Saturday, December 31, 2005


As I type, I'm listening to Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet, played by the Kronos Quartet with Aki Takahashi on piano. It's possibly the most purely beautiful CD I own - the 1984 ECM recording of Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa is a close second. But the cover is hideous. A full-frontal nude portrait of Feldman himself would probably have been an improvement.

The closest thing I'm gonna make to a New Year's resolution is this: sometime in 2006, I will make it all the way through Feldman's six-hour String Quartet No. 2. It's one of those CD sets I bought because the idea of it seemed cool - a single piece of music spread over five CDs! - but really, who has time to actually listen to the thing from beginning to end? Obviously not a guy who's editing one book, writing another, pimping a third, editing a magazine full-time and freelancing at night. But I swear before "god" and all the clerks at Kim's that before 365 more days have elapsed I will sit down, maybe with a nice book and a caffeinated beverage or two close at hand, and listen to it - from the beginning all the way to the end, with no breaks except maybe to answer the door and pay for the pizza.

If you're reading this, Happy New Year and thanks for stopping by. Please buy my book. See you next year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Jacked from Edroso:

Four jobs you've had in your life: Magazine editor, freelance writer, Quick Chek cashier, auto parts warehouse worker.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Road House, Apocalypse Now, Repo Man, Blade Runner.

Four places you've lived: Brooklyn, NY; Burbank, CA; Elizabeth, NJ; Westfield, NJ.

Four TV shows you love to watch: "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck," "Family Guy," "Headbangers' Ball."

Four places you've been on vacation: Cancun, Barbados, Chicago (okay, this one was to interview a band, but it was fun), Toronto.

Four websites you visit daily: The Corner, Atrios, No More Mister Nice Blog, Alicublog.

Four of your favorite foods: Pizza, ribs, steak, lasagne.

Four places you'd rather be: at a death metal show, on a porn set talking smack with the crew, Canada, Spain.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The January issue of The Wire (not in US stores yet) contains a feature I wrote on Noah Howard. The extended transcript of my interview with him is available on their website, here.

I wrote about Torche in the Scene this week. (Remember the discussion of The Big F? Here's where I bring it up again, for money this time.)

And in today's mail, four T.Rex 2-CD sets arrived - The Slider, Dandy In The Underworld, Zinc Alloy And The Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow and The T.Rex Wax Co. Singles A's and B's 1972-77. (Also, the 3-CD Grateful Dead Fillmore West 1969 set I bought a couple of weeks ago, and some absolute tripe - Jackson Browne's Running On Empty, now expanded to a CD/DVD pair; Jerry Garcia's Garcia Plays Dylan, another 2-CD set; the soundtrack to the musical Jersey Boys, about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; and Loggins & Messina's Sittin In Again At The Santa Barbara Bowl Live.)

Almost all of this stuff is gonna go straight to the used CD store at first opportunity. I might hang onto the T.Rex singles collection, but I'm more likely to just suck it into my iPod and rid myself of the physical item. I don't really get them; they seem like rock music for small children. There are one or two songs with decent riffs, but there are twelve or thirteen other songs that recycle each of those exact same riffs, to severely diminished effect. So, no, Bolan was not a genius, or anything like it. It seems to me that he was actually pretty much the ultimate embodiment of the kind of thing that gets huge in England and makes absolutely no sense in America. Which is fine. Brits and Anglophiles can love his stuff for the rest of their wack-ass, misguided lives if they want; it means nothing to me. But neither does The Slider.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Ornette Coleman has been named one of the New York Observer's "Power Geezers" - folks who are in their prime, creativity- and impact-wise, while being chronologically headed for the grave. The big news in this article: the promise of multiple new CDs, including maybe one from the Carnegie Hall show I saw the other year, that was literally breathtaking in its speed, force and brilliance.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


"We had such a ball. We arrived at the hotel in DC, in the evening, and the gig's the next day. And he shows up a few hours after I do and knocks on my door and says 'Wanna hang?' I go to his room and he's got his boyfriend there, his manservant, whatever, and my wife's there with me, we're drinking champagne, and suddenly it's like 5 in the morning and I'm like, 'Cecil, I really gotta head to bed, we got the gig tomorrow,' and he says 'Yes, I'd like to meet at 9 o'clock.' I'm like, 'Cecil, it's 5 in the morning.' He's like, 'Yeah, we'll meet at 9, have some breakfast, go to the place, check it out, and maybe rehearse a little bit.' All right. And literally on the dot, 9 o'clock, there he was at breakfast, and we ate, and went straight to the space, which was the library of Congress, and we literally played for five hours straight. It was just the most amazing day. It was just insane. He's laughing hysterically, we're going through different ideas, and we literally went almost straight through for five hours. And I was exhausted by the end of this. And he was like, 'Let's go back to the hotel and get a little dinner, and then we'll do the gig.' So we did, and went right back to the gig, played two huge sets, then hung out all the next night, and I got on the plane a few hours after that. It was an intense 36 hours with Cecil Taylor. It was amazing, though, because he was so cool. He wasn't a drag, like, 'You've got to do it this way or that way.' He just showed me some of the notes he was working on, these cluster chords, and it'll just take this shape here, that shape there, okay, let's go. And it just turned into a big free thing, using very simple ideas. And maybe in that five-hour session during the day, when we were blowing through stuff, he maybe made two suggestions the whole time. 'More of this chord here,' or 'If I do that, you do this,' but very subtle. Most of the time it was just laughing, having a good time. He's one of those people that for years has been saying 'One of these days, we should do something,' and it's like, yeah, I'll believe it when you call me up. And then suddenly there it was, I got the call."

That's a quote from an interview I did with violinist Mat Maneri in about 2002, talking about his 1999 Library of Congress duo gig with Cecil Taylor. To my knowledge, they've never played together since. If you want to hear what the result of no sleep and five hours of rehearsal sounds like, pick up Algonquin and be prepared to have your skull torn open and your brain thoroughly massaged into a new and more enjoyable shape.

Friday, December 09, 2005


As a bunch of people on each coast probably already know, Lewis Lapham is stepping down as big boss man at Harper's, a magazine that features an occasional fascinating article wedged into a thick mass of indigestible lefty crap. There's an interesting article on the changes in New York magazine. A sample excerpt:

>In fact, most of Harper’s is not fusty and Euro-lefty, Lapham’s “Notebook” column notwithstanding. But because his 2,500-word essays lead each issue, they tend to color one’s sense of the whole magazine. And they all amount to pretty much the same contemptuous, Olympian jeremiad: The powers-that-be are craven and monstrous, American culture is vulgar and depraved, the U.S. is like imperial Rome, our democracy is dying or dead. All of which is arguably true. But, jeez, sometime tell me something I didn’t know, show a shred of uncertainty and maybe some struggle to suss out fresh truth. “Everything I’ve written,” he says, “is a chronicle of the twilight of the American idea.” He seems so committed to the decline-and-fall critique, and so supremely uninterested in the novelties and nuances of everyday life and culture, it’s hard to take his gloom altogether seriously.

Lapham's a bad joke, and it's long since past time he left. I just wonder whether replacing him with a guy who comes from enough money that he could start at Harper's as a 29-year-old intern is the right recipe for change.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Why does the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame hate prog? Yes, Rush, King Crimson - all well past the 25-years-old-or-older cutoff, but never even nominated as far as I know, and certainly not admitted. And forget about Van Der Graaf Generator or Can or Tangerine Dream or any of a dozen others. What's up with that? Billy Joel and James Taylor, yes, but King Crimson, no? One more reason to burn the joint down, as far as I can see.


Posted on ILM, to be precise.

Thinking The Unthinkable About John Lennon
By Lester Bangs

You always wonder how you will react to these things, but I can't say I was all that surprised when NBC broke into "The Tonight Show" to say that John Lennon was dead. I always thought that he would be the first of the Beatles to die, because he was always the one who lived the most on the existential edge, whether by diving knees-first into left-wing adventurism or by just shutting up for five years when he decided he really didn't have anything much to say; but I had always figured it would be by his own hand. That he was merely the latest celebrity to be gunned down by a probable psychotic only underscores the banality surrounding his death.

Look: I don't think I'm insensitive or a curmudgeon. In 1965 John Lennon was one of the most important people in the world. It's just that today I feel deeply alienated from rock 'n' roll and what it has meant or could mean, alienated from my fellow men and women and their dreams or aspirations.

I don't know what is more pathetic, the people of my generation who refuse to let their 1960s adolescence die a natural death, or the younger ones who will snatch and gobble any shred, any scrap of a dream that someone declared over ten years ago. Perhaps the younger ones are sadder, because at least my peers may have some nostalgic memory of the long-cold embers they're kneeling to blow upon, whereas the kids who have to make do with things like the Beatlemania show are being sold a bill of goods.

I can't mourn John Lennon. I didn't know the guy. But I do know that when all is said and done, that's all he was--a guy. The refusal of his fans to ever let him just be that was finally almost as lethal as his "assassin" (and please, let's have no more talk of this being a "political" killing, and don't call him a "rock 'n' roll martyr"). Did you watch the TV specials on Tuesday night? Did you see all those people standing in the street in front of the Dakota apartment where Lennon lived singing "Hey Jude"? What do you think the real--cynical, sneeringly sarcastic, witheringly witty and iconoclastic--John Lennon would have said about that?

John Lennon at his best despised cheap sentiment and had to learn the hard way that once you've made your mark on history those who can't will be so grateful they'll turn it into a cage for you. Those who choose to falsify their memories--to pine for a neverland 1960s that never really happened that way in the first place--insult the retroactive Eden they enshrine.

So in this time of gut-curdling sanctimonies about ultimate icons, I hope you will bear with my own pontifications long enough to let me say that the Beatles were certainly far more than a group of four talented musicians who might even have been the best of their generation. The Beatles were most of all a moment. But their generation was not the only generation in history, and to keep turning the gutten lantern of those dreams this way and that in hopes the flame will somehow flicker up again in the eighties is as futile a pursuit as trying to turn Lennon's lyrics into poetry. It is for that moment - not for John Lennon the man - that you are mourning, if you are mourning. Ultimately you are mourning for yourself.

Remember that other guy, the old friend of theirs, who once said, "Don't follow leaders"? Well, he was right. But the very people who took those words and made them into banners were violating the slogan they carried. And they're still doing it today. The Beatles did lead but they led with a wink. They may have been more popular than Jesus, but I don't think they wanted to be the world's religion. That would have cheapened and rendered tawdry what was special and wonderful about them. John Lennon didn't want that, or he wouldn't have retired for the last half of the seventies. What happened Monday night was only the most extreme extension of all the forces that led him to do so in the first place.

In some of this last interviews before he died, he said, "What I realized during the five years away was that when I said the dream is over, I had made the physical break from the Beatles, but mentally there is still this big thing on my back about what people expected of me." And: "We were the hip ones of the sixties. But the world is not like the sixties. The whole world has changed." And: "Produce your own dream. It's quite possible to do anything...the unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions."

Good-bye, baby, and amen.

- Los Angeles Times, 11 December 1980

I don't like the Beatles much. I own the Plastic Ono Band's Live Peace In Toronto, which I play the second half of occasionally. But that's beside the point. There are ideas in this piece that make it at least as worthy of annual repetition as William Burroughs' Thanksgiving Prayer (which I forgot to post this year). Whether you like or liked the Beatles or not.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Playboy in Braille. I guess Hefner was hedging his bets, in case that myth about jacking off making you go blind turned out to be legit. The man's a genius, I swear.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Today I'm writing a little piece on a Florida heavy rock quartet called Torche, who've been getting compared to Queens of the Stone Age because both bands have big loud guitars but also, like, choruses 'n' stuff. But the minute I put the CD on I was baffled. They don't sound anything like the Queens. Nor are they "stoner metal," the other tag every other hack slaps every band with loud guitars and less-than-160-bpm rhythms these days. This album sounds like late-80s/early-90s proggy-hard-rock, pre-grunge division: they're clearly lifting from Soundgarden, Jane's Addiction (Nothing's Shocking only), King's X (lotsa soaring vocals) and even also-rans like Saigon Kick and the reason for this post, The Big F.

I felt fairly safe in claiming nobody remembered The Big F but me until today. They were a power trio composed of the former bassist and drummer from Berlin and some guitarist. Their first album came out in 88 or 89 on Elektra, had no information on who was in the band, had ugly cover art (a weird little two-ears-and-a-knife thing heisted from Bosch, on a black background), and sank like a stone. They were dropped within months of its release. But it was a really good record - sludgy, loud, a slight edge of L.A. hard rock but with more meanness and misanthropy, like if the Cult had decided to rip off Blue Cheer instead of Steppenwolf for Electric. I used to like this album a lot back when it first came out, but it disappeared in one of my many CD purges of the last 15 years. I think I'm gonna get me another one, though, since it's available for, no kidding, eight cents plus shipping from Amazon.

But like I said up top, I thought I was the only person who remembered this band, until I Googled them and discovered this page. I feel really mentally healthy now.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


They're playing in Cleveland sometime soon. Here's why you should go see 'em, if you're in the neighborhood, or buy the album if you're not. And use the free stencil, dammit!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Went on a medium-sized celebrate-the-new-job shopping spree Wednesday night. Picked up the following:

Beck Bogert Appice, s/t
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm
The Bravery, s/t
Cream, Gold
Depeche Mode, Playing The Angel
Grateful Dead, Fillmore West 1969
Rammstein, Herzelied
Rush, The Spirit Of Radio: Greatest Hits 1974-1987
Stray Cats, Greatest Hits
The Muppet Show: Season One 4-DVD set
William Vollmann, Rising Up And Rising Down (single-volume abridged version)
Paul Johnson, The Papacy

New in the Village Voice - my review of Natalia y la Forquetina's Casa.

A fellow writer said my response to Slate’s death-of-the-boomers piece was “dumb and mechanical. Slate had a good idea for a piece, but that wasn't it. Your approval makes it seem like your anti-boomer bit is a ritual. You gave it a thumbs-up because it was anti-boomer, end of story. But I've been looking at your remarks about boomers for years and ... it's always seemed intellectually shallow. I was really excited when you were hot and steaming and wanted to denounce the Beatles. Bring it on! But the most concrete objection you offered (correct me if I'm wrong), is that, really, your parents and your parents' generation liked them to distraction. Sorry. It's not enough to just be giving the finger to the folks. You have to be denouncing what they stand for.

And that part remains unclear, to me.”

This is something of a fair point. I’ve been knee-jerk in my responses to my parents’ generation, and their stranglehold on pop culture, in the past. But I wasn't effusively praising the piece, mostly just pointing it out. I agree, it's largely dumb (hence the dumbness of my post-title), but what I did say is that I see an increased willingness on the part of elite media institutions (all largely run by boomers or, in a few cases, surviving pre-boomers) to acknowledge post-60s pop culture. Which is a good thing. Who knows, one day Rolling Stone may forgo their annual Beatles cover(s).

And w/r/t them, I said this to someone else recently, in another context:

To go with only the most obvious example, I really don't get the Beatles. I'm not being snarky; I genuinely don't. I can only think of three songs by them - "Helter Skelter," "A Day In The Life," "Get Back" - that I actually like, and one song - "Across The Universe" that I like Laibach's version of, but don't like the original. So I know it's probably challenging, but could someone please unpack the virtues of the Beatles without resorting to tautological hammering home of their cultural hugeness? Talk about 'em like they're some tiny indie band you're trying to sell a Martian on.

I got some reasonable answers to that request, but none that sold me on the records. Listened to simply as music, the Beatles don't trip my trigger. Elvis sure does, and the Stones do, and Dylan does, and shit, I've just discovered there's even a Grateful Dead product I like (or am currently liking - who knows what its staying power will be). But the Beatles' actual music leaves me unmoved. What they do, I don't need to hear. And more importantly, I've gotten far enough (as a writer, as a listener) that I no longer think I do need to hear them. With every passing day, I head deeper down the tunnel of my own tastes, and farther away from any kind of pop-cultural "public square" where even knowing about the Beatles carries any real weight. A literal truth: at this point in my professional life, it's more important that I know the ins and outs of the Darkthrone catalog than the Beatles catalog. For that reason, I'm not particularly interested in denouncing boomers anymore. Mostly because it's not a battle worth fighting. The crucial battle now is to defend my own patch of ground against younger writers and the young bands they're gonna make their names documenting. Forget the Beatles, I've gotta worry about the Dillinger Escape Plan and all the screamo/metalcore acts trailing in their wake, none of whom I much like but who seem to be selling shitloads of magazines lately. So if I wanna be a 35-year-old man getting paid to tell 15-year-old boys what’s cool (which is the job of a rock critic, when you strip it to the bone), I have to feign interest…or step out of the way and let someone genuinely enthused do my job for me, while I try and find an outlet for discussion of what actually does shift my ass in my chair.

I think what remains interesting about boomer culture is the idea of a pop monoculture, a common language. There isn't one anymore, and that's an obvious point but one that deserves reiteration from this angle - now is the age of the specialist, critically speaking. Time was, if you didn't like the Beatles, you'd be pretty much out in the cold, it seems to me, because the culture as a whole liked the Beatles. (Or Elvis, or whoever.) But now, there's no consensus candidate. Everyone has as many haters as devotees, and nobody's trying to reach across the barricades into the cult compound next door. Which is why I'm able to specialize in free jazz and death metal, and why I never have to listen to the radio if I don't want to. If I was a "pop critic," I'd have to listen to the radio so I would know the relative standing of the acts I was required to write about. But I'm not, so I don't. I live in my bubble. All my readers live in their bubbles. It's all good.

Fellow writer responds:

"[D]oesn't this suggest you're fighting a losing, even pointless, battle or at best preaching to the converted?"

Yes. Yes, it does. And a lot of the time, I feel an almost Beckettian sense of futility about writing. But I keep doing it because I enjoy doing it. I suspect sometimes that it's genetic, that I'm somehow hard-wired to be a critic, because when I'm listening to a record, even for the first time, it's very rare that I'll just listen to it for itself without attempting to figure out how I'm going to describe or contextualize or explain it to some reader, somewhere.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


So my new job as managing editor of Global Rhythm magazine is going pretty well. I'm being turned on to a surprising amount of great music. I was worried it was gonna be all reggae and Afropop, but while there's a fair amount of that (and that's not necessarily all bad - the new Burning Spear disc, Our Music, arrived yesterday, and it's plenty solid), there's also crazy stuff I almost certainly would never have encountered on my own. Like the music of Mariem Hassan.

This woman is from the Saharawi tribe, who don't actually have any land of their own - they've been living in tent cities in Algeria for three decades, since they rebelled against their colonial owners in Spain and, um, lost. The music they make features hand drumming and electric guitar, plus Hassan's vocals, which are in Arabic (or maybe Hassania, the native tongue of her people, I'm not sure). It kinda sounds like a cross between a muezzin's call to prayer and the Mississippi hill blues of Junior Kimbrough - and the guitarist fucking smokes. The album's called Deseos, and it's on Nubenegra Records out of Spain. Go look for it while I try and convince my superiors that True Norwegian Black Metal counts as "world music."

In freelance news this week, my first piece is appearing in the Baltimore City Paper, a review of three Van Der Graaf Generator reissues. Right around the time these albums were released in the UK, the descriptions made them sound like something I'd like a lot, so I waited until the cheaper U.S. versions (exactly the same disc, but available for domestic price through Astralwerks) emerged, and then I bought 'em from, a site I heartily endorse. (They're currently the only place with a decent price on the new Rammstein album, which doesn't have a U.S. street date yet.) Anyway, VDGG pretty much ate my brain on first listen. I just got the next batch of reissues - Godbluff, Still Life and a Peter Hammill solo album featuring guest spots from all the VDGG members plus Robert Fripp - and while those are all good, they're not as ass-rapingly great as the previous three. The three-year lag between batches of releases is probably what did it.

Oh, and the book for which this blog is named shipped from the printer to distributors and whatnot on Friday, 11/18. So within a couple of weeks, it should be available from Amazon, just in time for last-minute holiday shopping.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Look, somebody has to crack down on bad metalcore bands, or they'll just keep on putting out records and touring. The Esoteric and All That Remains, in the Cleveland Scene this week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


From Slate: how to tell when Boomers have lost their stranglehold on the culture. It's already happening to a surprising extent - the mere fact that the New York Times has been forced in the past year to run feature stories on screamo and metal-as-conceptual-art is all the evidence I need that blowing Paul McCartney in print just doesn't generate the page-views it once did.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I like 'em. I think they're ill-served by the mass of music journalists. And I review their new album, Ten Thousand Fists, in the Village Voice this week. So if you don't already know, now you know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Interesting article in today's New York Times about Henry Rollins, who's apparently done six USO tours in a year and a half. Check it out here.

An excerpt:

Rollins is an unusual relic of the punk era, one of the few celebrated stars who stayed clean enough to remember it. (He is also articulate enough to analyze it as cultural history, something he frequently does as a talking head in VH1 or IFC documentaries about the era.) Of course, as faces of the U.S.O. go, he's even more unusual, an antiestablishment rocker whose hero is Iggy Pop, not Bob Hope. Most of the soldiers greeting Rollins at the base that day probably knew him for his cameo appearances in two recent films that practically constitute required viewing for young men in the military - "Bad Boys II" (Rollins plays a narcotics cop who barks orders like "Rock 'n' roll, let's go!" to his men), and "Jackass" (that is Rollins screaming profanities and driving a bucking Humvee as someone else in the vehicle tries to tattoo the willing participant howling in agony next to him). A slightly smaller proportion of the soldiers knew Rollins from his frenzied, raging frontman performances with Black Flag. A hard-core group that played a caustic kind of punk, the band had a cult following of mostly angry young men. Rollins, who often performed bare-chested, got in so many brawls with audience members that eventually the band learned to keep playing until he could get back onstage and resume singing. Local police officers tended to follow the band, which took its name from the symbol for anarchy, whenever they rolled into town. Nick Cave, a fellow rocker, once complained to Rollins that his own performances left him bruised; Rollins responded by showing him a series of small round scars on his shins, where his audiences had a habit of stubbing out their cigarettes.

Black Flag eventually fell apart, but Rollins still tours with his own group, the Rollins Band, which continues to play to young men hooked on its adrenaline-pumping sound. A charismatic performer, he is also adept at giving what marketers call spoken-word performances, in Rollins's case, a cross between stand-up comedy, Spalding Gray-style storytelling and political commentary. The shows have been recorded for DVD and sell well. Rollins reserves a significant portion of each performance for his favorite material, the foibles of President George Bush, a subject he attacks with relish and no small amount of venom. The war, and what he perceives as Bush's doublespeak about it, fuels much of his rage toward the president. "So many Americans, when the president speaks, we hide under the table," he told a Montreal audience in March 2003. "What is his malfunction? He has a devastatingly dangerous unconnection to what we call the world."

A few months after that performance in Montreal, Rollins got his first call from a U.S.O. recruiter. She wanted to know if Rollins would consider visiting the troops on behalf of the organization. Rollins was immediately interested but also confused. Before he was willing to get any further involved, he wanted to be sure the recruiter had done her homework. He had to ask her one essential question: "Do you know who I am?"

I've been a Rollins fan since about 1988 or 1989, when I first heard Life Time. That album and its follow-up, Hard Volume, knocked me on my ass. Until then I hadn't really made the connection to Black Flag, who I'd listened to without worrying too much about who was singing (my favorite song of theirs was "TV Party" anyway, not the ultra-dark stuff like "Nothing Left Inside" or "Damaged II" - back then at least). I saw the old lineup of the Rollins Band three times. Once at CBGBs in 1990, right after Hard Volume came out, once at City Gardens in Trenton some time after that, and once on the first Lollapalooza festival. And I was at the video shoot for the "Tearing" clip, at the Ritz Theater in Elizabeth, NJ. Between takes of the song (which the band mimed to a playback), they played cover tunes through their plugged-in instruments. They did "Kashmir" and "Black Sabbath," and Rollins displayed a surprising (given his output) command of his voice's upper registers. I saw the second lineup once, too, at Irving Plaza. They were just as good, in a very different way.

I've also interviewed Rollins twice, and he's been incredibly cool and interesting to talk with both times. The first time, we did the standard 45 minutes on the band, the new album, the perfidies of the record industry, blah blah blah, but it was clear that I was a knowledgeable fan who shared some favorite artists with him, so after I shut off the tape recorder we spent another hour or so talking about jazz. The second time was shorter, and more tightly monitored by a label publicist, but it was still a fun and informative exchange. I'd talk to him anytime, and I'll still pick up his albums out of loyalty and feel somewhat rewarded by them. (The double live disc The Only Way To Know For Sure, from 2003 or 2004, is great and well worth hearing.)

Anyway, go check out the piece.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


I are full-time employed again. Starting Monday, I will be the managing editor of Global Rhythm, a world music magazine.

Do I know a whole hell of a lot about world music, you ask? No, not really. I have seen Fela and King Sunny Ade in concert; I have at various times owned albums by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Ofra Haza, the aforementioned Fela and King Sunny Ade, a bunch of Latin alternative-rock artists (Aterciopelados [who I've also seen live], Maldita Vecindad, Cafe Tacuba [who I've also seen live], Natalia Lafourcade, Julieta Venegas, Caifanes, Jaguares and Bebe), and Paul Simon's Graceland. Oh, and a bunch of Japanese avant-rock types (Keiji Haino/Fushitsusha, Acid Mothers Temple, High Rise, Kousokuya, Kyoaku No Intention, Kaoru Abe/Masayuki Takayanagi, probably some others I'm forgetting). But my job is to manage and edit the magazine, not write it front-to-back. So it's as much managerial - getting CDs to reviewers, cleaning up their copy, making sure photos arrive from the label to illustrate features - as authorial. And it'll be fun/interesting to learn about world music, an area I've never investigated due to a lack of time and professional need. Now I've got professional need, in spades, so here we go, headfirst into the flames.

At night and on weekends, of course, I'll be writing my next book, pitching an idea to the folks at Continuum for their 33 1/3 series (bought Michaelangelo Matos' work-up on Prince's Sign O' The Times today to figure out how the books "work"), writing features for other rags, blah blah blah...

Friday, November 04, 2005


Enjoy this savage, and utterly deserved, takedown of the Suicide Girls from the LA Weekly.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


One of the best death metal bands on the planet (Decapitaed), and another death metal band that's had their fair share of transcendent moments (Vader), are on tour together. Read about it here, and wish you lived in NYC, where the three bands discussed in the piece are playing Monday, with Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Despised Icon, and Aborted added to the bill. Tell us, Conan, what is best in life? We all know the movie's answer, but I gotta say seven technical death metal bands in five hours comes a close second.

Friday, October 28, 2005

#578469 IN A SERIES

I never thought I'd give a shit about the subject again, but this essay on the use of pop music in commercials is actually pretty well written. Some good lines/ideas:

Pop by its democratic nature has destroyed barriers and prejudices (good), yet by its capitalistic nature has always been available for cooptation by the power elites (bad). Pop stars inspire our best energies and make us feel alive (good); yet virtually all have committed personal offenses and ethical outrages we would never accept from those close to us (bad). Pop's consumers are able to select from a panoply of musical and stylistic options (good); but because millions of other consumers are also involved, engaging with pop often means putting up with other people's dumb infatuations, from The Bay City Rollers to "The Macarena" (very bad).

Pop was never pure, damn it: Colonel Tom Parker sent Elvis's Cadillac on tour, Brian Epstein signed off on Beatle talcum powder, and Rolling Stone once offered free roach-clips as a subscription premium. Today Shania Twain sings for Target and Bob Dylan has an exclusive deal with Starbucks. But wait, Target gives back to the community, and Dylan is Dylan … Pop-wise, you've got to grade on the curve: Hold the culture, its practitioners, and its consumers to too rigid a standard of purity, and we all fail.

We're holding bits of ourselves -- heart, values, viscera -- above the chaotic fray in the form of beloved songs. But in so doing, we're also demanding that everyone else recognize our personal bits as inviolate. Don't touch them. Don't even look at them funny. That's when cherishing music becomes a waste of positive passion, a miserly mission -- given, once again, the context that pop culture inevitably, uniquely constructs. What cultural commissar or committee of cool will decide which songs are available for exploitation and which are not? Which artists need defending from the taint of commercialism and which don't? Nike were once assailed for using The Beatles' "Revolution" to sell running shoes; but no furor broke when The Beach Boys' "California Girls" vivified a shampoo ad. Additionally, this anti-commercial bias is a very white thing: I can't remember any controversy over a black artist's music being used in advertising. In fact, back when those Budweiser frogs were crawling around to the tune of Bob Marley's "Jammin'," most people thought it was really funny.


Lately it seems like I can't get more than two CD reviews into a single issue of The Wire. I send 'em three, and one just vanishes. So I've decided to place two of those orphaned pieces here, for your "enjoyment."

Simulated Progress

Fieldwork started life as a three-way collaboration, but it’s beginning to feel more like the Vijay Iyer Trio, as he’s the only original member left on this second release. Alto saxophonist Steve Lehman has replaced Aaron Stewart, and drummer Elliot Kavee has departed since the recording, with Tyshawn Sorey taking his place. Simulated Progress is a muscular-sounding disc, produced and engineered by Scott Harding (best known as “Scotty Hard,” a former WordSound and New Kingdom collaborator). He gives Kavee’s drums a pleasing bit of extra thump, filling the low-end space vacated by the absence of a bassist. On the third track, “Trips,” there’s a weird effect applied that makes them sound pleasingly artificial. Ayer’s got a light touch on the keyboard; he’s been the gleaming center of a number of discs on which he’s guested, including several Burnt Sugar albums and Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Mother Tongue. Without a bassist present, he’s required to indicate chordal structure for each piece while adding filigree and melodic ornamentation, and he balances both tasks with deftness and a quick intellect. His interactions with Lehman are high evolutions of the post-bop art form, reminiscent of the dances between Greg Osby and Jason Moran. The shortest track on the disc, “Telematic,” is also one of the most interesting, adopting an almost Latin rhythm that creates plenty of opportunities for each player to assume a temporary lead role, all in less than three minutes. Though there’s plenty of free playing here, no one in Fieldwork seems interested in the extremist clichés of free jazz; there’s no screaming, no pounding of the keyboard, no smashing and slashing of the drums and cymbals. Their music is a graceful, yet sturdy sort of chamber jazz, consistently surprising and unique without pressing the issue.


Out Of A Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive
At A Loss

All metal is mood music, but a new mood is now being soundtracked. Many bands have recently begun to eschew rage, discovering in its place the pleasures of slowness, of grace and a morose, manly psychedelia. Neurosis and Isis are the two most commonly cited forefathers of this blossoming subgenre, but Minsk and other second-generation slow-throb acts are moving the torch a good distance down the road. What’s most striking about this music is how adeptly it subverts or sidesteps metal’s traditional insistence on catharsis. It’s New Age music of a sort: it fills the room, and it’s often quite beautiful, but its ebb and flow are so regular and smooth that it acts as a sedative rather than a stimulant. The drums don’t crash explosively, or batter the music forward – they maintain a steady rhythm that’s not fast enough to move an audience, but not slow enough to put them entirely to sleep, either. The guitars advance and recede like the tides, roaring and downtuned but, because of the near-total absence of blues, never truly “heavy” in the Sabbathian sense. (Go back and re-hear just how swinging a rhythm section Bill Ward and Geezer Butler really were.) And the vocals are indecipherable yet essentially melancholy, like a caveman racked by howling sobs. Even a guest appearance by Yakuza saxophonist Bruce Lamont on the album’s final track can’t totally blow the mists away. Minsk are happier being stately and beautiful (always in a chest-beating way, of course) than headbanging, or inspiring headbanging in others.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Two pieces in the Scene this week: Cryptopsy and Deftones. Both very much worth your money, whether you're in Ohio or not. (Cryptopsy will be in NYC on 11/7, along with Suffocation, Decapitated, Vader, Despised Icon, Aborted, and Dew-Scented - two tours coming together on a single night, for a totally gratuitous overdose of death metal. I can't wait.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The UK music magazine The Wire has a back-page column called "Epiphanies," in which writers wax poetic/nostalgic about a major musical moment in their lives. In the October 2005 issue, it was my turn, and I chose to discuss Borbetomagus's cassette-only Live In Allentown release. Jim Sauter, a very good guy as well as 1/3 of Borbetomagus, saw it (as I kinda figured he would) and got in touch with me. Seems they'd been planning to reissue the long-vanished Allentown on CD, but the project had run out of steam...until they saw my piece and got re-enthused. They even wanted to use my piece as the liner notes. So of course I said yes, and sent them the following very slightly revised version, which will show up in a CD store near you probably sometime in 2006. In the meantime, enjoy the piece.

BORBETOMAGUS – Live In Allentown
Original version from The Wire 260, October 2005

Like many music journalists/critics, my listening habits are in continual flux, my tastes evolving and mutating day by day. There are some constants – anything that could be called Metal will get at least an idly curious half-listen, anything that could be called Indie will get binned without a backward glance. Jazz of the “free” variety (however one defines that), particularly 60s reissues, will get a warm welcome; post-bop or smooth fusion will have to argue much more strenuously for itself. But I’m always willing to be surprised. I was recently blindsided by the Kompakt label compilation Total 6, after years of ignoring techno. It’s important to always be ready to hear something that will totally change the way you think about music.

The first record I can remember pressuring my father to buy for me was Judas Priest’s Screaming For Vengeance, in 1982, when I was about to turn eleven. By 1987, I was a metalhead to the marrow of my bones, making an occasional side trip into punk – Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Bad Brains, the Minutemen. (Remember, this was America – suburban New Jersey, to be precise. To this day, I have not heard Never Mind The Bollocks in its entirety, and the only version of the Clash’s debut I know is the one with “I Fought The Law” on it.) I owned exactly five jazz records: Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, Bitches Brew and Tutu, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Meditations.

Spin magazine, which had recently supplanted Rolling Stone as my primary source for information about new music, featured Byron Coley’s “Underground” column in its record review section. It was the most interesting thing in the magazine by a long stretch. I couldn’t always decipher his prose to figure out what he was praising about the acts he discussed, and anyhow I’d never heard of a single one of them, but it was a fascinating, must-read section, month after month. It was there that I read about Borbetomagus, specifically their cassette-only release Live In Allentown. I don’t have the magazine anymore, so I can’t quote Coley’s prose, but whatever he wrote about this sax-sax-guitar trio from upstate New York, I had to hear them.

I knew there was no way my local record store was going to be able to get Live In Allentown for me. I was going to have to go somewhere that really catered to the obscure and outré – Bleecker Bob’s, in Greenwich Village. I’d never been there before, only walking past a few times on the way to a nearby comic store. But somehow I was certain that they would have this thing, if anyone would. So I made the tremulous journey into what I thought was the very beating heart of underground music. I walked in the store, awed by the vinyl sleeves that covered the walls and the surly, leather-and-black-denim-clad clerks who I was certain would beat my suburban ass and throw me back to the sidewalk, knowing how unworthy I was to sully their punk rock shrine with my presence. But they didn’t. And sure enough, in the glass case where they kept their cassettes, there it was. Red-and-black construction paper cover, white plastic case. I think I paid six dollars. I put it in my battered Walkman on the way out the door.

When the first hideously distorted shrieks and roars hit my ears, I almost fell over from the raw force of it. That couldn’t be a saxophone – it sounded like someone being torn limb from limb. Was that a guitar, or someone revving up a gigantic engine to the brink of explosion? In truth, it was hard to even discern one sound from the others. Nothing on the tape had any obvious reference points in anything else I owned, or had ever heard. Even Meditations, the screechiest album in my collection, sounded like lounge music compared to this. I was terrified, but I couldn’t stop listening. I had to hear what came next.

The first side of the tape contains a single long piece, ending in tape slice. The second side picks up with what might be the same piece. After eight minutes or so, there’s a brief burst of applause, and some shouts of “Encore!” from a very enthusiastic woman, then the next (and final) section begins. The Borbetomagus lineup documented is a quartet, with Adam Nodelman on bass in addition to saxophonists Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich and guitarist Donald Miller. Nodelman actually plays some fairly straight low chords near the end of the second side, as though attempting to anchor the music and keep it from becoming total noise. Toward the end, someone (maybe a Borbetomagus member) begins vocalizing in a manner reminiscent of early Butthole Surfers, as Miller’s guitar and at least one of the saxophones continue to sputter, snarl and squeal.

I listened to Live In Allentown almost daily for a couple of years, even forcing it on friends who wanted no part. I began to memorize the subtle, almost intuitive shifts in what had initially seemed like an unceasing, undifferentiated roar. The interplay between group members revealed itself. And this repeated close listening began to alter the way I heard other music. I sought out harsher and more punishing sounds in general, yes, but I also started to pick apart all the music I heard, trying to understand what each player was contributing to the whole, rather than hearing a record as a solid mass with the vocalist slapped on top like a pizza topping. Live In Allentown taught me to listen like a critic.

I’ve still got my original cassette copy of Live In Allentown (which until now has been ridiculously rare, not even listed in many Borbeto discographies). To my amazement, it’s never melted down or spooled out of its case. I recently took it out and converted it to CD-R, and stuffed its two long tracks into my iPod. To this day, it’s my favorite Borbetomagus recording, and to my ear the best thing they’ve ever done. Now that it’s been reissued on disc, I can go back anytime I want and get whacked in the head by it all over again, just like when I was fifteen and first discovering that there was more to music than metal.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


The new Exodus album is really, really good. Not Top Ten of 2005, but Top Thirty no problem.

Monday, October 10, 2005


For some time now, a sizable percentage of the promo CDs I receive have been getting short shrift, because I do most of my music listening on my iPod. And in order to foil wily file-sharers (of which I am not one), record companies have been encoding their promo CDs as 99 tracks rather than 10 or 12 or however many songs the album in question actually contains. When you try and suck a song that's broken into 10 chunks into your iPod, you get a little one-second break, just long enough to annoy the hell out of you and totally break your rockin'-trance, between the chunks. So a lot of albums that would ordinarily have gotten a dozen listens have gotten at most one or two, because hearing them broken up that way is just too damn annoying.

Well, at the Meshuggah show Friday night, a buddy of mine pointed out that iTunes has this feature called "Join CD Tracks." It does what it says it does - it splices all these tiny tracks together, seamlessly, so you've got a whole song again. I don't wanna get all Mac-nerd here, but I got a tech stiffy when I spotted this feature on the "Advanced" menu on Saturday morning.

Needless to say, I immediately gathered up all those annoying promos (and a few DJ mix-discs that suffer from the same problem), and imported 'em all. So now, at last, I can fully enjoy the following fine, fine records:

Arch Enemy, Doomsday Machine
God Forbid, IV: Constitution Of Treason
Richie Hawtin, Decks, EFX & 909 and DE9: Closer To The Edit
Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, We Run The South
Mistress, In Disgust We Trust
Origin, Echoes Of Decimation
The Red Chord, Clients
Various Artists, The Kings Of House

Three of these discs (Arch Enemy, God Forbid, and Origin) now have a significantly better chance of making my year-end Top Ten list than they did before this past weekend. Thanks, iTunes!

(Yes, I know I'm the last person in the world to discover this. That knowledge tempers my joy not one jot.)

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Meshuggah, God Forbid, the Haunted, and Mnemic (who I missed), BB King's, NYC.

The Haunted play extremely Slayer-indebted retro thrash, but with a singer who's a Napalm Death-esque barker/growler, and they're pretty good at it, but I don't need a whole lot of that in my life. As the second of four bands on a bill, they're fine. I never play the albums I have by them, though.

God Forbid got an abridged set because proceedings were running late, but they tore the place down nonetheless. They're from South Jersey, and their singer is a huge dreaded black dude who can roar until you're checking your shirtfront for bloody lung-chunks. (The drummer is also black, and the two guitarists are brothers and at least mixed-race; the only straight-up white guy in the band is the bassist.) Their music is metalcore with old-school power metal lead guitar parts, and the new album is great, might even make my Top Ten for the year.

Meshuggah are as inhumanly precise live as on their albums, which is impressive enough. But they manage to actually put on a show, instead of just staring at their fingers and counting in their heads the whole time, which makes them doubly worth checking out. (They hit the riffs on 6 and 8, and unison-headbang on 3 and's kinda hilarious to watch death metal crowds, used to a straight 4/4, try to mosh to this stuff.) Fredrik Thordendal's guitar solos tend to be him striking one note, then coaxing as many bizarre harmonics out of it as he can for a half a minute or so, then hitting another note, etc., etc. He defies all metal conventions, and does so brilliantly. The set was mostly material from their 2002 album Nothing, plus a couple of excerpts from Catch 33 (their new, one-long-song disc), with a few earlier tracks from Chaosphere and Destroy, Erase, Improve (which tend to be faster and slightly more rhythmically conventional than the Nothing stuff) thrown in to keep the lifers happy. I can't recommend Meshuggah highly enough. Technically brilliant, with the alienating precision of a robot beehive, but heavy as hell, too. And frontman Jens has a great sense of humor - when the crowd started chanting "Me-shug-gah, Me-shug-gah," he let them do it about three times, then barked "Stop that nonsense!" and launched into the next song. There were also repeated calls for mass audience nudity (fortunately, unheeded). Check 'em out if they hit your town.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Here are some notes on things I have recently purchased or otherwise obtained.

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall - a 48-year-old vault scraping that flat-out smokes every new jazz album I've heard this year. Sad, kinda.

Sunn O))), Black One - their last two, the twin White discs, made me worry that the robed 'n' bearded ones had gone hippie. They've returned to form with this ultra-dark slab. Crank it up loud enough to scare away every trick-or-treater for a ten-block radius.

Earth, Hex: Or, Printing In The Infernal Method - pretty good in an ambient-death-country kinda way, but most reviews are too nostalgia-sodden to admit that it just doesn't pack the same flesh-melting power as the old stuff.

Disturbed, Ten Thousand Fists - smart guys making arena metal for the 2000s. They're still ripping off KMFDM, the singer still reverts to chimpery when he's not wailing like a cantor, but there are genuinely stirring choruses here, and guitar solos too, which was always the missing ingredient in their sound. Believe, from 2002, is still their best album, but this one's very solid.

Natalia y la Forquetina, Casa - petite art-pop girl goes "rock" (less turntables, more guitars, production by a member of Café Tacuba instead of by some studio hacks). Just as much fun as the debut, but maybe a little more aggressive. Fuck yer reggaeton - "Ser Humano" is my Spanish-language single of the year.

Various Artists, Total 1-6 - ultra-cyborgy German techno. Yeah, I'm late to the party on this; bought Vol. 6 on the basis of a rare cogent 'n' convincing Pitchfork review, and loved it so much I sprung for Vols. 1-5 less than a month later, when some money arrived.

Aphex Twin, Analord - the whole series, on 3 CD-Rs, from a writer buddy. It's acid; if you liked that sound in the late 80s, or if like me (an electronic-music-ignorant metalhead) you recently discovered it via the Soul Jazz Can You Jack? compilation and dug it and wished you hadn't missed out back then, you'll like these tracks. He should make a nice official 3-CD set out of 'em.

Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde - after watching big chunks of that two-night PBS thing, I had a friend mail me burns of these two albums, which I'd never heard end to end before. I never need to listen to "Desolation Row" again as long as I live, but other than that H61R pretty much smokes. I even like it better than the live 1966 discs, which I've had for a couple of years (I only ever play the electric one) - the studio album is more ramshackle, like Tom Waits trying to rave up. BOB is a little less of-a-piece, but also pretty good. This Dylan guy - overrated, yeah, but he's got his moments.

Friday, September 30, 2005


A fascinating essay by k-punk can be found here. (The drugs thing, though discussed in a very interesting and well-worth-reading manner, is dispensed with in the first few paragraphs.) I disagree with his stance on pornography (he's a Marxist, so that's unsurprising), but the piece is well thought out and definitely better than most of what's being published on the nature of celebrity, particularly the voiceless and thus tabula-rasa-ish kind that fashion models represent. Go read it.

k-punk on Kate Moss

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Watched lots of the two-part Bob Dylan thing on PBS (didn't watch all of Part 2, as it interfered with Nip/Tuck and, I mean, come on - they were doing plastic surgery on a gorilla!). Subsequently I have decided I should maybe listen to more Bob Dylan. I used to own his Greatest Hits and liked 2-3 songs on it, and I currently have in my possession a burn of the "Albert Hall" concert from 1966, which I like the electric half of. But I need Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, I think, and then I'll be all done. So I made an arrangement to receive burns of those three albums from a dude I know, and in return I'm sending him some out jazz, because he doesn't have any and I have, well, a shitload. I decided a nice mix was better than burning whole albums, even though most of the albums I pulled from only contained two sidelong tracks. Anyhow, here's what I sent:

Don Ayler Sextet, "Prophet John" (Holy Ghost)
Archie Shepp, "Black Gipsy" (Black Gipsy)
Grachan Moncur III, "Exploration" (New Africa)
Sunny Murray, "Suns Of Africa (Parts 1 & 2)" (Homage To Africa)
Sonny Sharrock, "Portrait Of Linda In Three Colors, All Black" (Black Woman)

Art Ensemble of Chicago, "Theme De Yoyo" (Les Stances A Sophie)
Alice Coltrane/Rashied Ali, "Battle At Armageddon" (Universal Consciousness)
Pharoah Sanders, "Healing Song" (Live At The East)
Don Cherry, "Eternal Rhythm Part 1" (Eternal Rhythm)
Cecil Taylor, "Conquistador" (Conquistador!)

Joe Henderson, "El Barrio" (Inner Urge)
Frank Wright, "One For John/China (Part 1)" (One For John)
Jimmy Lyons, "Premonitions" (Other Afternoons)
Dave Burrell, "Echo" (Echo)
Pharoah Sanders Ensemble w/Albert Ayler, "Venus/Upper & Lower Egypt" (Holy Ghost)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I watched the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors 2005 show last night. Well, I watched most of it. I tuned out when Kanye West was performing, because I just don’t like his music. And I tuned out when Diddy Kong came onstage, because…well, I’ll get to that.

This year, taking a cue from Public Enemy’s blowout last year, they had the artists themselves perform, after some of their biggest hits had been karaoke’d by current performers (which had been the bizarrely compelling gimmick of last year’s show). So we got to see Nelly looking like a Mini-Me version of LL Cool J, in white sweats and a Kangol pulled down over his eyes, doing a serviceable version of “I’m Bad” and an acceptable “Doin’ It,” before the man himself came onstage and tore the walls down with “Mama Said Knock You Out.” (I wish he’d done “Goin’ Back To Cali” or “Big Ole Butt” instead, but oh well.) Funnily enough, he recalled not only his glory days but also his MTV Unplugged performance, because he was once again sporting big caked clots of roll-on in his pit-hair.

Ice-T and Snoop Dogg did okay for the West Coast, though Ice’s flow suffered somewhat from the relentless muting of all references to guns and drugs, all obscenities, and all uses of the N-word. Only when he delivered the first verse of the still-chilling “Colors” did he really morph back into the scarily intense figure I remember from the first Lollapalooza and a solo tour immediately afterward (the one where he did a 45-minute rap set followed by a 45-minute Body Count set).

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five put on a killin’ show, with Fat Joe filling in for Cowboy, who I guess is dead, because he wasn’t in the interview segments either. Melle Mel is just fucking gigantic now. But the best part about their show was the cameraman’s repeated cutting to LL in the VIP balcony with all the other honorees, on his feet, mouthing every word of each Furious Five MC’s verse. The true spirit of the show was embodied in that moment – a legendary rapper publicly idolizing his own heroes.

The Salt-N-Pepa segment was okay, but only okay, because Salt-N-Pepa were only ever just okay at their top-dollar best.

The segment I tuned in to see was the penultimate one, though, and it made the whole thing worthwhile. Big Daddy Kane’s inclusion in this year’s batch of honorees seemed a little weird to me. Totally, 1000 percent justified, but somehow out of place. The other guys and gals were hitmakers and pioneers, but Kane was a rapper’s rapper, a guy whose verbal skills were astonishing from his first single (“Raw”) to the time he decided to hang it up. The last track I heard from him, “Nuff Respect” on the Juice soundtrack, was as good as anything from Long Live The Kane or It’s A Big Daddy Thing (which is an even better album-as-album). I love Big Daddy Kane, and still play his tracks in my iPod, but I didn’t quite see how he fit in with Salt-N-Pepa, a salute to the movie Boyz N The Hood, and one more motherfucking tribute to Notorious F.A.T., if you see what I mean. Well, when his segment began, it all became clear. Kane was the high point of the show. He was saluted/karaoked by T.I. (who tried to do “Raw,” but failed; his Southern flow was no match for Kane’s late-80s New York relentlessness), Black Thought (who I’ve never liked much, but who did okay) and Common (who did pretty well – I like him now more than I have since Soundbombing 2). But then the man himself came out, and from his first words, the show was over. He did “Warm It Up, Kane” backed by the Roots and with one of his old backup dancers (I think it was Scrap Lover; Scoop Lover might be dead, too) plus one other guy by his side. Not only did he deliver the lyrics like it was 1989 again – and I say this as someone who saw Kane live in ’88, opening for Public Enemy with Stetsasonic and EPMD – he busted out his classic dance moves, too, including the split from which Scrap Lover pulled him up again by the back of his shirt and the climb-up-and-roundhouse-kick move. The crowd went apeshit, as well they should have done. King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal, indeed. It was the best live hip-hop performance I’ve ever seen on television, period.

I tuned out after that, as the show was almost over – all that was left was Diddy Kong’s 10,000th necrophiliac blowjob of Notorious F.A.T., and who the hell needs to watch that? I actually sort of felt sorry for him – he was playing the Chuck Berry role in the legendary/apocryphal anecdote about Jerry Lee Lewis setting the piano on fire. “Follow that, Diddy.” There was no way he could have, even if he wasn’t one of the shittiest, most uncharismatic performers/public figures alive. It was Kane’s night, and as a fan and a viewer, I couldn’t be happier.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


You know how sometimes listening to one piece of music can provoke new insights into another piece of music? Well, when you've got a review of Brad Mehldau's latest album (a collection of Radiohead, Beatles, Paul Simon and Nick Drake songs, plus two originals) due in less than 24 hours, listening to Cecil Taylor is just unhelpful.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Jon Caramanica, a smart guy who's contributing an essay to my upcoming Marooned anthology, has a good piece on art-metal in today's New York Times. It's well-sourced and well-written: he ticks off all the names your average metal-ignorant Times reader needs to know (Orthrelm, Aaron Turner/Hydra Head Records, Pelican, Sunn O))), Flying Luttenbachers, Albert Mudrian/Decibel, Justin Broadrick, et al.) without making it overwhelming. It'll fuel a heck of a trip to Amazon for some suburban teen looking for the next big thrill. And that's a good thing. It just feels funny to me, watching all these guys pop their heads out into public, because I've been beating this drum for a couple of years already - I profiled Pelican in The Wire just after Australasia dropped, and I managed to get Weasel Walter into Jazziz in 2002 or 2003 (I forget which) - and I've been sticking reviews that deal with metal as serious music for thinking people into just about every venue that'll have me for, well, quite a while now. (Make no mistake, I'm not begrudging Jon getting into the New York Times before me; I never would have even tried to pitch them a piece like this one.) Anyway, go read the thing, and if you're inspired to do some record shopping afterward, you could do a lot worse than to pick up any/all of the following:

Orthrelm, OV
Sunn O))), The GrimmRobe Demos
Earth, Earth 2 and Legacy Of Dissolution
The Flying Luttenbachers, Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder and The Void
Pelican, Australasia
Isis, Oceanic and Panopticon

Friday, September 16, 2005


Q Magazine is asking readers to vote for the greatest album ever. Previous trophy-holders: OK Computer and Nevermind. So pretty obviously I'm not the target demographic, as much as I love Radiohead. But I gave 'em my Top Five anyway:

1. Miles Davis, On The Corner
2. The Stooges, Fun House (this one might actually place pretty high in the final breakdown)
3. ZZ Top, Tres Hombres
4. Randy Holden, Population II
5. Yes, Tales From Topographic Oceans

Feel like entering your own Top Five? Knock yourself out.


A very long, very great piece on photographer Naomi Petersen and the SST Records scene here, by Joe Carducci of Rock and the Pop Narcotic legend/infamy. Read every word.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


I haven't seen a display of self-loathing and transference as pathetic as this in quite a while.

Britney Spears had a kid. How about the culture at large gives her a fucking break for five fucking minutes, huh? How about not turning the announcement into a splatter-painting of some pissed-off journalist's bile. Nobody put a gun to this cunt's head and forced her to write about pop culture for a living. I don't like Britney Spears' music, but you know what? She doesn't deserve to have people like Joal Ryan pissing on the birth of her child. Nobody does. Not even the kind of woman who names her kid "Joal." (See how easy it is?)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Eric Alterman posted the following text-lump on his Altercation site today:

Altercation Book Club

“The Liberal Argument Against Pornography” from PORNIFIED: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships and Our Families, by Pamela Paul (published today).

It’s a very simple and very wrong political equation: If you’re liberal, you’ve got to be pro-porn. Being pro-pornography means you’re sex-positive, open-minded and progressive. You care about the First Amendment, women’s rights and sexual freedom. And you most certainly stand against the reactionary voices of the anti-porn movement – repressive, anti-civil libertarian, moralizing hypocrites, all of them.

Nonsense. More specifically, outdated and misguided nonsense.

The drawing of political battle lines over pornography dates back in large part to two conflicting federal reports designed to study and address the issue. In 1968, the United States President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was charged with understanding the effects of pornography “upon the public and particularly minors and its relationship to crime and other anti-social behaviors.” After two years of research, the Commission issued a report that concluded, “In sum, empirical research designed to clarify the question has found no evidence to date that exposure to explicit sexual materials plays a significant role in the causation of delinquent or criminal behavior among youths or adults. The Commission cannot conclude that exposure to erotic materials is a factor in the causation of sex crime or sex delinquency.” [i] Sixteen years later, the Reagan administration commissioned what later came to be known as the Meese Report (for the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography), which came to the exact opposite conclusion: Pornography, the Meese Report explained, leads to sexual violence, rape, deviation and the destruction of families. Yet while the earlier report exonerating pornography was widely distributed and published by a commercial press, the Meese Report was difficult to track down, unpublished commercially and immediately distorted and vilified in a popular pro-pornography book published by Penthouse and distributed on newsstands everywhere.

As a result of these two contradictory reports, many Americans, especially liberals, came to the conclusion that the first report was accurate while the second was politically motivated hackwork, created to crack down on family values and promulgated by a man who was himself under investigation for corruption. Who was he to talk? While there may well be truth to the political motivation behind the second study, concluding that the results were inaccurate distorts the report’s findings. In truth, the second report contained valuable, nonpartisan data from reliable academicians and social scientists.

Regardless of the motivations behind and differing conclusions of each of these two major reports, it’s hard to argue with the fact that both reports are outdated. The first report was generated back when Playboy didn’t include full frontal nudity and before most hardcore magazines had even been launched. Penetration shots were rare. Hustler, for example, wasn’t created until four years after the first Commission issued its final report. Not only was the magazine world relatively tame at the time of the 1970 report, but both it and the Meese Report were drawn before cable television, the VCR and especially the Internet took pornography to a whole new level. Further, the 1970 report’s goals were narrow – trying to forge a link between pornography and sexual violence – without exploring the vast area of influence that stops short of violence. There was no effort to study or document other negative effects of pornography on men, women or children, an area that the Meese report took up to a greater, though still not complete, extent.

In the wake of the two reports and their distortion in the popular media, pornography became a politically progressive cause, a convenient tool in the culture wars. Pornographers successfully fomented a bogus fight between Victorian prudishness and modern sexual freedom that has been taken up by everyone from libertarians to Web-heads to feminists to liberal Democrats – and the battle lines haven’t budged for decades. Not surprisingly, given such politicization of the issue, one’s point of view on pornography often lines up with one’s political philosophy. While people identifying themselves as Republicans or Democrats show little difference in their opinions about pornography, those who self-identify as liberal are more likely to support pornography than those who consider themselves conservative. For example, liberals are more likely than conservatives to believe that pornography improves peoples’ sex lives and less likely to believe that pornography changes men’s expectations of how women should behave. In a new Harris poll, 54 percent of conservatives say pornography harms relationships between men and women and 39 percent see pornography as cheating, compared with 30 percent and 15 percent respectively of liberals. And when it comes to measures to control pornography, conservatives are more likely to advocate reforms: 45 percent of conservatives believe that government should regulate Internet pornography so that kids cannot access X-rated Web sites, compared with 32 percent of liberals who champion such measures.

Were pornography actually so sexually liberating, there would be little outré or taboo about it all. Hypocrisy and guilt still dominate sexuality in many ways, and pornography isn’t the cure for Puritanism or the sign of its defeat – it’s an emblem of its ongoing power to isolate and stigmatize sexuality. A truly liberated society would be one in which there were no need to “rebel” via commercialized images of sex. Moreover, pornography is hardly revolutionary. Indeed, pornography may be the ultimate capitalist enterprise: low costs, large profit margins; a cheap labor force, readily available abroad if the home supply ever fails to satisfy; a broad-based market with easily identifiable target niches; multiple channels of distribution. Pornography is big business, and it’s out to protect its interests in the face of what it sees as excessive governmental and societal interference. The industry even has its own lobbying arm, whose head, a former defense industry lobbyist told 60 Minutes, “Corporations are in business to make money. This is an extremely large business and it’s a great opportunity for profit for it…When you explain to [legislators] the size and the scope of the business, they realize, as all politicians do, that it’s votes and money that we’re talking about.” [ii] Pornographers distort pornography into an issue of progressivism and civil liberties precisely because they have millions of dollars of profit on the line. The industry--which in the face of a receptive audience likes to position itself as just another all-American enterprise trying to earn an honest dollar despite government interference, excessive regulation and taxation--isn’t different from any other large corporation, be it Halliburton or GlaxoSmithKline. The idea of progressives lining up to defend a notoriously corrupt and abusive industry would seem implausible.

But there’s more to the pro-porn “rebellion.” The latest wave of pornography crusaders is not only railing against moralizing on the part of the government and organized religion, the argument that dominated the family values-obsessed Eighties. Today, pornography advocates are also and perhaps equally rebelling against what it views as the excesses of liberalism and feminism of the early 1990s, in particular, the extremes of political correctness. Defending pornography seems to be a way for people who think of themselves as progressive, liberal and open-minded to revolt against the close-minded, PC police of university campuses and corporate human resources guidelines. Denouncing pornography is akin to what they derisively refer to as “sexual correctness.”

Yet it’s hard to find anything more retrograde, repressive, or closed-minded than the sexual clichés peddled by pornographers. Rather than a mark of escape from the past, the dominant morality of pornography reeks of Puritan and Victorian prudery; it creates a world populated by virgins and whores, by women who are used and then shamed for being sexually voracious. Their degradation is deserved, according to the prim sexual vision of the pornographer. Even when the woman isn’t overtly degraded, she is deemed lesser than the man watching her by dint of being paid to please him sexually in a public forum. Even when pornography is made specifically “for” women, as in the case of “indie” magazines like Sweet Action, the model often replicates that experience, unthinkingly substituting men’s bodies for women’s. In pornography, sexuality accompanies or provokes disgust and hatred – something to be done quickly and just as quickly, disposed of. In the world of pornography, sex is generally dirty, cheap, and in the end, not much fun. Surely it is this pornified version of sexuality that deserves denigration, mockery and rebellion. Surely any good liberal could in all good conscience, exercise his right to free speech and condemn porn for what it really is.

I sent the following reply:

Eric -

I haven't read Pamela Paul’s book, but as someone who's made his living at least partly from porn for the last half-dozen years, I must speak up. (I’m not surprised to see a Lieberman Democrat like you loaning her your soapbox, of course.)

There is nothing currently available online or otherwise that is any worse than that which has always been available to those who sought it. From cave paintings to de Sade, the human imagination has always run to graphic depictions of human sexuality, and frequently in its most perverse forms. This is just The Way We Are, and the flipside is the ever-present sanctimonious denial: no one I know has those thoughts, no one I know likes this sick stuff. Well, that “sick stuff” sells awfully well, and as long as it’s been available, it always has. As the comedian says, it's a four-billion-dollar industry - that's not one guy with two hundred million DVDs in his basement. Three big canards need to go by the wayside right now. The first is that being “pro-porn” is more about political statements than raw consumerism, because anybody in the industry will tell you that porn sells best in the reddest of states. Those Bible-thumpin’, Bush-lovin’ exurbanites and hicks out in David Brooks’s beloved country are the biggest porn freaks of all. The second is this scare tactic crap about horrifying obscenity being “a click away” at all times. I spend most of the day online, and I have NEVER encountered a porn site without wanting to do so. All the stories anti-porn crusaders are telling about little kids stumbling on bestiality images while searching for pictures of fluffy bunnies to print out for Mommy are as dishonest as the meth hype Jack Shafer’s been debunking over at Slate. And the third is, as I mentioned before, the idea that things were better before. At the same time Hugh Hefner was mythologizing himself as a daring pioneer, black-and-white stag movies were rolling in men’s clubs across the country – as they had been since the advent of cinema. Every time a new medium (print, photography, film, whatever) has been invented, people have used it to make porn. That is The Way We Are. Deal with it.

You don’t like porn? Fine, don’t watch it. But don’t try to tell me that the porn industry’s evil minions are kicking in helpless Americans’ front doors and taping their innocent little children’s eyes open like A Clockwork Orange. I know all the good and bad things about the business, and if anti-porn crusaders spent half the time investigating the rest of corporate America that they do worrying about what other people jack off to, the world would be a lot better place. Ms. Paul’s book will likely spark much conversation, replete with tongue-clucking and sad shakes of the head over the moral depravity overrunning our fair land, but it’s a bunch of crap, rooted in false assumptions, bad methodology (she interviewed 100 people, 80 of whom were young straight men? Wow, what’d that take her, a week?), and nostalgia for an Age of Innocence that never existed.


Two Mormons just came to my door. There's a temple a block and a half from my house, but this rarely happens. They smiled when I opened the door (in this neighborhood, an Anglo face is a rarity), and the shorter, grinnier one said, "Hi, we're here spreading a message about Jesus Christ, would you like to hear it." I smiled back and said, "I review heavy metal records and porn DVDs for a living. You do not want to talk to me about Jesus. Have a good day."


A joke.

And speaking of things that are more pathetic and infuriating than amusing or entertaining, Black Dice have a new album out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Go buy the new Jaguares album. Seriously. They're the only male Latin-rock artists doing anything interesting right now (all the real innovators, or captivating performers, are women these days - Bebe, Natalia Lafourcade, Julieta Venegas, Andrea Echeverri, even Juana Molina I guess). Arty power-rock, with plenty of unexpected guitar brilliance (not all of it courtesy of Adrian Belew). It'll kick yer ass.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


How did we get from Black Sabbath (inventors of “doom metal”) to Khanate?

Doom is at this point nearly as wide-open as metal itself. The label encompasses everything from outright Sab clones like Saint Vitus to bad-trip soundscapers like Esoteric and Electric Wizard, from Southern-rock-infused purveyors of filthy noise like Eyehategod and Sourvein to the Japanese experimentalists Boris, who’ve done everything from semi-ambient drone pieces to rifftastic monoliths of roar. But Khanate is the band doing the most with the doom concept, or anyway, the most doomed-sounding band ever.

Sure, Khanate steals from Sabbath. But their brilliance is in what they choose to steal. Khanate are all about space. Each huge chord, each snare crack or cymbal crash, is allowed to decay into silence before the next arrives. They’ve heard the word “riff,” but don’t believe it applies to what they’re doing, and they’re right. Guitarist Stephen O’Malley can’t be bothered with Iommi-esque crunch; he’s imitating the church bells that opened Sabbath’s debut, while drummer Tim Wyskida’s cymbals recall the ominous rainfall. Vocalist Alan Dubin doesn’t sound like Ozzy as much as what that creepy woman on the Black Sabbath album cover might sound like, in your worst nightmares. Bassist Jim Plotkin isn’t nearly as nimble-fingered as Geezer Butler, but he looks like a 19th century serial killer in band photos; Butler just looks like an old hippy. So, points to Plotkin.

Khanate’s new single (never mind the 43-minute running time, two songs isn’t an EP) is the best thing they’ve released yet. Awash in echo, “Capture” and “Release” find Dubin portraying some combination of Gollum and The Silence Of The Lambs’ Buffalo Bill. “Who says I can’t have?/closer come closer/…strapped and tied/sing with me/…someone’s treasure crush,” he screeches. “Release” is even more disturbing, if that’s possible. Dubin, or the character he’s playing, doesn’t mean “release” in the sense that the victim captured in the first song will be freed; he means releasing blood from veins, releasing soul from body. The music perfectly supports the lyrics and vocals, too; some of the pauses between chords are so long that when the guitar does return, you’ll jump like the ceiling just fell in. This, more than any half-assed indie “noise” crap (fuck a bunch of Wolf Eyes and Black Dice), is the sound not of music itself, but of music’s death. Khanate have created a truly hopeless diptych, taking their sound, and doom as a genre, to what seems right now like its ultimate extreme. Hard to imagine a more desolate record being released this year, or anytime soon. I can’t wait to see them live again. (The last time I saw them, Plotkin fried a bass head, so they stopped after just over a half hour. I’m hoping for a longer set this time.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Spotted a couple of articles about online music sharing and whatnot.

This one is smart, informative, and very much worth reading.

This one is empty-headed crap. (Gee, from the New Republic? You don't say! I know; I was shocked too.)

Saturday, August 20, 2005


As should be obvious by now, I don’t sneer down my nose at teevee, or many other aspects of so-called “mainstream” culture. Lots of stuff made for and sold to reg’lar folks is simply more pleasurable, and rewarding, than the one golden truffle that can maybe be found after weeks of snuffling through nine hundred achingly “independent” releases (whether in print, on film, or on disc). Every Friday, I get my nerd on watching Battlestar Galactica on the SciFi Channel, and three of the shows being broadcast by the FX network (The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me) rank with the best stuff that’s ever been broadcast, anywhere.

But I’m here today to talk about a show I first watched nearly a decade ago, and which has bubbled at the back of my brain ever since, in that very special zone labeled “What the fuck were these people thinking?” I’m talking about Profit, a Fox drama from 1996 that just became available on DVD from the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Profit is the story of Jim Profit, a sleek predator played with empty-eyed malevolence (and the tiniest hint of a smirk) by Adrian Pasdar. He’s rising through the ranks at corporate titan Gracen & Gracen, mostly by manipulating, sleeping with, and/or murdering people who have the job he wants, or are otherwise keeping him from some goal. But it’s weirder than that. His evil father kept him in a cardboard box when he was a child, with only a hole in one side so he could see the tube. As an adult, he lives in a deluxe apartment in the sky, but every night, he crawls naked into the same box, secreted behind a panel where no one can see.

The show is terrifically amoral. In fact, while re-viewing it, I found it impossible not to speculate – did Mary Harron, who directed the movie version of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, watch this show? Did Christian Bale, the star? The world through which Jim Profit moves seems very like the hallucinatory universe of Patrick Bateman. The tone of black comedy is the same, too. Profit is funnier than most comedies, and suspenseful, given that most people can’t conceive of behavior as soullessly vicious as the title character’s, so his moves frequently come as a total surprise.

The creators describe their initial pitch to networks as “Richard III as a series. The hero is a psychopath, but only the audience knows it.” They were thrown out of CBS right after telling the executives there that, in the pilot, Profit tongue-kisses his stepmother. Even Fox, the channel that finally agreed to air the show four years after it was initially pitched, pulled it after only four episodes. That’s what makes this DVD release so fantastic for those, like me, who watched that initial mini-run in wide-eyed wonder, punctuated with barks of wild laughter: four episodes that were only ever aired in France are included here, reaching American eyes for the first time.

Profit is a truly badass show. The term “corporate shark” has never been more apt.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



1. Place about half a roll of paper towels in your lap.
2. Click this link. Scroll down to "John Coltrane at Rudy Van Gelder's Studio."
3. Read the whole thing.
4. Discard the giant sopping wad of drool-soaked paper towels. Attempt to go on with your life, knowing as you now do that all this material is in the hands of the label, to eventually be released on wildly overpriced super-deluxe boxed sets, and that none of it is on any file-sharing network. See how well you sleep tonight, and what you dream about.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005


Got the new Agoraphobic Nosebleed double-disc, Bestial Machinery, in today's mail. It gathers all their compilation and EP tracks from before their Relapse Records debut, Honky Reduction, in one handy package. It's only about 75 minutes of music, but it had to be split between two discs because there are 136 tracks. And of course, as always with the Nosebleed, the titles are absolute classics. Here are some of the best ones.

El Topo
The Executioner Vs. The Sodomite
The Newlyweds Are Raped
Morphine Constipation
Fat Fucking Chance
My Life Is A Money Pit
Debilitating Headache
Glade, A Straw, And A Sandwich Bag
Black Ass, White Dick
Death Takes A Shit 2
Hooker Bomb
Baby Cannon
Inappropriate Response
Recovering Contraband From A Constricted Airway
Pediatric Burn Unit
Hate Disguised As Legislation
Gratuitous Wound Photos
Ritalin Attack
Bloated And Complacent
Fuck Your Soccer Mom

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


This being post #100 to this here blog, I might as well give you a Top 100 list. Someone asked me to list my 100 favorite movies. Here they are.


1. Affliction
2. Aguirre, The Wrath Of God
3. Alien
4. Alien3
5. Amelie
6. American Psycho
7. Apocalypse Now
8. Bad Lieutenant
9. Bad Santa
10. Battle Royale
11. The Beguiled
12. The Big Heat
13. The Big Red One: The Reconstruction
14. The Blackout
15. Blade Runner
16. The Brood
17. Bully
18. Casino
19. Chinatown
20. Cockfighter
21. The Conversation
22. Cool Hand Luke
23. Cube
24. Dawn Of The Dead
25. Day Of The Dead
26. The Decline Of Western Civilization
27. Demonlover
28. The Dentist
29. Dirty Harry
30. Dirty Pretty Things
31. The Driver
32. The Edge
33. Extreme Prejudice
34. The Fashionistas
35. Fela: Music Is The Weapon
36. The Fifth Element
37. Gerry
38. Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai
39. Glengarry Glen Ross
40. The Golf Specialist
41. GoodFellas
42. Happy Gilmore
43. Hard Times
44. Heat
45. Heist
46. High Plains Drifter
47. The Hills Have Eyes
48. House Of Games
49. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (Kaufman)
50. It’s A Gift
51. Kagemusha
52. Killing Zoe
53. King Of New York
54. Lancelot Of The Lake
55. Mad Max
56. The Matrix
57. Miller’s Crossing
58. Mishima
59. The Naked Kiss
60. Near Dark
61. Nosferatu The Vampyre
62. Once Upon A Time In The West
63. Pi
64. Pickup On South Street
65. Point Blank
66. Prince Of Darkness
67. Raging Bull
68. Ran
69. Repo Man
70. Revengers Tragedy
71. Rififi
72. Road House
73. The Road Warrior
74. The Royal Tenenbaums
75. Seconds
76. Shock Corridor
77. Sorcerer
78. Southern Comfort
79. The Spanish Prisoner
80. Starship Troopers
81. The Steel Helmet
82. Straight Time
83. Straight To Hell
84. Stranger Than Paradise
85. Straw Dogs
86. The Swimmer
87. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
88. The Thing
89. Thief
90. To Live And Die In L.A.
91. Two-Lane Blacktop
92. Unforgiven
93. Vampires
94. Videodrome
95. The Warriors
96. Weapons Of Ass Destruction
97. White Dog
98. The Wild Bunch
99. The Wonderful, Horrible Life Of Leni Riefenstahl
100. X2 (X-Men 2: X-Men United)

Friday, July 29, 2005


Ozzfest was pretty great. I got there around 2 PM, just missing Mastodon (and missing Trivium and The Black Dahlia Murder by hours, which kinda pisses me off because TBDM's Miasma has been growing on me a lot - initially, it seemed like a disappointingly metalcore-ish follow-up to their death-metal's-future-is-now debut, Unhallowed, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it). I got to see As I Lay Dying (dull), Killswitch Engage (duller) and Rob Zombie (pretty good, and very funny.)

Zombie's between-song banter was almost more entertaining than his thumping disco-metal songs, but he ended his set brilliantly, probably inspired by the late-Seventies setting of his movie The Devil's Rejects: he played a medley of the James Gang's "Funk #49," White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss '65," and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." (The band probably dug this part, as it was their only chance to play solos.)

As far as the main stage was concerned, Black Sabbath didn't play because Ozzy was sick, which was fine with me because I saw them last year and they probably would have done the exact same set, which would have sullied my 2004 memories. Plus, this meant an extra 20 minutes or so of Iron Maiden, and Maiden totally kicked ass live. The buddy I attended with had never seen them (it was my third time since 2003), and was blown away by Dickinson's energy and lungpower, not to mention the way the three guitarists and the bassist hugged the lip of the stage, really playing to the crowd, without ever missing a note.

Some of the other acts were really good (Mudvayne), and others were just acceptable (Shadows Fall, In Flames). Black Label Society's set was when I took my dinner break. Their music is nothing but a slightly heavier Alice In Chains, but their position in the metal scene is what pisses me off. Wylde gets on every Ozzfest bill because he's Ozzy's guitar player, and the crowd cheers for him (when I'm there) because he's from Jersey. He doesn't sell worth a shit, and would be second stage material, if that, without the nepotism. Grr.

In general, though, it was a very good show, despite the rain. I doubt I'll go back next year, unless they get Metallica to (like Maiden did this year) promise to play only songs from the first four albums. (Maiden could've gone with material all the way up to Powerslave, if it was up to me, but what the hell.)

In non-Ozzfest news, I wrote more about Mudvayne, Shadows Fall and In Flames here.

Oh yeah, you should go buy the new Stinking Lizaveta album. Instrumental heaviosity doesn't begin or end with Pelican, y'know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Bought a bucketload of music software recently: Reason 3.0, ReCycle 2.1, and now Reaktor 5. (It seems to me that Reaktor and Reason are not, in fact, compatible, which means I'm gonna have to buy Digital Professional in order to make anything out of my Reaktor tracks, but I'll let that wait a year or two, until I've figured out Reaktor - it's incredibly dense and hardcore, especially compared with Reason, which is quick 'n' easy even for me.)

I don't know when I'm gonna have any real time to work with this stuff, but I've got some ideas, so why not? (Also kinda ironic that I'm taking an audio engineering class at the same time I'm learning to use music software that will keep me from ever having to enter a recording studio.)

Off to Ozzfest today. Predicted weather: 95 degrees, thunderstorm in the afternoon. Paaaaaar-tee!

Saturday, July 23, 2005


Simply one of the greatest crime movies ever, and one of Lee Marvin's all-time Top Five performances. (Some of the others: The Big Heat, The Big Red One, Death Hunt.) I wrote about it here a few years ago, when it was run on TCM. They sent me a real nice widescreen VHS screener. And now it's on DVD, and in recognition of that, Charles Taylor has written a fantastic piece in the New York Observer, making many points I had no idea about until I checked out the commentary track on the DVD. Read the essay, then go buy the movie. You won't be sorry.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I don't get the appeal of Soilent Green, but maybe you do. They're on tour; go see 'em if you want.

Another reason not to trust movie critics: I watched Constantine last night, and it was really fuckin' good. Sure, Keanu Reeves is kinda wooden - whoever the guy is who played "Spike" on Buffy probably would have been a better, if non-marquee, choice for the part of a guy who drinks, chain-smokes and battles demons. But the rest of the cast is terrific. You got Rachel Weisz, a little weird-looking but also totally hot, playing twin psychics; Tilda Swinton as the Archangel Gabriel (she didn't do as much with the part as Christopher Walken did in the first two Prophecy movies, but she was very solid); and best of all, Peter Stormare as Satan. No kidding, it's worth a rental just to watch him for about five minutes at the end.

I don't know why the movie got the reviews it did. Maybe people were pissed at Keanu after the overpowering stench of the last two Matrix movies or something. But for a movie based on a comic book based on Bible bullshit, Constantine is very entertaining and relatively coherent. And it's extremely well filmed; it looks great. Check it out if you have a couple of hours to kill. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Spent about an hour on the phone yesterday with a few of the marketing people from Backbeat Books, who will be putting out Running The Voodoo Down: The Electric Music Of Miles Davis in October, not September as I originally thought.

They seem like nice folks, and I'll be glad to help them sell the living shit out of my book by whatever means I can. (Click here to preorder.)

But until it streets, I gotta focus on current work, which includes reviewing the new Bad Plus disc.

On first listen, I'm not loving it as much as I'm kinda shaking my head in genial bafflement. It's a piano-trio disc, with no guest vocalists or instrumentalists, so right away you're riding the bullet-train to Sameytown. But what really gets me about these guys is how influenced they sound by 70s radio-rock. The piano player, Ethan Iverson, sounds like he spent way more time listening to Billy Joel and Rick Wakeman than, say, Ahmad Jamal or Bill Evans. Basically, if Ben Folds would shut the fuck up for a minute, he'd be this guy. Is that "jazz"? Well, it's instrumental music featuring piano and upright bass and drums, so maybe. I mean, Matt Shipp's last few records have been beat-driven, slathered in electronic processing, and loop-like in structure, and there's no way I'd argue that they were anything but jazz albums. So there's room for the Bad Plus in the tent, for sure.

Bigger question: Would I listen to them if I wasn't being paid to do so? Probably not. Will this album excite or disappoint their fans? Can't say; haven't heard the last three discs. I'd bet longtime BP listeners will be pleased. There's certainly nothing here that's gonna shock or piss off the listener.