Noise boys‑-well, men
No Age: An Object (Sub Pop)
With drummer-etc. Dean Spunt's vocals mixed up front and enunciated like he means them, you'd think they'd gone pop on us except that, in the great Moore-Ranaldo tradition, pop is well beyond Spunt's manful monotone. But in the same great tradition, he and guitar-wielding Randy Randall are committed to rendering noise as music. Is that a saxophone lowing underneath "C'mon, Stimmung"'s I'm-OK-I'm-OK? Are those electric cellos bowing behind "An Impression"'s Monet appreciation? Is that a full orchestra plus ornithological field recordings‑-oh, never mind. I hope not. There's a pleasure on the far edge of song in imagining that two DIY purists are making all these musical noises with their guitar collection and their home studio. A MINUS
Burial: Truant/Rough Sleeper (Hyperdub)
In which the mystery man follows up the Kindred EP with what is nominally a two-"song" "single," each title divided into silence-separated sections and the whole thing clocking in at 25:32 it says here. Background music it's not‑-while I admired it fine doing my daytime musical tasks, I only got it when I put it on at five o'clock in the morning, whereupon I discovered that its spooky gravity and deliberate movement suggested elegiac or perhaps even inspirational goals. Fifteen years later, the Alan Lomax gospel samples of Moby's Play are regarded as shamelessly corny in the techno world. I wonder whether the opening organ melody and very nearly hooky keyboard-ostinato facsimile that comes in around 8:30 of "Rough Sleeper" will offend ascetic snobs another decade or two down the line. A MINUS
Geez, that's scary news. My first major trip anywhere was to Czechoslovakia in 1992 and it was a fascinating time to be in Prague. Only three years after the Velvet Revolution (and one year before the country split into Czech Republic and Slovakia), you could sense the excitement and the freedom in the city with hordes of young people everywhere dressed like hippies and rockers, playing music in the streets and along the Charles Bridge. My buddy and I stayed up all night going from club to club in buildings that used to be ugly Communist office buildings but which were transformed into dance or jazz clubs. I remember hearing Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit one night in a club over there and the place went wild like nothing I've ever seen since. Missed seeing both Sonic Youth and Pulnoc by only a few days, but I still have the gig posters I peeled off the wall. Easily one of the most beautiful cities I've seen in my travels. Took a day trip to Plsen to have a couple of beers at the Pilsner Urquell brewery too.
Also note that Berman had a piece in the Christgau festschrift. I've never been clear on why we're not publishing more of those pieces -- certainly not the fault of HUP's lawyers.
I'm also saddened to note that Saul Landau has died. The 1966 book that he edited with Paul Jacobs, "The New Radicals: A Report with Documents," was the first political book I bought and read after I dropped out of high school, and as such had a big part in shaping the frustration and indignation that I felt as a teenager into a coherent political critique.
By the way, I posted a new Recycled Goods tonight, which I mention because it's very long and has been a huge amount of work, although on the downside it will be of interest to very few of you: the main theme is Polish jazz, and yes, I do love typing all those names.
Here Berman surveyed the "physical and social destruction" of the Bronx that began with the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway. Even as he bemoaned the results of this mindless urban renewal he also insisted that there was "cultural creativity in these ruins" and argued that these rappers, break dancers, graffiti artists and so on represented "one of the most "vibrant and creative culture scenes anywhere today."
Berman thrillingly connected this cultural insurgency to older traditions of what he called "the literature of urbicide" and celebrated how--against great odds--those South Bronx artists "had to stretch all their faculties to find new ways to define themselves, to connect with each other, and to relate to the world."
What an inspiration.
Bob: It's a beautiful party. Thanks for throwing it and allowing all of us to be here now. The overlap of Professor Berman's death, your B and N piece on Norman Rush that ends with a tombstone, and work on your own memoir is sobering. Good that there are humanitarians such as the permanently resilient Jon Langford to keep us pushing forward.
All that is Solid was a huge influence on mekons round the time of the Curse album - Tom was particularly obsessed with the Conjuring!
Marshall called me once to meet up at the Art Institute in Chicago and suggested the sofa opposite Seurat's Grand Jatte as a suitable meeting place. My Mum was visiting from Wales so I took her with me and we sat on the sofa before having afternoon tea in the AIC Cafe. He was there to promote his latest book in and my Mum asked him what it was called. "Adventures in Marxism" replied Marshall. "Oh, that's nice" said my Mum.
I had no idea that he published in the Voice on pop music, but I'd love to read it. I know that he wrote quite alot for The Nation and Dissent over the year, although very little of that has been collected. Also, I read somewhere recently that he was preparing a book on urban space which we can only hope will see the light of day in some form (assuming that it was near completion).
1) If you haven't read All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, do so. It's one of the great books of the 20th century, and not a difficult read at all.
2) Marshall had read all the biggies of Western Civ--he read constantly, endlessly--yet he enjoyed, respected, and cared about popular culture like few academic intellectuals I'm aware of, and that includes some who specialize in the stuff. Loved hip-hop, although he did lose track a little. Loved Dylan even more. Appeared in Doug Simmons's music section at the Voice.
I could go on.
Marshall Berman, author of the influential and widely translated Marxist-humanist celebration of late modernism All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, died this morning, apparently of a heart attack. Berman was a graduate of Columbia University with a Ph.D from Harvard who also did graduate work at Oxford. Since 1966 he had taught at the City University of New York, where he was a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and in May delivered CUNY's annual Lewis Mumford Lecture, an honor rarely accorded faculty. He was born November 24, 1940 in the Bronx, a locale that inspired writing about the city that ranged from ancient Jerusalem to Baudelaire's Paris to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro.
"Dave Hickey: Pirates and Farmers, Essays on Taste is currently at the printers and will arrive with our UK distributor (Cornerhouse) next week. It will arrive with our US distributor (RAM Publications + Distribution, Inc) in mid-October. I would allow a couple of weeks for each distributor to unpack the shipment and begin to send orders out."
In other words, don't expect to get your hands on it until November.
This rube is still trying to get through Sandinista. I've been on and off with the album the past 2 months...for some odd reason it was very hard to track down a cheap used copy (And I was looking for the reissue). What to make of it? Yeah it's a real mess but I also enjoy the fact it's a **** you in many different respects.
London Calling still is tops. I don't know what it is with me and sprawling double albums. I feel the same way about Exile, SignOTimes, White Album, etc. But LC was the first Clash I listened to and enjoyed all the way through, like I said before I didn't grow up with punk...for me it was hip-hop.
Give Em Enough Rope is a bit overlooked no?
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.
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