Fat Cat Plankton

Nonsense in extensia

Saturday, October 16, 2004

And Now, Our Moment of Zen

Well, I had written a fairly lengthy post trying to recap the last month, beginning with the Falcons game I attended last Sunday, but I lost the fucker before I could finish it, and now I'm too tired/lazy to conjure it all again.

Quick recap: still not used to the idea of football indoors, seems like you're in a vaccum cut off from the real world and the game itself takes on a weird scripted effect, like you're in a movie theatre or a playhouse rather than a sports arena - sometimes I felt this way about basketball in college at UNC, but the atmosphere was so much more of a pressure cooker that it sucked you into the action. Also, I had forgotten how weird the whole "howl like banshees when you're on D but act like you're at a golf match when your team has the ball" aesthetic feels when you're in person - I wanted to yell the loudest when Vick was under center, but obviously he needs to call his audibles and whatnot and Lord Knows he already has his hands full with the West Coast offense anyway.

OK, that out of the way, I think I'll just stick to current events rather than just gloss over the last month of Bush scowls, bad Kerry jokes, and worse Braves baseball.

Just saw Jon Stewart on Crossfire, which could have been a watershed moment of news media soul-searching...except for the fact that these guys are complete idiots. Now granted, as much as I adore Jon (and it's a man-crush that clearly disturbs Lauren, who first noticed it), I do think he hides behind the supposed triviality of The Daily Show too often, clearly it inures him to most criticism, and I'm always skeptical when someone has a built-in mechanism for defense like that (ie. my suspicion of certain popists, though I am one myself to a degree, b/c if you argue against popism then you're *automatically* an elitist, out-of-touch snob).

Anyway, whether he likes it or not, Jon's show has become a highly-respected source of political discourse and information (which certainly says alot about the sorry state of news media, but also it's a credit to Jon's integrity and that of his staff) and obviously he recognizes that, no matter how much he tries to deflect his *responsibility* with jokes about Crank Yankers.

Yeah, I wish Jon woulda been a little more incisive with Kerry (he's NOT the same as Letterman or Leno after all, and I think deep down he'd be insulted or at least disappointed if people thought so).

At the same time, it's stupefyingly obvious that folks like CNN have much much more of a responsibility to their audience than Jon, which is why Carlson's attempt to equate the two is both disingenuous and reprehensible.

Now, since I haven't had cable in almost a year, and even when I did I didn't watch much CNN, I'm not intimately familiar with Crossfire, though from what I have seen I gather it's mostly just talking points and empty oneupsmanship ("partisan hackery" was Jon's choice phrase). I'm proud of Jon for saying he didn't give a shit about Kerry in Cambodia, as I'm guessing that's just the kind of topic that causes these Crossfire guys to froth at the mouth for weeks. And it truly was sad to see Jon trying to honestly engage these moronic talking heads about the dearth of real, fairly reasoned debate that starts from an accumulated knowledge base and a well-honed capacity for intellectual incision rather than a nakedly partisan jumping-off point. Jon came off as incredibly bitter, but justifyingly so, while Carlson just looked petty and cruel, which brings me to my next question:

WHY DO REPUBLICANS COMPLETELY LACK A SENSE OF HUMOR?

Seriously, name me one staunch conservative that's genuinely capable of being funny, like Chris Rock is funny, like Jon Stewart is funny, like Patton Oswalt is funny, like Trey Parker and Matt Stone are funny, hell, even like Michael Moore is funny. I think that's part of the reason I'm dying to see Team America, to see Trey and Matt take some swipes at the left in the spirit of fairness, 'cause lord knows we're ripe for it. Personally I think they're just taking the piss with all this "America rocks! I love being rich!" rhetoric, and I'm having a blast watching all these hand-wringing liberal movie critics pokes holes in Trey and Matt's satirization of their precious sacred cows. OK, so I haven't seen the movie yet and so maybe they're right, but I'm 100% a card-carrying member of the leftermost part of the party, and still I think a few genuinely funny spitballs lobbed in our direction would do some of our more pompous representatives some good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

All This Time You Were Pretending

OK, Pitchfork, that's it - we're through. I confess that I somewhat fell under your spell three years ago, back when you had better writers like Ott, Mitchum, and William Bowers. I was an impressionable young hipster-in-training, a burgeoning elitist - in short, a douchebag. You sold me on Broken Social Scene and together we ignored mainstream hip-hop and pop.

Then I started to grow up and come around, to give the mainstream half a chance rather than write it off just to separate myself from the tragically-uninformed masses. There was actually some great stuff out there, especially rap, shit like Jay-Z, David Banner, Bubba Sparxxx, Kanye, Just Blaze, Timbaland that I'd previously mostly ignored.

You started to do the same, Pitchfork, and I thought we were still cool, but then you abruptly decided pop wasn't where it was at and retreated right back under your indie shell (maybe the Interpol fans started to bitch, I dunno).

Anyway, you unceremoniously dropped your only good hip-hop writer (Rollie Pemberton) and now you're back to bashing pop shit out of hand. I'm with Stylus now and it's better here, we review Arcade Fire AND Ashlee Simpson. It's called variety, and it's beautiful.

I check you out sometimes, Pitchfork, but you almost always let me down. Kids I talk to here in Athens know who you are, and maybe they don't know Stylus yet, I'll grant that, but they only know you as "pretentious-ass elitist hipsters" (college radio DJ Jennifer's words, not mine).

Today was the final straw, Pitchfork, because you smarmily and idiotically bashed Avril Lavigne's new single "My Happy Ending," which I happen to think is a genuinely wonderful, emotionally compelling song. It's OK for you to disagree with me, but you should have at least given Avril the credit she deserves as an artist rather than dismissing her just b/c she's "mall-punk" (yeah I saw that). Anyone can rip a pop star to shreds with transparent sarcasm that literally drips off the screen. It's much more of an accomplishment to consider an artist, any artist, seriously, to assess their songcraft with a level head and honestly consider their place in the larger musical and cultural spectrum (god bless ya, Mr. Burns).

Monday, September 13, 2004

Ashlee Simpson, Fantasy (the comma is VERY important)

I've been a slack-ass linker of late - here's me on Bjork, Clinic, and (scroll down, skip the Reggae Bob and Antibalas - not me), the World 2004 comp.

Even though I've given it a fairly-positive review in an upcoming issue of the Banner-Herald (promise I'll link this one on Thursday), I still can't quite bring myself to put Ashlee Simpson onto a CD-R. I'm pretty certain Lauren would leave me. Few would blame her (certainly not Burns, but maybe Timmerman).

Fantasy Football update - Looks like Todd "Radiohead Hater" Hutlock has got the drop on me this week thanks to his homophobic star wideout TO. Lackluster performances by Deuce McAllister, Corey Dillon, and Tony Gonzalez (three of my top four picks!) certainly didn't help my cause. Unless Ahman Green gets completely shut down AND Favre gets picked about 3 or 4 times (I've got Panthers D), looks like I'm staring down an 0-1 start.

Friday, September 03, 2004

I Love the 90s, But Not As Much As Andrew Unterberger

Over at ILM they're cookin' up a Best of the 90s poll to complement last month's highly-contentious Best of the 00s (first half) scuttlebutt. I'm not sure if I was in New Orleans or my parents were visiting, but I missed voting in the 00s poll, so here's my list for posterity:

01 Radiohead – Kid A (not ashamed to admit it like 75% of the folks who voted for it on ILM)
02 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
03 Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
04 The Strokes – Is This It (inexplicably not nominated?!)
05 Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
06 Outkast – Stankonia (see #4, unless it just didn't get enough votes)
07 Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun (I'm callin' this 2000)
08 Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
09 Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat
10 Fiery Furnaces – Gallowsbird’s Bark
11 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Tyranny of Distance (I coulda pushed this one into the top 100)
12 Ghostface – The Pretty Toney Album
13 Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
14 The Notwist – Neon Golden
15 Dizzee Rascal - Showtime

Just for the fuck of it, here's my list if I could only select one album from each of the artists:

01 Radiohead – Kid A
02 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak
03 Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
04 The Strokes – Is This It
05 Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
06 Outkast – Stankonia
07 Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
08 Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
09 Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat
10 Ghostface – The Pretty Toney Album
11 The Notwist – Neon Golden
12 Dizzee Rascal – Showtime
13 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell
14 Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
15 White Stripes – White Blood Cells

And now for the real excitement, here's what I'm probably gonna vote for when the 90s poll rolls around (the order will undoubtedly change though):

01 Radiohead – OK Computer
02 Pulp – Different Class
03 Bjork – Homogenic
04 Nirvana – In Utero
05 Nirvana – Nevermind
06 Hole – Live Through This
07 DJ Shadow - Entroducing
08 PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
09 Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
10 Nas – Illmatic
11 Beck – Odelay
12 Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville
13 Whiskeytown – Faithless Street
14 Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers
15 REM – New Adventures in Hi-Fi

Apologies to:

Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Radiohead – The Bends
Sleater-Kinney – Dig Me Out
Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Portishead – Dummy

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Leaving New York, Next Stop Athens

REM's a subject I haven't yet broached on this blog, which might seem odd since I live and write about music in Athens, GA, but it's not a case of elephant-in-the-room syndrome. With the constant influx of new and younger students to the university, Stipe and co. have increasingly been relegated to the status of historical curiosities and still-extant relics, favorite sons in whom we take a passing pride but more often consider nostalgically rather than as living, thriving members of the local scene. Certainly there's an old-school bloc that fervently tracks their every murmur, but I'm betting most incoming freshman only know them from their father's tape deck, if that. Even though I was admittedly way late to the game, REM was my favorite band in high school and at least one year of college, which was kind of odd considering Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Tool, NIN, or Alice in Chains would have been more generationally appropriate. Like many a self-serious young Southern pseudo-intellectual, I found kindred spirits in REM's moodiness and mystery, its awkwardness of expression, its melodic honesty and even its sense of romance. By the time I got to Athens two years ago, though, I was more excited to be living in the same town as the Drive-By Truckers, which didn't mean I had fallen out with REM or turned my back on them, in fact I love them still to this day, just that they'd become a part of my own past as well.

"Leaving New York" starts off sounding like everything else from the post-Berry Up/Reveal era, Stipe still singing in that guileless, facile, clear-throated voice that's almost a delibertate mockery of his formerly infamous mumble. Sprightly and painfully self-aware, Stipe's cloying surface-level croon gives way to chiming prechorus guitars that tease glory-days flashbacks but they've done that before and we all know better by now. A little E-Bow wordiness rears its head in the second verse, then the second chorus comes and JUSTLIKETHATOUTOFNOWHERE there's background harmonies straight off of Life's Rich Pageant and IT IS 1986 ALL OVER AGAIN, Stipe's moody, clenched-teeth baritone conjuring the likes of "Fall on Me" and "Kohoutek," sounding for all the world like he'd never lost that voice in the first place. It's been ages since we've heard Stipe sing this way, and it's fascinating to hear the so-much-older-then-but-younger-than-that-now Stipe of today accompanied by the ghost of his younger, more evocative self, like one of those Through The Use Of Modern Technology cross-generational duet deals. I'm almost ashamed to get so excited about such an obvious retread, a memory, an echo of the past, but I'll be damned if Stipe manfully intoning "it's pulling me apart" didn't make me totally gay for him all over again.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Briar Patch

Devin the Dude's new To Tha X-Treme is typically terrific laid-back, blowed-out anti-crunk, langorous tales about the limited ambitions of smoking weed and maintaining relationships (which always seem to end in confusion or hilarity, Devin remaining vaguely bemused and fairly que sera sera throughout).

One track digs deeper, however, though you'd never know it from Devin's deceivingly lackadaisical flow. "Briar Patch" in truth is every bit as loaded as the title suggests. Devin doesn't stray too far from the infamous tale, but his delivery tells you all you need to know about the race-haunted implications of Joel Chandler Harris' story. Devin never lets on that the song is about anything more than getting caught and begging not to be tossed in the dreaded briar patch, but anyone who knows the troubled history of that fable will surely be quickly frozen in their tracks (much as I was) upon hearing Devin's chillingly earnest version.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Heldover Musical Observations from New Orleans Trip

1. Mid-90s were huge - hardly heard any new music unless it was veering dangerously towards me on the sidewalk accompanied by headlights. Instead, restaurants, bars, and stores seemed to be looping '96 Buzz Bin CDs or some shit - lotsa stuff like Bush, Veruca Salt, old-skool No Doubt, I guess insta-nostalgia for all the drunken college kids.

2. Bar bands sucked - limp Janis and lame-ass Steve Miller covers

3. Regrettably, we didn't check out any jazz clubs - there were plenty of guys blowing on the streets, mostly endless variations on "When the Saints Go Marching In" or "Amazing Grace" or Hank's "Jambalaya."

4. Undeniable highlight - piercingly loud, purposefully out-of-tune calliope "concert" from the top of the Steamboat Natchez before we boarded - pretty sure she played Ernest Tubb's "Waltz Across Texas," which was great.

5. Observations from the car rides, to and fro:

a) the newest Modest Mouse CD hasn't held up well at all - I was admittedly quite smitten with it at first blush, maybe it was just misty-eyed affection for its decided lack of trendy garage-rock or dance-punk signifiers, but also it just seemed to possess a messy humanity that's missing from most overdetermined indie-rock - often Brock would say stupid juvenile faux-existential shit about God, but then he'd reveal an admirable self-deprecating streak that let you know he was just honestly working through all these philosophies and life strategies himself, and it's always more fascinating to hear the process than the result on record. Unfortunately, the whole thing plods like a bastard, I think sometimes they go for "shimmering" and just wind up sounding sluggish, like on "The World At Large," which almost makes it there but not quite. Even "Float On" is starting to sound a little saggy next to better and brighter radio favorites from 2004. "Bury Me With It" and "Black Cadillacs" remain resilient, but thanks to the rest GNFPWLBN just took a plummet on my Top 50 (yeah I had to call it a "50" to make sure we even included the album at all).

b) once I actually got a little distance from it and then indeliberately came back, Hail to the Thief sounded much better than I remember from the last time I heard it all the way through, almost as good as my initial hyperventilatings.

c) Of Montreal is boss. Lauren knows this.

d) Tool makes me sleepy.

e) Elbow makes me sleepy, but in a good way.

f) I really like the Decemberists, but still not half as much as Lauren.