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Thursday, October 10, 2002

There is no one here anymore
My new blog is called close your eyes. I hope it loads faster than this page.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

A sign of life
I am about to move to antville. Please stay tuned. Details and link later.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Awesome cover page of Libération today
A projection.

Most American Bands
Excerpt from a discussion on I Love Music from today, September, 11th, 2002:

The most Un-American band would probably be The Dead Kennedys, I guess. They used to be 15 years ago at least. (alex in mainhattan)
How so? They sang almost exclusively about America, and their sound is based firmly on Garage Rock and Rockabilly, American music. Jello even made a C&W record.
What you're thinking of is "anti American", which the DK's weren't, either (unless you think disapproving of Reaganomics is anti American, in which case Springsteen is anti-American, too.)
-- Daniel_Rf (daniel@cul...), September 11th, 2002

All right then Daniel, but you must admit that they are not a band you would associate with American patriotism, American consumer society and American roots music. They stood apart. I always heard their music more as punk than as c&w.
-- alex in mainhattan (alex63@big...), September 11th, 2002

"Patrotism" has become a really idiotic word after 9/11- it's now synonymous with "following your government blindly and beating everyone up who disagrees". The cynic in me would now say that this is, indeed, very American, but America also has a great history of protests and interest in social change. The DK's sang about what they thought was wrong with their country and tried to do their bit to change it. I think that's very patrotic indeed.
As for the roots music, you're right that the Dead Kennedys stuff isn't C&W (I was talking about a Biafra solo album where he went Country), but:
1- Punk's roots lie in American roots music (Sex Pistols -> The Stooges -> ? & The Mysterions -> "I'm A Man" by The Yardbirds -> "I'm A Man" by Bo Diddley -> "Mannish Boy" by Muddy Waters)
2- The DK's brand of Punk was a lot more brutal and less melodic than the classic UK Punk bands.
The fact that the other members of the band have now sued Jello because he didn't want "Holidays In Cambodia" used in a Levi's ad also places them smack dab in American consumer society, but really, does one have to be a symbol for that to be "Most American"? I think you're selling your country short.
-- Daniel_Rf (daniel@cul...), September 11th, 2002
All right then Daniel, but you must admit that they are not a band you would associate with American patriotism, American consumer society and American roots music. They stood apart.
Bush's (and Reagan's) versions of American patriotism & consumer society -which I think are the versions that you're saying the Dead Kennedys are in opposition to- are not the only versions. Daniel's point is excellent about reading what "patriotism" means today.
-- lyra (lyra63@spe...), September 11th, 2002

I think you're selling your country short.
I am German, so this doesn't really apply.
I am using the word American in a very lazy way. It is more the image America gives to the outside world I was thinking of.
But I 100% agree, Daniel, that this is only a part of America and that there is a tradition of protest, free speech and social movement. Unfortunately it doesn't show too much nowadays. Especially for the Europeans. Maybe we are a little blind on one eye concerning America.
-- alex in mainhattan (alex63@big...), September 11th, 2002
I am German, so this doesn't really apply.
You are?? So am I (albeit living in Portugal)! Sorry, I misread your user name for "Alex in Manhattan". Mea culpa.
I insisted on this point because 20th/21st century popular music has always represented to me everything that's good and righteous about America, and I think that it's tragic how Americans are led to believe that being proud of their country must always go hand-in-hand with a jinogiostic, right-wing nut attitude.
-- Daniel_Rf (daniel@cul...), September 11th, 2002

2 germans (one in portugal) good-naturedly arguing over who the most american band is! the ILM global village rulez!
-- Fritz Wollner

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Dandy Warhols
I have always liked this eclectic band from Portland. Though the singer is supposed to be an arrogant asshole on stage and their drug consumption shows in their psychedelic music. They do lots of drones, they have a certain relaxedness and coolness around them I adore. I am listening to five mp3s which were available on their site recently:
- Hells Bells: great AC/DC cover on sleeping pills, in the melodic Dandy version which uses a nice horn section this song reminds me a lot of Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven.
- Ohio: one of Neil Young's most popular and best songs, in a synthesizer-heavy version, with the usual detached mumbled vocals. Rather spooky.
- Bohemian Like You: grooving instrumental, weakest of the 5 tracks.
- Dub Song is a chaotic hypnotic dance track reminiscent of The Happy Mondays in their heyday. Primal Scream's Screamadelica comes to mind as well.
- Retarded: nice powerpop tune, sparkling and light, Beach Boys meet Velvet Underground.

Unfortunately only Retarded and Dub Song are still in the mp3 section of the Dandy Warhols homepage but there are eight other songs which I didn't listen to yet:
Head, One, CCR, White Gold, The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald (Gordon Lightfoot), Free For All (Ted Nugent), Kinky and Phone Call.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

A music quiz game I just came up with
Squeeze your nostrils with the fingers and try to hum the melody of a song through your nose. A little bit like Bob Dylan does. The people you are playing with have to guess the song. Then it is their turn. You get points if people recognise the song you have performed and also when you find out which tunes other people have interpreted (you need more than two people for this game, otherwise it is always a draw). It really is fun. Especially when done as a drinking game. I would suggest you have to drink for each point you win.

I ask myself more and more which is more rewarding: to listen more closely to old classic songs of which I know that they are important and meaningful for me or to check out what is going on now, to listen to the latest trends.
And the answer becomes more and more evident to me. A lot of the old songs I know and like I don't REALLY know. I have never understood the lyrics (in most cases I just didn't try), I have never tried to dig deeper. They appealed to me on a superficial level but not more (because of my laziness). Concerning new music: though I am a sucker (a terrible but succinct American word) for new sounds I feel I either have reached a saturation point or there is simply nothing exciting happening in music today anymore. The only genre of popular music where there seems to be a little something going on is electronic music. But that doesn't (and never did) bear a lot of interest to me. Purely electronic music for me is in the last consequence robot music, music which could be made by machines, non-human music. And my love for music refers to the human imprint on music. A certain intelligence and emotion which I hardly find anymore today.
But there are exceptions and I would like to write about them here. A song like Time (The Revelator), the opening track of Gilian Welch's last album with the same name. Gilian Welch's music has been described as bluegrass, a modern songwriter-oriented version of it which is nevertheless rooted a lot in the past. In this song like on most of the album there is only Welch's voice (which I like a lot) and two acoustic guitars. I won't write anything more on this tonight as words fail me for the moment. But this song (from last year) is my favourite song I have discovered this year.

I would really love someone to prove me wrong on my conclusion. Please tell me how great new music is and why!

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Feedback would be nice
I am still there and I had planned not to write before I get a comment to my last post but as you see my plans never work. Sorry if the following seems like a little bath in self-pity but sometimes I feel like that (I made a similar post a while ago). By the way the music which fits quite well to my current mood is Down Colourful Hill by the Red House Painters.
When I started this weblog it was intended as a therapy, a daily exercise to put into words what I hear in music and what moves me in general. I also wanted to practice my English a little which I forget more and more. During my seven year stay in Luxembourg I spoke English every day but now I only read and write. After a while I gave up the discipline of daily posts, I have always hated routines, my work is full of them and I don't need too many of them in my free time. After a while some people started to read this blog and I got some feedback via e-mail and comments. I really appreciated that. Since then the aim of writing this blog has significantly changed. Now I write not only for myself anymore as my main intention was in the beginning but for others who have a similar music taste or similar thoughts. And with whom I would like to discuss, to exchange ideas. Somehow it doesn't seem to happen. I know that I will never get as many comments as for example (link is in the sidebar) as I don't write too much about personal, everyday stuff and I don't write well, but still I am a little depressed about the current situation.
So instead of blogging which does not seem very interactive in my case I just posted an answer to the music forum I Love Music concerning a question by Tom Ewing on "profound music". And guess what happened? Shortly after the ILM site stopped working. Is this a conspiracy or what? In any case I repost the question and my attempt of an answer here. Maybe we can discuss here, who knows?

Q: Andrew's search for profundity on ILE inspires me to ask this - tell me about some records you think are profound. It's common for people to dig at bands and songs for not being 'deep' but an actual claim of psychological or philosophical depth is much rarer - and yet surely that's what's being implied in any criticism of bands for being shallow or meaningless. (Some ILM writers - Marcello most notably, but also Anthony and I think Sterling - aren't afraid to invoke ideas of profundity and claim that the music they're talking about is meaningful, others shy away from the notion.)

A: I am very ambivalent towards the use of the word profound to describe music. The word profound in itself is rather problematic I find.
Somehow profound seems to imply meaning but something meaningful is not yet profound. Concerning music the most obvious thing which could be meaningful are the lyrics. Concise lyrics which describe universal truths or situations could be profound. Like maybe the lyrics of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Joni Mitchell. The lyrics of New Order would mostly not qualify to be profound in this sense and probably neither in the other sense mentioned in the next paragraph. But their music could well be profound.

On the other hand profundity seems to suggest something difficult to grasp, a meaning which we don't get immediately but which we think is hidden behind. Something almost mystic, rather unclear. This connotation of profound can be applied both to the lyrics and the music itself.

The first band which came to my mind when I read the word profound in your post, Tom, was already mentioned before: Joy Division. Their dark, powerful music seems to hide a secret. The same is true for their lugubrious lyrics. Of course Ian Curtis suicide adds to this.
Another band which I occasionally find profound are Godspeed YBE!. Their last double album Lift Up Your Skinny... as most their music had this apocalyptic, foreboding feel both in the music and in the few spoken word samples.

Profound and shallow are often not very far apart. The Flaming Lips have been mentioned upthread. When reading what Wayne Coyne wrote about his last two albums on his (or the record company's site, I don't remember) it gave me the impression that his music and lyrics (or the story they tell) are very well thought out. On the other hand when I recently listened to The Soft Bulletin I had the impression that this is really the most bland and empty record on earth. Grateful Dead, Yes and other progrock bands also walk on the edge of both extremes. It seems profound in the beginning but then it is just noodling, bombast and kitsch.

People have said before that their relation to certain music is profound and they hesitated to call the music itself profound. That shows that this term is problematic when used outside our direct experience.

I'd prefer to use the terms complicated or difficult instead of profound as they are more easily measurable and less subjective.

P.S. I know that my blog often loads slowly and that is another reason I plan a move.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Cherchez la femme
Yesterday Neu!'s first self-titled disc from 1972 arrived in the post with some other CDs which I couldn't listen to properly as I was too much immersed into the six tracks on the Neu! album. How could I miss out on that album before? It is absolutely stunning and didn't age at all after thirty years. A propos 1972, I just saw that cos from monkey puzzle is currently listening to Giant Sand's 62 seconds guitar freakout 1972 from their last real disc Chore of Enchantment. A song I didn't get neither but probably like because of that. When checking the database with my albums I found out that I had 36 (!) records from that year. 1972 was an amazing year for music:
there was the first Big Star, Nick Drake's Pink Moon, Neil Young's Harvest, Lou Reed's first self-titled and Transformer, Genesis Foxtrot, Little Feat's Sailin' Shoes, Curtis Mayfield's Superfly, Joni Mitchell's For the Roses, Oregon's Music of Another Present Era, the first Modern Lovers, which was released three years later, the first Roxy Music, Exile on Main Street, Paul Simon's self-titled, Sun Ra's Space Is the Place and Velvet Underground's Live at Max's Kansas City was released.

Back to Neu!. What I said about Autechre's version of Weissensee a couple of days ago still holds nevertheless. The original which may well be the weakest track on the album doesn't grip me as much as the cover. It is extremely slow and sounds like dark ambient. Additionally there is the beginning of a sugar-sweet melody at around 1:20 which kind of destroys the track for me. It comes back later as well. That alluded to tune reminds me of Pink Floyd but I wouldn't know which album (maybe from Dark Side of the Moon? which came out two years later). I am pretty sure that this melody comes from Michael Rother, who became quite popular in Germany later with the romantic instrumental guitar/synth album Flammende Herzen and who didn't really fit into Klaus Dinger's Neu! with his rather conventional guitar playing. What actually is missing on that track is Klaus Dinger's endless constant drumming which became Neu!'s trademark and can be heard in all its trancelike glory on the 10 minute opener Hallogallo. It has been referred to as motorik but Dinger sees it not as machine-like at all but rather as a human beat. He talks about it in the extremely enlightening interview he gave to the Swedish magazine Pop in 1998:
Instead I called it "lange Gerade" or "endlose Gerade". It's a feeling, like a picture, like driving down a long road or lane. it is essentially about life, how you have to keep moving, get on and stay in motion. (lange, endlose Gerade = long, infinite straight line)
It wasn't by chance that Dinger gave one of his rare interviews to a Swedish magazine. Apparently Neu! and the Neu! beat were inspired a lot by a love story (actually the love of his life) Klaus Dinger had with a Swedish girl called Anita which started in the summer of 1971, to whom he also sang the last song on the album Lieber Honig (dear honey, but in German we don't usually use Honig as a term of endearment). It is one of the strangest vocal deliveries in music history. I couldn't find out what he sings (impossible to understand the words by listening only, they sound like children's gibberish). There is a later version on La Düsseldorf's last album Individuellos where the words are different. Dinger's voice on the Neu! version is hoarse and extremely high at the same time. It reminds me a little of Chet Baker singing but much less accomplished, more crude if you want. I found it hardly bearable at first listen as it is rather disembodied and false in places but I am getting used to it. At the end of Lieber Honig there is the sound of a rowing boat which can also be heard on Im Glück (In Happiness) including some people talking. One of them is Anita and the song tries to retain the moment of perfect harmony and bliss Dinger experienced in that Swedish summer in 1971. The long road trips in Sweden are probably also responsible for the Neu! beat in Hallogallo and Negativland.
The second piece Sonderangebot is a sound collage with gong sounds and features the most avantgarde noises on the record.
The outstanding track of the album for me is Negativland which later gave the name to the ironic experimental media music collective and foreshadows Einstürzende Neubauten with its drill sounds and probably the whole genre of industrial music. It is the hardest rocking song on the record.
What I like about Neu! is that they were not the typical Krautrock outfit like Amon Düül with their long stoned collective jams à la Grateful Dead or Tangerine Dream with their purely electronic soundscapes. Both these bands haven't aged well whereas Neu! as the name implies did something new. Their music is the missing link between Krautrock and what was later to come. The bridge between the then and now. They integrated an almost tribal but still modern repetitive rhythm into their music which is as fascinating now than it was then. And all songs on the first Neu! album are distinctly different and each one almost spawned a new genre of pop music.
Further reading: Junkmedia on Neu! and Neu! 2. Michael Rother interview and Music for Mind & Pants ("The Shock of the Neu!") from Perfect Sound Forever. An interesting list with Julian Cope commenting on his 50 krautrock favourites and the feature The Guitarists of Krautrock.

Meta: By the way the Google search often leading to this site finally dropped to #27, Google seems quite unstable in its results after the dance, so though I intend to move away from blogger one day this probably won't happen too soon as I am much too lazy to do a new page somewhere else. Phil Ringnalda with a round-up of Blogging Ecosystems, i.e. programs which analyse the link structures in between blogs.
In the ILM thread Plug your Blog you can find enough music blogs to read for the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Some Google stuff
- Apparently the Google Dance is going on, that is the monthly crawl of Google. You can see this when results of identical queries on the three Google servers www, www2 and www3 are different. The new results are on www2 and www3. After about five days they appear on the Google main server www. I checked the infamous "s*x"-query for which I was #4 two months ago with the Google Dance Tool and found that my blog dropped from #16 to #23 on www2 and www3. Funny that the query for "sax", part of the new name, went up at the same time from #23 to #16. Even though I am happy about this development I would like to ask all people (and there are still 20-30 or even more) who use the anchor text "s*x and sunshine" to link to my blog, to change it to "sax and sunshine" so that I drop even further for that query. I am still using a redirect script for search engines arriving to this blog to get less dubious visitors. They are deviated to my old home page.
- A minimal Google search interface which returns 100 results with only the titles and the descriptions when you move your mouse on the titles here.
- An interesting article on the central Google concept for evaluating the importance of web pages: Pagerank. Google's PageRank and how to make the most of it by Phil Craven (via ho). There I learnt that linking to another site without being linked back decreases your PageRank (PR). It's logical. As your PR is distributed via your links to other sites, a new not reciprocated link decreases the PR of the linked pages who do link back to you which in turn decreases your PR you receive from them.
- A PageRank Calculator which seems to be more theoretical.
- Parallax View links to an article on Google I am not going to link to (I would if there would be negative links which decrease the PR of websites). The article is called PageRank: Google's Original Sin and is by a webmaster who is apparently unhappy about the low PR of his sites. He cites Google on their PageRank system:
"Votes cast by pages that are themselves important weigh more heavily and help to make other pages important."
and then he writes:
In other words, the rich gets richer, and the poor hardly count at all. This is not "uniquely democratic," but rather it's uniquely tyrannical.

I have never read such rubbish about Google before. This guy should be sentenced to use Altavista for the rest of his life.
P.S. The Google Dance wasn't good to me at all, finally. I am now #9 for this bloody query. And the Atomz site search which doesn't work very well anyways is also redirected towards my old home page. I am fed up. I will move to antville soon.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Knives Out again
I wrote about the Flaming Lips version of Knives Out by Radiohead they performed at Morning Becomes Eclectic a couple of days ago. I could not imagine that at least five other weblogs would take this up and comment on this cover. Fluxblog, Badgerminor, Stumblings in the Dark and Virulent Memes like the new version by the Lips. Only Clive from Somnolence who writes one of my favourite well thought out music weblogs doesn't appreciate it too much. He misses the pain in the Lips version, he finds that they at least partially missed the point but writes that it is still a good effort.
When I first listened to the original on the radio, time seemed to stand still for the moment when I heard Yorke's voice joining in after that almost serene guitar theme. It was absolutely devastating. I didn't listen to the lyrics really. But his delivery moved me in a way only very few singers do. It moved me so much that it almost became unbearable after subsequent listens.
I must agree that the Lips version is almost an entirely different song. It is another take on the song. Less grim and less despairing. But rather creative and innovative. They add some extra spices like piano, distorted guitars, epic synths, siren sounds and take away the monotony a little. I think great songs need great covers and great covers have to change the original. If they copied the original one to one they would miss the point much more. I guess I immediately liked the cover as it made me remember what a wonderful song Knives Out is, a modern classic if you want, and that there is more in the song than the original reveals. Or more precisely that it also works in an extrovert version.
By the way I am not a fan of the Lips. I have got Soft Bulletin and when relistening to it recently I found that it is a bland empty record. Bombast pop with one or two appealing tunes but no depth. I have seen them live as well and they have a great show but it really was more gimmickry than anything else with these strange video projections and the enormous gong Wayne Coyne hit every minute or so.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Montgolfier Brothers - The World is Flat (Poptones)
was released yesterday. Their first album Seventeen Stars was one of my favourite records in 2000. In its intimacy and delicacy it conjures up the mood of Nick Drake's first album Five Leaves Left with more open space in it. Via DJ Martian I found a striking announcement of the new album by Pinnacle Entertainment:
"Like its predecessor 'Seventeen Stars' (Poptones first ever release), The Montgolfier Brothers' second album 'The World is Flat' combines six vocal songs with four instrumentals, and was recorded and mixed in various flats in Manchester and Salford. Those after reference points might try Michael Nyman, Johann Pachelbel and the Durutti Column for the music and The Smiths, Momus and late 60s Sinatra for the lyrics. Hardly an album you'd reach for at a party, more one you'll visit when everyone else has left you alone and gone home."
The new album has also been praised (by doomie who writes for the NME) at I Love Music.


Copyright 2001, 2002 Alexander Fritz
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