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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31 Dec '02 07:36:10 AM

I find it interesting that the Nas spot on the new Scarface record seems to me kind of like a guest-from-another-genre spot, even though the song has a beat and Scarface does a verse on it too. It must be because of the structure and the music: in the middle, after Nas and before Face, there's a very long (relative to the rest of the song) section with singing and a devastating, delicate guitar part. Just by its presence it transforms the raps on the song.

31 Dec '02 07:34:06 AM

I might say that what makes these guest spots so wonderful is that they're not just performers guesting, but styles. I say that despite Lady Saw's spot on Underneath It All being in some sense (I can't make claims about ultimate appropriateness since I don't really know the style) in the style of the song. Maybe Bounty Killer's too, though that I am even less sure about. But. The talk of rap below means something; I want, like, Redman and Nas and Missy doing guest spots on rock records. There is a trick to this, of course; I only want them doing it if they can do it in some cool way that sounds good, not in some guy-from-Rush-decides-to-do-a-rap-song way. But what is definitely ruled out as unacceptable in my futuristic guest star pop paradise (in which incidentally we will all be housed in cities encased in giant plastiform bubbles, all the better the keep in the future pop music which will be publically broadcast in the streets and idyllic nature preserves) is rock people guest starring on other rock people's records. Rap is so much about style that rappers carry their styles around with them; you might make a grouchy case in favor of the same being true of rock-style singing, but at the moment I think the performer's individual style just isn't as modular in the sense that it's not as resilient and substitutable in new contexts. This might have something to do with the way individualism and style interact in different genres, but just noting so will satisfy me for the moment.

31 Dec '02 07:01:02 AM

Now, "Hey Baby" I like too, just not as much. But there is one thing about it that "Hella Good" missed out on, which as per my last post every song ever could benefit from, and that is a guest spot by some reggae dude. Yeah, maybe he's more properly dancehall, or I should call him a toaster, or whatever, I don't know that stuff. The song possibly also being more properly part of one particular genre or another might matter, too. I mean, it is significant that the reggae guests are here and on "Underneath it All" and not, say, "Detective" or "Waiting Room". I remain steadfast, though. All songs ever could benefit from guest spots from toasters. Here, Bounty Killer sounds a bit arbitrarily placed, which is part of the charm. And as we know, more arbitrary = more fun = more pop = more aphoristic = more equals signs = more more more! Despite the star producers (Sly & Robbie on this track, not that I know what they sound like, but it's typical that big outside producers imprint their own sound onto what they produce, so I still will pretend like I can tell what their distinctive touch is here), No Doubt retains their identity here and on the rest of the album, as far as I'm concerned. (I have hated every other single they have released, and have not heard their other albums, but I'm not worried.) That means that a guest vocalist's identity is put into greater contrast, unlike on say certain kinds of rap tracks, the ones where the producers of the music for the artist vary enough that the artist's identity comes from just their raps, and some harder-to-pin-down things about their music than just the sound of it from track to track (unlike rock-pop bands, usually). So it's like readymade arbitrary fun. Plus reggae guys sound like more fun, by default, than Gwen Stefani. Who, to be fair, does put some effort into "fun" I suppose. I reckon that if my plan for all future music is implemented, eventually the proliferation of guest spots will upset the balance between rock-pop where band identity is dominant and the euphorically wonderful music of my utopian vision, and then all of my arbitrary-contrast fun would evaporate, or at least be placed in jeopardy. However, I am willing to take that chance. Too much is at stake.

31 Dec '02 06:34:08 AM

The verses on "Hella Good" sound, as far as I care to pay attention to them, boring-to-lame. This is irrelevant. If I so desired, I would justify its awesomeness with a list of things that are in this song that are not in other songs, but should be. (This is different from but related to a list of things about this song which are awesome.) In fact, let's see:

beepy noises (reminiscent of the Neptunes sound but not the Neptunes sound, appropriate I guess since they have writing credits but no production credits), square wave bass synths in addition to a bass guitar part, drum machines or something in addition to live drums (and live drums played with a machinelike dedication to dancing no less), panting, the multipurpose word "hella", a girl, other beepy noises, and a little stutter at 2:45

There is also a list of things I do not advise there being more of in other songs, although they work in this one. It is a shorter list:

80s guitar solo

This is telling, because overall the record sounds like it is in love with the 80s. I personally do not love the 80s, so I find my reaction to the record surprising. Rock Steady, I mean, not just the single. I would like more 80s like this.

And more 90s, and more 00s. There was obviously a lot of money spent on the record, but it seems like some of its charms are not out of the reach of lots of other bands. The guitars and future-retro space synths here give the song this unbelievable chunkiness, but not just in terms of (spatial) volume, it's textured way the fuck up. In this it sounds way better at what most mainstream rock and metal songs I hear seem to want to do than those songs themselves are. So I decree MORE SYNTHS FOR EVERYONE!

Maybe in this, my year of pop infatuation, I don't really need to explain how I came to love this song. But I really used to hate No Doubt. There are still some songs on the album I have doubts about. That was unintentional, that there, but it was accurate. Well, I missed the single when it came out, but eventually I heard it in a bar. Which is more or less like hearing it on the radio - it comes out of nowhere, it's a surprise like a song on a record you had to seek out and buy never is. It seems I will be linking to that single review ("review") a lot in the near future.

31 Dec '02 04:58:00 AM

It occurs to me that Einsturzende Neubauten, especially on their most recent albums but I suppose earlier too, for all that I've listened to Drawings of Patient O.T., don't sound at all mechanical in the way I would've once thought. Yet I've retained that association.

31 Dec '02 04:31:35 AM

Listening to The Hot Rock, I notice that it falls in kind of a peculiar place. Before just now, I would have guessed that my favorite albums - my most favorite of the favorite - fell roughly into two categories, those where I know what they're about, and those where I don't. (I suppose I would then ignore for the moment the ones that might not be "about" anything, like the Miles Davis, J.S. Bach, or Steve Reich.) I mean "know" fairly liberally, perhaps, but not, I think, unusually: I can't even repeat back the lyrics or themes of a number of the records, or summarize them, but I at least have some idea of what the songs are like (so, for example, I know where to look if I want to put a song of a certain character on a mixtape), and when the songs are playing I can remember these things in greater detail, if not perfectly. (All of this is subject to caveats of interpretation, etc.) Emergency & I, Aquemini, and The Curtain Hits the Cast I would put in the first category. Dots and Loops in the second.

The Hot Rock is strange because I feel as if, on some level, I know what it's about, but from a lyrical point of view that knowledge seems a bit impoverished. Off the top of my head (I don't think thinking about it will improve things any), I can remember three lyrics in some detail, which is pretty good for me: the stuff in the one that refers to Odysseus and the Sirens, the one that starts with the stuff about a bucket of stars being dumped into the universe, and the one about tumors and love and stuff (aka the slow one). (I could quote some of these lyrics, but I'd get them wrong; the point is just that I could at least give it a try if I wanted, whereas, say, the first song, whatever it is, I am blank on.) I also forget the names of these, though sometimes I recall them (though would check before referring to them by the names I am able to recall). Yet, despite knowing these lyrics, I don't have much of a handle on what the songs are about. The one with the Greek stuff is, like, mythic (that's the word I carry around in my head, not just for that song but most of the album, actually), in quality, not just reference. And it maybe has something to do with being rock n roll slash punk rock saviors, or trying to fend off the advances and other unwelcome approaches resulting from or offering commercial success? The one with the stars stuff, I couldn't have said much else about (barring doing so while listening, as per above, though even then it would not be so hot), at least until last month, when I realized that it kind of sounded like a prettied up description of an orgasm. Yes, I did feel proud for figuring that out. Then for hearing it confirmed in passing by Sterl. That's where I stop, though. As for the slow one, it's about uh love and stuff? Yeah. And there are hospitals in it.

I think I've paid particular attention to those three songs, and that perhaps they don't necessarily stick out on the album, aside from the slow one (for being slow). (And I mean "slow" of course, even though it is slow.) That meaning that there is no special reason why I think I should know about them better than the other songs, almost all of which I like a great deal.

I've lost the thread.

We are having a sale on parentheses today. Everything must go.

31 Dec '02 03:32:44 AM

I have, of course, considered the possibility that I have a cruel sense of humor, or one based in schadenfreude, or something to that effect.

I have not considered it at length, though.

31 Dec '02 03:31:08 AM

I think that it's important to why it makes me happy that the monologue - I think of it as a monologue, I just realized, though I'm not sure why - in "Bone Machine" about the preacher trying to molest Black Francis in the parking lot is about a preacher trying to molest Black Francis in the parking lot. However, my ability to mentally create an alternate version of the song with similarly goofy delivery and language ("preachy preach", "kissy kiss", "yup yup YUP", etc.), yet no molesting by religious authorities, is not as well developed as I might hope. So I'm not quite sure why I think it's important that the monologue be about the preacher trying to molest etc. etc.

31 Dec '02 02:53:41 AM

Walter Benjamin was a man after my procrastinating, perfectionist heart. From the 1930 "Program for Literary Criticism" (from Volume 2 of the Selected Writings):

9. The theory of the unrecognized genius should be inserted here.