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Stubs of ideas, some of which may turn into future posts:

(1a) A punk votes for a punk (Johnny Rotten says nice things about Trump). Okay, he's not necessarily saying that he did vote for Trump, though from what he said it's a good assumption he did; but anyway, my armchair psychosocial analysis of the Trump win already had been "Punks voted for a punk," my using the word punks in a sorta pre-punk-rock sense, meaning people who compensate for subconsciously feeling weak by scapegoating and bullying and hurting the vulnerable; but such "punks" can include normally nice people too, people who let the punk aspect of themselves do their electoral thinking.

(1b) Only "sorta pre-punk-rock" given that original garage-rock punks such as ? And The Mysterians and the Syndicate Of Sound and the Seeds were indeed punks in the old sense, weak bully-type punks (and sexists as well),† but most of the great punk rockers — I'd start "punk rock" w/ Stones and Dylan, actually, with the caveat that the true punks, the garage rockers, weren't Stones and Dylan but the garage kids who'd dumbed Stones, Dylan, and Yardbirds down into punk, which'd be a fine explanation except that no one limits "punk rock" this way; most critics etc. would also include the Velvet Underground and MC5 and Stooges and Patti Smith and Richard Hell and Rocket From The Tombs and even more would include Ramones and Sex Pistols and the Clash and the Heartbreakers and X-Ray Spex and Black Flag and Nirvana and Hole, generally self-aware nonbully types, and if you're going to do this you've got to go back and count Dylan and the Stones — ...anyway, most of the great punk rockers (as generally defined) were about punk way more than they were punk; nonetheless, being self-aware, they drew the connection between actual inner true punk impulses and the punk rock they were playing, understanding their own weakness and that bullying and scapegoating were in there lurking, sitting dangerously inside. But anyway, of all the great punk rockers, the Sex Pistols, who were maybe the greatest ("They make everyone else sound sick by comparison," said my friend Bill Routt), were the ones who were true nasty punks as much as they were about punk. They were the band that made punk safe for fag-bashers (fortunately only somewhat safe).* None of which explains why Johnny Rotten would shit his brains down the toilet and support Trump (apparently, Johnny can't tell a racist from a hole in the ground). If you want to turn to social affinity and group identification as an explanation, Johnny's loyalty is to real punks, not to punk rock. (Yes, there's no way to come up with a unitary reading of the word "punk" in this paragraph. It'd be a stupider paragraph if you could.) I doubt that many self-identified "punks" — those who embrace the music as part of their social identity — voted for Trump. These people veer left instead. If you go by social category, Trump got many of the rocks and hoods and greasers and grits and burnouts — at least, more than he should have — but few of the punks. (Among whites he got a significant amount of the jocks and middle managers, too, and their psyches are probably as much punk as the hoods' are, but that's not relevant to Johnny Rotten's social identification.) I doubt that many Trump voters had ever bothered to listen to punk rock (not counting the garage hits they heard way back); if they had, the aboutness would've stung them, and they'd have been repelled. Nonetheless, I think I can understand that what makes the Sex Pistols sound true and real to me, the screaming squalling blind attempt to stand against anything acceptable and settled that can get you by, is what makes a lying hollow pathological bully like Trump sound transgressive and therefore real and true and honest and substantial to a lot of his fans.

(1c) Of course Trump doesn't win if he gets only the punks. And my armchair analysis isn't based on any actual research of mine into "the Trump voter." As I said two sentences ago, there's more than one type of Trump voter, and individual voters are multi-faceted in their urges and ideas anyway (so a particular Trump voter can be more than one type). I'm actually doing two questionable things: (i) reading the characteristics of the voter off of the characteristics of what they voted for, rather than actually asking the voters who they are and why they like what they like; (ii) using a psychological model that can apply to an individual person to explain the behavior of a group of people (the punk types who voted for that punk Trump), as if the group were an individual writ large. Obviously I think the analysis kinda sorta works, or I wouldn't have made it. It's a strong hypothesis, punks voted for a punk, strong in my mind anyway, though maybe someone more knowledgeable could beat it down with an alternative. ("Strong" analysis? Seriously? How so? It tells you what most of you already know: (1) that I don't like Trump, (2) that I think many of his voters voted for a lot of what I don't like about him, even if they don't understand the policy implications, and (3) that he's a punk. You already knew that. He's a punk. It's maybe a correct analysis, but not strong, since it doesn't tell you anything you don't already know. Maybe it makes you think harder about punk rock, and what I write below maybe'll help you think harder about social class.)

(1di) Trump got more working-class whites than he was expected to )

(1dii) The terms hoods, greasers, grits, and burnouts as stand-ins for current social identities )

(1diii) The class systems in people's immediate experience are not an exact match for the upper-middle-working class grid )

(1div) They voted against Clinton because she's a student-council type )

(1dv) Kids who bombed out of the classroom still hurt by it )

(1e) Middle class divided )

(1f) Want to hurt people and feel good about hurting them )

(2) The failure of education )

(3a) Duncan Watts criticizes idea of 'representative agent' )

(3b) How would we measure 'punks voted for a punk'? )

(4) The principle of the inferred et cetera )

(5) Top 100 singles of 2016 )

(6) A punk votes for a brat )

(7) Etc. )
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Several potential posts I'm working on, which you may see or may never see.

1. A point-counterpoint of the extremes in my attitude towards politics. 10 items in all, plus further musings and slip-slidings. For a taste, here are numbers 1 and 2.

Odd number. (1) Politics is a social space that allows for people to say things that are more stupid and destructive than what they allow themselves to say in almost all other spaces.

Even number. (2) Politics is a means by which the most vulnerable and targeted people in society can organize to defend themselves and gain some social power. (Obviously, it's also the means by which other people can target and rip off the most vulnerable. Those vulnerable people themselves can't actually organize and defend each other unless they gain allies and advocates among the less vulnerable. In fact, it's these latter who do most of the organizing and defending.)
2. Kind of bouncing off this first post, my psychologically creating the conditions under which I might actually engage in politics per se.

(1) Don't assume we have to dumb ourselves down to (a) sway voters, (b) pressure our enemies, (c) get along with our allies.

So, let's say, as a working premise, that we can and should speak and act honestly and thoughtfully, and if colleagues claim that strategy and tactics demand we don't, the burden of proof should be on them. Don't fall for tones of voice that sound "realistic" and "knowing."

This argument is with myself as much as it's with the world.

(2) Joy. There needs to be joy and satisfaction not just in the outcome and the sense of trying to do the right thing (neither of these joys being very available e.g. when we're losing or when we're flailing and confused); there needs to be joy in the doing, joy every day or at least every week. This reverts back to the previous point. The joy of thinking, the joy of discovery: these are always available if we want them and for me they're necessities, not luxuries. But also, for me, they ultimately — thinking, discovering — need a community. This isn't just because ideas get better when discussed and argued over. For me, ideas need to be shared or the whole process rots. Maybe that's because, in my head, the audience I imagine for my words is even worse than the one that's actually out there. Nonetheless, out there there's obviously a malfunction, a train wreck, a breakdown...
3. For a brief period, mid 1977 to mid 1978, I was writing poetry. I'd barely ever read the stuff, barely read anyone's poetry, not counting Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, and not counting song lyrics (the latter being a pretty sizable amount of "not counting") — to the extent of knowing traditions of poetry were there but barely knowing what they were. I approached the enterprise with alienation and adventure: this was someone else's dinner table, but I could somehow leap the process, start in the neighborhood of my own rocks and foothills. I was using as my workbook Kenneth Koch's books on teaching the writing of poetry to kids and old agers (Wishes, Lies, And Dreams and Rose Where Did You Get That Red and I Never Told Anybody). I worked hard at not falling into being "writerly" or "poetic." —Harold Bloom and Mark Sinker to thread, but note that poetry and poets definitely weren't my touchstones: this came at a time when I was running away from my music obsession, and trying to evade my calling as a critic. I emphatically did find my poetic voice, one like no other. And then I stopped. More accurately, music called, and songs, and criticism, "poetry" somehow briefly installed on the path.

4. Bob Dylan really did deserve that Nobel prize, but there's a point-counterpoint here, too. The first point is that if the Nobel people really did want to open the floodgates to American song, allow for songs to come rushing in, Dylan is a gutless choice, the songwriter who's the anomaly with the billboard sign "A Poet, Not Just A Songwriter" rising up to the sky above him. Whereas the true obvious worthy recipient, the living master and genius who nonetheless doesn't safely push the Respectability button or the High Art And Literature button, is Chuck Berry. And once you've got Chuck you've opened those gates to everybody from field hollers and nursery rhymes to Brill Building to Jay-Z, hicks and hacks and streetcorners, truly breaching the cellophane that separates low and high and medium.

But the counterpoint here is that if you take songwriting for granted, and the breach as long done, Chuck is a rather staid choice, obvious indeed as an accepted classic — whereas Dylan is the danger guy still,* the one who explodes everything, simply wipes out the limitations of what you can do with words, draws on everyone and invites you to overthrow them all, no limitations on ambition, yet try it yourself and you're more likely to blow off your own hands than to produce much of value.

And then, this not on the subject of whether or not he's prizeworthy, we need to take account of the content of a lot of those exploding words. Dylan as much as Lou and Iggy (not to mention the more decorous Leonard Cohen and Paul Simon) effectively inserts into popular song the idea of self-destruction as a form of social protest. If you put together my critiques in "The Autobiography Of Bob Dylan"** and my "PBS" essays in the first two issues of Why Music Sucks, what you get is that we — indie-alternative, the supposed underground, the rock critics, our set of Musical Marginal Intellectuals — let self-destruction stand in the place of social analysis. Or let it validate the social analysis, let it make the analysis feel real whether or not the analysis was actually any good. And of course this applies in spades to the Academic Left. (This isn't Dylan's fault, it's in our culture without Dylan anyway, and I wouldn't say that you should think of self-destruction as the main legacy or message of Dylan, what the guy's about in full, and of course he pushes against the self-destruction too — he's an overload of messages, that's a feature — just there's this whole extolled "poet" thing that manages to sidestep huge hunks of what the poetry actually says and does.)

*I mean, I don't think of what he's doing now in the 2000s as danger-guy stuff (though maybe if I knew it better I would). 1965 and 1966 are the key danger-guy years, and they're still there, as it were — still here — haven't been assimilated.

**And here (or here if Google books switches up as it sometimes does and makes the other two go blank).
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So many days, so few posts.

Look, I'm really a comment-thread guy more than a blog guy, but making supposedly correct triage decisions not to engage in various Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. convos has left me w/out much public presence, while creating a lot of "notes" for posts here I should "write."

Not in the order they will, could, might, or won't appear:

--Grand opening for the hallway-classroom link and tag. I created them several months ago but have so far never properly introduced or promoted them. Perhaps there will be a banner and balloons.

--Tribal 2, the strong reasons people probably have for using the term "tribal" in a positive sense, like, regarding themselves even (which still doesn't mean you should use the word if you intend to engage in actual for real smart thinking, esp. pertaining to current political and social grouping(s)).

--Tribal 3, the strong reasons people like Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Ezra Klein, and a vast ever-multiplying et al. including probably you use the term "tribal" as a pejorative to denote one of the many things that fuck up and make stupid the current political etc. discourse (which still doesn't mean you or Krugman, DeLong, Klein, et al. should use the word if you intend to engage in actual for real smart thinking regarding current political and social grouping(s)). Paraphrases Upton Sinclair.

--Dead Lester 3. Yes, everyone is clamoring for this. </sarcasm>

--Dead Lester 4. One of the Dead Lester posts will be about why I think Paul Nelson never adequately responded to Irwin Silber. This post will be better received than the other one.

--Replication, in regard to understanding the utterances etc. of human beings other than oneself and perhaps other than yourself, too. This will be fun, I hope. It may refer back to the Mark Sinker adjunct thread that for a couple of years now I've been promising to add more to. The post may or may not refer to The Crisis Of Replication in the so-called social sciences, though that part of the post may be less fun.


--Oh My Girl wtf. ("Windy Day.")

--Cahiers du Cinema, Manny Farber. This post will not be as interesting as you were anticipating.

--Who is our most distant animal relative? This post will not answer the posed question, instead will be a meta meditation on taking sides, developing a rooting interest, etc., in which I will try to endeavor not to take sides or root for anything, except maybe will root for rooting and for taking sides, despite my failure to take sides, or root, in the post, unless I do take sides.

--That political discourse appears to batter through, demolish, and utterly flatten the wall between hallway and classroom while being the stupidest, most screwed-up, and destructive discourse in the world would seem to create a challenge to my assertion that (e.g.) rockcrits are being audacious and intellectually strong in not honoring the boundary between hallway and classroom. (The previous sentence leans heavily on the phrases "appears to" and "would seem to.")

--Is there a way for mathematics to finally click for me so that I might someday actually get it and enjoy it? (See the middle of Dave's post, here.)

--Yardbirds raveups.

--Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm." (Inspired by Edd Hurt's excellent comments on the "Antirockism Is Rockism" thread.)

--Interesting that Mark says "even the Ramones" (all bands being coalitions) given that the Ramones may be the epitome of a Bowie-Roxy-like "Oh oh oh, look look look, see the disparate elements we are combining," e.g., "See us do power chords with Ronettes melodies" and "Watch us do Dylan existential angst as if it's standard teen heartbreak" or "Watch us do Stones confronting-the-inner-fascist as dumb three-chord la-la-la" etc. etc. (This is a passage from a 4,000-word, rambling, very poorly integrated email I wrote and never sent because I hadn't finished it or remotely come close to figuring out what I was saying; perhaps a readable 1,500 words can be extracted from this. Potentially featuring Earth, Wind & Fire and the Pointer Sisters, who actually appear on a Kantner-Slick song.)

--Is "Only The Good Bits" as bad as "Too Many Bad Bits"? (Perhaps in regard to Paul Morley, and perhaps a continuation of PBS Revisited.)

--Why do we remember the past but not the future?

--Truffaut and Kogan (more of PBS Revisited).

--Wittgenstein doesn't buy into the dichotomy between particulars and universals. (This probably can be applied to the replication thing, now that I think about it.)


--I'm a comment-thread guy. I practically invented the comment thread. So why are even the good comment threads so killingly mediocre? Why is the Internet such a disappointment?
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In an egregious breach of self-discipline, I posted on an Ann Powers facebook thread* whose subject was "rockism." Given that the thread was mainly stupidity and floundering, and it didn't jostle anything loose in my own thinking, I fear that there was little useful I achieved. My justification, if there is one, is that the stupidity I refer to is relative, and I genuinely believe that if someone somewhere takes in and masters my ideas regarding the "authenticity" thing it would save her several years of wheel-spinning.

Antirockists have never had the slightest actual interest in the people they call "rockists" or in the phenomena they call "rockism." So the conversation has been about defeating phantom enemies rather than about understanding the world.** This makes antirockists frustrating but it doesn't always make them boring, since their beating up on "rockism" is an attempt to use a crowbar or pole vault to get out from under something — even if they won't figure out what it is in themselves and their world they're trying to surmount.

This is what I wrote. I do urge you to click the two Rules Of The Game columns I link down at the bottom of my third comment. Might help your wheelbarrow gain traction.

Antirockism is just rockism with a few of the words changed )
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In 1987 I tossed an insult at a loose aggregation of people that included me, calling us "PBS for the youth." Basically, I was fingering the punk/postpunk indie-alternative "underground," but also worlds and hairstyles and rampages that surrounded it: rock critics, letters-to-the-editor, on-edge heroin poetry zines, the appreciation and appreciators of American eccentrics and outsiders and outsider art, pop detritus, etc. A music marginal intelligentsia. My insult turned out complicated, since having some PBS impulses was better than having none, I decided, and the process of PBSification had grown out of what had initially seemed like untrammeled strength and was embedded in seed form in the most disruptive music of the 1960s; I cited the Rolling Stones in particular:

Richard Meltzer was right: Rock 'n' roll collapsed the distinction between awesome and trivial. Overall, rock 'n' roll could not have been great had it been merely awesome. I say "overall" because, when it comes down to the sound of specific bands, I prefer the awesome-awesome to the awesome-trivial. I prefer the Rolling Stones to Elvis. Meltzer tried to portray the Stones and Dylan at their 1965 peaks as trivial and silly (not to mention awesome and serious), just like the rest of rock 'n' roll. Meltzer was wrong, the Stones and Dylan were simply awesome — but I understand why he portrayed them in the way he did. He was trying to save them. Triviality protects awesomeness. The Rolling Stones, even more than the Beatles, saved white rock from being Bobby Rydell/Las Vegas shit but put it irrevocably, despite all their intentions, on the PBS path. By being merely awesome, the Stones laid the seeds for the destruction of rock 'n' roll. PBS can co-opt mere awesomeness. They can turn it into "seriousness" and oppose it to "fun." The Sex Pistols (who were the Rolling Stones reincarnated thirteen years later, and that's all they were) were a lot closer to PBS than to Elvis. The were better than Elvis, too — the awesome, sociofuckological aspects that made them closer to PBS helped make them better. But, though they saved punk for a couple years, they made punk socially significant hence digestible by PBS. (So do I, by the way — though I’m not great like the Sex Pistols or important.*)

I'm being a bit loose with the term "PBS." I mean a certain PBS head (attitude), which can include a cult taste for shitty horror movies, pro wrestling, African pop, comic books, Hasil Adkins... all this pseudofun is a covering for a mind set that's ruled by PBS. We're making horror movies safe for PBS. We have met PBS, and it is us. I mean an imaginary PBS of the future, with pro wrestling, splatter films, and leftist analyses of the Capitalist Entertainment Industry (scored by a reformed Gang of 4). All rendered lame in the context of our appreciation.
--Frank Kogan, Why Music Sucks #1, February 1987.

I don't consider this the most intelligible passage I've ever written. It was part of a long, unruly essay, in a long, unruly fanzine. For a clue as to what I thought I originally meant, here's a Cliff Notes version I wrote 20 years later for the Las Vegas Weekly (including, for non-Americans, a description of the actual PBS):

The Rules Of The Game No. 24: The PBSification Of Rock

I wouldn't say the LVW version really delivers: missing are the tumult and anguish of the original Why Music Sucks essays, the social life and the social detail, as well as the multiple twists and back-and-forth of my own thinking;** but it does clarify several points, as well as throwing a couple of pointed questions at me at the end.

Anyway, last month, in response to my quarterly list of top singles, Dave in passing referred to my PBS metaphor, which prompted a longer conversation in which I let loose with a bunch of reassessments and qualifications that I've thought of over the years. And lots of twists and back-and-forth. I'm reposting our convo here. This isn't the "PBS Revisited" essay I ought to write someday (I make reference to a 32-page email I sent Dave and Mark where I wrestle an issue I barely touch here), esp. given that what I value most in this interchange are the Elsa and Anna analyses; but it does give some indication as to where such a reconsideration might go. As I say, the PBS metaphor is never not going to be half-assed, and I'm never not going to feel it's essential. Dave = David Cooper Moore.

Kendrick and PBS on the cultural corner, with gentrification )

Elsa and Anna go for broke )

PBS wrap-up )

Footnotes )
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I like how the rhythm in "Tiny Montgomery" makes itself strong by just digging in and digging further, no moving forward. —The rhythm I'm referring to is mostly Dylan's voice, and the strum strum strum. Bass and the rest are a shuffling swing, I guess. So you can sway back and forth while the song steadily drives you down. A-Plus.

Other than that, I've never "gotten" the Basement Tapes, in either sense of the word. Couldn't stand the Great White Wonder boot when it broke onto FM rock in 1969, and never owned the official album, though I once had it in a stash of a friend's records for a summer, listening to it once, and taping "Tiny Montgomery." In any event, a way into it, if I ever do dig in, might be via Don Allred's Pazz & Jop comments, e.g.,

much enjoy that "Folsom Prison Blues" here sounds like the Band is playing "dum dum dum dum doo wah diddy, talk about the boy from New York City," which totally fits the loose flair of D.'s singing (the convict, still regretful, is also getting cranked up on cellblock cocktails). This performance of "The Bells of Rhymney" starts reminding me of "All Tomorrow's Parties," to the further credit of both songs and their performers, incl. writers.
My description of "Tiny Montgomery" is my attempt to explain to myself why it reminds me of the Velvet Underground without reminding me of frequent Velvets source the Yardbirds.

Was inspired to post by Sabina citing the Velvets and then trying to do different, regarding EMA.

I wouldn't assume Dylan had heard the Velvets yet. Was his own drawl he was using for a hammer.

[EDIT: YouTube's taken "Tiny Montgomery" down. Here's a stream of 52 seconds of it, and here's a full stream in lower fidelity.]
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A call to [livejournal.com profile] skyecaptain, [livejournal.com profile] freakytigger, [livejournal.com profile] petronia, and anyone else who inhabits the worlds where Rockwrite and anime-and-videogame and Fanfic worlds overlap. I claimed, while conversing with [livejournal.com profile] arbitrary_greay on the wallpaper-music-as-the-elephant-in-the-center-of-the-living-room thread, that:

Geekdom and video games and anime have enough cachet that the music that attaches to them is not going to end up in the category "We So Don't Pay Attention To This Stuff That We're Actually Hearing Quite A Lot Of That We Don't Even Notice That We Don't Write About It" in the way that AC does, but rather'll get written about by critics more and more as time goes on.
I can't say I'm the one to make the argument, though, so I hope you all might care to comment, on this or on what AG says.

And I'm linking Bob Dylan — not as an example of BGM but 'cause I assume "Ballad Of A Thin Man" is what first shot the words "freak" and "geek" into the culture as positives. 1965:

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Scott at rockcritics.com links some of the commentary that's followed Lou's death:


At the Jukebox we blurb a number of Velvet and Lou songs:


I make the case for the oft-derided Sally Can't Dance. Regarding my closing sentence: I was thinking of giving The Blue Mask a relisten but felt that, since I was basically looking to compare it invidiously to Sally, I wasn't really going to be listening with good ears.

Waitin' for a better day to hear what Blue's got to say.

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Someone had dibs on "Heroin" but didn't make it. If anyone had paid me to write a proper memorial I'd have given prominence to a basic screaming fact that all the memorials and obits have managed to avoid and evade or not even notice, which is that the Velvets, like Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel who were already doing it* (and it was in the Stones and Airplane and a whole bunch of others then and now, really is all over modern culture), were — however ambivalently — promulgating the idea of dysfunction and self-destruction as a form of social protest against a contaminated and compromised world that had contaminated and compromised the self. A refusal, a denial. Being fucked and making an issue of it as a semi-social-marker, part of a sort of an identity politics of freaks and punks and bohos and ilk. The intersection of social class and conspicuous self-destruction.

Of course, you can like the music without this stuff being a big deal to you. But I doubt that so many people would have liked the songs so much if it hadn't, at least subliminally, been a big deal for a lot of them.

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*Not that the idea is new. Presumably goes back at least to Germany in the mid 1700s. See "Romanticism, Age Of." I know almost nothing about Gothic novels of the time, but later on it was in Byron and Stendhal and later still all over Hemingway and Faulkner (when I was rereading Absalom, Absalom! for college I'd put "Sister Ray" on in the background). But I don't know how much it makes it into popular song until the 1960s. Is kinda there as potential in the Delta blues of people like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
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What's going on with Rainbow's "concept"? And how do "concepts" work in general in K-pop? Even though performers do sometimes change 'em like costumes, that doesn't necessarily mean those very performers aren't committed in some deeper way to what the concepts mean. Or at least it doesn't mean that they're not committed in the audience's eyes, or that we don't hold them accountable on the basis of our (or someone's) sense of what they're doing with the concepts and who they appear to be behind the concepts.

I find Rainbow's switch from "the sexy dominatrix image"* of "A," "Mach," and "To Me" to the new one on "Tell Me Tell Me," whatever it is (cheery and serene and bright but at a half-knowing half distance?), jarring:

Music seems to be included in the concept of "concept." As it should be. Except the music on "Tell Me Tell Me" is meh compared to what Rainbow were doing a couple of years ago in "A" etc.

I don't believe that in Korea or America there's a split between authenticity and artifice; the two concepts aren't opposites )
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Any opinion of Millionaires? They seem like a really cheap, bad version of Ke$ha, but a cheap, bad version of Ke$ha doesn't particularly violate the spirit of Ke$ha (though the comparison only works best if one notices only the party-'n-excess Ke$ha without the rest of her). Also, it turns out that Millionaires' early singles predate Ke$ha hitting the Top 40, so influence may run two ways here or might not be direct but just a similar milieu or zeitgeist. Also, I like Millionaires' live cover of "My Chick Bad" (the studio version is drier).

Also, "cheap and bad" isn't always bad. Also, I kind of like "Drinks On Me," at least when it reaches the chorus. And the video is clever:

Drinks On Me )

They're no Ke$ha, or Dev, but I'm not here to think about their relative merit so much as to compare and contrast them to Simon & Garfunkel in order to sketch out my ideas about social class. Well, won't even sketch the ideas, just say that "upper-middle-working-class," while often playing a role, is conceived too broadly to describe how we perceive/conceive social class in our immediate experience. (The word "immediate" is my fudge factor here.)

Critical Thinkers And Party Pukers )
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Haven't listened yet to the whole Farrah Abraham album, or followed much of the discussion. But Phil Freeman calls it "pure outsider art — fucking brilliant. Makes Peaches and Le Tigre sound like Taylor Swift." And Dave seems to be endorsing this characterization, "outsider art," in his Atlantic piece. Not sure whether or not I'd use it on her, or how often I'd use it on anyone. But to poke around further, let's ask the following questions:

(1) What is Farrah Abraham outside of?

(2) What might she be inside of? Who might her models and sources be?

I'm thinking of people like Teena Marie, Sophie B. Hawkins, Stevie Nicks — not as Farrah's sources or models, but as people who had sources and models themselves for their ideas of song lyrics and liner-note poetry; they were drawing on ideas of poetry that were probably as abundant as "real" poets' ideas, if not more abundant.*

And Bob and Jim, in parens )
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Some excellent, excellent commentary on K-pop and J-pop (and a bit of Chinese pop) by Anonymous down in the comment thread to my mid-year lists, along with over a dozen video embeds.* Anyway, I'd like to stir up the local hivemind on what you think is going on in these three videos (and K-pop and J-pop in general, if you have any ideas; you're likely to know more than I, are extremely unlikely to know less, and shouldn't feel you have to know what you're talking about; I don't). First vid is Sandara's "Kiss" (Dara of 2NE1). Seems to be a standard, "I want your kiss, but your respect and commitment too, I'm not easy" story (while the lyrics are more "I want you to come through and kiss me," sorta like "Blah Blah Blah," though not really), so it's a flirtation, I'll-love-you-I'll-love-you-not, but there seems to be a cake-and-eat-it-too relationship to us, the viewers: is Sandara projecting strength or availability, is that a tension or can strength and availability go together? (Rapper, not in vid, is someone called CL, I think, and she's good.) Second vid is E.via's "Shake!" and from Anonymous's comments I gather she's really trying to have her cake and eat it too, pushing the envelope, critiquing and putting herself at a distance from the sex sell by throwing it in our faces, while at the same time, you know, still using the sex to sell. Of course, such strategies and such envelope-pushing occur in the U.S. too, and have the same tension and uneasiness, and get force from the tension and uneasiness, as does this. The Latin riffs help too.

Those two are K-pop, the third is from Japan, AKB48's "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou," and when I was in my early teens I'd have lapped something like this up, 'cause it's about a suicide, and I lapped up songs about suicide: "Most Peculiar Man" and "Richard Cory" and "Save The Life Of My Child" by Simon & Garfunkel, Judy Collins' version of Leonard Cohen's "Dress Rehearsal Rag," which isn't a suicide per se but sure seems a suicide threat (Cohen hadn't recorded it yet; in a few years I made my way to his "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy"). "Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou" definitely plays the suicide as some form of rebuke, though it's complicatedly uncertain as to what the rebuke is rebuking: Our attempt to understand it? Adults with their know-it-all explanations? (Were the lyrics written by adults?) Is it a statement of a deeper wrong than just the dead girl's? As I said, as an early teen I lapped this stuff up — and by my mid teens I'd found Dylan and in my late teens I'd found the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, though this song doesn't romanticize self-destruction to the extent that those Americans did. But it does throw it at us as a brute fact.

E.via Shake! )

AKB48 Keibetsu Shiteita Aijou )

Click the k-pop tab for other good discussion we've had here on the subject, mostly not by me.

*Also, Chuck's lists and a link to Josh's are down there too.
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FK (You make me wanna reblog, in the kitchen on the floor):

My Dylan blurb for Paste. It only makes a passing reference to Ashlee, but she was saturating my mind when I wrote it, so I feel she inhabits every word, including the words I lifted from Mark Sinker.

Not to mention the words I lifted from Greil Marcus.

The ones from Mark were "Dylan pulled together worlds that want to remain separate but mustn't be allowed to," except in Mark's version it wasn't Dylan but the Village Voice music section under Chuck Eddy. I thought Mark had posted them on Tom's lj, but I haven't found it (was it Freaky Trigger?); it was right after the Voice fired Chuck. I used the words with Mark's permission.

The ones from Greil Marcus were the stuff about Elvis not knowing his place, which I lifted without asking, and it wasn't a direct lift, just the basic idea, which I gave my own twist to; it was from Lies About Elvis, Lies About Us, his commentary in the Voice Literary Supplement (December 1981) about Albert Goldman's Elvis. Greil: "[Elvis] wasn't willing to keep his place, and now he is being returned to it."

EDIT: The Mark quote was on [livejournal.com profile] poptimists:

it's not the end of the world, but it is the end of a project, and that's sad -- even tho projects do usually end (and final acts are usually bloody)

(no chuck in the voice in the 80s, no "my" wire)

(wire after me is a lesson in the possibilities and problems of a medium circulated among obsessives only: i think this "oddness" is the heart of said project actually -- an interface between two worlds that want to separate and mustn't be allowed to

So it wasn't only about the Voice under Chuck in the '00s, but also about Chuck in the Voice in the '80s, and Mark at The Wire in the early '90s.

(April 19, 2006)
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Here's a long response I wrote in response to Tom's brief sketch of a schema of music history and the relation between content and context. He gives us three eras:

The Pre-Recording Era
The Recording Era
The ???? Era (Now, Basically)

And I played with that:

The Conversation Era )
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Lotsa convos on Tumblr today somewhat inspired by Xhuxk's P&J essay, e.g., this one and this one and this one and this one. The problem that I'm having with them, and that Tom recognizes better than the other posters, is that the words "consensus" and "populist" and "contrarian" don't take care of themselves without elaboration. [EDIT: Chuck didn't write the headline that used that word, by the way.] One gripe I have in particular is the degradation of the word "consensus," which didn't used to mean "taste cluster" or "gets a plurality of votes" but rather "general agreement" or, more strongly (as in "the decision was reached by consensus"), "virtually everybody in the room signs off on it." So, there was no consensus in 2002 2000 that George W. Bush was the best man to be president or even that he won the election, but there was consensus that we should abide by the Supreme Court's decision as to who was to be president.

One reason I dislike the word's degradation is that if you're standing against a "consensus" that a whole bunch of other people don't actually consent to either, you're not being particularly contrarian. So if you communicate with a lot of rock critics you're not going to find consensus either that Animal Collective and ilk are good or that Taylor Swift et al. deserve to be dismissed out of hand, so in opposing those positions you're not really contrarian. In certain offline situations your ideas might put you genuinely alone among your friends, but still, you carry the rockcrit world in your mind so you're not alone in that world.

As for "populist," what's populist? Are you populist if you're for the cheer captain, who is popular, after all? Or do you have to be for the girl on the bleachers, or for the kid who snuck across the street to cop a cigarette?

But what interests me most is that people, despite trying to simultaneously stand with The People and stand against the crowd (good trick if you can pull it off; I'll give some examples in the comments), don't love and vote for particular songs for such reasons but rather vote for what they consider good music. "Sounds good" or "I like the way the music makes me feel" or "I like the mood" or "it's got a killer beat and I like dancing to it" or "I'm taken intellectually and emotionally by what's going on in the lyrics" or "I'm impressed by the philosophical and political questions the lyrics raise" or "I'm fascinated by the music's form" and so forth will trump "liking this makes me a populist" or "liking this makes me a contrarian" every time. So the fact that people's tastes do tend to cluster by social group and social class has to be explained, as does the fact that through their taste people get to differentiate themselves personally and socially from their fellows. I raised this issue in my very first Rules Of The Game column in mid 2007 and kept working at it in all the columns and followups through Rules Of The Game #9 (see links for all of them here) and then returned to the question throughout the series especially at nos. 12, 13, and 18. My point there was that social solidarity and social differentiation and personal differentiation all have an effect, but the effect is neither direct nor some mystical social pull but rather comes out of one's daily music listening and one's interaction with friends and acquaintances and with the broader culture that one gets through the media and participates in online. The words "consensus" and "populist" and "contrarian" wave vaguely at the world of such interaction without bringing us to it.

Bob Dylan

Apr. 10th, 2009 11:24 am
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Paste's online version of the Dylan blurb I wrote for their best-living-songwriters issue back in '06 gets rid of the paragraph breaks, to the piece's detriment. So I'm reprinting here.

By the way, Dylan might well make my top ten but it was Paste who put him at the top. I'd probably have chosen Jagger-Richards (Paste's #12), or maybe Johansen-Thunders (not on their list). A still-living James Brown (#56, behind such titans as James Taylor, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, etc.) would have been in my top five and I'd have trouble defending my not ranking him number one (the designation being "best," not "favorite"). As for this decade, Timbaland and Collipark and Eminem and Simpson-Shanks-DioGuardi and Max Martin would all be contenders (none on the Paste list, of course), though for the last couple of years I'd say the spot is empty.

Whom would you guys choose?

#1 Bob Dylan )
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A surfeit of links:

My Bob Dylan piece in Paste (though to get the paragraph breaks, you've got to see the newsstand copy; and I made a typo in one of his lyrics, left out the "well" in the line "Where the executioner's face is always well hidden"). Fans of Mark Sinker should note that--with his permission--I bite a line of his, uncredited.

(You need to scroll down to see the piece.) [UPDATE: Or you can just go here, where I finally posted it myself, with para breaks included and the "well" reinserted into "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."]

An old Corina review that I decided to reprint. I don't really have an aesthetic--I like too many different things--but my Corina piece is as close as I've come to a statement of... not principles, but desires.

My Dixie Chicks piece in the Voice.

And finally, here's the URL for a new Website called Paper Thin Walls; it doesn't yet have any reviews by me, but will soon. August 1's "Answering Service" review is by Chuck. Also, note that Paper Thin Walls both streams and allows downloads for the songs it reviews (the download stays up for about a week).



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