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.

This Week's EP

Once again I'm trying to keep my pencil sharp by reviewing single tracks from wherever, whenever, most of it fairly new unless otherwise stated. This time around I'm calling it "This Week's EP" because the EP is a lovable form: brief, intense in its focus compared to an LP, but spacious enough for some noodling around. The idea is that the included songs would fit on an EP. If that means six songs, or two, so be it. The point is to write this off-the-cuff, no planning, typos okay, lots of semi-colons, perhaps.

The endeavor to create a weekly update, or even any kind of regular update, on this site has failed before, and I expect it to fail again.

Track 1. "Complicated," Fitz and The Tantrums, from their new self-titled album (Elektra/WMG)

The zenith/nadir of indie pop in the sense of highly compressed synth-crunch made with the "spirit" of indie-rebellion-something-or-other, this song, on the heels of the band's single "HandClap," reminds me of the white-collar bar near the Short North Market called Brothers, a meat market kind of place I wandered into once years ago and will never wander into again. "Kissing like a car crash" is a good lyric, though. My rating: three half-smoked cigarette butts on a sidewalk.

Posted on June 10, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, This Week's EP.

Extended Thoughts on Prince: Never Stop Arguing

When Prince passed away on April 21, I knew that my next column at PopMatters would be about him. That column, "Prince: Never Stop Arguing," is up now. Read it before reading any of what's below.

The problem was that I didn't know what to say. For me, trying to write about Prince has been like trying to walk around an ocean. Where do you even think about beginning? I've been a Prince fan since I was thirteen and first heard Purple Rain. As a young musician I was blown away by his talent, his soul, his ambition, his dedication. I traded for bootleg tapes. When my truck was broken into one night, I was more pissed about the thief taking my Paradiso live CD than I was about the shattered window. I've been trying to write about Prince for years, either for a PopMatters column or something else; I have a few stalled essays, one dating back to the album 3121, one as recent as last year.

Posted on May 16, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

Documenting The Life of Pablo

My latest column at PopMatters has posted. It's about Kanye West's new album, The Life of Pablo, and its evolving nature. I was reading a recent essay by the philosopher Boris Groys concerning contemporary art and the internet, and something clicked. West's constant revising of his album has been treated like a novelty, so I wanted to dig a little deeper into what's going on.

You can read Groys' essay, "The Truth of Art," at the art journal e-flux here. My thanks to Matt Mitchem, my CCAD colleague, for hipping me to it. I've been reading a lot of Groys lately for my book of music criticism; one of the challenges for that book, and this PM column, is to think through what he's saying about visual art in regards to music.

I regret I didn't write more about The Life of Pablo's actual tracks, but it just wasn't in the cards given my subject. Maybe in an expanded version, or here on my site.

Posted on April 4, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism.

Day Late, Dollar Short

If I'm not updating the website, it means I'm busy, which is good, right?

Continuing developments goin' on in the background, but here in the foreground, my PopMatters column from last month about Donald Trump and propaganda music.

May have some announcements coming up. Blind Engineer continues its work on the EP; we're getting close to finishing it.

Posted on March 30, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism.

Blind Engineer This Friday

We're taking the stage again, this time Friday night, Feb. 26, at Cafe Bourbon Street opening for a great band out of Louisville, Dry Summers. Doors at 9, $5. Also w/a beamed gelling rose + undam and Faster Island. CBS is the best dive/rock bars in Columbus, and I mean that lovingly.

Check out Blind Engineer at Mingo Town Music. Like I said the other post, we recorded a bunch of songs just after the new year and we're working on getting them done. A handful of new songs, one or two we'll play Friday.

Posted on February 24, 2016 and filed under Music, The Blind Engineer.

Catching Up: Ties That Bind and More

My latest column at PopMatters is up: "Bruce Springsteen, 'The Ties That Bind,' the Working Class and Authenticity." Which pretty much explains what the column is about.

Also, I didn't post my previous column here. That one was part 2 of this series on working class music and focused on John Lennon's "Working Class Hero." Read it here.

In other news, The Blind Engineer went into the studio in early January. We came away with twelve songs recorded, five for an EP which is the top priority, the rest for a full album. With any luck they'll both be out in 2016. No titles yet.

A lot more going on behind the scenes but that's all the info for now.

 

Blind Engineer Shows and a Springsteen Review

The Blind Engineer has two shows coming up. I'm playing Friday Dec. 11 at the Mingo Town Music Acoustic Holiday Party, a five-hour extravaganza featuring pretty much all the artists on MTM: Harvest Kings, Heartbreak Orchestra, Devil Doves, Al Smyth's FBnCC, Apple Bottom Gang, Jake Follrod, and Jon Schaer. Eric and Jesse will join me, so it's a BE set without drums.

Next week we'll be heading down to Athens again to one of our favorite spots, Casa Nueva. Here's the show flyer, which is proof that I could never teach Photoshop or InDesign.

blindengineercasa1

Also, my review of the Bruce Springsteen box set The Ties That Bind is up at PopMatters. Had some leftovers from that but I'm saving them for the January column. The December column should be up sometime soon.

 

Ordinary Life: Greil Marcus' New Books and Extended Thoughts

I was fortunate enough to review Greil Marcus' two new books, Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations and Real Life Rock, for the Los Angeles Review of Books. The review is now up. Please consider checking out the many fantastic writers and thinkers at LARB, which has quickly become one of my favorite sites.

I don't have much in the way of extended thoughts, but here's a bit more....

Updates: Ties That Bind, Blind Engineer and More

My new column is up at PopMatters here. "A Town Called Malice" takes a look at the state of working-class music from the US to the UK. As you might guess, it grew out of thinking about The Jam, one of my favs, after watching the recent documentary About the Young Idea. I hope this will be a series of articles about working-class music--what it is and where it's gone.

Later this week my band The Blind Engineer is playing the Mingo Town Music happy hour gig at the Shrunken Head. Friday the 13th, free cover, cheap drinks, and our bass player Eric Nassau will be pulling double-duty with a set of his own. He's great, and a great friend. Here's the Facebook event page.

Also later this week my review of Greil Marcus' two new books should be up at the Los Angeles Review of Books. I'll probably have some extra thoughts about that.

The PopMatters column has a live version of "Town Called Malice." Here's another: