Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Carnival Of Lost Souls That Shines In The Dark Of A Forgotten Harsh Kindness

I started a new record label. My talentless artist friend Blip Plimpton is our in-house album art designer, for better or worse. Here are our first nine releases:

Layaway "Meldrick" 7"

The Foil Rosemakers, s/t

Tracing Paper, s/t

Plastic Sheets Certainty LP

Italic Fog, s/t

Catholic Hydration Metal Detector 69 cassette

High Speed Dubbing Tyler LP

Ambient Mauve, s/t

Birdhouse Antediluvian LP

The unlikely name of the record label is AE Pods Arcade Sict Food Is A The Ox.

If any of this actually existed, it might sound like some of the bands I mention in my…

The aforementioned freak-pop & lo-fi fops
& weirdo manufactories of melodie
of yesteryear (literally) (+2)

(Tip: Ms. Stueven; the internet)

Twin Sister, “Phenomenons”: “I’m in a clear room; everything is making sense.” So go the opening lines, and it’s funny, because that’s exactly the image I had when I first heard this band. But if you hear the word “sense” as “sound,” that works too, because it really sounds like the singer is doing a little dance with all the bright shiny objects in her room.

Tennis, “Baltimore”: Some of the most precise lo-fi production I’ve heard since Bee Thousand (what in the world is making that delicious counter-melody/rhythm, and is that thing that sounds like a tropical wind a human voice?), so I hope they leave it as-is when it’s featured on debut Cape Dory, out soon (now there's a great album cover), and don’t pretend the original version is a “rough cut.”

Veronica Falls, “Found Love In A Graveyard”: Well, “Stephen” is better, with its blissful guitar peeling off everywhere, but it’s also nice to hear this cute band go ever-so morbid and dangerous, the way Beat Happening did on “Bad Seeds” and intermittently forever after. I try to maintain a healthy skepticism of whatever Anglophilia’s latest sunny garage pop crush happens to be, but these last two bands are undeniable.

Women, “Eyesore”: More ’66 than ’66. I assume all the best pop bands from back then sounded a lot like this live, sort of insane, but that most weren’t allowed such free reign in the studio.

Crystal Stilts, “Shake The Shackles”: Pretty much the same band as Women, now that they’ve rebalanced the treble and bass, written their best melody, and seem to be playing at nearly the correct RPM.

Lower Dens, “Plastic & Powder”: Even For Against haven’t dirged this hard in recent years. A Charlie Brown shuffle along an arctic sidewalk.

Sambassadeur, “Days”: I can’t figure out if that’s a boy or a girl singing, and I’ve decided to leave it open for now. There is a certain person-ness to pre-gendered people that can’t be gotten back once you find out.

Patti Smith, “Elegie”: The most purely despairing song ever? This is a bad night when there’s absolutely nothing in the world to distract from watching the slow, slow minutes. Is that even possible anymore? My love for Horses used to be not much wider than “Redondo Beach,” but I think I “get” it now after all these years.

Anyway, I (Blip) wonder if my recent foray into album art amounts to a kind of reminiscence over my past (those are pictures from my early history I’ve been using), or if it’s the sort of accidental and environment-defined creativity (hey, I am back home right now, and such pictures proliferate here) that is the ultimate form of living-in-the-moment. Because I’d hate to think I’m already in the “reminiscence” stage of life; I don’t have much to reminisce about! But I do love having access to old family photos and a scanner.

There are others who have plenty to remember, however, and it seems all I care to read anymore are their memoirs. E.g. I’m nearly as crazy about John Waters’ memoir-of-sorts Role Models as he is about the topics expounded upon in its pages, and I’d like to think that if my blog was a book, it would look something like Waters’ diverse and voluminous enthusiasms. I guess I find Waters more interesting as a person than as a filmmaker, though I can’t say I’ve gotten through life without accumulating a fine layer of his filth, as his Serial Mom was one of my absolute favorites when I was a kid (oh, the things I was allowed to watch). Anyway, it’s nice to hear a live-life-to-the-fullest type like Waters speak so often of his “bedtime” and confess things like, “I have, as of the day of this writing, 8,425 books, all cataloged but no longer in complete order on my shelves.” It’s possible, after all, both to live and to catalog.

But: I’d like to be just once the sort of reckless youth I imagine Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe will reveal themselves to have been when I end up reading Just Kids, the type that doesn’t look back even once until it’s all totally over and done with.

(on recent history)

[a] Tron: Legacy is mostly bright lights and tepid one-liners, which is perhaps why my favorite line of dialogue (Jeff Bridges’ enigmatic utterance, “Your old man’s gonna knock on the sky; listen to the sound”) and favorite image (a really vivid close-up of a dog’s face, with that dark 3D tint, in the “real” world) stood out so much. I have to wonder if The Grid, the film’s techno-world, is intended as some kind of metaphor for modern human civilization (a noble pursuit devolved into a video game). But, rendered as a Daft Punk-scored light show, such gloominess is in fact an entertaining prospect.

[b] Say what you will about Black Swan, there are probably more ways to watch that movie than any other from 2010. I only watched it once, in a state of breathless glee and perhaps without a great deal of intellectual acuteness (does that mean I watched it as a horror movie?), but I could probably go back for tears or laughs or some other more obscure ecstasy anytime. Everyone has their points of comparison, but the film struck me as sort of a cross between Jeanne Dielman (in its relentless depiction of submerged psychopathy) and Panic Room (another movie where the premise is sort of self-fulfilling and of questionable reality, i.e. does Natalie Portman get the lead in Swan Lake only so she can play out her too-long-dormant psychodrama, and does Jodie Foster end up needing to use the panic room only because it’s taunting her with its existence?). Black Swan also has the best dance club scene since Babel and the most presumptuous final line since Inglourious Basterds.

[c] Solitary Man is my least favorite of the “Man” trilogy (if to be serious is to be Jewish and to be single is to be gay, then to be solitary is to be generally sleazy), but somehow Michael Douglas has never been sleazier and yet more likeable.

[d] Conan, sometime during the week of the giant inflatable chicken sandwich and the Holiday Punch Bowl Bowl-Punching Kit, finally reached the crazed heights of the long-missed Late Night, another show with, at its best, never a dull moment in its absurdist onrush.

[e] Patton Oswalt is one of the unsung greats of contemporary film and music criticism. The evidence seems to be everywhere these days, but I was especially taken with his description in Spin magazine of Kanye West’s “Runaway,” which is, to paraphrase, “like the first time you get drunk and soliloquize into a mirror while listening to David Bowie. Kanye West never got past that phase, and that’s sort of awesome.” I’ll transcribe Oswalt’s exact phrasing the next time I come across that mag, as he’s a much more careful and clever wordsmith than I.

[f] Would it be a shock if it was discovered how sentimental I really am? Sometimes my mind will just flash upon something, like the relationship of Portia and Ellen DeGeneres, and I’ll get an unanticipated surge of joyful dew in my eyes.

[G] My two cats have as many weird daily interactions with each other as I do with other people. You’d think that humans are so doomed because of their language capacity, but all the time I’m seeing Meldrick and Crispin just standing and looking at each other, as if talk has failed and they’re looking for a chance to escape from a social situation.

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