Saturday, September 25, 2010


The first three sentences of Sam Tanenhaus's fawning review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom told me a) that I didn't need to read it, and b) that I didn't need to read anything Tanenhaus might have to say about fiction in the future.

The sentences in question:
Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Freedom,” like his previous one, “The Corrections,” is a masterpiece of American fiction. The two books have much in common. Once again Franzen has fashioned a capacious but intricately ordered narrative that in its majestic sweep seems to gather up every fresh datum of our shared millennial life.
To begin, The Corrections was no masterpiece. It was overwritten and simultaneously over- and under-thought. So the second sentence is more warning than tribute. And finally, who is this "we" of which he speaks in the third sentence?

When I was young and stupid, I laughed at complaints from readers who said particular books or stories didn't "speak to" them. I thought that, say, the girls in my high school AP English class who disliked Heart of Darkness because there were no female characters to identify with were being absurd. But contemporary literary fiction is so fucking infuriating on this score that frankly I'm starting to think even the most PC ranters may have understated the case.

Jonathan Franzen writes books about and for upper-middle-class, overeducated white people. Period. And as I am a white dude who started out middle-class and is now somewhere in econosocial limbo, and who is undereducated by the standards imposed by the elite media, he does not speak for me. In fact, he speaks to only such a shrinking minority of Americans that assuming his book does in fact reach a mass audience, it will likely be received as almost a kind of science fiction, a dispatch from a strange mirror-world. Without even cracking the covers of Freedom, knowing only what I know of it from reviews, I feel like Flavor Flav on Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero": "Look, don't nobody look like that, nobody even live like that, you know what I'm sayin'?"

I don't know anyone who lives like the people in Jonathan Franzen novels. I know they exist, but not around me. I live in a city of immigrants, a city where the store signs are in Spanish with English subtitles and the faces on the street are almost all one shade of brown or another. The nearest higher education facilities to me are Union County College and Drake Business School. And these people's stories are not being told.

Franzen and pretty much every other writer whose fiction is praised in the pages of the New York Times Book Review are the chroniclers of a gated community. They live in cultural and socioeconomic segregation so extreme it's like they're real-life versions of the characters in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village. But instead of convincing themselves the world outside is too dangerous to interact with, they've convinced themselves that it doesn't exist—that their world is the only world. That's what Sam Tanenhaus means when he says "we." In his America, there are no poor immigrants, only educated people—mostly white, but skin tone doesn't matter as long as your CV's got the right institutions listed on it.

Fortunately, I'm not alone in rejecting Franzen's anointment. B.R. Myers, a writer whose thoughts on literature I have admired in the past, tore him a new one in the new issue of The Atlantic. And now Jessa Crispin, editor of Bookslut (a site I admit I have never visited), has decided she will not be reading Freedom.
The idea that as a literary person there are a certain set of books you must read because they are important parts of the literary conversation is constantly implied, yet quite ridiculous. Once you get done with the Musts — the Franzens, Mitchells, Vollmanns, Roths, Shteyngarts — and then get through the Booker long list, and the same half-dozen memoirs everyone else is reading this year (crack addiction and face blindness seem incredibly important this year), you have time for maybe two quirky choices, if you are a hardcore reader. Or a critic. And then congratulations, you have had the same conversations as everyone else in the literary world.

There is no such thing as a canon — what you should read or want to read or will read out of obligation is determined as much by your history, your loves, and your daily reality as by the objective merits of certain works. If anything, the homogeneity of the responses to Freedom proves only the homogeneity we have in people discussing books in the U.S. It would take me, I’m guessing, four days to read Freedom, four short days out of my life. But here I am, refusing out of principle. I might think the book is a work of genius, the book of the century, but I’m willing to risk that loss, because the book I don’t read in place of Freedom might also be that book. I have always been bored by mysteries after I’ve figured out the ending, the who-done-it. The mystery of Freedom is solved: It’s a masterpiece. And so I’m bored.
I'm passing on Freedom because I read The Corrections. Once bitten, twice shy. I take the same approach to the works of many of the other Big Writers.

Philip Roth: read The Human Stain, liked it; read American Pastoral, didn't like it as much; no desire to read anything else.

William Vollmann: read Rainbow Stories, liked it a lot; read Butterfly Stories, liked it a lot; read Whores for Gloria, thought it was okay; read Rising Up and Rising Down (the short version), found it intermittently interesting; read 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs, didn't like it; read The Atlas, liked maybe half of it; made it about ten pages into Europe Central before donating it to a local library; no desire to read anything more by the guy.

Ian McEwan: read The Cement Garden, enjoyed it; tried to get through Saturday, gave up halfway through.

The fiction I have enjoyed this year has mostly been grubby genre stuff: Walter Jon Williams' This is Not a Game; Jeffery Deaver's Roadside Crosses; the Stieg Larsson novels; Charles Stross's Accelerando, Iron Sunrise, Singularity Sky and Glasshouse; Scott Sigler's Infected, Contagious and Ancestor; Justin Cronin's The Passage (if you don't expect much more than a ripoff of Salem's Lot and The Stand, it's pretty good); Stephen King's Under the Dome; and most recently, Harry Connolly's Child of Fire. If you want to go ahead and tick your way down the approved reading list, the Chronicles of Morose Upper-Class White People, you go right ahead. I'll be in the corner, reading pulp fiction and enjoying myself thoroughly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


(Above: What might be one of the last photos of Noah Howard, taken in August of this year.) 

Saxophonist Noah Howard died on September 3. There's a great tribute post, with lots of rare music, at Destination: Out. I interviewed him back in 2006, for The Wire, and found him to be one of the nicest guys I'd ever spoken with, right up there with Charlie Haden. The story can be found in my book Sound Levels. Right now, though, The Wire has posted the complete transcript of our conversation at this link. Here's a little bit:
How did you get started when you came to NYC?
I always want to pay tribute to Sun Ra, because when I came to this town I was a really young kid, and I didn't have enough experience, and even if I had, I couldn't get into Basie's orchestra in the reed section, I couldn't get into Ellington's orchestra, and Sun Ra had the only orchestra. So we all played in the Sun Ra Arkestra. And I loved it - he taught me a lot of things. One minute we would be playing a Fats Waller thing from 1926 and then he'd go flip-flop, and we'd be into space. He trained and helped a lot of guys. Marion Brown played in that band, even Pharoah [Sanders] played in that band from time to time. And [John] Gilmore was a master saxophone player, a monster. Me and Marshall Allen, we're still friends. The last time I met Marshall, I was going to Boston to do a gig and he was going to Amherst for a gig. We spent the whole hour on the train talking. Cause we all come out of that era, and we love each other. We're survivors, cause most of our friends have gone to musicville - the upper room.

So how did you get signed to ESP?
Me and Albert Ayler were very good friends. Very, very good friends. And Albert was the star at ESP at that time. Everybody was working on the Lower East Side - we were all working at Slugs, on Third between C and D or something like that. That was the Birdland of the new music at that time. And Albert knew what I was doing, he heard me. I was working my way up from the bottom. They wouldn't give me a week, they would only let me play on Sunday afternoons, and then both Sunday and Mondays, and gradually moving up the ranks like that. The other guys were a little bit older than me, like Pharoah and all those guys, so they got the big slots. So what transpired was, Albert was like the Sonny Rollins of this new label that was putting everybody out. So he said, 'Listen, call this guy and go see him.' Bernard [Stollman] was living on Riverside Drive in the upper 90s. Albert told me to send him a tape, so we recorded some stuff from a rehearsal, he put it on and sat there and listened and after about sixty seconds, he said 'So when do you want to record?' I said, 'Excuse me?' This was on a Saturday, and he said, 'Is Monday okay? Are you available Monday at 10 AM to go in the studio?' So I said yes, and went out shaking. This guy had just offered me a recording contract! We had been rehearsing, the band was together, but it just hit me in the face because I didn't know it was coming down.

And here's the link again. Go check it out. Howard was a smart, funny dude, and his music is well worth your attention. His two ESP-Disk albums, Noah Howard Quartet and At Judson Hall, are available as digital downloads, The Black Ark is in print on CD from the Bo'Weavil label, and some other stuff is out there here and there. Dig in.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I know a few Canadians, and whenever the subject of a Canadian celebrity or Canadian cultural product comes up, the Canadian person will almost always say that the famous Canadian in question is "quite well-known and loved in Canada" or some similar description.

This makes me wonder: Who do Canadians hate? Among their own people, I mean. I know they all hated our last President, for example. But I've never heard of a Canadian celebrity who's famous and loathed, the way, say, Paris Hilton is here in America. There must be some of these people; I know Canadians are a genial and open-hearted people, but even they've got to have someone they really wish wasn't part of their culture.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Well, not really. I'm busy as hell. But in terms of content worthy of a blog post, it's a slow day. So here's Prince.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


[The other week, I interviewed Sonny Rollins for MSN Music. The abridged version ran here; this is the full transcript of our conversation. Some questions are now moot 'cause the 80th birthday concert has already happened; see my last post for details. But anyway, here 'tis.]

You were considering going into the studio back in December, right? Did that happen?
I do intend to go back in the studio next year. So if I had claimed that earlier, I didn’t get in the studio this year, but I do plan to get in there next year, depending on my schedule.

Some jazz musicians are well known for their compositions, but you’re more recognized for your abilities as a soloist. Do you ever wish you’d devoted yourself more to composition?
Well, writing tunes, composer, those can be qualified, I guess. I spend some time when I’m composing. If I have to compose, I have to spend time at it and I usually do this if I’m composing for a project of some kind. I’m an extemporaneous improviser, that’s what I do, so I compose things as vehicles to get to that part of my output, you know, they’re vehicles for me to get to my extemporizing. But some people – I haven’t done any Stravinsky-like works. I was involved in a tenor saxophone concerto but that’s about it. What do you want me to say? That I’m a great composer, that I’m not a great composer?

Well, I'm just curious, what’s your process?
Well, my process is generally if I’m walking through the airport and I have an idea I always have a piece of paper and I jot it down. If I’m at home going to sleep, I always jot it down. If I’m in the car and I get some idea that I think would work out to be a composition I pull the car over and write it down. Then I also go to the piano sometimes and work out things. But that’s something that unless I’m composing for a project I don’t really do. And then a lot of things come to me while I’m practicing, while I’m playing by myself, some idea might strike me that I think might work as a tune.

A lot of what are known as jazz standards were originally songs from Broadway shows or from movie musicals. Where are new standards coming from?
Well, a standard I think really implies Broadway shows or movies or something like that. So if you mean songs that everybody will start playing, well, I always have the hopes that some of the things that I’m composing might turn out to be played by a lot of other people, but the thing is that these days with the business of music being what it is, most people will compose a line for themselves and therefore they’ll be able to get the copyright, the publishing money, et cetera, et cetera. So that whereas years ago, musicians were apt to record standards and well known songs they did it probably because of the fact that the business of music set it so we didn’t own our own material. A lot of jazz musicians now will write something that they own. They probably won’t become standards, but they fit the needs of the particular player.

You never moved fully into fusion the way groups like Weather Report or Return to Forever did in the 1970s. Did that sound not interest you?
Return to Forever? Well, that’s not my métier, you know. Those were all great groups, great musicians and everything like that, but I’m Sonny Rollins. I’m not the sort to follow the bus. I have my own idea, my own things that I feel are best expressed through my particular talent. So I keep current but in another sense I’m not a copier, if you know what I mean. But I certainly appreciate all of the things Return to Forever and all those guys were playing, the musicianship and everything, but it’s got to fit me also. I have something unique, or so they tell me, so that I have to kind of work on developing that and have the confidence to feel that that’s of equal stature or at least in the same ballpark with Return to Forever or whoever else is coming out tomorrow.

You’ve mentioned in the past that you’re a yoga practitioner, and are you also a vegetarian?
I eat fish. I’m not a complete vegetarian. I do eat fish and yogurt, and other than that, vegetables. So no, I’m not a complete vegetarian. I do eat fish, I’m careful which fish I eat and everything like that, and I do eat yogurt. But do I eat red meat? No. And I don’t eat chicken. That’s about as close as I’m gonna get to being a vegetarian.

And how does your diet or exercise impact the physical aspects of music-making?
You mean through my diet? Well, you know, not particularly. I think what I was doing at that time was trying to perfect myself as a human being. I was trying to sort of get myself able to survive and to thrive in this world we live in. It wasn’t so much about the effect it would have on my playing, and I don’t really know what effect it did have except that it made me a more confident human being. So I’m sure that impacted my music. But I can’t draw a line and say, I stopped eating meat and that’s when I started playing better. I couldn’t say that. But by stopping eating meat and other detrimental habits I was engaged in, by discarding all of those habits I became a more aware, conscious person, and I’m sure that had an effect on me and of course on my music.

You’ve got some special guests coming to your 80th birthday concert – have you rehearsed with them, or does everyone just sort of know what song is going to be played and is prepared?
We haven’t rehearsed yet but we’ve talked. We’re going to start rehearsals, some extensive rehearsals, soon.

Do you listen to young players? How do you find people when you’re recruiting bandmembers?
Well, I have friends of mine in the business who send me records or CDs I guess of people who they think I should hear and that they’re excited about. So I sort of try to keep up through my friends in the business, because I myself don’t go out. I live some distance from the city and I’m somewhat of a recluse, I could say, so I’m not around to hear anybody in person. But I do listen to people when I’m playing festivals, sometimes I have an opportunity to hear other groups, and then I keep up by guys sending me records – ‘You should hear this guy, Sonny,’ blah blah blah, like that.

Are there particular performances that linger in your memory, or does a show disappear as soon as you play it?
Well, unfortunately, shows disappear the next day after I play them. But I do record my performances, so if there’s something that happens that’s of exceptional quality I can refer to it later. As a rule, it’s very difficult to really – and I don’t listen to my records, I don’t listen to the mix of what I played that night. I don’t do it. So I would say that unless it was something exceptional that I played and the night itself was exceptional, I probably forget about it in a day or two.

Have you ever retired a song because you’ve decided after hundreds of versions, I’ve said everything I can say with this melody?
Yes, that has happened, but strangely enough, after I’ve retired a song for the reasons you suggested, that I’ve played it so much it plays itself, it comes back to me some years later and then I want to play it again. There’s certain songs that’s happened to that I used to play and then I’d gotten everything I could get out of them and I’d stop playing them for a year, two years, three years, four years, whatever. And then somehow they’ll come back to me and I’ll feel like, wow, I can do something with this song, it has such a strong affinity with who I am that I think I want to try it again, I have some more to say on it.

A lot of the records that people associate with you most strongly are of you playing with no piano. Is the enforced chord structure of the piano something you rebel against?
Well, the piano is an instrument which has 88 keys on it as you know, and it is a very dominant instrument. In other words, if you play in a piano trio, piano and a bass player and a drummer, the piano fills up the whole landscape. As well it should in that configuration. But as a performing artist and as a person who composes in my own mind while I’m playing, I’m creating my own landscapes, and the piano can be too dominating. I’ve played with some great piano players in my life, fortunately, but I’ve gravitated to the pianoless format because it gave me more of a chance to think and to create my own images of what I want to create. And it’s hard to do that with a piano. I remember when I had a piano player with me – a very fine piano player, by the way – I’d go into the club that night, if it was a club I was playing or a concert or whatever – and the piano player would be playing, you know warming up, and these chords would be so dominant they would crowd out of my mind anything that I might be thinking. So I realized that for the type of work that I do, it’s better for me to have – if I want a chordal instrument or a harmonic instrument, I get a guitar, because a guitar has the chords and harmonics but it’s not constantly playing. It’s not always there. I want the freedom, I want the space, I want to create my own images, and I can’t do that with a piano.

What kind of drummers are you generally attracted to playing with? Cause when I saw you in 1997 you had Al Foster behind you, a really heavy hitter…
When you say heavy hitter, you mean it in what sense?

He hits very hard and swings very hard, and there are other players who have a more subtle, dancing rhythm…
Like Roy Haynes, you mean.

Exactly. Or like Tony Williams was.
Right, Tony Williams. Who I played with. So which do I prefer? Well, it depends. Sometimes I prefer one approach, sometimes I prefer another. It depends on the talent of the particular drummer. If I have a drummer playing with me who has the hard approach like Al Foster, he might bring enough to the table that I can accept everything else because what he brings is strong enough that it makes up for the fact that he’s not as subtle as somebody else might be. So it depends on the individual. Roy Haynes was an example of a subtle drummer. Tony might also be described as a heavy hitter, he might not have swung the way that Al Foster did. He played a lot of drums, with a lot of volume going on. I don’t know if you agree with that or not.

Well, when he was playing with Miles there was a lot of light touch going on. They would really pull the rhythm apart.
Yeah, back then you had Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter and they were playing more, accompanying Miles. But once he left Miles, I wouldn’t put him in the category of a light-hitting drummer. But it depends on the musician. There’s so much to music that I never want to inhibit a person from playing the way they play. And so I’m very careful. When a person has great musical sensibilities, great time feeling, then I’m inclined to give them a head, so to speak, and that would be playing less time than I would play with a lighter touch. I’m very open, I don’t have any strict dictums that I say people must do this or that. I believe in the freedom of jazz. I think jazz is suck a beautiful force because it is free and it lets people express themselves. As long as we are on basically the same page, which you have to be otherwise it’s cacophony and not harmony. As long as people have that sensibility, then I like things to be not planned out. Miles was like that too. Miles never wanted to talk to anybody and tell them what to play, and I’m like that. I hate to talk to musicians. If they’re capable of playing with me then they should know what to do. And Miles was like that, too. Yes, you have to at times, but generally, no. I don’t want to talk and have to explain well, this is what you should do and this is what happens here and this happens there. I think I shouldn’t have to do that, so I believe in that jazz is free expression. It’s the only music that gives the performer that much freedom, and that’s sort of the aspect of it that I love.

Is there still an element of surprise? Can a musician you’re playing with still catch you off balance?
Well, throw me off balance, I don’t like the term much. But sure, I’m open to anything a guy plays. I don’t prescribe what my accompanists should play at all, so yeah, I hear lots of things that make me say, wow, great. And I surprise myself. I’ve played and heard things come out of me that – of course, the way I improvise is I don’t think. The thinking goes to the subconscious. I just learn the basic materials, harmony, melody and all these things, then I forget it so that the subjective can really come to the fore. That’s what I feel is real jazz improvisation. I’m not looking to just play the same licks as before over and over again. I think that’s not really improvisation. So I surprise myself at times because as I said I’m not thinking. As a matter of fact, you might have read this before because I’ve said it a couple of times, but I used to pick out little clever riffs, I’d hear it somewhere and think, wow, that would go well with this particular song in our repertoire, I’ll bring this into the gig tonight and I’ll fit it in there and everybody will think Sonny Rollins is really clever. But I can’t do it. I can’t do it, because the music is going so fast that by the time I’m trying to think of a way to put this clever little riff in, it’s too late, it’s gone by already. The moment that it would fit. So you see it’s impossible to think and play at the same time when you’re doing real improvisation. And I’ve tried it, but now I think the heck with it. I’ll try to get to a state where your subconscious is working. That’s real improvisation. Then something’s happening that hasn’t been played out already. And that’s what I do, that’s what I try to do, that’s what I’ve been working towards all my life and I’m still working towards it, you know.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


So the Sonny Rollins 80th birthday show at the Beacon Theatre in NYC last night? Pretty fucking amazing. His regular band (guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Sammy Figueroa) was strong enough, but they only played two numbers ("Patan Jali," "Global Warming") before the guests started showing up. First was trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who did "I Can't Get Started" on flugelhorn and a really hard-swinging "Rain Check" (including a long passage of trading fours with Rollins, while Watkins set off one bomb after another) on trumpet. Then came Jim Hall, who looked about a thousand and five and was dressed like he'd come straight from the early bird special at Denny's, but who kicked a shocking amount of ass on "In A Sentimental Mood" and "If Ever I Would Leave You." Then the original band was replaced by a rhythm section of Christian McBride and (an unannounced) Roy Haynes. They played "In My Solitude," and Haynes took a solo that was like controlled demolition. Then they launched into a hard-swinging version of "Sonnymoon For Two," at which point Rollins announced one more guest was backstage. They vamped for a minute or two, building suspense, and then out walked...

Ornette Coleman.

The crowd went apeshit, and these two octogenarians, who'd never shared a stage before, absolutely tore it up, Rollins going further out than he has since Our Man In Jazz and Ornette squealing and bending the blues any way he felt like. It was awesome.

That was the end of the main set; the whole band (minus Ornette) came back for a closing version of "St. Thomas," but post-OC, it was a slight step downhill. Still, this was a once-in-a-lifetime show, and I'm kind of amazed I was there.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Kiss, with The Academy Is... and The Envy
Blossom Music Center, Sunday, September 12
Can you remember what a single song from Kiss' 2009 album Sonic Boom sounds like? Didn't think so. But don't worry about it — Kiss are keenly aware that they're a retro band and have been since they put the makeup back on in the mid-'90s. That's why something like 80 percent of their live show is made up of songs recorded before 1980. (That song you don't recognize that they're opening sets with? That's "Modern Day Delilah," Sonic Boom's single.) Kiss have always known what their fans want and they slap it down in front of them, in super-sized portions. It's the musical equivalent of a giant greasy bacon cheeseburger served by a waitress in platform boots and a thong bikini. Sure, they've slipped a few times — Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, Music From the Elder, maybe the whole no-makeup era — but in a lot of ways they're the ultimate American rock & roll band. Bruce Springsteen might play for three hours, but does he breathe fire? No, he does not. Plus, he keeps breaking the mood with acoustic songs that bum everybody out. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and their support staff know better than to pull that kind of bait-and-switch. A Kiss show is about explosions, lasers, fire, blood, and songs you can shout along with. And when you leave, you'll do so knowing you've been entertained.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


Hank Shteamer, a writer I know, posted a list of 10 jazz releases he felt were making 2010 a particularly good year for the music, along with a bunch of honorable mentions. I agree with a bunch of his choices, but the year has in fact been so strong that I've got a list of 13 of my own, which doesn't overlap with his primary 10 at all. (A couple of his honorable mentions make my list, though.)

Here we go:

Carlos Bica, Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (Clean Feed)
Regina Carter, Reverse Thread (E1)
Decoy, Vol. 1: Spirit/Vol. 2: The Deep (Bo’Weavil)
Marc Edwards/Weasel Walter Group, Blood of the Earth (ugEXPLODE)
Amir ElSaffar/Hafez Modirzadeh, Radif Suite (Pi)
Fight the Big Bull, All is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
John Hébert Trio, Spiritual Lover (Clean Feed)
Dave Holland Octet, Pathways (Dare2)
Lawnmower, West (Clean Feed)
Earl MacDonald, Re:Visions – Works for Jazz Orchestra (Death Defying)
Dan Pratt Organ Quartet, Toe the Line (Posi-Tone)
David Weiss & Point of Departure, Snuck In (Sunnyside)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Yeah, Atari Teenage Riot are back, for no reason anyone can explain to me. They've got a new member now, named CX Kidtronik (he's the black dude with the Mohawk), and he's about as threatening to the power structure as Turbo B from Snap!, whose delivery he's stealing. Which means he fits right into the whole ATR "gestural revolution" weltanschauung. Anyway, they're gonna put out a new album—the song they're performing in the clip above, "Activate," is the first single. If you want to download it, click. I have fond(ish) memories of ATR's singles, which are handily encapsulated on the 1992-2000 compilation. But are they in any way necessary in 2010? Are they anything but a pathetic joke on themselves? No.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


I wrote the cover story on Joe Morris that's in the new issue of Signal to Noise, and I'm really happy with it. (So's Joe, if my Facebook page is any indication.) I hope you'll check it out; StN's website is about as minimal as it's possible to be, but they do at least have a list of places that sell it (U.S. only).

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


New month, new batch of reviews for All Music Guide. Enjoy!

Apocalyptica, 7th Symphony
Boris/Ian Astbury, BXI
Christian Mistress, Agony and Opium
Drunken Bastards, Horns of the Wasted
La Otracina, Reality Has Got To Die
The Royal Arch Blaspheme, The Royal Arch Blaspheme
Klaus Schulze, La Vie Electronique, Vol. 3
Svanfriður, What's Hidden There?
Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Fields of Moons

I also wrote a review of Hawkwind's new album Blood of the Earth that didn't run:

Blood of the Earth
Hawkwind’s 2010 album serves mostly as a warning—that too much drug-taking will permanently destroy your aesthetic barometer, and your ability to recognize when it’s time to pack it in. None of the churning hard rock vigor of their early ’70s work (when the bass was being manhandled by one Ian Kilmister, who’d go on to form Motörhead) is present here; the drums on opener “Seahawks” are a loop, over which some chanting, bits of noisy metal guitar that are way too low in the mix, and heavy-handed synths are laid. Oh, and ocean sound effects. Can’t forget those. The title track is nothing but whooshing and humming synths; it sounds like a slice of a boring in-between passage from a particularly uninspired DJ set by The Orb circa 1993. Things do finally rev up to Space Ritual levels of intensity on “Wraith,” but while the band’s talent for writing garage-rock riffs and riding them to the edges of the universe hasn’t abated, modern production techniques make the music too slick. “Green Machine” is a journey to the land of synths, ’80s Tangerine Dream style; “Inner Visions” features more looped percussion and synth electric violin; while “Sweet Obsession” tries to rock and fails, as does the band’s re-recording of “You’d Better Believe It,” an anthem from the glory years. This isn’t a good album, but it will only disappoint people who thought Hawkwind still had something to offer post-1975.