Friday, September 30, 2005


They're sitting around the bar on a Tuesday night just bullshitting, talking guy stuff, some baseball, and of course some music. Kerry asks Jay to list his favorite bands. "Top five," he says. Jay gives it a little more thought than necessary, then launches into the litany. "The Clash, Velvets, The Beatles, Rolling Stones--"

"Hold it right there," Kerry says. "You CANNOT list both the Beatles AND the Stones as your favorites. No way. You're either a Beatles person or a Stones person. There's a big difference. So which is it?"

Jay is nonplussed but gets the point. "Beatles," he says quickly.

An interesting idea - that splitting hairs among your preferences actually reveals more than a list of general likes and dislikes. So in the spirit that deep in your soul you're EITHER foremost a Stones person OR a Beatles person, here are a few other musical tests of primary allegiance.

The Beatles OR The Rolling Stones
John Lennon OR Paul McCartney
Sex Pistols OR The Clash
Billie Holiday OR Ella Fitzgerald
Iggy Pop OR David Bowie
Frank Zappa OR Capt. Beefheart
Al Green OR Marvin Gaye
New Order OR Joy Division
The Bee Gees OR ABBA
Biggie OR Tupac
Miles Davis OR John Coltrane
Husker Du OR The Replacements
John Bonham OR Keith Moon
Motown OR Stax
The Cure OR The Smiths
Howling Wolf OR Muddy Waters
Jerry Lee Lewis OR Little Richard
Roxy Music OR Brian Eno
The Stooges OR The MC5
Tori Amos OR Kate Bush
Parliament OR Funkadelic
Dr. Dre OR The RZA
Janis Joplin OR Tina Turner
Frank Sinatra OR Tony Bennett
Sam Cooke OR Otis Redding
Tom Waits pre-Swordfishtrombones OR Tom Waits post-Swordfishtrombones
Minor Threat OR Black Flag
Dolly Parton OR Loretta Lynn
Cecil Taylor OR Ornette Coleman
Ice Cube OR Ice-T
Fat Elvis OR Thin Elvis

Raw Power OR Fun House
Harry Smith OR Alan Lomax
Philip Glass OR Steve Reich
Quadraphenia OR Tommy
The O'Jays OR The Chi-Lites
Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett OR Pink Floyd without Syd Barrett
Sgt. Pepper's OR Pet Sounds
John Cale OR Lou Reed
Caetano Veloso OR Gilberto Gil

Post your answers in comments. "Yes" does not count, smart guy. Ditto for "neither." (List revamped 10/1)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Oi, vayzmere.

Having recently read England's Dreaming, Jon Savage's deep history of British punk, version 1.0, it was a little unsettling to read, via Cosloy's Can't Stop the Bleeding, that British PM Tony Blair was escorted to the stage today at a Labo(u)r party conference accompanied by the Sham 69 anthem "If the Kids Are United." Perhaps Blair was inspired by Sham singer Jimmy Pursey's recent kicking match with former foe John Lydon (as reported here, also with a link to the song itself), finding inspiration in this bit of school yard drama: punk not entirely dead. Maybe I'm just used to the plasticine political appreances of the US's current leader, but given UK punk's slipperly political lineage---which shifted from a Dada-inflected, massive NO, to Rock Against Racism, to Oi! and National Front and skinheads at various points---it would seem that Sham 69, progenitors to Oi as they were, is a pretty dicey choice. Is thirty years enough time to erase history?

It's also a bold choice simply on musical merits. Classic UK punk might be thirty years old, but "If the Kids" is still pretty potent. And about kids. Hard to imagine what the W. equivalent would be. Marching up to the podium to "Blitzkrieg Bop"? (Johnny would've liked that.) Among other things, this little episode is just another bit of evidence pointing to the chronic need of the enfranchised to make certain songs not mean certain things.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Highway to hell.

Jack White may be ordering Satan to get behind him these days, but it didn't seem like he was battling any demons on Saturday night at keyspan Park in Coney Island. Instead he seemed plugged root-deep into his own talents and inspirations and able to draw freely on all that power to play a nonstop 100-minute show that electrified the entire ballpark. He segued from song to song without pausing, raced around the stage between guitars, organ, piano, and mandolin - and even rocked the marimba on a surprisingly loud and satisfying version of "The Nurse."

The emphasis was on rawness, and many of the songs were taken at breakneck speed with jagged whelps of disortion spraying from the amps and Meg White bashing away like she was in a Minor threat cover band. Jack has mastered the trick of making his one guitar sound like (at least) two people playing at once and used an octaver to summon the brown sound bass usually reserved for techno clubs. His insanely unhinged slide playing on "Death Letter" was dubbed by my pal Kurt as "Duane Allman gone to hell and come back with a nasty meth habit." The rest of the solos were two parts Jimmy Page, one part Link Wray, and one part Greg Ginn. Ferocious slabs of riff but still sculpted and nuanced. He hollared and teased out the lyrics, knee deep in every sentiment.

Yes, there's still only two of them, so coasting wasn't an option. The band - and duh, Jack in particular - seem to be riding some creative high right now. He seems like an effortless conduit for the music he wants to conjure - mixing blues, garage, punk, country, bluegrass, soul, and even some electronica into something distinctly his own. He's turned into a majorly charismatic (and weird looking - he's still sporting the Michael Jackson gone hasdic look) rock star, but one of the most uncompromising I can think of. People still talk shit about Meg's drumming, but it's more clear than ever that she gives the band that necessary primal punk edge needed to ground his virtuosity and keep it honest. Anyone who can't see that by now just doesn't get their music at some fundamental level. Plus, when Jack eventually goes solo, it won't be as good. Why? History, for one thing. Can you name an artist who made their name in a band and then went on to do even better work as a solo artist?!! (Art says "Peter Gabriel." Kurt, who actually likes early Genesis, isn't so sure. Myself, I don't really care that much for either phase of his career.)

One of the best things about the show was seeing how much the white Stripes have improved in the last five years. (And thanks to Art and Ellen for the free tickets and encouragement to give the band another chance). I walked out on the band's free Hudson pier show right around the time the great White Blood Cells was released. Jack stood stock still and stared at feet while playing listless five minute guitar solos that went nowhere. Meg seemed like she was in a Shaggs cover band. Maybe it was an off night, but there was no spark. Saturday night's performance was a different order of magnitude altogether. Same two people, but an entirely different band.

Pull Up the People

Idly watching TV last night, I was shocked to hear M.I.A.'s "Galang" blasting from my speakers. No, I wasn't watching New York Noise [sic] but rather tuned to a Honda Civic commercial on CBS. A really fucking lame Honda Civic commercial at that, filled with bad animation, explosions, and cars swooping through the air like superheroes. The ad even used "Galang"'s rebel yell/take it to the streets coda, just to complete the utter debasement of the song.

Yeah, I know we live in an all-consuming corporate culture and have managed to get over such dissonant oddities as The Stooges "1969" used to advertise deals on long distance. But what does it mean for a self-proclaimed revolutionary who raps about overthrowing the system and compares herself to Public Enemy in interviews to sell her song for a car commercial six months after releasing it? You may ask, would "Fight the Power" be any less potent if it was used to shill for Friskies a year after its release? Yes, yes it would.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Birthday blitz.

Coltrane's birthday is tomorrow, September 23. He would've been 79. To honor the day you can listen to the rather lovely ten-song stream available at, or tune your Internets to Columbia U's WKCR, who will surely be airing their annual birthday broadcast all day. Born under a musical sign, JC shares his birthdate with Albert Ammons, Frank Foster, and Ray Charles. Sam Rivers turns 75 two days later.

AACM pianist and teacher Muhal Richard Abrams also turned 75 on Monday, September 19. His standards show no sign of flagging, as he refrained from performing solo at Tuesday evening's Vision Fest-sponsored Katrina benefit, owing to an out-of-tune piano.

And the Braxton @ 60 series of performances are underway at Wesleyan, and running through December, for interested Connecticutians and neighbors.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Showing vision.

If free jazz is your bag, and you've been looking for additional ways to support Katrina-affected citizens, here's where you'll be tomorrow night (Tuesday, Sept. 20):

A Jazz and Creative Music All-Star Benefit
for the Artists of New Orleans

172 Norfolk Street (just south of Houston)
Tuesday September 20, 2005
5pm to midnight
Donation $30 or for those who can afford $100

Order of Appearance
--Students from the New York High Schools (Humanities Preparatory and James Baldwin) perform work developed with Vision artists and teachers: Bob Craddock, Lan Ding Liu, Patricia Nicholson, William Parker, Matthew Shipp and Guillermo E. Brown
--The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra with Rob Brown, Sabir Mateen, Darryl Foster, Dave Sewelson, Roy Campbell, Lewis Barnes, Matt Lavelle, Masahiko Kono, Steve Swell, Dave Hofstra, William Parker, Andrew Barker, Leena Conquest
--Masada with Dave Douglas Greg Cohen, Kenny Wollesen and John Zorn
--Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Whit Dickey, Patricia Nicholson
--Bill Dixon solo trpt
--Oliver Lake, Ted Daniel, Ahmed Abdullah, Reggie Workman, Cooper-Moore
--Muhal Richard Abrams solo piano
--Kidd Jordan, Clyde Kerr, Kali Z. Fasteau, Henry Grimes, Hamid Drake + poet Amiri Baraka
--Tri-Factor with Hamiet Bluiett, Billy Bang & Kahil El-Zabar + poet Quincy Troupe
--Kidd Jordan, William Parker, Charles Gayle, Roy Campbell, Hamid Drake
--Jazz Passengers with Deborah Harry and Elvis Costello
--Yo La Tengo with Other Dimensions in Music

Emcees: Steve Buscemi, Steve Dalachinsky & Patricia Nicholson

All proceeds from these events will go directly to New Orleanian artists via The Jazz Foundation of America and the New Orleans Musician's Clinic.

Death to :-).

Witness the birth of the smiley emoticon, twenty-three years ago today, in horrifying slow motion. Answers for all time the burning question: were they really that geeky? [ via ]

Friday, September 16, 2005

Where you want this killin' done?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It makes me feel so sorry.

You got the DVD on preorder, you got the TiVo all lined up, the book+CD package is already on the coffee table.... but are you really a Dylan fan if your cell phone doesn't croon "Lay Lady Lay" when a call comes in? [ via ]

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ballad of a thin man.

With September shaping up as National Bob Dylan Month (funny it didn't make the cut here), Radio Byrne is streaming 40-odd Dylan songs, with a (too) select few covers (Jimi, Byrds, Band, Baez, Chan). It's easy to quibble --- more choice covers might've been nice (Thurston's "Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence"; The Poster Children's "Isis"; Polly Jean's "Highway 61 Revisited"), also more from recent days, more rarities --- but if you're looking to soundtrack your day with Dylan, it'll do.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

She said, "Don't be afraid."

Alex Chilton was in N.O. through Katrina. No word yet, but no reason to be fearful, either, as he apparently made it through the worst of the storm intact. [via]

UPDATE: Chilton okay. This is of course a tiny story amid the catastrophe, but we're not up to grand statements and leave the context-setting and commentary to others.