"And Let the Heavens Hear It/The Penitential Hymn"
Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas (Columbia)
So subtly that it takes forever to sink in and so slowly that reading along is a must, Cohen coughs up his first studio album in eight years, meaning his next is due when he's 85 unless he dies first, which seems to be his bet. Except maybe for Johnny Cash's, no death album has ever come across quite this somber. Since Cohen generated the succulent 2009 Live in London as well as the prunelike 2010 Songs From the Road during the never-ending tour that intervened, it's conceivable that he's playing up the fragility of his crumbling baritone to back that bet as the usual panoply of handmaidens provides soul, sweetening, and breathing room. But give it its long chance and you'll find that not only is Cohen's sense of humor alive and kicking from the first words, in which Cohen famously ventriloquizes for Jahweh himself, but that the final song is keyed to the refrain "You want to change the way I make love/I want to leave it alone." Naturally, what he wants to leave alone is left ambiguous‑-his feckless, lubricious, needy, expert way of making love, or making love itself? If the former, what's this "saved by a blessed fatigue"? And if the latter, what's this "her braids and her blouse all undone"? Eight years younger than Cohen myself, I wouldn't be surprised if it's both, and don't look forward to the relevant critical insights the future will almost certainly afford me. A MINUS
EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)
Erika Anderson claims "Zen nihilism" is what you get growing up on South Dakota's bleak prairie under South Dakota's endless sky, which sounds reasonable until you start counting how many South Dakotans feel this way: approximately one. So insofar as she pretends her willful pose is the holy truth, she's annoying. What saves that pose is the willful power of a presentation less Courtney Love or Chan Marshall than PJ Harvey‑-"nothin and nothin and nothin and nothin" as an emotional reality that's her truth whether she's maxing out on free love or playing Russian roulette with a butterfly knife.
I'm very glad the threads here remain open, not least because I know if I came across this blog I sure would add remarks to old discussions, whether anyone ever read them or not. I go back to check if anything's been added every once in a long while, here. (Sadly, a good deal of additions turn out to be stinkin' ads like the one attached to the thread before this one.) ((Actually, I hope somebody in charge does read here because this joker KnightVision has stuck a total of seven spam messages into EW.)) (((EDIT: actually, only one spam in EW -- the rest in "Movie News.")))
I talked about that book because I edited Jimmy Guterman many times in the 1980s and I could never persuade him that specific type of takedown was a waste of time.
Indeed, it's a longstanding obsession of mine and I have many times gotten the message that I "just don't get the appeal" of that type of review.
I get it, alright. I just don't accept it.
I should put on the record that this is not about negative reviews. I loved the Turkey Shoot edition of the Consumer Guide. What wasn't appreciated enough was the stone brilliance of the selections. Almost all the albums were embodiments of pernicious trends or created disturbing influences or duff works that had been praised by intelligent people.
That's how to do it. This business of announcing it's somehow scandalous or "revealing" that Bob Dylan or U2 or Stevie Wonder has made a crud record has zero interest as piece of writing. Or that Billy Joel is, you know, a middlebrow hack, years after that was a forgone conclusion.
I had more: about how a streak of sadism can be a benefit if you write for a daily (out of necessity), how the rise of Camile Paglia (you spell her name right there's no underline) was an ugly landmark in culture discourse. But I'll wrap up with the comment that life's too short to listen to bad music unless you have to, let alone write about it. And a quote from Roger Ebert's mournful memoir:
I felt good that Herzog had been in my life close to the beginning and now probably close to the end and had never made an unworthy film. I don't think Bahrani will make one, either. Artists like them bring meaning to my life, which has been devoted in such large part to films of worthlessness.
Commenting on a dead thread may be ridiculous, but as I've said, what I've found far more rude and disruptive is carrying a discussion over from thread to thread. I avoid it whenever possible.
Next, if I didn't want Michael Tatum or anyone else reading something, why on earth would I put it up in a public place? Like I say, I'm old, not stupid. (Q: How much internet mind-reading is devoted to discovering somebody had an underhanded motive for doing something? A: A depressingly high percentage.)
Finally, Mr. Tatum, believe it or not, my comment was not all about you and your writing. It was about a particular book. With a particular slant I deplore whenever I get the chance. More about that later. I haven't read enough of your work to form an opinion about it. I never like those type of pieces, no matter who does them.
Milo -- First of all, commenting on a dead thread is ridiculous. Totally ridiculous. But you seem to have done that nine hours ago, thinking that I wouldn't go back and check out this thread. How passive aggressive are you, man?
As for The Worst R&R Records -- I said it was a flawed book. To elucidate, I discovered it when I was seventeen. So I have a sentimental attachment to it. It's not Lolita or Great Expectations or Grown Up All Wrong in my pantheon of inspirational books, in the sense that you mean it. But it does appeal to my highly developed sense of irony.
I'm glad that you take such an interest in my writing, Milo. You know, considering you don't like it or anything.
All right, back to spending time with my pretty wife.
[insert arcane piece of poetry here.]
I've mentioned many times my affection for The Worst Rock and Roll Records of all Time, by O'Donnell and Guterman, a flawed book, but a longtime inspiration.
It's a terrible, terrible inspiration. Though as someone who fostered Jimmy Guterman, rock writer, I have to say mea pulpa. But as someone who doesn't expect to hear from the Harvard Business Review anytime soon, I would say take it off the Books of Wisdom list.
I also peed next to Kevin Bacon. Yup, that makes me one degree.
If, on the other hand, I ever pull my Journey reviews together, you'll see what I mean.
It pains me to say . . .
It's nice that you all have responded, so far, positively to something I worked very, very hard on.
I think assigning yourself this Kiss project has affected you deeply, Michael. You said "hard on."
P.S. Ace Frehley practiced scales?! Are you sure?
Tom Hull once opined that "something not worth doing well is not worth doing at all," a maxim from his days as a programmer.
What I actually said was that "something not worth doing at all isn't worth doing well." His version is more intuitive, at least to people with a quality fetish -- a malady that, I'm afraid, has dogged me throughout my career. But I've all too frequently run into cases where someone committed something that shouldn't be done but we were stuck with. Projects like that tend to get put off because there's no good solution, so that's when I came up with my quip. (Then I spent two days hacking together an interface that became obsolete and unused the day after I demoed it.)
Tatum did work far above my standards on KISS. If, on the other hand, I ever pull my Journey reviews together, you'll see what I mean.
If I came back as a dolphin
Would you listen to me then?
Would you let me be your friend?
Would you let me in?
you can cut off all my fins
But to your ways I will not bend
I'll die before I let you tell me how to swim
And I'll come back again as a dolphin
The next single artist DD will be on an '80s artist
For a second, this made me think you were referring to Duran Duran, which would make a great topic for a full-scale inquiry, but I wouldn't want to be the one doing the actual listening.
except for maybe the lyrics to "Dolphin"
Okay, Joey D, you've talked me into another comment -- the Consumer Guide format is not right for this topic [...]. But the topic is worth exploring.
That was George Mallory. Hillary said, "Well, we knocked the bastard off."Damn! Next thing you're gonna tell me Lizzie Borden didn't kill her parents!
Okay, Joey D, you've talked me into another comment -- the Consumer Guide format is not right for this topic and this writer. But the topic is worth exploring.
The Consumer Guide format takes an insane amount of patience and a very strange level of curiosity. I've mentioned many times my affection for The Worst Rock and Roll Records of all Time, by O'Donnell and Guterman, a flawed book, but a longtime inspiration.
Also, although I take my writing seriously, I'm also in it for the laughs. Making people laugh is definitely something that's a high priority.
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.