every single person around me turned to their neighbor and shouted “TRICKY TRICKY TRICKY!” Run-DMC may not have been on stage together in more than a decade, but they haven’t forgotten how to, as they say, “rock a party.”
And are you ready for something better? The reason they haven’t performed, of course, is that DJ Jam Master Jay was murdered in 2002. A few songs in, DJ Run announced that the TWO DJs they had brought along to fill Jay’s shoes were none other than Jam Master Jay’s own children. Tears of amazement. Following, each DJ soloed for a few minutes, and various beats and noises thundered from the stage. When I heard the tired strains of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and saw a hundred pairs of hand-horns in the air, I decided to call it a night. As I stiffly lumbered away, I heard the voice of Grampa Simpson booming across the lawn: “Turn it up! TUUURRRN IIIIITTTTT UUUUUUPPPPP!”
Friday rating: Three Funs
It was pledge week. “Call to make your pledge now,” said the DJ, “and be entered into a drawing to win passes to Fun Fun Fun Fest, where Bob Mould will be performing the classic Sugar album Copper Blue in its entirety!”
“Wow.” I said. “That would be pretty cool to see. Oh well.” I didn’t feel like I could afford to go. And I don’t like festivals much. Even if Nomeansno is playing their first show in Texas since I started listening to them.
“The magic of mobile!” My wife exclaimed proudly, five minutes later. “You’re going to Fun Fun Fun!”
She is amazing.
I decided to see Superchunk at the Mohawk on Thursday night so that I wouldn’t have to catch them at the festival on Friday. It was nice to be able to see them on a smaller stage, at night, the way punk rock was meant to be seen! They played well. They had great energy. But I just don’t think Superchunk’s music means that much to me. It occurred to me that Superchunk, with their modest hooks and paradoxically hyperactive and chilled-out demeanor, are a good band for “rescuing people from commercial rock,” as someone once described Sunny Day Real Estate. Unfortunately for me, I went to a Sunny Day high school, and I didn’t hear Superchunk for the first time until I was 23.
As Superchunk were winding down, I hustled down to Red 7 to catch some of American Sharks. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from them, but it wasn’t the fairly accurate Turbonegro impersonation that they delivered. I was impressed by the execution, but it’s not something I particularly care for. I guess Stephen Walker is not in this band anymore.
When I was in high school, I went to see a band called the Lechers. (well, not “went to see” them- I was at a punk show, and they were playing). They were a power trio who all dressed in black and had shaved heads. They played Oi! punk, except instead of yelling “Oi!,” they yelled “Hey!,” all in unison, the drummer through a headset mic. The Krum Bums didn’t do any of those things, but that’s what they reminded me of.
I wandered into the ND to the sound of the same reverb-drenched gobbledygook that Christian Bland delivers as a member of the Black Angels. The keyboard player was dressed up as a cowboy. How people are not tired of this stuff yet is beyond me.
I have a confession to make: watching Indian Jewelry almost always makes me fall asleep. It’s not that I don’t like their music; I do. It’s just that, when I see them, it’s always loud and dark and very late at night. My Monster Energy habit actually originated at an Indian Jewelry show at Emo’s Lounge a few years back, when I discovered that hypercaffeinated poison was a great help in my mission of remaining vertical.
I didn’t fall asleep watching Indian Jewelry on Thursday, though. Their performance had more focus, force and clarity than just about any other set I’ve seen from them, and I left more awake than when I entered. Well done.
Thursday night rating: Fun and a half
I’ve recently been quite into the first several Apples in Stereo albums. I had a few of them on CD-R, copied from friends, but I guess I must not have listened to them much before, or maybe I did but it never stuck for some reason. I think maybe I thought based on their reputation that they were too sunny, too pop, or was put off by their Pet Sounds worship, or something. It’s strange, because I own a CD of theirs from Darla’s Bliss Out series which I’ve always liked. Anyway, as a result of my ongoing quest to re-rip stuff I have on CD-R (but not from my crappy see-through CD-Rs of course), I’ve been listening to Tone Soul Evolution, Her Wallpaper Reverie, and The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone. Just some great stuff on there; good all the way through, and a few songs you can’t believe weren’t written before. Some tunes reminds me a bit of Kinks worship era Lilys. Some of it is a bit on the lo-fi side, and the vocals are a bit buried at times, e.g. on Silver Chain. Anyway, here are a few favorite tracks…
What’s the #
Shine a Light
I Can’t Believe
Catherine Wheel is one of those bands that I totally loved, but for some reason never paid any attention to past their first two albums. Recently though I’ve finally been getting into their third album, Happy Days. Maybe I had turned away because there’s potentially a bit of a cheese or emo factor or something; it’s perhaps a bit embarrassing to like at this point, but here we are.
Judy Staring at the Sun (with Tanya Donelly)
I gave their fourth album Adam and Eve a couple spins lately too, but haven’t been able to get into that one thusfar.
Leaving the ’90s behind for a moment, I for some strange reason just assumed the band xx would be lame, and passed up a chance to see them at SXSW a few years back, but in reality it turns out they’re fairly neat, catchily sparse.
Do you feel that you don’t have enough time in the day to do what you love?
Is it that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to do it all or do you feel you have too many responsibilities to really step back and work on your passion?
What if this time was magically given to you, do you need others?
What if the others were given this time to?
What would you do?
True or false: In order to really like music, you still have to buy the physical product.
Are the CD hangers-on, vinyl collectors, and cassette fetishists the last people in love with music? Can people who have gone purely digital still care?
i went to the barber, and i had it cut low.
it’s been a long time since i’ve posted anything here, and not sure that what i have is much better than that rhyme. well, not many things are better than a good rhyme. but still, i’m posting because this is sort of a follow up post to a previous post. in a post from July 2007 I posted some words that after lots of editing, music added, played a bunch, recorded and mixed, are now “officially” a song called Little Eyes. you can stream the song here:
Or you can download it by entering your email address, or if you dont want to get into that mailing list, either tell me and i’ll send it to you direct or i’ll take you off the mailing list after you download it.
Here’s a video of what the song sort of sounds like live, which some people might prefer.
Also, i need to get that Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell song out of my head where its been wrecking havoc for about 3 weeks now. You know the tune, right? Help me!