Todd Snider/The Magnetic Fields
What's So Funny?
Todd Snider: Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless/Thirty Tigers)
Musically, these are not complex songs, and although Snider's boyish air never seems forced and his good humor always comes with laughs, his 45-year-old voice bears the gravelly traces of many sleepless nights. Yet for the third time since he kicked opiates in 2004, he's scored a full album's worth of new material that remains completely in a character unique to him while adding something new to that character. This time what's new is a band sound shambolically anchored by John Prine's New Orleans-raised drummer Paul Griffith and cunningly colored by fiddler Amanda Shires. What's also new but less surprising is an ever more explicit and uncompromising class animus. One song names the Abacus Fund Goldman Sachs and John Paulson conned unions with. Another begs to differ with the privileged canard that living well is the best revenge. Uh-uh, Snider sez. Revenge is the best revenge. A
The Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge)
These 15 song-puzzles in 34:20 are sophisticated amusements all, although often the amusement is attenuated and one I get bored with before half its 2:38 is over. How amusing they prove over time remains, of course, to be determined. Most amusing: "Your Girlfriend's Face" and "I'll Go Anywhere With Hugh" (tie). Most‑-sorry, it's the right word‑-soulful: "Andrew in Drag." I note for the record that all three are among the first five tracks. A MINUS
Once inside, what Nora wanted to know what, "is this rock and roll"? She had a huge grin on her face. I said yes, and the moment I let her go for one second she charged the stage full speed, me running behind. We stayed the entire 45-minute set of a band called The Big Sleep, and before we left Nora had a CD and a postcard. She listened to the CD for years, and taped the postcard above her bed as soon as we got home.
All this concert going was at her urging, not originally because I intended it. The summer before she turned five, we were walking down past the student center of Chico State University at about 9PM. My wife, who is a historian, was at a conference. Loud music was coming from the student center, and Nora demanded that we go find it. With her on my shoulders, I ended up talking my way past some guards – the price was way too high to see three indie bands I'd never heard of with a four year old – saying my daughter was curious and I'm sure we'd leave in one minute.
Why lookee there -- A Mahlathini and The Queens concert poster on the wall. Right above my computer screen. It's important that when you peel those off the telephone poles that you not tear the corners where they're stapled on.
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The other related issue for me is the one about bringing children to rock concerts, which I don't understand why almost nobody does. Since she was 4, my daughter has seen, in addition to Aretha, Bob Dylan, the Mekons, Los Lobos, Prince, Youssou N'Dour, Al Green, Ringo Starr (admittedly her choice, not mine!), as well as Beatles, Elvis, and Rolling Stones cover bands/impersonators. Not bad, huh? I saw my first concert at 15 and I'd be embarrassed to tell you who (though inevitably I will, right?) She also plays more than a dozen Beatles songs (as well as some Elvis, Buddy Holly, Hank Williams, etc.) on the ukelele. I tell people it's very important to me to see to her classical education.
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The Queens, the Queens, the Queens.
Oh, the Queens.
Thank you, Bob. Never would have seen them otherwise.
Oh, the Queens!
Richard, I went to New York to see Aretha four years ago, given that she's afraid of flying so she'll probably never play Europe again. Glad I went - not outstanding perhaps but it was great to be in the same room (when I say room, I mean Radio City Music Hall). I went for a week and was able to stay with my brother so got to see a lot of other good gigs, particularly Jesus H Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse.
Also voting for Sonny Rollins, Ornette and the Mekons. Saw Mahlathini and the Queens in the Bottom Line in 1994 (in NYC for the World Cup) with about ten other people, not sure whether the Queens still tour but I'd say they're worth seeing any time. Jeff reminded me of Orchestra Baobab, also great when I saw them.
Off the top of my head --
Van Morrison (though he's probably never going to be doing the right material again)
B. B. King
I want to give Al Green another chance (shoulda seen him in church but couldn't squeeze it in). The one time I saw Green he did a brief promo gig for a movie about him, solo with acoustic guitar, and he mailed it in something fierce.
Re Clinton still havIng "it", that raises a question: which great veteran artists still out there should be seen at all cost?
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.