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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29 Jul '01 09:41:31 AM

'Sweet Lovin' Man' especially makes me idly wonder if, in ten or twenty years or so, we'll have a new version of 69 Love Songs where the tunes are performed in their 'ideal' versions - I say that because, despite the differences (often positive, or at least, neither positive nor negative, simply different) effected by Merritt's production or arrangement, or his sometimes deliberately incongruous choice of vocalists, and so forth, a lot of the songs play like alternate versions of other songs. The orchestra behind the new version of 'Sweet Lovin' Man' would lend it more vastness. (Because oh yes, it would have an orchestra.)

Some, like 'Long-Forgotten Fairytale', would not be worth redoing, at least if embiggening or emboldening were the only kind of perfection being sought on this hypothetical 69LS revisitation.

29 Jul '01 02:33:25 AM

There are two conspicuous reference points for what would be the last track on Hot Shots II, if it weren't for the inclusion of 'Won' as a bonus track. First, Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon, for the title ('Eclipsed' for the Betas, 'Eclipse' for Floyd) and a similar tone and lyrical bent (searching stuff about what-does-it-all-mean and humanity's place and how-can-we-get-together etc., though I'd have to listen to 'Eclipse' again to really see, since it's been quit a while). Second, and more strikingly, the Beatles from 'Yellow Submarine' - when the singsong 'we all live together on a little round ball' section starts, and the toms start banging Ringo-style, the resemblance is unmistakeable and I assume, intentional. I think it's also the high point of the album (in the sense of 'culmination', not 'rises above the rest of the crap').

I was reminded of this again today when at the deli, because they were playing Nas' It Was Written. 'Street Dreams' lifts its chorus from the Eurythmics' similarly named song, sort of half-singing the melody and changing the lyrics. The legalities of this sort of thing are probably different from those for sampling, but apparently it's possible to do so, at least, without much trouble (Lennox and Stewart get a writing credit, no clue if any money changed hands besides the publishing royalties and whatever). It would be nice if it could be done more; I think there are a lot of allusive possiblities offered by this kind of thing that are different enough from straight sampling to make it worthwhile (and yes, I realize that sounds funny, since if we were talking about poetry or prose it would be a non-issue as far as actually doing it was concerned).

Cf. also Spiritualized, 'Ladies and Gentlemen...' (and plenty more I'm sure).

28 Jul '01 04:49:23 PM

It appears I am not moving today. Oh well. That gives me more time to scrub my bathroom floor. Fucking A.

I still haven't stopped listening to the Beta Band.

28 Jul '01 04:45:15 AM

All I've been listening to today is the new Beta Band album. I don't feel myself growing tired of it at all. It does make me want to lay down and stop packing, though.

Speaking of which, maybe I will be moving tomorrow, maybe not. There are trucks 'in the area', they say. I guess I just have to hope that when they make a measurement tomorrow morning one will be localized in south Ames. (Oh ha ha. A quantum physics joke, you see. Ugh. I have a paper to finish too.)

27 Jul '01 10:44:31 AM

Er. Not the chronological sequencing, which does put similar-sounding tracks together, but just the chronological selection at all.

27 Jul '01 09:33:05 AM

It took me less time to warm up to Joy Division than I expected, based on their reputation and on hearing a song or two of theirs a while back. But I think the chronological sequencing on Substance makes it a little harder on me; the earlier, 'more punk' songs do it more for me (especially the bass guitar), and I think that having some of the later ones together with their album-mates would make them easier to like.

And oh jesus are the drums loud.

27 Jul '01 09:18:24 AM

I've been noticing a lot lately (while walking around with my headphones on, which is why I've been forgetting to write it down) while listening to rap the production technique / musical element of doubling up the voice (sometimes with a separate rapper, sometimes with another recording of the rapper 'soloing' at the time) just at the points where words rhyme or are stressed or otherwise stick out (often, stick out semantically). I think that's a very important thing. A pop or rap cynic (think Theodor Adorno) would regard it as a meaningless embellishment, probably. But it seems to be widespread enough to be considered some kind of element of rap's musical 'language' - the sort of thing which would figure in a good ethnomusicological study of the music. Surely the listeners don't need such a thing, but it would be a step toward legitimacy in certain circles, which I'm not totally convinced is a healthy thing, but which I sometimes hope for anyway.

27 Jul '01 09:06:44 AM

Does anyone think of the Beta Band as a hip-hop group?

They slide in and out of using hip-hop beats, or at least hip-hop related beats. But they sing. If they mostly rapped, I suspect people would think the music was some kind of hip-hop, even if hip-hop filtered through the ears of British Beach Boys fans (pick any sort of description there you like...). But here's a question: what kind of music would you tend to categorize them as, if you were made to do such a thing, and - Hot Shots II were an instrumental record? The instrumental mixes of Deltron 3030 are a hip-hop album. So is plenty of instrumental hip-hop which doesn't have a vocal hip-hop lineage to qualify it as hip-hop.

Then there's also the fact that the singing and the lyrics are just pretty different from what shows up in most hip-hop, even hip-hop which features lots of singing. Which reminds me (sort of uncomfortably) of Wynton Marsalis's strictures on what can and can't be jazz - because a lot of this music is very similar in significant ways to hip-hop, but just different enough that it might be similar to something like deciding whether Miles's electric music is jazz (and when it stopped being so), or whether Getz/Gilberto's samba is jazz.

27 Jul '01 08:07:42 AM

I wonder if more of a Beach Boys fan like Fred can tell me what he thinks of the similarities between the production (possibly the songwriting, or arranging, or whatever) on Pet Sounds and that on the Beta Band's Hot Shots II. It doesn't feel quite the same to me, maybe because I'm still not that much into Pet Sounds, but at the moment it seems like there could be some overlap in the way the production is very "internal" in a way - it sounds like it's perfectly suited for the kind of introspective listening you might do best over headphones. That's not quite it though. It's more than a headphone album - something more deliberate than that. Maybe there's something to the production that rewards the trancelike kind of attention that so many people say they give to Pet Sounds, laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, headphones on. And that kind of attention seems more appropriate to call "introspective" to me, even if I don't quite like the word.

Of course, the Betas are well-known Beach Boys fans (cf. "Around the Bend")...