Friday, July 29, 2005

Thursday, July 28, 2005

They Might Be Giants

As I noted last week, we had the TMBG documentary, Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns from Netflix. I have to confess, I couldn't resist watching it one more time before I returned it. Man, I like these guys. It's one of the great tragedies of my life that the one time I was going to see them, in a free outdoor show at the University of Miami, the skies opened up as only South Florida skies can a scant hour before the show, which was understandably called off.

But the Johns play a lot, and a recent review at Popmatters caught my attention.

Early on during They Might Be Giants's show at Boulder's Fox Theatre, keyboardist/accordionist/vocalist John Linnell called a song to a premature halt, waving his hands frantically at his bandmates.

"Whoa, hold it guys," he croaked. "I don't know what's wrong-my voice is all messed up."

Though the band is known for its onstage pranks, this wasn't one of them. Holding his throat, it appeared that Linnell really was having trouble with his vocal chords.

"It's the altitude," suggested an audience member.

"No, it's not the altitude," Linnell answered. "It must be the latitude. What is this-the 40th parallel? We can't play shows at the 40th parallel!"

I also really recommend Gigantic, especially for the inadvertently revealing scenes in which John Linnell allows himself to be upstage by his toddler. I swore he was pushing the kid between himself and the camera.

Thersites and I used to think we were ingenious, because we regularly used "Istanbul, Not Constantinople" for breaking through kid crankiness: a better song for dancing around the house of jumping on the bed would be hard to find. But apparently others have copped onto this: the Johns have two albums just for kids: No! and Here Come the ABC's They also have a cool website just for kids. Proof positive: it is never really necessary to patronize Raffi.

Now *this* is exciting!

One of my posters or correspondents mentioned this to me the other day in passing, and it looks really, really nifty.

via Pitchfork:

Big Star to Release New Album

To be released by Rykodisc, In Space will feature mastermind and principal songwriter Alex Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens, both original members of the classic quartet. Rounding out the lineup are Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of fellow power-poppers the Posies. Auer and Stringfellow have been part of Big Star since 1993, when the group reformed to tour.

I am soooo looking forward to this.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Ten Songs

Well, Strange Little Fox has tagged me, so here I go:

List ten songs that you are currently doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're no good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the ten songs in your blog. Then tag five other people to see what they're listening to.

1. "Maureen," Fountains of Wayne (off the new one)
2. "Stop Your Sobbing," The Kinks (Thanks to steve s. & DR!)
3. "Love On a Farmboy's Wages," XTC (True: I sing this as a lullaby to my children)
4. "I Get Lost," Choo Choo la Rouge (Boston pop: gonna see them this fall)
5. "Mary Mary," Chumbawamba (I love this band, unapologetically)
6. "Love's Sick," Hotsocky (I'm obsessed with this song)
7. "Side 2," Dressy Bessy (Props to ekim, a kinder and more generous soul never existed)
8. "Glow Girl," The Who (steve again--I had it, but I heard it differently this week.)
9. "Your Devotion," Shoes (In the last week, I've listened to the whole repertoire on the ipod, comprising 93 songs. Annoyed the hell out of the offspring.)
10. "Good Girls Don't," The Knack (just got this on CD finally, and this was always my fave)
NB: No Paul Anka.

And my five tags, all predictable: watertiger, Thersites, Eli, NTodd, and Codename V. (still hearting the Killers, V.?)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Minute Men

I'm quite enjoying Sarah Vowell, the NYT fill-in for Maureen Dowd, who is on book leave. Not only is Vowell smarter, younger, and funnier than her execrable page mate John Tierney, she also likes music.

Thers and I sat down the other night to watch Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns, a pretty decent documentary about They Might Be Giants. I kept looking up to catch people I recognized ("Hey! That's Adam Schlesinger!"), but the young woman who vaguely resembled my mid 80's self was unknown to me, since I missed the fist slide identifying her. Eventually she was reidentified, though, as Sarah Vowell.

Today, Vowell's column brings together the Minutemen of American history, the Minutemen, the heavily armed nutjobs who've taken to patrolling America's foreign borders, including those in, er, Tennessee (maybe they think Kentucky is foreign? No idea), and the Boon/Watt/Hurley band The Minutemen.

"We Jam Econo," Tim Irwin's lovable documentary about the lovable 80's punk band called the Minutemen is making the rounds of film festivals and revival houses this summer. It's nice to revisit the hullabaloo of their songs. And watching the bassist, Mike Watt, driving his van around his California hometown, San Pedro, and pointing at Minutemen landmarks is like listening to a fascinating Concord park ranger lead a tour across North Bridge. "We were minute men," Watt says. That's my-NOOT men - a little homemade band, not the slick Redcoats of arena rock.
The best part of the film, and the most heartbreaking, is when Watt walks around the park where he met Boon, a childhood friend who died in a car accident in 1985. "I was quite smitten with him," Watt remembers. "He was playing army and he fell out of a tree on me."

As he stares at the very tree, it occurs to me that playing army when you're 13 is fine. Grown men playing army on the Mexican border? No, thanks.

It's so rare to get a newspaper columnist who gets what punk means. Props to Sarah, and the NYT needs to be smart enough to keep giving her a forum.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I've been linking to this site in my sidebar for a while now, but I mostly use it as a sort of encyclopedia: they have really good resources on all kinds of obscure stuff up my alley. But I got an email from Kid Charlemagne (along with steve simels and Backslider, one of my fave folks to kick around music with over at Eschaton) hipping me to this site.

There's a lot of great stuff here, and I assume its status as a French site means it's not subject to American copyright law.

Now everyone can hear my obscure faves The Starjets! And Emerson! There's three Nerves songs here: are they ones you already have? (Of course, Collins claimes one for The Beat, and Blondie covered one, but still...)

Also, Bedazzled continues to live up to its name: recent posts include live Cheap Trick from 1975 (Spike, the blogmaster, records with Bun E. Carlos and claims that's the source of this) and a nifty Dwight Twilley rarity. Hurrah for the internets!

I'm not really technically minded, but if someone can point me to a site explaining why we no longer have to download mp3s to listen to them, but then we don't get to keep them on our hard drives either, I'd appreciate it. That streaming thing interests me, because I think it might be a way to get around copyright violataion, and/or to share my mellifluous voice with the world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Last night, the estimable Thersites, the divine watertiger, the, er, deep DeepToej, and the lanky and gifted Joe went to see Elvis Costello in Central Park. I did not go: Thers had stayed home with the kiddos while I went on my prospecting mission for EschaCon and caught an excellent Milton and the Devils Party show in Philly last weekend. He deserved this one.

From his review:
As for myself, I've always admired EC, though I can't say I've ever loved him. I don't think that's my fault, either. EC has always adopted a deliberately ironic pose, I think; he's has a gift for really sweet and catchy melodies, but also seems to have a real instinctive fear of the pretty, of the sentimental, of the, well, revealing. Hence what comes across as a fascination for songs which reference death; I didn't keep a scientific count, but I don't think I'm wrong in guessing that %75 of the songs at the concert, his own & covers, mentioned death in some way shape or form. Even the prettiest ones with Harris were, well, death themed.

So what caught me about the show was Costello really trying hard to balance what are really two contradictory impulses, which are of course in every performer, but kind of pronounced in him -- to Do His Own Thing, and to Give the People What They Want.

UPDATE: The divine watertiger weighs in.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hotness, in which NYMary uses the ongoing heat wave to consider the role of sexiness in pop

The proposal recently shared with me by a friend: It is impossible to be really successful as a band unless one is hot. And I mean one: you can let two or even three members of a band go, imagewise, but at least one must focus the libidinal energy of your average teenage girl.

Example: Cheap Trick.
I love Cheap Trick, but there's no denying that you always had two shooting for the hotness factor and two shooting for the quirky factor, and that's okay. Once, the divine watertiger interviewed them, and she was crushed to find (1) Tom Petersson not in attendance, and (2) Robin Zander hiding an ooky cold sore behind a bandanna (shades of Spinal Tap!). Neilsen's always been smart and thoughtful (loved him in The Big One--"You just wrote a Yardbirds song!") but not, you know, hot.

I don't really know how I feel about this proposal, I have to say. I mean, I guess when I myself was a teenage girl, the hotness factor had something to do with my early choices, but not in any determinant fashion. Anyone who owned The Clash couldn't have been making too many decisions based on hotness.

I will confess to longstanding (and, in some cases, ongoing) crushiness for my childhood idols. But hot was never enough. I had a Sean Cassidy poster, for example, but I never had a Sean Cassidy record. (And I certainly never saw him in concert, **coughDeepToejcough**) The Knack, yes. Shoes, yes. Even the Cars (though the hotness factor begins to stretch at this point. Does anyone want to stand up for Benjamin Orr?) And, er, Wayne Gretzky, but that was somewhat uncharacteristic of me (this was before sports stars generally had posters, pre-Michael Jordan, and my Gretzky posters were actually ads for various kinds of hockey equipment, and ordered from the back of Hockey News). In any case, like The Great One, it was never enough for me for a boy to be cute.

So here's my question: I guess if you can swing it, it's a good thing to be talented and attractive, to "make the girls swoon." But is it really necessary?

And a related question: how sexist is it to assume that women will only listen to a band with good-looking members? Maybe not at all, but I dunno. Maybe it's the weather making me cranky, since I'm generally willing to credit libido with a fair amount of power.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Lucksmiths Interview

One of the cool things about blogging is the sheer number of people who find you. It's like setting up a little booth on a streetcorner, and those who are interested wander by. I have no wares to sell, of course, just ideas to share, but it's heartwarming how many others there are out there who share the love I have for my little corner of things, however ill-defined.

And then there's the bands.

Once in a while, they find me, but more often readers just hip me to stuff they've heard which they think might be my kind of thing. That's not always the case, but it is often enough for me to have discovered some really wonderful stuff under the radar. Not too long ago, I was made aware of The Lucksmiths, and since have acquired a whole bunch of their CDs. It's a bit soft for me, but when I have the right mood, it's great stuff, and always worth listening to closely.

PopMatters posted an interview with them the other day, found here.
Still, Marty Donald readily admits that he doesn't find much inspiration in the darker places.

"It's funny -- I have this book called Songwriters on Songwriting," he said, "and one question that the interviewer asked everyone in the book was 'Do you feel like you need an element of instability in your life to be able to write?' And a lot of them were like, 'Yeah, I just can't write songs when I'm happy and sitting at home.'"

"But I'm by nature pretty happy and contented," he continued. "I'm certainly not someone who seeks turmoil. I'm never happier than when I'm at home with my girlfriend cooking dinner. There are only so many songs you can get out of that. I've tried. I've gotten about as many as I could."

I recommend Warmer Corners, by the way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Where the Girls Are

Look, I like female vocalists. I like female vocalists who give the female perspective on relationships, and not in a Supremes kind of way. Think "You Keep Me Hangin' On" here, just as an example.

NYMary's Life Lesson #312: If you are in a relationship and The Supremes make sense to you, even seem to have a point, get the hell out. Thank you. And you may thank me later.

No, I prefer my girl singers with the bite of punk. Mary Prankster, Sleater-Kinney, even pre-Matrix Liz Phair. Some Kim Gordon stuff, The Breeders. Veruca Salt and solo Nina Gordon too. Sam Phillips. You get the idea.

It's not so much the vocal stylings that get me, though they're often fabulous: it's the sense that one is getting the rest of the story. Maybe it's the lit geek in me, but I love that.

And Neko. *sigh* I have such a girl-crush on Neko that I even listen to country for her. I drink bitter gall that she was not at the TNP show last month, but am confident that she'll be along in the fall.

A recent Pitchfork review:

Case's set involved a full band, including multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse (his arsenal included pedal-steel and banjo). Case herself played guitars, and her band was loose and lively. But everyone seemed to understand that the voice was the centerpiece. It's almost a cliché with Case, how captivating and powerful her vocals really are. But there's no getting around it, and especially not in concert, where the instruments weaved around her voice, creating little warrens she could sing her way out of. (Or stay comfortably within, for an extra velvety touch.) "Favorite" was a highlight, just as it is on Tigers, with Case's voice climbing the lingering rollercoaster melody and breaking with the plaint and sigh of a million tear-soaked date nights.

I mean, Johnny Loftus can write, too. No doubt. But damn.

Also worth noting: every man I know is in love with Neko. And I view it as a sign of their good sense.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Way Too Cool

I actually do have work to do, but I found this link out there in the blogosphere, and it was too cool not to share.

Basically, it's a download site for a bunch of video clips from Top of the Pops (mostly) and a few other shows. As one might expect, many of these are mimed, but some are live or live-ish.

I had to do "Save Target As," as the guy suggests here, open RealPlayer separately, and browse for the file. But then it plays fine. What a resource!

For those shy about clicking links, clips include:

Top of the Pops
(via Hits A Gogo)
The Seeker - The Who (black and white (original tx in colour) - live vocals)

Top of the Pops
(via Disco)
Get It On - T Rex (mimed)

Top of the Pops
(via Disco)
My World - Bee Gees (live vocals)

Top of the Pops
(via Backtrack on VH1 and commercial video)
Autumn Almanac - Kinks (mimed)

unknown programme
(used on Hits A Gogo in a manner similar to The Seeker - Who clip, above)
Sorry Suzanne - Hollies (mimed)
Does anybody know what the source programme is? It looks like British TV to me.

Top of the Pops
(via Disco)
The Wizard - Uriah Heep (live vocals)

Top of the Pops
(via Disco)
Poppa Joe - Sweet (mimed)

Me and Bobby McGee - Johnny Cash - a great up-tempo version of Janis Joplin's hit, recorded for a Beatclub session in 1972.
(note: this is not a missing clip!)

Once More With Felix
The Stranger Song - Leonard Cohen - amazing 1967 colour clip from Julie Felix's BBC2 show, famous for the tear that runs down Cohen's face at the end of the song.

Top of the Pops
(via Disco)
Gudbye T'Jane - Slade (mimed)

Top of the Pops
(via Dutch TV)
Wonderboy - Kinks (mimed)

Enjoy! (But don't waste *too* much time here....) (/mom)

Out-of-State Plates

Okay, so I don't really review records, not exactly. It's too much like traditional rock writing. But I do know what I like, and I can usually explain why, and anyone seriously interested in Power Pop can take that for what it's worth.

DeepToej insists to me that he tried to introduce me to Fountains of Wayne years ago. That may be me true: my memory, however, is silent on this point. (His evidence for this is that he came to visit me & Thers once, I think for one of our retarded road trips to see Guided by Voices (four hours in the car to see them play for 40 minutes at a Spring Fling at Penn State) and that the song in his head the whole time was "Sink to the Bottom." "Cars on the highway, planes in the air/ Everyone else is going somewhere/ I'm going nowhere, and getting there too./ I might as well go under with you.") But I have no recollection of this until they were mentioned to me by another friend scant days before Welcome Interstate Managers was released. I was, if you'll pardon the expression, hooked.

I saw them that summer, must have been 2003, at Metro in Chicago. "Stacy's Mom" was about to break, but had not yet broken, and so the house was packed, but mostly with true believers.

It didn't take long to acquire the back catalog of FOW: prolific they're not. But the discs are worth it. The acerbic social commentary of, say, "Leave the Biker" or "Bright Future in Sales" is ironic, yet oddly affectionate. You know these people, or at least I do.

The new CD, Out-of-State Plates, is mostly b-sides and outtakes, many of which I already had. But there are also a few new songs, characteristically sharp and catchy. My favorite is the 'like a brother' lament of "Maureen."

She calls me up at ten past midnight.
She and some guy just had some big fight.
And I say, 'Well, maybe he's just not all that bright.'
She tells me it's not his brain that she likes.

I have a friend who went to Williams with Collingwood and Schlesinger. He said he knew them vaguely, but that they "existed on an entirely different plane of cool" than he did. I'm not wholly sure I believe that: FOW songs seem to me to have the sympathy for the outcast which bespeaks more than a little of the geek. And I mean that in the best way possible.

In any case, if all you know is "Stacy's Mom," dig a little, because they're definitely worth it.


I've been silent, not wanting to annoy people with my space thing, but it looks like it's fixed. Yay! More PowerPoppy goodness to come!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

A Test

I've been silent, waiting for Blogger to fix this space thing. They claim to have. Let's see, shall we?

Update: Shit. Guess not. I'll keep on them.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Friday Babyblogging: cake edition

Rosie has her first taste of chocolate cake. She must like it, because she just keeps eating... Posted by Picasa

and eating.... Posted by Picasa

and eating.... Posted by Picasa

...until she falls into a chocolate stupor. To the bathtub with you, kid! Posted by Picasa