Saturday, September 30, 2006

Les Breastfeeders, en francais, s'il vous plait!

Okay, I speak and read French well enough to get through school and basically get the gist of what's going on here, but powerpop I speak fluently.

And so, Les Breastfeeders.

Déjeuner sur l'herbe, le premier album des montréalais Les Breastfeeders, a su conquérir autant le public que la critique à sa sortie au printemps 2004 sur l'étiquette Blow The Fuse. Depuis, Luc Brien (voix, guitare), Suzie McLelove (voix, guitare), Sunny Duval (1ère guitare), Joe (basse), Johnny Maldoror (tambourine), et Fred Fortin (batteur pour le groupe depuis 2005) ont parcouru le Québec pendant 2 ans pour présenter leurs frénétiques et contagieux spectacles de rock. Invités à de nombreux festivals et événements (Francofolies de Montréal, Festival d'été de Québec, Fête de la St-Jean à Québec, Art Vocal de Trois-Rivières, Chanson de Tadoussac, concert CBC Radio 3/Bandeapart à Vancouver...), le groupe s'est également vu remettre le Prix Miroir de l’Artiste d’ici au Festival d'été de Québec 2005, les prix Power et Bêtes de scène au gala des Mimi's 2005, et sa chanson "Angle Mort" fut récompensée par le prix "Chanson primée" de la SOCAN en 2003. Plusieurs chansons du premier album ont trôné sur divers palmarès au Québec et les 2 extraits vidéos ont joui de fortes rotations sur les ondes de Musique Plus. Ils ont également flirté avec les USA où ils ont présenté une quinzaine de concerts en plus de voguer sur les palmarès d’importantes radios libres et collégiales (WMBR, WFMU...).

Au printemps 2006, Les Breastfeeders sont de retour en force avec Les matins de grands soirs. Enregistré à Montréal dans les studios Breakglass et Beatbox par Ryan Battistuzzi (Malajube, Yesterday’s Ring...), ce nouveau disque rend enfin justice au son et à l’urgence du groupe.

En plus de l’étourdissante tournée et de l’excitation médiatique entourant la sortie de Les matins de grands soirs au pays, celui-ci sortira en France à l’hiver 2007, sur létiquette Boxson (Le Nombre, Prototypes), ainsi qu’aux Etats-Unis. Appuyé par Bonsound (gérance et booking), Blow The Fuse (label) et un disque plus que solide, le groupe se prépare à envahir les ondes radios et les scènes d’ici et d’ailleurs.

Basically, they released an album in Spring 04 that got a lot of good press, they've been touring Quebec for two years or so, playing a bunch of festivals, have done about 15 or so shows in the States, get indie and college radio play. They had a new disc in Spring 06 ("one which finally captures accurately the urgency of the group"), and over winter of 07 will be touring in France and the States.

Too cool! Hear them at their homepage under "Écoutez 3 tounes" (right hand column). You'll see what I mean.

If you have one reason to run to Canada and set your U.S. passport on fire, this Montreal band ought to do the trick.
Ann Sterzinger, Chicago Reader, Chicago

And this is actually a pretty decent definition of contemporary power pop:
Véritable bouffée d’air frais dans une culture de puristes, le sextuor montréalais prend le rock garage des années soixante par la nuque et lui fait avaler de grandes gorgées de pop des années 80 et de punk, sur ce premier album réussi. Mélodies accrocheuses et gros fun contagieux sont au menu, rehaussés par les textes adroits du chanteur Luc Brien, le charme et la voix cristalline de Suzie McLelove ainsi qu’une attention notable aux variations de tons et ambiances.
Olivier Lalande, ICI Montréal

Oh, and a video, natch.

Maybe it's the language thing, but this seems a lot less annoying and precious to me than their Engligh-laguage counterparts, your Franz Ferdinands and Killers, par example. And dig that keyboard solo! (As for the Bezzy fellow in the fur shrug: I got nuthin'.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I like Dressy Bessy! A lot!

Yglesias sez:
considering that Mocha Hut on 13th Street where I work appears to have an entirely African-American staff, the music they're playing today bears on odd resemblance to . . . what's on my iPod. I've already heard a Broken Social Scene tune, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, some Built to Spill, and now "Baby Six String" by Dressy Bessy which I regard as a somewhat obscure band even by indie rock standards.

Indie power pop is gentrification? Weirdio. But if Matt can identify these bands, it sounds like the youngster's head is screwed on right, which is a good thing.

h/t Thers.

Rise and Report!

Talk about a good wife. Sheesh. I spent this night getting puked on, and not by drunk guys at a Redd Kross concert.

Without further ado, Thers's report on Redd Kross.

Last Friday I day tripped down to Irving Plaza to see Redd Kross. Goddamn it was a great show. Just a lot of fun. One new song that sounded really good, a lot of cool old stuff, a really comfortable kind of a vibe -- not that they seemed to have rehearsed all that much, as there were plenty of fuckups. But whatever. The old energy was there, the old attitude, the old ironic chaotic joy in the endlessly absurd, thoroughly ludicrous, but very, very tasty, eternal carnival that is American pop culture. It was neat to see the old Neurotica lineup. I'd never seen Roy McDonald before, and while maybe there are better drummers, he was a grinning sticks-chucking goofball, and thusly rocked.

The first Redd Kross show I ever saw was in, shit, 1989, I think, at the old Ritz. I went with Deeptoej. It was fucking amazing; they led with "Jesus Christ Superstar," and dear lord did it rock. They had all the rock star moves down pat, a collection of catchy original songs and some inspired covers, and, something that should never be overlooked, a knowing, coherent aesthetic. In other words, they made deliberate choices as to what they were doing onstage, and knew what sort of effect thay wanted to produce.

I don't mean that they were calculating; not quite. Rather, they were a band that knew what had come before and so knew what they were doing that was new.

And what was this? I think in retrospect the reason I love Redd Kross is that their whole schtick is that rock music is fun. This sounds pretty trite when you just lay it out there, but there really is a lot to it. How many bands are there in existence that can pull off "fun"as an organizing concept? Most rock bands (even probably almost all my favorites) don't take the fun that is rock music as their main subject, and if they do, it mostly sounds pretty retarded, because it's artificial. Redd Kross, though, was always about the artificial. And recognizing the artificial is one way to keep a step ahead of the game. "No metal sluts or punk rock ruts for me," you know.

Part of the band's problem, indeed, was always that they were never really able to sell out effectively, because that would have meant being "taken seriously," and that was never the point. Rock music is weird. You're always supposed to pretend that it isn't really kinda stupid. You're always supposed to pretend that it's "about" something, even when it clearly isn't, and is just about faking emotions.

Annnnyway. Deeptoej first heard of Redd Kross, I forget how now, but I remember what he said that made me want to buy some of their stuff: "they rock hard, and they're even more into stupid TV than we are!"

The concept of a band that was pretty much all about pleasure, without being naive or poisonously cynical, appealed to me greatly. Not that I would have put it to myself like this back then, oh, 20 odd years ago. Mostly what happened was we put on Teen Babes from Monsanto and just rocked the fuck out.

The good old days...

I'm glad you had fun, honey.

Thursday Babyblogging: In Color!

No, I didn't get the light leak in th camera fixed yet, but I think I can work around it for a bit. Rosie and Sean have declared a truce of sorts, and now will play near each other, frequently without bloodshed.

In the portable ball pit. (We hide the balls, for obvious reasons.)

Peekaboo! (Where'd Rosie go?)

SP, a remarkably good-tempered baby, sticks his tongue out at his sister.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Comma

A fucking Comma.

This is a comma.

This is a war.

Gah, these people will rot in hell.

(They're coming now, the young, damaged men. Back to school, trying to rebuild their lives. I met another this week, fucked his back up in Iraq and can't get into the VA hospital here, but that's the least of his problems. Closed doors, closed faces. I almost don't have to ask. They have a look, these young men. For him, this isn't a comma.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

In Memoriam: Peggy

Thers often yanks my chain that if one were to scan this blog and try to determine what power pop actually is, they'd be no closer to a definition at the finish, or they'd end up with a definition like "songs NYM likes." Maybe so. But I actually began this blog as an extended rumination on how music affects identity, how it effects identity, how the soundtrack that runs through our heads determines, to some extent, the nature of the story being narrated.

I grew up among "music people." Not one of the seven of us, despite my parents' occasional pressure, played an instrument; we were consumers, and our sibling differences were often worked out over issues of consumption. My tastes were most firmly shaped by my eldest brother, whose constant playing of the Beatles determined more than anything else, probably, my melodic sense and aesthetic. Another brother was a Credence fan, a third Steve Miller, and a fourth obsessed over Carly Simon and had what seemed to me an impossibly large collection of singles--at least several hundred, which seemed like a lot at the time. (My fifth brother was younger, and so subject to my whims rather than vice versa. Ha ha.)

And then there was my sister. As the only two girls in this massive family of boys, we shared a room for most of my life. Often, it was right here, the room in which I sit, the room in which our guests stay when they visit. When Thers and I began renovating the house, we discovered many decorating difficulties, but at the time the hot pink seventies flowers on the wallpaper in here were a major concern, taking two layers of primer (and two layers of paint, but they're basically gone now). My sister chose them, as she was fifteen or so in 1976, and they must have seemed like a good idea at the time. She would choose a band, often an album, and play it first thing in the morning while we were getting ready for school every day. For a year, sometimes. Like this one:

So I come by my obsessions honestly enough, I guess.

My sister died nine years ago this week, the victim of a bad transfusion of infected blood during an emergency c-section ten years before that. They didn't routinely screen for hep-c in 1987. She didn't really take care of herself too well: in her world, that really wasn't what life was about. Plenty of people have her lifestyle and do fine: she had hepatitis-C, though, back before it was even called that, and preventative medicine is the province of the wealthy and educated in our society. A Medicare doctor once said to her "You have Hep-C? Let me know if it bothers you," a statement which makes anyone who knows anything about hep cringe.

It was early in 97 that her liver started to go, a slow and agonizing process. I was living down south at that point, so her presence in my life was a Christmas and summer kind of thing, with infrequent phone contact. She had a guy and three kids, and I had a daughter and grad school to get through, and so, while we didn't spend tons and tons of time together, I always made sure to get to her see her while I was home. The last time was on my honeymoon, when we drove down to take her to lunch. Not long after that came the crisis: the wheelchair, the collapse, the airlift to the transplant center in Pittsburgh. I woke the morning of September 17, taught three classes, spoke to my brother about how the decision had been made to pull the plug, and then went and taught another class. It's the only time I have ever wept before a class.

After class, I spoke to my department and cleared my decks for a week, then we got in the car and drove. Not too many people had cell phones in those days, but I estimate that I was somewhere east of Orlando when she died. Her death has affected me profoundly: when people ask why I never got a tenure-track job, I think those days, that moment, must loom large. I was determined never ever to have to drive that far to see my family again. We made a choice then and there to live where we wanted and let the academic chips fall where they may, and they have, mostly successfully.

She was always heavier than me, so one weird result of the last two-babies-in-two-years phase of my life is that I now carry extra weight, and I look like her. Terrifyingly like her. I have to do a double-take when I look at pics sometimes. Her children, when they see me, stare at me dreamily, a little creepily. And so the line in this song, "if I could trade, I would" strikes me hard for multiple reasons.

And it still kills me every time.

Thanks to SteveAudio for sharing his grief, for giving me the courage to share mine.

Peggy: April 24, 1959-September 17, 1997. God how I miss you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Donita Goes Bollywood!

Not much I can say about this except that Donita is, as always, cool.

My contribution:

I will note that Rosie really digs the Bollywood stuff and is dancing all over the place to it.

Wow: Gram Parsons on NPR

Courtesy of Zap Rowsdower, we see that NPR has a piece up about Gram Parsons, who apparently was inventing country rock even long before Swwethearts of the Rodeo. Check out: Factions, Fashions, and Fists: Wow, Musically.

And be sure to congratulate Zap on his pending nuptials while you're there!

Mac Has a Blog!

Thers pointed this out to me a while ago, and I've just been waiting for the opportunity to note it here. Mac McCaughey of Superchunk and Portastatic, does indeed have a terrific blog. He seems like a really down-to-earth person and a smart guy.

Plus, he gives props to Athenae, which you gotta love. (Okay, I know it's not our Athenae, but still. He'd love her if he knew her!)

Welcome to the blogroll, Mac!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Support the Troops!

This is fabulous for so many reasons that I can't even begin to articulate them. Stolen wholesale from The Kenosha Kid.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Great Artists of the PowerPop Era: Michael Carpenter

One of the things I really like about the power pop community (and yes, it is mostly a community) is that every so often you wander across a name, do some research, find out that the person you're researching has all kinds of connections to bands and performers you already know and like. It's like a constant reordering and reorganizing of elements already in play.

So, Michael Carpenter.

I knew this name because he, like so many others appeared on the 2000 tribute Shoe Fetish, covering the winsome "Love Is Like a Bullet," with a new arrangement and mood.

In a way, the tribute album is the perfect power pop creation, nodding as it does to history, community, and new creativity all at the same time. Thus, Carpenter's series, now on #2, SOOP (Songs of Other People). Number 1 (2001) included "Rain" and "Chimes of Freedom," plus a bunch of others. (Amazon doesn't list oiginal artists here, but Carpenter does on the discography page of his own site, to which one cannot link directly.)
An artist is the sum of those artists that he or she admires. Carpenter lays that equation out for us here, and the total is impressive indeed. The opening track, "King's Highway", a Tom Petty cover, is a tour de force. The rising, anthemic guitars, the tambourine on the choruses, the in-time cascading drums, and outstanding arrangement brought me back to the time that I first heard "American Girl." Petty has had a real career for a reason. He really is one of the great rock songwriters of our era. Carpenter recognizes this, and this song is a great tribute to Mr. Petty. He'd love this version. The second track, an obscure Beatles cover, underscores Carpenter's true understanding of what made the Beatles great. They played 1-4-5 rock-n-roll for years before they redefined the genre. They cut their teeth in the clubs, and were a great live band (when you could hear them over the screams). Like The Beatles, Carpenter plays a gig almost every night in his native Australia. There may not be a harder working musician anywhere. Playing makes you better. It worked for The Beatles; it works for Carpenter. He covers "This Will Be Our Year" by The Zombies. Jazz-pop pioneers and fathers of the prog rock movement, The Zombies wrote some of the greatest songs in an era dominated by The Beatles. Purists call them a better band. That Carpenter tries this shows his good taste. He tackles "Rain". I cringed at first, because a cover of this song is a tall order. But he nails it, and it even has that "Rain" vibe.

Number two includes songs by The Shazam, Myracle Brah, Bobby Sutliffe, and other modern power poppers.

You can hear some of the new ones at his myspace site and buy the record here.

The Daily Show Presents: Ten F#@king Years

And there's gonna be a concert!

When asked why Superchunk was chosen to headline this extravaganza, a representative from the Daily Show responded:

We asked Superchunk because they have a number of fans here at the show, and having seen them live we knew they would be great headliners. Plus, Jon (Stewart) has this thing -- if a band has "super" in their name he thinks they're somehow better. It came down to you guys and Supertramp.

Should be an amazing show, for a great cause. You won't want to miss it.

Novwember 16 at Irving Plaza. Who's in? (It's going to be my birthday present, I can tell you that much.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

An Actual Conversation

Date: This morning.
Place: In the guest room where the 7YO is sleeping, which also contains the 2YO's dresser and all her clothes.
Activity: Dressing the 2YO for school.

2YO: [Vague articulation which sounds like the name of the 7YO]!
Me: Yes, that's your brother.
2YO: [Repeats atriculation] throwing herself on her brother and embracing him
Me: Oh, he's your favorite boy, isn't he? What other boys do we love?
2YO: Daddy!
Me: Yes, we love Daddy.
2YO: Dawnie!
Me: Yes, we love Seanie too. And Papa.
2YO: Papa!
Me: And Uncle Phil, and Papa Charlie.
7YO: (stirring) My favorite boy is Todd.

All together now: Awwwwww!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Help the Blogmistress!

I'm looking for a song which appears to be impossible to acquire. It's a cover of Red Rubber Ball done by a band called Eggchair. When I Google this term, here is what I get:

It's on the Dodgeball soundtrack, which appears to have been released but is impossible to purchase.

Help me before I end up like this:


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In My Own Defense...

I'm sure Pollard's closest friends can't keep track of everything he releases.

From the other end of the summer:

The Keene Brothers, Blues and Boogie Shoes

Pollard and TOMMY KEENE—the ‘brothers’ behind the album—don’t seem like they’d be likely candidates for a collaboration, yet their music certainly has connecting points, particularly each one’s knack for pure pop melody. The success of this album comes from them finding that point of connection, and following it. The resulting work seems unique in the discographies of both musicians, taking them in a direction that’s somewhat new for them, though not necessarily for music history.

“Maybe it’s not so bad,” Pollard sings on one song (“This Time Do You Feel It?”), and those words encapsulate the general tone of the album—hope with a touch of melancholy. Even though the album opens with a big, vigorous pop-rock anthem with a great hook, “Evil vs. Evil,” and there are some rather standard bar-band guitar riffs and solos here and there, the general direction of the album is favors soft but strident ballads.

Pollard wrote a doozy of a power ballad back in 1999, GUIDED BY VOICES’ “Hold on Hope,” and has been publicly regretting it ever since. Blues and Boogie Shoes sounds like he’s come to terms with that side of his songwriting, and refined it so that most of the songs resemble less-literal, more-ambiguous versions of a “Hold on Hope”-style ballad. And that’s a beautiful thing, as both Pollard and Keene have, erm, keen melodic senses, and when Pollard embraces both the surrealist and the emotional sides of his songs, he tends to create his best works. Thist isn’t his best, but it’s quite rewarding.

Blues and Boogie Shoes is one of the least straightforward albums Keene has made, and is easily the most straightforward, bordering-on-conventional, album that Pollard has ever made. It’s this balancing act that has led to a certain type of magic—not groundbreaking, but truly satisfying.

It's been about a year now that Pollard has been touring with venerable powerpop legend Tommy Keene. Keene started out playing with the equally hip Richard X. Heyman in Baltimore (and if any of that was recorded, I've got a couple of healthy white babies to swap....), but his masterpiece is The Real Underground, featuring some really fabulous tunes, as well as a cover of The Who's "Tattoo." (There's also some mysterious story about an abortive attempt at recording with Jeff Murphy of Shoes which I'm dying to know.) Keene's love for The Who may be what brought him to Pollard, who for years closed GBV shows with "Baba O'Reilly."

Anyway, this is obviously a terrific partnertship, and you can find an mp3 here.

Keene also has a new record: a few mp3s live at his site, linked above.

h/t the indefatigable ekim & Fingertips.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Swingin' Protest

Courtesy of Atrios, decidedly not powerpop, but bitchin' (and endlessly replicable) nonetheless.

Have You Had Enough?

Woo hoo!

Free GBV mp3s

Courtesy of ekim, the following site has been brought to my attention.

This is a sampler from Broadcastor House, Robert Gray's amazing compilation of rare and unreleased Guided By Voices radio sessions, broadcasts, and interviews. More details to come soon on the torrenting of the full Broadcastor House compilation. Many thanks to GBV, Rich T, and the Needmores for making this possible. Sampler tracks were selected and masterfully edited & sequenced by Mr. Gray.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Arrrrrr....... And the Rest of the Alphabet to You Too!

Today was the fab pirate birthday party, complete with egg toss, treasure hunt, and the usual birthday accoutrement. Woo hoo! Please enjoy the photo album, with accompanying appropriate pop lyrics.

She sailed the Seven Seas
With a dagger in her hand
She brought the Old world to its knees
And lived to sail again!
Bloody Bess, Bloody Bess
Seventeenth century piratess! (a)

here you come on your broom
your mood ring's turning brown
you will begin to feel it soon
you're tossing your seeds around (b)

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
All the world's a birthday cake,
So take a piece but not too much (c)

You can't do nothing that you don't put your mind to, oh yeah
I suspected all along you were a dream come true, oh my
I'm never in the dark 'cause my heart keeps me well informed, oh yeah
I'm convinced that there's a way of getting through to you
Ooh I'm looking for clues (d)

If they were me
if they were me
And I was you and I was you -
If they were me and I was you
Would you have liked a present too? (e)

If I had a million dollars
(If I had a million dollars)
Well, I'd buy you a monkey
(Haven't you always wanted a monkey?) (f)

Baby's black balloon makes her fly
I almost fell into that hole in your life
And you're not thinking about tomorrow
'Cause you were the same as me
But on your knees (g)

(a) Karla DeVito
(b) Superchunk
(c) The Beatles
(d) Robert Palmer
(e) Altered Images
(f) The Barenaked Ladies
(g) Goo Goo Dolls

Friday, September 08, 2006

On the List of Things I Won't Be Doing Tomorrow....

The mind boggles.

I am sure my neighbors appreciate my non-participation.

NYMary, Artist's Conception.

The Real Path to 9/11

via Seraphiel, a commenter at Eschaton.

The actual path to 9/11 is a straight line from Reagan and Iran-Contra, through the Republican-engineered sex scandals of the Clinton years, through Florida in 2000 and Katherine Harris' giant fake cleavage, finally ending with that PDB on August 6, and George's indifference to the warnings.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

New to the Blogroll, and a meme

I've been tracking my searches and stats pretty carefully recently, and have noticed a bunch of weird things: (1) a really lot of searches for both the Loud Family and the Nazi Twins; (2) not as many, but still a surprising number of searches for individual members of Shoes; and (3) hits from other blogs I don't know. I tracked down one of these and found myself at the terrific Sheer Golden Hooks. Then I wandered through Scott's blogroll and found For the Records (a Canadian guy who goes to more shows than you have pennies in your house) and the New Wave Outpost. Welcome to the blogroll, guys!

And the divine watertiger has tasked me with a meme: If you could ask the world five questions, what would they be? I'm going to assume that I get to aske these questions of people in currently power, so I'm going to ask some things I really want to know.


(1) Why are you so afraid of women? (okay, I cribbed that from watertiger) But seriously, unless they're wholly desexualized (Rice) or wholly sexualized (Jenna/NotJenna) you have no time for them at all. I'm just curious why. Have you never had a mother, or a sister, or a wife, or a female friend with whom you could talk openly?

(2) Why are you so afraid of free and fair and transparent elections? Doesn't it seem like, as the leading light of democracy in the modern world, we should be able to, you know, count our votes without the intervention of openly partisan corporations? Shouldn't our electoral apparatus exist beyond the machinations of elected officials like Ken Blackwell and Katherine Harris?

(3) Do you really believe that, assuming there is a God and an afterlife, hating on gays and wantonly slaughtering innocent people in the Muslim world will get you more points than feeding the poor kid who lives in your city?

(4) Have you seen theocracy? Do you know what it looks like? Is that really your vision for America?

(5) What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding? (okay, I cribbed that one, too)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Why Spike Is the Coolest

Okay, boys and girls, when I wandered over to link the post below, I saw that Spike has a video! I knew he had a CD coming out, but this is a real treat.

Damn, I remember watching this movie in utter fascination. I'm going out on a limb and guessing this is Eli's kind of kitsch.

(See also, this video...)


I spent a few days stewing on this article, which gave me some pause when I first read it. Though he starts with a definition of bubblegum as reactive and commercialized (perhaps technically true, but a read which ignores some of the specific generic definitions we struggle with around here), he does move on to acknowledge the ironic aspect of this particular pop. He notes its relationship to punk, though he assiduously avoids both power pop and 90's alternative pop, both of which have are clearly declensions of this movement.

And when he publishes this book "about rock-related artists who use(d) humor as a primary instrument of rebellion," Redd Kross had better get a whole chapter. I'm just sayin'....

One of the principle reasons rock proper had become more sophisticated in its humor and expression was because the baby boom kids were coming-of-age. That left the next wave of pre-pubescents without a music they could relate to or call their own. Mixing comic book ideas with nursery rhymes, baby-speak lyrics with fast, catchy dance beats, bubblegum "bands" like Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and the Archies took the US and UK charts by storm between 1967 and 1972. The fact that these acts did not actually exist as such, but were mere fronts for the songwriting-producer team of Jerry Kasenatz and Jeff Katz, was of little concern to the adoring masses of pre-teens. For them, the rock their elder siblings listened to was too weird and uninviting; they wanted primal simple-minded pleasures to sing along with and dance to. As such, bubblegum was not only a tacit reaction to rock snobbery, but it was also the second coming of the novelty pop that had dominated the US charts in the late '50s.
Within musical ranks, one can see the early Beatles (the original boy band) as providing the initial template upon which bubblegum crafted its material ambitions. Just ask the Monkees! Even within the counter-culture's inner sanctum, one could interpret the Tiny Tim phenomenon — along with his hit "Tip-Toe Thru' the Tulips" (1968) — as much bubblegum fare as hippy absurdism.

Even within critical ranks, where the urge to burst the bubble was strongest, rock writer-rebel Lester Bangs was as tireless an advocate on behalf of the form as he had been in defense of the Girl Groups. In both cases, he admired how the pomposity and phony myths of rock bands were being penetrated and exposed, their own fakery unveiled, their own product exposed as just that — product. For Bangs, the beautiful irony was that besides the trappings, bubblegum was actually less phony and more authentic than rock proper. In their genre study, Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth (2001), editors Kim Cooper and David Smay actually make their dedication out to Bangs, recognizing his long-time support of this much maligned genre. Over time, Bangs's position has gathered support, just as the genre itself has become more accepted and recognized on its own terms.

There is clearly ironic humor in bubblegum co-existing in juxtaposition to high art rock in the late '60s; it provided a knowing wink and constant reminder of bottom-line realities in much the same way as Andy Warhol and other Pop and Op artists were doing within the fine arts. Furthermore, there are other aspects of gum humor that reveal (perhaps) subversive angles. Bangs has pointed to the in-house double entendres in some of the lyrics, to wordplay that shows the songwriters subverting their own "innocent" fronts. He sees sexual innuendo in both Tommy Roe's "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" (1970) and the Ohio Express 1968 hit "Yummy Yummy Yummy" ("I've got love in my tummy"). Some have also read drug references into such lines as "Pour your sweetness over me" from the Archies' "Sugar Sugar", a #1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1969.
Beyond glam rock, other major pop acts of the '70s, like Abba and the Bay City Rollers, also operated by the bubblegum playbook, though where the genre reached its most subversive and humorous adaptations were within the late '70s punk rock movement. The Sex Pistols' how-to-be-stars satirical satire (on album and film), The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1979), could just as easily have been addressing any bubblegum band, while the Ramones' embrace of childlike simplicity in lyrics and hooks showed the band to be studious fans of the form. As with bubblegum, the humor of punk's back-to-basics model was an implicit (and often explicit) satirical counter-reaction to the self-importance of many of the rock idols/idles of the day.

Nowadays, bubblegum continues to pop up periodically, bringing rock's higher ambitions back to pop's down-to-earth realities. One might note, for example, how modern gummers like Hanson, the Spice Girls, and Britney Spears emerged in the wake of the early '90s grunge seriousness. The bubblegum genre itself is also being increasingly praised for its primary charms and unpretentious dumb humor. As a result, alternative acts have increasingly entered the fray, embracing the form and pushing its extremities up more ironic avenues. Sweden's Sahara Hotnights and the Hives, as well as Japan's Shonen Knife and Guitar Wolf, suggest that the geographical reach of bubblegum rock is also expanding; these and other bands are currently providing some of the cutting edges of what has been termed "bubblecore", a subgenre exploring the possibilities inherent in sonic simplicity and humble (though tongue-in-cheek) humor.

So, what do you think?

(I see that the YouTube user who's posting most of these bubblegum videos is horking them from Spike at Bedazzled. I hope Spike knows that.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Flock of Siegels.

Poor Lee Siegel. I guess those who do battle against blogofascists can't really afford to use sock puppets to do so.

Courtesy of Sadly, No!

Babyblogging 2: I Like Pie

via the teen and the 6YO: A very weird a-ha tribute.

And.... the teen tries life as a boy. She likes getting hit on by confused straight girls a la Just One of the Guys.



Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Babyblogging: Recreation Edition

Little SP is under the weather (nothing too serious, just this weird thing I never heard of before today), so we're using some shots of the others. The first two come from a family party a few weeks ago, the soccer shots from last weekend.


Rosie is really skeptical about this whole "ocean" thing.


The boy, ready to go.

Hurrah! (or he's disco dancing. Whatever.)

Stopping for a snack (an integral part of the whole organized-sport experience, apparently).

And back in action!


Robert Christgau fired from the Village Voice

It is now official--Village Voice Media fired me today, "for
taste," which means (among other things) slightly sweeter
severance. This despite the support of new music editor RobHarvilla, who I like as a person and a writer. We both believed I
had won myself some kind of niche as gray eminence. So I was
surprised Tuesday when I was among the eight Voice employees
(five editorial, three art) who were instructed to bring their
union reps to a meeting with upper management today. But I
certainly wasn't shocked--my approach to music coverage has never
been much like that of the New Times papers,

Bless the union, my severance is substantial enough to give me
time to figure out what I'm doing next. In fact, having finished
all my freelance reviews yesterday, I don't have a single
assignment pending. So, since I have no intention of giving up
rock criticism, all reasonable offers entertained; my phone
number is in the book, as they used to say when there were books.

Just wow. Christgau has been a staple of rock criticism for as long as I can remember, one of those writers whose words buzz through my head on a regular basis.

Any thoughts on what this means?