Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, June 11, 2005 ]



Yesterday, I heard Antony and the Johnsons for the first time. If you're not familiar with Antony, he's this dude from New York whose music is basically indescribable. The best I can do is: try to imagine if Nina Simone was a gay white man. Kinda like Rufus Wainwright (though, to my taste, more soulful), a little like Jeff Buckley (though better songs), and ultimately enchanting. His voice is an acquired taste, but - if you can get through that - his record I AM A BIRD NOW (which is his 2nd) is strange and beautiful. (Plus, his song "For Today I Am A Boy" is the best anthem yet for the trans-gender community.)

On the box right now: Antony and the Johnsons, I AM A BIRD NOW.


Dove With Claws [11:53 AM]

[ Friday, June 10, 2005 ]


Idiots: The anti-drug

So I spent much of last night hanging out with some close friends, one of whom is getting married tomorrow. At the end of the evening, around bar time, I was walking back home, when this really drunk guy decides he wants to talk to me. Now, I guess I'm a charming son-of-a-bitch, because the highly inebriated seem to have a special desire to tell me all about themselves, and this dude - whose first name I've forgotten, but whose last name, or so he claimed, is "Hummer" - was no exception.

He was standing with a girl who I initially assumed to be his girlfriend, or at least the current candidate. (The old Ms. Right/Ms. Right Now thing.) Unlike Mr. Hummer, who was absolutely stinky with beer, the girl - Anna - was functionally sober. Quickly, I realized that their relationship was about as non-serious as possible, for three reasons: 1)the guy kept talking about his girlfriend, 2)the two seemed to have literally met 5 minutes before I showed up, and 3)Anna was getting increasingly steamed at this screwball. And I couldn't blame her.

First, he started talking - shouting, really - about how much money he has. As in, "I have got TONS of money!" Always an attractive first impression, the moneybags routine then got increasingly bizarre, as he started to bring race into it. He twice said "seriously, I'm a white man." I don't know that any of us doubted this, nor am I quite sure what his point was, but he certainly wanted to emphasize it. At one point, while I was trying to talk to Anna about her career as a Registered Nurse (or "RN," or - as Mr. Hummer kept referring to it - "NR"), Hummer returned and made the following declaration: "Yeah, I'm just a white guy with a LOT of money!" (This is going on the short-list of my favorite quotes of 2005.) He also kept telling Anna that it was a waste of time to be a nurse, because they didn't make enough money.

Now, I should set the scene. We were at the corner of State and Frances Streets, pretty much the heart of bartime activity. (At Halloween, it's always this corner that gets the most crowded.) So there are a TON of people around, white, black or otherwise, being treated to this guy's declarations. He then began accosting Anna, claiming that, being Italian, she wasn't white, but rather "mulatto." (I didn't feel it was appropriate at this point to bring up my training in the field of critical race theory.) In fact, I was pretty much fed up by then, and was only sticking around because I was clearly serving as a kind of silver lining for poor Anna, when Drunk-Ass decided to yell - and I mean yell - the following bon mot: "Yeah, I'm just a white nigger who doesn't like black people!"

My jaw dropped. Anna's jaw dropped. This guy's pants dropped. (Okay, the last one's not true, but I had a rhythm going.) It's amazing he didn't get his ass kicked, or at least provoke some stares/comments from somebody. Anyway, I decided to use this moment to say goodbye to Anna - who clearly was not enjoying herself - and I went back home. The last thing I heard from Rich White Asshole was "Guess what? I'm gonna go to IAN'S PIZZA!!!" I'm sure that Ian is happy for his support.

Something tells me he won't be hearing from Anna again. (She also told us that she's a devoted Christian, which brought on this response from Hummer: "There's no fucking God. I only believe in MONEY!") I hope that at least our brief conversation gave her some reason to believe in the human race, because Prince Charming certainly wasn't providing any. Sorry, Anna. You seem like a good person.

Oh, one more thing. In the ten minutes or so that I was talking to these two, Hummer dropped his cell phone at least 30 times.

On the box right now: Various Artists, THE SAR RECORDS STORY, Disc 2. Great stuff from Sam Cooke's record label, including early tracks from Johnnie Taylor, Billy Preston and Bobby Womack.


Dove With Claws [3:40 PM]


Riddle me this

So, I made a demo yesterday of a new song (titled "Now I'm Blue"...just so you'll recognize it when you see it on the pop charts). What level of self-aggrandizing ego hell am I admitting to when I say that I can't stop listening to this recording? I must have listened to it twenty times yesterday, and five times already today. It's nice to like your stuff, I know, and I always try to create music that I myself would want to listen to, but is this taking it a bit too far?

I have to run right now, but I'll be back later today with a story about this wasted dude I had the "pleasure" of meeting last night.

On the box right now: Charles Hughes, "Now I'm Blue." Yep...


Dove With Claws [8:30 AM]

[ Wednesday, June 08, 2005 ]


Stuff I heard

My mellower summer schedule means that the good out-of-context quotes I hear are fewer and less frequent, but I've got a couple gems for my faithful.

-"Oh man, I totally burned my butt-cheeks on that last one." (FYI: I have no idea what action this guy was referring to.)

-"I'm not necessarily advocating for the hankie."

-"The blues would say that it's HORSESHIT."

-"It actually kind of sucks to have perfect pitch." (I agree. I don't have perfect pitch, but the people I've known who do have complained about how difficult it is to sing/play with people who are out of tune but don't realize it, and I can also attest that it's really annoying when the perfect-pitchers try to correct those of us for whom tuning is more negotiable.)

On the box right now: Little Freddie King, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I KNOW.


Dove With Claws [3:23 PM]

[ Monday, June 06, 2005 ]



A friend burned me Cowboy Troy's debut album, LOCO MOTIVE, which I listened to today. I really liked Big & Rich's debut album, and enjoyed Troy's guest verse on the lead-off track, but I've not been a fan of the single ("I Play Chicken With The Train"), which I believed I described one night as an abomination before the ghosts of both Hank Williams and 2Pac. After listening to the album, I have good news and bad news. Good news: I don't dislike "Chicken With The Train" as much anymore. Bad news: The reason I don't dislike "Chicken" as much is because the rest of the album is the shits. Interestingly shitty, but still shitty. I appreciate the genre-busting arrangements and attempts to create a multicultural matrix of sounds and even languages, but the reason for the failure of LOCO MOTIVE rests entirely on Cowboy Troy's shoulders. He is, quite possibly, the wackest rhymer I've ever heard. Worse than Vanilla Ice, Will Smith, P. Diddy, LFO or even that fuckin' cat from the Paula Abdul song. In fact, I think that I might be able to come up with some fresher shit than Troy, and that's saying something. Seriously, the songs sound good, the hooks are nice, and there's definitely a positive vibe throughout that I sincerely appreciate. But there's nothing on here that qualifies as either good country music or as good hip-hop. Bubba Sparxxx does the "hick-hop" thing way better, the Nelly/Tim McGraw single was a better blend of the genres, and I point any cow-b-boy/girl to the Nelly vs. Lynyrd Skynyrd mash-up "Sweet Home Country Grammar" for their summer anthem of cross-cultural boundary busting. As for LOCO MOTIVE, as much as I wanted to like it (because I love what it represents), I'm afraid that I must admit that it's terrible. Ugh...

On the box right now: Eddie Hinton, PLAYIN' AROUND: THE SONGWRITING SESSIONS.


Dove With Claws [3:56 PM]

[ Sunday, June 05, 2005 ]


A case study: The two phases of Smokey Robinson

So, on the tip that I've recently been exploring (see below), a brief case study:

In the 1960s, Smokey Robinson was responsible for a large handful of major hits on Motown Records, both songs that he performed with The Miracles and songs that he wrote and produced for the Temptations (among others). Many of his songs - "My Girl," "Tracks Of My Tears," "Tears Of A Clown," "The Way You Do The Things You Do" - are in that exclusive upper echelon of cultural memory, staples of oldies radio and wedding dances that everybody likes and everybody knows the words to. As evidenced so cheesily (and accurately) in THE BIG CHILL and its denizens, the music of 1960s Motown, including Smokey's, is deeply embedded in our understandings of our recent cultural past.

What's funny, though, is that - for most white people - Smokey's career basically ended after his last big Miracles hit ("Tears Of A Clown"), which went Top 10 in 1970. While he did flounder a bit for a few years, proving unsuccessful at recreating his hitmaking power, he released the album A QUIET STORM in the late-1970s. This album proved so popular among black audiences that it not only was a huge hit and career revivifier for Smokey, but the term "Quiet Storm" became a format on black radio, defining the kind of mellow R&B that Anita Baker or Luther Vandross became major stars in. White audiences, in general, know nothing about this second phase of Smokey's career, or the "Quiet Storm" movement that would end up being (unfairly) opposed with hip-hop in the famous "rhythm and bullshit" debates of the early 1980s.

So this concept not only works for specific artists, but actually for different phases of some artists' careers. Interesting, que no?

On the box right now: Various Artists, SOLESIDES' GREATEST BUMPS, Disc 2. Great, unreleased stuff from Blackalicious, Latryx and other Bay Area hip-hop artists.


Dove With Claws [9:18 AM]