Emperor X/Merle Haggard
Music to Occupy Wall Street By
Emperor X: Western Teleport (Bar/None)
Lapsed science teacher Chad Matheny specialized in electro-noise until he figured out how chords and beats work, enabling him to put together a futuristic folk music in which nerdy melodies rise out of a shambolic clatter that's the best anyone can expect with the power going out all the time. The opening "Erica Western Teleport" and the closing "Erica Western Geiger Counter" celebrate his crush on a rebel hero who scopes corporatist disaster areas where dystopian sci-fi is indistinguishable from democratic-socialist realism. In "Compressor Repair" he wishes he could fix the ecologically incorrect air conditioner of a girl who deserves to be cool. "Allahu Akbar" establishes his material solidarity with the strugglers of Tahrir Square. A MINUS
Merle Haggard: Working in Tennessee (Vanguard)
Now 74 and short half a lung, he's not making the best music of his life, just the best albums. The playing keeps getting savvier, he hasn't lost as much voice as God intended, his homegrown anarchism is feistier than ever, and with help from his fifth wife he's still writing keepers. Not even the anti-Nashville "Too Much Boogie Woogie" feels like filler. Try a title track that crests with "Well the water came in, the water went out/Saw the Hall of Fame floatin' about," or the equally insouciant "Laugh It Off," or the love songs for seniors "Down on the Houseboat" (they've got money) and "Under the Bridge" (they don't), or a "What I Hate" where he blames the resurgent Civil War on the Rebels. Or if all that sounds too darn modern, start with the three oldies: "Cocaine Blues" on his lonesome, "Jackson" with his fifth wife, and "Working Man Blues" with Shotgun Willie and his own 17-year-old son. Man's learned how to live, and he has no intention of stopping. A MINUS
meanwhile, here's my very "white" ballot:
1. X-ray Spex: Germfree Adolescents 15
2. Wire: Chairs Missing 15
3. Pere Ubu: Datapanik in the Year Zero ['78 EP collection of
previously released singles] 15
4. The Adverts: Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts 10
5. Elvis Costello: This Year's Model 10
6. Lou Reed: Street Hassle 8
7. The Plastic People of the Universe: Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned 7
8. Johnny Thunders: So Alone 7
9. The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope 7
10. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) 6
Patti Smith Group: Easter
Bruce Springsteen: Darkness at the Edge of Town
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls
Willie Nelson: Stardust
Blondie: Parallel Lines
Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance
Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove
Talking Heads: More Songs About Buildings and Food
all the metal/aor/whathaveu that i was too darn lazy to think about seriously.
(ps i may have overrated Street Hassle just slightly; no way does it deserve more than 7 points on this particular ballot--almost any other year it woulda gotten 15 points easy)
Finally figured out how I wanted to express-myself-to-no-avail on this one:
I'd be more impressed with the knocks on Legendary Hearts and Comes a Time if I'd read take-downs that amounted to a hill of bedbugs. [etc.]
I understand, Patrick -- can I call you Pat? -- here, let me spread apart this section of the time-space continuum next to your chair. [etc.]Too far!
'I understand, Patrick—can I call you Pat?'[Being an insolent, little sh!t.]
(Although, I read your post more as funny; so should you mine.)
On ability to pass for decent human beings: Jeter > Jay-Z > A-Rod
The operative phrase there being "ability to pass."
Every time the Yankees load the bases, I'm torn between "a lot of my friends are Yankees fans" and "maybe Xgau will spend more time on the comment threads once the Yankees get knocked out".
Roger the Engineer is sweet
Girl Talk isn't [great driving music.]
but I guess it's why I'm some guy in a comments section and not a writer. Still, someone's gotta dissent, you know?[being a little mean]
I understand, Patrick -- can I call you Pat? -- here, let me spread apart this section of the time-space continuum next to your chair. It's a mildly important place for you to visit called the Galaxy of Snores. Fascinating, really. Look, there's the little purring snores that run around offices all over the world every day. And check it out, there's a passing gold-and-platinum studded snore from America doing battle with a diamond-and-ruby encrusted snore from Europe. And there's the Ever Expanding Abyss of Bureaucratic Snores that we're thinking should be renamed the Black Hole of Snores. But the main point is that this is where every opinion without a bit of juice behind it ends up. It's right next to the Lost Socks Universe. Which should make you think.
Lee Dorsey - The New Lee Dorsey
This is one of those classic contrarianismsI'm not being contrarian - I want to enjoy it more! But, zzzz.... (I do like Lucinda's self-titled one though)
I'd be more impressed with the knocks on Legendary Hearts and Comes a Time if I'd read take-downs that amounted to a hill of bedbugs.This is entirely reasonable and I pretty much agree! I wish I had some more entertaining dismissals to offer than a bunch of slight variations on "worthy but dull", "hook-free" and "in one ear out the other", but I guess it's why I'm some guy in a comments section and not a writer. Still, someone's gotta dissent, you know?
One of these days we'll have to do a pre-Pazz & Jop EW poll, preferably one of the early years when "rock" albums came into their own, like 1966 or 1967. And on a related note, I just "found" another great 1966 rock album to add to my list of A-list albums from that year: the debut album from the Mamas and the Papas. Didn't realize until yesterday that their 2-CD Gold comp includes 10 out of the 12 tracks from the debut (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears). I'm giving it an Aminus and adding it to my list for...
The Rolling Stones: Aftermath
The Beatles: Revolver
Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul
The Kinks: Face to Face
Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde
The Beatles: Yesterday and Today
Mississippi John Hurt: Today
The Who: Sings My Generation
Otis Redding: The Soul Album
Cream: Fresh Cream
The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds
The Mamas and the Papas: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
Junior Wells: Hoodoo Man Blues (maybe)
On an unrelated note, returning from my 600-mile road trip this evening, I disc0overed that Sonny Rollins' Night at the Village Vanguard is great driving music, and Girl Talk isn't.
*e.g.: Skip Spence's Oar stinks. No, I refuse to listen to it enough, again, to articulate why I'm sure that's true. I put in the time when I was a yout.
(I preemptively give the Legendary Hearts award to Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road).
This is one of those classic contrarianisms, but I gotta say, Patrick -- you have always made a lot more sense than Greil Marcus.
Re thumbs: aayyyyyy, sit on it. I meant every word I said (and politely!).
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.