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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3 Oct '02 07:03:45 AM

Ethan asked me recently how I've been challenging myself (musically) lately. My lame answer was that I had been playing Ginuwine's "Pony" and liking it - which I think was a good answer, it's just that I hadn't really had to try very hard, and I haven't tried much harder at anything else lately.

But. Ethan made me a tape which I have been enjoying listening to in my office (where I have a tape player). I was slightly surprised to like the Specials song, because it's ska. (During the punk-ska revival in the 90s I liked a bit of it but was very much annoyed by lots of it, so I deliberately avoided hearing any older and possibly better ska.) Not that surprised, though, because I wasn't really letting my do-not-like-this censors tell me what to do. Not that they seemed that interested in doing it anyway.

On the tape and on my small office speakers "Nite Klub" is even more deliciously metallic and clattery, without the bass jumping around as deeply as on my home stereo. But I still like it here. And I basically like the whole album to different degrees. Not quite as much as I liked hearing the song on the tape. Which makes me wonder: how much might I like this in the future if I keep listening to it? The question interests me because the music seems kind of between music I've been growing colder toward, and music I've been more excited by (the split ancestry of late 70s punk-ska should help make sense of what I mean by that). Which is partly why I chose to buy this CD tonight, instead of, say, Biggie's Ready to Die: I want to hear lots of things because of Ethan's tape, but at this point I think I have actually felt more challenged by a ska record than I would've by a rap record, even as shallow or as still cursory as my appreciation of rap is.

(I'd like to say that the same is true of the R & B on the tape - in the place of the rap in the previous sentence - but that seems false and to get out of it I would like to mumble something about singles versus albums here and then stop talking.)

(It's so nice to hear the Specials singing a Tricky line even if I know that the order can't really be in that direction.)

3 Oct '02 06:32:21 AM

"Southern Hospitality". He sounds blunt, yes, and in other songs I might be more prone to thinking that he is just based on his lyrics - I have a mental line somewhere between "fat titties and a matchin ass" (from this) and "they body start to leak and shit" (from his verse on Missy's "One Minute Man"). But since that line isn't approached here, really, I think the content itself doesn't lead me to think anything in particular about his delivery as opposed to others. (Translation: big deal, fat titties in a rap song.) But something else about the whole thing makes me hear the line very differently.

I can't get at all of it now, but just the rhyme scheme, and the way the rhyming words are emphasized extra strongly, seems to have something to do with it. At first glance the rhymes seem kind of dumb: it's pretty obvious that he's going to say "dick" and "balls" eventually, e.g. But because they're so dumb, they pick up something playful, if that word makes sense in the middle of all this. I don't know - like a version of the avoid-swearing game that the Magnetic Fields play in "Fido, Your Leash is Too Long", or Primus in "The Air is Getting Slippery" (I think?), only with different rules.

That said, I don't know how it connects to this: that despite the content not coming down on the "too much" side of my mental line, when he says "fat titties and a matchin ass", I have this inescapable feeling of total, utter objectification (not of myself ha). I know he says "if you got" before that or something, and is addressing all the girls on the (dance) floor, but it somehow seems as if suddenly there are just disembodied tits - grotesquely large ones, like Hype Williams directing Philip Roth's The Breast (where an English prof turns into a giant boob!) - floating into the song (and a big fat ass too - "junk in the trunk" ha). "Floating" seems appropriate because the stresses in the lyrics and the grammatical structure all make the words seem to float in to me, make them seem like more than just a disconnected list of things (Cadillacs, dicks, stocks, rocks, the Neptunes) that Luda mentions. (The music must surely have something to do with this - sort of a woozy, bleak shuffling glide or something?)

So, yeah. Did I mention I am listening to this constantly?

3 Oct '02 06:14:30 AM

Today I listened to Aaliyah's "Try Again" while walking and had something happen that doesn't usually: I could see (in a way) how a whole video to accompany the song might go. (I've never seen the real video.) It seems strange to me to describe it, though, because I have a sense that it would take too much work to explain while not even getting at what I saw in my head. I wonder if I would be of the same mind if it were music I "heard".

3 Oct '02 06:11:38 AM

When I listen to Herbert I hear "organic" and "artificial" ("synthetic" might be better but for some reason the word that demands to be used is "artificial") but I hear them at the same time, and this presents me with a problem: am I really getting them simultaneously? Sometimes I feel a little tension, like - oh, this part sounds so organic, then suddenly - oh, this part sounds so precise and mechanical. Is this tension aligned in any principled way with something about the sounds themselves? Like: their timbres sound organic, but the rhythms are mechanical (hmm notice how I keep wanting to use that now instead of the "artificial" that seemed forced on me at the beginning of the paragraph). Or: the rhythms are organic, but the sounds all have a texture to them like I'd expect to see in a hyperrealistic (i.e. achieved with computers) film - dayglo with Tom Waits "All The World is Green" green instead of Trapper Keeper florescence.

Of course, this tension doesn't have to break down in this nice, clean arrangement. I'm not sure which would be more comforting.

3 Oct '02 04:59:56 AM

This ILM thread about microhouse (well about where electronic music is at, but it turned into a thread about microhouse) has a lot of interesting things going on in it. If I could formulate my question at the end better I would post it here instead (or also).

2 Oct '02 05:35:44 AM

I never used to think much about whether other people could hear what's on my headphones, until my headphones broke and I had to start using these shitty ones that bleed all the sound out to the outside world. I'm not ready to talk about that more, yet, but read what Jess wrote. I think it's really good.

30 Sep '02 06:17:57 AM

I didn't listen to it.

29 Sep '02 07:47:15 PM

Sinker will be pleased (and also annoyed): this Flaming Lips review says that one of the tracks on Yoshimi is the "most influenced" by the band's own previous record. Whatever the meaningfulness of "influence" in more plausible-sounding cases, this one is just stupid, and Sinker is right: it should be replaced by what they actually mean, something like "sounds the most like Soft Bulletin".

27 Sep '02 07:56:10 AM

Some questions I often think about (or at least, that often come into my head - I don't usually think anything else about them) while I'm listening to 69 Love Songs:

How much am I missing by not being familiar with the original musical contexts that many of the songs obviously seem to be related to? (In "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits", the music sounds to me kind of like a nostalgic 50s style rock-n-roll song about teenagers in love, but only in the most tenuous sense possible - tenuousness due more to my not being acquainted with songs like that at all. But what kinds of emotional responses to songs like that make sense to people who are more familiar with that sort of music? I have no clue.) It gets worse - often I have even less clue what the stylistic antecedents might be, just that they must be back there.

Why do I still not get the joke in "Papa Was a Rodeo"? Or even know if I'm wondering about the right part being the "joke"?

Why is there beeping in "Absolutely Cuckoo"?

What role does the cheap production play? This intersects in lots of ways with other questions: what roles do different kinds of smallness or triviality or inconsequentiality or silliness etc. play? Is it significant that at times the cheapness (etc.) seems to come to the fore? Or that even though most of the songs can be seen to be somewhat like this, I stop hearing some of them that way? (Rather, stopped long ago, though sometimes it comes back - "Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" suddenly sounded overwhelmingly cheap today, because one of the synth parts sounded more prominent and I could hear it repeating.)

Do the small or less "complete" sounding songs have a different function? What?

If it helps make sense of songs or if it helps make songs sound better to sing along to them or to pretend as if you are or could (this is a large and untested and undeveloped claim), then what difference does it make that a listener doing so is only one person, compared to the range of performers, narratorial voices, styles, etc.?

Are the singers deployed in any significant ways related to their appropriateness (or inappropriateness) to the songs they sing, to their genders, to their sexual preferences, to the sexual preferences of the narrators, to the gendered characteristics displayed by the narrators, to...?

Related to cheapness, etc.: questions about authenticity of emotion, sentiment, performance ("This one sounds like a band in a room." "Oh? It's not."), sincerity, etc.

I don't think I can really come up with answers to these that I'm happy with without going through the album song by song like I am now - multiple times, focusing on different things at different times (but never the same thing all at once - that would be folly).

Etc., etc., etc.,