Posts tagged #Ties That Bind

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: 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.

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.

Summer of '16: Fantastic Negrito's "Working Poor"

My new column is up at PopMatters. It's one of those survey-the-land kinds of pieces, reflecting on where we're at as a country. Specifically it considers Fantastic Negrito's song "Working Poor" from his new album The Last Days of Oakland and what the song does--not just what it's about.

I want to clarify that my interest in and examination of working-class music does not mean that I think those who do not work, or can't work, are lesser citizens. As the Clinton campaign ramps up, it continues to spread the centrist gospel that working people just try harder than those who don't work, and that those who don't work don't deserve much, if any, regard because...well, the implication is that they're lazy. The rhetoric would never outright state this, of course; it's too verboten, too "tacky" and non-inclusive. But Clinton's neoliberal policies negate or obscure the systemic ways in which the poor are made poorer. This pretty much captures it:

The idea that only people who work full-time shouldn't have to live in poverty is disgusting to me. I don't want to contribute to that already pervasive perspective, and I plan to address this in a future column.

Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

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.

Ties That Bind: Sound Is Our Weapon

My new column is up at PopMatters this morning. Titled "Sound Is Our Weapon: Protest Music and Black Lives Matter," it started out as me simply listening to Janelle Monae and Wondaland's "Hell You Talmbout" and Rhiannon Giddens' "Cry No More" and, as you can read, it became something more than that.


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: Rihanna's "American Oxygen"

My new column went up today at PopMatters, which has been going through a significant site redesign. The end result is sharp-looking.

"Spectacle of Empty Gestures: Rihanna's 'American Oxygen'" concerns the song and the video, both of which strike me as either confused or simplistic, or both. Unless there's obvious reason or proof, I never doubt the sincerity of artists; it just seems like a cynical strategy to any kind of criticism. And I also imagine there are people out there who might take comfort in the song, possibly even make it into something more powerful than what it is. And I say more power to them.

Extra thoughts:

What the video for "American Oxygen" tries to achieve in images, Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly accomplishes aurally. That's an amazing record that brings to mind so many records before it but sounds utterly fresh.

I'm not sure yet if the new Genius website is worthwhile, since some of the annotations there for "American Oxygen" are just awful.

There's an essay waiting to be written about music videos that use historical montage. Had a lot of fun with that. Here's the G'n'R video for "Welcome to the Jungle"--


R8 so far is hit-miss-miss-sort of hit in terms of singles.


Posted on May 6, 2015 and filed under Music Criticism, News.

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.