Nothing Has Been Done Before Has a Website

I created a website full of resources for my new book, Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st Century American Literature. Go here and bookmark:

http://nothinghasbeendonebefore.com

The site includes audio and visual, a complete discography, outtakes, and more. Those resources won't update much--though I'm still building the annotations for the discography--but I'll update it with news, reviews, and the like.

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

Protomartyr at PopMatters

My latest column at PopMatters concerns the great band Protomartyr, from its first album to its latest, Relatives in Descent. Here's an excerpt:

Relatives in Descent is, musically, a more contemplative and less full-throttle Protomartyr album than the three which precede it. I almost wrote "intellectual", which in some circles -- (some) punk, pop country, the Republican party -- is an insult, but the thing with Protomartyr is that while its songs are thoughtful and smart, moments of knowledge and revelation are never presented as victories. They have no social effect, no obvious private effect.

Casey frequently refers to concepts, for instance. Places and names from antiquity. In "A Private Understanding", the opener of Relatives in Descent, he compares himself to Heraclitus the Obscure, who wrote that a thing may stay what it is by changing. If you think this is just some smart-guy posturing, congratulations, you're on the side that's winning—and that's the point. These are not even Pyrrhic victories. As much as these antique nuggets are metaphorical and narrative structures for Casey's lyrics, the way he positions and sings them betrays that today they have no special meaning in the great contemporary soup of information even if they should happen to float to the top.

Go here to read it.

 

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

The Latest: Shake It Up and Twin Peaks

A day late and a dollar short, as usual, but here we go:

My review of the rock 'n' pop writing anthology SHAKE IT UP is live at Los Angeles Review of Books, one of my favorite sites for criticism. A lot of leftovers from this one which I hope to get posted here in an "Extended Thoughts" section.

Also, my latest column is up at PopMatters. This one takes a look at the new season of TWIN PEAKS through Lynch's use of the episode-ending musical performances and my pathological need to imagine these musicians as local to Twin Peaks.

More updates coming soon on Nothing Has Been Done Before, out this November.

Posted on September 12, 2017 and filed under News, Music Criticism.

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.