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.
I've never been so disgusted by a live recording as by Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong. I wasn't expecting much from it - mostly just a chance to hear how they translated music from their last two albums into a live setting, probably with more 'rock band playing live' overtones. That's basically what I got, and it's about as interesting as I was afraid it would be (read: not especially). Oh well. The bad part, though. God. The fucking crowd. Now, I understand that for lots of live recordings, especially those of rock bands which don't do much different to their music when playing live, having some crowd noise on the record is standard. Here, though, it disrupts everything. Destroys it. It's bad enough that Radiohead threaten the fundamentally internal character of the songs from Kid A and Amnesiac, by losing the subtle, sensual textures, replacing them with guitars or organs or just ditching them (like THE FUCKING BASS LINES where was this thing recorded anyway?!?), or by amping them up a bit, for some of the songs (that criticism maybe doesn't apply to songs like "Idioteque"). Far worse: the crowd hoots and yells at all of the rockstar moments, like when they congratulate themselves for recognizing the beginnings of songs they like, or at the big climaxes or the parts where the sounds die down, or, presumably, when one of the guitarists makes a "this is very intense" face. They yelp in pitiful displays of their inability to control their reactions to the music. They reveal their utter lack of understanding of the character of these last two records, treating them like the anthemic arena fodder that they wish they had been. Just shut. The. Fuck. Up.
More listening logging. Last night, the live Radiohead EP (first time through) on the way home, then the Dirty Three's Ocean Songs, then more AAS. Today, a little Mingus Dynasty at my desk, oh and AAS again in the morning when I woke, and some Stevie Wonder later, then In Utero on the way home. Later, AAS again, now some Beans.
The Annie sample on "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" strikes me as profoundly weird, more than anything else. I had never heard this before, except for the live version on Unplugged. I was expecting it to be more sing-songy, but unlike a lot of the sampled vocals on, say, The Blueprint - even those which are sped up or otherwise manipulated ("you don't know/what you do") - the sample here is eerie and disembodied, shrill. I would like to say it's manic, but I don't think that's right. I think that somehow this is intensified by the beat and the bassline, the way they constantly hang behind. And the thing is so damn slow!
The Swizz Beatz stuff isn't nearly as gut-wrenchingly, amazingly brutal and forward-thinking as I was anticipating, but then I guess I really had no idea. It's still at the very least interesting, though, sometimes captivating. I don't know what the song's called, but one of them I especially like (not sure if it's a Swizz Beatz thing). The guitars tread this strange line between being hard and funky, and not playing where I expect them to, defusing the funk and leaving behind that other kind of funk-by-absence that's so prominent in, like, loads of post-gangsta rap.
Here's a tentative reason why it can be more interesting to listen to commercial rap than to underground rap (in the special case where the underground rap isn't "message" rap but just wanders off into abstractions or fantasy or Kool Keith-style psychological abnormality): the way that commercial rap obsesses over (or APPEARS TO OBSESS OVER) guns, money, hoes, etc., is immaterial, as many have said. The fact that it constantly portrays people acting immorally, or notably, sexistly, is also somewhat immaterial IN THE FOLLOWING WAY. The fact that the acts or moral decisions portrayed ARE immoral, by our standards, is not so important as the fact that the performers are (or are constructing personas which are) doing moral reasoning, as it were.
This is not a new idea to anyone, I expect, but it deserves more thought.
Also, the other day I hard something - maybe at the end of "Money, Cash, Hoes" - that reminded me of a movie. Now I suspect it was reminding me of a Ray Liotta voicover in Goodfellas - stupid on my part, since I just watched that again like a couple weeks ago. "FUCK YOU, PAY ME!"
And more: the Talking Heads sample on "It's Alright". Maybe there is something extra sweet about the recognition of a sample when it comes quickly, but not immediately: I heard the track for the first time today, not thinking, and suddenly realized a minute or so in that I was thinking of another song. A short few moments later, struggling to remember, I realized it was the Talking Heads. Compare to the situation where a sample is familiar, but you can't recognize it for a while and eventually have to be told, or just run across the source again. In that situation, once you find out, you just feel a little dumb, because you didn't get it sooner. In the opposite situation, when you recognize the sample immediately, the experience isn't as pleasurable because there's no resistance. Compare to, well, just about anything where there's some chance to struggle for success. Or completion. (Sex.)
How does this kind of experience linger on once the song is known? Or once the sample is recognized? Is there any residual effect at all?
Listening so far today: American Analog Set upon waking, and Jay-Z Vol. 2 on the way to school and while working. Then a bit of Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues.
Jess said he fixed his archives but he is a LIAR. Despite this, have a look-see at his Beta Band review, which I enjoyed.
(Also his mentalist singles list.)
(Mentalist because it's so long, and numbered, not because he likes them.)
So Solid Crew have been the talk of Freaky Trigger-related sites and folks lately. I only wish that their music was easier to get in the states.
See e.g. Marcello's review of their new mix release. I find his mention of the music as "celebratory" interesting just because it's a label I've found in the past doesn't always apply well to my own favorite or usual music. Sometimes to my dismay. But it does apply better to a lot of the music I've liked in the past year or so.
It also makes me think of John Coltrane's Meditations, which I am going to put on soon since I've been reminded of it more than once in the past week or so. Coltrane's "celebratory" is probably better suited to a party of one, though, which may seem out of keeping with many usual uses of the word.
This morning I have been listening to the American Analog Set and singing along to the melody loop to "Magnificent Seventies" in a faux-arena-rock guitar-crunch voice.
More listening: Smog again, then Ellington's "Black, Brown, and Beige," then AAS's From Our Living Room to Yours, then five Massive Attack singles on shuffle (probably "Risingson", "Safe from Harm", "Sly", and uh two others), then more American Analog Set.
Last semester I had a philosophy of music class that met in the music building, because we needed a room with a piano in it. One day while wandering around the basement looking for the music library, I passed by lots of music students and busy practice rooms. Being around all the busy and happy people, and more importantly, the sound of musicians practicing, reminded me immediately of being in high school and playing, in a way I hadn't thought much of for a while. It's been more than five years now since I decided to stop practicing, and playing, altogether. I had just graduated from high school, and barely played all summer long except for a few times and a bit on the Fourth of July. Despite this I tried to work up an etude at the last minute, in order to try out for the university jazz band. I made it past the first tryout, but not the second, where we did some section playing with a full group and soloed a bit. This left me feeling dejected and frustrated, not just because I failed, but because I had characteristically hoped to succeed without putting in enough effort. I decided that, because I couldn't maintain my level of playing without practicing more regularly than I cared to, I would just not bother playing at all, and give that time over to the rest of my life.
Walking past all the practice rooms, hearing people starting and stopping, playing scales, dozens of people playing different music all at once, took me back to the time I spent playing and practicing in high school. It reminded me of the feelings of pleasure and well-being I had so often from challenging myself, working and playing with others, being around like-minded people, feeling the power of actually making music instead of only listening to it. It made me miss it.