Well, well, well, we never thought that this day would come, did we? Miley Cyrus is supposed to be everything that’s wrong with pop music today. You know the type: constantly half-naked celebrity offspring with problematic delusions of hipness and not much musical talent. And yeah, little Miley is naked more often than not, she has some pretty serious cultural appropriation issues, and her music has been mostly garbage. Who’d have thunk that she’d redeem herself? But then she started hanging out with Flaming Lips, and if Wayne Coyne thinks she’s cool beans, she must have something going on. Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz is the weird mashup that should, by all rights, have been an abomination in the eyes of God – but isn’t. It’s like a Flaming Lips album, but not, basically. It’s like a musical Instagram feed; a disjointed series of glimpses into the disjointed mind of a 23 year old who likes to party, struggles with relationships, loves her pets and writes in her dream journal every day. And, as with social media, not every moment is necessarily publication worthy by traditional standards, but it’s honest and intensely felt. It turns out that Miley Cyrus is a musical artist with her own aesthetic and things to say, apparently. That’s a pretty surprising turn of events for a pop star who came fully groomed and chipmunk-cheeked off of the Walt Disney assembly line. Who knows if this is a fluke or if Miley is going to grow into an accomplished artist someday, but at the very least, and for better or for worse, she’s a very modern girl.
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole (not like you!) Pablo Picasso was an asshole. As artists are wont to be. He had an ego inversely proportionate to his height and really got around with the ladies despite being a dick. You can get away with a lot of bad shit when you’re an undisputed genius, and picking up girls is the least of it. The point of the song is not so much Pablo Picasso’s personal proclivities; it’s shooting down the sacred cows we resent and admire for the privilege their singularity grants them. The genius gets to do what he wants, the things other people work for are handed to him, and his legacy remains blameless; you, in the meantime, are just some asshole.
“If I like them because they remind me of eating bad bathtub mescaline in the woods and listening to Cure singles, well, that’ll do. You might like them for completely different reasons.” – Scott Seward, The Village Voice
Sounds about right. No, I don’t have that experience and that’s not the reason I like Interpol, but it’s a good point. Is there really anything wrong with liking things because they remind us of other things? That’s a tricky line, because nobody likes things that are derivative. You really have to be as good as your influences to pull off a good homage. Interpol, though, they get those backhanded write-ups a lot, because they’re so masterful at evoking things beyond their own time and place. It’s the sense of menace in their music, their disaffected tone, the cool-guy ennui; those things may remind some people of their own disaffected days, and if, for a certain generation, that always seems to evoke the ghost of Ian Curtis, so be it.
In which Carlos Santana introduces Latin jazz to the rock world. It’s likely safe to say that most of the kids who came to Woodstock didn’t come to hear Tito Puente covers. Santana’s stroke of genius was that he took something both stodgy (jazz) and exotic (Latino rhythms) and incorporated it into the rock biosphere, bridging cultural and generational divides. And, on a rock scene still heavily dominated by blues purists, it was really a radical idea. The bridging moved in more than one direction. Besides bringing to the young masses a whole new musical culture, Santana also showed that rock music wasn’t some simplistic, isolated youth fad; rock music had room for infinite improvisation, it could absorb from any culture. The success of fusion music was also the success of fusion identity; one could be a rock star, and a jazz aficionado, and a proud Latino, and a purveyor of fine Tequilas. It’s a multicultural world now, and world music is everywhere, and we can forgive Carlos Santana for not choosing his collaborators as wisely as he used to, because he pioneered the idea of playing all of the different kinds of music as if they were all one long continuum. Play the music you like, was Santana’s message, and you’re allowed to like more than one thing.
“The Overload,” was Talking Heads’ attempt to emulate the sound of British post-punk band Joy Division. The song was made despite no band member having heard the music of Joy Division; rather, it was based on an idea of what the British quartet might sound like based on descriptions in the music press. The track features “tribal-cum-industrial” beats created primarily by Harrison and Byrne. (from Wikipedia)
I think that just might be single best high-concept concept was ever conceptualized. Because this is pretty spot-on, and it’s clear that the Talking Heads had stumbled upon, at the very least, an excellent parlour game. In fact, I’m pretty sure that ‘an idea of what Joy Division might sound like based on descriptions in the press’ has become a legit genre. The world having come full circle, we now have an entire genre of ‘bands who’ve based their entire sound and image on written descriptions of 80’s new wave music’.
Add Bombay Bicycle Club to your growing collection of new indie music, though it may disappoint you to learn that they’re not really from Bombay. They started out as a fairly generic guitar band, but quickly added a psychedelic dimension and world music influences. I very much like the flow and atmosphere of their last two albums, A Different Kind of Fix and So Long, See You Tomorrow. It seems that they haven’t released anything in a couple of years, though that’t fairly par for the course today. Since nobody makes money selling albums anymore, most groups have to support their new releases with 18 month long tours and negotiating corporate sponsorships. Therefore, it’s no worries if there hasn’t been an album since 2014. I’m sure they’ll bounce back within the next year or two. In the meantime, there’s a pretty strong couple of offerings to get the library started.
You can ugly cry about getting over your love, or you can be suave about it. Yesterday we heard Lucinda Williams delivering the kind of breakup song that implies months of whiskey hangovers, unwashed hair, and the ritualized burning of keepsakes. Roxy Music delivers the kind of breakup song that suggests putting on your best leisure suit, cruising to the singles’ bar and possibly a discreet mournful sniffle or two post-rebound sex. Different separations call for different coping mechanisms. All are valid! The long, sordid hangover is not always inevitable; sometimes you can just shake it all off and stroll away with nothing more than a lingering tingle of sadness. A little melancholia just makes you look more cool, right?