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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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.

6 Feb '02 05:50:18 AM

This newness is especially significant to me because Lazer Guided Melodies has always sounded a little washed-out to me, a tiny bit muddy. I think it's always been a psychological thing, since for what it's shooting for it does everything quite well.

6 Feb '02 05:38:06 AM

Lately with a number of things I've been having the experience of hearing anew music that I had not listened to for a substantial time. It's been happening in the same way for everything, too: all the sounds are brighter, punchier, better defined. I notice parts that feel like they've never been there before. The last two records it happened with were The Blueprint and Rock Action, admittedly records I haven't been away from long. Tonight it's Spiritualized's first album, Lazer Guided Melodies. Though the surface experiences were similar for all three albums, it feels a lot different to hear new things with the Spiritualized record because I love the record so much and I have such a history with it, compared to the other two. Maybe it's kind of like being reminded of something, having a memory called to mind, only instead of having the faded aspect of a memory everything seems as it did the first tiem around. Only, intensified, because of the sense of newness that comes from hearing things in a new light.

Also, I had a flash of a related memory, walking down a hall somewhere (either upstairs or in the basement) in Carver Hall, the building at Iowa State where my math department was, listening to "Shine a Light". Nothing else though.

5 Feb '02 07:36:46 AM

Ooh I forgot I listened to the Wu-Tang today too. I wonder if they still do the thing where whoever likes a beat can rhyme over it, then the best rhymes get chosen to go on the track.

5 Feb '02 07:26:20 AM

Favorite josh blog word is obviously, by the way, 'seem'. Reasons should be apparent, making word count analysis a waste of time.

5 Feb '02 07:24:33 AM

Also, despite my absence not being that long, the time away from The Blueprint made me more conscious of how strong an emotional bond with the music I developed over the fall and earlier this winter. I certainly think the music did its part, but it feels more like something I did, by just playing it a lot and having my usual everyday feelings alongside it. The importance of these bonds should not be discounted. The fact that they developed for music that I'm traditionally less emotionally attached to (especially in the "emotional" usually applied to music, i.e. sadness, really passionate stuff, joy, etc.) cannot only be explained away in terms of frequent exposure. For this ignores how lots of otherwise more emotionally affective music gets an in, as it were, by being played a lot and just fitting the requisite mold I have prepared for it - music to have emotional bonds formed wit. (This is because, oho, where did that mold come from?)

5 Feb '02 07:18:40 AM

After not hearing The Blueprint for a while, and mostly Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life instead, the former sounds far more opulent. I think Fred said something about how lush the strings sound, somewhere on here. At the time I couldn't understand how he could think that. Everything seemed very... faded, I guess I want to say, though that's not quite right. Monochrome maybe. But now, after a bit of a break (hearing the different arrangements, perhaps more monochrome actually, on Unplugged may have had something to do with it too), there are all kinds of colors. Things seem placed more spaciously in the sound stage, and I'm noticing more parts of the samples standing out as separate parts, rather than all sounding like one monolithic sample.

A separate thing, but on the rap-and-jazz-similar tip (see below): I've noticed before but tonight the contrasts between Jay's flow and Eminem's flow on "Renegade" especially struck me. Eminem is uncharacteristically lyrical there, still, but since tonight I was already thinking more about the difficulty of Jay's rhymes, I thought that juxtaposition with Em's verses made his on that song seem even more syntactically and semantically obfuscated (but in a good sense) than usual; it also shed light on all of Jay's rhymes. He uses so much slang, and otherwise colorful language, yes. But also, more importantly, his rhymes sort of go wherever they want, or have to. Constant use of enjambments (like Outkast!), and that's probably just the start of it. Could it be that this has something to do with Eminem's success? His rhymes elsewhere are crazier but as I remember they're still a bit more linguistically tame, even if his flow is great (I don't want to detract from his accomplishment, is what I mean - he's just doing something different).

The opening string bit just hangs suspended for what feels like forever before the beat drops.