The Julie Ruin/Neko Case
The straightforward forties
The Julie Ruin: Run Fast (TJR)
Although I read in the Times that late-stage Lyme disease sufferer Kathleen Hanna's first album since 2004 includes "several peppy numbers about euthanasia," I dare you to figure out which they are. What's easy to tell is that at 44, the riot godmotherrr commands pretty much the same old skinny soprano, only with soft edges that sound tender or thoughtful sometimes. You can make out enough lyrics to determine that these vulnerabilities don't come at the cost of crazee abandon, modulated tantrum, or childish drawl. And you soon realize that the music continues a trajectory that runs from Bikini Kill through Le Tigre to this version of the pop music every great punk loves: surf guitar, bongo effects, keyboard hooks from Hammond to EDM, and‑-crucially, I think‑-a male voice on occasion, mostly for deep ballast. Some say she's from Mars, or one of the seven stars that shine after 3:30 in the morning. But she isn't. A
Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti-)
Now 42 and three years past her most readily parsed solo album, Case confesses that the mortality she's seen in the interim moved her to write more confessionally. That seems to mean, although no one's talking, not just lyrically but melodically and structurally, which translates to more parsably still. There are hooks here, folks, and literalism fan that I am, I say they're most effective on the strictly reportorial "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" and the lost-love "Calling Cards." Favorite metaphor: "Man"'s "I'm a man." Favorite obscurity: "You never held it at the right angle." A MINUS
"Remember when Lester Bangs said something about Elvis being the last artist we all agree on? Don't you think Debbie's one of those?"
Because this is one of the most iconic lines in rock crit, I will come out of retirement to give it proper context.
"But I can guarantee you one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis. So I won't bother saying good-bye to his corpse. I will say good-bye to you."
First: who do you mean, "we" Keemo Sabe?
Bangs meant the largest popular audience possible -- a vast congregation who were united though they did not know it. But who knew it when they heard it. There are stadiums and stadiums full of people who dig Gaga and Madonna who never nodded twice at this Debbie Harry person.
Second: we will never agree on anything as we agreed on
This brings up the universal icon issue. Michael Jackson is the last pop star with a credible claim to "we all agree on." That's the scale it has to be.
Finally, you were right, Lester -- fragmentation is the watchword of the future. Now and forever, it seems. Community, meet atoms. Atoms, fend for yourselves.
Thanks J-of many numbers and letters-for the Blondie and X stuff. Two bands I had
the pleasure of seeing more than once moons ago. It helps my argument when I tell people how great
the Stones, The Who, Dylan etc. are -live-to this day. Is there that much of a difference between
Debbie's 68 and Mick's-what is it-69?
After a brief intermission, Blondie took the stage, opening up with "One Way or Another" which got the entire crowd on their feet and dancing. Debbie was wearing a dunce's hat and long robe, in costume per their upcoming No Principals album. At the end of the song, she removed the robe and hat, revealing a tight black miniskirt. I recall our host reviewing a 1998 Blondie concert saying that Debbie Harry was "the sexiest 53-year-old rock goddess ever seen on the planet. " (I just looked it up). Well, last night, Debbie was the sexiest 68-year-old rock goddess ever seen on the planet. (I just relayed that fact to my girlfriend and her jaw dropped.) Seriously, Debbie looked fit and trim and incredible - sexier than Madonna without trying, and without shedding her clothes either. Chris Stein, looking good behind his perpetual shades, brandished an ultra-cool-looking axe playing lead guitar on about half the songs and rhythm on the others, powerhouse Clem Burke threw and caught at least one drumstick per song, and three younger guys filled out the band on gtr, keybs and bass. The band's 90 minute set sounded great - not as tight as the reunited New York Dolls in 2006 but fabulous all the same. Debbie, happy to be back in the states, interacted with the audience a lot, sang all the hits and hit all the notes. They had a cool video screen behind the band showing psychedelic images of fire (an explosive Atomic) and water (a cool-skanking The Tide Is High) and a cameo by Systema Solar. They played Maria, Union City Blue, Hanging on the Telephone, a few songs from their upcoming album which sounded OK, and closed with Heart of Glass, which got everyone up and dancing again. They encored with a punky "Call Me", a dreamy "Dreaming", and an extended "Rapture" which morphed into "No Sleep Til Brooklyn", which reminded me I had to hit the road and get home. No Sleep Til Long Island. At 4:00 AM.
Drove 3.5 hours from Long Island to Atlantic City to see Blondie in concert last night. Never having seen them, I figured this would be a great chance to see two bands I'd always wanted to see - the second band being X, who is opening for Blondie on their current U.S. tour, which kicked off last week, the AC gig being their second since returning to the states from their summer tour of Europe. X was the real reason I made the trek. I couldn't risk waiting until their NY date on 10/4 since I may be out of town then. So my girlfriend and I hopped in the car and hit the road, bringing along The Best of Blondie, No Exit, Parallel Lines and my Los Angeles-Wild Gift CD. It was an extremely diverse audience at the Golden Nugget Grand Ballroom but for the most part they were all boomers there to see Blondie who seemed oblivious to X. My girlfriend told me later that she scanned the entire audience during X's set and saw only three guys headbanging along with the band - one of them being me. X was fantastic. DJ Bonebrake is one helluva rock drummer and didn't sound like he'd lost a step, Exene and especially John sounded in strong voice, and Billy Zoom was a star. Always one of my guitar heroes, he looked as cool as ever, legs spread apart in a classic guitar stance, he more than lived up to my expectations. They kicked off with "Your Phone's Off the Hook" and never slowed down. Their one-hour set included a few tracks from their Elektra albums ("The Hungry Wolf", a cover of "Breathless", "How I Learned My Lesson") but every other song came from their first two Slash LPs. Los Angeles, in particular, sounded absolutely fierce. "The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss" and "Nauseau" were both awesome, even without Ray Manzarek's organ fills, and the six tracks from Wild Gift made the drive worth it by themselves. Wild Gift remains one of my favorite albums of all time and to see Billy Zoom recreate those songs in person practically note for note was great. I remember being blown away by that album the first time I heard it, wondering if any guitar overdubbing was done, but now I know Zoom is just one talented mother - switching from riffs to leads and back with super speed, he's a one-man guitar army. "When Our Love Passed Out on the Couch", "Some Other Time", and "In This House That I Call Home" were especially impressive. They closed with "Soul Kitchen" dedicated to Ray Manzarek.
I wrote a post in reply to Sappera's PED comments earlier today, but deleted it because the tone was inappropriate, but it's been bugging me all day. Plus I thought Robert's post on the subject deserved far more positive thumbs than it got, while Sappera's deserves far more thumb bombs than it's received so far.
You can dress it up in all the left-wing rhetoric you want, but beneath what you say, Sappera, is a dog-eat-dog, do-what-you-can-to-get-ahead mentality that has far more in common with the neo-Randian fantasies of the Tea Party than it does with any serious progressive, much less socialist, analysis. The great strength of what Robert wrote was that he placed the debate within the context of the social ramifications of PED use and how everyone loses if these things are tolerated. The pressure to win will end up making a lot of people more vulnerable to the physical and professional risks associated with PED use.
You imagine an economically and racially marginalized player using PEDs to triumph over the system, but in reality more of those players are going to end up on the losing end of that game than win from it, certainly in terms of long-term health. Jay-Z might give evidence that you can play the game and win, but I'm pretty convinced The Wire is a truer picture of that kind of untrammeled capitalism than he is. And The Wire showed a raft of devastated lives.
I agree that the rhetoric of the PED debate is insipid moralism, but most debates are in part because of how stories are covered and in part because how most people discuss moral issues. But bad talk doesn't change the underlying moral questions. (And that's just as true in terms of drugs. Plenty of bad rhetoric and policies out there, but that doesn't mean we want a society where we don't take seriously the downsides of drug usage.) And sorry, I can't resist one cheap shot: "white capitalist supremacy" and "white Protestant BS" are just as guilty of the moralizing offense. They push buttons without contributing to analysis or understanding.
Doesn't hurt that she's quite okay with New Age-y instrumentals but most of her comments were about the quality of his vocal tone and both how and why it comes to be like it does. A safe bet is that we end up seeing him live someday.
My sources tell me Wussy turned down the
Super Bowl Halftime Show because of a previous
So why not Bruno Mars?
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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