Sunday, July 29, 2007

Athens Rewind Two Years Out

Two years ago this weekend we were immersed in the blow-out that was Athens Rewind. Now it seems so long ago. Given the direction our lives have taken I can't see this event ever happening again. Here are some images from Athens then and, well, then again.

Oh yeah, we're still the coolest fucking people on the planet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mark Hollis and Talk Talk

First I want to say that I find it kind of funny what my blog is turning out to be. I had envisioned a space where I would incorporate a little bit of everything that interests me - music, Francophilia, food, counterculture. But I see now who I am based on what I blog about. 1. Music 2. Books 3. Love 4. Angst. Wow. Kind of a shocker.

Okay, today I am absolutely in love with a singer. Check out this face:


Watch the whole thing and see how his expressions change and how his face lights up when he laughs. Not only does he have an incredible face but he's also in possession of a very beautiful voice, which I had taken for granted back in the '80s when it was (well, kind of) all over the radio. I've recently, as in last night at about 3:30 am, rediscovered this band and wonder why I never realized how good they were back then. The whole band was talented - watch the drummer in this clip, and that keyboardist - damn! And watch his movements as he sings:


Mark Hollis moves me. He had this amazing voice, and an amazing band that had moved from pop synthesizer cuteness into a very different, experimental kind of phase with their last album. They seemed to be on the cusp of a real creative breakthrough when they decided to call it quits in 1991. Hollis retired from making music and moved into the English countryside with his family. Except for one solo jazz-influenced album in 1998, he's basically lived life as a "recluse musicale" as one French article put it.

I always liked Talk Talk, and even understood that they were very much an underrated talent. But watching and hearing them now makes me realize how incredible they really were. Their songs, especially the later ones, are complex works of art. The band strived for something beyond traditional pop sensibilities, resulting in music that is timeless. Mark's voice is rich, powerful, melancholy. I can't say anything about this band that will do them justice, so I'll borrow Glenn McDonald's words. This is one of the most astute observations I've ever read, on any subject, actually. It's from his blog "The War Against Silence" and he's referring to Talk Talk's next-to-last album, Spirit of Eden:

The spaces between notes are as carefully articulated as the notes themselves; the sounds of fingers coming off strings are as important as the sounds of them going on; it is less an album of songs than a forty-one minute aural-Cubist magnification and refraction of the pooled essences of two dozen musicians sharing a room for a single reverent moment. No work of art has ever made me more sure that there is an animus in human lives that transcends physiology, because I could swear, when I'm listening to Spirit of Eden, that I can hear it whispering.

One more clip, this one of my favorite song of theirs, Renee. Ah, Mark...:

Pay special attention from about 5:40 on. Based on what he does vocally it makes sense that he later moved into a more jazz (read improvisational) kind of direction. I love what one commentor said on the YouTube page: Yes, he's the one. The great lost "heavy soul" of our genaration. Spelling difficulties aside, I totally agree.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


I apologize in advance for yet another poor me post. Quit reading right now if you aren't in the mood.

I will begin with a question: Why can't people resolve issues? I'm not talking war or poverty, of course, as I'm not naive enough to believe any of that can ever be satisfactorily resolved. I'm talking personal relationships. Is each of us so isolated from those around us that there can never be any real communication? When we think we're reaching someone, or communicating on some deep level, are we just fooling ourselves, so blind by the pleasure of "really talking" that we don't realize we're actually doing nothing more than some weird verbal/communicative masturbation?

Surely we share something as fellow human beings, a commonality that allows us to go into the heart and mind of each other, at least to a certain degree. When that person is someone we love, someone we know well, it should be a given that we can reach each other and, at least sometimes, be in the same psychic space. But I am finding more and more that the concept of knowing someone is completely false. Each of us lives in our own private world. Each of us is protected by some kind of wall, some kind of shell. For some that shell has openings, for others it's impenetrable. All I can do is surmise at how someone feels, what they want, how to reach them. But it's always a guess, a shot in the dark. I don't really know anyone. How sad that the hardest thing to understand is our own fucking species.

I find myself once again facing the shit that is my life, alone. I tried to figure out some way to make my man understand me and stick by me. But he can't see where I am or who I am or why I do the things I do. And I even feel now that I can't blame him for it. However, seeing the finality of how far he'll go to protect himself made me realize that any concept of "us" is long gone. That, in turn, has made me realize that the whole idea of "us" is false. If we are closed off from one another, how can anything ever happen between two people? How can there be a concept like "love"? Does love even exist? If so, what is it if not a merging, a blending, a painful acceptance and attempt to understand that mysterious being called "You"?

What scares me most is this: If I don't know him, if I can't reach him, who the hell do I know?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Out of Town

The kids and I are heading out for a visit to see my mom for the rest of the week. It's been storming here so keep your fingers crossed that we don't get swept up in a tornado or sumthin'. It should be a pleasant, calm, stress-free trip. I plan to write a dissertation, or maybe a chapter of one. Even a few pages would be nice at this point.

I've been in a David Sylvian mood lately. And The Walker Brothers. Odd combination but there you go.



Scott Walker is the ultimate in cool, but what's up with those dancers?

Y'all leave me some comments. It's lonely in here.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Definition of Sellout - Fleetwood Mac?

I was on iTunes last night, screwing around, looking for some music to accompany my lonely dissertation-writing Friday night. For some reason I had a hankering to hear some old Fleetwood Mac songs...'old' as in from 1975. Before I knew what had hit me I had stumbled upon some REALLY old stuff, and holy cow! I couldn't believe my ears! I always knew that before becoming the supergroup that rocked my teenage world they had been a very talented blues band. But I didn't know until last night just how great a distance they had traveled from 1967 to 1977. The shift from their early, serious music roots and Stevie Nicks' flowing butterfly-dance stadium rock ending is shocking. Shocking and somewhat sickening, actually, that it's the same (well, I'll get to that later) band.


This is Peter Green, one of the original guitarists. The 'Danny' he refers to is the extremely talented Danny Kirwan, later kicked out of the band for being an alcoholic and general pain in the ass. Now I realize that technically this is NOT the same band...there were numerous changes in personnel over the course of the early 70s, each change bringing a slightly different sound...but the name and two of the original members remained. This early stuff is absolutely amazing, and makes me feel very sad for what they became.

Once again I ask my naive question: how could one band (again, given the lineup changes that term is fluid) allow itself to put out the music they released in their later years...Gypsy, Say You Love Me, Don't Stop...given the quality of the music they had made previously? Of course, to address this question we also have to examine the concept of 'band' in the first place. Where does the true soul of a group lie? Is it dependent on each individual member? If one person leaves, is it actually a different band? Now, I realize that a rhythm section does not a band make, but nonetheless the name and two original members remain in the two very distinct incarnations of this group. How do we explain it? Are the two Fleetwood Macs completely unrelated, having nothing in common but the name?

Don't get me wrong. I realize the contribution the later Fleetwood Mac made to pop music in general, and I'm not denying that they had a certain appeal, given the era. I had all their albums in high school, saw them at the Atlanta Omni (God rest its concrete soul) in 1979, played their records at our many drunken parents-out-of-town parties - I admit that they were IT in the late 70's. But now, as a music connoisseur (ahem,) I must ask myself: did they actually feel good about what they turned into, given what they had been?

I suppose it's all relative anyway. There was no such thing as an arena band until the late 70s, so it isn't as if Fleetwood Mac made a conscious decision to give up their blues roots and become hugely popular. In a way they helped create 'hugely popular' in the first place. Nevertheless, there was a conscious decision at some point to go for success rather than quality. The music they were capable of and inspired to make in an earlier incarnation is light years away from the supergroup pablum they are famous for.

I think we have to ask ourselves, especially at this point in music history, where the value of a song is most often determined based solely on how many copies it sells: in the final scheme of things, is money truly the motivation for any artistic creation? Is all music ultimately a sell-out? Are the obscenely large number of album sales really worth the compromise Fleetwood Mac made, music-wise? Is this just the way it is, when art is a commodity? Is art ever NOT a commodity?