I can hardly believe it myself, but I will be reading from my book at the Hammer Museum in LA tomorrow evening at 7.
Incidentally, I learned a lot from this article, and I think you can, too. (Thanks to the RT List!)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I can hardly believe it myself, but I will be reading from my book at the Hammer Museum in LA tomorrow evening at 7.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I'm proud of this review. It has some clunky writing, yep. But it's not too far from how I pictured it. That means everyone else will most likely hate it.
Plus, I forgot to post it, but here's a column about My Neighbor Totoro from last week.
Remember that these are at Nerve.com, which has some smutty content (although not on this blog). Browse accordingly!
Music Library: Ben Vaughn, Benko, Benny Goodman, Benoit Charest, Bernard Herrmann, Bernie Worrell, Bert Jansch, Bertha Lee and Charley Patton, Bessie Smith, Betsy In The Gene Pool, Betty LaVette, Beulah, Bevis Frond
Ben Vaughn - "Dressed in Black" and "I Dig Your Wig." These are from Halloween mixes by David Smay, I think. Pretty good bluesy-swamp rock.
Benko - An International Affair. This is the debut EP by Benko, a very interesting and fun Austin trio of drums, bass, and vibes. At Obscurity headquarters, we love Benko! But this reminds me that I have as yet failed to pick up their first full-length album, which came out at the end of August. Will do so soon!
Benny Goodman - "Sing Sing Sing." Swingin'!
Benoit Charest - "Belleville rendez-vous." Funny that this should crop up right after Benny Goodman, as there's certainly some familiarity between the two. This is the song from Les Triplettes de Belleville, the delightful, but deeply weird animated film from a few years ago.
Bernard Herrmann - Vertigo Original Motion Picture Score. That's cinematic! I am now filled with a vague sense of foreboding and an overwhelming need to sit down.
Bernie Worrell - Pieces of Woo: The Other Side. Surprisingly un-funky, this is a mostly jazz-oriented affair. It's - unsurprisingly - produced by Bill Laswell and has a lot of his influence in the sound. A few tracks are collaborations with Fred Wesley, who was James Brown's bandleader for a very long time. Some have Buckethead on guitar.
Bert Jansch - Dazzling Stranger and The Black Swan. Jansch is one of the greats of Brit-folk, the John Fahey to John Renbourn's Leo Kottke and Richard Thompson's... uh, Richard Thompson. Dazzling Stranger is a compilation of Jansch solo and tracks with The Pentangle, Jansch's eclectic 60s folk-rock band with Renbourn, Danny Thompson (who tours with Richard Thompson now and fronts the jazz-fusion band Whatever), Terry Cox, and Jacqui McShee. He's dabbled in blues, hippie folk, swirling rock, and lots of gorgeous fingerstyle acoustic guitar. Neil Young once said that Jansch had done for the acoustic guitar what Hendrix did for the electric. There's lots of standout tracks over the course of his career, but the tops are "Needle of Death" (recently a frequent cover of Yo La Tengo's), "Blackwaterslide" (covered by Jimmy Page on Led Zep's first album), "Reynardine" (more familiar from the Fairport Convention version), "When I Get Home," and "Train Song," (both of which I'll discuss more when and if I get to the Pentangle before I die of old age). I should mention how much I like Jansch's voice, too, which is not just world-weary and craggy but also lilting and pleasant. The Black Swan is a Drag City album from 2006 with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart popping up, probably hoping to do for Jansch what Banhart and Animal Collective did for Vashti Bunyan: make this underappreciated 60s icon a touchpoint for younger music lovers. It's a killer album.
Bertha Lee and Charley Patton - "Mind Reader Blues" and "Yellow Bee." I'm not sure why these are under Bertha Lee instead of Charley Patton. Excellent early folk blues.
Bessie Smith - The Collection. More early blues from one of the all-time great blues singers.
Betsy in the Gene Pool - "Slow in the Left Lane." An alt-country band from North Carolina who moved to Texas around the time I did, but then vanished. Decent song, but I don't remember whether they had more that would stick around like this one.
Betty LaVette - "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got." Here's a gaping hole in my music collection. This is the only song I have by Ms. LaVette, who has a wonderful raspy soul voice and uses it to powerful effect on this cover of Sinead O'Connor's a capella tune.
Beulah - John Peel Session 4/20/2000, The Coast Is Never Clear, Live on KCRW 9/25/2001, Netherlands Radio 8/26/2001. So that's one studio album and three live shows? Weird. I got the live shows from that site that used to post Elephant 6 bootlegs. Does that exist anymore? I don't know. Beulah plays horn-heavy, somewhat-psychedelic power pop. You make music that could be described that way, and chances are I'll like it.
The Bevis Frond - He'd Be A Diamond. This is a compilation of the psych-rock band by my friend Jon B. They sound a bit like one very ambitious guy covering every song on the Nuggets box.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Dear Readers, Writers, Friends of the High Hat, and Those Anxiously Awaiting Our Imminent Demise:
Time is the subject of the High Hat Issue 10, and Time has been our enemy this year. We the editors have been so involved in our personal projects this year that we have consistently allowed the next promised issue to take a backseat to our other endeavors. This is a less-than-ideal situation, naturally.
Therefore, it is with all due apologies that we hereby inform you that Issue 10 IS forthcoming. In fact, we want to expand it to the heretofore-unseen DOUBLE ISSUE.
This DOUBLE ISSUE will be published in December 2008. We will feature our current articles on Time, and we proudly expand our special feature idea to include The End Of An Era. Call it Death if you must. In fact, call it Death anyway, but don't be literal.
Time and Death. Has a certain ring to it, yes?
This special topic will and must include articles about politics (apparently there is some sort of political shindig in the USA at the moment), personal loss, doors closing while others open, that sort of thing.
Pitch now! Write soon! Publish in December! Contact us at highhatsubmissionsATgmailDOTcom.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wow, it's nice to see them act like adults, but a little disconcerting, too, to see how easily they (and especially McCain, who's gone for the more cutthroat rhetoric) step away from everything they're saying on the road.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Music Library: The Bee Gees, Bee Vs. Moth, Beechwood Sparks, Beirut, Belinda Gillet, Belle and Sebastian, Belt Buckle
The Bee Gees - Bee Gees' 1st and "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart": The first Bee Gees album is a slice of Aussie wannaBeatles-ishness. Lots of swirling psychedelia, not all of it interesting, a few that sound like they took pieces of Beatles songs and mixed them together differently. The most prominent of these is "In My Own Time," which is built on a bassline and guitar part stolen from "Taxman," but with a phased (maybe backwards) guitar lead stolen from "Tomorrow Never Knows." The best track is the stellar "To Love Somebody," which has rightfully been covered often by other bands. "Broken Heart" is a delicious chunk of drippy 70s pop.
Bee Vs. Moth - "Doom Equity" and "Tjamis;": Two tracks by the primary creative outlet of my bandmate and friend Philip Moody. Bee Vs. Moth is avant-jazzy but unabrasive, sometimes veering closer to the fake jazz of Universal Congress Of and sometimes to an almost Ellingtonian swing. Lots of chops on display in the instruments, but the chops never overrun the swell and swing of the songs. I need to get off my hindquarters and pick up the rest of this album.
Beechwood Sparks - "Ghost Dance 1492". This must be off of a mix I got from someone in the past, but it's lost to history now. Good song that reminds me of the Olivia Tremor Control. The album cover that iTunes selected for this is a Jim Woodring drawing, which is awesome.
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar and "Elephant Gun": I was curious about this because the reviews made it sound like gypsy indie rock. Which is about right. It's Eastern European music (I don't know from Romany) with an indie-rock bent to the lyrics. It's interesting, but a little light on substance. Especially since a major touchstone for this band seems to be Neutral Milk Hotel, who were anything but light on substance. The other major touchstone is, I think, Arcade Fire, who are similarly light. So there's that.
Belinda Gillet - "Someone Hates You." A free track from eMusic. Not really my thing. Sounds like a song intended for a season-ending montage on a teen-heavy show. Or a sing-a-long in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, and I think I've already established that I'm not crazy about Aimee Mann. Strangely, at the halfway point, the music stops, and there's 3 minutes of silence following the less-than-3 minute track. I expected a hidden track or something, but no. Probably will delete for that reason.
Belle and Sebastian:
- Tigermilk, Dog On Wheels EP, If You're Feeling Sinister, Lazy Line Painter Jane EP, 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light EP, and The Boy With The Arab Strap: I don't know how wrong it is to review these together. But I'm going to. This whole run of music is utter delight, an admixture of childhood whimsy, late-teen/young-adult pose, and world-weary grown-up reflection, all built around this odd nostalgia for music that never existed before (to steal a line about the completely dissimilar Jonathan Richman). I mean, most of these tracks could have been recorded at any moment between 1966 and the present, and yet they are also so distinctly the product of the 90s, and I don't know how to reconcile this. I need to read Scott Plagenhoef's 33 1/3 book about If You're Feeling Sinister, I think. There's so many wonderful songs that I'm not going to even try to list them all. I will say that my favorite of all of these is The Boy With The Arab Strap, which was the first B&S album I bought, and therefore the first one I wholeheartedly embraced.
- Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant and Storytelling: The earlier of these is such a weird album. B&S went more democratic in songwriting, which led to some songs that sound like Lee Hazlewood and some that sound like, I dunno, Melanie or some other 70s folky-girl. And some that sound like B&S. Just odd. The latter of these is the soundtrack to the miserable Todd Solondz movie (was that redundant?). Apparently, very little of B&S's music appeared in the film, but unfortunately, the album is peppered with dialogue from the movie. The songs range from ultra-light to okay.
- John Peel Christmas Party 12/18/2002: Maybe it's wrong to admit this about a goofy Christmas show, but this is my absolute favorite Peel Session. I like how bands always seemed to let down their hair and have a blast on his show, but B&S throw everything out the window. It sounds like a drunken great time. They start with "O Come, All Ye Faithful," a fairly reverent version driven by organ, bass, and cymbals. Then they just let loose: "Christmas Time Is Here" (from the Charlie Brown Xmas Special), the Sonics' "Santa Claus," a couple of original tunes, James Brown's "Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto," more Christmas songs with a few originals (including a killer version of "The Boy With The Arab Strap"), all leading up to a sublimely ridiculous version of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas."
- Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit: These solidify the slightly-schizo B&S from Fold Your Hands Child into a 70s-AM pop melange. The Life Pursuit is the better of the two because there's a little more T. Rex in there and a little less Starland Vocal Band.
- Mellow Gold: I listened to this constantly when it came out, but it sounds pretty uneven to me now. Still some greatness and some filler.
- Odelay: The weird little Scientologist's magnum opus to my ears.
- Mutations: Os Mutantes is awesome, yes, but I don't hear their influence that strongly on this album, despite the way the majority of the reviews honed in on the song "Tropicalia" and declared the album was Beck doing Brazil. It's good, but a lot more folk-rock-pop (I do hear some Love on a few of the songs), and nowhere near as groundbreaking as Odelay.
- Midnite Vultures: Ah, Prince is awesome, yes, but again with the yada yada his influence not that strong despite the reviews yada, okay. I mean, there's always going to be something cold and alien about Beck, right? That's one of his strengths, really, that intellectual approach to sound. So his take on sex music sounds like puppets fucking.
- Sea Change: Some Beck fans consider this one of the all-time great breakup albums. I know from great breakup albums. While this isn't a bad mopey album, it's not up there with the major league hitters like Shoot Out The Lights and Blood On The Tracks. The touchstone here is Serge Gainsbourg, with at least one track ripping off the guitar and strings from Gainsbourg's amazing Histoire de Melody Nelson album.
- The Information: I've listened to this quite a few times and still have no opinion on it. I can barely recall any of the songs, although none annoyed me, either. One track steals the drums from another Serge Gainsbourg song, but only for a little while. Just a lot of blah, which is disappointing from the guy.
- What Fun Life Was: So much of the Bedhead sound is there right at the beginning. There's cymbal-heavy drums, layers and layers of clean guitars, melancholy melodies, sleepy vocals. Great stuff
- 4-SongEP1910: Recorded in one take live in a church, this one is similar to the debut album, although with maybe a little bit more Sterling Morrison than in the later works.
- Beheaded: Sounds like a statement of purpose from the opening notes. I don't know how Bedhead does it. They make music that sounds like it should be an overwhelming squall of noise and yet it somehow sleepy and restful and almost ambient in places (and although I never saw them live, I have seen the Bedhead outgrowth The New Year, which performs the same trick while actually squalling like a damn noise factory). My favorite track is "The Rest Of The Day," which has an amazing cumulative effect after n repetitions of the same coda over and over again.
- Dark Ages EP: Three songs with increased use of feedback and dynamics. The cumulative effect is especially on display in "Inhume," one of my favorite Bedhead tracks.
- Transaction de Novo: Utterly brilliant. Transcendentally beautiful. Indie rock at its finest. My favorites are "More Than Ever," "Half-thought," and "Lepidoptera."
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
My comments about the Beatles proved to be controversial to one visitor. It all started because I mentioned feeling a little embarrassed when I listen to some of the Beatles' songs on my iPod. Here's the exchange with a couple of comments at the end:
Joe Victor said...
Embarrassed why? Why embarrassed?
9:47 AM, October 03, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I don't know. With their truly great songs, I don't get that shudder of embarrassment, but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes. It's easy to be a Beatles fanatic and sop up everything they've done, but y'know - anyone can do it. Being a Beatles fan doesn't require a whole lot of work or attention. Their great songs are so accessible that they belie the intricacy and complication that makes them great. Their mediocre songs are just sort of there. And no one really makes an argument against their greatness, but their ubiquity makes it easy not to hear the greatness, and then the Beatles fanatic is just celebrating their ubiquity instead of their cleverness, and I feel a part of that when some of the dreck from the Anthology series pops up. I dunno, I'm having horrible allergies today, so I don't know if I'm explaining myself well.
2:20 PM, October 03, 2008
"but when some of the more obscure or mediocre Beatles songs start on my iPod, I feel like I'm identifying with a population that I don't feel has very sophisticated tastes."
The end of that quote made me throw up a little. You obviously think you are a smart person by the way you talk but yet your stupidity shines through.
10:03 AM, October 07, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Aw, there's nothing better in Internet culture than anonymous jerks calling you stupid because they lack confidence in themselves. Be sure to drop back by when you grow up a little, sport!
10:41 AM, October 07, 2008
I have complete confidence in myself. You are talking shit about people's music tastes in the past, back when there weren't 500 billion bands out and the technology that we have today.It's funny too because we happen to be in the same city so I would think that your mind would be a little more open like the rest of us.
10:23 AM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Hey, that's my confident guy! So confident that you anonymously call me stupid for the terrible crime of having a different opinion than you. And then, to top it all off, you accuse me of not being open-minded. Maybe that plays like confidence in your mind, but to me, it looks like you're being defensive. And, sorry to say, sort of a dick.
But, you know, I actually am interested in the free exchange of ideas, and I'm willing to talk more about why it bothers me when I'm listening to Beatles songs. I don't think I explained it very well, and I have a better idea about it now. And, I mean, this is my blog. I can write whatever the hell I want. But I'm not all that interested in going more into this unless you're willing to have an actual conversation about it. So what'll it be, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous: are you trolling or are you trying to engage me?
11:00 AM, October 08, 2008
It's cool, I don't have a google account or whatever, and this is really going nowhere anyway because you refuse to even try to see what I'm trying to say. Yes it's your blog and good luck with everything.
11:09 AM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I refuse to see what you're trying to say? Have you said anything? You call me stupid in the first post and tell me I'm talking shit about people's music tastes in the past in the second, which I admit: I don't know what that means, but I think you're saying that people in the pre-Internet era were huge Beatles fans because it was easy. To which I say: yes, of course. Didn't you see how many Beatles albums I have?
Since you're interested in being an open-minded person, I think you might want to rethink your strategy here. You can be anonymous, fellow, but you're engaging in classic troll behavior: you show up, throw a few bombs, say something enigmatic, and then huff off because you feel your genius is unrecognized. I'm not saying you have to try with me, but as you go to different sites, you might want to consider whether this is the way you want to be on the Internet. There's a lot of people who act this way, but I don't think they're getting much out of their experience.
11:30 AM, October 08, 2008
I never post anything, so don't think I "troll around" doing this on sites/blogs. Keep thinking that you yourself have sophisticated tastes and you will stay happy for the rest of your life (apparently).
12:33 PM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
Hey, thanks for your concern! I am, in fact, a pretty happy guy.
I honestly hope you enjoy collecting however many Beatles albums you need, and I'm sorry I stung you with that comment about those with less sophisticated tastes. I'm sure your tastes are ultra-sophisticated, and that you get way more out of "Across The Universe" and "Besame Mucho" than I do. I also hope that maybe you find a Beatles appreciation site where everyone can reassure you about your super-sophisticated tastes in music, because we've pretty much hit the end of my compassion for a guy who starts with "I disagree, therefore you're stupid" and doesn't seem to have much more to say than that.
Just for the record, all I was trying to say was that when the Beatles are great, they're unimpeachably great, but when they're just okay, I find it pretty boring. Why I find it boring is personal: I was a Beatles fanatic when I was around 13, way back before there was an Internet. I hunted down everything I could find - which, given my limited resources, meant a lot of interlibrary loan time. I listened to them obsessively for a time, and then I moved on. It's hard for me to hear "Love Me Do" or "Twist and Shout" or even the late, more ambitious (and, less successful, I think) Beatles music without remembering the time I spent trying to figure out how to pick those songs out on a guitar and parse those twisted harmonies, and it all seems vaguely embarrassing to me now. I feel like if you're going to be a fanatic, you should find something that challenges you and expands your horizons, and Beatles fanaticism is so ingrained in American culture that it's as challenging as being a Yankees fan. For the record, I feel exactly the same about Led Zeppelin fanaticism, so if you live in a Led Zep echo chamber and can't stand to hear criticism of their awesomeness, here's your early warning.
1:03 PM, October 08, 2008
I don't need my tastes reassured. I didn't call you stupid because I didn't agree with you, I said that it was stupid for someone to basically call other people stupid for liking certain Beatles songs while you yourself like others. It wasn't/isn't necessary for you to look down on others just because they like certain Beatles songs that you don't.
3:57 PM, October 08, 2008
Hayden Childs said...
I haven't called anyone stupid, fellow. You're the only one here doing that.
I said that I don't think Beatles fanaticism is a sign of very sophisticated tastes. If you're suggesting - as I think you are - that I'm an elitist, a snob, a connoisseur, or what-have-you, then yes, you're right. That's what I am. All those words signify the time and effort I've spent trying to increase my knowledge and appreciation - the root of my authority, my expertise - of rock and many other kinds of music. I have a certain set of tastes that I think of as somewhat developed - or sophisticated, even - and you, of course, are free to disagree about my judgment, but you're probably not going to change my mind without giving me some credentials and a great, sea-change kind of argument.
But you also seem to be bristling at the idea that I think your tastes aren't sophisticated, because you feel that they are. I can't speak to that. I don't know you. You may have the tastes that impress me most of anyone in the world for all I know. But I think that's the crux of the disconnect between the two ideas: you give me a certain authority by thinking of me as an elitist whose opinion has meaning and, at the same time, you want to take that authority away because I said that a population that you identify with is "not very sophisticated."
Your real problem with me is that you saw my comment as a dig at you. You think I'm looking down on you for loving everything in the Beatles back-catalog. And man, I don't even know you. I don't think you or anyone like you is stupid, and I don't judge anyone's intrinsic worth by the music they listen to. Do you think less of people who prefer to dine in different restaurants?
Let's say my favorite place to dine is Aquarelle (assuming I had that kind of budget) and yours is Hoboken Pies (to extend this analogy, because everyone loves pizza but not everyone loves French cuisine). I can say that I really, really like several of the specialties at Hoboken Pies. If I'm going to eat pizza, that's what I want. But there's some pizzas they make that are completely unexciting to me now. Maybe I ate too many when I was young. Maybe all those years I spent toiling in kitchens has robbed those flavors of their mystery. I come to the conclusion that people who love those pies - especially if they love them as much as they love Hoboken's more complex pizzas - don't have a very discriminating palate. I think that on the flip side of this analogy, this is where you get offended. And hey, I even apologized for offending you, but man, I'm not going to apologize for thinking that some things are better than others.
Which gets back to that authority crux I was talking about before: my tastes are just my tastes. My judgment has no bearing whatsoever on yours, unless you choose to make it so. I think of my sophisticated/unsophisticated heirarchy as perpendicular to judgments about good and bad. My personal axis is built on challenge and surprise and passion. A lot of Beatles songs, despite thousands of repeat listens, still challenge and surprise me, but there's a whole bunch of Beatles songs that just sound bland and Music 101 to my ears. You hear it differently.
If anything, people with tastes like mine are willfully cutting ourselves off from a lot of music that brings joy to the masses of music listeners. Where I hear saccharine, many - if not most - people hear the voice of god. Or whatever it is that people seek out of music.
So, what are you looking for? Do you need to hear that I'm not judging your tastes? 'Cause I am. But so what? You're judging my tastes, too. Do you need to hear that I don't think your Beatles fantaticism is unsophisticated? Well, I do. I still think it's the musical equivalent of supporting the Yankees. Or choosing pizza over other foods. Or some other analogy involving picking the dominant overdog. I don't think it's very interesting to affirm the greatness of something that conventional wisdom already believes to be great. I don't think it makes you stupid to do so. It just means I'm not very likely to ask you for a CD mix because I don't think I will like it.
Since I spent so much time on this response, I'm going to copy a lot of this stuff onto the main page as a blog post of its own. One last thought: you should read Carl Wilson's 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion. Seriously. I think you'll find his discussion of music taste and the assumptions that go into it to be enlightening.
5:42 PM, October 08, 2008
A few thoughts: I assumed Anonymous was a mindless troll after his first comment and was more of an ass than I should have been with him at first. I no longer think of Anonymous that way, but I do wonder what he's looking for out of me, if not affirmation that his all-inclusive love for the Beatles trumps my less-inclusive love for the Beatles. He ain't getting that. So, a hug, perhaps?
In comments, our Anonymous friend says that he's not the Beatles fan I assumed he was (because if he wasn't personally offended and he wasn't trolling, then his reason for dropping by and calling me names is...? I have no idea) and then goes on to ask why I wouldn't want a mix tape from him (here's a hint: I only want mix CDs from people who are interesting). So I was arguing with a straw man, which I sort of suspected, anyway. I think this the towel thrown in, fork stuck in ass, and fat lady singing moment. On my iPod at this moment: Kris Kristofferson singing, "It's over; nobody wins." Truer words.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My first Screengrab post is up! It ain't much, but it's a starting point. I'll put up another post or two tomorrow.
Monday, October 06, 2008
I've joined the crack team that writes about film at the Screengrab, which is Nerve.com's movie blog. I meant to get my first post up today, but it will have to wait until this evening now. Can't you feel the excitement?
Friday, October 03, 2008
Ah, the Beatles. I don't think I can actually say anything interesting about them, so I'm just listing the albums.
Hard Day's Night.
Help! (both UK and two tracks from the US version)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Dry Tapes For The White Album (mostly acoustic bootleg demos)
Let It Be
The Beatles Anthology
Past Masters, Vol. 1
Past Masters, Vol. 2 (only 3 tracks)
Live At The BBC
You would think that I really, really love them. I like them, sure, but I'm faintly embarrassed by them, too.