Posts filed under Reviews

PopMatters: The Flea-Market Music of the Felice Brothers

My new "Ties That Bind" column is up at PopMatters, this time around concerning The Felice Brothers' music which I lovingly think of as "flea-market music":

With the release of “Plunder”, there are now two new Felice Brothers singles in advance of the group’s forthcoming album, Life in the Dark. Both songs sound like they were made from a flea market. Not about a flea market, or at a flea market. From a flea market. Of it, born from it, cobbled together or fashioned from pearl-handled baby spoons, Amish clocks, weathered license plates, frayed copies of Life magazine, beat-up ukuleles, cigarette smoke, dried mud, and the lazy cacophony of hagglers, collectors, and weekend comedians. Neither song is dressed as kitsch or irony; they’re not dressed “as” anything. Each is simply the expendable, the boxed-up and unpacked, the well-handled, common, and priced-to-sell stuff of shopworn America that someone thinks ought to be worth something to somebody. And it is.

I was stuck on what to write about for a while, then heard "Aerosol Ball" and things clicked. "Plunder" came out while I was finishing the piece. Not much in the way of extended thoughts right now. It's all there.

Posted on June 15, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News, Reviews.

Scenes of Love and Theft and the Midwestern Work Ethic or Something

Scattered updates must mean I'm busy, which is a good thing. My article "Scenes of Love and Theft: Bob Dylan, Piracy, and Cultures of Transgression" for the Los Angeles Review of Books should be up today. It reviews two new books: Elijah Wald's Dylan Goes Electric! and Stephen Witt's How Music Got Free. (Edit: Here's the link.) Further thoughts? You bet. The "leftovers and notes" document was 11k words. I'll have much less than that in a day or two.

Meanwhile I think my proposal for Nothing Has Been Done Before, my book of music criticism, is in good hands and headed in the right direction. Hope to have more to say about that in the near future.

The last few weeks have been devoted to revising my novel from its bloated 450 pp. incarnation down to 346 pp. at the moment. It's been exhausting but good work. More on that later, too.

A new PopMatters column is in the pipeline, as is my long overdue review of Tom Williams' excellent novel Don't Start Me Talkin', which will appear in Heavy Feather Review

The Blind Engineer appeared a couple weeks ago, a fact I neglected to advertise here. We're working on some new songs today, as it happens. Still planning on releasing an EP this year if we can. Here's our newest member, Jesse Charles, and myself:

 Thanks to  John Garrett  for the caption.

Thanks to John Garrett for the caption.


And now, Sonny Boy Williamson performing "Nine Below Zero," which it thankfully hasn't been here since, what, January?



Ties That Bind, Dylan, More Dylan

My new column for PopMatters went up today. Titled "A Nightly Ritual: Bob Dylan's Never-Changing Set Lists," it reviews his May 16, 2015 show here in Columbus and examines the mini-controversy over his set list, which is very heavy on recent songs. I didn't end up cutting much unless you count everything I left out of the review--which, as LeBron James has been saying lately, is "everything." The challenge of writing about Dylan isn't just saying something new, it's choosing how to narrow down your focus when there's so much his music touches.

Posted on June 8, 2015 and filed under Music Criticism, Reviews.

Ties That Bind: The Voices is an American Nightmare

The return of my PopMatters column "Ties That Bind"--which usually focuses on the intersection of American culture, politics, and art of some kind--takes a look at the film The Voices. Up today! Here's an excerpt:

The guy in the seat behind/above me seemed like he was about to vomit on my head—“Oh,” he muttered helplessly, “Oh God”—and then, within a minute or two, he was guffawing like a horse. I don’t remember the last time this happened at the movies, but then, this was a screening of The Voices, the dark—way, way, way dark—comedy starring Ryan Reynolds that resists any easy assessment, no matter how much we’re inclined to give it one. Disturbing, funny, alluring and repulsive in a uniquely American way that no one likes to admit, The Voices should trouble you. That’s the point of a dark comedy.

This was a fun one to write. It's always more enjoyable to write about something you've just seen or heard, while it's fresh. In this case, The Voices also dovetailed with some research I've been doing about Guy Debord "society of the spectacle" for my book, Nothing Has Been Done Before. Thanks as always to the good people at PopMatters.



Posted on March 24, 2015 and filed under News, Reviews, Comics-Related.