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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19 Mar '02 06:55:57 AM

I'm listening to Portishead tonight, prompted by a recent thread with a telling subtitle, "are we fickle or did they deserve to become dated so quickly?". I can't remember the last time I listened to Portishead. But without going into some of the things brought up on the thread, which are worthwhile things to think about, no, I don't think I've been fickle in listening to them less and less, and no, I don't think they deserved to become dated so quickly. I don't think it's a matter of them being ripped off and watered down, or whatever else it is imitators and followers are supposed to do to a band, though I can see why their somewhat pervasive influence (is this true?) might turn off other people.

There's other music roughly contemporary with Portishead's that I don't listen to much more (lots of it at all - considering that I listened to Portishead in high school, that I can still enjoy it now is saying something). In and of itself this doesn't say a lot. Too often, I think, people assume that if they stop liking something, it's due to a fault in the music. They overlook the fact that they may change (and just that, change, not necessarily become wiser, or more discerning, though that can happen too).

For one thing, I think Dummy may have been the first record I bought or maybe just really enjoyed that had "beats" (you know what I mean - the "hop" in "trip-hop"). If I'm wrong about that, then I guess history will just be revised, until I recall what it was that came before that record. If I remember right the record is (or was, when people were talking about it) derided as being a "baby's first beats" sort of thing. Hip-hop toned down and made palatable for suburban white people (that is, the ones who weren't already buying it in droves). Maybe there's some truth to that - I don't know. But I do know that since then, I've listened to a lot more beat-based music. I think one important thing behind my listening to Portishead (besides the loads of other reasons) is that it's just sort of been pushed aside by the time and effort I've spent on other things. That's not to say that the music I've replaced them with does beats better (though it may), just that they occupy a similar aesthetic supermarket - definitely located in different aisles - and I've been busy looking for things in the other aisles. The reason I think this is key is that maybe it's not just the case for me, but lots of people that liked Portishead, which may contribute to their more widespread falling out of favor.

I know, this really could have been shorter. I promise I wasn't working up to the supermarket metaphor. It just came out that way.

Listening now I'm surprised at how thin it sounds. (This probably corresponds to something Nitsuh said in the ILM thread, about their appeal.) Surely I've listened to this album on headphones over and over, but now even though it still feels warm it's hard to reconcile that with how it seems it ought to sound given the tiny little sound of so much of it. This may be part of the appeal of "Roads", whose bass is more resonant, and whose string backing is more subtantial. (Bigger sound -> bigger emotional whammo.) The keys at the begining have to be one of the most supremely affective sounds I know.

15 Mar '02 07:17:23 AM

I thought I had said before how determined even the handclaps on "Turn It On" are, but I guess I never got around to it.

15 Mar '02 07:13:18 AM

All the reviews of N.E.R.D.'s In Search Of that I've seen are just fucking shit. What is wrong with people?

15 Mar '02 07:05:11 AM

A while back I started a list of albums. Every time I listened to an album and thought, wow, I really pretty much totally like that record (or even better), I put it on the list. The idea was that I would get a nice list of the things that I would somehow have a harder time ranking against one another, but which I liked more than other records that in my more careful and principled moments I would stumble over comparing the former ones to. (Still with me there? That was a syntactically exciting sentence.) I haven't been keeping the list very studiously, but here's what's on it right now:

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call. Weezer - Pinkerton. Smog - Red Apple Falls. Outkast - Aquemini. Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock.

This tells me that I had somewhat didactic purposes in mind when I was intermittently adding things to the list - didactic for my own sake, not others'. I started with the Nick Cave because on putting it on on the spur of the moment one day, I was startled by the discrepancy between how much I thoroughly enjoyed it, and how much I remembered enjoying it. So the Weezer I must have put on to underscore to myself how serious I was about putting the Nick Cave on. (NB: this is a lot, not a little.) Then something similar to the Nick Cave happened with the Smog, except that I didn't even remember liking the record much (as opposed to the Nick Cave, which I had enjoyed plenty, but which I just forgot about). Then I must have been thinking about last July at some time when I was listening to Outkast. Then last night, listening to Sleater-Kinney, I realized that even as much as I love their other records, I love The Hot Rock more evenly, or with more unity, or something like that (I'm vague on the details).

Really the main thing, I guess, is that maybe this gives me a good way of figuring out what to do with cases like S-K where thinking carefully about what I like better (and remember, this is all because I'm still sort of guardedly interested in making lists, seeing what happens when I do) ends up going nowhere (cf. also Spiritualized, Nirvana, etc., though at the moment I suspect I know better how those would turn out now).

It would help if I paid more attention to the thing.

15 Mar '02 12:17:05 AM

Jordan is involved in picking a title for the record his band just recorded. Talking to him about it prompted this thought.

I was listening to Dave Douglas's (well the Tiny Bell Trio's really to be pedantic) Songs for Wandering Souls the other day and wrinkling my nose at how the more lively songs had sort of abstract but apparently hopefully descriptively appropriate names, while the slower ones had more 'meaningful' names that were tied to emotionalish stuff like feelings, starry nights, blah blah blah. Wrinkling my nose, because Douglas certainly isn't the only one who does that. I guess part of what bothers me about it is that it makes some of the music seem as if it's meant to be more programmatic, and I don't want people being able to make that accusation. Maybe I also sometimes don't want them to be hearing the songs that way (though sometimes I do). There's a kind of middle ground that pleases me (though it's probably not a middle ground at all, it's on a different axis) - song titles that have tenuous connections to the music at best, but which have a proper songish sound to them. Like a lot of Miles' song titles. "Gingerbread Boy", "Agitation", "Eighty-One", "Madness". (Some of the ones that sound more descriptive or whatnot only go so far, because it's hard to see how they are descriptive or have programmatic implications, which makes them just sort of pleasing tokens with which to name things.)

I'm not sure what to make of this.

14 Mar '02 03:50:00 PM

Ain't no party like a disco party.

14 Mar '02 06:44:45 AM

Four songs of the moment.

De La Soul, "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'". Sleater-Kinney, "The End of You". The Dismemberment Plan, "Back and Forth". Jay-Z, "A Week Ago" (feat. Too $hort).

Voraciously taking in everything within reach. Mythic flinty-eyed defiance. Overwhelmed, jittery affirmation and necessity-sprung hope. "You'll always be in jail, nigga, just minus the bars."

I can feel myself slipping down a little. Things aren't going badly but they could be better. I have a week off next week, which I need. If you can drop me a line I would be grateful.

13 Mar '02 06:55:50 AM

Apparently I know all the words to the first part of "Epitaph for my Heart", since they've been stuck in my head the past few days.

11 Mar '02 07:58:42 AM

About four minutes in the New Klezmer Trio's "Cardboard Factory" switches gears and sounds like the slow section in a metal song (which reminds me in that backwards-influence way of King Crimson's "Red"), only not, since it's an acoustic trio with bass, clarinet, and drums.