RIP (old) Idolator

A few days ago Maura, one of the sharpest writers of the Internet age, delivered her farewell message at Idolator, which I had been visiting regularly since it began a few years back. She was the sole writer to have made it since the start, starting as the junior editor under Brian Raftery and taking over the main spot after his departure, and lasting through the site’s switch from being hosted on Gawker to being hosted via Buzznet, who are still in charge of the site. Two new writers have been brought on board following Maura’s departure.

I make no bones about the fact that I find this change to be for the worse, and neither will I hide the fact that I’m friends or professional acquaintances of nearly all the writers who had appeared regularly or semi-regularly on the site beforehand. I threw in tips here and there and was a constant — some might say all too constant — commenter on the site, but while I’ll allow for the fact that there’s a first time for everyone, the initial work that’s appeared on the site since Maura’s departure hasn’t compelled me to return, being little more than the dull restatement of received wisdom and wretched humor that trades in moronic stereotypes. And that’s a damn shame.

Allowing for the fact that I’m speaking of strictly Anglophonic publications for the rest of my piece: it’s been a little depressing to write RIPs for a number of publications that I contributed to over time — already done that for Stylus and Plan B in the life of my own blog, I should have done that for Metal Edge, and now I’m doing it here, even if things are going to continue at Idolator in a rather different way than before. Inasmuch as the message is that nothing is permanent, fine, inasmuch as it is that times being what they are means there’s less regular spaces to contribute thoughtful discussion and news on a formal (and, let’s not forget, paid) basis, it’s no surprise that the profile of those remaining spaces — such as Pitchfork, the Village Voice/New Times chain, the AMG — will increase by default. Meanwhile as long as sites like Freaky Trigger and The Singles Jukebox and similar ones exist (and yes, I’ll include ILM in that still), labors of love that measure their return in how they’re enjoyed and participated in rather than in ad revenue, the crackle of energy is far from dead. At the same time, especially with regard to Stylus and Plan B and now Idolator, one finds a slow limiting of a burst of spirit that had had a good decade-long run, of balancing out the passion of writing and thoughtful debate via the vehicle of music — and quite often the subjects under discussion reached far beyond the notes heard and the lyrics comprehended — with an appreciation for the here and now, that engaged with music that was six seconds old as much as it was six decades, and sought to do so beyond the realm of simple yeas or nays or presumptions of one particular style of music ruling over all else.

Perspective is perhaps all — all of those sites or journals’ writers and readers were perfectly cognizant that many other fora exist for these kind of debates, and that not every listener would wish to engage in music news and discussion in this fashion. What for some is a gripping, total engagement is for most others merely a very slight indulgence. But even knowing these all too obvious points it remains the case that to lose these places of focus, where much can be brought in under a wider umbrella, is to risk dispersement and lack of inspiration, or else demonstrable consolidation as writers find homes in fewer and fewer sites (no surprise perhaps that most of Stylus’s writers ended up at Pitchfork, for instance). It’s not come to this yet and hopefully never well but if an engaged — and, importantly, youthful — listener is confronted with an Internet of ‘music discussion’ that for the most part consists of seemingly little but random YouTube insults, pure gossip and snark for snark’s sake, set against increasingly dry as dust, decades-old approaches for ever more outmoded consensi (the Rolling Stone aesthetic seems ever more attenuated now), then one wonders what the impact will be.

Admittedly melodramatic as a vision, and perhaps simply reflective of what writer friend has terms the shifting of cultural capital away from music in general in this century. Yet the loss of Idolator — at least in its proudly thoughtful form under Maura’s guidance, where the obscure and the famous in music easily coexisted, where the insightful study of sexual roles and general stereotyping was constant, and where humor provided both the necessary slash of satire and the impact of a simply good laugh — shuts down an alternative, another spot to go to find more and learn more. That some enterprises are unsustainable is life, that so many seem to be going in these last couple of years is still depressing, that the latest should be one where so many good folks worked and contributed beyond the bounds of the basic brief, well, that just plain sucks.

Maura herself is regularly posting via her Tumblr site so check in for updates. Meantime, a number of regular commenters on Idolator have started a new joint blog, Chain of Knives, to send along stories and thoughts that fit into the spirit of the old site. I’ll be posting there myself as I can. And we shall see what the future brings.

EMP 2008 Pop Conference — Sunday panels and presentations

The final batch. The official schedule for the day is here. Final thoughts on EMP will have to wait until tomorrow — I’m definitely in relax and zone mode now before tomorrow’s flight back home! — but here’s one last batch of scattershot notes. There were only two panel rotations this morning as is the case with the Pop Conference in general; this time around there was no final group session.

Thanks to everyone for all their comments and corrections; I do welcome more of them at any point!

Andrea Bohlman
, “Live from Beirut: Activist Sounds in the Blogosphere” — Kerblog by Mazen Kerbaj in Beirut started in 2006 — “bang? Blog!” Punctuation and alliteration as interpretation, activism in the wake of the Israeli invasion. Musicality of response studied, especially “Starry Night,” a widely circulated mp3. News related from scene of action, urges documentation of destruction, questioning silence. First visual representation of silences (“keep your sound!”) from personal to media level worldwide. “Starry Night” was a solo piece played and composed during a night bombing attack — track played, sounds of bombs and drones, trumpet serene then squalling amid the massive explosions, silences then shock. Keep listening when nothing is heard, the “fucking silence” is needed. Improvisation as activist parallel. Song is a snapshot, how do we experience it on the Internet? Performed within that medium, we can stop, start, pause and comment, all blurring author and readers. Users are authors and readers, a kind of mobilization. Another fragment played, breath sounds and cars and planes and bombs. Explores improv and deconstruction, a reconsideration of the instrument and the process. Music a medium that acts out, Kerbaj quoted as saying it needed to be live. Sounds of war have become everyday.

Leonard Pierce
, “Wordless in Gaza: The Radical Electronica of Bryn Jones” — play some songs or not? Better to provide some context, at least. Has been obsessed with Muslimgauze for ten years but there’s a lot of music and almost nothing biographical. Basic overview provided. Life is a total cipher, worked in isolation, barely any live shows, few interviews. More prolific than Tupac after his death. Isn’t the work enough in this case? A true enigma. Made music in sympathy with Palestinians, was neither Arab nor Muslim, the Rootsman said he had no interest in Islam, never visited the area, did not use computers, “every track begins with a political fact,” but no understanding of Arabic. Invasions of Lebanon and Afghanistan were the turning points, eternally provocative to a fault, reveled in the image of violence. An anti-Semite? Signs are there — “Israel is everywhere.” Never donated to the PLO, refused to be involved further. A fraud? Pierce notes his own background and his own unsure feelings. Jones had no interest in an Arabic fanbase. Asked about living in a free Palestine, he laughed off questions about art in that context. Angry with questions about repetition. Records do cross all musical bounds, very widespread. No impact politically but a lot of musical connections. Didn’t think too far ahead, thought career wouldn’t end since peace wouldn’t arrive. Would have continued had he lived.

Jose Anguiano Cortez, “Ay Morrissey!: Latino Morrissey Fanaticos and the Renewed Possibilities of Fandom, Race and Cultural Citizenship ” — entered in progress. Overview of Smiths/Moz impact among LA Mexican Americans. Diverse group but the most disenfranchised are the biggest followers, rebuilt fanbase in their own ways. Initial resistance turned to passion, “lonely” music built into communal melodrama and independent fanbases. Manchester memories of misery translate well to the grinding oppression in SoCal. Anti-Latino actions noted, trying to succeed hard. East LA to IE corridor provides a large fanbase. An “anti-essentialist” strategy, an embrace to mark their own American and Mexican identity. Moz addresses subject more openly — “Mexican Blood American Heart” T-shirts by fans, also banda reembrace to fight back against racist denigration. Both strategies against problem but in different aesthetic ways, claiming space. Complexity and diversity found all around, what can it teach us about Chicano music? Not simply essentialized.

Barry Salmon, “Trauma and Cine-Musical Image: Music, Moving Image and Moral Universality” — Jeffrey C. Alexander asks how the Holocaust become a generalized symbol of trauma, noting the evolution of the ‘trauma drama’ (link is via Sage and will not be open access to all users). Hegel and Durkheim noted. “An engorgement of evil.” Image forms archetype away from specifics. Aristotle and Jonathan Lear noted on tragedy, catharsis and mimesis. Aristotle holds music as crucial, cleaving to mimesis. How these stories are retold is important, sheer size of audience and depth of experience means movie and TV versions important. Anne Frank diary as key, figure and situation Americanized in movie version, music important. Hanns Eisler and Adorno to be cited. First clip played, from end of movie — slow violin and strings orchestration, vaguely Jewish violin, Anna leitmotif, very sentimental and somber during reading of diary in attic, then the triumphant conclusion, D major chord. Adorno noted saddened friend, talks of music in individuation. Schindler’s List as obvious trauma-drama, culture industry, imagine unimaginable, but what of John Williams‘ score? Does not suture film, not only cinematic glue. Clip shown of Itzhak Perlman praising the score and the idea that Williams felt the history. Clip shown stitching together a wide variety of YouTube performances — violin, guitar, piano, more. “Girl in red dress” sequence shown, children’s song as musical base, point of empathy and using children’s chorus is now standard in such films and situations. Director of Shoah says he would have destroyed a real gassing clip; Perlman cue for Schindler’s clip noted, film sequence itself heavily critiqued and cut for presentation. Solo violin as affective moment. Music governs cue in both cases. Resnais and Eisler in Night and Fog aim for something different, music in gas chamber clip suggests Mahler at start, covers bluntness of the gassing in almost playful ironic counterpoint at moments, pastoral versus fingernail marks. Cinema being montage and inevitable cliche, function of rationally planned irrationality (cf Adorno). Reveals machinery of representation in the film, dreary narration, intercuts, all undermine the obvious as such. If potential of Holocaust exceeds language, how we tell things are very important. Adorno on poetry after Auschwitz, both takes including the 1965 variation. Night and Fog as the best take on the evil of banality. (Tom Smucker notes a Jewish violinist stereotype.)

Mary Greitzer, “Sound After Silence: Solo Voice, Sexual Violence” — power of solo voice in autobio work. If responding to trauma, how inscribed? Sexual violence as seen in “Me and a Gun” by Tori Amos and “Daddy Dearest” by Lydia Lunch. Tori clip played first, second verse. What can we learn? Little physical details, instead mental portrait. Lyrics can speak to any victim, but palatable because the details are omitted. Why this successful construction of identity? Solo voice recreates status, isolation and nudity, voice breaks at many points, bring the rape near, a woundedness. Maintaining a detachment with control and resistance, lament and prayer providing healing and surviving. Formal structure is A to A around a middle C, comfortable and comforting like a lullaby, sung by a caring woman but still harrowing. Lunch’s piece a monologue, her musical qualities, especially in rhythm, is key. Progression of letter insidious, building into the horrible moments then pulling back suddenly. Control exhibited throughout as she tracks the moments and changing gears suddenly, building uneasy anticipation. Molesting first told in an out of context “sexy” voice, horrified to find ourselves aroused, thus guilty. A trace of the complicated reaction to molestation. He preys on her, she preys on us. Cyclic perpetuation, a terribly human origin. Meaning inaccessible through text alone, a symbolic induction. He taught her come, she was almost destroyed, climax builds into sobbing rage that is also a mindblowing orgasm through manipulation. Conclusion — basic feminist tenets incorporated in culture, thus Amos fits into this, speaking up and surviving, strength and inspiration. Lunch is the complicated response, addressing other truths, a deviant sexuality, a double-edged sword, excoriation and pleasure, a defense of perversions. Cause and reconciliation are critically different, confronting the erotic response. See also Bob Flanagan and his response to pain, transcendence through reconciliation. Celebrate Lunch’s reclaiming of self as feminist like Amos — “refuse to be victim of own self.”

Marianne Tatom Letts, “’You Forget So Easily’: Radiohead‘s Amnesiac as a Failed ‘Directed Forgetting’ of Trauma” — Kid A as departure with more electronic/opaque approach. Amnesiac — “forced to forget where we have come from,” so Amnesiac blurs where Kid A‘s painful birth came from but not entirely. Memory and trauma — wanting to forget but also manipulating. Amnesiac supposedly more conventional, Yorke caustic about expectations. All tracks recorded together, Amnesiac compiled after Kid A release, so erasing the first album was a false goal. Amnesiac treating Kid A as aberration. Amnesia as surviving commodity in industry. Warmer than Kid A (?) but we must read beyond. Subject repressing Kid A, redeeming lost subject. First song has disappointment in nothingess, comment on pop music world? Handout has songmapping chart between the albums, noting specific sonic and lyrical connections. Clips played for illustration. “Packt” as claustrophobic, near death experience. Reaction to near deaths in Kid A? Language as illogical syntax. Epiphany to do with subject, not listener. (Do not agree with Letts’s assumption of overall unitary lyrical subject unless it is a direct address to the audience from Yorke as public figure.) Subject in Amnesiac already dead, where in Kid A death is considered as solution. Singles as statements of intent. Insistence of truth in representation in recording while listener looks out for oneself, a violence in exploitation (thus “Knives Out” and the use of the body and devouring). Subject can be consumed, while consuming. Song played in full. Amnesiac is unsympathetic eulogy for subject. Concept is larger than the albums, Radiohead as not just band but brand, already dead and served.

EMP 2008 Pop Conference — Saturday panels and presentations

Oh my sleeping head. Here was the Saturday schedule. Again, here are my VERY scattershot thoughts on it all as it happened:

Kara Attrep, “She Yoko-ed the Band” — “don’t Yoko my band!” T-shirts as emblem of the destroyer of male genius. Her voice is the key and core of the metaphor of Onoism. Become a Yoko by being marginal, creative, married to another artist who often dies. Clara Schumann is an early example — someone who brought Robert “down.” Born rich, Yoko learned from Mom and went through WWII then moved to NYC and started loft shows in the sixties, was part of Fluxus, performed at Carnegie Hall, confused the hell out of the NY Times. Work was in demand and well respected, divorced and remarried and met John in London. From there her public identity changed while John felt more like a true artist with her in NYC. In 1973 she described the feeling of how other musicians regarded her as an “other” which felt strange in the “melting pot” of the studio. Dick Cavett clip is played — WEIRD dynamic, but both John and Yoko crush and twist it. She met John as “another artist.” Post 1980 accusations continued and intensified. She did benefit from the connection but still struggles to this day. Courtney Love comparison noted — no race but class issues instead, how the estate is handled. Mary Parks, Albert Ayler‘s last girlfriend, gets a lot of “blame” for his late sixties shift in sound and focus, even though the focus was on spiritual love. Adjectives listed about their voices — screeching, wailing etc. Clips of all three played — Yoko “AOS,” Hole’s “20 Years in the Dakota,” Parks (as Mary Maria)’s “Oh! Love of Life” w/ Ayler. Hearing outside of context they don’t sound as alien as their critics say. “Yes I’m a Witch” as statement of defiance (praise a wizard, burn a witch). (Q&A covers Parks a bit more, some discussion about her rare interviews).

Mina Yang, “The ‘Tsunami Song’: Hip-hop at the Vortex of an International Disaster” — entered part way through. Talking about Asian music and cultural connections to black music in America and back again. Controversy over “The Tsunami Song” and responses (including the role of Jin and the place he is forced into, compared to Eminem but stuck with bigger hurdles). “If it was any other race, the shit would have hit the fan.” But Jin remains optimistic, “hip hop brings us all together.” Protests in New York bringing together groups but highlighted institutionalized racism via the government and big business. FCC silence in particular reflected media silence or exploitation. Some firings and suspensions but even so. Much remains the same, Ms. Jones remains in the morning role, questions of aid and government and hiphop infighting remain.

Carl Wilson, “The Singing of the Disaster: Newsreels, Protests, Charidee and Shock Absorption in Popular Music” — music in background as mood music of sorts, is a work in progress. Being sober minded in the face of disaster is impossible, no matter what Adorno thinks. It will be addressed in song. People Take Warning is mentioned — resonances of the set post 9/11 comes up but has the tradition shifted to the likes of Law and Order, or is it in music still? Event songs are discussed in the mid-20s heyday, pushed aside by Jimmie Rodgers, with disaster records emerging in the 30s via race records. Just in time journalism? Surely not with the Titanic songs, for instance. Talk about the formula of songs, broadsides, disaster stories with morals in a variety of media contexts over the centuries. On the box set the newness lies with industrial accidents, while blues left out the moral in many cases. Protest songs emerge in the thirties with the left looking at things through a new lens (also the New Deal providing a new inspiration). Moving ahead post WWII to “Desolation Row” and the apocalypse song and other protest songs (Auden on disaster noted). Folk revival kicks in and the romantics have it from there. Bee Gees with “New York Mining Disaster 1941” as confection concoted for the Americans. 80s charity song — celebrities like it, so it must be important! Disaster actually left out of the songs in many cases. New form post-Katrina? Pop eventually off in its own realm while the market controls and encourages private control over public. Charity model in songs, more political hiphop songs, response from a radio station owner in LA — GAWD what a piece of horrific right wing shit, “The Battle of New Orleans” as rewritten by Malkin. New Orleans bounce tracks like “Get Ya Hustle On” takes an activist approach in its own way…another anti-FEMA song played, call and response, milder in language and don’t expect to make anything happen, disaster songs for a YouTube age, one of passivity. How much has happened in the switch from story to star?

Alex Rawls, “The First Rule of Hurricanes” — Katrina in a way will not stop, projects now being demolished, trailer parks being shut down, housing being priced out, businesses going, more. He has handled songs — crappy benefit songs like a cat with a dead mouse in its teeth. “I caught this for you!” What do you tell the writers? Couldn’t praise but couldn’t pan. It was therapy but still. Wish he had kept the CDRs now but then they seemed too emblematic. Bad lines quoted — singer/songwriter trying to sum up the disaster but how they reduced it as a result. Sense from people of “wanting to do something” — really bad song played, oh DEAR. Cowboy Mouth song “The Avenue” does have some modest longing that almost works but other lines, Jesus. Good Katrina should be able to happen but it’s too big an event, requiring the listener to make the connection. Songs feel too foppish given the events. Mary Gauthier complains about the bad Katrina songs but notes the difficulties. Feelings are boiling over in moments and those are remembered. Blues comparisons don’t always work — “Katrina you bitch” But others work, personal stories as microcosms. James Andrews‘ “Katrina Katrina” has a place but there’s more in the acid funk of “One Two What You Gonna Do?” (I think). Dumpster Truck’s “Meanwhile” has a place, others wish to move on. Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke provides a context for Lil Wayne‘s “Georgia Bush” but an isolated one, not widely heard. Elvis Costello does The River in Reverse with Allen Toussaint but it’s more the performance. Annie Lennox’s “Why?” as covered by John Boutte reinterprets but still is bound by contexts — but the words are not always precious. Looking forward to a day when N O folks can hear the metaphors as such, when “Get Ya Hustle On” really gets its due as a cold response to a cold response from the government — a dark comedy. Not therapeutic, examines a complex paranoia. Songs still being made, mostly crap still.

Jody Rosen, “Girl Gone Wild: Eva Tanguay’s Madcap Feminism” — Eva Tanguay born in Quebec died in Hollywood 1947, recorded one song “I Don’t Care,” preeminent vaudeville star in its heyday, “performing songs about herself” — 15000 audience members at a show in 1912. THE star of stars, outstripped Houdini and Caruso. No biography, erased from history, autobio promised but never delivered, biopic erased her story, only passing mentions in histories if at all. Ralph Bakshi put her song in American Pop and it’s more punk rock than “Pretty Vacant!” Great stage stories, noted for backstage fights, breakthrough role in 1904’s “The Sambo Girl.” Sentiments were shocking at the time, flailing and writhing was part of the show, sung with hisses and yelps. Song played — high voice; twisted smiles evident, astounding lyrics. Act gained lots of bombastic praise for brazen sexuality, her energy, her hair! “The evangelist of joy!” Aleister Crowley was a fan and wrote some amazing purple prose, going into Baudelaire quotes, “the vulture of Prometheus!” Distinctly American — one hit called “Personality,” built her legend, employed five publicists, she would have loved TMZ. Publicity stunts, clothes horse, always in the papers, dress made from pennies! Staged feuds, trashed people in poetry in ads in Variety! Song “Give an Imitation” about the biters, “Egotistical Eva” about “I and I” More of the song has self-depracting verses (“brrrrroad!”) She did sing straight though — unironic ballads — so she knew what she was doing all the life. Tanguay is the main figure of “vocal madcapism” among others “zany new women.” A stylized speak-sing patter of which she was the queen. Recordings played showing the shift in styles as a result, from 1907 and the like. Clip of a sound film showing percussion patter on a cello! Trixie Treganza original gangsta! Yay Eva and where does she fit? Couldn’t swing but Mae West was a fan and so was Ethel Waters and it goes to Billie Holliday? Lost her fortune in 1929, scraped along to death sadly.

Maurice Methot, “The Interface is the Message: Software Design as Resistance” — strategies of resistance in electronic instruments. Tech evolved quickly, symbolismof resistance in computer as folk instruments. Communities mobilized by machine design and limitations — marvelling at creations and what they meant when they were created. Theremin performance from fifties TV shown, speaking of the charm of electric power and sound, a wizard embedded in the culture who sometimes emerges. Mr Rogers and Bruce Haack! Wow! What a clip! (Can’t find the full one, but here’s a snippet.) Donald Buchla as seventies inventor, poetic and oracular systems, costly and important. From Fairlight to garage punk users of same, from Trevor Horn to Steve Lipson with Act (no conventional instruments! Huge money outlays!) Software aiming for acoustic and avoiding its own digital nature. Opposing styles of electronic systems. Reason as embracing its analog roots in its visual design and metaphor. 303 and 606 as embracing electronic folk practice via techno. Emulator II in Ferris Bueller popularizes itself and practice. Emile Tobenfeld embraces digital autonomous behaviors. Great fake news clip on Opcode Systems. Strangeness brought back into electronic music when we look at the less familiar parts of the histories. ANS photosynthesizer by Murzin clip shown — bigass crazy great machine! Scrape away emulsion and let light impact to create tones. Matmos would love this — the glissando sequence, “can’t do that with ProTools!”

David Rubinson, “Napster As Cradle of the Revolution” — witnessing and participatory panopticon is the goal. In ancient times the major labels walked the earth and demanded control of all aspects of the system. Then the geeks invented peer-to-peer and the majors tried to control it. “sell every part of the pig but the oink,” but they couldn’t monetarize it no matter how tried it. Now they disappear under their own arrogances and we can apply that to the military government media complex. The truth is not owned. Progressive blog model is old and does not work, a repackaging of past models. Control and intimidation remains in play. Peer to peer will bypass this structures, build now and monetarize later. Create more community access and local networks within the whole. Bentham mentioned, panopticon described and meant to be shared as a model. Foucault’s notes mentioned, “the unequal gaze,” uncertainity of surveillance at any given time and internalizing discipline. Suveillance, watching from below in response to control, reality TV and video cameras. Cassio: “Every citizen with a cameraphone can be a reporter.” Describes actions with Stop-loss Congress, creating video witnesses. “The whole world is watching.” Peter Gabriel‘s Witness project is good but only bidirectional but not p2p, too much control still, fantastic but still limited. Share everything in the participatory panopticon instead. Rodney King as the start, and more from there. Rumsfeld and Abu Ghraib as freakout example, Saddam’s death as another. More on the new model, a bit of rehash.

Tom Smucker, “Story and Stance in American Pop Music and Politics” — (NOTE: my notes here can’t begin to capture the freewheeling combination of images and flow of words Smucker creates in his presentations; very much another ‘you had to be here’ moment.) The Kennedy and Reagan models of presidencies loom large. Kennedy is Rat Pack plus Kingston Trio, has to promise to be secular because of antiCatholic bias. Protest voice is given some attention as a result. Inside the consensus is where it is found. Looks to new configurations, LBJ and King continue things as far as they can to complete the first phase of the civil rights movement. Collapse of consensus leads to conspiracy and paranoia in the counterculture as such. Articulating dislocation in identity politics. Southern Strategy is a step for Nixon but it feels inauthentic. Nixon reinvents but he ain’t no Neil Young or Prince. Carter and the Eagles! He loves jazz but… Reaganism leaps backwards to find a presumed media product consensus and the Rat Pack leaves Kennedy. Back to the Future! Star Wars is in the past! Right wing talk radio emerges, Bruce S is recruited by the right against his will, Jacko and Madonna self-manipulate into the future moonwalking backwards. Clintonism is the Nixonism of the left, unable to sustain itself. Bush II overrealizes Reaganism, McCain and Huckabee can thrive, Hillary is initially Stevie Nicks on a solo tour, Obama recombined Jacko and Oprah and Jay-Z! That’s it!

Steve Waksman, “This Ain’t the Summer of Love: BÖC, Green River and the Anti-Nostalgic Impulse” — Thurston Moore sez that with Green River was when prepunk music entered Amerindie, after a regular rejection after punk. Reclaiming strands could be seen as radical. Green River merged arena and punk styles, while “Swallow My Pride” was a de facto anthem that was often covered even by the band itself. Chorus progression noted for reference as well as the internal conflict musically and lyrically. Self conscious lyrics and repetition emphasized lust but the verses seem more true. Remade version has some key revisions in structure and with a female voice — this leads back to Blue Öyster Cult. Their critical reputation is discussed as well as the role of Sandy Pearlman, while Sniffin Glue considered them punk in the first issue. NME reference noted. “This Aint the Summer of Love” and its role and structure is discussed, then is played. As great as ever! It relishes the passing of an ethos, full of life, huge solo before the chorus repeats to the end. Second version of “Swallow My Pride” played, directly quotes BÖC musically and lyrically towards the end for half its length. Menace without the vocal harmonies, two-chord sequence in both songs emphasized. “LooooooooooooooVE!” as rejection of same, mocking the past and finding a new past to reclaim. A secret history pieced together.

Douglas Wolk
, “Silver Wings and Stranger Things: The Special Force of ‘The Green Berets’” — biggest 1966 pop hit was “The Ballad of the Green Berets” and a TV clip with Barry Sadler is shown. Very stiff and soldierly in looks but a warm enough voice! Folk choral martial smoothness. Death porn! How could this song be so forgotten? Green Beret history discussed, Sadler was injured in Vietnam, wrote song with fifteen verses! RCA signed him and song became big hit. “National theme for the Vietnam War.” Protests emerged soon but covers also swiftly appeared. Answer song by Nancy Ames: “He Wore the Green Beret,” yeesh what a weeper but what a musical gear shift too. Practically “Leader of the Pack”! German cover versions were number one hits too — spooky clips shown with frozen faced singers, but also with antiwar lyrics! Comic book bits are amzing! “Ballad of the Yellow Beret” is also pro-war, mocking American draft-dodgers. “High heeled boots,” jeez! Raveup at the end — and the singer was Bob Seger! Military folks parodied it, Spanish version played next. John Wayne film mentioned, Hershel Gober song mentioned, Norwegian adaptation discussed, Sadler disenchanted, Rhodesian military loved it. 1978 saw Sadler arrested for murder, suspended sentences, started the Casca book series. 1988 shot, died following year, murky circumstances. Vague afterlife at best, why? Not feelgood, can’t be sentimental about dead soldiers or even talk about dead soldiers in an American context at all, only deathless super Green Berets.

Tobias Carroll, “’I’ve Got A Name’: AK Press, Radical Politics, and Music” — entered presentation in progress, talking about Chumbawamba and the Ex and their connections to AK Press and the feeling of DIY activism, with the Ex noting they were not happy with being called anarchist as such. Scritti Politti and Crass then discussed. Other small presses discussed like Arbeiter Ring in Winnipeg and other things. A bit of a quiet catalog of detail so I zoned a bit here, nice enough overview. [EDIT — Tobias has put together a supplemental overview of links of interest related to his presentation.]

J.D. Considine, “If This Note Could Vote” — the politics of music– what is it? Lyrical, spoken texts, things done to evoke meaning. Nothing inherently political in the notes. Sometimes a cause is used as the hook. But not the music… “Born in the USA” as an example of Copland style construction that was widely misinterpreted due to the “open” sound. [EDIT: JD kindly wrote me some days later to clarify this part further: “It wasn’t construction so much as harmonic and melodic vocabulary. If I’d had time, I’d have been more specific, mentioning how many of Copland’s pieces (Appalachian Spring, Hoedown, A Lincoln Portrait, etc.) draw elements from American traditional music, particularly the open-fifth drone of double-stopped (that is, two strings played at once) fiddle as well as the hexatonic (i.e., six-note) scales of old-timey tunes. Instead, I merely cited “Born in the USA”‘s open fifth synth harmony and hexatonic melody. I might have unpacked that a bit more…” No worries, and thanks for the update!] Wagner as partially tarred by association… “it’s just music” or is it? Polyphony as too radical for tradition but two centuries later it was standard. Liberalism and conservatism is down to change and its perception. Then in music? Sticking to a norm or not but what is the norm? Rapid turnover in the charts so what is consensus — averaging songs? Mathematical analysis? What is the data sample? What are Americans listening to? Polls vs voting is a key point. So bring on Billboard and its imperfect metric. 50 songs analyzed for musical content (number of chords, meter, instrumentation, chart weighting). All very sly, this exercise. Is country conservative? Etc. Was there a perfect bell curve? A is guitar favorite while E flat is for synth, G is “liberal” in comparison. Miley Cyrus as “soundtrack,” etc. Gets pretty involved from here but the whole thing is really entertaining and well observed. Again like Jesse Fuchs you had to be here! Shifts into chord discussion, harmony not correlated with that number, cross cutting cleavages in a poli sci sense if you like. “Cyclone” and “I Remember” played in contrast, both extremes against a middle in a conservative context. Further noncorrelations noted, political comparisons, all great!

Wendy Fonarow, “Singing About Love When All You Want to Do Is Strangle Someone: Musician Jokes and Pranking as Mechanisms to Relieve Conflict” — musician jokes are plentiful and she offers up chupacabras and matchsticks and an iPod with a fake radio station and DJ and more! It’s how they deal with road stress and boredom and the like — having a laugh. Cramped quarters, drugs and their lack, cheating, journalists and all that creates the stress and more examples are provided, an open marriage without sex. So jokes provide the retribution and a moral cover for immoral acts. Never leave a crew alone too much! Testicle-infused wine is the least of it. Fake record company calls, unplugging phone chargers…pranking is simply essential. Often spontaneous but there’s the musician joke cycles (no girlfriend = homeless, etc!), allowing for safe cover and the power of stereotyping in specifics (thus drummers as noted). Various examples given, lead singer syndrome in particular, narcissistic and produced as such, no matter how ordinary they are. Thus the jokes keep them in check. Guitarist jokes show competitiveness in action. Bassist jokes show them as superfluous, drummers as stupid as hell and not really musicians. Crew jokes abound around the division of labor (soundman versus the crew). Lots of examples, great stuff. Drummer jokes show a deeper anxiety all around with an iconography drawn out of the sick joke cycle. Cadbury ad supposed to be shown but link busted at the time (Daphne found it later, though). Gorilla plus Phil Collins and gorilla does the drumbreak! Primitivism and cruelty and imbecility at play. Anxiety — why? Percussion, the tribal and African element — a proxy for a deeper tension of racism. Therefore assert Eurosupremacy in the telling of the joke, knock rhythm in favor of harmony. Racism as tool to understand things (Cadbury chocolate…skin color?) But it’s not just about racism but a general anxiety over being an animal, a primate, so externalize and project. And music critics? They’ll always complain because they can’t do it themselves!

Daphne Carr, “Getting Closer: Extreme Loudness and the Body in Pain/Pleasure” — up goes the black hood, in an attempt to avoid metaphors in talking about noise, specifically East Coast styles. Elements and sources detailed — Providence! What noise does is the goal. Loudness is psychological, physical and temporal and more. Details provided (amplifications over drums in predominance). Amplifier proximity is very key. Noise performance takes note of the enclosed spaces and other location factors. Technical details discussed — hertz levels and more, comfort levels. Earplugs block the excitement. Exaggerated gestures showing musical and compositional change. But is there limitation in the formal approaches to noise? Complaints noted. Reacting to noise as cathartic — cannot be done at home, communal but singular. Fan reaction can include solitary pressing against amps, avoiding others, being a signifier. Elaine Scarry‘s Body in Pain quoted. Hard to measure reaction, diagnostic questions are metaphors of weapons, aggression on self. Musician as s/m enthusiast sharing with others. Those who stand near ask for pain as service weapon. Motionless or spasming amid pain loudness. Male dominance noted, is failure gendered, is success? Desire for punishment to allow for pleasure, is sexualized, beyond reproduction. Sex as negotiating power through pleasure, music as having a role. Suzanne Cusick (“Towards a Lesbian Relationship With Music”) quoted in re: new ways of listening. Noise fans choose the passive in contract. Worthy of dignity against other models. Powerpoint presentation from Scott Reber aka Work/Death combines slogans and quick pace. Performance in starkness, literally black and white, countdown to noise in darkness (kinda calm really but I had earplugs!).

Tom Kipp, “’I Never Heard a Man Speak Like This Man Before!’: Song, Horror and Tragedy in Jonestown, and a Convincing Simulation of Hell” — entered in progress, recordings from Jonestown being played. Unsettling and then some. Again, you need to be here, the presentation is key. Powerful stuff, delivered calmly — Tom’s great gift. Talking about being haunted by a singing of a hymn soon before the end, a psychodrama beyond easy description, “I Never Heard a Man” (traditional song, version here from Five Blind Boys of Mississippi) as passion play for self sacrifice. Jones tears into one who wished to leave, calling it blasphemy. Terrifying. Father cares indeed… Few willingly drank it, and the phrase is now in currency when it should be rejected. There is love, devotion, pathology. No songwriter could have conveyed it, “Never Heard A Man” is just too perfect for the whole horror, theatrical and diabolical. But all they sang was the chorus, the endless repetition. Jim Jones like Elvis cannot be solved, no matter what. But we can learn from it and what helped produce it, though nothing has receded. Tom then sings the chorus — a powerful end.

Elijah Wald, “Mexican Murder Musicals: How Youtube Has Revolutionized the Narcocorrido” — entered in progress (Robert Christgau has a more detailed overview of the full presentation which I heartily recommendation). Video as tool of unofficial tribute of cartel deaths. Valentin Elizalde killed after giving concert — because of the video? Just a rumor and yet. Videos can get very grisly and are widely viewed. Wald has had work forced on him because of his research but he notes that crime and music have far longer roots on both sides of the border. Some logic to the death connection exists but there is no definitive word. Two musician deaths in December are noted — but in the States this was given massive coverage and undue connections were made, “who is killing Mexico’s musicians?” Context — 9 out of 4000 actual drug crime deaths in that time but the stereotypes overwhelm, lyrics are twisted. There are some genuine stories here — the rise of corridos, the rise of crime, the use of YouTube — but there is massive conflation and only one possible death where drugs are a factor.

David Ritz, “Divided Byline: How a Student of Leslie Fiedler and Colleague of Charles Keil Became the Ghostwriter for Everybody from Ray Charles to Cornel West” — a fine and considered testimony as he puts it, and much as I would like to report on it, it’s better just to enjoy it. 🙂 More tomorrow!

Some quick EMP Pop Conference comments in general

This is going to be quick and scattershot:

  • Another great year so far! Seen my share of good, great and fair presentations, and as always missed out on ones I wanted to see and others that it sounds like it would have been great to see. C’est la vie, etc.
  • Also wonderful to catch up with so many new folks again and to make the acquaintance of a lot of others. I get the feeling that the fanbase (for lack of a better term) for the conference remains strong.
  • Discovering that the peculiarities of the venue when it comes to computer/cell connections are due to Frank Gehry’s design of the place doesn’t surprise me at all, in retrospect. But I am glad that the Notes feature on the iPhone worked like a charm.
  • As ever a good part of the whole experience was the socializing elsewhere and in between things; for me last night was a dinner with a slew of attendees not far away at 10 Mercer followed by drinks at the Green Room near the Showbox. Tonight other things are already planned and they’ll happen as they do!
  • Good God I need more sleep. But I suspect a lot of folks feel the exact same way.

Saturday panels and presentation notes will run later tonight; I suspect it will be *way* later tonight. But I’ll get them out there!

EMP 2008 Pop Conference — Friday panels and presentations

REDUX! So, the deal was that the EMP building is a misery of some clear posting areas and some dead ones. Yeesh. But! Taking notes was easy and I’ve got it all copy and pasted here. Read on:

Okay, here we go — note for everyone unfamiliar with EMP: there are currently four panels presented at any one time, so by default I can only attend a quarter of the entire whole. If I miss something that sounds up your alley, sorry! The full day’s schedule can be reviewed here.

These notes are VERY rough and I am skipping over tons of things. If any of the paper’s authors notice this and want me to clarify/touch up, please let me know!

David Novak, “Experiments with World Music, Vol. 2: The Sublime Frequencies of Cultural Difference” — discussing world music as collision of cultural appropriation — not the Folkways style but the Sublime Frequencies model and ambivalence in its approach, sieves from cultural detritus. What happens when we hear the music this way? “drawing from unknown sources” SF represents an experimental approach to curating and presenting. Part of the legacy of ethnomusicology but breaks from it in compiling rather than recording, willfully confusing blends — “curious listeners” will be left in the dark still, with ironic touches. The effect is to represent in a media mix — evanescent media. Not a Lomaxian loss but the cylical media loss. Sun City Girls history is discussed including presentation and packaging and the breakdown of barriers, but SF is a “blind encounter” rather than a documentation. Individual transcendence needs to avoid “respect” and simple recreation. Compensation is not a factor and is a controversy. Fan discussion covers this and the idea of reacting against slickness but also a bit concerned with the mix disc approach. Approach is an ongoing thing but is not simply gonzo, reflecting what is out there such as Phnom Penh remixes (a bit like dub?) Media is not passively created but resistance to interpretation is important — consider the loss of copyright vs the advantage of distance and piracy as aesthetic with interference.

(The next couple of presentations I caught were…dull. Skipping along!)

Franklin Bruno, “Nobody Who Was Anybody: How to Listen to ‘Ballad For Americans.’” — “this is the sound of Paul Robeson holding back” but the results still have artifice. Notes differences between versions and wants to explore which is the most authentic. “Ballad” is a patriotic cantata as officially described. Exchange between voice and others is broad and a bit goofy but hey — “nobody who was anybody” built the nation. Ethnicities and professions and more…the device of personification plus Robeson as singer makes for the charge while its stirring approach still comes off too mannered to many (middlebrow?) and too accepting of official history. Still it lies in a selfconciously radical tradition via the preWWII left and the authors (John La Touche and Earl Robinson) came out of that. (WPA Federal Theatre Project discussed.) Family roots and political backgrounds discussed…detailed but too much to say here. More on the radical left and suspicion of FDR and the New Deal, while Sing For Your Supper provided an initial context but the song was auditioned for CBS Radio and became a mid-1940 omnipresent claimed by all smash, even the GOP, but the left critics were askance and the right critics were annoyed. Lots of infighting! Song eventually became a war standard thanks to recontextualization — Bing Crosby film clip from Star Spangled Rhythm of knockoff song “Old Glory” is a mindblower and very WTF! Further thoughts on meaningof “nobody” and NYC settings while Robeson was not a nobody in the end. To achieve its effects it needs a singularity, a tension not resolved and how could it be?

Jim Mendiola, “Girl in a Coma: Straight Outta Tejas. And England. And All Points In Between” — entered while speaking showing a video “Clumsy Sky” setting in a Tejano bar, signifiers everywhere classic country into punk/emp/pop thrash, continuity from the Tex Mex past via older border bands. Three bandmembers all VERY badass. Perfect follow-on from the panel, what is identity? Tattoos and hairstyles and more! I am annoyed to have missed this presentation! Album sales up and the description in iTunes was driven by context and name.

Robert Christgau
, “Waiting on the World to Change” — entered in progress, on a tear, TV on the Radio into John Mayer — drug bust story! Mayer trashings sought via blogs and the like. Continuum via Marc Hogan! Well this is a further tear — Mayer’s publicist contacts and drops so bits are scrounged up that unsurprisingly sound more sane and thoughtful than the song itself. “Light Green” and all! Opening a dialogue went better, mild progressivism in discussion but still it is something. Xgau might be too on balance but hey. Called Hogan on Sunday and he got tongue-tied with the question and with change but does work with discussion against formalism. Political music audience share as a metric. Change as mantra for a generation, but it’s something — have the John Mayer fans as there are more of them.

Lauren Onkey, “’No Carnival in Britain’: Black Immigration and the Rise of Rock & Blues in 1950s England” — re British black and musical experiences in the 1950s. Visible only as such and as the outsiders. Beatles photo with Lord Woodbine, a contextual dissonance via the construction of the UK as white. Idea of not being able to “see” color (used to integrated bands?), but plenty of slurs abounded in the press (Josephine Baker in psych). Labor shortages prompted the immigration…new changes in port towns but left outside of accountings of rock and roll. A way to avoid confronting changes at home? Liverpool made by the slave trade, integrated communities via intermarriage and shipping employment, as well as distinctions in generations. Record exchanges via black GIs and other connections, mixing in clubs. Beatles not really asked about something that “didn’t exist” but should have been aware of it. Alan Williams ran a club that the band played at as well as a steel band that Woodbine played in and ran another club, and the two helped get the Beatles going to Hamburg. Still bitterness among the generation who was there, Woodbine’s death dismissed. Derry Wilkie went to Hamburg first, a showman who made the Beatles step up some. Chants band noted, contemporaries but not lover by Epstein.

Peter Scholtes, “Hi Yo Silver, Purple Rain: The Color of Minneapolis Rock and Roll, From Integrated Bands to Segregated Clubs” — rhetorically: “what’s so cool about racial integration” among a younger generation is different from the past, where older musicians saw “comfort” in the integration against the problems of the past. Three scenes in Minn: r’nb prePrince postPrince and hiphop. 1st Ave audience versus other audiences — Purple Rain audience is the early eighties one, the Dirty Mind audience, where race is not an issue in comparison to the clubs now but which can be felt in moments. “HiYo Silver” as first Minn rock and roll single, a mix of influences and backgrounds with Augie Garcia as showman, then “Surfin’ Bird” as the pop explosion to bring a scene into being. The Ravens moved but it must have seemed like a closed shop. Only integrated room — the Bathroom of the Flame. But things started to semigel though dealing with white fright. Black groups kept dealing with stereotypes and fears of too much blackness so integration happened by the desire to play within this limit while black bands played outside the downtown. Prince transcended this by kicking against this and 1st Ave opened it further thanks to the owners and bookers. But hiphop and violence still exist in tension while Slug gets an overwhemingly white audience. But hiphop and skateboarding brought the younger kids together now…

Barry Long, “‘We Insist!’ Popular Music, the Civil Rights Movement, and King’s ‘Urgency of Now’” — King and civil rights, the urgency of now — straightforward but good enough. Jazz as motivator — a dialogue and engaged. Dizzy Gillespie: jazz “the only thing we have to offer the world” But also had an integrationist core and a music of freedom (thus Sonny Rollins). King in Berlin 1964 on jazz as conveying a more complicated existence. Bebop as composite, also dominated by blacks at the time, but seen as a meritocracy. In combination with civil rights, the results were strong, noting Max Roach‘s work and King’s approval. “We Insist” as representative work. Noting the beats and its variations and how they move and transform. Mingus noted, further connections back to King, a bit technical. Softens a bit towards the end, oh well!

Mike McGonigal, “Freedom Highway” — about the original 1965 Staple Singers vinyl album (NOT the 1991 CD reissue) of the same name. Starts with a twang of guitar and a breakdown of gospel styles in the “golden age.” Staples were a hybrid of styles , country blues guitar mixing with the floating vocals. Notes the changes in style over the years but thinks that the early fifties sides capture “gospel in space.” Dylan and the Staples are discussed, with the latter covering “The Death of Emmett Till.” Notes the use of code in slave culture and the tension of Christian belief, with recorded gospel bringing these elements together. Civil rights in gospel from the start, Mahalia Jackson as supporter of King and part of the myth. Pops Staples as being inspired by an encounter with King to write protest songs — “Freedom Highway” then played, produced by Billy Sherill! Says Pops was a “cool guy.” It is recorded in a rudimentary but clear style and ties it all together. Highlight is “We Shall Overcome” which with the gospel choir finally making it work after all the grime and bad covers. Various freedom songs were takes of gospel traditionals, then more Staples stories. The 1991 reissue is not the same album and while it does make researching an adventure it is indicative of a poor treatment of gospel by the industries.

Jesse Fuchs, “The Record That Eats Itself: Form, Content, and Subversive Recursion” — locked grooves and endless songs and hidden tracks! Too quick to sum up here, but brilliantly shifting all over the place. Song and object as various combinations, recursive and wonderful. You had to be here!

Debra Rae Cohen
& Michael Coyle, “’The Only Band that Matters’?: Citation as Struggle in the Punk Cover Song” — the Clash covers Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves” and while I still can’t care about the band it’s a good breakdown of the song’s production and interplay of meaning between the versions.

Regina Arnold
, “Rock Crowds and Power: The Early Years.” — 2nd Lollapalooza, Ministry played and the place was destroyed, big mosh pit and Chris Cornell asked “You look like some kind of army…whose army are you going to be?” So what is the gap between crowd rhetoric and reality? The goal here is to look at pre-Woodstock festivals and how they are more fraught with conflict as well as a place catering to an elite. Raced and gendered attendees have their own contexts. Aquarian Family Festival near Stanford is the focus and the archive is slim. Three months before Woodstock, held at SJSU and near another festival, the 2nd Northern California Folk Rock Festival, half a mile away (with Hendrix). Big week for news and San Jose is in its own media world. Lots of snarky press coverage but no mention of an underlying dispute, and lots of oral history that is up in the air. Festival was a near spontaneous response to annoyance with the folk guys and misrepresented band bills. So Hendrix was on the folk bill but the Aquarian festival goes on because the PCP carers were peeved with high handed treatment. Bills were identical but Aquarian was for free — bread baked, place to sleep. Music had to be continuous, lots of area bands. Hells Angels as security! Lots of ego bruising. Free and paid tensions still plays out while lots of Angels were causing some nasty crime, the fuckers. Yet it was called “peaceful” though the festival was banned for decibels and lovemaking. Black performers were made the other while two black attendees were killed. Women also objectified (all the men remember the naked women there, no women attendees yet found for an interview). Social violence around, festival was not peace and love. Bias in social histories since…

John Street, “Performing Politics: from Rock Against Racism to Live8” — Rock Against Racism to Live8 was part of a study of nongovernmental political action in the UK — how are these stories written, how do we give an account? What do musicians contribute, can the movements be explained without music, and if music is important, how do we explain it? Quotations shown to illustrate these questions and tensions — accounting in different ways. RAR has its background in the Powell ‘rivers of blood’ speech and the Clapton comment plus Reading fan actions attacking reggae bands. Letters to the music press propose a musical movement against the “poison” culminating in 1978 with 300 gigs and festivals. Live8 grows out of struggling debt relief campaigns with Bono providing the initial spark in music following with Live Aid Trust coming on with the concerts. RAR is written out of musical histories — various what ifs are discussed, concluding with the Thatcher effect. Live8 gets many critics of Geldof’s hijacking and the writing out of African voices. How to assess competing stories?How to frame it? Music matters in what contexts? A list of “music as…” options are discussed, from organizer to source of moral energy, followed by a summary of means of retelling the stories. Final slide notes how RAR gave new bands a chance in a new context yet not without controversy. But there’s notes from Live8 attendees showing that passions on issues can and do occur — infrapolitics in James C Scott’s sense.

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, “’Lollapalooza Every Day, Every Year’: Music, Multiculturalism, and Whiteness in the 1990s” — Lollapalooza 2008 seems to have a brand name and a middle-class audience to share with the past. Reclaiming an urban space for families with a certain nostalgia yes, but this is a critique of how it was first understood in a 1991 and on context in terms of multiculturalism and giving many white kids a “safe” context for it. Multiculturalism was a then powerful buzzword and there was much marketing at play — and most of the attendees were targeted by race as well as monetarily. A spectacle for mass consumption and semiotic significance at play (photos and discussion of the Sly cover by Perry and IceT follows — mocks or reestablishes boundaries, not to mention the audience). Lots of comments about Perry as core figure and leader as such from the press, who in turn marginalizes Ice-T and barely discusses women. 1992 brought the LA riots and a fantasy of the happy metropolis being trashed. Lollapalooza was frequently called a “riot” and its represented self got more elevated and inflated as well as the “big summer throwdown” for a surging audience, a sanctioned and contained example of “power to the people” (thus the handwritten Spin story plus the various crowd stories, a wash of whiteness and masculinity, the tolerant and the tolerated). Crossings are fraught and limited as Ice Cube and Michelle Ceros (?) noted…

Laurel Westrup, “When Subcultures Collide: The New Travellers at Glastonbury 1978-2005” — Glastonbury has been around for a long while and has survived at balancing out capitalism with counterculture. Julian Cope stuff piles on…anyway this attracts “alternative types” and has so in the sixties the ley lines crowd goes nuts. 1971 and the free 1972 festivals provides town/gown tensions… tuned out here, I was just too tired!

Announcing “This is Nowhere” — a new site I’ll be contributing to

Eventually, not immediately! It’s only just gone live and is still only in an initial beta blog mode. But I’ve been quite flattered to be asked by its founder and editor, John Doran, to be a contributor. The site is based in the UK and will have its focus there but I’ll be chiming in as I do over time; its primary focus will understandably be on music but there will be other subjects for discussion too, which I’m very happy to see.

The site’s goals and background, from the ‘about’ page:

If you don’t actually believe that Jack Penate is the best thing since Nirvana but you’re still not ready to slump into yet another feature on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ then we could be the thing you’re waiting for.

First and foremost the emphasis will be on quality writing that avoids the all-filler no-killer route that so many magazines have gone down. We’re just as sick as everyone else at how cotton-brained the lifestyle publication industry has become – giving more time over to pet psychology, advice on how to wear scarves and how to make free range squid marmalade than anything of interest. If these mags were any more stupid you’d have to milk them.

But to be honest we’ve got problems with the general music press as well. Does anyone actually think that reviewing two hundred albums a month is a good idea? And who thought that reducing the word counts to the size of an average product description in an Argos catalogue was a good idea? We must have missed that meeting. Instead we thought, why not just concentrate on the top thirty releases and reissues per month and let some of the best music writers from the last 30 years – from the cream of the new school to hardened survivors of the punk wars – really get to grips with them.

Which I’m all for. The contributors list down the page is a fine mix of folks including a number of writers I’m happy to count as friends, so I’m quite looking forward to this. As any pieces of mine are posted I’ll link to them here but I’d say go ahead and bookmark the main site now and watch it as it grows…