josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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11 Feb '02 06:17:51 AM

This mix Jess made recently reminded me that I hadn't listened to Gastr Del Sol's Camofleur in a very long time. I had never especially liked it, either. As far as I can tell I've never written what I thought about it here before now, so unfortunately I can't remember much of what I thought besides "this sucks." What I can remember is that the first track annoyed me, that the vocals were slightly off-putting, and that as a whole it kind of bored me. I may have also found the parts with horns and melodies and stuff later on the album a little too saccharine.

Somewhere along the line I must've just come to be able to appreciate the right things about the album, through liking other music. Aside from maybe the saccharine thing (which I'm not sure is what I thought anyway, whether it's actually what I thought or just what I'm not mislabeling as sugary mistrust), I'm not sure why that would have been necessary, since I think I had all the right pieces in place (love of droney things, love of art-damaged things, love of indie-tinged things of various stripes). But it feels more like that, than the sort of thing where I just never heard an album right or gave it a fair shake.

And now I still don't especially like the first track, but the rest of it is beautiful. At the moment all I would like to say, though, is that the record is vital (in the "full of life" sense, not the "you should get this" sense, though that might be a good idea). Including in its quiet moments, and its repetitive moments.

Here is a nice interview with David Grubbs.

8 Feb '02 06:58:37 PM

1. I am listening to Call the Doctor.

2. I am going to St. Louis this weekend.

3. That is all.

8 Feb '02 08:24:50 AM

This morning once I was awake enough I fumbled around with the remote and put on "Lord, Can You Hear Me?" I started crying a little bit so when it finished I started it over again and turned it up really loud.

It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I'm still left almost speechless by it. Tears started streaming down my face. The contrasts. Even with Mimi Parker behind him, an enormous gospel choir, an orchestra, J. Spaceman sounds as alone as he can be. How? All the racket, and he sounds like he really doesn't think God can hear him. But he still sounds hopeful.

And not because of that, but just maybe because I was overwhelmed by everything, I started laughing. Laughing and then sobbing and then laughing again. I mean, fuck. Overwhelmed, but it was totally different from that time. I don't know what to make of it right now.

After that second time through I turned it back to "The Straight and Narrow" - I couldn't do it again.

7 Feb '02 08:52:35 AM

Listening to "Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space" today, I tried to sing the "Elvis" parts really loud in my head to make it sound more perfect, but it was hard to make it match the sound in my headphones.

(I/can't/help/falling in love/with/you)

7 Feb '02 08:49:49 AM

Today I listened again to the five Disco Inferno singles Ned (check the byline on some of the reviews there) was fabulous enough to send me. A few scattered thoughts:

Besides just being derived from their stylistic British post-punk ancestors, the whole lockstep, super-precise chimey guitar thing was probably almost essential to doing what they did: with guitars wired to samplers, I would suspect that restraint would be in order, lest an unimaginable din result (and, ha, some would say that it did a number of songs into the disc).

Lots of the samples are 'nature' type samples. This makes me feel a little embarassed, like if I were caught listening to a Pink Floyd record and pretending that all the found sound sort of stuff was really revolutionary. Clearly this is partly just me being a snob, and partly me overlooking the whole rock-sampler link being so crucially tight. But nevertheless it seems to me as if using nature noises is pedestrian somehow. Maybe it's just an overkill thing.

On a related note, even when not nature noises the samples tend to be along those lines - glass breaking, noisy clunky stuff, chattering, footsteps. Earlier today this made me think "it's a shame they never really followed this to its ultimate conclusion," which now pains me because I read something this afternoon that said something like that about some other band and it made me grit my teeth and call the writer a stupid fucker (so, er, I think this "following through to the ultimate conclusion" crap is crap, even if it could be meant well and clearly - maybe I will save that for another time). But, wouldn't it have been really great to hear this whole D.I. thing, only with other music as the triggered samples? Other instruments? (I'm sure some of the things triggered are their instruments, but that just makes it like, uh, weird postpunk.)

I'm sure I'll have to amend some of this later after actually following the music a little better. I suspect I've said this before anyway.

7 Feb '02 07:53:04 AM

Plus there's always this question in the back of my mind when I listen to Let It Come Down, "how much better does this sound to a burnout fuckup smackhead like J. Spaceman?" I don't anticipate being able to figure that out from direct experience. So is there some way I could get at it conceptually, to at least hear the album and understand in theory, and marvel at how totally appropriate to the experiences of the persona he's created this big overblown thing is, even if I can't always be knocked on my ass by actually identifying with it?

7 Feb '02 07:48:25 AM

Three albums I can most readily think of having this oops-tried-to-appreciate-new-after-old-album thing with: this Spiritualized one, the last Flaming Lips one, and the Beta Band's s/t.

I find it a little weird that I haven't been doing this with Low's Things We Lost in the Fire, which I haven't really been trying at all. I have good reason to, since I think it's more of a piece with Secret Name than any of their others, and that that pre-listen thing might help me (except for the same old problem of that not working at all, fuck). Plus Low have made some of my favorite music, ever.

Yet I'm just not interested in trying now...

7 Feb '02 07:43:38 AM

And while I'm not really confident that I'm right, I feel compelled to say that the reason I find the music more off-putting in general is that the lyrical sentiments of the songs seem less real and more like they're couched in folk psychological therapy-speak, just the kind of twelve-step crap that I should rightly have in mind thanks to "The Twelve Steps".

One reason I'm not too confident: surely lots of the lyrics on Ladies and Gentlemen... read as pretty lame, too.

Another reason I'm not confident: I really love the big fat sappy ballads. I think "The Straight and Narrow" is totally brilliant. Surely this therapy-speak rears its head most on these.

Another reason: these confusions make me think that really the music being different is what's driving my reactions, but the music is similar enough though discernably different to/from Spiritualized's earlier music that it's hard to put my finger on what the hell the deal is. Some simple ideas that might be part of a better answer: dopey big-hearted (and big-sounding) music is ideal for dopey songs. For the ones I don't like, the musical complexity of a very specific sort is missing, in combination with a different emotional slant to the similarish lyrics. (Or: having more going on, and more drones, and more bitterness and heartbreak and cruel romantic-realism, and less self-deceptive hope, fills out the weak lyrics somehow in a way that the newer stripped-down but still ironically for my theory enormous music does not.)

7 Feb '02 07:27:04 AM

I'm not sure if it's a matter of using the earlier album as a kind of enthusiasm booster, revving me up to love the later album no matter what I think, or a matter of listening to the earlier in order to more precisely have in mind what's so great about it so that it's easier to detect in the latter. Either way I still have a habit of listening to my favorite albums and then getting the great idea of listening to their followups which I am baffled, offended, or left cold by. I've remarked before what a poor idea this seems like, because it almost invariably results in just comparing the new to the old and being let down again. Anyway, I did it again tonight with Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space and Let It Come Down from Spiritualized.

I'm not sure how much 'quietude' ('a quiet state') is supposed to be elevated above 'quiet', but I imagine it's at least a bit, so that's the word I want to use. Tonight "Broken Heart" started as I was crossing the street to make my transfer home, and suddenly the intersection cleared of cars right when the opening notes slid out. The same thing happened later at the beginning of "Cop Shoot Cop" and then during the fadeout/return near the beginning of the same song (though sadly not during "Cool Waves") as I was walking home, having decided that the wait was too long. Having my headphones up really loud makes the dynamic contrasts startling enough, but having them reinforced by the lack of ambient traffic noise (and attendant visual noise) is far more powerful.

So I'm still ambivalent about the new album. The uptempo stuff I care less for. The midtempo stuff I like least, but once it gets to its bombastic peaks I find myself swept up. The ballads, as Scott Woods indicates, reign supreme (and I dig the other slow ones besides his 'trilogy'):

The real core of this album, however, is the trilogy of gospel workouts: "Lord Can You Hear Me," "Stop Your Cryin'," and the 10-minute-plus "Won't Get to Heaven." The most gratifying of these is "Lord Can You Hear Me," which is actually a reworking of an early Spacemen 3 ballad. In its previous version (featured on 1989's Playing With Fire), it came off as a pretty, if somewhat feeble, attempt to re-make the Velvet Underground's "Jesus" -itself a pretty, if somewhat feeble, song of redemption. But both "Jesus" and the first "Lord Can You Hear Me" are such muted whispers, it's highly doubtful that their putative subject has heard either. No, if you want to reach the ears of the Lord, you need massive gospel choirs, and to this end, Pierce brings dozens of vocalists into the studio to trump his and His cause.

Yo lord, down here.