Monday, May 30, 2005

I will persist until I succeed

Warning: Spoilers ahead.
If you're waiting for the John Gordon wedding celebration report, it might be worthwhile to wait until someone tells you in person. Some of what's below comes across best face-to-face.

It's been a crazy weekend. Saturday morning I got up early and took a car (together with Rob) to the airport so we could fly to North Carolina. We met Marina at the Raleigh-Durham airport and rented a car to drive to John Gordon's (parents') house, where he was celebrating his August marriage in Beijing (where he lives) to Catherine/Liu Lan.

First of all, John's parents house is unbelievably amazing. It's got more rooms than I could count (and I never even made it upstairs); the yard is gigantic and perfectly landscaped; the ceilings in the entranceway and living room are probably 40 feet high; oh, and it's built around a caboose. Yep, a former actual train car is just next to the kitchen. Plus, in front of the house (and I didn't count this in the 'yard'), is a field that's easily longer and wider than a football field.

Apparently his parents are moving soon, to a house they've got about 30 minutes away; Rob, Marina and I thought we should put in an offer.

We got to the house and John and Liu Lan were off somewhere making photocopies, but we met his mother and father, and his brother Will put us to work helping set up. When John and Liu Lan came back I finally met her and saw John in person for the first time in literally 3 years.

I pretty much hung out with Marina and Rob all day, which was nice because I don't see enough of either one. We also ate without stopping from around 2 until maybe midnight. There was sooo much food and it was all so good. Even when I was full I couldn't stop myself from grabbing another spinach mini-quiche, bite of bruschetta, or piece of key lime pie or wedding cake.

John and Liu Lan just bought an apartment in Beijing; she works for an American university's program there, and John is Vice-President of a new English school. There's this amazing poster that they had up in various buses/etc in Beijing with John on it. The poster's entirely in Chinese except for the slogan printed across the top: "I will persist until I succeed." Spectacular.

The real highlight, though was finding out that John performed on a sort of Chinese version of StarSearch, singing a song in Chinese. On this show, the audience votes who wins between 4 contestants. John won!! The competition was tough, too, especially a hula hooping set of twins that threw hoops to each other across the stage and caught them mid-spin. John refused to show us the video because he was too embarrassed, but we felt confident that by the end of the night we could wear him down.

I can't even begin to express how impressed I was by his performance. The show purports to follow the contestants for 6 days as they train, but actually they script the training vignettes. John's practicing in the apartment with Liu Lan was very funny, and his singing trainer was as well, but what made it all come together was the passion and energy he had on stage. I definitely can't sum it up for you here, so until I find the link online (doubtful since I can't read Chinese), or John sends out copies on DVD, you'll just have to trust me. Oh my god it was amazing. Also amazing: that one of the people who recognized him from the show said to him "I've never met a real pop star before!" Neither had I.

We stayed up altogether too late, each got an 'I will persist' poster, woke up altogether too early, and flew back to our homes (sleeping pretty much from takeoff to landing). Rob and I had a breakfast together in Brooklyn, and I intended to take a 20 minute nap and then go enjoy the gorgeous day in Prospect Park. Except I woke up at 7:30. So the day was a wash and going out was out of the question. I couldn't even motivate enough to walk the two blocks to Music Matters to buy the Antony & the Johnsons record I Am A Bird Now, which is amazingamazingamazing (got it this morning). I had intended to pick up the new Sufjan Stevens, and I stopped in on the way home to do so, but apparently it isn't out until July. With Antony as a backup plan I have no complaints.

on an unrelated note, the Pernice Brothers decided it would be a good idea to have a version of MTV Cribs for indie musicians/actors called MTV2 Cribs. the page ends with the lines "For any of you producer types who are having a difficult time visualizing my idea, I took it upon myself to shoot a short pilot. And now I ask that you please sit back and enjoy the show." and I did (thanks Stereogum).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Crazy Frog

SO this thing is obviously (for those who watch TV, esp. MTV) impossible to avoid, and (true to its original name) The (most) Annoying Thing (in the world). But what's interesting is that the song - which is actually a cellphone ringtone - is set to go #1 in the UK... it's outselling Coldplay's single 4 to 1. Read a bit about it's history, etc here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pitchfork did a review of the song today. The genre they assigned it was "omg wtf," and Jess Harvell gave it 5 stars. Check it out here.

self-centered monologizing

So, it's been a while since I've posted, and I'm sorry for that. There hasn't been much in my week that deserved comment.

Tuesday I went to see the Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo. Only one problem - I didn't get tickets ahead of time. Apparently they were both long since sold out by the time I decided to stand in the standby line, so we didn't get in. The good news is that the film will have more screenings in New York, at Anthology, from Aug. 29 – Sep. 1. I'm much less likely to meet, say Mike Watt/Jim Jarmusch/Sonic Youth at those screenings, though (since I didn't score an invite to the reception either).

Also coming up at Anthology is a set of screenings of Phill Niblock films (sadly, not his Arthur Russell performance film "Terrace of Unintelligibility", which is the work of his I most want to see). I look forward to actually meeting Phill, one of the premier (if underrated) minimalist composers of the 20th Century (and, I suppose, the 21st, though I haven't heard anything recent). I really love his "Early Winter" and especially "Five More String Quartets" (go here for MP3s). I'm not sure what I'll say to him but maybe I can convince him to come to a performance of my band.

Yesterday was the one night a week where I stay home and download more music than I could possibly listen to in a week. So far I'm impressed with the tracks I've heard off of the new Sufjan Stevens. Also excited to rock some more grime pirate radio DJ sets. Was more impressed with LaLaque's songs than I expected to be. The Diplo remix of 'Maps' is fantastic.

Tonight I'm headed to Bluebeard's Castle, a made-for-West-German-TV Michael Powell adaptation of Bartok opera. So that's cool.

I can't believe that Rip It Up And Start Again won't come out in the U.S. until Feb '06... Penguin USA - what gives?

Monday, May 23, 2005


I've been thinking a lot about Ian Curtis' suicide recently. Joy Division's lead singer put on a record of Iggy Pop's The Idiot and hung himself exactly 25 years ago this past Friday. Today is the anniversary of his funeral.

He was clearly wrestling with demons, had increasingly debilitating epilepsy, and his epilepsy medications only increased his depression. But in some way his ability to tap into that darkness helped make him the songwriter (and stage presence) that he was.

It's been said that he was in love with the cult of the dead rock star, the flower killed before it fully blooms, the immortality of dying too young.

I think that's twisted and selfish, and while maybe it's had some affect on his legend, I like to think that Joy Division would have been revered and acclaimed as much regardless. Sure, there's no chance to decline, but you don't cement your legend by never being bad, just by (for some brief moment) capturing something transcendent.

He did.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lies, Lies

The title of this blog is such a lie.

If anything, I should be going out LESS, not more.

Last night I was good and stayed in, downloading and listening to music in my hallway for maybe 4 hours. It was nice to finally track down a few songs that are hard to come by... a bunch of Peel sessions, some out-of-print singles by a bunch of obscure 80's acts. Also finished getting the tracks from the Gang of Four Peel Sessions and Funk Neurotico 24 (a comp of the favelafunk I mentioned a while back). Also decided it was a good idea to get all 5 parts of R. Kelly's radio-opera "Trapped in the Closet." I haven't listened to that yet but I hope it's half as good as it sounds.

As I load songs piecemeal onto my iPod I've sort of decided to take stock of my music library, re-discovering lots of stuff I've forgotten or never got into enough when I first got it. Also listening again to stuff that really killed me when I first heard, and it's funny how often that stuff seems to have lost its power. A lot of music is revelatory when it gives you something you haven't heard before, or reminds you of something that is long since out of rotation. That's not to say there's not often brilliant songcraft, but sometimes a song is amazing mostly because you're like 'holy fucking shit I never fucking expected THAT,' but after the 100th time you hear it it seems obvious that they would do that, and then other bands are ripping off that same no-longer-amazing trick. [As I listen to Antics right now I think it's more my fault than Interpol's... it might feel fresher if I didn't know it note for note.] What this makes me wonder right now is if Johnnyboy's "You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve" will ever lose any bit of it's luster... so far it hasn't, so that's a good sign. But do I want other people to try to rip it off so there's more of that magic floating around (and, could anyone else pull it off)? And will their forthcoming full-length have 11 or 12 songs that are half as good? If so I'm making it my new favorite album now before anyone else can lay claim to it.

I realized today that maybe I hate being a blogger. It's not that I'm self-conscious about it's affect on my potential Indie-Yuppie status - the shoe both fits and doesn't, and I couldn't care less either way - but mostly it feels like another affectation of self-conscious scenesterhood that I don't really need. There was a time when I used to enjoy 'passing' in 'normal' culture - knowing that my khakis and collared shirts obscured the noise-punk destructive energy I really identified with. But now I seem to have slid towards using outward signifiers of my cultural affiliations. It's almost inevitable being a part of the 'scene' here in new york, but something's lost from the clear dichotomy I had before. I think it was easier in an almost exclusively hipster environment like Wesleyan, where the choice of non-punk gestures was punk in and of itself, and where everyone made the assumption that I was 'in the know' (also, it was small enough that people didn't have to assume; most people in the 'scene' either knew or knew of me). But in such a heterogeneous city, it's an easy way to say 'hey, here's what I do and who I am. I'm not an I-banker; I'm one of you (or them).' Especially where I work in one cultural sphere and socialize in it's polar opposite.

I don't know, I guess I just wish I was famous and my reputation went far beyond my social sphere (just like the good old days). I don't know why but blogging seems like the antithesis of that unforced fame...

Friday, May 20, 2005

I missed...

last night's Season Finale of The OC. I made plans to catch up with Dan B. forgetting that it was Thursday and that the Season Finale was this week. I told him that I wasn't scheduling my life around a TV show, but the fact is that if I had remembered that our plans would have superceded the season finale, I would have definitely rescheduled. So I really really really need to find someone who TiVo'd/taped it. Help!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Gang of Four Reunion is the New Entertainment!

Last night I went to the 'secret' Gang of Four after-show at the Tribeca Grand. The Gang of Four in a tiny, intimate venue, pretty close to the very front (there were just two people between me and the stage, and at most 200 people there total).

First, of course, they had the first of 2 sold out Irving Plaza shows to play. After that they came to this show, hitting the stage at a little after 1:30.

And it was awesome. They were incredibly tight, playing amazing material with passion and a hefty dose of anarchic energy. Andy Gill played stonefaced but theatrically while singer Jon King danced around frantically as if trying to excorcise a demon from his body. Andy's guitar was blistering... the feedback and noise he incorporated into "Not Great Men" was maybe the show's highlight. The song started with him plowing his guitar into his amplifier and jerking it around, pushing it into the amp or the floor or both. Later, he pushed his guitar into the audience so they could hit the strings. Anyone in the center of the first two rows had a good go at it (I was about 6 inches too far to get a hand in). "Anthrax" was stellar because after playing some opening squall, Andy put the guitar down for the rest of the song, singing in duet with Jon while Dave and Hugo rocked the bass and drums propulsively.
"Damaged Goods" was killer for the audience sing along, which was not prompted by the band but started of its own accord (though they encouraged it once it started). Picture Andy at the mic, waiting for the moment to start singing, delaying to let the rhythym section carry on for a bit, when the audience chimes in with "Damaged goods (ah ahh ah ahh) Send them back (ah ahh ah ahh) I can't work I can't achieve Send me back."

The encore started with "To Hell With Poverty," their first single, which they've recently re-recorded for a 2-disc set of Go4 re-recording their old songs, and new artists (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ladytron, The Futureheads, etc) covering/remixing Go4 classics. The Go4's "To Hell With Poverty 2005" is currently available on iTunes; the new album is slated for August 30 release. The final song of the night was a cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane." (Jon: "Now we're gonna play a New York ballad"). There's a live version of this as one of the bonus tracks on Rhino's new reissue of Entertainment!. I have the old reissue with the Yellow EP but without the 4 new bonus tracks (alternate versions of "Guns Before Butter" and "Contract", live recordings of rarely-played Go4 track "Blood Free" and VU cover "Sweet Jane")

Here's the setlist:

What We Want
Not Great Men
Return the Gift
At Home He's a Tourist
Natural's Not In It
Damaged Goods

To Hell with Poverty
Sweet Jane (Velvet Underground cover)

For some great pics of the show see Brooklyn Vegan's post. BV also reports that Andy will be DJ'ing at an afterparty at Lit tonight (Wednesdays are Melody Nelson's Atomique)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Second Best News Ever

Fox Continues Dysfunctional Relationship With ‘Arrested Development’

The Bluths are back and I couldn't be happier.

Plus, Fox is running rereuns over the summer, so there'll be enough Bluth action to tide us over...

Best News Ever / Worst Wait Ever

Radiohead Album Likely Due Next Spring

Sunday, May 15, 2005


The new Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo is getting a showing here in New York at the Walter Reade Theater's Film Comment Selects series on May 24. I can't wait to go. I'm hoping to wrangle an invite to the reception between screenings (though I'm not sure if that will pan out). Confirmed and probable reception attendees include the Director and Producer (who will be at both screenings), Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, and various other film + music worthies (Jarmusch? Neil Young?)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Le Blog Cinématographique

The 58th Cannes Film Festival is up and running. I'm not there. Hopefully by next year someone will be able to get me a white pass. At least Manohla Daris and A.O. Scott from the New York Times are there writing a blog. I think both Manohla and A.O. come across much better in that conversational style, and I love how frequently it's updated and how much they let us in to their personal experiences of the Festival. Maybe I'm just prejudiced against the formal constraints of news writing and it's once-a-day-if-you're-lucky schedule, but I keep thinking if the two of them just blogged like this constantly, watching 2 or 3 movies a day and having it be their job to tell us their personal stories and their film thoughts, then it would be the best thing on the web.

Actually, that's what I should be doing. Listening to music and watching movies and going out, and writing about all of the above and occasionally sleeping. I think I am SO well qualified to do that with intelligence and wit. Actually, there are a few people who have that job, and I'm very jealous of them.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I just can't help believing Though believing sees me cursed

this is quickly becoming a daily list of the songs that make me want to explode

this was one of the best songs of last year and it only gets better every time you hear it (at least for the first 10,ooo spins or so):

Johnny Boy
"You Are the Generation Who Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve"
is back in heavy obsessive rotation

go get it now. or play it again. thank me later.

anyone have a copy of the lyrics in their entirety? i have yet to piece them fully together

last I heard they had a full-length due sometime in 2005... any further info on that would be greatly appreciated.

I wonder how long until I stop looping "Heartbeat" and "You Are the Generation Who Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve" on my iPod and go back to Bloc Party or LCD Soundsystem or MIA

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

meu microfone é um fuzil...

the slums outside of Rio in Brazil are totally fucked. police can't enter because drug lords own the territory, and the drug dealers think nothing of shooting someone with their AK's for crossing into their territory or looking at them the wrong way. at their parties, 12 year olds can be seen carrying guns and doing lines of coke. the favelas are a pretty destroyed place. yet, at the moment some euro and american djs are discovering their music - baile funk.

Baile Funk (aka funk carioca) is amazing. it draws on american hiphop and miami booty bass as well as brazilian musics like MPB (musica popular brasileira) and is unabashedly sex/drugs/guns themed, but it is spectacular lo-fi DIY angry folk music from a lost sector of society. Diplo put 3 tracks of baile funk on Piracy Funds Terrorism, and did the Favela on Blast mix I mentioned a while back, but there's lot's more to the story. there's a few new compilations on the way or just released as well. still, in any reputable neighborhood this music is the lowest of the low, a signifier of the class that lives that life.

check out Funky Do Morro for some more info/tracks from the favela musical underground

Sunday, May 08, 2005

When I used to go out I would know everyone I saw. Now I go out with Ben if I go out at all.

Yesterday, I'm walking down 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, vaguely headed towards Beacon's Closet on 5th, playing a live version of New Dawn Fades on my iPod, when some madman behind me starts clapping his hands really, really loud. I keep walking and then Ben Simington comes around in front of me. (I can't believe I didn't recognize the famous Simington clap). Which led to me spending hours with ben and 2 of his friends. we went to eat at Cafe Steinhof and nearly went to see the Mountain Goats but instead checked out the Basquiat exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum (free the 1st Sat night of the month). On the 3rd Floor, Fab Five Freddy was DJ'ing a dance party- yes, inside the museum - that didn't impress me nearly as much as the Basquiat (I'll have to go back, 'cause I only really got to see half of the pieces). My favorite of the ones I saw: a checklist on a sheet of paper, drizzled in the artists' blood and speckles of paint, containing the following choices:
[] Mickey Mouse
[] Samo
[] (a barcode pasted onto the sheet)
[] Swastika
[] Theyre All the Same!!

Another highlight - the adjacent piece, a collage with two officials standing by a podium, mouths replaced by different mouths, with the following written above: "We have concluded that the bullet was traveling very fast"
With J-M, everything is a shot at money or power or race or sex or colonization. He's so rebellious and brutally funny. And he doesn't (ok, didn't) give a fuck. He's So Awesome.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Modern Age

I've finally joined it. After what seems like years of not having one (well, it was), got an iPod.

I had a good computer but it was super oldschool [remember the orange iBooks??], too old to run iTunes, and I couldn't upgrade it without shelling out, so I was holding out 'til I bought a new computer to get one. I finally did... and my iPod is beyond indespensible.

I've been getting all this crazygood free downloadable shit by amazing reggae/hiphop/grime djs and listening to it while reading A Brief History of Time on the subway. Including (finally) getting a full copy of Piracy Funds Terrorism (amazing), single track grime mixes by Dizzee and others, and Diplo's Favela on Blast. And you though I just liked Joy Division...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the television

oh my god I almost forgot about this. the other day (last week?) New Order was on Jimmy Kimmel and I stayed up long enough to watch them do a (for me) lackluster version of their single "Krafty". I turned it off just before the last segment started. Only, on Jimmy Kimmel sometimes bands play 2 songs, one leading into the credits. So New Order did that and fucking played LOVE WILL TEAR US APART. holy god.

The link was up the next day. They dedicated it to Ian. enjoy.

[This is the kind of shit where basically I'm just ripping off Ultragrrrl. if not for her I wouldn't have known that they even played it. oh well.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

JSF and JL at PS 107

yesterday I saw Jonathan Safran Foer and Jhumpa Lahiri, both of whom live in my neighborhood, give a reading as PS 107. JSF read the beginning of his new novel, and Jhumpa read from a work-in-progress short story.
It's funny how different they are. JS has this really subjective 1st person voice, while Jhumpa may see inside her charcter's head, but looking in (where JSF is largely looking out). JSF is really poppy, the way a an artful pop song is easily accessible even to those who aren't used to reading.
I think that's why he's so easy for everyone to like, like a Hollywood movie (when they used to be good). Those Hollywood movies are about being subjectively inside the head of a character, identifying totally with them. that's what he does so well. Jhumpa (and most other writers of any consequence) are like a Hou Hsiao-hsien film, watching in telling long takes and learning about the naunces of characters. This is great, too, but much harder for the average person to like. The reader then needs to bridge the gap between the person they're looking in on and themselves. JS just starts talking and expects you to be the character.

Their presences were very different as well. JS comes across like goofy, funny just-post-college kid he is. He has the hair and outfit and mannerisms of the overarticulate class clown who ended up at Princeton and decided to write books. He played to his audience for laughs even in mid-sentence.
Jhumpa was more serious, and seemed to me to have a better grasp of the craft of writing. Of course, she had to work a bit more to get there, and still seems to prize that serious over silliness. Not as crowd-pleasing, perhaps, but maybe a little deeper. I'll admit that Foer gets to me, but the way Spielberg gets to me - with the easy manipulations. Both have the ability to go deeper (say, the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan), but have too strong a desire to be liked. and I dislike that because I'm constantly fighting that in myself.