[ Saturday, August 07, 2004 ]
Dancing about architecture
...that's what Elvis Costello compared writing about music to. While I appreciate Herr Costello's snarkiness and wit, and though I do find that there's something to be said for the ultimate irrelevance of attempting to analyze such a fundamentally emotional art form, I must take issue with the implication that such a thing is worthless. (In fact, I doubt EC would actually suggest that.) I've been reading Greg Kot's recent book on Wilco - LEARNING HOW TO DIE - and I've found myself enjoying it more than I ever thought I would. I basically bought it because I've been a fan of Tweedy's work from Uncle Tupelo on, and there are few stories in modern music that are as interesting, at least to me, as the story of this band and its various triumphs and travails. What Kot does very skillfully is to create in the reader - at least this reader - a tremendous desire to re-listen to every note Kot discusses, from the earliest Tupelo records to the most recent Wilco project. While not every opinion is one I share or find valid, and while he occassionally gets into suck-ass territory that is out of place with his otherwise measured tone, I overall find the book fascinating. And, as with every other great book I've ever read about music, it makes me want to go listen to the records again. And that's the point where "dancing about architecture" actually means someting...at least to me.
Of course, I've had an interesting relationship to my own songwriting today. A strange bag of emotions, combined with not enough sleep, set off some sort of creative brush fire in my consciousness, as I wrote or finished writing 10 songs. Even more surpisingly, perhaps, I'm actually pleased with all of them, a couple especially.
On the box right now: Amina Claudine Myers, "African Blues." This is a track off a mix that a friend gave me. I'd heard this track before, but tonight it's really, really resonating with me. A 15-minute piano-and-voice jazz piece by definition, it's really much more of an engagement by Myers of gospel and African motifs that she blends together in a really compelling fashion. This is the kind of stuff that defies description, now that I think about it. Maybe it's the kind of stuff Elvis was talking about.
Dove With Claws [7:44 PM]
[ Friday, August 06, 2004 ]
Goodbye to a Super Freak
On the box right now: Various Artists, POR VIDA: A TRIBUTE TO THE SONGS OF ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO, Disc 1.
Dove With Claws [12:40 PM]
[ Thursday, August 05, 2004 ]
The Saddest Music I've Ever Heard
More thoughts...sorry. I was just recalling that I can pinpoint, without any real doubt in my mind or soul, the origin of the most emotionally affecting musical experience I've ever encountered. Now, what I'm about to say might sound foolish, especially since I've seen Rev. Al Green preach, Bruce Springsteen lead us all to fellowship and Prince tear the motherfucker apart, not to mention the fact that I've played quite a bit myself. I've sung songs at funerals, jails and parties, and none of those can compete with...the soundtrack for the film THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN.
Now, I know what you must be thinking...HUH? But, hear me out. A couple months after I graduated from high school, when the understanding of the major life change I was about to undertake began to fully envelop me, I happened upon the film on cable TV. It was one of my favorites when I was younger, and I still enjoy the irreverence and wit of the Muppets, so I tuned in. And I got ambushed. Ambushed by several of the saddest and most beautiful songs I've ever heard. "Saying Goodbye," "Together Again," and the entire wedding sequence (most notably "She'll Make Me Happy") ran over me like a truck, and - combined with the strange psychological chaos I was proceeding headlong into - I actually became stunned
as the film ended. It took me a few hours, and a lot of long thoughts, to regain my balance. Now, lest ye think that this was a unique and unrepeatable experience, I can say that I have revisited the film on occasion since then (even though I'm ever-cautious about it since that night), and I will hold to my original thesis.
They're strange things, these songs...sometimes they hit you when you least expect. And it doesn't always take Charlie Rich, Otis Redding or Miles Davis to make me cry.
I'm off now, I promise...
Dove With Claws [9:18 PM]
It's an interesting time in my life right now, as I'm making a transition into the next phase of my strange journey while still holding on to most of what I've held dear for the previous phases. I'm not going anywhere, I'm (hopefully and God willing) not uprooting myself in any significant way, but I am starting in on what will probably be my professional career. Tomorrow, I get on the University of Wisconsin payroll as a research assistant, and - in two-and-a-half weeks, I begin life as a graduate student. It's an odd thought, in some way made all the more odd by the fact that things aren't really changing that
But, there are friends leaving, friends returning, new faces, old grudges and all that. Tomorrow night, I'm attending a send-off party for one of my closest mentors and his family, a group who have really provided a second (or is it third?) home for me in the past couple years. Now, they're only leaving for a year, and this mentor and I are already plotting what conspiracies we're gonna launch when he gets back, but it still feels odd to see them go. It reminds me of, to borrow a Preston Sturges phrase, what a cockeyed caravan this world can be. Strange...
On the box right now: Elvis Costello, ALMOST BLUE: DELUXE EDITION, Disc 2.
Dove With Claws [9:12 PM]
[ Wednesday, August 04, 2004 ]
Swing state tour, featuring Springsteen, Pearl Jam, John Fogerty, Dave Matthews, Dixie Chicks, R.E.M. and many others is now offically on:
check out http://moveon.org
to get early details. And, watch Nightline tonight, as both Springsteen and Steve Earle are scheduled to appear.
Not a bad thing...we get to take a stand against the International Criminal Gang Of Bastards (ask me if you don't know the reference), and rock out at the same time. "If I can't dance, I don't want any part of your revolution," as Emma Goldman said.
On the box right now: Steve Earle, REVOLUTION STARTS NOW, streaming on http://www.cmt.com
Dove With Claws [7:25 AM]