Monday, January 19, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Beatles were for sale - I give it away!

It's one kind of shock to find you've become a fixture on Russian file-sharing sites; it's another to find other people making money off a freebie CD-R you used to give away at live shows in Baltimore.

So, in the interest of undercutting these plunderous leeches, I've cast dignity & profits to the wind and posted I Used to Write Jingles For a Living in full, free to download, over at Last.FM - go get 'em, tiger.

Und für die Wahrheit verraten, yes I did actually used to write jingles for a living. For proof, a few melodic husks peeled off my soul are still kicking around the Discovery Channel, if my royalty statements are to be trusted. Then I was unceremoniously & acrimoniously shunted out of the company the last day before the company's winter break - thus depriving me of the Christmas party, a week's paid holiday, and any chance of getting a job until well after the post-holiday economic lull. Not that I was terribly upset: I regarded my superiors with as much contempt as they regarded me; I was the low man on the totem pole, which meant I was as much a janitor as an engineer; and there was nothing creative about being A Creative, since the instructions often boiled down to, "Just make it sound like that Coldplay song."

So the second Friday of December, 2003, I got fired. Following a celebratory screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, I headed home, dusted off my 4-track, and spent the weekend cranking out the uneven scrap heap of sonic whimsy that became IUTWJFAL. I later gave it away as a bonus disc to anyone who purchased my band's then-new album at shows up & down the East Coast.

So how exactly did it end up online in the former Eastern Bloc? Fuck knows.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do Androids Dance the Electric Boogaloo?

Throwaway as my comment may have been, I'm pleased that Carl decided to spin it into a more meaningful examination of music appreciation. A bit frustrating, then, that Carl either slapped me with a straw man or completely misread me: labeling my stance as materialist - in opposition to "pussy/redundant cultural/psychological readings" - plainly ignored my use of the word "libido." Nowhere did I say that enjoyment of certain music is contingent on being "set up that way." Nothing I wrote could be extended to argue that selective breeding would necessarily produce devotees of a given genre. If your auto mechanic used the words "miasma" and "sensory overload" half as often as I do, you'd rat the guy out to the DEA and get your hatchback tuned up elsewhere. I thought my music-oriented rants here were embarrassingly theatrical & psychonautically flaky, like some bedraggled madman holding aloft a cardboard-'n'-crayon sign that read Stendhal Syndrome or Bust! I thought I was on the street team to promote music "as a form of ecstatic transport and access to jouissance."

Evidently, I'm not making myself clear enough.

For everyone, there are certain "tones & sonic constructions that tickle [their] audial libido." But I'd not argue that this is determined by physical synaptic architecture; how dully didactic would that be? It's more a matter of conditioning: the personal aesthetic topiary that takes place over a patient span of time, via friends, mass & indie media, study, and simple repetition. This, obviously, is in harmony with Carl's contention that enjoying music is - at the very least in part - enjoyment through/of the Other. Nevertheless, social pressure & "cred" are but two tools by which a sonic libido is crafted. Repeated exposure, a hook or phrase ceaselessly pounded into your ears, mustn't be underestimated, and is almost certainly why incredibly smart people will listen to incredibly shit music. Hell, for a few months in early '02, I almost enjoyed "Get the Party Started", just to avoid having to throw myself under a streetcar as it blasted from the storefront across from my workplace every morning.

Chalk that one up to a temporary psychosis triggered by the survival instinct. The point is that our most honest reactions to music are instinctual, and like any of our other instincts, they are subject to change - both inadvertent, by shifting external circumstance, or deliberate, by discipline & practice.

Now, if I were an ice-cold mechanist, there'd be a shortcoming in Carl's argument to which I'd call attention. To rebut a materialist interpretation of his curdled regard for My Bloody Valentine, Carl says:
But my experience of listening to MBV isn’t consistent, it’s had a different character at different times, the music has done different things, been different at different stages, neither it nor I have had a definite fixed form or inter-relationship.
This in no way disproves that enjoyment of music is anything greater or more metaphysical than a well-matched waltz between audial stimuli and neurochemical response, a tickling of the eardrum as the amygdala giggles and the pituitary pumps dopamine. Materials transform over time - they grow and degrade, bloom and wilt. Does our skin not wrinkle and flake as it oxidizes, decade after decade? Does a pert grape not crumple into a raisin in the sun? Do you not occasionally find yourself pleading vainly with a higher authority as your paleolithic hatchback belches a final sooty plume and crumples into scrap on the shoulder of a crowded motorway?

Now, I'm no mechanic, but were I to peer through the smoky miasma billowing out from under the hood of that expiring AC Pacer, I'd probably say that car just had one too many trips and went into overload, man.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Shoulders of Giants

Quote of the Week, or quite possibly the epoch:
I would like to see the vast majority of prissy indie Pop driven screaming naked out into the wilderness. If any of their offspring ever do come back to us I trust they’ll sound more like the Jesus Lizard and less like Brian fucking Wilson.
To that end, I can promise Siahalan: there are people working on it. It will take the paint off your car, and wreck your windshield too. Meanwhile, the esteemed Chris Richards bitchslapped the Schreiber famiglia the way we'd do in our most spitefun dreams:
Pitchfork has completed its slow morph into the Fox News of music journalism, consistently elevating the reputation of its brand over the quality of its criticism, disguising wildly conservative opinion as "edgy," routinely punishing artists who take risks, cultivating a stay-in-your-lane mentality so that the master narrative is easier to control, subsequently fostering a culture that prevents the Animal Collectives it supposedly reveres from ever getting out of the practice space.
Granted, this is a more efficient iteration of what I've been arguing for the past five-plus years. This is no grand reveal: what business succeeds that isn't coldly agenda-driven? There's a reason why magnates, thieves, and hucksters die rich while artists die poor.

Art plus commerce make for a toxic marriage - this has gone without saying for nigh centuries. But there is something especially disgusting when these culture sculptors start fucking with our art retroactively: No Pussyfooting gets a 7.9 while the new Animal Collective gets a fucking 9.6? Are you fucking joking? History-doctoring and parameter architecture that would make Stalin proud, you Catholic-minded scum.

Anyway, some interesting thoughts about othering & wiring over at the Impostume that merit a proper reply, but any Big Think claptrap will have to wait until after the matinée...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Make Your Own Kind of Music

Ah ha well... as the yuletide finally rolled out, that glorious maritime weather barricaded me indoors. So I've been slogging around online, ingesting way more year-end ruminations than can possibly be healthy, let alone lead to a coherent understanding of the preceding twelve months. Which, by the way, has fuckin' flown by, though in media res felt unaccountably protracted thanks to the 24-hour news cycle's epistemological equivalent of Chinese water torture.

Not here to wax chronological, though. The eminent Simon Reynolds did the legwork of aggregating a cross-section of lists (cheers!) that betrayed both an ever-more-frayed fringe and a grudging congestion around the middlebrow. This certainly echoes my own concerns about continued subcultural splintering: on the one hand, there will be innumerable bands with, like, two dedicated (and viciously proprietary) fans; on the other, the only bands that garner even lukewarm widespread support will be charmingly uninventive. The hope is that, as the B(ands)P(er)I(nch) of the landscape increases, previous loners & drifters will eventually cluster into larger alliances - like stray hairs tangling into dust bunnies, or a handful of galactic neighbours ballooning into superclusters.

But for all the stylistic dissemination and cred-leveling that the internet affords, the musical world has not become an aesthetically omnivorous, polyglot utopia. Certainly, there are more artists than ever experimenting with sounds not native to their respective locales, and genre-specific supremacy is now boderline sociopathic as opposed to the norm. But at the same time, many year-end lists revealed a retreat to a kind of nation-based cultural essentialism - a sonic self-stereotyping. Best Of lists by Brits looked British when stood alongside, say, a typically solipsistic Yankee list or a counterproductively modest Canuck list. Music critics, professional and amateur, were painting comically unflattering self-portraits in the broad, typecast-tinted brushstrokes of hackneyed political cartoons.

So, in what might as well be "Explaining Us to Each Other, Part 2", let's examine how various countries are presenting themselves via critical & cultural consensus...

England (as seen from street level)

Yooouh'll NEEEEEH-VAAAAH waaalk uh-loooone... (smashes bottle over own head)

England (as seen from the ivory tower)

Grey, morose, melancholy dripping from our upturned nose, saddled by history in a way that arouses a misplaced pride, and routinely confusing "irony" with "anomie" - bloody right we're English!


We're basically the same as the *ahem* nobler classes of England, though unencumbered by something so base as a sense of humour...

...except on the occasions when we remember we have no aesthetic emergency brake, nor ironic safety net. We know not what we do, for our sense of guilt has been directed elsewhere.


We will bludgeon your every natural human impulse with gaudy trashionista glitz and five-year-old-on-amphetamine spaziness (with just a dash of uncomfortably unkosher sexuality) until you've been smelted into a goddamn robot. Have a nice day!

The United States of America

Yeah, 911 is a joke, and so is Rodney King, bitch. Grinding my considerable virtues into vice, 'cuz muthafucka, I'm ill, not sick. Wait, what the fuck is going on?


Hey there! I'm not just some anonymously boring dude in a winter coat: I'm a critically-lauded career musician who nevertheless comes fifth behind a bunch of Americans in year-end polls in my own country and is totally unheard of beyond our borders. Would you like fries with that?