Monday, February 02, 2004

Janet + Justin: A Night Without Armor

If you think I'm going to write about Stupidbowl XXXVIII and Janet-Ms.-Jackson-If-You're-Nasty like all the other fawking sheeple on the Internet, you're wrong. If I see one more link to Li'l Kim at the VMAs I'll, uh, bust. But isn't it interesting that the homogays (a.k.a. La Bella Mafia) have the best coverage of this story, even though it is anathema to us with its talk of titties and professional sports? Check it: Toby at Vividblurry has tons of photos and info on how to Rock Your Body with a nipple ring, while Gawker gives a thorough rundown of snark about Nipple Nation 2004. And here I thought gay people only watched football to make bad wide receiver/tight end jokes!

Speaking of atrocious puns, what was up with all that political Bush-bashing presidentiary crap I was posting before? (And did I really make an anti-war bush/dick joke? How last year/pre-Kay Report of me!) You know I don't care about the real world unless it's the Real World. (Speaking of which, Rest in Peace, Mary-Ellis Bunim.) Time to ditch the half-ass punditry and get back to the nosebleed-inducingly dry banter re: celebrities, superstars, and other people with more money than me (i.e., anyone but the homeless).

Janet's a good opening act because our topic today is musicians that make you go hmmm (and I don't mean C+C Music Factory). For example, take Jewel: before the "Intuition" video recast her as a pop tart who liked getting sprayed by firemen's hoses, she was just another girl in a van down by the river, writing bad poetry. Now take alt.country/roots-rock darlings Wilco, the hottest group of white dudes to co-opt backwoods hick culture for hipster cache since Von Dutch started charging $52 for shoddy trucker hats. What do the 2 have in common? Well it turns out that Wilco composer/guitarist Jeff Tweedy has followed in Jewel's footsteps and released his own book of poetry! As if the title weren't bad enough—Tweedy's Adult Head makes Jewel's A Night Without Armor sound downright Victorian in its prudishness—there's gale-force homoerotic incest, uh, blowing through the thing, as in 'Yachting?', one of 3 sample poems on the Zoo Press site: "I imagine it / a passionate bath / with an older brother" (yeek!). Sadly, this is all fans have to tide themselves over until the release of Wilco's hush-hush still-in-production next album, which Pitchfork reports won't be ready for a while yet. Wilco's all done recording, you see, but they have to give the "critics" at Rolling Stone enough time to get their deep-throating skills up to snuff. (RS is in talks to get some pointers from cover model Christina Aguilera.)

[UPDATE 4/10: Zoo Press link updated now that the book's been published. They also took 'Yachting?' off the site, but thankfully this blog posted it in its entirety when it first appeared.]

Now, the only people who trust Rolling Stone for music advice are Led Zeppelin fans; where does someone with impeccable taste like I have turn to for rock criticism? Pitchfork Media is a reliable—if too-cool—source for reviews; ditto for the guys at Slant Magazine (NOT to be confused with Slate, a.k.a. Microsoft's Lifestyle section). But I'd have to say the overall best music writer is Cambridge's own Glenn McDonald, of The War Against SilenceLester Bangs ain't got nothing on him. He doesn't write for any corporate music rags, man (in fact, the only published print work of his I can find is in The Cambridge Tab), so he can remain PURE and GOOD and TRUE about all things music. He had me with his review of Belle & Sebastian's Dear Catastrophe Waitress (his response was exactly my own); I also enjoyed his take on the whole iTunes/RIAA/illegal downloading shenanigans, cast as a review of Mandy Moore.

Recently I've also been fooling around with the nifty Music Plasma, which generates psychedelic charts and graphs positioning your favorite bands in relation to similar or like-minded artists. Great for discovering new music—they single-handedly saved me from dismissing Goldfrapp, so good on them. Sure, it's nothing Amazon's "Customers who bought this title also bought" can't tell you, but some of the more populated charts are quite beautiful, in a Louis Vuitton/Takashi Murakami way—equal parts Venn Diagram and Björk video. (I'm thinking specifically of the lactating geisha-chic of "Cocoon," with its shades of Murakami's own Hiropon.)

And one final tale of a great band gone to pot: Cloud-cuckoo French Muzak playboys Air just released the hotly anticipated but actually quite boring Talkie Walkie, which sounds like nothing much, except perhaps the backing instrumental tracks for the worst glam rock album never released. Air actually excels at making enjoyable but unintrusive background music (they scored Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, and a Talkie Walkie track appears on Lost in Translation), but you should just skip this sonic wallpaper.