Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thurston Moore- The Best Day

I've got my academic bona fides. Two Bachelors' degrees, a Master's, and a post graduate certification ( Education- they have two tracks for that- I took the non-Master's track) . But, truthfully, I'm not all that fond of Academia. Oh, I respect it more than willful ignorance, but I certainly don't think Academia contains our best minds, and it never has. Even more, I've got a lot of antipathy for academic theorizing about Art. For the most part, I'm pretty secular, so hearing a bunch of windbags with a lot of jargon trying to tell me what is, or isn't Art, or what's valid, and what's pedestrian- well, it reminds me of the crass, American view of higher Math and esoteric Science- a bunch of jerks who are playing God.
Thurston Moore is in the unenviable position of being dissected both by Academics and cheap gossips. So, I don't need to guess why he hooked up with a death metal crew, or why he records with people half his age, or whatever else- I bet he misses the days when he was just a punk, who knew more than what he was accredited to know.
So, it's a little surprising to hear how much this new record sounds like Sonic Youth. It would fit right in with what I consider the best era for Sonic Youth, too- from EVOL to Daydream Nation. The opener "Speak to the Wild" sounds like a companion piece to "Shadow of a Doubt", and it never really goes too far from that. Which, nostalgia and all, is fine by me. Sure, there aren't the squalling, screaming freakouts, and yes, the playing is far, far more confident, but still, this is a callback to just before the year that Punk broke- so I'll bet the academics, and the gossips both have a field day over it. If I'm Thurston, I have no idea why I'd invite that. Even on Matador's site, they talk about his Academic credentials, and given that the band behind him has both Deb Googe from MBV and Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth- the gossips are probably going to talk about how much Kim is missed. I foresee some mixed reviews, to say the least.
I'm no critic. I don't even like music critics all that much. So, I'm just speaking as a fan, but I think Art doesn't have to be born of pain- I think it just needs feeling- both in the sense of conviction, and in the sense of emotion. This record has both. That means more to me than the theoretical underpinnings of tracks like "The Best Day"- although they might be there- I just dig the Classic Rock-as-done-by-Wire hooks in the riff . I don't care if Forever More is about his new girlfriend- although it might be- I just enjoy the interplay between two jaguars. That's enough heathen joy for me, and I don't need any more explanation or justification than that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mark Lanegan -Phantom Radio

Much like with Bob Mould, if you want to hear Mark Lanegan's talent, you're best off dropping your expectations for loud rock. I'm sure, if Josh called, Mark would front the next QOTSA lp, and if Greg Dulli wanted, there'd be another Gutter Twins record. But, get over the thought of Mark as some whiskey-voiced Robert Plant wannabe. He's a crooner at heart- he's got more in common with Frank Sinatra than a beautifully ruined voice- but he just wants to sing. So, for those who exited at Blues Funeral, much like those that exited after Bob Mould's Modulate- that's your right, but it seems more than a bit short sighted to me, as, in either artist's case- the infusion of technology and Electronics has given them  new art, new creative impulses, and they should be allowed to follow the muse, period.
So, yes, Phantom Radio not only keeps up the Electronica from Blues Funeral, it expands upon in. Tracks were composed on his phone, and various keys and synths figure prominently. Above all that, Mark is in fine voice. Better than ever. He has refined his instrument as a singer up to that Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Sarah Vaughan kind of place where all of his quirks are known, and used to best effect. So, yes, I like this record. Yes, the music sounds like Joy Division meets Portishead, and yes, I think he feels that music every bit as much as he feels folk and rock music.
Honestly, I like rock music, but rock music fans can be pricks about it. If you try to break out from whatever ghetto of expectations your fans have, you'll be punished, and if you conform too well, you'll be punished. Mark  is a human being!! Leave him alone!! Waaah!!
Ok, I'm joking, and referencing Chris Crocker- how played out is that? But, I have a point in that- it's this- I don't own Mark Lanegan, and I'm not here to protect him, or defend him. I just happen to own and enjoy his records. The sole expectation I have, and have a right to have, is to be able to hear his Art. I can choose to not listen. But, I cannot tell him what to play, and I cannot pretend to understand the man, himself.  That's the deal- i get to experience the art, he keeps his life. Projecting about whatever struggles he may or may not have had, about what his life has done for or to him- that's all his, not mine. So, the stark truth is this- this is his Art in 2014- I can take or leave it. I like it, and I'll take it. Yes, I like the notion of a Joy Division song with those beautiful velvet blues vocals, instead of Ian Curtis' wounded moose moan. Yes, I like his blues dirges gussied up in downtempo beats.
Here's the thing- I don't want to be a brand, or a shill- and neither does Mark, and that makes this just as authentic as The Winding Sheet.
If you need to ease in- start with this version of I Am the Wolf, but do give this a chance.