Marianne Faithfull has for the most part left her gutterpunk mid-70’s persona far behind. She is a lady of class and gentility. But every once in a while that half-dead but foul-mouthed wraith still reappears. She who poured all her rage and her broken soul into lines like “Every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed.” In 2002 she made her most rock-oriented album in a decade, and it recaptured some the skin-tingling burning anguish of the Broken English years. She finally let it be known exactly what she thought of her longtime role as the ethereal muse, her iconic girlfriend-to-the-stars salad days; “suburban shits who want some class all queue up to kiss my ass.” It’s simmering with resentment for a lifetime as an accessory, a supporting character, a short chapter in someone else’s book, an icon for all the wrong reasons. Yet it’s also self-deprecating. She knows she got through on dumb luck and the kindness of strangers. She knows she went splat when she fell off the pedestal, but she’s still angry about being on that fucking pedestal in the first place.
It’s not very often when the remix outshines the original. On one hand, I am very pro remixes of things that weren’t meant to be remixed, like jazz classics. On the other, there’s nothing more annoying like gratuitous remixes of pop songs being tacked on to the end of albums, as if they were a very special bonus that people are supposed to be excited about instead of the exact same song with a slightly different tempo. And as for songs that were electronic dance songs in the first place already, the point just escapes me completely. It’s mostly just a cynical attempt by no-name DJ’s to ride on the coattails of artists who do have name recognition. But there’s exceptions to every rule, and sometimes the remix outshines the original. Two examples of remix albums that that more than hold their own against the original production are Kraftwerk’s The Mix and Goldfrapp’s We Are Glitter. Obviously, these are two artists who know their way around with production trickery. In Goldfrapp’s case, the songs all benefit from an up-temped more aggressively dancefloor ready mix, since Goldfrapp is sometimes given to put atmosphere over beats.
I love the plaintiveness of Jake Bugg’s voice. The kid sounds like a sad little angel. In, like, a sexy way. Or course, pretty boys who have the sads for no reason is basically its own genre, and it’s rather a weak basis to build a career on, not that there’s any shortage of people who’ve built careers on just that. Jake Bugg, fortunately, isn’t trying to build his brand on having just one mood. This guy does have some range, although he’s proved that it doesn’t include rapping. And, yes, being all feelsy and sensitive is a strong suit. I like a moderate amount of well-delivered feelsiness, myself. I think this is just the right amount.
Well, here’s song after my own heart. Don’t wake me from my dreams of a world where everything is exactly how it seems. Don’t wake me from my optimism and visions of a world that rewards goodness. Mostly just don’t wake me. If you’re like me – a realist – you’ve woken long ago from most of your delusions about the world. We’re all on a trajectory towards the same inevitable disaster. The only delusion I still hold on to, which you can pry from my lifeless fingers, is the belief that art is the only escape and the only thing in this world that transcends the day to day smog of living. This is why I think things like reading and listening to music are productive hobbies. Heck, for some people those are straight-up career options, but let’s not get carried away. We’re talking a lot, right now, as a culture, about the danger of putting people on pedestals and keeping them there against all odds, merely because they produce enjoyable sounds and visions. And that’s a great and important conversation, which we can’t shy away from no matter how much we might like to. In the end, it’s your call, as a consumer, to draw the line on how much value you place on any individual and their art. For some people, it’s very little. Some people don’t care much for art or music or creative endeavors in general. Those people don’t have souls, but they’re still entitled to their opinions. I still say, that anything that allows the mind to escape the real and lets some degree of wonder and beauty seep in, deserves all of the accolades and pedestals.
I appreciate a good meditation on loneliness, solitude and alienation, especially when my own love life is on track. Loneliness and solitude, of course, are distinct things that only incidentally intersect. Alienation, longing, love and the rest are yet more circles in an imperfect diagram of the human condition. Many of us sleep just fine alone in our beds – in Moby’s case, most likely on organic whole wheat sheets. There’s always the dream, even for the most incorrigible loner, of finding someone to sleep with holding hands. I mean, sex is cool, but have you ever slept with someone holding hands? (As the meme goes.) We humans are just habitually oversexed and undersnuggled, I guess, and we want feel warm and safe in our sleeptimes. And loved.
Steely Dan is well and truly over now, what with that thing where Walter Becker died. It was, of course, very sad. But most people had accepted that Steely Dan was over and mourned their demise in the 20 years between Gaucho and Two Against Nature. It was very much an unexpected resurrection when the Dan got back together, with an equally unexpected amount of fanfare and acclaim. This wasn’t just another case of old geezers making a cynical cash-grubbing comeback to fund their boutique vineyards. Steely Dan still had a lot to say, and it was still the same sardonic misanthropy that made them the thinking man’s jazz-fusion combo back in the day. I have to say that what turned out to be their final album, Everything Must Go, is one of my favorite records, and I’ll be dashed if it isn’t an appropriately curmudgeonly high note to slide out on.
I never thought I’d be converted to Miley Cyrus. She’s a former Disney Channel teen idol, fer fuck’s sake! She’s made some excruciatingly bad pop music, and the less said the better regarding her twerking phase. But then she made an album with Flaming Lips, and it was stunning. It seems like this girl has a lot more going on than her various pop star antics have let on. She clearly likes drugs a lot, which is not necessarily always a plus for making good music, but in this case, yes, it’s a plus for making good music. The Flaming Lips’ psychedelic aesthetic is all over this album, of course, but it’s impossible to dismiss it as just a Flaming Lips record with a different vocalist. It is, unmistakably, a very personal record, filled with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, observations and recalled dreams. Will Miley Cyrus do anything as good ever again? Most likely not, but I’ll give her a chance.