Loudon Wainwright III/Lee Ranaldo
What Do You Mean You're an Old Man? I'm the Old Man Around Here.
Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now (2nd Story Sound)
A reluctant 50, he started playing the Old card with the adulthood album Grown Man; now, a saggy stripling of 65, he trumps himself with a mortality album. Wainwright has been writing death songs for years, of course, but on his eighth album and label of the young century the theme turns concept. In one song he's a ghost; another features a reflection his late father wrote about his own late father; the one that begins "Somebody else I knew just died" is followed by the one called "The Days That We Die." Family members abound, including the late Kate McGarrigle in a remake of her sole co-write with her husband, from before either was 30, which happens to be called "Over the Hill." There are cameos from Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Chris Smither, John Scofield, the winsome Dame Edna Everage; Tom Lehrer declined but loved how Wainwright fit the word "Mercurochrome" into "My Meds." With Elliott, Loud-O bids for a do-over: "You don't know what you're doin' and you can't just wait;/You go ahead and do it and then it's too late/You need a double lifetime." After he goes down on his knees and prays, as he promises he will, this album will be Exhibit A on his application. A
Lee Ranaldo: Between the Times and the Tides (Matador)
Never much of a singer even by Sonic Youth standards and always abrasive solo, Ranaldo applies his best-in-band chops to riffage and filigree so lovely his well-meaning and far from altogether tuneless plainsong has the welcome effect of situating the guitar in the same reality occupied by his lyrics, which always make sense and often seem a mere detail away from total lucidity. Throughout he recaptures the repose of A Thousand Leaves's "Hoarfrost," his will to reconciliation and renewal always palpable whether the songs reach out or recalibrate his options. Just the album you'd hope from a thoughtful 56-year-old after his band of 30 years breaks up. Best in show is "Angles," a love song to someone he knows well and can always stand to know better. Not a bandmate, either. A MINUS
As to getting bored, I certainly get down in the dumps about the state of music occasionally. And genres and subcultures do wax and wane--nobody's gonna tell me this is a good time for indie-rock, for instance. But then I just start spelunking a little harder among genres that require more investigation and get sunnier again.
Using Ryan as a template, order within grade his doing:
Great: Back in the USSR, Glass Onion, I'm So Tired, Yer Blues, Sexy Sadie, Helter Skelter, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Blackbird, Everybody's Got, Piggies, Rocky Raccoon, Don't Pass Me By, Why Don't We Do It, I Will, Julia, Birthday, Honey Pie, Good Night
Good: Dear Prudence, Martha My Dear, Revolution 1, Savoy Truffle
Iffy: Mother Nature's Son, Long Long Long, Cry Baby Cry, Wild Honey Pie, Bungalow Bill (one through three solely because I can't remember how they sound--might love them if I played them; Wild Honey Pie pretty dim too; Bungalow Bill maybe a Good)
Not Good: Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Revolution 9, Ob-La-Di,
Dropping in because I have an obligation to someone I only apprehended through the EW comments section, so mentioning this anywhere else wouldn't make any sense.
I mean David Schweitzer (along with his wonderful alt-name, Foolish Contender).
I took up Carl Wilson's Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste because he plugged it. Reading it showed I was wrong about a book series and alerted me to a fine work and a byline to watch for. Anybody who does that, virtual or real, in this world or the next, deserves a bow.
The parts on the Canadian music scene (should be Wilson's truly big book) and the end of taste were aptly informative and enlightening. The former needs much more probing. The latter is part of the huge upheaval of art after art about art (even in pop music) and the end of traditional media.
Big hit records have a huge audience, even if it emphatically doesn't include you, and sometimes it's worth at least a bit of effort to understand who they are. And what your relationship to them is.
Of course the masterstroke of the book is how Wilson subtlety (and he's a subtle guy) ties it into meditations on the emotional roots and ramifications of his recent divorce. It's one of the least self-centered and self-serving examples of personalized critical essay I've read. Some passages are as touching as Love Is a Mix Tape.
Stephen Merritt appears as a charming counterpoint throughout the book and in the end you can't deny a music world that includes 69 Love Songs has to make room for a Let's Talk About Love as well. Thanks for the pick, David.
Congratulation to Bob and Carola on their birthdays. I remember Bob's 50th vividly. There's been few times that I've felt a whisper of community in New York, but that was one. I remember Andy Fairweather Low never sounded better. I remember Joe Levy keeping people from slapping me down for talking too much. I remember Carola saying (paraphrase) "At Bob's 40th we had to send our for extra whiskey, this time we've got extra."
Finally, a heartfelt shout-out to the Brattelboro store Twice Upon a Time. I just learned it's a commission place with contributions from dozens of collectors, which makes it even more remarkable that it's the only antique/used store I know where it's obvious why every single item -- whether it's to your, um, taste or not -- was picked up for display. We have a lovely glass flower vase from there. Wonderful place. A must-visit.
I think Exile is one of those albums people convince themselves they like more than they actually like, because they're supposed to like it.
Biggest birthday surprise--a Wussy t shirt from my sister-in-law, Georgia. Best listening on the getaway trip to Vermont--Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Best part of the whole thing--the getaway.
"The White Album" is not my favorite Beatles album- it
only gets an A
GREAT: Back In the U.S.S.R., Dear Prudence, Glass Onion, Happiness is a Warm Gun, I’m So Tired, Yer Blues, Sexy Sadie, Helter Skelter, Revolution 9
GOOD: While My Guitar, Martha My Dear, Blackbird, Mother Nature’s Son, Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Money (I think), Long, Long, Long, Revolution 1, Cry Baby Cry
IFFY: Ob-La-Di, Piggies, Rocky Raccoon, Don’t Pass Me By, Why Don’t We Do It In the Road? (great vocal though), I Will, Julia (which I know some people think is just the greatest thing), Birthday, Honey Pie, Savoy Truffle
NOT GOOD: Wild Honey Pie, The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Good Night
(Or maybe I just never played it. Until now!)
The new archives and library is a big new multi million dollar structure that was built at the nearby Tri-C college. It's definitely worth a visit just check out the cool stuff
If you are ever so lucky to be married to as wonderful a spouse as mine, then let me tell you a story. I got the most wonderful gift from her for my 40th. She still won't tell me what it cost her but I got a behind the scenes tour of the vaults curated by Jim Henke. Got to see handwritten lyrics and notebooks (Cobain, Dylan, and Westerberg, etc.), and Outfits (MJ's- much taller than I expected, Prince- much shorter than I realized, Britney, etc..) and Guitars ( Lennon, Hendrix, Clapton, Waters, Wolf, Ramone, etc...) posters, etc. My head was spinning as all of this was being brought out to me by white gloved people working back in the vault. Most interesting and coolest object was the reel to reel tape machine prominent on the cover of the Basement Tapes. I didn't realize until then it was the actual seven inch reel to reel they recorded with. I know these are just museum pieces but it was so much more to me as a music fanatic. I'm glad to have seen some history. Love my wife.
I fight nostalgia with almost as much vigilance as Xgau, but that is almost enough to make me cry. There are the obvious caveats, mainly the lack of diversity of both artists (although usually the Voice was good at covering black music) and writers, but I know I can't find anything close to this anywhere today.
Of course, that also means my day is rather easily made.
Was in Woodstock-I'm sure it was the year following THE
concert. In a country general store kind of place-checking out this cowhide
rug or throw--Levon Helm and Garth Hudson walk in-say hello to the
proprieter-he hands the rug/throw to Garth-they say thanks and leave. I wanted
that cowhide thing. End of story.
Saw The Band at THE concert- I guess the previouis year. They perfomed "The Weight"
on a beautiful Saturday night with 400,000 or so people sitting in peace- even the moon was
The next day the rains came-such is life. RIP Levon and your Band-mates who left us way too early.
I think Exile is one of those albums people convince themselves they like more than they actually like
Now, on the other side of the coin, I always get bored halfway through Layla and can't stand Bobby Whitlock's voice. You likes what you likes indeed. I know I'm wrong, though.
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.