The Latest: An Interview with Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs

I had the great fortune to interview Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs last month for PopMatters. I don't conduct interviews very often, but as a Whigs fan since 1994, I jumped at the chance. It came a difficult time for Dulli and everyone in the Whigs/Twilight Singers extended family--it's explained in the article--so I really appreciate his time and generosity.

You can read the interview here.

You'll notice an extended discussion of Prince during which I bring up the relationship between Prince's "Housequake" beat and the Afghan Whigs' "Going to Town." Here, then, for your consideration:

This version of "Going to Town" drops in a bit of "Le Grind" from Prince's The Black Album courtesy of Shawn Smith.

Posted on August 8, 2017 and filed under News, Music Criticism.

The Latest: Algiers at PopMatters

My July column, "Algiers and the Political Structures of Noise," is up at PopMatters: read it here. I've been a fan of the band Algiers since their debut self-titled album. Nobody else sounds like they do: a bucketful of warm soul and cold techno-punk...or is it cold soul and warm techno-punk? Their fusion is utterly unique, so give The Underside of Power a listen if you haven't. There are no leftovers from this essay, or rather, the leftovers will be created now that it's done. For a good analysis of Jacques Attali's book Noise (referenced in the essay), check out this essay by Robin James at The New Inquiry.

Coming soon: an interview I conducted for PopMatters and a review of the rock writing anthology Shake It Up for LARB. Also, I'll be posting a little more about my forthcoming book.

Posted on July 17, 2017 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Catching Up Again

One of these days I'll get this thing right. Anyway, updates:

My latest post at PopMatters, this one concerning the new album by Chastity Belt, I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone. This calls back to a piece I wrote last year about the Felice Brothers and "termite art."

My book is being finished up. One day I'll write about collating your own index. "Hellish" is too strong word, right, probably, maybe not. Anyway, there'll be a website for the book, Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st-Century American Popular Music; I'd like to put together an online resource, simple but substantial. I have the domains purchased, just need to set it up. In the meantime, you can learn more about my book at Bloomsbury's site.

I'll have another PopMatters column shortly, another piece there I'm excited about, and a review at the wonderful Los Angeles Review of Books pretty soon, too.

Lacking a relevant picture (oh, right, the book cover), here's a snap of Spike.

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Posted on July 11, 2017 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Power Play: Brian Williams, Leonard Cohen, and "First We Take Manhattan"

My new column is up at PopMatters. Read it here. One of the more interesting discoveries in researching this piece was finding the videotaped interview from Toronto 1988 from which the prominent quote about "First We Take Manhattan" is taken. The quote from Part I of the interview that I included sheds a little light on the context of the more prominent quote, which is at the beginning of Part II. (Each is embedded in the PopMatters article.)

The fact that Cohen died the same week Trump was elected at first felt like some kind of cruel prank played on us by the universe. (He died on Monday, Nov. 7 but it wasn't announced until Nov. 10.) Here's the official video for "First We Take Manhattan."

Posted on May 15, 2017 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Lana Del Rey's "Love" In a Time of Trump

My new music column is up at PopMatters today. It concerns pop chanteuse Lana Del Rey's recent single "Love" and listening to her use of nostalgia in a time of Trumpism. In many ways, this is a catching-up-with-things essay, and also very personal since it concerns, in part, my students at CCAD.

I should be back to a regular monthly schedule at PopMatters now that the book is handed in. (See the update below for more about that.)

Posted on April 3, 2017 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

April Is for Updates

I've emerged from my burrow after a busy fall and winter. Apparently, the last time I posted was August 24th. Since then I have:

1) gotten married. Best day of my life.

2) finished my manuscript for Nothing Has Been Done Before and sent it to Bloomsbury.

3) become addicted to political news again.

4) tried to buy a house, moved, and fallen down the stairs once.

Among other things. This being a professional blog, I'll keep focused on the book. Nothing Has Been Done Before took up most of my time between September and early February, as it required some wrangling, negotiation, and major revision. In October I was able to travel to NYC thanks to a development grant from CCAD. The trip was for various purposes, including some meetings related to the college's upcoming Comics and Narrative Practice major, but I was also able to meet with Boris Groys, which was wonderful. Among the many things I've learned from this experience of bringing a book to completion is the absolute necessity of shutting out the noise and getting down to work. It's tough. During the election it was impossible.

I'll have plenty more to say about the book in the coming months, but we're on track for a release in late 2017. And I'll plant this tidbit here: synthwave.

Upcoming work includes various writing projects, including the application of some of the theory and concepts from this book about music to other topics. My band Blind Engineer has an upcoming show on April 13 at the Big Room Bar and we're shooting for the release of our next album, a full-length, in late summer. Lots cookin' at CCAD including the new major, which I'll comment on at some point. I'm also back to my regular monthly schedule at PopMatters.

How are you?

Here is a photo of our lovely wedding cake.

Posted on April 3, 2017 and filed under News.

Nothing Has Been Done Before To Be Published by Bloomsbury

So I can finally announce the big news I've been keeping hush-hush: Next fall, Bloomsbury will publish my book of music criticism! The working title is NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE. The book explores the concept of the "new" in American popular music since 2000 and argues for a different way of engaging with that idea, and with music in general. It is not a book about, so help me, "trend forecasting." It's an unorthodox take on what newness, innovation, and novelty mean in popular music in this very particular and peculiar culture of ours.

I've been working on this since late 2014. The book has changed considerably since then, and I expect it to keep changing over the next several months before I submit the manuscript. That includes the musicians I'm writing about, but to give you an idea, there's a chapter on Kanye West and there's a chapter on Gillian Welch. I'm hesitant to give away too much about the book, and frankly, I have a lot of work to do. I don't imagine I'll post much "process" work, but we'll see.

So for now, here's a photo of a stack of paper: the working draft. I got the official word on my birthday back in July and signed the contract soon after. This is the biggest thrill of my professional life, and while there are a lot of people to thank, I owe everything to the biggest thrill in my life: my soon-to-be wife, Jamie.

Posted on August 24, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Back On It

The Blind Engineer EP is out, today is Aug. 12, CCAD awaits, so I'm shifting back into non-summer mode. Boombox is playing some Times New Viking, Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell, Rae Sremmurd, and Frank Hutchison. My latest column is up at PopMatters re: Protomartyr's "The Devil in His Youth" and how it now seems like a song about Donald Trump. The Agent Intellect has been on replay in my car for the past three weeks. It's a great, great album.

Exciting news to announce pretty soon, but the biggest news in my life is that I'm getting married next month. Nothing will top that. If you're trying to contact me over the next month-plus, there's a good chance it'll take me awhile to get back to you.

Posted on August 12, 2016 and filed under News, Music Criticism, The Blind Engineer.

Blind Engineer EP Update

My band Blind Engineer's new EP is now available for online streaming, download, and hard-copy purchase (CD only). Two choices: Bandcamp or Mingo Town Music.

Our release show is Friday July 29 at Ace of Cups with Sin Shouters and Betsy Ross, two great local bands.

Also, we'll be playing live in-studio at WCBE 90.5 on Wednesday, July 27 in the 11AM hour. Listen online.

We'll also play at the Columbus Dispatch's "Window on the World" live in-studio series on Friday July 29 at noon. It's broadcast on the web here.

Finally--whew!--a video, too:

For more Blind Engineer, visit either of our pages or go here.

Posted on July 20, 2016 and filed under Blind Engineer, News, Music.

My Short Story "Ring Around the Moon" in 2 Bridges Review

My short story "Ring Around the Moon" is in the new issue of 2 Bridges Review. The online issue hasn't been uploaded yet, but I understand it should be shortly. Hard copy in photo below (next to cat card for my birthday from my fiancee). Demand that your bookseller carry 2 Bridges!

"Ring Around the Moon" is an example of a story going through many changes in revision. Normal plot, character, dialogue changes, of course. It was originally in first-person, then I switched it to third-, present-tense for a stronger sense of objectivity. This lead to the emergence of a more direct third-person narrator who editorializes. I've been fascinated by this "antiquated" use of point of view recently. Also, the story had numerous previous titles: "Greater Deeds Than These" (too heavy-handed), "Sick" (too Raymond Carver), "Marvel" (closer), and then the current title.

The story is part of a collection I'm shopping around right now.

Posted on July 18, 2016 and filed under Fiction, News.