Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, October 22, 2005 ]


Spirits in the night

So, yesterday, I came back to my office after teaching discussion section. As I'm unlocking the door, I can hear music playing from inside the office. I know that Matt - my office mate - had section at the time, so I'm a bit perplexed. Anyway, I open the door, turn the light on, and realize that Matt left his computer - and his iTunes - playing when he left the office. The song that was playing when I opened the door? "Outfit," by the Drive-By Truckers. It was a rather odd moment, made all the creepier by the fact that the first lyric I heard (while the room was still dark, mind you) was "Don't let them take what you are, boy/And don't try to be what you ain't." I started looking around for ghosts...

On the box right now: Fiona Apple, EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE. This album is really, really good.


Dove With Claws [8:20 AM]

[ Tuesday, October 18, 2005 ]



A few thoughts from Bruce Springsteen's show Saturday night in Madison...

-It's clear that he's not quite sure exactly the story he's trying to tell at the moment, beyond the fact that confusion itself may be the central impulse he currently employs. There weren't many of the famous Bruce "sequences" that represent mini-narratives within the larger picture, and there was no consistent tone or texture that he used throughout the show, even in comparison to previous shows on the tour. Maybe the pain and doubt (with ultimate hope) is the only story he could really tell without sounding naive or simplistic, anyway.

-That being said, there was plenty of depth and soul-searching in the show. Opening with a dirty-blues rendition of "Idiot's Delight," a song he co-wrote with Joe Grushecky that has a chorus that can't help but mean everything right now ("How did something so beautiful turn into an idiot's delight?"), he threw in songs that, from various directions, spoke to the crossroads of America's soul. ("Across The Border," "Lost In The Flood," "Nebraska," "Land of Hope and Dreams" and a particularly piercing "Further On Up The Road" were but a few examples.) Throughout the performance, which was lighter on the pop/R&B ballads than the Milwaukee show earlier this year, he engaged with many of his most flawed characters, and stayed away almost entirely from the big, fist-pumping anthems that - even in a solo acoustic show - change the dynamic of any Bruce performance.

-Then there's "Dream Baby Dream," his astounding version of an old Suicide song that closes the show. Extended, trance-like, and as gospel as anything he's ever done, sung in his clearest pop/R&B voice, Springsteen's evocation of the simple, poetic images that constitute the song's lyrics ("I just want to see you smile/So come on and open up your heart/And dream, baby, dream") is simultaneously prayer, plea and protest.

-Speaking of which, anyone who claims that Springsteen isn't properly "commenting" on Katrina, the war and other issues, because he hasn't unleashed a series of obvious "commentaries" on these subjects is not only a plain fool, but clearly isn't listening to the music at these shows. In Madison, the ISTHMUS' Tom Laskin continues to prove his idiocy with a "preview" of the show last week that served no purpose other than to continue to stroke Laskin's wrongheaded, near-obsessive dislike of Springsteen. (Read it here,, but be careful not to eat anything first.) Of course, I should cut Laskin some slack. I know that if something's not recorded by a European post-punk band from Germany, or white hip-hoppers, or post-modern alt-country mumblers, or any artist who people actually give a damn about, Laskin's not interested.

Other thoughts:
-"All I'm Thinkin' About" was beautiful, proving that it's a great song when he actually sings it (and he sang the hell out of it).
-It was a trip to hear "Incident On 57th Street."
-I would've liked more of Springsteen's soul side, particularly since he's been doing a lot of that kind of material on this tour.
-As (purposely) unsettling and distorted as it is, I could listen to a whole show through the "bullet mic" he used to sing "Idiot's Delight" and "Reason To Believe."
-I can't wait for his next tour, which will probably be an E Street Band affair.

On the box right now: Stevie Wonder, A TIME 2 LOVE. Finally!


Dove With Claws [10:35 AM]